SGM Herb Friedman (Ret.)
Note: A short version of this article appeared in the October 2000
Falling Leaf, Journal of the Psychological Warfare Society
The strategic heavy bomber is the major symbol of American power throughout the history of our psychological operations (PSYOP). No other nation has ever used bombers as a regular reappearing image on their propaganda. This seems uniquely American. In this article you will see a number of propaganda leaflets prepared by the United States starting during WWII and used as recently as in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Each leaflet threatens the enemy with catastrophic bombing should they resist. The threat was real. The American heavy bomber is the symbol of the reach and strategic power of the United States. The leaflets reflect that power and are an effective means of changing minds and hearts.
Curiously, a decade after this article was written a found a similar comment by Master Sergeant Timothy Lawn in a 2016 article published by the Defence Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDS):
The B-52 became the cornerstone of U.S. foreign national policy. The B-52 intercontinental strategic jet bomber, nicknamed the BUFF Big Ugly Fat Fella (or other derogatory name, depending on who you talk too), was designed in the early 1950s to act as a deterrent, countering Soviet nuclear expansion. The B-52s capabilities allow it loiter in inclement weather high above terrain thick with jungle growth laced with tunnels and bunkers, or to orbit over and zero in on targets in dense urban or city terrain. Ideal in supporting troops in enemy contact, the B-52 can deliver precision-guided smart munitions or lay a carpet of 30 tons of high explosives, obliterating enemy movements and clearing large swaths of enemy-held territory with a cacophonic and murderous barrage.
I have always wondered if the image of American aircraft overhead was of any real propaganda value. The question seems to be answered in a secret 1943 report on what was needed by the Philippine Resistance to carry on under Japanese occupation:
Undoubtedly, the best and most irrefutable propaganda that the Allied can now use in the Philippines is the airplane. This will give lie to the main Japanese propaganda and blow to smithereens their entire propaganda machine. Nothing except invasion can equal the propaganda value of the sight of an American airplane in the Philippine skies today Even if the airplane were to drop nothing, the mere sight of it and the star on its wings will give the people tangible things to boost their morale and renew their faith in the American pledge to redeem the Philippines.
Think of all the countries in Europe and Asia under German or Japanese occupation in WWII and multiply that thought one hundred times.
A B-17 Flying Fortress of the 339th Bombardment Squadron,
96th Bomb Group, flying over Germany in the summer of 1944.
WWII Germany #USG 8
During WWII the United States dropped a number of leaflets on Germany showing the B-17 Flying Fortress or the B-24 Liberator bomber. Leaflet "USG 8" dropped in late 1943 shows an American B-17 with bomb-bay doors open. It tells the Germans that the Americans are here and reminds them that they brought the United States into their war. The text on the front says, "Now the American Flying Fortresses are in action." The text on the back says, "This leaflet was dropped by an American bomber." Around the four sides of the leaflet is the message "Adolf Hitler declared war on the United States December 11, 1941." This was one of the earliest leaflets to show an American bomber. Many more would follow.
WWII Germany #USG9
After taking heavy losses early in the war from anti-aircraft fire and Luftwaffe fighters, the Royal Air Force chose to schedule bomb runs over Germany only at night. The Americans, new to the war, took on the extremely dangerous daylight bombing of the Third Reich. This day-night bombing campaign is symbolically depicted in leaflet USG9. United States B-17 Flying Fortresses and British Avro Lancaster bombers are shown on a bombing mission. The left of the leaflet is daylight, the right of the leaflet is nighttime. The text is "DAY AND NIGHT WITH UNITED AIRCRAFT." The back of the leaflet is all text, "Adolf Hitler declared war on the United States on 11 December 1941. The American bombers give their answer: ATTACK. ...Bombing with the RAF all day and night. ...At the most valuable military targets in all of the Reich." At the bottom of the leaflet in small print, "This leaflet was dropped by an American bomber." It is very rare for a U.S. leaflet to show aircraft from another nation. Three million of these leaflets were printed on 29 July 1943 by the British printer Waterlow and Sons. A total of 2,652,000 were dropped over the enemy on 13 bomb raids between 2 August and 3 December 1943.
WWII Belgium #USB 6
One of the most handsome and colorful leaflets that featured the American B-17 Flying Fortress was leaflet USB 6, dropped on occupied Belgium to give the people the hope of an eventual Allied victory and encourage them to fight on against the Germans. The front of the leaflet depicts four B-17 bombers flying above an American flag depicted in full color. The back is all text and has a long propaganda message in both French and Flemish. A Complete Index of Allied Airborne Leaflets and Magazines 1939-1945 says that this leaflet was prepared by the United States Office of War Information entitled The American Air Force, and dropped beginning 3 November 1943. The text quotes from President Roosevelts message to Congress on 7 January 1943 and tells the Belgians at the bottom of the leaflet that the Americans will bomb by day while the British bomb at night.
The exact same image was used again on a leaflet to Germany coded USG 5 that was dropped with a different German-language message from July to November, 1943.
WWII France USF.64
Starting in 1942 the American Office of War Information regularly dropped a 4-page newspaper over France entitled L'Amérique en Guerre, (America at War). By D-Day in 1944 the U.S. was distributing 7 million copies of the newspaper each week. Issue number No. 71, Dated 13 October 1943 depicts an American B-17 Flying Fortress. Some of the stories are: Nothing in the Reich is safe. American bombing of Eastern Prussia; Roosevelt says: Fortress Europe is without a roof and Notice to France.
WWII North Africa I.29
This 1943 British Political Warfare Executive 32-page booklet was aimed at Italians still fighting in North Africa. The cover shows German prisoners of War being led by a British Tommy. Other pages depict the German retreat from and escape from North Africa; the strategy of General Wavell; the capture of Tobruk and the Mediterranean and all of the countries involved in the war. 1,212,200 copies of the booklet were printed. Even though the booklet was British, it still featured the American heavy bomber. Text on the cover is:
THE AMERICAN VICTORY
The United Nations march to the southern coast of the Mediterranean
The back cover depicts an American B-17 with bomb bay doors open and the text:
Tactical Leaflet CPH 3 was produced by the
Ninth Army for use against the German Army in October 1944. The front depicts a sky full of silhouetted four-engine bombers and the text: United States
Did you hear us?
The back is all text. Some of the message is:
German Soldiers on the Western Front
We heavy bombers will do no immediate harm to you. We leave this to the weapons of our tactical air force. We fly in German air space about 10,000 meters above your heads. Your fox holes are not our aim. Our aims are the factories producing your ammunition, railroad tracks which supply you and bridges which connect you with your home. We bombed the bridges of Julich on 29 October. We dropped 9,000 tons of explosives on
in nine attacks from 28 to 31 October. We systemically bomb important war industries 50-100 kilometers behind your front. Cologne
Think about the destruction every time that we come with out four-engine bombers. We will be back soon.
You will hear from us again!
This Allied leaflet targets German workers. It does not show a bomb or devastation. Instead, it simply tells the reader that the bomber overhead could have dropped tons of bombs on Germany. It chose to drop paper leaflets in an attempt to save German lives. Some of the text is:
THREE TONS OF EXPLOSIVES
Were left behind at the airbase in order that these leaflets could be dropped. One airplane flew here with no other load than leaflets. Why? Does the enemy have to save bombs? You know the Allies have enough planes and bombs to step up even more the concentrated bomb warfare. No - the purpose of these leaflets is not to destroy lives, but to save lives. Therefore, read this leaflet carefully. On the other side it has three vital instructions for you and your family.
The leaflet goes on to ask the finders to listen to the Allied radios in London, Luxembourg and Moscow to receive further warnings. It tells the people to avoid targets like factories, highways and railroads. It warns them not to allow themselves to be turned into soldiers by joining the Volkssturm. Finally, it asks the workers to convince the Wehrmacht to stop fighting and to stay alive to help rebuild Germany.
A Hundred thousand...
Black propaganda is made by one side and disguised so the enemy does not know where it originated. The American Office of Strategic Services in Berne, Switzerland, produced hundreds of leaflets and booklets that were clandestinely sent into Germany to weaken its morale. This small leaflet slip numbered 27 warns the Germans of the misery to come from the massive Allied air attacks. The text is:
A hundred thousand enemy pilots will lead millions of Germans into misery.
The Rumor Campaign
In an attempt to raise the morale of occupied Europe and lower the morale of the German military, civilians and their allies, the secret British Underground Propaganda Committee produced well over eight thousand rumors, (they called them Sibs from the Latin sibalare to hiss). Researcher Lee Richards mentions the whisper campaign and many of these rumors in his book Whispers of War, Psywar.org, 2010. In regard to British propaganda rumors about Allied heavy bombing he lists dozens of moral-destroying rumors. I have selected a few of the more interesting ones:
26 October 1940 - Letters from Berlin are arriving late. The reason is strict censorship because there were 2,000 people killed in the last raid on Berlin, and the authorities dont want this to get out.
16 April 1942 No more deep civilian shelters will be built. All cement is reserved for military defenses in France, Holland and Belgium.
10 September 1943 - The real reason for the new trench shelters being dug everywhere is that the big deep shelters have proved useless in the new attacks, people being suffocated or roasted alive.
16 June 1944 The amount of steel and cement in the Normandy section of the Atlantic Wall would have built air-raid shelters for 2.5 million people.
25 August 1944 After a secret debate in Washington it was decided that 3,600 B-29 Super Fortresses should be sent to Europe. Each carried 10 tons of bombs.
The German response - Flying Fortresses? Flying Coffins
The Germans retaliated with a leaflet of their own threatening death and destruction to any Allied bomber crew who had the temerity to fly a mission over the Fatherland. Leaflet AI-026-2-44 depicts a flight of seven flying coffins in the air over Germany, each coffin bearing a Christian cross. The text on the front is:
A long message on the back states:
THATS WHAT THEY TURNED OUT TO BE
On January 11th when American and British bomber formations attempted to carry out raids against German towns.
136 planes, 124 of which were four-engine bombers, were wiped out.
1300 picked American and British airmen who had been trained for a long time were lost in this one raid alone.
They were burned to death, shot to pieces or crashed with their planes.
WHAT DID THIS RAID ACCOMPLISH?
A few hundred German homes bombed and a few hundred persons, mainly women and children, killed or wounded. No military target was hit, no factory destroyed.
Your forces lost:
136 big planes, costing millions and millions of the American taxpayers money.
1300 airmen killed, causing untold grief at home.
Only a few of those shot down still lived and could be taken prisoner.
What a pity, those boys from whatever parts of America or Great Britain they might have come, should die so soon especially is such a horrible manner in a strange continent far away from their folks at home. They fought against a country that has never done them any harm.
DO YOU REALLY THINK THE RAID WAS WORTH WHILE?
German records indicate that that the text of this leaflet was written by Sonderführer (specialist officer) Kempin and the drawing was done by Obergefreiter (Lance Corporal) Schwabe.
German B-17 Leaflet
Sometimes the enemy would use our own bomber leaflet theme against us. One German leaflet coded ACE shows a British farmer and his grandson watching B-17s take off on a mission to bomb
. The grandson remarks on the power of the bomber and the old man replies in part: Germany
Yes boy, those beautiful B-17s with their 5000 horsepower will change the face of the earth. They smash a way for our troops. They pave the road to victory. Its the power of modern machines which will win the war for our fighting men.
ACE leaflets were prepared by the Germans for use against Allied troops in
Northwest Europein 1945. The back of the leaflet is all text and the young boy asks why if the Allies have so many modern machines, why so many fathers of his schoolmates have been killed in the war. The Germans answer seeks to drive a wedge between the troops on the ground and the Air Force and government strategists by pointing out that airpower will never win a war, and ground troops are needed. The leaflet ends with the demoralizing statement:
The Order of the White Feather
The Germans loved to whine about Allied bombing. They had bombed the civilian cities of Warsaw, Rotterdam and London, but when the pigeons came home to roost and bombs were falling on Germany they howled and cried. In the above uncoded leaflet the Germans accuse American General Spaatz of cowardice for the bombing of Berlin on 3 February 1945 and award him a white feather. Later in February, the Germans sent another leaflet awarding General Doolittle a white feather for bombing Dresden.
This is Great!
Here the American OSS Moral Operations unit in Berne, Switzerland, makes fun of that whining. In a leaflet filed with the letter S Hitler is seen smirking over his bombing of London and saying:
That is great!
The Fuehrer is not so happy about the bombing of the industrial Ruhr and says on that subject:
But this is inhumane.
A series of 10 OSS anti-Nazi and Hitler cartoon leaflets were all coded with the letter S.
The Genius of the Fuehrer
The OSS clandestine leaflet from Switzerland depicts the sky filled with American bombers. Hitler was happy to bomb Rotterdam and Warsaw and London. Now the Allies are returning the favor and he is less happy. The text is:
The Genius of the Fuehrer
What he thought of the others we get back a hundredfold
Movie Poster The Four Feathers
For the youngsters among us that have no idea of what the white feather meant, most Americans first heard of it in the above 1939 propaganda movie where a British officer resigns his post before his unit deploys and is awarded white feathers for cowardice by his comrades. He proves himself a hero, rescues and saves the lives of his comrades and returns the feather to each of them. WWII was about a month away and I suspect the movie was made to remind Americans of their close ties with the British and hopefully draw the United States into the war.
It was not only the Germans that attacked the American bombing campaign. The Fascist Italians also produced a number of posters and postcards that attacked the American Air Force as murderers and war criminals. A whole series of images were published. In one, the artist Gino Boccasile depicts an American thug standing over a crying child while a B-17 bomber is depicted in the background. The text is:
The inhuman crimes of the Gangsters Pilots always points to the Government of the United States
In another, a bloodied child stands over a dead infant while a B-17 flies overhead.
A third Italian propaganda poster adds racism to the accusation as the American pilot labeled Liberator is depicted as a barbaric black man. A fourth poster entitled Work of the Liberators! depicts the Statue of Liberty as Death as she stands over a burning Italian city while bombers fly overhead. It is clear that the American bombing campaign was considered an excellent propaganda theme by both the United States and its sworn enemies.
LEAFLETS AGAINST JAPAN
People of Japan!
We seldom get to see the training leaflets that candidates for PSYOP positions prepared as part of their curriculum. The above leaflet was designed and printed by the OWI outpost training class in San Francisco in 1944 as it prepared for deployment to the Pacific. The purpose of the project was to gain experience in studying military conditions for which leaflets would conceivably be used in the field, and to practice writing and producing leaflets that would deal with hypothetical situations set up by the class.
The candidates attempted to function as a combat team made of an artist, a military liaison, writers, a Japanese translator, two Davidson pressmen, an advisor-critic and an elected chief of project. This leaflet told the Japanese of the mighty B-19 bomber and prophesied the ultimate defeat of Japan. You can tell this is an early practice leaflet because the language is stilted and does not seem to roll off the tongue naturally. The map is also rather busy and not easy to understand. They would get better; much better. The text on the back says in part:
People of Japan!
The B-29s of America, largest and most powerful planes in the world, bring you this message from the people of the Allies.
Look at the map on the other side of this leaflet. You will see the roads to the Japanese mainland; the roads along which Allied troops are marching, Allied ships are sailing, Allied planes are flying.
You will see the outer defense line of Japan as it once was. You will see how it has drawn inward since the Allies began their offensive at Guadalcanal in August, 1942.The Allies are moving against Japan from the west, from the east, from the south and from the north.
Do not you, the people of Japan, now look at the skies with dread? For you know that the planes of the Allies have come in the past and will come again and again. You know they bring bombs to destroy Japans war machine.
It is this war machine, built by the greedy Japanese militarists to satisfy their lust for power at the cost of you, the Japanese people that is the target of the military might of the Allies.
WARNING! - 150-J-1
The newspaper Free Philippines of 31 July 1945 talks about one version of this leaflet, a Psychological Warfare Branch, U.S. Army Forces Pacific Area product coded 150-J-1. This is a "directive leaflet," one that gives orders, instructions, and directives to the target audience. The article states:
Leaflets Will Give Jap Cities 72-Hour Notice of Air Assault.
Leaflets soon will rain on Japan, warning civilians that their home cities will be subjected to large-scale air-raids within 72 hours, Psychological Warfare Branch of General Macarthur's Headquarters has announced.
Leaflets will be dropped by planes of General George C. Kenney's Far East Air Forces.B-29 dropping bombs
Lt. Colonel J. W. Greene, executive officer of PWB, said: "The new warning program is part of the truth campaign started by the branch some time ago, which has produced excellent results. Furthermore, the appearance of the leaflets, followed by a raid in force, in each case in clock-like regularity will demonstrate to the people of Japan that their army and navy air forces are impotent to stop us, even when they know exactly when and where we are coming."
The leaflet shows a white bomb-burst on a red and black background. The center of the burst states:
This city is the next target of the United States Army Air Force.
On the reverse side the message is amplified, informing Japanese that doom is coming in 72 hours.
The Japanese are warned: "As you can see, your military force is powerless to stop us... This destruction will continue so long as the people follow the militarists."
Japanese are advised to turn away from the militarists and endeavor to save what is left of Japan, and urged "to evacuate the city at once."
Carl Berger mentions the leaflet in more detail in An Introduction to Wartime Leaflets. He says:
During the summer of 1945, prior to B-29 attacks on Japanese cities, American aircraft dropped hundreds of thousands of warning leaflets bearing the heading: "Civilians! Evacuate at once!" and the following text:
These leaflets are being dropped to notify you that your city has been listed for destruction by our powerful air force. The bombing will begin within 72 hours.
This advance notice will give your military authorities ample time to take necessary defensive measures to protect you from the inevitable attack. Watch and see how powerless they are to protect you.
We give the military clique this notification of our plans because we know there is nothing they can do to stop our overwhelming power and our iron determination. We want you to see how powerless the military is to protect you.
Systematic destruction of city after city will continue as long as you blindly follow your military leaders whose blunders have placed you on the very brink of oblivion. It is your responsibility to overthrow the military government now and save what is left of your beautiful nation.
In the meanwhile, we urge all civilians to evacuate at once.
Berger adds that the leaflets were very effective and after the war Japanese officials stated, "The military had no time to prepare special defenses and practically all persons rushed out of town."
In 1947, the Morale Division of the Office of War Information produced a strategic bombing survey of Japan entitled The Effects of strategic bombing on Japanese morale. In regard to the effect of the American bombing it says:
One of the most spectacular moves in psychological warfare was the Ignited States Strategic Air Forces announcement to the Japanese people of three series of cities that it promised to destroy In the next few days. By this warning to evacuate, the power of the American air arm and the contempt in which it held the Japanese defenders were convincingly demonstrated.
As a result of the American air offensive against Japan, 500 separate targets were bombed and an average of 43 percent of Japan's 68 largest cities were destroyed. More than two-thirds of the civilian population experienced air raids, and more than one-third personally experienced bombing. As estimated from the Morale Division sample survey, approximately 1,300,000 people were injured and approximately 900,000 killed as a result of the bombings. Bombing, or the threat of bombing, resulted in mass disruption of the lives of countless millions of people, including the evacuation of more than 8,500,000 persons from cities.
The leaflets were so successful that during the Korean War similar leaflets warned the North Koreans in February 1953 of cities and military targets to be bombed during a U.N. operation called "Plan Strike." During the 1990-1991 Persian Gulf War, Coalition forces dropped leaflets warning specific Iraqi infantry divisions that they were about to be bombed by B-52s. It is believed that there were mass defections in these units before the bombings occurred.
Japanese Navy and Air Force Powerless - 134-J-1
The official title of U.S. Army Psychological Warfare Branch Leaflet coded 134-J-1 is: Japanese Navy and Air Force Powerless. The target is the Japanese homeland. The leaflet depicts a Japanese city with the shadow of a U.S. B-29 upon it. One wing of the aircraft is visible in the upper left-hand corner. The text on the back is:
Boasting that their defense was an iron wall, the militarists asserted that the Japanese Navy and Air Force would annihilate all who attacked the homeland.
Today, those militarists stand powerless while the U.S. Navy and Air Force attack Japan at will and with increasing fury.
It is clear that the Japanese Navy and Air Force cannot defend the homeland. It is also clear that the militarists whose so-called defense was merely an empty word, are not worthy to be leaders.
The full force of the American attack has not yet been felt. When it comes, the destruction will be pitiless and complete.
The militarists cannot save Japan by their boasts, but the people can save their country by unconditional surrender.
This leaflet depicting a flight of B-24 Liberator bombers was prepared by the
Only Americans Eagles are in the Sky. Why?
The text on the back says in part:
Ask yourself how many Japanese planes you have seen in the sky in recent weeks. Why have they disappeared?
Are our planes ever challenged when they roar in the sky above you? What has become of the wild eagles who were trained to protect you?
Who has domination of the air above you? And have you not heard your Gumbatsu spokesmen say that whoever dominates the air will win the war?
The Gumbatsu is mentioned in many American leaflets to the Japanese. The term represents what President Eisenhower would later call the Military-Industrial complex, a mix of high ranking officers, government officials and leaders of industry.
Leaflet 3F6 Back
This leaflet depicts a B-29 over the Pacific. The data sheet states that it is a
test leaflet, prepared on 26 September 1944 to be dropped before 26 October
1944. It appears to be a morale leaflet for the people of the Philippines to tell them of
American victories and coming liberation. The code shows that the Sixth U.S. Army prepared
this leaflet for Filipinos. The shadow of the B-29 covers all of those areas where
Here is a similar leaflet depicting the silhouette of a B-29 approaching the Japanese Home Islands. This leaflet was printed by the OWI on Saipan to weaken Japanese resistance before an assault on their positions. Some of the text on the back is:
Since our new giant bombers began their frequent air raids against the home islands of Japan in June and our Navy and Marines captured Saipan, Tinian and Guam, your leaders at home have been fearful lest Japan itself be invaded and seized
Resistance on your part is futile. You cannot withstand the overwhelming force of our men, ships, planes, tanks and various other weapons of war. You cannot match our industrial strength. For Japan, the war is already lost.
This Saipan OWI leaflet depicts a B-29 bomber over a bombed-out Tokyo on the front. The back features U.S. President Harry Truman and scenes of Japanese home life. The text on the front is:
Save yourselves from this destruction
A Super-Fortress over Tokyo
Your alternatives are as follows:
A cessation of hostilities with unconditional surrender; this is the only way left for preservation of your families, your homes, your economy, and your country.
Or a futile prolongation of resistance which will result in a needless desolation of your country and destruction even surpassing in scale that of Germany.
Japanese Cities Leaflet 2106
Most of the leaflets dropped on Japan depicted B-29 Super Fortresses, although some did show B-17s or B-24s. The most famous leaflet showed a flight of five B-29s dropping bombs and a number of Japanese cities printed in small circles below. The Air Force dropped this leaflet on numerous occasions. For instance, on one raid 700,000 were dropped by the 73rd Bomb Wing on several Japanese cities on the night of 27-28 July 1945. Text on the back is:
ATTENTION JAPANESE PEOPLE
Read this carefully as it may save your life or the life of a relative or a friend. In the next few days, four or more of the cities named on the reverse side of this leaflet will be destroyed by American bombs. These cities contain military installations and workshops or factories, which produce military goods. We are determined to destroy all of the tools of the military clique that they are using to prolong this useless war. Unfortunately, bombs have no eyes. So, in accordance with America's well-known humanitarian policies, the American Air Force, which does not wish to injure innocent people, now gives you warning to evacuate the cities named and save your lives.
America is not fighting the Japanese people but is fighting the military clique, which has enslaved the Japanese people. The peace, which America will bring, will free the people from the oppression of the Japanese military clique and mean the emergence of a new and better Japan.
You can restore peace by demanding new and better leaders who will end the War.
We cannot promise that only these cities will be among those attacked, but at least four will be, so heed this warning and evacuate these cities immediately.
The background of this operation is told in greater detail by William E. Daugherty in A Psychological Casebook, John Hopkins Press, Baltimore, MD, 1958. Daugherty mentions the leaflets in an article entitled "Bomb Warnings to Friendly and Enemy Civilian Targets."
To increase the impact of the limited number of leaflets the Air Force could drop on Japanese cities, General Curtis LeMay, the commanding general of the 20th Air Force requested that a leaflet be prepared for dropping on several Japanese cities, warning their inhabitants that there was the imminent probability that the designated cities would soon be leveled by fire bombs.
The text of the original air warning leaflet used in Japan contained the names of twelve cities, at least four of which were to be destroyed. Tokyo was included among the twelve, but a last-minute change in plans led to the necessity for deleting this name and the preparation of a new leaflet. Included among the eleven cities named, were eight on the main island of Honshu and one each on the islands of Shikoku, Hokkaido, and Kyushu.
After the final text was approved, Office of War Information printing personnel on Saipan set about to provide the 20th Air Force with a sufficient number of copies of the leaflets to permit a liberal coverage of the selected targets. On 27 July 1945, the day following the pronouncement of Potsdam, the first of these leaflets were dropped on the originally named cities. The following night, five of the eleven cities - Tsu, Aomori, Ichinomiya, Ogaki, and Uwajima - were bombed and left in ashes.
A second leaflet named twelve additional cities that were marked for probable destruction. More than 500,000 copies of these leaflets were dropped on 30 July by specially assigned B-29 aircraft. Four days later, on 3 August 1945, copies of a third leaflet, naming twelve more cities was dropped.
Japanese Cities Leaflet 2106A
This leaflet was prepared in two different formats. In one, the cities are depicted in circles at the bottom of the leaflet. In a second version the cities were listed in a box at the lower right. The second (box type) leaflet is illustrated in United States Pacific Fleet and Pacific Areas Psychological Warfare, Part Two, Supplement No. 2, CINCPAC - CINCPOA Bulletin No. 164-45, 15 August 1945. It is coded 2106A. Text at the left of the vignette is, "NOTICE BOARD." The purpose of the leaflet is "To inspire fear in the Japanese people by informing them of the cities we intend to destroy, thereby making it clear by inference that the Japanese air force is impotent and that we are masters of the skies over
." The text on the back of the leaflet is identical in both versions. Japan
The leaflets were prepared by the psychological warfare staff of CINCPAC-CINCPOA, in Pearl Harbor and on Saipan. In addition to the employment of leaflets, warnings were also disseminated by a Japanese prisoner of war speaking over the radio facilities of KSAI, an OWI radio transmitter, which beamed medium-wave radio broadcasts to Japan from Saipan. The texts employed in the broadcasts were patterned after those used on the leaflets.
Another variation of this leaflet, coded 2027, shows a B-17 over a bombed Japanese industrial complex. The text on the back reads in part, "Our bombers have already been over Japan many times. Yowata, Moji, Nagasaki, Sasebo, Fukuoka, and other places have been bombed. So long as you continue this hopeless resistance, it is necessary for us to bomb your home cities. It must have been very difficult for the average Japanese technician to decide if he should chance the odds, or desert his strategic factory job and head for the safety of the countryside.
One of the most interesting Allied bombing leaflets depicts General Hap Arnold, Commander of the
20th Air Force and Allied landing barges on the front. The back depicts falling bombs and dead women and children. The leaflet is meant to weaken the morale of the Japanese militarists and civilians. Some of the text is: U.S.
CEASE RESISTANCE AND SAVE YOUR COUNTRY
General Arnold, Commander of the 20th Air Force and who is in charge of the B-29 Super Fortress bomber operations said: There is no part of the Japanese Empire which is not within the bombing range of our Air Force and there is no munitions factory that will escape bombing no matter in how remote a place it may be located.
The systematic bombing of Japans war industries started six months ago from bases in China will be carried on with greater power to soften up the heart of Japan in preparation of joint landing operations by the Allied land, sea and air forces
General Henry Harley Hap
Arnoldwas an aviation pioneer and Chief of the Army Air Corps. He was Commanding General of the U.S. Army Air Forces from 1941 until 1945 and the first and only General of the Air Force in 1949. He is also the only American to achieve five-star rank in two of its armed services. During WWII he was concerned about the B-29 bomber, which was plagued with mechanical problems. In order to assure that U.S. Japanwas attacked the way he planned, named himself the commander of the new bomber force. With approval from the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the president, he created the Twentieth Air Force, consisting of the 20th and 21st Bomber Commands. He transferred General Curtis LeMay and the B-29s from the China-Burma-India theater to the Pacific, with bases in Guam and the Arnold Mariana Islands. LeMay commanded subsequent combat operations against Japan, including the massive incendiary attacks on sixty-four Japanese cities. Hap is credited with being the guiding force behind the aerial destruction of the Japanese Empire. Arnold
Leaflet 2098 is the only leaflet that I ever saw that depicts a B-29 Super-fortress dropping mines. This color leaflet is meant to show the consequences of the sowing of minefields in Japanese waters. The caption next to the photograph on the front is:
This is how mines are laid
The text on the back in part is:
MINE FIELDS OF DEATH
Your harbors and waterways are full of mines. Trying to clear these mine fields is like trying to dry up the ocean with a cup. You remove one and immediately, the B-29s come and lay a new one.
Because of this insane policy, mines in daily increasing numbers are sinking the vessels, which are essential to the new Japan.
If this continues, Japan will soon have no ships left. The militarists are sacrificing Japan's future. How long will you permit their reckless actions to continue?
This leaflet continues the propaganda message started in 2097, which depicts a starving Japanese soldier and says in part:
Your loved ones have been abandoned on isolated Pacific islands where they do not receive one grain of rice or one round of ammunition. Their single hope is that ships will come to rescue them. Now that artery, too, has been severed.
Numberless mines have been laid in the harbors of Japan. In rapid succession, the precious lives of your countrymen and the raw materials that are the nations lifeblood are being blown up .
This leaflet seems to show the consequences of the mines depicted in leaflet 2098. The front bottom shows a Japanese ship that has hit a mine and is covered by flame and smoke and the top depicts the same ship sinking as seen through a submarines periscope. The text on the front is:
Another ship sinks. Your loved ones are waiting anxiously on isolated islands in the South Seas.
The back has a long message explaining the futility of Japanese shipping against American mines. It says in part:
Ah, proud transport. Today again, ships piled high with food, ammunition and vehicles sailed from the harbor. Will those ships ever reach your fighting men?
Do you know that your loves ones are dying of starvation on isolated islands Every day the B-29s are dropping mines around the islands of Japan Since March more than 200 ships have been sunk by these mines Soldiers setting out for the front lines are drowning before the very eyes of their families who are bidding them a tearful farewell .
American OWI leaflet 2020 is interesting because instead of the usual heavy bomber, it
depicts a medium two-engine B-25 Mitchell bomber, the same type that raided
American OWI leaflet 2020 is interesting because instead of the usual heavy bomber, it
depicts a medium two-engine B-25 Mitchell bomber, the same type that raided
There is no text on the front. The back is all text with red flames along the bottom of the leaflet. The purpose of the leaflet is to create fear of bombing and to convince civilians that to end the war is more patriotic than to continue hopeless resistance. The text is:
If this war is continued, the destruction of you beloved homeland will result. This is obvious.
If this war continues, the greater will be the job of rebuilding the country afterwards. The longer the war continues, the more the strength of the nation will be permanently harmed.
It is easy to sacrifice one's life for the country. But to end the war and rebuild the nation is true loyalty.
We know that this is an Office of War Information leaflet designed in Honolulu by American artist Frances Blakemore. This information is found in An American Artist in Tokyo, Michiyo Morioka, the Blakemore Foundation, Seattle, WA. Morioka describes the image in artistic terms and says:
Frances employed black to represent a city razed to the ground, with corpses of soldiers, destroyed buildings, billowing smoke and the ominous presence of American bombers like large predatory birds. The markedly naturalistic style imbues the scene with a grave sense of reality that matches the somber tone of the text and reminds the Japanese of their countrys dismal situation.
Earthquakes and tidal waves cannot be halted. The people realize they are powerless against these overwhelming forces of nature and accept the ruin which follows in their wake.
The military forces of
Japancan no more halt the overwhelming destruction by the Air Force than the people can stop an earthquake. United States
With ever increasing fury this air force will sweep over
like a tidal wave. It will rock the land like an earthquake. With unbelievable striking power, it will bring widespread destruction greater than that caused by all the forces of nature. Japan
The boasting Japanese militarists know they are powerless to stop this terrific devastation. Having thus failed, they now call on helpless old men, women, and children to defend their own homes. They are now asking you to assume responsibility for home defense. But what weapons are the military giving you to defend your homes?
Complete destruction can be avoided only by the peoples overthrowing the militarists and asking for peace. An understanding with the
United Statesmeans that the peace-loving people of will be saved and will be free to build their country into a modern civilized nation. Japan
The Americans dropped leaflets on the Japanese and their allies wherever they were. During WW2 Thailand aligned itself with the Empire of Japan. In 1945, the U.S. Office of War Information (OWI) prepared a leaflet newspaper entitled "Liberation" and dropped it over Bangkok and other major cities.
WW II Thailand - #CTP-1 (Thai Pictorial)
The front of the newspaper depicts two B-29 Superfortress bombers. The caption next to the photograph is:
These B-29 bombers are the largest warplanes in the world. They are 141 feet in size.
The text of the main article is:
Giant B-29 bombers attack from Bangkok to Tokyo. America's giant new air weapons, the B-29 bombers, are heavily attacking Japanese military places throughout Asia. Because the Japanese use Thailand as a military base, the B-29s have bombed Japanese targets in Bangkok. They have also caused great damage to Singapore, Rangoon and Penang.
No target is too distant for these bombers. Japan itself has been attacked time after time. Great damage has been visited on the capitol city of Tokyo. The B-29s have also dropped many bombs on the Japanese cities of Nagoya, Sasebo, Ywata, Omura and Nagasaki. The dockyards, naval bases, aircraft factories, steel mills and other war installations were damaged at these places.
The bombings will be greatly intensified as production of the B-29s is being increased day by day.
This 27 April 1945 leaflet depicts two American B-24 Liberator bombers flying over Burma. The leaflets were designed to be dropped from B-24s. The text on the back is:
DANGER! BOMBS FOR THE JAPANESE!
hese are American planes flying over your land. From this great height, people down below look like small dots. That is why pilots cannot always tell friends from foe. To be safe, stay away from the Japanese!
I am flying over your land to kill Japanese and destroy their supplies. I have no other purpose here. Before the Japanese attacked my country I lived peacefully at home. I had no desire for war. But Japan attacked the United States just it attacked Burma. Now my comrades and I must attack the Japanese wherever they are found. We shall not stop until the Japanese have been completely defeated.
But as I look down from my plane, flying at a great height in the sky, people appear very small. I cannot always tell friend from foe. When I see a group of people near Japanese military places or near the railroad, I take them to be either Japanese soldiers or those who work for them. I must attack them.
This places you in great danger. Yet I do not want to harm you. Please stay in a place of safety when I fly over you. Stay away from roads used by the Japanese. Stay away from the railroad. Stay away from Japanese military places. Do not needlessly endanger your lives.
The American pilot
STAY AWAY FROM JAPANESE MILITARY PLACES!
Another American leaflet coded CBA-44 showed a B-25 Mitchell medium bomber flying low over a jungle hut (basha). The leaflet was prepared by the OWI in 1945 for Burma. Text on the front is:
Danger! Bombs for the Japanese!
Text on the back is:
A message from the pilot of the plane overhead.
The days of the Japanese in Burma are numbered. Everywhere the Allies are smashing the invaders. My plane is helping to route the Japanese. The bombs I drop and the machine gun bullets I fire are speeding the day of liberation. But from the air, I cannot tell friend from foe. I must attack everywhere there are Japanese, from the biggest towns to the smallest villages. Burmese, I do not want to hurt you. I urge you to stay off the roads. Keep away from the railway. If possible, hide in the jungle.
STAY AWAY FROM THE JAPANESE.
Another leaflet showing the American B-25 Mitchell medium bomber depicts a pair of them
flying over the landscape of
The text on the front is:
DANGER! BOMBS FOR THE JAPANESE
These are American planes flying over your land. From this great height people down below look like small ants. That is why pilots cannot always tell friends from foe. To be safe, stay away from the Japanese.
The back has a longer propaganda message that says in part:
A Message from the Pilot of the Plane Flying Overhead
I am flying over your land to kill Japanese and to destroy their supplies. I have no other purpose here.
Before the Japanese attacked my country I lived peacefully at home. I had no desire for war. But
Japanattacked the United Statesjust as it attacked . Now my comrades and I attack the Japanese wherever they are found. We shall not stop until the Japanese have been completely beaten Burma
Stay away from roads used by the Japanese. Stay away from the railroad. Stay away from Japanese military places. Do not needlessly endanger your lives...
Stay away from Japanese military places.
B17 over Hong Kong - #M1906
The Japanese were not safe from American bombers in China. This striking Allied leaflet entitled "Warning for Civilians" was dropped over Japanese troops occupying Hong Kong. It shows a devastating bomb raid by American B-17 Flying Fortresses.
The same image was used on OWI leaflet 2027 dropped over Japan and entitled Save your homeland from destruction. Some of that leaflets text is:
You are destroying your homeland
It is a known fact that America, with its huge resources and unlimited production facilities, is winning the war. Already your inner defense line in such areas as the Marianas has been breached.
Until a Year ago, the closest U.S. base to Japan was Pearl Harbor. Today we have bases near enough to bomb Japan.
America has already bombed Kyushu many times. Yawata, Moji, Nagasaki, Sasebo, Fujuoka, among other cities, have been bombed. As long as you continue this useless resistance, we must bomb the cities of Japan
OWI China Appeal Leaflet CA-147
This 27 July 1945 American leaflet was dropped over China to warn industrial workers away from Japanese operated plants. It depicts heavy bombers over bombed and flaming factories. Some of the text is:
Industrial workers of Taiyuan and Shihchiachuang
Save Yourselves! Soon Chinese and American bombers will be coming to bomb Japanese installations. You Chinese who work in the mills, factories, warehouses and on the decks of ships operated by the Japanese find work elsewhere, quickly! The Japs are doomed. For it is written in the Book of Changes, When a thing reaches it limit, it turns around. Dont work with them and die with them. Let Jap blood spill, not yours .
American bombers over
Leaflet 108 depicts a group of unidentified American bombers over
The aircraft are bombing a factory and buildings burn, chimneys fall, and human bodies fly through the air. The text on the front is:
To pulverize the cruel military might of the Japanese pirates one must bomb their military establishments - Japanese Imperial Munitions Factory.
The text on the back is in both Japanese and Chinese.
Residents with families should quickly find a way to remove their old and weak from the vicinity of docks, railroad stations, fortifications, shipyards, munitions factories, depots, barracks and all other buildings and installations of value to the Japanese military forces.
Those with relatives or friends in the countryside would do well to send their parents, women, and children to temporarily live with them in order to escape the bombing of innocent people.
Curiously, the British also printed and disseminated leaflets that featured American bombers. Here is a leaflet produced by the British South East Asia Command (SEAC), coded SJ/54 and dropped by the Royal Air Force over Japanese soldiers in Burma during 1944 and 1945. What is particularly interesting about this leaflet is that the British have combined the American B-17 Flying Fortress (mostly used in Europe) and the B-29 Super-Fortress. One would expect that they would depict two B-29s. The text on the front of the leaflet is:
SUPERFORTRESSES ATTACK MILITARY TARGETS IN DAYLIGHT
American Superfortress bombers bombed industrial targets in Tokyo in daylight on 24 November.
The text on the back of the leaflet is:
FORTRESS AND SUPERFORTRESS
The B-29 Superfortress bomber has twice the engine power of its younger brother, the Flying Fortress, and is half-again as big. The B-29 carries a greater bomb load at a faster speed and higher than any other bomber in existence.
We should note that the B-29s that dropped the atomic bombs flew at about 33,000 feet, far higher than any Japanese fighter could reach. The photograph is a publicity photo from Boeing, the maker of both bombers. Their caption is:
B-17 Flying Fortress bomber and B-29 Superfortress bomber in flight together during a test conducted by Boeing, circa late 1944.
The Original WWII Photograph from Presse Universal (France)
B-29 aficionado Jesse Lozano points out that the tail number on the American B-29 is 42 24427. Robert A. Mann says in The B-29 Superfortress: A Comprehensive Registry of the Planes and Their Missions, that the aircraft was assigned to the 321st Base Unit. Mann points out that although the B-29 is best known as a bomber, it also served in reconnaissance, as a tanker, and as a rescue plane and that this B-29 was not an aircraft used in combat. Lozano thinks that is correct since he sees no turrets or machines gun barrels visible in the tail section on the B-29 in the photograph.
The back depicts a vertical silhouette of the bomb with black text on a white
background. The purpose of the leaflet is to tell the Japanese that
This leaflet could have been a bomb.
This is to warn you away from military installations, factories, railways, and harbors where our bombs will strike again and again until the gumbatsu quits this hopeless war.
Stay away from military objectives!
The identical image of a bomb is found on the front of leaflet 2013. The message is different:
These bombings will continue until your militarist leaders give up. You know we have the strength to continue until your beautiful land is in ruins. The militarists are continuing the war because they are afraid of punishment. You are the ones who suffer. The whole nation suffers to satisfy a few selfish men. Force your leaders to bring an end to a hopeless war. That is the best prevention against bombing.
This is another OWI leaflet designed by Frances Blakemore. Morioka says about it:
Frances created a portrait of a menacing black bomb. She rendered its three dimensionality, cool tactile surface, and compact geometric shape through a precise hatching technique and fine lines. Set against a red background, the bombs perfect appearance emphasizes its inhuman effectiveness as a modern weapon of mass destruction.
Curiously, the Australians also produced a bomb leaflet for the Japanese coded J.164. Apparently, the Allies believed that a threatening bomb was a terrifying image that would catch the reader's attention. The leaflet was to be dropped wherever the Japanese were for as long as it took. The leaflet depicts a falling bomb and the text:
Man kills man
This is not what we prefer to do, but this is war. Behind this bomb is the full moral and material power of the United Nations. Unlimited numbers of bombs will rain on you until your leaders recognize the futility of the struggle they have condemned you to.
Soviet Bombs over Hamburg
Many other nations used the falling aerial bomb to arouse fear in the enemy, but clearly nobody used it in great depth like the United States did. Here is an example from the Soviet Union to Germany during WWII. The front shows four bombs falling on the German port city of Hamburg. The text on the front is:
Read and Share
Hail Storm of bombs over Hamburg
The back of the leaflet has a letter to My Dear Wilhelm from pilot Paul Maltzahn, a comrade in the military who talks about the fate of Hamburg under the Russian pounding. There is a safe conduct pass from the Commander of the Red Army at the bottom of the leaflet.
An Anti-American, Anti-British Bomb leaflet
This propaganda leaflet was prepared by the Germans to be disseminated on France and should be in the European section. However, it is so similar to the U.S. bomb leaflet dropped on the Japanese that I thought it would work well here where the two could be compared. The leaflet is folded into two pages and the front and back depict a black bomb and the words:
R.A.F. = U.S.A.A.F.
During WWII this would have indicated that the Royal Air Force was the same as the United States Army Air Force. Late in the war the Americans bombed by day, the British by night. When opened, the leaflet had a long French-language text which says in part:
Here is the latest model of the incendiary bomb which the liberators are beginning to drop in the millions on your towns and villages.
It is the final product of their science. The perfection is such that you will be able to see children killed outright or burned alive and your homes destroyed in an instant.
Keep this reproduction. If you are lucky enough to escape this new attack which they promise you, you will have in front of you a picture of the weapon your friends used to liberate you
The text goes on to talk about the foolishness of waiting four years for Allied liberation when they have never liberated anyone. It recommends that the Frenchmen join with the Germans for a brighter and better France.
It is interesting to see how the enemy took this very American image of a bomb and used it for their own purposes.
Bombs over Japan - 808
Leaflet 808 is printed in black and white and depicts 13 American bombs
falling on a smoking
Are you so determined to die that you won't listen to reason?
Don't you know that resistance against our overwhelming strength is futile? Do you enjoy being pounded and shelled to pieces?
What can your death accomplish here?
Come over to us! We will give you food, water, and medical treatment. Our kindness will refute the lies you have been told about American troops!
This is rather a strange leaflet to drop on Japan because it depicts the effect of an Allied bombing on the German city of Essen. The Germans were the allies of the Japanese so this leaflet is saying in effect, "what we did to your allies we can do to you." Like leaflet 2079 below, it uses an old Japanese proverb as part of the propaganda. The proverb is: "What happens twice will happen three times." The leaflet is 5 x 8-inches, brown ink on white paper. The front depicts the bombing of German war plants in Essen. The text is:
The Great Industrial Area of Essen, Germany
The back is all text and says:
What happens twice will happen three times
You should know the strength of American Airpower. The same air power is causing your partner
to surrender. Germany
Our bombers will return, not just once or twice or three times, but many times as long as your militarists continue the war.
In 2015, one of these leaflets was offered for sale from the estate of a Navy veteran who wrote on it Souvenir of Saipan - 1945. These leaflets were prepared on Saipan by the Office of War Information. However, the sailor obviously did not read Japanese because he also wrote on the leaflet, Tokyo - Before & After B-29s. Right war, wrong theater.
Leaflet 2079 depicts an American B-17 bomber attacking railroad yards and surrounding buildings on one side and Naha City, the Capitol of Okinawa, before and after an American bombing raid on the other side. It uses an old Japanese proverb as its theme. The text is:
BEFORE FALLING SEEK THE ASSISTANCE OF YOUR CANE!
The bombing so far has destroyed only a small part of the Japanese industry. However, as time goes on the degree of destruction will be multiplied and Japan will become a ruin. It is not loyal to your country to sit and watch its destruction without doing anything. That is an attitude taken by cowardly persons.
Save your country! Stop resistance! Seek the assistance of your cane before falling!
The caption on the side showing the results of the bombing is:
Naha City of Okinawa Prefecture before the bombing.
I have also seen this leaflet printed on a bright yellow paper that would stand out well on the ground after a bombing.
OWI leaflet 2046 is extremely well done. It has the appearance of an art poster with interesting colors and design. The text is meant to describe the bomber, its range, load and fire power together with indication of the havoc its bombs can create. The text uses the standard propaganda theme of turning the people against the military leaders. The front of the full-color 5 x 8-inch leaflet depicts a pinned down man burning amid the aftermath of a bombing. The text is:
These American bombers above your heads are very advanced and powerful. Even engineers could not have dreamed of these powerful planes just five years ago. These bombers are twenty times bigger than yours, and its armor is so thick and bullets would not penetrate, unless the bullets hit its crucial areas, which is less than one third of total surface of its body. Not only these bombers able to fly at a much higher altitude than your latest fighter planes, but they also can carry a full load of bombs as far as two thousand miles away. Their ability to fly long distances are twice as much as the distances of the Liberators or Fortress as well as their faster flying speed. These bombers powerful firing abilities are equal to a battalion of your Japanese Army Infantry. Therefore our bombers are much stronger and much faster and able to fly at a much higher altitude than you bombers.... These planes above your heads are carrying orders to attack your country everyday with high explosives and incendiary bombs. You already know how powerful these bombs are . These bombs are capable of destroying any military facilities and or factory making military goods, unfortunately killing people who live near these places. These horrible sights are indescribable by words. The fires can spread to civilian housing and destroy everything....Nothing can protect you from these new weapons. Our weapons are created by the most advanced science technology and its purpose is to kill and destroy. We advise you to either run or persuade your leaders to surrender, otherwise you will witness your loved ones horrible death and your mother country destroyed by bombs and fire and in the end you self will become a victim of our new weapons. Until your leaders realize how useless it is to resist our power, we will continue bombings and destroying your country and your people.
Leaflet 2047 depicts two Japanese workers in a blazing factory with beams and machinery falling all around them. The purpose of the standard 5 x 8-inch leaflet was to show the futility of trying to escape the American bombs. The leaflet tells the Japanese civilian of the inadequacy of air raid shelters provided by the government and the inevitable results of bombings. The text on the front is, "The Aftermath of Bombing is Hell."
The back is all text. The text is:
The Gumbatsu boldly urge resistance from the safety of their fine air-raid shelters, but your shelters are only the entrance halls for death!
Every day of added resistance will bring greater terror upon you. Bombs will blast great holes in your cities. Bombs directed at factories will also destroy your homes while you scurry desperately for a place of shelter, which does not exist. Incendiary bombs will start conflagrations, which will envelope you and consume you in flames. Every plane will leave horror in its wake.
You cannot escape. You cannot hide. Resistance means a horrible death.
Demand an end to such hopeless resistance. This is the only way to save the nation.
I was not going to illustrate OWI leaflet 2048 because the message is redundant and we
already have what I consider a better example of the fear of bombing theme in leaflet
2047. However, it is interesting to note how different artists approach the same themes.
Instead of the full color very realistic artwork found on the previous leaflet, 2048 is
printed in red, and the Japanese victims are almost caricatures, like the character in the
Edvard Munch painting, "The Scream."
The text on the back is:
Do you remember the great damage done to your country by the earthquake of 1923?
is capable of producing earthquakes that will cause damage a thousand times greater. America
Such earthquakes will be brought in bundles from 2 1/2 to 4 tons. The bundles are capable of destroying in 2 or 3 seconds the results of several years of struggle and hardship.
Note carefully the American style of earthquake. Feel the trembling of the earth when they are let loose. Your homes will be destroyed, factories will vanish, and your family killed.
Note carefully the American style of earthquake. You will know the time when it will occur. You will be experiencing it!
This is another OWI leaflet designed by Frances Blakemore. Morioka says about it:
The message on leaflet 2048 compares a bombs destructive capacity to the great Kanto earthquake of 1923, in which more than 100,000 people perished. Frances presented a scene of the disaster caused by the great Kanto earthquake with people in a panicked frenzy in the midst of falling buildings and rising flames. Red, the color of deadly fire, emphasizes the apocalyptic destruction.
John W. Dower depicts the three leaflets above from this article in Cultures of War, W.W. Norton, NYC, 2010. He gives his own interpretation to the effects of the bombing:
Terror bombing was not aimed only at destroying enemy will. The devastating urban-area raids simultaneously proved an enormous boost to American morale as the pacific entered its ferocious endgame against a fanatical enemy now engaged in kamikaze attacks and suicidal last stands of Saipan, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. As one internal military report put it after the great incendiary raid on Tokyo in early March, the outstanding success of the new bombing policy salvaged the morale and fighting spirit of LeMays crews and persuaded them that the B-29 was an efficient and reliable aircraft.
Beyond this, of course, news that war had finally come home with a vengeance to Japan, and the emperors loyal subjects were being erased in a wholesale manner, was uplifting to virtually everyone on the Allied side not only in the theaters of battle but also on the home fronts of the Anglo-American powers and, to the extent that such information could be disseminated, in China and much of the rest of occupied Asia as well.
A very plain small 4 x 5-inch all-text leaflet may be one of the most important bomb
messages ever dropped by Allied aircraft over
- August 6 - President Truman today issued the following statement: Washington
Sixteen hours ago, an American airplane dropped one bomb on
, an important Japanese army base. That bomb had more power than 20,000 tons of TNT. It had more than 2000 times the blast power of the 11-ton British "Grand Slam," which is the largest bomb ever yet used in the history of warfare. Hiroshima
It is an atomic bomb. It is a harnessing of the basic power of the universe. The force from which the sun draws its power has been loosed against those who brought war to the
We are now prepared to obliterate more rapidly and completely every productive enterprise the Japanese have above ground in any city. We shall destroy their docks, their factories, and their communications. Let there be no mistake; we shall completely destroy
's power to make war. Japan
Hiroshima before and after the atomic bomb was dropped
We mentioned British rumors in the section about setting the sea on fire. It is amazing to note that while the atomic bomb was one of the greatest secrets of WWII and everything possible was done to keep American research on the bomb hidden from the enemy until its actual use in August, 1945, the British, apparently not knowing of the American project blithely used the threat of it in their rumor campaign. Some examples:
17 January 1941 Americas Flying Fortresses are specially designed to carry atomic bombs with a blast area of two miles generating intense heat.
22 January 1941 Sir William Bragg has been knighted for perfecting the uranium bomb.
19 March 1943 Air Marshall Harris is very satisfied with the Essen try-out of the new uranium atom bomb.
If American security heard of these rumors they surely were in a state of panic. The less said of the atomic bomb in the early years of the war the better.
Korean War - Leaflet 1013
Leaflet 1013 depicts an explosion in the center of a bright red field and the words in contrasting blue:
Air Raid Warning
Act quickly! Move away from military targets!
The back of the leaflets is an all text long propaganda message that targets 10 North Korean cities. The first of two paragraphs is:
Act quickly! Move away from military targets!
Chongjin, Pyongyang, Chinnampo, Ilungnam, Songjin, Sariwon, , Hamhung, Sinanju, and Haeju: The UN forces urge you to leave these cities and go to the country or to the mountains. Your city is one of those in which your Communist leaders have built war factories and concentrated military supplies to kill other Koreans. UN planes will destroy all such military installations, including railway marshaling yards, communication centers, dock installations, war material factories and supply depots. Wonsan
The leaflets were mentioned in the Toledo Blade of 19 August 1950. Some of the text was:
North Korea was served a grim warning last night that 10 major cities, including the capitol Pyongyang, are about to be bombed
The same striking image was used earlier on a leaflet coded 1011. The data sheet says the leaflet is entitled Civilian evacuation of military target areas. The text is Korean and it targets the civilian population of major cities in North Korea and occupied areas. It is a warning leaflet urging civilians to evacuate cities which contain military targets likely to be bombed. The text on the front is identical to 1013. The back of the leaflet depicted a blue U.N. flag at the top and the text in red:
Act quickly! Move away from military targets!
The U.N. Forces urge all civilians to leave cities containing military targets. Your city is one in which the Communist gang has built war factories and concentrated military supplies to be used in killing other Koreans. One by one these military installations will be destroyed by U.N. planes. The U.N. Air Force will do everything possible to protect innocent civilians from the war forced on
by the Communist traitors. But you must act quickly. Stay away from military targets. Move to the country. Many others have wisely left cities where the Communists have military depots and war factories. Join them, and preserve your live so that you may help build a strong, free Korea after the Communists have been driven out. The U.N. forces wish to avoid harming civilians. Korea
Korean War - Leaflet 1020
Curiously, the same image was used again on Leaflet 1020, but this leaflet was printed
only in red and without the blue contrast is not quite as striking. Instead of naming a
number of cities, it is aimed only at the Capitol of
Your city still contains important military targets which must be destroyed in order to bring an end to the war of aggression which the Communist leaders started.
THESE TARGETS WILL BE BOMBED WITHIN 48 HOURS!
You are warned to leave Pyongyang immediately. The United Nations wants to avoid harm to innocent civilians. To remain where you are is to place your own life in needless danger.
MOVE OUT QUICKLY!
Mark R. Jacobson mentions these bomb blast leaflets in his PhD dissertation Minds then Hearts: U.S. Political and Psychological Warfare during the Korean War.
The use of warning leaflets with strategic bombing campaigns continued throughout the Korean War. In July of 1951 Washington specifically directed Far East Command to drop warning leaflets in conjunction with renewed strategic bombing campaigns against Pyongyang and 77 major North Korean cities. Far East Command, Eighth US Army Korea, and especially Fifth Air Force viewed the propaganda offensive, code named Plan Strike, as not only an attempt to reduce civilian casualties but to lower civilian morale and disrupt industrial production something even well placed bombs could not always do well. Plan Strike specifically focused on communications centers and major supply routes while Plan Blast supported attacks against military targets in Pyongyang. In addition to leaflets, Strike and Blast used Radio Seoul and other media outlets to warn residents of the upcoming missions.
This leaflet was part of a series called Plan Strike. It was printed by the U.S. 1st Radio Broadcasting and Leaflet Group, on 4 February 1953 in Korean. The front shows B-29s on a bombing run and the word:
The back depicts the same B-29 bombers and four images of Koreans near targeted sites: an Industrial plant; a military supply site; a military vehicle and a Troop billet: The text is:
Stay away! Save your life!
To destroy communism these targets must be destroyed.
SAVE YOUR LIFE! STAY AWAY!
Just as in WWII, many of the Korean War leaflets depicted falling bombs. Leaflet 1056
was produced by the Military Intelligence Section General Staff, Psychological Warfare
Branch of the
No soldier can fight without supplies! No man can live without food!
Day by day more and more United Nations planes are bombing your lines of supplies.
Day by day more of your food supply trucks lie in burning ruins. Trains carrying the vital war materiel you need so badly are being blasted from the face of the earth.
Leaflet 8515 was produced by EUSAK, dated 6 April 1951 and targeted the Chinese military in Korea. It attempts to raise their fear of night bombing. On the front a USAF heavy bomber drops a string of bombs. The text is:
Even at night you cannot hide
The back is all text and says in part:
Officers and men of the Chinese Communist forces:
Death might strike you at any moment! You are no longer safe at night. United Nations aircraft equipped with radar can find and destroy you. Bodies made of flesh and blood cannot encounter the aircraft and bombs of the United Nations. Do not die a foolish death. Come to the United Nations lines at once .
Leaflet 8527 seems to be from the same series as 8515, is also in stark black and white and probably from the same artist. This EUSAK leaflet shows two bombers on the front, one dropping leaflets, the other bombs. The text on the front is:
CHOOSE YOUR WAY TO LIFE
Safe Conduct pass. Do not hesitate. Save your life. Come to the United Nations lines and receive good treatment.
Text on the back says in part:
Officers and men of the Chinese Communist forces:
The United Nations forces possess two kinds of bombs. One destroys your life: One saves your life. Are you willing to die in a foreign land for nothing? Be wise, friends. Choose the way to life .
This leaflet depicts bombs falling on a Korean munitions factory. It was printed by the 1st Radio Broadcasting and Leaflet Group on 24 November 1951. The data sheet explains that the color red was chosen because of its eye-catching ability and the increased weight it gives the bomb warning message. The back depicts Communist troops and police suppressing the bomb warning leaflets and forcing the Koreans to work at the point of a gun. Some of the text is:
Save your life
Communist police keep civilians from reading U.N. bomb warnings. Communist police are to blame for needless deaths.
Stay away from military factories. Stay away from airfields. Stay away from entrenchments. Stay away from soldiers. Stay off railroads. Stay off main highways and crossroads.
Leaflets showing heavy bombers were used once again during the Korean War. The USAF dropped leaflet 1080 printed by the First Radio Broadcasting and Leaflet group on 18 September 1951. It showed a B-29 Super Fortress on one side and a bombed rail yard on the other. It was prepared to stimulate the individual soldiers fear of the United Nations material superiority in meeting an attack. The leaflet text is:
These bombs of fire await your next attack
Because your Communist leaders refuse to stop fighting, they force the UN troops to use every powerful weapon against you when you attack. Have you heard about your next attack?
In your next attack you will meet our fire bombs, flame-throwers and destructive artillery. Many of you will not survive the Communist "human sea" offensive
But you can come over to the UN side and save your life.
The same leaflet was printed in Chinese for the Chinese troops fighting in Korea, coded 7085. Printing the leaflets in two languages with different code numbers was quite common during the war.
Most of the early B-29 raids were performed by a very limited number of B-29s. The bombers had many malfunctions which forced them to return to base. Still, some of the missions were a great success. One example is mentioned by my friend Dan King in the Yalu River Boys, Pacific Press, North Charleston, NC, 2018.
General Hong Zuezhi, deputy commander of the Peoples Volunteer Force in Korea and Chief of Logistics wrote: The U.N. air interdiction campaign against North Korean rail and road networks was particularly devastating to Chinese forces. On 8 April 1951, American napalm bombing runs set 84 rail cars afire, destroying 1,500 tons of grain, 408,000 uniforms, and 190,000 pairs of boots. On this single mission, roughly 40% of their supplies were destroyed and as a result, the Chinese Peoples Volunteers were going hungry.
Several other bomb warning leaflets were dropped at the same time as leaflet 1080. For instance, leaflet 1081 depicts B-29 bombers over a barren pock-marked airfield (red color). The text is:
People of North Korea.
Airfields in North Korea are unsafe!
To save your lives, stay away from airfields at all times!
Leaflet 1091 depicts the same scene of B-29 bombers over a barren pock-marked airfield but in blue. The text on this bomb warning leaflet is:
North Korean civilians!
North Korean airfields are targets for U.N. bombing.
Dont go near them or risk your lives while the armistice negotiations are going on!
Leaflet 9012 was produced by the Military Intelligence Section of General Headquarters,
The Sky Thunders, the Earth Rocks, Human Flesh Cannot Stand Against Planes and Tanks.
The text on the back is:
THE SKY THUNDERS WITH THE ROAR OF UNITED NATION PLANES
But Communist leaders have not given North Korean soldiers protective covering.
THE EARTH ROCKS WITH THE GROWING POWER OF UNITED NATIONS ARMS
But Communist leaders expect North Korean soldiers to fight tanks and planes with rifles.
HUMAN FLESH CANNOT STAND AGAINST TANKS AND PLANES
Why support leaders who dont support you?
The strategic bombing of
A typical Radio Seoul message was:
. Attention. This may save your life. North Korea
Today the United Nations Air Force bombed fifty villages, towns and cities that were military targets. These were military targets along highways and railways. You may be next. Save your lives. Flee to the hills.
Obey this warning and you may live.
Leave your village immediately. Take your families with you. If the Communists force you to remain in the danger area, send your women and children to safety.
The United Nations Command wants to protect Korean civilians. You must obey these instructions to leave.
Leave the doomed area at once.
Remember. You may be the next to die!
The U.S.A.F. was different from the other services in that it believed that its bombing raids were a form of psychological operations. To the Army, PSYOP was leaflets and loudspeakers. The Air Force knew that 100 bombers destroying a division or a city changed the way that the enemy thought. As a result, they often specifically asked for leaflets to be used after a raid when the troops or civilians would be in a more susceptible state. The following three leaflets are an example.
This leaflet was produced by the Psychological Warfare Division Headquarters EUSAK on
26 May 1952. It is a tactical leaflet requested by the 5th Air Force to be dropped
immediately following an unusually heavy air strike. The leaflet exploits Communist lack
of air support. The front depicts a drawing of Flying Tiger (An actual winged beast,
not the WWII P-40 Tomahawk) and
The Flying Tigers of the Free World Strike Again!
Text on the back is:
Officers, Sergeants and Privates of the North Korean Peoples Army:
You have just had a taste of the might of the free worlds aircraft! Does the taste not smack of death? The flying tigers of the free world will refresh your taste again and again!
Do the false promises of your Communist leaders compensate for their lack of aircraft? Can you believe your own eyes Have you been defended by any aircraft from
? From China ? From North Korea ? Russia
Kim Il Sung has betrayed the North Korean People. He is the running dog of Stalin and has sold the Glorious Heritage of your race for the slave-like ideology of the Big Nose.
Under the bombs and guns of the UN flying tigers you risk a dogs death for nothing. Our tigers will return again and again! You must escape inevitable death!
Come to the side of the UN and preserve your precious life for the future of
This leaflet was produced by the Psychological Warfare Division G3 (Operations) EUSAK
on 10 June 1952. It is a tactical leaflet requested by the 5th Air Force to be dropped
immediately following an unusually heavy air strike. The leaflet exploits Communist lack
of air support. It was requested by the 5th Air Force to inform NK soldiers of the results
of the two years air strikes by UN aircraft. The front depicts a
THESE ARE THE RESULTS OF COMMUNIST AGGRESSION!
The back is all text:
Two years ago your Communist leaders launched an attack on your brothers and sisters in the
. The attack was cowardly and unprovoked. Republicof Korea
What are the results after two years of war? What has happened to your beloved country? Read these figures and you shall know what UN aircraft alone have done in answer to Communist aggression:
Destroyed Damaged Buildings
109186 Vehicles 56,230 4,409 Carts 2,816 Supply Dumps 1,346 593 Bridges 2,100 5,233 Tanks 1,105 988 Railroad Cars 14,001 27,084 Gun Positions 5,406 2,531 Troops 239,023 Rail Cuts 34,118 Aircraft 445 588
This is the UN answer to Communist aggression. UN aircraft fly in your skies unchallenged. Have you seen this with your own eyes?
Your Communist leaders have caused your country to be destroyed and have placed the chains of slavery on your people!
Leaflet 8681 (front)
Leaflet 8681 (back)
This leaflet was produced by the Psychological Warfare Division
Headquarters G3 (Operations) EUSAK on 14 September 1952. The leaflet was requested by 5th
Air Force to be dropped immediately following an air strike on Chinese Communist Forces
troop concentrations. The leaflet exploits Chinese lack of air support. The front
The text on the front is:
THE AIR FORCE OF THE FREE WORLD STRIKES AGAIN!
Text on the back is:
Sergeants and Privates of the Chinese Communist Forces:
United Nations Fighters and bombers shortly will destroy all military targets along the railroads and highways outlined in red on the map.
You have just had a taste of the might of the United Nations aircraft. The Air Forces of the Free World are daily increasing in number and in strength. From now on, you will taste more and more of their might, until peace is restored in
You are lacking of aircraft; the empty talk of the Communist Party will never cover up this deficiency. You have been in
long enough. Did you ever see any aircraft from Korea China, North Koreaor Soviet protect your ground positions from the air? If there were such, you would certainly have seen them with your own eyes! Russia
Under the bomb and guns of the United Nations aircraft, many of your comrades have died in vain. Your leaders have volunteered you to fight in
and now can not protect you. What a pity! Korea
Your Communist leaders have betrayed the Chinese people into slavery and death!
I thought I would end this section with this leaflet because of the interesting image. This leaflet was actually produced by the Republic of Korea Army and entitled Inferiority of Transportation. It depicts American heavy bombers attacking North Koreans carrying supply on their backs and by carts. The Koreans drew the bomber and notice that it is four-engine, with a curved tail and the old red and white stripes used in WWII. Yes, that is a B-17 Flying Fortress. The Koreans wanted a bomber for their leaflet and apparently they found an old picture of a WWII American Fortress.
The leaflet was printed by the Eighth U.S. Army in Korea G-3 (Operations) and numbered 8274. It also carried the Korean number 230. The text on the front is:
Can a Cart and A-frame stand against B-29s or Jet Planes?
The back says in part:
We are watching a fight between a tiger and a rabbit in this civilized 20th century a fight between an airplane and an A-frame or cart .
Vietnam - #146-66-R
During the Vietnam War a number of leaflets were dropped showing the B-52 Stratofortress. This was our major strategic bomber carrying up to 54,000 pounds of ordinance at an altitude of 30,000 feet. One leaflet coded 146-66-R has the following text on the back:
This is the Mighty B-52. Now you have experienced the terrible rain of death and destruction its bombs have caused. These planes come swiftly, strongly speaking as the voice of the Government of Vietnam proclaiming its determination to eliminate the Viet Cong threat to peace. Your area will be struck again and again, but you will not know when or where. The planes fly too high to be heard or seen. They will rain death on you again without warning. Leave this place to save your lives. Use this leaflet or the GVN National Safe Conduct Pass and rally to the nearest government outpost. The Republic of Vietnam soldiers and the people will happily welcome you.
240,000 of these leaflets were dropped just north of the DMZ (Ben Qang). According to my files the leaflet is called B-52 Leaflet and 10,000,000 copies were ordered by the 6th PSYOP Battalion in November 1967 to be printed by the 7th PSYOP Group on Okinawa. They were to be sent to Saigon (1,000,000), Da Nang (2,000,000), Nha Trang (1,000,000) Pleiku (2,000,000), Ben Hoa (2,000,000) and Can To (2,000,000)
Former SP5 Dan Heckstetter mentions how the B-52 leaflets were used. He says:
I was the Squadron draftsman for the Headquarters & Headquarters Troop, 1st Squadron / 9th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division from January 1968 to September 1968. The Cavalrys Headquarters were in An Khe in the Central Highlands. Their operations were from Hue to the Demilitarized Zone.
My job was to post the Operations Map. I would keep all enemy locations, our locations & no fly zones posted for the Squadron briefing each evening.
One evening I posted an Arc Light mission for the next day at 1200 hrs in the hills west of Camp Evans. The next morning it was snowing PSYOP leaflets. A post card size picture of a B-52 dropping a load. The information on the back told the time and location of this event. I inquired with the S2 (Intelligence officer) why we are telling the bad guys when we are going to bomb them. He stated that it was so the good local people could leave the area.
[Note: Arc Light was the code name given to the use of B-52 strategic bombers in Southeast Asia. The first mission took place on 18 June 1965 when twenty-seven B-52 bombers flew from Guam to Vietnam and dropped 750 and 1000-pound bombs on a VC stronghold.]
A Vietnamese told me about the effects of a B-52 raid:
My uncle's regiment in 1969 moved from Son Tay to the South. After they entered Quang Tri province, his regiment was bombed by B-52s. One battalion was destroyed and two other battalions' morale was shattered. The whole regiment was withdrawn back to Quang Binh province (in the North) to regroup. They only came back to the South four months later. My uncle said the real Army veterans never underestimated the US fire power - they learned it by their blood.
My uncle could not sleep in his bed at night years after the war. He was haunted by the bombing and artillery fire during the war. Sleeping under his bed, he felt he was in his bunker and safe. US fire power is horrifying for anyone fighting them. For years the Army of South Vietnam fought and defeated the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army because of US fire power. Without such fire power, the ARVN collapsed in only 50 days. That is clear evidence that how US fire power kept the South from collapsing.
In the book Slow Burn The Rise and Fall of American Intelligence in Vietnam, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1990, former CIA Chief of Military Region Three in Vietnam Orrin DeForest discusses the cause of Vietnam defection and the effects of B-52 bombing after interviewing thousands of prisoners and building immense files. He says in part:
In 1969 and 1970 thousands of Viet Cong and NVA were coming over for the most part because of intense American military pressure. The Chieu Hoi Centers were full of people whose unit had been overrun two or three times and who had just decided they had had it. Some of the North Vietnamese defectors came in saying they were simply not going to die in the South They got no R and R leave, no sick leave, nothing of that nature. They had no contact with their families, often they could neither send nor receive letters Quite a few talked about the B-52 bombings. They had survived the attacks (though often with ruptured eardrums) but had witnessed the horrifying results: the concussions that killed many of their friends, or burying them alive in their bunkers One interesting fact was that most often they knew when the bombers were on the way From our own headquarters we knew that Russian radar trawlers located in the Pacific beyond the Philippines tracked the bombers, checking speed, altitude and headings, and relayed the information to the North. The targeted base areas would receive word an hour or so ahead of time. But still the VC and NVA units couldnt run fast enough .
We know from military records that in November 1967 the 6th PSYOP Battalion in Vietnam requested that the 7th PSYOP Battalion in Okinawa print 10 million copies of this leaflet for delivery by 15 January 1968. The leaflet number shows that it was first printed in 1966, and the R at the end of the leaflet shows that this was a reprinting.
This is a B-52
This uncoded American leaflet depicts a B-52 bomber over
Your death will bring much grief to your family back home in the North.
The back is all text:
To Our Friends in the North Vietnamese Armed Forces.
The South Vietnamese Government and our allies are well informed of your plans for a total offensive to gain political influence. Therefore, the most advanced weapons will be used by the South Vietnamese and Allied soldiers against you. You will be defeated and you have a slim chance of survival. The people and the armed forces of
will surely win. South Vietnam
Another B-52 leaflet was dropped over the Ho Chi Minh Trail. About 100 different leaflets bear the "T" code and all were dropped as part on an interdiction campaign along that supply trail used by North Vietnam to secretly bring supplies to the south.
B-52 over Vietnam Horizontal Leaflet T-07 Front
B-52 over Vietnam Horizontal Leaflet T-07 Back - The red version
Vietnam Ho Cho Minh Trail leaflet T-07 is very odd because two versions were printed, one in a horizontal format and one in a vertical format. This rarely happens in the world of psychological warfare. Each leaflet code number is individual and it is hardly ever reused. However, in this case I believe that I know why this was done and I will explain below. In this first horizontal version the B-52 is depicted flying from right to left. The tail number is 70144. The back of the leaflet is in a vertical format; text at the top and a five-flag safe conduct pass at the bottom. The five flag passes were produced prior to 1967, probably in the year 1966. To make it even more interesting, the 5-flag version of T-07 was prepared two ways, in black and white and also in a red color to make it more visible on the ground. The sun had faded my leaflet to almost an orange color, but you can still see the remnants of color. The text is:
You will never see one of these.
You probably won't hear it. It flies too high. It is a B-52 bomber, used by the South Vietnamese people's powerful American allies to blast aggressors out of their hiding places. One B-52 carries 29,700 kilos of bombs and can drop them with pin-point accuracy, dealing certain death to everyone within the target area. The B-52 can strike you at any time during all seasons and weather conditions.
Your chance to avoid this fate will come. Look for your safe conduct pass.
B-52 over Vietnam Vertical Leaflet T-07 Front and back
B-52 over Vietnam Vertical Leaflet T-07, 5-flag on Green Paper
The vertical version of the leaflet T-07 depicts a B-52 dropping bombs flying from left to right. It is poorly printed and seems to be a rush job compared to the first version. The text is identical, but without the question mark in the heading. The version is known in two varieties, printed on green paper with the Five-flag pass, and printed on a grey paper with the safe conduct pass is now a Seven-flag version. We know that the seven flag pass came in about 1967. That seems to explain why there are different leaflets with the same code number. The vertical grey version is a later leaflet, and after the flag safe conduct passes were changed about 1967, T-07 was changed to match the current safe conduct pass. Why? Some reports I have read worried that the Viet Cong might be confused and think that the old pass no longer was valid. To insure continued defections, the U.S. went to the trouble of showing the Viet Cong the latest type of the safe conduct pass. It eased their mind.
Leaflet 2861 depicts the B-52 bomber on the front and the back. If you look at the vertical version of T-07 above, you will see that the leaflet uses the same photo of a B-52 as the left-most bomber in leaflet 1286. The photo of two bombers has been cropped. What I found fascinating was the very technical description of the bomb load that the bomber could carry. These leaflets were dropped on North Vietnamese soldiers and Viet Cong who might have been farmers or workers and probably understood very little of this technical details of this message. The text on the front is:
THE MIGHTY B-52 BOMBER
This jet has the largest bomb-carrying capability. It can carry over one hundred 340 kilogram bombs. Many returnees have talked of the tremendous destruction of the B-52. Every fortification, no matter how strong, can be destroyed. For each days bombing missions, the B-52s combined efforts obliterates over 20 square kilometers.
You have heard of the tremendous destruction of the B-52. The best solution for you is to return to the Government of Vietnam.
The back of the leaflet has the text:
THE TREMENDOUS DESTRUCTION OF THE B-52
The B-52 is a bomber aircraft operating at altitudes of over 10 kilometers. It can carry over one hundred 340 kilogram bombs. B-52s drop over 200,000 kilograms of bombs each day. They can cause blood to run from the mouth, nose, ears, and even collapse the lungs for those who are located near the area of bombing.
You have heard of the tremendous destruction of the B-52. Dont let yourself be sacrificed uselessly. Return to the Government of Vietnam and you will be welcomed.
One million copies of this leaflet were produced by the 10th PSYOP Battalion in 1969 and dropped over the Viet Cong just after a B-52 strike. The PSYOP theory was to catch the Viet Cong when they were most vulnerable. The front says in part:
You will not be able to survive this kind of weapon.This is B-52 bomber.
The text on the back says in part:
To Viet Cong Soldiers and Cadre: The huge B-52 aircraft day and night flies to support the operations of the ARVN and allied military forces. The aircraft is always ready to drop bombs to attack your strongest areas. You will have no warning. The B-52 airplane will destroy your units and your most secret and strongest bases in the Delta. You will not have enough time to prepare or hide. You can't hear or see it coming because it flies at a very high altitude .
It should be clear to the reader that this author has dozens of Vietnam War leaflets depicting B-52 bombers to choose from. I have made a conscious decision to show just a few of them. I added leaflet 4537 only because of the text. The idea of calling the bomber an evil genius is so strange that I thought we must show this one. The front of the leaflet depicts a B-52 dropping bombs and the text:
This is the B-52 evil genius; a constant threat to you
The back is all text. Some of the message is:
Dear North Vietnamese Communist Cadre:
On your supply routes into the south, you have surely heard a lot about the terrible death and destruction of the B-52 evil genius.
The B-52 evil genius is capable of carrying many different kinds of bombs. It usually flies at an altitude of more than 10 kilometers, so that you can neither see it or hear it.
Unmarked graves on both sides of the road are the consequences of bombing by the B-52 evil genius
I assume that this text was written by a Vietnamese. Another clue is that the PSYOP fact sheet states that the illustration is of a B-52 Flying Fortress. The Flying Fortress was the WWII B-17.
Leaflets coded P, were original for PAVN (Peoples Army of Vietnam), now NVA (North Vietnam Army), and targeted NVA inside South Vietnam. This interesting leaflet depicts four images of Allied might. At the upper left a row of armored personnel carriers, at upper right heavy naval guns firing, at the lower left a B-52 dropping bombs, and at lower right armed troops hitting the beach. The text is:
This awesome combined power means certain defeat for the aggressor
The back is all text:
Northern Soldiers Your defeat is inevitable
Your mission is utterly hopeless. Vietnamese and Allied forces are growing stronger every day. They are present everywhere on the land, on the sea and in the air. You cannot possibly win against this combined power. Day by day chances for survival grow small as you death from disease or battle wounds.
Cease this hopeless struggle. Avoid certain death by coming over to the Government of Vietnam and Allied forces. You will be warmly welcomed.
Live to see your families again.
An Uncoded Bomb Warning for Vietnam
This leaflet does not bear a code and depicts a bomb on the front with the warning:
The back of the leaflet is all text:
Dear People of North Vietnam:
We are bombing facilities that the Communists use to support their war of aggression against South Vietnam, including:
- Military bases
- Lines of communications [traffic routes]
- Electrical power plants
Danger - Avoid these targets Danger
Tom Weber was a member of the United States Air Force stationed at the Strategic Air Command Headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska as a Graphic Artist on a Target Planning Staff. He remembers being very disappointed when the results of B-52 bombing missions were received at
. A lot of the missions were unsuccessful and many of the people he worked with believed that it was the warning leaflets dropped on the Viet Cong that allowed them to clear the target areas just prior to bombing. He says: Omaha
We were always disheartened to view our reconnaissance photos showing Charlie evacuating an area for a few days, only to always return after the bombings. All because some idiot thought it's "only fair" to tell the enemy when we're coming! Needless to say, we were really pissed off at the brilliant "advisers" on Mr. Johnson's and Mr. Nixon's inner circle of confidantes.
A Vietnam PSYOP officer told me that most of the B-52 leaflets he dropped were the after-action leaflets with a photo of B-52s on one side and propaganda text on the other. He dumped millions around the bomb craters. He went on to say that he was never sure exactly target what would be bombed on a given mission. Whenever a Primary B-52 mission was scrubbed they would bomb a secondary target. The list of secondary targets was a long one so it would be difficult to guess where the bombs would fall. He got his list of targets in the early AM for daylight missions, and assigned targets of opportunity as secondary missions. Sometimes the bombers were redirected in flight to another target for tactical reasons. The Viet Cong knew they were always a target and the reason they kept moving was a simple case of self-protection. If Charlie stayed in one place or tried to hold ground he died.
I should also add that many members of the South Vietnamese military and some of the President's advisers in
Saigonwere Viet Cong agents. It is possible, though not probable that one of these turncoats could have informed their units in the field of a coming attack. The Viet Cong infiltrated the ranks of the South to a much greater extent than was ever believed at the time.
We have depicted leaflets used in WWII and Korea earlier in this article that warned the enemy of American bombers on the way. That was done so that the morale of the enemy would be shattered when their own forces were unable to defend them. It appears that the United States might have done something similar in Vietnam, although no leaflets were prepared. I cannot vouch for the truthfulness of the comments, they could be politically inspired or they could be the absolute truth. Piotrowski definitely wrote his comments, but I am unable to find any proof that Dean Rusk ever made his statements on TV.
The Army Concept Team in Vietnam added in its 1969 report, Employment of US Army Psychological Operations units in Vietnam:
About 5 percent of all of the 7th PSYOP group's leaflets printed in 1969 was directed to the B-52 follow-up program. This program was conducted in the Republic of Vietnam to take advantage of the psychological vulnerability created by the B-52 bombing missions. Within 4 hours after a strike, leaflets were dropped into the area informing the enemy that he had just experienced a B-52 raid. The leaflet reminded him that the B-52 would return to strike his unit again and urged him to rally to the Republic of Vietnam. The major objectives of this plan were to reinforce the fear of the B-52; lower morale of enemy forces; create friction between cadre and enemy soldiers; encourage malingering; desertion, or defection of enemy personnel; and create a spoiling effect of impending enemy operations.
According to the 2014 General Pete Piotrowski Book, Basic Airman to General: The Secret War and Other Conflicts, the U.S. warned Hanoi of B-52 raids:
Nearly twenty years later, former Secretary of State Dean Rusk being interviewed by Peter Arnett on a CBS documentary called "The Ten Thousand Day War." Mr. Arnett asked, It has been rumored that the United States provided the North Vietnamese government the names of the targets that would be bombed the following day. Is there any truth to that allegation?
The former Secretary responded, Yes. We didn't want to harm the North Vietnamese people, so we passed the targets to the Swiss embassy in Washington with instructions to pass them to the North Vietnam government through their embassy in Hanoi. Secretary Rusk went on to say, All we wanted to do is demonstrate to the North Vietnamese leadership that we could strike targets at will, but we didn't want to kill innocent people. By giving the North Vietnamese advanced warning of the targets to be attacked, we thought they would tell the workers to stay home.
The 4th PSYOP Group prepared leaflet 4-1-70 to strike fear into the hearts of the Viet Cong by the threat of the heavy bomber. It does not show a bomber, but instead depicts a hand jutting out of the soil from a buried body. The text is:
A B-52 just passed by here. Avoid a sad death. Leave this worldly Hell! Return to the National Government.
This leaflet is nostalgic and sad. It depicts a Lonely Viet Cong soldier reading an Allied leaflet and thinking of the flag of South Vietnam and his home. The text on the front is:
Act right away: Chieu Hoi!
The back is all text and says in part:
You were lucky to survive and witness destruction caused by the B-52 angels of death. Do not suffer any longer or next time death will come for you.
You want to live! Your family and country need you! Chieu Hoi in order to have the opportunity to join your family .
Bao Anh Thai who was in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam said:
We'd get advanced warning when the American B-52's were going to bomb the enemy positions. These were the most frightening times of the war. We'd stuff cotton in our ears and our nose and shut our eyes tight and crouch down against the ground. The bombs didn't drop in one place. They spread out like sand. And if you weren't ready for them and happened to be standing up with your ears uncovered and your eyes open, the pressure alone could burst your heart or break a vessel in your brain. When they dropped their bombs, I don't think those pilots knew what it was like on the ground.
He also mentioned his uncle who fought for the other side:
The B-52 is the most terrifying weapon of the war. My uncle who fought for NVA in Tay Nguyen, Quang Tri and Khe Sanh said that it was common that soldiers shit or pee in their pants when they were bombed by B-52. It's not only because you are afraid, but because the explosive waves really forced everything inside out! he said. One precise B-52 carpet bombing could destroy a regiment!
This leaflet depicts a wounded Viet Cong sitting among his dead comrades and thinking of his family at home. The text on the front is:
You are causing yourself great harm!
The back is all text and says in part:
Cadre and troops in the Communist ranks!
You know that the B-52 deaths have cost you many deaths. We regret this fact, but you bring these bombings on yourself .
This entire series of 4th PSYOP Group leaflets were drawn by the same artist and all have the same fear of death theme.
The Allies also produced radio and loudspeaker messages using the same theme. Tape 104 is a 24-second message in a male voice in both Vietnamese and Cambodian:
You will soon be bombed by airplanes. Your fortifications and trenches will be smashed by the power of their explosives. There is no safe place to hide. Surrender now and you will escape a terrible and useless death. Soon you will be bombed by airplanes. Surrender now. Avoid a flaming death.
Claims 4181 American Aircraft North Vietnam
The North Vietnamese struck back with their own propaganda. The above North Vietnamese postage stamp depicts two B-52 bombers brought down as they attempt to mine a harbor. The stamp, issued in 1973 claims that the number of American aircraft destroyed by the North Vietnamese had reached 4181. There are three other stamps to this set; one showing a B-52 brought down by ground fire, one by a MiG fighter, and the final stamp showing junks netting destroyed B-52 bombers on the floor of the ocean. In 1965 the North Vietnamese claimed to have downed 500
aircraft, by 1966 the number was 1000, by 1967 it was 2000, and by 1968 it was 3000. They claimed 3500 by 1972 and later that same year reached 4000, all shot down over U.S. . I suspect that is more than the entire inventory of American aircraft at that time. North Vietnam
A North Vietnam Patriotic Propaganda Envelope
These envelopes were used to send mail from North Vietnam to other Communist or neutral states that would accept their postage. The stamps from the North were illegal in the USA. This envelope depicts U.S. planes falling out of the sky, shot down by North Vietnamese aircraft. The text is:
Determined to Make the American Bandits Pay for Their Crimes
The B-52 Blitz on Vietnam
North Vietnam also published a number of propaganda booklets attacking the B-52 raids ordered by President Nixon to get the Communist leaders back to the peace table. This 13-page booklet claims that so many bombs were dropped on the civilians of Hanoi in extermination raids since 18 December 1972 that it was identical to two Hiroshima atom bombs. However, it brags that the heroic people of Hanoi are fighting back bravely and have shot down 26 American planes including 12 B-52 bombers. It promises that the U.S. imperialistic aggressors will be defeated and the Vietnamese people will win.
OPERATION DESERT STORM
When the United States went to war against Iraq in December of 1990 a number of leaflets showing B-52s were prepared. It has been said that General Schwarzkopf remembered the leaflets from his tour in Vietnam and specifically requested them. All of the Operation Desert Storm leaflets show a B-52F bomber numbered "70162" dropping 750 pound bombs. The original photo was taken during the Vietnam War. The front-line Iraqi divisions identified as targets of the B-52 leaflet are the 7th, 16th, 20th, 21st, 28th and 48th Infantry divisions. In general, two leaflets were dropped on each division, one before and one after a bombing raid.
Gulf War - 7th Infantry Division Initial Warning
Most of the B52 leaflets were dropped over Iraqi infantry divisions along the Kuwait border. They were usually dropped in pairs. The leaflets aimed at the Iraqi 7th Division said on the front:
This is your first and last warning! The 7th Infantry Division will be bombed tomorrow! Flee this location now!
The back said:
The 7th Infantry Division will be bombed tomorrow. The bombing will be heavy. If you want to save yourself, leave your location and do not allow anyone to stop you. Save yourself and head toward the Saudi border, where you will be welcomed as a brother.
Gulf War - 7th Infantry Division Second Leaflet
After the bombing, a second B52 leaflet was dropped which said, "We have already informed you of our promise to bomb the 7th Infantry Division. We kept our promise and bombed them yesterday. BEWARE. We will repeat this bombing tomorrow. Now the choice is yours. Either stay and face death, or accept the invitation of the Joint Forces to protect your lives." This leaflet was dropped in mid-February.
One leaflet showing a B52 dropping bombs was coded "MSR" which implies it was meant to flood Iraqi main supply routes with refugees. The text on the front says "Desert Storm is coming to your area...flee immediately!" Text on the back says "Saddam's army intends using your city as a protective barrier to hide behind. Saddam doesn't care about you or your family. The joint forces do not wish to hurt innocent civilians, so take your belongings and head north to a safe place. This leaflet was dropped in late January and early February of 1991.
Gulf War -BLU-82 Daisy Cutter Bomb
Allied with the threat of the heavy bomber is the threat of the big or "super" bomb. American PSYOP has sometimes featured the big bomb on leaflets to strike fear into the enemy. During Operation Desert Storm, the USAF showered leaflets over Iraqi troops that featured the BLU-82. The BLU-82, sometimes called "The Daisy Cutter," is a 15,000-pound conventional bomb, delivered from an MC-130E Combat Talon. It is too heavy for the bomb racks of any bomber. The bomb is actually a thin-walled tank (1/4-inch steel plate) filled with a 12,600-pound explosive "slurry" mixture.
The BLU-82 Creating an Instant Helicopter Landing Zone in Vietnam in March 1970
The 38-inch fuse extender is the "Daisy Cutter" component of the BLU-82 system. It explodes the bomb three feet above the ground with the result that maximum destruction occurs at ground level without a crater being formed.
The Pentagon designed the bomb to create an instant helicopter landing zone in the jungles of Vietnam. The USAF used the bomb in Iraq and in Afghanistan as an anti-personnel weapon and for psychological effects. Rumor has it that a British SAS commando detachment behind the lines during Operation Desert Storm witnessed the blast and mushroom cloud from one such bomb and reported, "My God, the Yanks are using nukes." It was the largest conventional bomb in existence at the time. The translation for the above leaflet is shown below:
FRONT: Flee and save your life, or remain and meet your death!
BACK: You have suffered heavy losses because we have used the most powerful and destructive conventional bomb of this war. It is more powerful than 20 Scud Missles in respect of explosion capability. We warn you! We shall bomb your position again. Kuwait will be liberated from Saddam's aggression. Hurry and join your brothers from the south. We shall treat you with all our love and respect. Abandon this position. You will never be safe!
Saddam Hussein dared the Americans to act once again during December of 1998. He refused to allow United Nations mandated inspections of his weapons program and regularly had his anti-aircraft sites turn on their targeting radar at Coalition aircraft protecting the Operation Southern Watch "no-fly" zone. This led directly to a short 3-day bombing campaign against Iraq from December 16 to 19 code-named "Operation Desert Fox."
Operation Desert Fox
Once again American PSYOP specialists prepared a leaflet showing a B-52 bomber. The Arabic text on the front is:
Warning. This is only the beginning. Deploy south and you will be bombed. Warning. Text on the back is, Warning. This could have been a real bomb. Coalition forces are watching you. Any units attempting to cross the Kuwaiti border will be destroyed. Abandon your equipment and live. Deploy with your unit south and you will die. Warning.
In early 1999 Serbia seemed intent on purifying the land of all foreign ethnic groups. Television reports told of thousands of ethnic Albanians persecuted, raped, or murdered. This time it was the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) that took action. NATO demanded full compliance with UN Resolution 1199 of September 23, 1998. The resolution called for all parties to cease hostilities. The Serbs refused and once again the American heavy bomber was called to action, this time under Operation Allied Force.
Kosovo - #03-NN-17-L001
On May 29, 1999, two USAF B-52 bombers dropped leaflets over Pristina that warned Yugoslav troops to leave Kosovo. The leaflet is coded 03-NN-17-L001. The text is, "Attention VJ Forces: LEAVE KOSOVO. NATO is now using B-52 bombers to drop MK-82 225-kilogram bomb on VJ units in Kosovo-Metohija. Each aircraft can carry in excess of 50 of these bombs. These aircraft will return as many times as required to drive your unit from Kosovo-Metohija, and stop you from committing atrocities. If you want to live to see your families again, leave your unit and equipment, and get out of Kosovo-Metohija now! The back of the leaflet shows a B-52 dropping bombs. The illustration was taken from a Reuters News Service photograph. The text is "Thousands of bombs and the will, capability and support of the world to drop them on your unit." About 1.6 million of these leaflets nick-named "B-52" were dropped.
Afghanistan - #AFD03a
After the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, the United States declared war on terrorism. The first targets were the al-Qaida leaders residing in Afghanistan under the protection of the Muslim Fundamentalist Taliban party. The bombing of Afghanistan began on October 7. The first leaflet drops occurred on October 15. One of the early leaflets coded AFD03a showed photographs of a flight of six low-level B52s dropping bombs over Afghanistan at the right and the landscape erupting from the bombing at the left. The back of the leaflet shows a close-up of a B-52 bomber dropping bombs at the right, and the face of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden at the left. The text in Dari and Pashtu is:
If you resist, you will also suffer the same fate.
There is no possibility of escape and hiding.
Afghanistan - #AFD62 - BLU-82 Bomb Warning
Once again, as in Operation Desert Storm, the image of the mighty BLU-82 bomb was used on a leaflet. The leaflet has four drawn illustrations, two on each side. On the front, an armed Taliban truck is shown. The second picture shows a large bomb under a parachute dropping on three of the vehicles. Text at the bottom states, "Taliban: we know where you are." The pictures on the back show two Taliban soldiers, identified by their black turbans, throwing down their weapons and fleeing the scene. The final picture shows a large burning crater. Text at the bottom says, "Stop fighting for the Taliban and live." This leaflet is coded AFD62.
Curiously, the Blu-82 bomb may have been used in
a PSYOP coercion campaign in Afghanistan. I first heard of this when a reporter embedded in asked for my opinion. He told me a story of a discussion about PSYOP with a Canadian Army captain: Kandahar Province
One of the Canadian officers cited the example in Mazar-i-Sharif in late 2001 where the
Rangers were preparing to storm a Taliban stronghold and expected to take heavy casualties. Someone from PSYOP managed to get a postponement and arranged to have leaflets saying "Look West tomorrow." The next day a huge bomb was dropped west of the position, then more leaflets saying "Tomorrow that is you." The next day the Taliban had fled and the position was taken without a shot. US
I did not believe the story was true, not having heard of such a leaflet, but it seems that the bomb portion of the story is true. I asked some friends in Special Operations if they had heard of such an operation. There answer was:
Three BLU-82s have been dropped in
. Two were enough to break the defenses of Mazar-I-Sharif and the third broke the back of Taliban resistance at Afghanistan Kandahar.
So, it appears that the very sight of the American super-bomb is still enough to cause some enemy to withdraw from the field of combat.
Operation Iraqi Freedom - IZD028
On February 12, 2003, a leaflet was dropped over Iraq which depicted an ominous parked B-52 Stratofortress with a full load of bombs displayed on the ground. Bombs frame the photograph at the left and right. The text is:
Attacking Coalition aircraft invites your destruction.
The back of the full-color leaflet shows a "smart bomb" falling through the air and the text:
Do not fire at Coalition aircraft. If you choose to fire, you will be destroyed. Coalition forces will attack you with overwhelming force. The choice is yours.
The B52 is a 50-year old bomber first flown in 1952. The "H" model flies current missions. The bomb bay of the B-52H occupies almost the entire center section of the fuselage and is 28 feet long and 6 feet wide. The B-52H can carry 27 of a series of 500 or 750-pound bombs, Eighteen each of M129 leaflet dispensers, twelve each of 2000-pound bombs or mines, eight 2000-pound bombs, or cruise missiles. A pair of 9-megaton thermonuclear weapons can also be carried inside the bomb bay.
The leaflet depicts a C-180 Hercules, ejecting flares during a test of an infrared missile warning and self-protection system. At the left and right the aircraft is framed by bombs. The text is the same as IZD028 above:
Attacking Coalition aircraft invites your destruction.
The back of the leaflet is identical to IZD028 above.
It seems clear that when the American military is called to combat, our PSYOP specialists will once again use those trusty photographs of our faithful strategic bombers to motivate the enemy to either surrender or leave his weapons and flee the battlefield. The threat of the big bomber has never failed us.
The author invites comments on any aspect of this article. Kindly contact him at email@example.com.
© 23 August 2004