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REPORT ON SPECIAL OPERATIONS DURING OVERLORD

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Submission to the Chiefs of Staff, SHAEF, outlining covert propaganda techniques being applied in support of Operation Overlord. Further assistance is requested from the Royal Air Force to take German radio stations off air so to allow intruder broadcasts and to increase dissemination of the Nachrichten für die Truppe newssheet, 4 August 1944.

TOP SECRET

REPORT ON SPECIAL OPERATIONS DURING “OVERLORD”

1. The media for covert propaganda during operation OVERLORD have been four:

a) The combined radio programme of news and music for the German Armed Forces known as Soldatensender Calais and Kurzwellensender Atlantik (Soldiers’ Station Calais and Short Wave Station Atlantik) broadcast daily from 1830 hours until 0800 hours the following morning. (On medium wave Aspidistra from 2000 hours until 0500 hours).

b) The daily newspaper for the German troops in the West (Nachrichten fuer die Truppe) which is dropped by American Aircraft in quantities varying from 250,000 to 750,000 a night over targets in the West selected by 21st Army Group.

c) The medium-wave (and occasionally short wave) programme of talks for the opposition movement with the SS which is broadcast irregularly at various hours of the day and night on wave lengths used by official German programmes.

d) Forged documents and subversive leaflets distributed in Germany and occupied countries by agents and by balloon. These purport to come either from German official sources or from the various brands of German opposition. They aim at promoting defeatist and subversive activity.

The first two media carry the same news material and comment and carry out the same general propaganda policy. But the newspaper maintains a more neutral attitude, speaking neither from an Allied nor from an explicitly German standpoint.

2. OPERATIONAL TASKS

Two months before D-day the role of these media in Operation OVERLORD had been discussed and agreed with G.2 and G.3 SHAEF. It was to be the task of black propaganda to direct subversive news and comment, both military and political, to the German armed forces in the West; to use SHAEF and other intelligence sources to present exclusive and expert versions of military events; to assist in maintaining deception plans with the advice of G.3 SHAEF.

An audience for both our principal black media had been built up in preparation for OVERLORD. In the eight months preceding D-day it was known that large numbers of German officers and men in all three Services of the Wehrmacht listened regularly to the Calais station and had been impressed by its quick news service and detailed, inside information.

It has since been learnt from prisoners and documents captured in Normandy that the news and comment carried by the station were widely believed and discussed in spite of urgent warnings from the German military authorities that it was British and that those caught listening would be severely punished.

Aircraft distribution of the newspaper for the troops was begun a month before D-day and is thought to have played a part in misleading the enemy about our military intentions.

3. POLICY

Both before and after D-day the main task of black propaganda has been to concentrate the attention of the German soldier on the enemy within (Party authorities) rather than on the enemy without.

In the strictly military field it has endeavoured to keep before the mind of the soldier in the West the military disasters on the Eastern front; the growing weakness of German war production under stress of bombing, blockade and call-up; the impotence of the German Air Force at home and on the battlefields; the breakdown of authority, in particular police authority and the consequently increasing safety of defiance of the law.

After D-day the course of operations in France was used to illustrate the hopelessness of Germany’s continuation of the war while every opportunity was taken to suggest to the German fighting men on the invasion front that they were being sacrificed uselessly and being let down by their leaders. We have striven to suggest the incompetence and selfishness of the German military leaders and their disunity, particularly with reference to quarrels between Rommel and Rundstedt, Rommel and Bollmann, and between the various services.

4. TECHNIQUE

The technique of the two main media, Calais/Atlantik and the News-sheet, has been to provide German soldier listeners with a news service comprising a mixture of harmless items of general interest to German soldiers (e.g. Sports News, Promotions, Decorations), of news taken from the German DNB wireless teleprinter services, and, in the case of radio, put out frequently ahead of the German official broadcasting services, often with a subversive twist. The news service is flavoured with subversive inside information items based on intelligent deduction from intelligence material and careful reading of German newspapers and plausible inventions. Propaganda by direct appeal has played no part.

Nachrichten für die Truppe, 26 June 1944

Nachrichten für die Truppe, 26 June 1944

Military situations and themes have been given special treatment in talks, these talks afterwards being rewritten into leading articles for the Troop Newspaper. Examples of such themes are:

i) The coastal divisions have been written off by the High Command as a loss and are there simply to serve as human land-mines in the way of invasion.

ii) The Cherbourg peninsula has been abandoned by the High Command. No attempt is being made to reinforce it.

iii) Von Schlieben and 25,000 officers and men have set an example of military realism in refusing to obey the theatrical Fuehrer-order to fight to the last cartridge.

iv) Heavy losses incurred by U-boats in futile attempts to interfere in the Channel under suicidal conditions. The failure of the one-man torpedo in the Seine Bay owing to insufficient preparation.

v) Shortage of munitions, shortage of petrol, shortage of transport make it impossible for the troops to carry out tactical tasks and justify their surrender. The breakdown of rear communications on the Normandy front owing to bombing and the efforts of the Maquis.

vi) The frittering away by the nervous, impulsive Rommel in the battle between Orne and the Odon of his tanks and Panzer Grenadiers, rendering impossible the promised counter-offensive with masses of armour to which we had committed him.

vii) The realisation by Germany’s best generals that the outlook is hopeless leads to an organised conspiracy to kill Hitler and set up a government which can make peace.

We have kept the home front well in the picture with particular reference to the approach of the Russian armies to Germany, the sufferings of the population under bombing. (We give lists of bombed streets so that soldiers may apply for compassionate leave). Constant emphasis is laid on the inequality of sacrifice between the privileged Party officials and the ordinary Germans. Throughout we endeavour to give news with an appeal to the self-interest of the individual listener likely to cause him to act for himself against the collective interests of the German war effort.

5. EVIDENCE OF RECEPTION OF WIRELESS PROPAGANDA

We have ample evidence from statements of prisoners of war captured during OVERLORD that the Calais transmissions have been regularly heard and their content believed. SHAEF interrogations of a number of prisoners during the week ending July 1st showed that over 50% had listened to the station. They included men from infantry, armoured and artillery units, both regular and SS. General von Schlieben and other senior officers listened to Calais as a valuable source of news during the siege of Cherbourg and certain key phrases and themes of our propaganda have reappeared in statements made by Schlieben (as in those of other prisoners) suggesting that they may have been absorbed into his ordinary line of thinking. It is known that the station is listened to by U-boat officers and men at sea as well as at base. From prisoners’ statements it is known that Calais has a large audience among officers and men of the German Air Force and is even turned on in the messes. Official documents have been captured warning against the station. Official statements have been issued denying stories heard on Calais and subsequently circulated by officers and men.

It is considered that our campaign to represent the generals’ conspiracy as a powerful movement to save Germany from military disaster by the elimination of Hitler and the securing of peace has had considerable success.

6. EVIDENCE OF LEAFLET CIRCULATION

We have good evidence from Norway, France, Switzerland and inside Germany of the circulation of black leaflets which have been distributed by agents and balloons.

Examples of PWE Malingering booklets

Disguised malingering instructions prepared by the Political Warfare Executive

The enemy appear to regard as most dangerous a handbook on methods of malingering which has been printed under various disguises. An order from the High Command warning against this document and expressing concern at the spread of malingering among the troops is in our possession.

Our leaflets purporting to be issued by a German deserters’ organisation, giving advice on ways of deserting to neutral countries, have been found circulating among German troops in Norway and France. Our forged ration cards, dropped by aircraft, are known to be circulating in Germany and seem to have caused considerable administrative difficulties to the German Food Ministry.

Our imitations of official publications for the troops similar to our own ABCA have been warned against by the German military authorities.

Examples of PWE Forged ration coupons

Forged ration coupons dropped by the RAF

7. PROJECTS FOR THE FUTURE

To carry out fully the plans for black propaganda which our resources and policy allow, further cooperation is required from the Services in two respects.

We have in the Aspidistra medium wave transmitter now used for broadcasting the Calais programme on medium wave an instrument enabling us to intrude on a German frequency and counterfeit a German official broadcast in such a way that the vast majority of German listeners will accept instructions or news put out by us in the name of the German Government as of official German origin. To make such an operation possible we need the cooperation of the RAF in forcing the target station of the German radio network off the air so that we can take its place with our counterfeit programme. Research has been carried out into the reaction of German stations to enemy air attack and, although it has been impossible to find an absolutely reliable scheme, it is believed possible to work out an air operation enabling us to carry out the Aspidistra operation.

But our plans cannot be advanced without closer consultation with the staffs in charge of air operations against Germany. To carry out a successful intruder wireless operation at a moment of crisis inside Germany, we must be able to count on the Allied Air Forces driving German wireless stations off the air at a pre-arranged time, and on receiving the appropriate authoritiy to take action. Owing to the absence of such machinery for ordering air attack and authorising an Aspidistra operation at short notice, we were unable to exploit the recent political crisis in Germany in the matter for which this transmitter was designed.

In one other respect, too, closer cooperation with the Air Force is desirable. At present the delivery of our daily newspaper for the German troops in the West, which is considered by 21st Army Group to have priority over all other leaflet operations on their front, is carried out entirely by one squadron of the US Ninth Air Force. It is desirable that the RAF should be asked to cooperate in night and daylight operations to drop this newspaper, which at present [has an average daily] circulation of 250,000 copies, an adequate distribution would be two million daily.

The further use of black propaganda to assist military operations is largely dependent on the extent to which PWE are consulted in the early stages of their planning.

[Source: TNA WO 229/57, transcribed by www.psywar.org]



 

 

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