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This is a draft report written in June 1940 by a member of the British Government's 'Department for Publicity in Enemy Countries', also known as 'Department EH'. The report is an appreciation of the situation Great Britain finds itself in following the defeat of France and looks at ways to successfully continue the fight against Nazi Germany, particularly from the point of view of the propaganda war.
APPRECIATION OF THE SITUATION
17th JUNE, 1940
1. The object of this paper is to appreciate the situation which has arisen as a result of the French Army ceasing to fight. As yet it is not known whether or not the French Government intend to continue hostilities from outside France with such Naval and Air Force units as remain, in cooperation with the British Forces.
2. The ultimate national aim of the Allies remains the same as heretofore, namely, to force our enemies to abandon the purpose for which they resorted to arms, and to conclude peace on our declared terms. Our immediate propaganda object is to help our Armed Forces by promoting the collapse of the German Home Front.
3. The main factors affecting the situation are:-
(i) The Allied fleets retain control of the sea communications of Europe and are greatly superior to those of our enemies. The Italian fleets is bottled up in the Mediterranean and is unlikely to seek battle with our Mediterranean fleet.
(ii) The Germans now occupy Czechoslovakia, Poland, Denmark, Norway, Holland, Belgium and France; the land forces of these countries are consequently immobilised, but the people remain hostile to Germany. Our land forces are inferior in numbers and equipment to those of our enemies.
(iii) The combined Air Force of Italy and Germany are superior numerically to those of our Allies.
(iv) The resources of the United States of America have been placed at the disposal of the Allies: there is a possibility that that country may participate actively on the side of the Allies.
(v) German armed forces have just won what is perhaps the most stupendous military victory in history. But in so doing their losses in men and material have been very great, and the British RAF have clearly demonstrated their superiority in the quality both of pilots and machines. They have, in fact, attained a moral ascendancy.
4. In the light of these considerations there is little doubt that the most vulnerable target for operations against Germany is the civil population which, it is suggested, can best be attacked in any or all of the following ways:-
(a) By imposing a 100% naval blockade.
(b) By bombing.
(c) By propaganda.
5. The immediate object of the naval blockade is to deprive our enemies of the necessities of life and so, by causing ultimate starvation, pestilence and shattered morale, to undermine the will of the nation to continue the struggle. In assessing the potency of this weapon, and the time in which it might prove decisive in the attainment of victory, all recent reports received by the Ministry of Economic Warfare indicate that the existing situation is at least serious. The entry of Italy into the war, in this respect, only accelerates the blockade’s efficacy.
6. If, as may be expected, Hitler attempts a knock-out blow against this country, it becomes at least probable that, so far as air warfare is concerned, the gloves will be off and bombing may well become indiscriminate. In this situation the Royal Air Force will be in the position to select any target desired for retaliatory bombing. In these operations, propaganda will be able to assist both directly, by supporting the physical efforts of the RAF to defeat the enemy, and indirectly, by undermining the morale of the civil population, one result of which will be to hasten the collapse of the German regime.
7. The following are suggested as instances of the possible use of propaganda in assisting directly our air operations:-
(a) To mystify and mislead.
(b) To promote fears of further retaliation.
(c) To disorganise enemy air efforts by suggesting possible activities.
(d) To spread alarm among the enemy air force.
(e) By secret means to bait traps.
8. In view of the relative quantitative inferiority of our air forces, it is suggested that the plan behind our air operations should be based on small formations operating against numerous and widely spaced centres, so as to mislead the enemy and simulate a strength greater than we possess. The effect of such operations on German morale would also be widespread. At the same time, incidental dropping of leaflets could be carried out, threatening retaliation with greater force and stressing the ever-increasing strength of the Allies.
9. The psychological value of retaliatory bombing might be enhanced by propaganda in the following way. If German bombs fall anywhere other than on military objectives, notice should be given to the German people through our wireless news in German, telling them that in retaliation for this bombing a number of named German towns of equivalent status had been selected and that one of them would be destroyed at the end of 48 hours from the time of the formal announcement.
10. The probability of reception of this message by the German people would be increased by sending it with the list of German prisoners. The 48 hour delay is necessary not only to ensure that the word gets round, but also to work up nervous tension; this tension could be further increased by announcements stating that the time of destruction is drawing close – e.g. only 6 more hours left. The actual bombing could be carried out with masses of incendiary bombs in order to destroy the towns, but not human life, and when the destruction is complete, formal announcement should again be made; if incendiary bombs are used incidental dropping of leaflets should be carried out in the vicinity of the towns.
11. It is considered that such action would have a far-reaching effect on German morale and might lead to mass evacuation in defiance of Nazi authority; once active defiance starts, anything may happen.
12. As regards indirect assistance to the operations of the RAF, by propaganda aimed at the German civil population, it is suggested that we must continue as heretofore to take the offensive.
Although the principal agency of dissemination will be wireless broadcasts, such opportunities as the RAF can provide for incidental leaflet dropping should be utilised to the full – see suggestion in paras. 8 and 10.
The main themes to be exploited should be:-
(a) Our determination to keep on fighting until victory is assured.
(b) The immense resources of the Allied Empires in men and materials.
(c) Our control of the sea communications of Europe and the ultimate physical effect on the German people of our rigorous blockade.
(d) The effect of American assistance.
(e) Ability of RAF to bomb.
(f) The serious casualties already suffered by the German forces.
(g) Encouragement to the peoples of occupied territories.
13. Course 4(b) and 4(c) (as elaborated in subsequent paragraphs) are recommended for adoption by Department EH. It is considered essential that immediate action should be taken by the Planning Committee to prepare the requisite propaganda ammunition so as to enable Department EH to take immediately such action as the situation may demand.
18 June 1940
[Source British National Archives file FO 898/3]