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THE LEAFLET PROPAGANDA FRONT August/September 1944

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Following the Operation Overlord landings in France, the Psychological Warfare Division of SHAEF issued monthly reports titled 'The Leaflet Propaganda Front'. The reports gave a brief overview of military operations with a review of leaflet production and dissemination during the period. Intelligence received on enemy reactions to the leaflets from prisoner of war interrogations or captured documents was also included. The first report issued that www.psywar.org is aware of covers the August/September 1944 period and is reproduced below.

Soviet Propaganda Organisations

Restricted.

THE LEAFLET PROPAGANDA FRONT

 

November 15, 1944.

(A Review of August-September Activities)

 

A. PERIOD 1 AUGUST - 1 SEPTEMBER

1. The Situation. By the first of August Patton's armor had broken through the German lines west of St. Lo to reach Avranches. By the sixth, U.S. tanks had reached the Loire, cutting off the Brest peninsula. By the tenth, Le Mans had fallen and Allied encircling forces were racing north to set the stage for the Battle of Falaise. The Allied landing in Southern France occurred on the fifteenth. The Germans in the north had already begun their withdrawal to the Seine. By the twenty-first the Battles of Falaise and the Seine had been won, the German 7th Army routed. Paris fell on the twenty-fifth. By the end of August, Rheims was in our hands.

2. Over 200,000,000 Leaflets in August. During that month 217,000,000 leaflets were dropped on Northern Europe by planes based in England alone.

Of these, some 84,000,000 were combat leaflets dropped on the Normandy battle front; 66,000,000 were strategic leaflets dropped on the German home front; and 58,000,000 were leaflets addressed to the French people, bringing them the news, warnings of coming action to localities in the line of approach, and instructions from Supreme Headquarters.

B. PERIOD 1 SEPTEMBER - 1 OCTOBER

1. The Situation. On the first of September Verdun was captured and Allied units were chasing the retreating Germans across the Belgian frontier. By the fourth, Brussels and Antwerp were captured. By the eleventh, American troops were across the German border. Le Havre fell on the twelfth. On the seventeenth, an Allied air-borne army landed in Holland, and by the twenty-third, British tank units had united with the parachutists to form the Nijmegen salient jutting into Holland. Brest fell on the twenty- fourth. And by the end of the month three powerful Allied Army Groups, one of which had beaten its way North after landing from the Mediterranean, were in position across the western approaches to Germany, from the North sea to the Swiss border.

2. Nearly a Quarter of a Billion Leaflets in September. In September the number of leaflets dropped by planes based in England and France climbed to 223,000,000. Onto the retreating Germany army, a more scattered and evasive target than during the previous month, went 101,500,000; the total dropped on the German home front was 108,500,000, a better than 50% increase on the August figure; the remaining 13,000,000 served to alert the French and Dutch civilian populations and inform them of the course of the war.

C. TACTICAL LEAFLETS

1. Three Times as Many as in July. The use of medium bombers, in addition to heavy bombers , for leafleting during this period made possible the marked increase in tactical leaflets dropped during August (more than double the July figure) and the continued increase in September (nearly triple the number dropped in July).

2. Checking P/W Reaction. An important factor in increasing the effectiveness of the tactical leafleting operation during the period was the large number of P/Ws being brought in daily. These were available for quickly checking the comparative strength of various leaflet themes, and from their reactions it was possible to continually strengthen and improve the more effective approaches.

3. Second Revision of Safe Conduct Leaflet. A good example of the use made of P/W reaction is the Safe Conduct leaflet. This leaflet in its original form (ZG.21) was introduced early in July. It quickly proved its worth by turning up in substantial quantities in the hands of surrendering Germans. As a result of P/W interviews, it was decided to make certain changes in its appearance to convey a stronger impression of an official guarantee to the bearer. 11,000,000 copies of the leaflet in its new format (ZG.37) were dropped in August. In September still another revision was made. This second revision (ZG.61) carries General Eisenhower's signature in conjunction with the guarantee and new material on the back. 11,300,000 Safe Conducts were dropped in September, and it continues to be the most effective single combat leaflet produced.

4. "One Minute Which May Save Your Life." This is the second of the three "basic" leaflets which experience has proven to be strongly effective in almost all combat conditions. "One Minute" (ZG.45) carries six points emphasising the futility, in the long run, of continued resistance. The reverse carries the opening sentence: "German Soldier! We promise you neither Utopia nor a paradise.", words which carry great conviction to the German, judging by the numerous references to them by P/Ws, and statements that they were influential in bringing about a decision to surrender.

4,000,000 copies of ZG.45 were dropped in August, when it was introduced, and 7,000,000 the following month.

5. "This Is How Your Comrades Fared", the most recent of the three "basic" leaflets, was introduced in September. By the end of the month, 3,000,000 copies had been dropped. This leaflet (ZG.54) consists of a series of pictures with captions telling just what happens to the P/W after his capture. It's persuasive influence on the German soldier has been obvious, and despite the fact that it has drawn fire from the German press and radio, which have referred to its "lying descriptions of the fate in store for German prisoners", it seems to maintain its effectiveness.

6. Other Outstanding Leaflets in August. Aside from the three "basic" leaflets referred to above, other "situation" leaflets are continually being developed and dropped. Among these were "The Lesson of Stalingrad" (ZG.50  - 3,000,000 dropped in August) which pointed up the turning point of the war and the gathering momentum of Germany's defeat ever since; special leaflets to the garrisons of Brest (ZG.46 and ZG.55); and "Stay Alive" (ZG.53 – 2,000,000 dropped in August), a leaflet directed to the troops fleeing from the Battle of Falaise.

7. ...And in September. The victory of Falaise provided ready material for demoralization leaflets. Two of these: "Falaise" (ZG.57) and "The Last Weeks" (ZG.58) were dropped in large quantities on the retreating enemy.

Over two and a quarter million of the first, and over three and a half million of the latter were dropped in September. Other topical leaflets which were dropped in quantities of two million or more during the month were: "Why Die in The Last Days of The War?" (ZG.65), Eisenhower's Statement proclaiming Military Government in occupied areas of Germany (ZG.66) and "The End" (ZG.64) which stressed that Germany's hope of winning the war died with the Normandy Campaign.

D. STRATEGIC LEAFLETS

1. The Changing Character of Strategic Leafleting. The general objectives of pre-D-Day leafleting had been to weaken the will to resist of the German Home Front and to raise the morale of inhabitants of occupied countries.

With the invasion, a change was called for. A new, more dynamic type of strategic leaflet was needed. For strategic leafleting now had an immediate three-fold job to do: (a) deliver the official communications of the Supreme Commander (and, frequently, of Governments in Exile) to the civilian populations; (b) give accurate, up-to-the-minute news of the day-by-day developments at the front; and, (c), get suggestions and exact instructions on how to actively help defeat Naziism to specified civilian groups or to the population at large.

2. The Changing Target. During August, 43% of the strategic leaflets dropped were to the French, with another 7% to the Dutch and Belgians. By September, the picture had changed to such an extent that 90% of the total quantity of strategic leaflets dropped by planes based in the U.K. were dropped over Germany itself, with only 10% divided among the French, Belgians and Dutch.

3. Leaflets To The French in August. Aside from newspapers and periodicals, the chief drops on the French in August were "Messages to Civilians in War Zones" (ZF.10 - 3,200,000); "De Gaulle's Speech" (XF.l - 2,700,000) and "French Army in France" (XF.2 - 2,000,000), bring word of the powerful, newly- equipped French units which had recently been landed.

4. To Foreign "Slave Laborers" in Germany. Beginning in August, and continuing on a greatly increased scale throughout September, an important proportion of the strategic leaflets dropped on Germany proper was directed to the enormous, restive, and potentially powerful group of foreigners imported from occupied territories for forced labor under the Nazis. These leaflets (WG. series) ranged from single sheet "alerts" of the Allied approach, through a 32-page booklet of general information and advice, to specific instructions from the Allied High Command. They were printed in French, Polish, Dutch, Czech and Italian, as well as in German, and dropped in large quantities on the main industrial centers of the Reich.

5. Other Noteworthy Strategic Leaflets During The Period. Two other leaflets dropped during this period should also be mentioned. They were "Collapse In The West" (USG.49 - 1,300,000) and: "Appeal To German Women" (G.26 - 3,000,000). The latter leaflet, which emphasized the futility of continued resistance by the German Army and suggested to German women that they write their men to save themselves from being killed in the last months of the war - to get out of it by getting captured - would seem to have had some degree of success, judging from mail to German soldiers which has fallen into Allied hands.

E. NACHRICHTEN

1. Increasing Importance Of The News Leaflet. Throughout the period, P/W reaction as well as German newspaper and radio references continued to indicate the increasing importance of news leaflets in Psychological Warfare.

By September, Nachrichten, the German language newspaper (T series) accounted for nearly fifty per cent of the total tactical drop and roughly twenty-five per cent of the strategic drop.

2. "Cleverly Done... Completely Bona-Fide Appearance". On September 29th, Nachrichten drew this comment from Karl Siegbold, chief mouthpiece of Goebbels' Propaganda Ministry, in a broadcast beamed to the German home front: "Leaflets are weapons. And we must be careful with all weapons. There are two kinds of leaflets. The first is small-size news-sheets, very cleverly done, with impressive maps and pictures in many narrow columns. They have a completely bona-fide appearance, but among correct and truthful reports they contain innumerable half-truths, omissions and exaggerations. Indeed, every news item, every short article, every comment, contains a small — only just noticeable — amount of distrust in the actions of the German High Command."

3. Comment From The Home Front - "...So Hungry For News". In the afternoon we find an American leaflet in our garden — News for the troops of 18 September, 1944, — with the most unbelievable reports, colored by tendencies, true and false stories nicely mixed up. Being so hungry for news — for one week we lived without newspapers or radios and only with rumors - this leaflet is anxiously absorbed and people try to get the real truth out of it. From diary, now in Allied hands, of German civilian – September, 1941.

4. Comment from West-Wall - "We Are Starving For Anything Printed". Although the front has been temporarily stabilised on the German border the Nazis still have not been able to supply their troops with any substantial amounts of German propaganda. Few or no radios exist in the Front lines. Newspapers are extremely scarce, and many units have had no mail for weeks. Interest in our leaflets is greatly enhanced by this communications vacuum.

A soldier in the West-Wall area described the reactions of his comrades in this respect as: "We are starving for anything printed. Whatever comes to us we swallow eagerly. The more your leaflets include, the more they are welcomed." Weekly Intelligence Survey for PWD, 21/10/44.

F. REACTIONS.

1. "77% Of the Prisoners Taken had Read Leaflets" - Anthony Eden. The flow of evidence that the Allied leafleting campaign is proving effective has been constant and impressive. Perhaps the two most spectacular examples were the warning over the German radio by Karl Siegbold, quoted in the section on Nachrichten above, and the official statement by the British Foreign Secretary to the House of Commons that over 77% of the German P/Ws taken in Normandy were found to have read Allied leaflets. Below are other examples, selected at random from various sources.

2. "Leaflets Are Read On An Increasing Scale". "Reports received from Germany during the past month continue to show that leaflets are read on an increasing scale. Among a number of these reports a certain change of outlook is to be observed. Until recently an individual critical attitude has been shown, whereas now any criticism tends towards a purely conventional endeavor to keep up appearances." Air Ministry Weekly - August.

3. "So That German Troops Might Surrender In Good Order." An Administrative Officer of the 277 Inf. Div. stated on capture that he had passed the leaflet "One Minute" (ZG.45) to all of his men he could find in order to try to avoid panic in the Falaise pocket, so that the German troops might surrender "in good order and with military bearing". 21 A.G. Report.

4. "Clever Propaganda To Disintegrate The German Forces." "The enemy on his part is employing all means in order to shatter the steadfastness of the German people on which everything depends. He seeks especially by means of clever propaganda to disintegrate the German Forces and to paralyse their will to resist. He will not succeed in this. However, it would be wrong to think that such attempts are so futile that they need not be taken seriously." (signed) BLASKOVITZ Order from Commander In Chief, German Army Group G.

5. "Netted Us 102 Prisoners" "The air-drop, which incidentally was an expert job, netted us 102 Prisoners who came over to our side after swimming the river - no mean feat in itself. The net result of this particular operation was that all the Russian troops in that sector were withdrawn, thus weakening the inner defences, which is our ultimate objective." Report from PWD Officer 12 A.G.

6. "They Came In Each With A Hand Touching The Precious Document." "Other Allied aircraft have been dropping leaflets on the Germans, advising them to surrender because of the hopelessness of their position. These leaflets are sent down in bombs instead of being fired in shells in order to get greater distribution. A bomb will scatter fifteen thousand leaflets, while a shell only contains four hundred. The leaflets include Safe Conducts in English and German for troops wishing to surrender, and they've helped to bring in a huge haul of prisoners. In one area more than half the Germans were found to be carrying them. Three enemy prisoners who surrendered had only one leaflet between them. They came in, each with a hand touching the precious document, while three other hands were raised in the air in token of surrender". B.B.C. - 3 September.

7. French News Leaflet was "Required Reading" Among Cheminots. "For a long time now the "Courrier de L'Air" has been circulated regularly amongst French railway workers. It is considered "required reading" among these men, who have perfected a system of rapid communication of all new developments in the battle for liberation. As a part of the system, news heard along the line is typed up by the "cheminots" and disseminated amongst various other categories of railway workers." Private report by Official Of the Societe National Des Chemins De Fer - August.

8. At Le Havre "Over 75% Had Leaflets On Them". "You will be interested to hear that when the final count came in for Le Havre it showed 11,302 prisoners out of 12,000 garrison. Analysis shows that over 75% had leaflets on them." Report from P.W.D. Officer, 21 AG

9. "They Cannot See Enough Of Our Leaflets". "Informant, had seen several leaflets showing pictures of the liberation of Normandy. He was very impressed with the photographs. In Holland, people see pictures of Allied prisoners and captured or destroyed Allied war material every day and they cannot see enough of our leaflets showing the other side." Private Report - August.

10. "With Leaflets Falling All Around, He Found Himself Leading A 'Bunch [of] Neurotics'." It is impossible to determine the exact effectiveness of airdrops, but it is a fact that over 80% of all prisoners we have taken on the Brest Peninsula have come in with leaflets in their possession. Korvette Kapitan Fritz Otto, now a prisoner, informed us that with leaflets falling all around his troops he found himself leading a 'bunch of neurotics' and gave the whole thing up, coining over to us." Report from P.W.D. Officer, 12 A.G.

 

[Source: TNA FO 371/39112, transcribed by www.psywar.org]



 

 

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