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Organization of the United States Propaganda Effort During World War II
By Frank Prosser & SGM Herbert A. Friedman (Ret.)

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Civilian Organization Of Propaganda:

On 16 August 1940, Nelson Rockefeller was named Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs (CIAA), with responsibility for disseminating news, films, and radio to Latin America. CIAA retained its independent existence throughout World War II, despite the formation of several other information organizations.

On 11 July 1941, the Coordinator of Information (COI) was formed, headed by Colonel (later General) William ("Wild Bill") Donovan. COI's responsibilities included the gathering of intelligence and the analysis and dissemination of information abroad, outside Latin America. COI was a predecessor of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). The Foreign Information Service (FIS), with Robert Sherwood as director, was formed within COI. It dealt with news and white propaganda outside Latin America, and quickly behaved almost as an autonomous unit.

On 13 June 1942, the Office of War Information (OWl) was created with Elmer Davis as director, subsuming several other agencies including FIS (but not CIAA). FIS, under Sherwood, became the Overseas Branch of OWl, dealing in white propaganda. In this June 1942 reorganization, COI became the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), with Donovan, operating as code number 109, as director.

Responsibilities between OWl and OSS were but vaguely defined, and disputes within and among CIAA, OWl, and OSS became disruptive. At this early stage of the war, few officials knew what their organizations should be doing, but many knew what other organizations should be prevented from doing. Donovan's ambitious plans for OSS were fought doggedly by Sherwood and Davis. The squabbling led to presidential Executive Order 9312 of 9 March 1943, which, in attempting to clarify the responsibilities of OWl and OSS, gave white propaganda to OWl but left black propaganda's status unclear. As the war progressed, OSS became the de facto owner of black propaganda and OWl of white, and this arrangement was formalized by an agreement between Donovan and Davis in June 1944. Early in the war, the U.S. had little expertise in subversive warfare. Donovan borrowed heavily from the British for experience in black propaganda; the British, after going through their own period of high-level resistance to unconventional methods of warfare, had borrowed from the Germans.

By mid-1943, OSS command (under the director and assistant director) consisted of two principal deputy directors: the Deputy Director of Intelligence, who controlled such branches as Secret Intelligence (SI and Counter-Espionage (X-2), and the Deputy Director of Psychological Warfare Operations (later Deputy Director of Operations), controlling branches such as Special Operations (SO), Operational Groups (OG), Maritime Units (MU), and Morale Operations (MO). MO was the source of black printed propaganda.

In summer of 1943, OSS theatre officers were appointed for each of the major military theatres in which OSS was operating: ETO (European Theatre of Operations), METO (Middle Eastern), NATO (North African), and FETO (Far Eastern). NATO was later renamed MEDTO (Mediterranean Theatre of Operations), which through its MO branch was responsible for much of the black propaganda emitted by the OSS. In addition to serving in the chain of command to OSS headquarters in Washington, the theatre officers were the liaisons between OSS and the military theatre commanders, who had approval authority over all OSS and OWl projects in their theatres. The theatre officers served through December 1944, when another OSS reorganization eliminated this structure.

OSS established many missions overseas during the course of the war. The OSS had an important headquarters in London, with Donovan arranging its first beginnings in August 1941. OSS London reached its final form in 1943 and early 1944; the MO unit in London was established in May 1943, where, operating under direct allied military control, it produced subversive propaganda for the Psychological Warfare Division of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (PWD/SHAEF).

In neutral Switzerland, OSS maintained a headquarters in Bern beginning in May 1942, using the diplomatic cover provided by the OWI. There, the OSS (headed by Allen Dulles, who arrived in November 1942 and operated as code number 110, with cover name "Mr. Burns") and the OWl (under Gerald Mayer, whose code number was 678) cooperated extensively on production of propaganda, and official correspondence on this subject seems to make little distinction between the offices. The Bern OSS unit operated from Herrengasse 23. The OSS established five sub-units in Switzerland: in Geneva, Zurich, Lugano, Ascona, and Basel. OSS operations were conducted with great caution to avoid exposure and arrest by the rigorously neutral Swiss. The contributions of OSS Switzerland were deemed highly effective.

In neutral Sweden, the OSS established a small base of three men in Stockholm in 1942; by late 1944 it had grown to 35 members. A small two-man MO unit arrived in Stockholm in April 1944.

In the Mediterranean Theatre of Operations, OSS-MEDTO was originally (in 1943) designated the 2677th Headquarters Company (Provisional) G-3. To increase its autonomy, in May 1944 the unit was designated a regiment, officially the 2677th Regiment OSS (Provisional). The regiment was activated in July 1944 with headquarters near Caserta, Italy, when North African Theatre of Operations military headquarters (NATOUSA) moved from Algiers to Caserta. The regimental commander was Colonel Edward Glavin, a Strategic Services Officer of MEDTO. Most of the black propaganda produced by the OSS originated with MO Rome, which was organized in mid-1944.

The OSS was disbanded on 1 October 1945.


OSS Morale Operations (MO):

The Morale Operations Branch of the OSS was created in early January 1943, and by March was ready for action. Its primary function was to attack "the morale and the political unity of the enemy through... psychological means operating or purporting to operate within the enemy or occupied territories." Chiefs of MO include Frederick Oechsner (began in early 1943), Col. Kenneth D. Mann (replaced Oechsner in May 1944), Charles Healy, Patrick Dolan, Morton Bodfish, Howard Baldwin (active in late 1944), Ltc. J. Roller (chief in February 1945), and Ltc. Herbert S. Little (chief on 30 November 1945, after the dissolution of OSS). (The names are not necessarily all in order of service).

Through most of the period of our main interest - 1944 and 1945 - MO and other branches of the OSS reported through their OSS theatre officers. The various field MO units did not work together on a regular basis, nor did they have close tactical connections with higher authority in Washington or London. This reinforced the natural secrecy and turf protection always present in intelligence and psywar work, and led to considerable local independence of action of the field units, despite continual interference from OWl and the military. MO-ETO maintained missions in Paris, Stockholm, Bern, and London. MO-Bern and MO-Stockholm produced black postal stationery. MO-Bern forged German postage stamps. The London MO unit (cover name MOTTA) was under direct military control, producing subversive propaganda for PWD/SHAEF and assisting the British in the production of the highly successful mostly-white Nachrichten für Die Truppe newspaper.

Other MO units, under OSS leadership, had more autonomy. MO-MEDTO began with a 3-man mission to Algiers in March 1943. By 1945, MO-MEDTO maintained bases in Cairo, Algiers, and in the Italian towns of Rome, Bari, Caserta, Siena, Naples, and Brindisi. MO-Rome produced significant philatelic black propaganda, including postal stationery and forged German stamps. MO-Rome maintained contact with MO-Bern in the European Theatre of Operations, and on occasion shared ideas and materials.


Allied military propaganda in the European theatre:

Beginning in October 1942, as the joint North African Operation Torch was about to begin, General Dwight Eisenhower, at the time one of the few military leaders sympathetic to psychological warfare, became concerned with the problems of coordinating the activities of the U.S. OWI and OSS, the British Political Warfare Executive and Ministry of Information, and the British and American Army and Navy intelligence services. Eisenhower established the Psychological Warfare Branch (PWB) of the Allied Forces Headquarters (PWB/AFHQ) as a joint U.S. and British operation in the North African theatre. This set a precedent for other Allied joint ventures. Colonel Charles B. Hazeltine organized PWB in three sections: combat propaganda units attached to front-line forces, occupation units that worked in newly captured territory, and base units that coordinated propaganda efforts of the Allied Forces Headquarters with those of London and Washington. Following the North African operation, PWB coordination of propaganda was extended to the invasions of Sicily and mainland Italy and other actions in the Mediterranean theatre.

PWB was a model for the Psychological Warfare Division (PWD or PWD/SHAEF), established in 1943 by Eisenhower at Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) in London during the preparations for the cross-Channel invasion of mainland Europe in June 1944. PWD had an important role in the production and dissemination of white propaganda in the northwestern European theatre until the end of the war. In northwestern Europe, PWD incorporated the activities of PWB (with PWB units attached to each of the armies). Elsewhere, PWB continued its operations under a less complex structure. Both PWB and PWD reported to American generals.

(Note on U.S. Army unit structure: The hierarchy is Army, Corps, Division, Regiment/Brigade, Battalion, Company, Platoon, Squad. The "rule of threes" expresses a tendency to have three units within its parent unit. For instance, typically there are three Corps in an Army, three Divisions in a Corps, etc. This allows two units to be on the line, with one unit in reserve.)


Allied military propaganda in the Mediterranean - North Africa and Italy:

Military units in North Africa. With the outbreak of war, a small force of the British 8th Army found itself opposed in Cyrenaica by the Italian 10th Army, which the British quickly routed. This British success led Hitler in early 1941 to send to North Africa an expeditionary force under General (later Field Marshal) Erwin Rommel. Rommel reported to the senior German commander in the Mediterranean, Field Marshal Albert Kesselring, Commander-in-Chief, South, and Luftwaffe commander in the Mediterranean, who would serve with distinction in Italy. The dramatic successes of Rommel's Afrika Korps in 1941 and early 1942 led to the controversial Allied Operation Torch - the invasion of North Africa - in November 1942. Until that time, there had been no significant U.S. forces in the North African theatre. The British military had undergone several changes in command: In 1941 General Sir Archibald Wavell was replaced as Commander-in-Chief, Middle East, by General Sir Claude Auchinleck, who in turn was replaced in August 1942 by General Sir Harold R.L.G. Alexander. To command the British 8th Army in North Africa, Churchill appointed General Bernard Montgomery, who quickly resurrected British fortunes by routing Rommel's Panzerarmee Afrika (which included the Afrika Corps) first at Alam Halfa in August and then at El Alamein in October.

Operation Torch, which began 8 November 1942, was the first combined Allied military operation of the war. In addition to the British 8th Army under Montgomery, which was already on the scene, the forces were comprised of a Western Task Force (U.S.) under Lt. General George S. Patton, Jr.; a Center Task Force (U.S.) that included the U.S. II Corps, under the command of Major General Lloyd R. Fredendall (and later under Patton); an Eastern Task Force (U.S. and British) led by Major General Charles Ryder; and the British 1st Army, commanded by Lt. General Kenneth N. Anderson. In reaction to this assault, that same month Hitler created the 5th Panzerarmee in Tunisia under General Jürgen von Arnim to augment Rommel's Panzerarmee Afrika. In February 1943, Alexander was placed in charge of the newly created 18th Army Group, which incorporated the British 1st and 8th Armies and the U.S. II Corps in Tunisia. The German forces, together with remains of the Italian 1st Army, were forced to surrender North Africa in mid-May 1943.

Military units in Italy. For Operation Husky - the invasion of Sicily in June 1943 - overall ground command went to General Alexander, who commanded the 15th Army Group. This group consisted of the British 8th Army under General Montgomery and the U.S. 7th Army under General Patton. The occupation of Sicily was completed in September 1943.

The invasion of mainland Italy commenced beginning 3 September 1943, with the British 8th Army under Montgomery attacking at the toe of Italy and on the Adriatic (eastern) shore; beginning 9 September, the U.S. 5th Army under Lt. General Mark W. Clark attacked the western shore at Salerno (Operation Avalanche). German defenses were under the command of Field Marshal Kesselring. The Allies occupied southern Italy during late 1943, but, thwarted by Kesselring's skillful defense, the Allied advance bogged down in the winter of 1943-1944 at Cassino on the Gustav Line in south-central Italy.

In an attempt to break the stalemate and outflank Kesselring's troops, on 22 January 1944 the Allies launched Operation Shingle, the invasion of Anzio. The result was deadlock on two fronts, at Cassino and Anzio. The stalemate dragged on with heavy losses on both sides into the spring of 1944, until in May the Allies broke through the Gustav Line and, following a breakout from Anzio, converged on Rome. Rome was captured on 4 June 1944, two days before the invasion of Normandy.

Following the capture of Rome, advances by the Allies continued at a crawl, with Kesselring fighting an effective delaying action throughout the remainder of 1944 and into 1945. British and American efforts were hindered by the withdrawal of substantial portions of the British 8th Army and the U.S. 5th Army to participate in Operation Anvil (renamed Dragoon), an attack on southern France in mid-August 1944 to divert German forces from the Normandy front. In Italy, the Allies stalled at the Gothic Line in late August and the Winter line for the long winter of 1944-1945. Fighting continued until the end of the war on 2 May 1945.

Allied military psywar activities in North Africa. Prior to the joint Allied Operation Torch in November 1942, British units produced a small amount of white printed propaganda aimed at Italian and German troops and indigenous Arab civilians in North Africa. These activities were based in Cairo, Egypt. Some 30 leaflets in Italian are known to have been directed to Italian troops in Tripolitania and Cyrenaica (both now in Libya). Leaflets in German and in both German and Italian are known. A few leaflets in Arabic are known from this period.

In October 1942, with the approach of Operation Torch, control of propaganda was assigned to the newly created Psychological Warfare Branch of Allied Forces Headquarters (PWB/AFHQ), operating out of Algiers. For some of its work, the Allies used the SIPA press in Algiers. Although the meaning of SIPA is not known, it appears to have been a local printing job shop that published newspapers. The Free French in North Africa also made use of SIPA's press. The propaganda output was almost exclusively white. Allied leaflets in Italian were airdropped on Italian troops in Tripolitania and Tunisia. German-language leaflets and bilingual German/Italian leaflets were airdropped on Axis troops. Leaflets in Arabic and leaflets in French were airdropped for civilians in North Africa. Some leaflets produced in Algiers were dropped in southern France and Northern Italy.

White leaflet code designations for this theatre are, as is not surprising in wartime, largely inconsistent, missing, repetitive, and confusing. The best compilation of these leaflets is R.G. Auckland, Catalogue of Allied Leaflets Dropped in North Africa to German and Italian Troops and Civilians, 1940-1943, Psywar Society Blatter Catalogue No. 17, 1990.

Allied military psywar activities in Italy. From 1943 to 1945, the U.S. 5thArmy in Italy produced numerous white propaganda newspapers and leaflets. The 5th Army also assisted the British 8th Army in leaflet production. Klaus Mann, with the U.S. 5th Army, probably designed leaflets for both Armies. The numbering and labeling systems used in this theatre are confusing, and it is often difficult or impossible to determine the origin of the leaflets. However, there is little doubt that the bulk of Allied military printed propaganda for Italy originated with the Americans.

In Italy, the U.S. 5th Army produced the "G-" and "GL-" series of leaflets. The 5th Army probably also produced the "AU/" (for Austria), "C/GN/", "G/" (for the Balkans), "G.A." through "G.Z.", "G.B.", "GC/", "G.G.", "GN", "Gn/", "GS", "GT/", "GIG/", "GTC/", "LN" ("Letzte Nachrichten"), and "NN" ("Neueste Nachrichten") series of leaflets, and numerous other one-shot leaflets either uncoded or with codes not belonging to a series. From late 1943 until the German surrender, the 5th Army produced several long-running series of leaflet newspapers, including Frontpost/ Wochenblatt für deutsche Soldaten; Frontpost Ausgabe Süd /Nachrichtenblatt für deutsche Soldaten; Frontpost Ausgabe Süd / Wochenausgabe; Frontpost / Ausgabe der Adriafront; Adriafront / Wochenblatt für deutsche Truppen; Nachrichten aus der Heimat / Frontpost Beilage; Luftpost/Ausgabe Süd; and Luftpost und Soldaten-Nachrichten /Ausgabe Süd. Fifth Army's main Frontpost series began 4 November 1943 with Issue No. 1 and ran through No. 126 (20 April 1945).

Compilations of Allied leaflets for Italy are found in Hans Düsel, Catalogue of Allied Aerial Leaflets for German and Austrian Troops in Mediterranean Countries and Islands, 1943-1945, PsyWar Society Blatter Catalogue No. 21, 1994; and Hans Düsel, Catalogue Listings of U.S. "Luftpost" and "Frontpost" Newspapers Disseminated by Air to German Troops and Civilians in Europe and to German Troops in Italy, 1944-1945, Psy War Society Blatter Catalogue No. 19, 1991.


Allied military propaganda on the European Western Front:

Northwestern European theatre: military organization of SHAEF. Under Eisenhower, SHAEF was organized in three Army Groups (AG's): the 6th AG, commanded by U.S. General Jacob L. Devers; the 12th AG, commanded by U.S. General Omar Bradley; and the 21st AG, commanded British Field Marshal Bernard F. Montgomery. The 6th AG comprised the French 1st Army, commanded by General Lasse de Tassigny; and the U.S. 7th Army, commanded by General Alexander Patch. The 12th AG comprised the U.S. 1st Army, commanded by General Courtney Hodges; the U.S. 3rd Army, commanded by General George Patton; and the U.S. 9th Army, commanded by General William H. Simpson. The 21st AG comprised the Canadian 1st Army, commanded by General D. G. Crerar; and the British 2nd Army, commanded by General Miles Dempsey.

Military psywar structure under PWD/SHAEF. The Chief of PWD/SHAEF was General Robert A. McClure. At the Army Group level, PWD was combined with Public Relations to form a special Publicity and Psychological Warfare (P & PW) section. Nominally, an AG's PWD officer reported through the AG's P & PW officer. At the Army level, Psychological Warfare Branches (PWB's) were formed within the General Staff section G2 of each Army.

Officers in charge of PWD activities in the Army Groups and the Armies were:

6th AG: James Clark; 12th AG: Colonel Clifford R. Powell; 21st AG: Brigadier Neville.

U.S. 1st Army: Lt. Colonel Sheperd Stone, then Captain Albert H. Salvatori, then Captain Jacob Tenenbaum.

U.S. 3rd Army: Lt. Colonel Louis Huot.

U.S. 7th Army: Captain Roos, then Hans Wallenberg.

U.S. 9th Army: Major Edward Caskey, then Captain Peter Hart.

The PWD in Britain produced the "T", "V", "W", "Y", and "Z" series of white leaflets.

Working under PWD, the OWl produced the several "US" series of white leaflets destined for various countries: "USB" leaflets were for Belgium, "USC" leaflets were for Czechoslovakia, etc. Other "US" leaflet codes are: "USD," Denmark; "USF," France; "USG," Germany; "USH," Holland; "USI," Italy; "USJ," Channel Islands; "USL," Luxembourg; "USN," Norway; "USP," Poland. OWl and the British PWE (Political Warfare Executive), apparently outside the PWD umbrella, produced the "X" series of white leaflets, which employed a country code similar to the "US" series.

Military propaganda on the Western Front: Twelfth Army Group. In the northwestern European theatre following D-Day, the 12th Army Group's Psychological Warfare Detachment (PWD 12th AG) was particularly industrious in producing (mostly) white propaganda. Within the 12th Army Group, PWD's tactical PWB attached to the U.S. 9th Army in the field produced the "CPH" series of leaflets. Another PWD tactical unit, the PWB attached to the U.S. 3rd Army, produced the "PWB" series of leaflets.

We will examine 12th AG's progress through France and Germany by following the production and distribution of Frontpost, their successful newspaper for German troops in the Western Front (France, the Low Countries, and Germany). The production of Frontpost and its offspring is a useful illustration of the frenzied pace of activities during the campaign in Western Europe.

While not forsaking its propaganda goals, Frontpost contained mostly straight news, and is therefore "white". The first issue, dated 14 August 1944, was prepared in the operations tent in a field near St. Sauveur in Normandy. The printing of the first issues (Nos. 1 through 5) was done at Rennes, in Brittany. Single-sheet (two-page) issues were produced thrice weekly.

With the advance through France, the publication site for Frontpost and tactical leaflets was moved to Paris soon after the fall of the city. The first Paris-printed issue was dated 31 August 1944. Nine issues (Nos. 6-14) were printed in Paris.

Beginning with issue No. 15 (dated 22 September 1944), printing was moved to the plant of the Luxemburger Wort in the city of Luxembourg. Beginning with No. 33, dated 13 November 1944, the newspaper became a four-page weekly. Since Frontpost was being airdropped inside Germany, its content began to include news of interest to German civilians in addition to soldiers. Frontpost continued publication through issue No. 48, dated 20 April 1945.

In order to reach areas close to the battle lines not being serviced by Allied airdrops, in early November 1944 PWD 12th AG began an abridged version of Frontpost, called Feldpost, in single-sheet leaflet size, to be released from artillery shells fired by front-line artillery units. The first issue appeared 5 November 1944. Feldpost was initially issued once a week; later twice weekly. From the first, an exact English-language version of Feldpost, of course named Field Post, was produced and circulated among the gunners and Army personnel involved in distributing Feldpost.

As increasing territory in Western Europe fell to the Allies, PWD 12th AG began the production of a newspaper aimed at civilians in areas controlled by the Allies. The first issue was dated 27 November 1944 and was called Die Neue Zeitung ("The New News"); all subsequent issues were entitled Die Mitteilungen, loosely "Information." This civilian newspaper was distributed by land, not airdropped.

With the deeper advance of Allied forces into Germany following the crossing of the Rhine, even Die Mitteilungen could not serve the entire Allied-occupied area, and beginning 2 April 1944, 12th AG began production of its first local newspaper, Kölnischer Kurier The Cologne Courier was highly successful, and led to a chain of local newspapers as the 12th AG advanced.

References for 12th AG activities: "News sheets as weapons of war," in William Daugherty, Psychological Warfare Casebook, Johns Hopkins Press, Baltimore, 1958, pages 556-562; this article was taken from History: Publicity and Psychological Warfare, 12th Army Group, January 1943-August 1945, pages 116-126. Additional information is in Clayton D. Laurie, The Propaganda Warriors—America's Crusade Against Nazi Germany, University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, 1996.

This article Copyright Frank Prosser & Herb Friedman, 1998 and may not be reproduced without permission.



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