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PWB Unit No 14
23 December, 1944
Subject: Summarized History of the PWB Leaflet Section in Italy.
To: Mr. George Edman, ADPWO, Italy, PWB Unit No 12, APO 512 US ARMY.
In October 1943, this Leaflet Section began to put itself together in Bari. Its Chief, Major Blankenhorn, had come from Tunis; its most prodigious out-putter, Norman Cameron, crossed over from Sicily pregnant with Frontpost - Lt. Colonel Head, then Major, of G(Spec.Ops), HQ 15th Army Group, had suggested that PWB regularly produce an objective, factual newspaper for distribution to enemy troops by aircraft and artillery of the Allied Armies. Tosco Fyvel, straight from the United Nations Radio in Tunis German programmes, assisted in the delivery of Frontpost when it first rolled off the press on November 4, 1943; Mr Alexander Mackendrick was the Art Department. Lt. Bessunger arranged the newspaper's air dissemination by the Tactical Bomber Force. Capt. John Vernon was busy writing leaflets in Italian for enemy-occupied Italy. The Leaflet Section was at work.
During 1943's last two months, leaflets produced by the Section in Bari were jeep-and-trailered across the spine of Italy to the PWB Fifth Army Team just north of Naples, and to the PWB Eighth Army Team that had, with its Army, begun its slow trek north-westwards. Frontpost was gaining in circulation and it began to appear in PsW Interrogations as the most generally seen and read of all Allied leaflets. Major Erik Roos was appointed Deputy to Major Blankenhorn. Miss Lapworth became Section Secretary. Lt. Block joined the Section.
Soon after the turn of the year, the Leaflet Section transferred its operations to Naples. For a time, the Section had nearly "caught-up" to the Army Teams in respect of distance between forward and rear echelons. As ever, the Section had somehow to solve a sprawl of a problem. Leaflets had to be produced: (a) where production facilities were adequate for the quantity and printing-quality of the jobs required; (b) where, because of transport difficulties, they were as close to the Armies as possible; and yet (c) where they were, for the same transport difficulties, not too distant from the various airfields on which "nickelling" aircraft were based. Always, somehow, the stretch was just made.
Major Blankenhorn was ordered to another theatre of operations and Major Roos became Chief of the Section. With the excellent co-operation of the Production and Liaison Sections of PWB in Bari, leaflets for dissemination over Northern Italy, Southern Germany and Austria, were being carried in increasing numbers by the Strategic Air Force from its Foggia bases. During the Spring, Major Roos went to another assignment and Lt. Block was made responsible for the Section's operations. It was in Naples that the leaflet Italia Combatte addressed to Italian Partisans with instructions from General Alexander and Allied news was first produced. The leaflet was designed as a complement to the radio programme Italia Combatte beamed to Northern Italy.
Through the months, Frontpost had been going down on German troops quite regularly. It had become the most creditable and, among Germans, the most credible single leaflet propaganda effort to enemy troops in Italy. Many other leaflets were produced, often at the suggestion and by the request of the Army Teams.
Functionally, the Leaflet Section had become semi-Tactical and Semi-Strategic in its output. It was engaged, that is, in producing some leaflets for immediate dissemination over enemy troops in forward areas and other leaflets - more timeless in content - for dissemination over enemy troops in both forward and rear areas.
Special leaflets were produced by request of the operations staff at HQ, AAI. One such leaflet was addressed to the citizens of Rome and it was disseminated in the quantity of one million and a quarter copies over Rome on the morning Allied troops reached the outskirts of the city. The Air Force, flying a special leaflet mission, put nine (9) " Boston" bombers into the air with a fighter escort of approximately thirty aircraft. A leaflet is much more than meets the eye.
Soon after Rome had been liberated by the Allied Armies, the Leaflet Section moved to the capital city. Due to the growing distance between Rome and the Armies, it became increasingly difficult, during the Autumn months, adequately to supply leaflets for artillery dissemination. Leaflets during this period were trucked to 5 Army and 15th Air Force fields in Foggia, and flown to 8 Army. Mats were flown to Bari, where printing was done for the supplementary supply of leaflets to Foggia, 334 Wing Brindisi and 267 Squadron Bari. And, because of the disposition of TAF formations, it became necessary to transport Frontpost by air to Corsica, from where the medium-bombers assigned to special "nickelling" flew their missions.
Rome had, however, certain production facilities that the Leaflet Section, in its previous Italian history, had never been able to exploit. Many jobs were printed by the rotogravure process, which allowed for a superior reproduction of news pictures. By this process special illustrated editions of Frontpost were produced. Among them was a special edition on the Allied landing in the West; another, the Allied landing in the South of France.
When the Allied Armies cleared Florence of the Germans, it was soon apparent that the Leaflet Operation would more efficiently go forward in that city. From Florence it would be easier to transport leaflets to Army artillery; from Florence liaison with the Armies and PWB Army Teams would be facilitated; from Florence liaison with AAI (now 15th Army Group) would become less expensive in time; and from Florence; delivery of leaflets to XXII TAG formations for air dissemination over the 5 Army Sector would be less demanding on transport. As soon as printing facilities were made ready by the commendable efforts of the Printing Section, the Leaflet Section, on November 1 1944, without a day's lapse either in production or delivery for dissemination, effected its transfer to Florence. Miss McCarraher, formerly of the Bari Production Section, had transferred to this Leaflet Section and was, happily, on hand for the move.
Representatives of the Leaflet Section maintain an office in Rome to deal with the production and dissemination problems of the leaflet Italia Combatte and whatever other leaflet work originates in Rome. In Florence, the Leaflet Section is currently producing five (5) newspapers every week for German troops: two (2) editions of Frontpost and two (2) editions of Nachrichten aus der Heimat (News from Home) which are mixed for shell dissemination by 5 Army and air dissemination by DAF; one (1) edition of a weekly double-size Frontpost which contains a News from Home feature, for dissemination by twelve medium-bombers of TAF on a special leaflet mission, and by formations of XXII TAG. In addition to these regular productions, ad hoc jobs are produced for delivery to 5 and 8 Armies.
One year ago, when this Section began its operations in Bari, an average weekly total of leaflet units printed was approximately two million. The average weekly production in Florence to date has been nine and a half million leaflet units. In general, and the pitfalls of generalization are acknowledged, production and dissemination have increased five-fold during this Section's Italian history.
It is hoped that, with the coming of the New Year, a leaflet Sub-Section for production from Florence mats will be in operation on the east coast of Italy from where deliveries to DAF formations can be more quickly and more readily effected.
Such, in something really too long to be called a "summation", is the story of this Leaflet Section in Italy.
Signed. LEROY B. BLOCK
Capt. (QMC) , PWB
Chief, Leaflet Section.