JF Ptak Science Books Post 1200
A part of the payload dropped on German and Japanese forces were not metal and explosive, but paper. Hundreds of thousands of pieces of paper with real and imagined information, tickets to surrender, reminders of the coming of the end of the war, passages to a prisoner of war camp somewhere that would ensure the soldier's survival of the rest of the war. Convincing someone to surrender, or making it easier for them to not fight too hard and to surrender, is sometimes easier than to confront and kill them.
For the most part these were distributed in a combination effort between the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) and the Royal Air Force (RAF), while the other major segment was done by the Supreme Headquarters of the Army Expedition Force (SHAEF) and the 8th U.S. Army. There pieces of directed information were very persuasive, but of course they were hardly new—not even the delivery system (via aircraft) was an innovation.
These leaflets were more or less an “information” service relating factual events and presented in such a way to persuade and convince whomever picked them up that their cause was at this point futile. In just about every case in the 150 items in my small collection as far as I could determine all of the statements made were indeed correct and accurate. Leaflets were dropped by the ton during the war that were pure fabrication, intended to confuse the scare the recipient into surrender, deceiving them; but not these. (For example, a famous use of deception in major confrontations was Operation Quicksilver and the creation of the First United States Army Group (FUSAG), a non-existent fighting enemy that was supposed to distract the Germans while real preparations were underway elsewhere for the invasion of Europe (D Day).
There was a distinct threat of terror in many of these leaflets, though the terror would never come from the Americans or Brits—the Russians, however, were another story. (Remember that the U.S. gets into the war at the end of 1941; the British had been fighting since 1939; and the Russians, well, they had been fighting too since 1939 [starting out without chivalry and with cold malice against the Finns], but they did fight against the Nazis once they had been completely deceived by them, losing 20 million people in the process. The Germans had much more to fear from them than anything on earth. And rightly so.) The use of terror in propaganda is probably as old as warfare itself—for example the Mongol leader Tamerlane built a pyramid of 90,000 human heads in front of the walls of Delhi to persuade the inhabitants to just forget about fighting, and leave. The British employed a terror tactic in the use of the Gurkas and their curved and menacing Kukri to great advantage; the Americans had the Phoenix Program in Vietnam (for the assassination of leading Viet Cong and their supporters), and so on, into the sunset.
I do not intend to try and write a thousand-word history of wartime psychological operations here—I just wanted to share some of the extreme emotions and humanity that surfaces in some of these leaflets. The first (above), for example, translated, asks “Where are your loved ones?” (Sprint, 1945), and hammers away at the soldiers memories of home and family, and about what might be happening to that family now that the war is just about won by the Allied forces, and that the Russians were on their way to Berlin. These family-driven, hollowing, haunting, nervous questions went, I suspect, to the very heart of anyone who picked it up.
The second, “Auf fremder Erde (etc.)” (Spring 1945), roughly translated, called the attention of the German soldier again to the Russians, “On German soil the Russian Deluge is Raging across the Oder toward the Heart of Germany!” And “On foreign soil you are perishing relentlessly, without value, without influence, on this war which has long been decided!”
The third leaflet, “Deutschland R-Industrie…” (3 April 1945) informs the German soldier that the hear of the German industrial region has been punctured and given up, and that supplies to soldiers in the field would no longer occur—that the fighting man was basically adrift, lost, forgotten, unreachable by everyone except the enemy.
The next example is a 10x8 inch surrender pass that was dropped on Japanese soldiers in the early spring of 1945, and tartly signed “C-in-C [Commander in Chief] Allied Forces”. There is a very full explanation in Japanese on the back of the ticket, which has not been translated. It seems rather remarkable to me that this was so well designed, and so attractive, and so large, and that it was dropped from a plane on thousands of Japanese troops. As were they all, really—just about every one of the leaflets in y house are extremely well written and designed—epistles from a plane to induce surrender to a defeated, tired, dying set of armies.