SGM Herbert A. Friedman (Ret.)
I have wanted to do a short story on the PSYOP of the Battle of the Bulge for a few years. However, we really dont know exactly what leaflets were specifically dropped during that battle and as a result there is really not a lot of product to depict in a story. I am going to start this story knowing that the images are limited and hope that as I go along I will find some very specific items that actually name or allude to this battle.
We start with a brief review of the military situation at the time. It was nearing Christmas 1944 and Germany was on the retreat everywhere. Adolf Hitler decided to use all his reserves for one last attack, meant to split the British and American Allied line in half, so the Germans could then proceed to encircle and destroy four Allied armies, forcing the Western Allies to negotiate a peace treaty with Germany. It was a major gamble and the odds were stacked against Germany. However, at a minimum, perhaps the war could be extended for another year or more and this would give time for German super-weapons to come online.
The 1985 Movie Poster for Battle of the Bulge
The secret attack was launched on 16 December 1944 and went on until about 25 January 1945 when the Allied counter-attacks proved unstoppable and the Germans were running out of fuel and ammunition. The German offensive was launched through the impassable Ardennes forest. The surprise attack caught the resting Allied forces completely off guard. United States forces bore the brunt of the attack and incurred the highest casualties for any operation during the war.
The German name for the attack was Unternehmen Wacht am Rhein (Operation Watch on the Rhine). The American press called it the Battle of the Bulge to describe the way the Allied front line bulged inward due to the German advances.
Near-complete surprise was achieved by a combination of Allied overconfidence, preoccupation with Allied offensive plans, and poor aerial reconnaissance. The Germans attacked a weakly defended section of the Allied line, taking advantage of heavily overcast weather conditions, which grounded the Allies' overwhelmingly superior air forces. Fierce resistance by outnumbered American troops around Bastogne blocked German access to key roads to the northwest and west.
On 22 December 1944 General Eisenhower saw that the German attack could lead to a great Allied victory. In his Order of the Day he said in part:
By rushing out from his fixed defenses the enemy may give us the chance to turn his great gamble into his worst defeat. So I call upon every man, of all the Allies, to rise now to new heights of courage. With unshakable faith in the cause for which we fight, we will, with Gods help, go forward to our greatest victory. Let everyone hold before him a single thought to destroy the enemy on the ground, in the air, everywhere. Destroy him!
General Heinrich Freiherr von Luttwitz
The very same day German commander Heinrich Freiherr von Luttwitz demanded the surrender of Bastogne:
To the American Commander of the encircled town of Bastogne.
The fortune of war is hanging. This time the U.S.A. forces in and near Bastogne have been encircled by strong German armored units. More German armored units have crossed the river Our near Ortheuville, have taken Marche and reached St. Hubert by passing through Hompre-Sibret-Tillet. Libramont is in German hands. There is only one possibility to save the encircled U.S.A. troops from total annihilation: that is the honorable surrender of the encircled town. In order to think it over a term of two hours will be granted beginning with the presentation of this note. If this proposal should be rejected one German Artillery Corps and six heavy A.A. Battalions are ready to annihilate the U.S.A. troops in and near Bastogne. The order for firing will be given immediately after this two hours term. All the serious civilian losses caused by this artillery fire would not correspond with the well-known American humanity.
The German Commander.
BG Anthony McAuliffe
Allegedly, Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe defending Bastogne answered:
December 22, 1944
To the German Commander
N U T S!
The American Commander
Card commemorating General McAuliffe's reply to the Germans.
According to published reports, the Germans did not understand the message. They asked, Is that reply negative or affirmative? The Americans explained: The reply is decidedly not affirmative, if you continue this foolish attack; your losses will be tremendous.
Merry Christmas Newsletter from the 101st Airborne to its troops in Bastogne
I always suspected that the general said something a bit more profane and the Army public relations people cleaned up his statement but he might have said nuts.
Battle of the Bulge Game
Back in the 1950s my MENSA chapter had a war gaming group. One of the games they played was called Battle of the Bulge. The German side always won this game. On their side were 1,700 tanks and 200,000 well-trained and motivated infantry attacking over an 85-mile front. In the actual battle they advanced 40 miles in the first 24 hours. The American side had to meet that onslaught with 67 tanks (which were individually far inferior to the German tanks) and about 35,000 green infantrymen, many sent to a quiet position for training and supplies. It was almost impossible to win if you took the American side.
8000 U.S. soldiers near the town of St Vith surrendered, the largest surrender of US troops since the American Civil War 80 years before. Elsewhere, the Germans taunted the Americans, using loudspeakers to ask:
How would you like to die for Christmas?
The movie Battleground was released in 1949, four years after the end of the war. It told the story of the 101st Airborne Division defenders of Bastogne. Although it was believed that WWII movie would not be popular so long after the end of the war, this movie touched some chords in the American public and won two Oscars. Some critic called it The First Great Picture of the Second World War! I mention it because in the movie the American soldiers are showered with leaflets welcoming them to the fight. We will depict various leaflets in this article, but nothing like the leaflets the movie production team thought up.
In the picture above, Van Johnson, John Hodiak and Jerome Courtland sit in the back of an Army truck and read a German leaflet dropped from above. I believe that leaflet is a Hollywood invention because I have seen no such leaflet in German files.
In the above photograph, Van Johnson, John Hodiak and the future Senator of California, George Murphy read leaflets from a second German leaflet drop. In this case Hollywood got it right. This leaflet was dropped on American troops at Bastogne.
Is this England?
This little blurb has no business being in this story because it is just a joke, but since we are talking about movies, there is a very famous story about a movie actor and comedian at the Battle of the Bulge who decided to do some anti-German propaganda entirely on his own. Mike Rowe mentioned this story in his podcast Thats the Way I heard it. Our jokesters name was Corporal Melvyn Kaminsky, a combat engineer with the 78th Infantry Division. The Germans in front of the 78th were playing their propaganda tapes all night long, an unholy mix of patriotic songs and their National Anthem, speeches by Adolf Hitler and the soothing voice of Axis Sally. Kaminsky was ordered to place a loudspeaker about 40 feet up a makeshift utility pole. When he returned to his foxhole, Kaminsky selected a 78 record, Toot, Toot, Tootsie Goodbye, Toot, Toot, Tootsie dont cry, by Al Jolson. He played it at full volume and the Nazis who hated the Jews were suddenly being serenaded by one. We know this soldier as Mel Brooks. He would later make a movie called To Be or Not to Be where as a persecuted leader of a group of Jewish actors, he escaped to London disguised as Adolf Hitler. The movie ended with Brooks as Hitler walking into a British pub and asking: Is this England?
I have a certain affinity for Mel Brooks. As a military instructor at one point I was teaching very difficult and complicated courses to my students. I would laugh and joke with the students trying to relieve the pressure. At the end of a course teaching new First Sergeants their duties, the students presented me with a plaque they paid for with their own money, and in the middle of my name they put Mel. I could have been insulted and thought they were calling me a clown, but instead I realized they understood how hard I tried to keep the course light and make them laugh. I thought that was kind of nice.
Daddy, Im so Afraid!
This uncoded German leaflet depicts a young girl at Christmas time thinking of her father on the front lines. Her fathers face appears behind her; perhaps he is dead and that is his spirit. These leaflets were disseminated on the Western Front starting in December 1944. We show the back of one of these leaflets at the end of this article for those that want to know what the Germans were saying to the Americans.
Bodies of the American prisoners murdered by the Germans at Malmedy were numbered and photographed in the field where they fell. The bodies were then taken to a temporary morgue where autopsies were performed. Individual photos of each victim were taken at that time.
SS troops had murdered American POWs early in the attack and there were survivors that spread the word. 84 American prisoners of war were murdered by their German captors near Malmedy, Belgium. The massacre was committed on 17 December 1944, by members of Kampfgruppe Peiper (part of the 1st SS Panzer Division). Normally you can fight or you can surrender. Now it was understood, if you surrender the Germans will kill you. If the SS had hoped to terrorize the Americans, the results were just the opposite. American troops would fight and die before they would quit. This dogged and impossible defense threw the German advance behind schedule and allowed the Allies to reinforce the weak defensive lines.
Pattons Prayer for Good Weather
General Patton turned his Army around and attacked the Germans. He became famous for asking his Chaplin for a prayer for good weather to kill Germans. He said, Do you have a good prayer for weather? We must do something about those rains if we are to win the war. The Chaplin wrote the prayer, the weather cleared, and Patton awarded the Chaplin a Bronze Star because he stood in good with the Lord.
The website History in an Hour adds:
US General George Patton appealed for divine intervention. Sir, this is Patton talking, he said, addressing God in a small Luxembourg church, You have just got to make up Your mind whose side Youre on. On Pattons urging, God must have made up His mind for near Christmas the fog lifted, and the Americans were able to launch their planes. Patton, considering the weather, said, Its a cold, clear Christmas lovely weather for killing German. While Patton moved reinforcements into Bastogne and relieved its desperate defenders, Montgomery prevented the Germans from crossing the River Meuse.
Improved weather conditions permitted air attacks on German forces and supply lines, which sealed the failure of the offensive. About 610,000 American forces were eventually involved in the battle, and 89,000 were casualties, including 19,000 killed. It was the largest and bloodiest battle fought by the United States in World War II.
Battle of the Bulge Allied PSYOP
Before we start showing the reader the leaflets of the Battle of the Bulge perhaps we should take a moment to quote Carl Bergers comments from his report An Introduction to Wartime Leaflets, written under contract to the U.S. Army, 1959:
During the period of 16 December 1944 to 31 January 1945, which saw the German offensive in the Ardennes (the Battle of the Bulge), its failure, and the Allied mopping up of the enemy salient, the propaganda of victory could not be used. During the first week of the German Ardennes offensive, leaflet operations in the Breakthrough area were entirely suspended. Not only were airdrops impossible, but Allied propagandists realized that leaflets would be ineffective if dropped on advancing troops. But even while the German offensive was gaining ground, Allied planning was under way on leaflets to be used when the counteroffensive began. According to Richard Crossman, who played a key role in this advance planning, twenty million copies of a series of four leaflets were printed while the Germans were still advancing, each leaflet to be dropped at a set phase of our counteroffensive. This work was done by the SHAEF staff, working in the closest cooperation with both 12th and 21st Army Groups.
As soon as the German drive came to a halt, the Allied armies went over to the offensive and the Bulge area was saturated with the special leaflets, pointing out to the Germans that their last chance offensive had failed. Good results were reported by a Third Army officer: Prisoners taken during the operation all claim to have been deeply impressed by the leaflets. Even during the end of the operation many Germans believed, until they found copies of our leaflets, that they were defending a flank and that the spearhead of the German attack had passed on to Liege, Belgium, and even Paris. When they learned the true state of affairs they were ready to capitulate.
The Ardennes campaign was another excellent demonstration of the importance of allowing leaflet planners access to the highest command levels, in order to develop timely and coordinated leaflet programs.
Although we cannot generally say for sure that any leaflet was definitely used in the Battle of the Bulge, we can check the dates of dissemination and make sure they were dropped between 16 December 1944 and 25 January 1945. Once we know that the time span is correct, we will see if the propaganda message seems to mention the battle. I notice that every major American Army fighting in Europe seems to have prepared leaflets that mention the Bulge. None were prepared early in the battle when it was in doubt, but once it was clear that the Germans were beaten and in retreat we see many leaflets telling them that the battle was a disaster and they have lost irreplaceable men and war materials. It was a good theme to attack the morale of the Wehrmacht.
Army Talks 14 September 1945
Published by the Information and Education Division
The September 1945 issue of ARMY TALKS, an Information and Education Division news magazine for Allied troops mentions Battle of the Bulge propaganda:
During the first week or ten days of the German push leafleting operations on the break-through were completely suspended. As soon as the enemy drive had been stopped and the Allies went over on the offensive, then the area was covered in a continuous schedule of nightly missions. Added to this night-after-night leaflet saturation by the 406th [a British RAF squadron assigned to leaflet dropping], there was a further drop of 24,800,000 leaflets in twenty-four daylight missions against communication targets behind enemy lines. Four leaflets proved to be of special value: the two versions of This was the plan, [Z.G. 95 and Z.G. 98] The stake, your life, [Z.G 99] and Lost. [Z.G. 100]
ZG-95 and ZG-98 This was the Plan
These almost identical leaflets that showed a map of the Rundstedt Plan were produced by SHAEF in London and were dropped from the North Sea to the Swiss border. 7 million copies of ZG-95 were dropped between 6 January and 15 February 1945. 16,688,032 of leaflet ZG-98 were dropped between 4 January and 21 February 1945. Some of the text on the front is:
THIS WAS THE PLAN...
The map below illustrates the breakthrough plan of the Western High Command. It points to the German objectives. What it does not show is where the Allied tank armies are located.
Text on the back is in part:
THE LAST ATTEMPT
Why did the counteroffensive have to come?
1. Because German reserves of men and materials were being continually hammered down in the battle of attrition between Emmerich and Basel.
2. Because the German petrol stock was nearly exhausted. Supplies had to be captured.
3. Because Himmler realized that the German people were resisting more and more against the forced evacuation and don't want to be dragged away from their homes.
Why did the counteroffensive have to fail?
1. Because Rundstedt did not have enough tanks, not enough planes, not enough artillery to achieve a first class plan.
2. Because next to elite troops, half-trained Grenadiers were thrown into the battle.
3. Because the SS leaders failed. Manteuffel did his job. He trusted the Panzer-SS. But Sepp Dietrich failed.
4. Because the V1 and V2 failed as sustitutes for artillery and air power.
5. Because the Allies were able to throw 6000 planes into the battle in one day in support of their troops.
Why does the German Soldier have to make his own decision?
Because the German Leadership after this last admittedly brilliant attempt - has confessed to itself, to the world and to the German soldier that it is senseless to fight on.
Army Talks adds about this leaflet:
The Last Attempt admitting that the Germans had won a tactical victory, but pointing out that it was a wasteful and costly effort unless carried to a successful conclusion.
It says in regard to the second version of the leaflet:
The Last Attempt stressing that the attempt was a desperate one forced on the Germans by their steadily dwindling reserves of men and material, and that it failed because of lack of men, material and air support. Each of these leaflets carried on the reverse side a tactical map.
Prisoners were deeply impressed by the leaflets. Even toward the end of the operation they believed , until they found copies of our leaflets, that the spearhead of the German attack had passed on to Liege, Brussels and even Paris. When they learned the true state of affairs they were often ready to capitulate.
Z.G. 99 The Stake Your Life
This leaflet depicts Rundstedt, Himmler and Goebbels and a roulette wheel. It tells the German soldier that the three German officials have gambled with their lives. 16,688,032 copies of this leaflet were prepared for dissemination from 4 January to 22 February 1945. Some of the text is:
The Stake Your Life
What did Rundstedt want? He knew that “everything was at stake,” It was sink or swim. The battle of attrition at the Westwall was more than Germany could stand. Like Hindenburg in 1918, the Field Marshal wanted to say before world history, “I have done everything I could.” Therefore, he undertook this “last attempt.” No stake could be too high. The stake was: your life.
The game is up. Can you still save your life?
The propaganda message tells how each had a different aim, none of them caring how many men were killed or maimed. The back of the leaflet tells the German soldier that they were not responsible for the defeat. It says in part:
You are not responsible!
The great counter-offensive was a gamble with your life. The game is lost. But you are not to blame. You have fought as an honest, brave soldier is supposed to. You are not responsible for the fact that there weren't enough tanks, planes and field piece available. That the secret weapons failed as Ersatz artillery and air power
You are responsible now to yourself, your family and to your country .
Army Talks adds:
The Stake Your Life emphasized that the offensive was a desperate gamble that failed, and showed Rundstedt, Himmler and Goebbels as three gamblers who were quite willing to risk the common soldiers life at very long odds.
Z.G. 100 Lost
This leaflet is all text but the message tells the Germans that Rundstedt had staked everything on this risky operation and failed. 9,161,860 copies of this leaflet were prepared to be dropped between 11 January and 24 January 1945. Some of the text is:
The last attempt to avoid defeat has failed. The surprise offensive on which Himmler and Rundstedt have staked everything is collapsing. Neither Liege nor Verdun were taken. Around the long neck which Rundstedt has driven into the Allied lines the noose is tightening
What are the consequences?
Thousands and thousands have already perished in this campaign. Further thousands will still have to die but with one difference: before, it may have had some meaning, but now you know that everything is lost .
Army Talks adds:
Lost was supposed to be the clincher in this four leaflet sales talk and pointed out that the last desperate attempt to stave off inevitable defeat had failed, and that the only hope for the German soldier to survive was to be taken prisoner.
ZG.103 The Wise Man Looks Ahead!
This leaflet depicts a map showing the German supply lines cut by the Allies. 1,360,000 leaflets were printed and dropped on the German forces on 15 and 16 January 1945. The text on the front is:
You have already asked yourselves why your supplies of food, munitions and gasoline begin to get thinner and thinner. This leaflet gives you the answer.
The back is all text and tells the German troops that their supplies have been cut, and possibly even hints, how will you get back home? The text says in part:
FORWARD GERMAN SOLDIER
Now you are advancing grenadiers, armored grenadiers, paratroopers. Now at last you can look forward once again. Before you lie the goals which your leadership has set for you: Antwerp, Brussels, Verdun, Paris Dont look back! For this is the picture that presents itself behind your lines. Your supplies and men came over seven railroad lines and seven bridges Five of the seven bridges are in ruins today. The American Air Force destroyed them in the past days Today your supplies and reserves have to be brought to the front by the most part in trucks, or the German soldier has to march into action.
GERMAN SOLDIER DONT LOOK BACK!
ZG-105 – 9 Days
This leaflet tells the German troops what their Nazi leaders promised and what the reality was. 1,098,034 of these leaflets were disseminated from 28 February to 2 March 1945. Some of the text on the front is:
9 Days Which Shook the World
On the ninth day of the German surprise offensive, The American tank Army of Patton went on the attack against the southern flank of Manteuffel’s army. At the same time, units of the United States First Army stopped the German spearheads a short distance from the Meuse. 6,000 Allied bombers and fighters Appeared above the battle. In the West, Surprisingly, there appeared new American and British armored formations. The 6th Panzer Army of Sepp Dietrich had to go entirely on the defensive. The most daring German offensive since Stalingrad was over. The world knew:
THE LAST FANTASTIC ATTEMPT OF THE GERMAN LEADERSHIP HAD FAILED
The back of the leaflet consists of six paragraphs. Three labelled “Propaganda” on the left and three labelled “Reality on the right. I will just translate the first two pairs:
PROPAGANDA: Soldiers of the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler were told before the German surprise offensive, “We shall break through to Paris.” SS Oberfuehrer Mohnke, the Division Commander declared: "Liege will be given to the Fuhrer as a Christmas present.”
REALITY: After three weeks of embittered fighting, the territorial gain consisted temporarily of 75 kilometers of mountainous country, lengthening the front by nearly 100 kilometers. The Cost: Between 80,000 and 90,000 losses, among them 27,000 prisoners. Instead of Liege and Verdun, thousands bled to death fighting for such places as Houffalize and Bastogne.
PROPAGANDA: Soldiers of the First SS Panzer unit were told before the offensive: “This time we have aircover and sufficient artillery. We have been guaranteed full air superiority over the Front for three months.”
REALITY: The German air offensive was smashed in three days. The largest Allied air effort: from the 23rd to the 29th of December, 28,000 sorties were flown. In heavy weapons too, the materiel superiority of the Allies became clear again after the first few days.
TO FIGHT ON NOW CAN ONLY DO HARM
ZG.107 Clear the Roads
This all text-leaflet apparently was not dropped on the Germans for some reason. Data indicates that they were marked Do not disseminate, and 2,000,000 copies that were already printed were pulped by the Allies. Since ZG.108 was dropped on 7 February, we might assume that this leaflet would have been dropped a few days earlier. The leaflet is divisive in theme, attempts to turn the Wehrmacht against the SS and might even imply that the SS are cowards. The leaflet says in part on the front:
Clear the road for the SS
The Rundstedt winter offensive has collapsed and with it there collapsed the last hope of the German High Command of postponing, by a surprise maneuver, the inevitable defeat, perhaps by a few months.
Valuable reserves, valuable supplies have been squandered and irreplaceably lost.
The NAZI leaders know this. That is why they want to salvage from the defeat whatever can be saved. From the wedge, which the Germans have driven into the Allied lines, they are trying to pull back troop units before the American pincers cut off the wedge.
But it isnt you who is being pulled back but the SS
You have a choice: To hold out and die for the SS or to make an end and save yourself.
Some of the text on the back of the leaflet is:
This is what they told you: Everything is at stake... Rundstedts order of the day 12/16/44. 15 American divisions destroyed M. Krull, DNB radio program. Christmas in Antwerpt Lieutenant Farnhold. Now we shall march on Paris Officer Hoepke.
This is what they didnt tell you: That in one week the big winter offensive dashed itself against the iron resistance of the American soldier, without obtaining even its initial objectives That of more than 1000 tanks which Rundstedt committed, 655 have been totally smashed and 226 more made unserviceable That every day thousands more German soldiers are giving their lives long after it has become clear that the offensive was a failure and that retreat is inevitable That now the last card has been played and lost.
This leaflet is not about the Battle of the Bulge per se, but it does mention it as a Lessons Learned to the Germans and basically tells them not to make the same mistake again. I will not translate the entire leaflet, just three paragraphs on the front where the Ardennes Offensive is mentioned or implied:
IN THE NORTH IT MIGHT HAVE MADE SENSE
IF THERE HAD BEEN ENOUGH TANKS, ARTILLERY AND PLANES
The German counter-offensive in the Ardennes had for its objectives communication centers, supply lines and supply centers. Field Marshall Rundstedt himself declared in his order of the day: Everything is at stake. Liege was to be reached and from there Antwerp; Verdun and from there Paris. But he was stopped and thrown back with enormous losses (about 90,000 men). They were fighting for everything. But, what are you fighting for here?
While in the Ardennes the bloody retreat goes on, while you are to sacrifice yourself here, the Russian steamroller has started up again in the East. The Red Army has broken through between Warsaw and Krakow and is marching on Upper Silesia
In the North it might have made sense. But even there 32,000 comrades had to surrender in the course of 4 weeks, in the Face of enemy superiority. Here it makes no sense at all. WHO WANTS TO DIE FOR MORE PROPAGANDA?
The back is interesting because it recommends six ways that German soldiers might “accidentally” get themselves captured and live to rebuild their country. They might Get caught in an enemy counterattack, Find themselves out front in a German counterattack, desert, get cut off in a reconnaissance patrol, get caught in an enemy flank attack, or find themselves cut off and surrounded. The back page concludes:
PRISONERS OF WAR RETURN HOME SAFELY WHEN THE WAR IS OVER
Notice that the text on this leaflet had not yet been approved. A sticker on the leaflet says:
For Review Board members - Please return to Mrs. Curran.
The CPH Series Produced by the Ninth U.S. Army
The CPH leaflets were first printed about October 1944. The CPH leaflets were tactical leaflets used in limited local operations against the Wehrmacht for a specific operation or campaign. Initially, the leaflets were printed in a shop in the Dutch town of Maastricht. Later, the CPH leaflets were produced by mobile printing presses in the field. They were disseminated by artillery or grenade. The 9th U.S. Army produced approximately 40 different CPH leaflets.
CPH-20 Plan and Result
Like the above leaflet This was the plan, CPH-20 features a map of the battlefield and tells the German soldiers of the failure of the Ardennes offensive. The leaflet was delivered to the Germans by artillery in January 1945. Some of the text is:
A great German offensive was intended to bring masses of divisions firstly to Aachen, Liege, Namur, Sedan, and Verdun and further up to Brussels and Antwerp. None of these cities were reached. After gaining considerable ground in the first week of the attack, the Germans were later driven from important key positions. The Allied air forces engaged decisively in the war on the ground and destroyed, among others, seven bridges over which supplies were supposed to have been delivered.
Even the large scale of the recent German counter-offensive was not enough. Therefore, the attack bogged down half-way. WHY? Because V-1 and V-2 can replace neither artillery nor air power. Because the German transportation and railroad nets are under the systematic bombardment of the Allied Air Forces. Because gasoline is so scarce. On December 25th American fighter-bombers set fire to 97 German trucks full of captured gasoline. Between December 16th and 29th the Americans destroyed 2979 German vehicles and damaged 981 more. On January 1st alone, 188 German planes were shot down The battle-trained troops which were killed or captured in the German counter-offensive will never fight again .
An Artillery-fired CPH-20 Leaflet
I mention above that this entire CPH series was disseminated by artillery and grenade. I thought I might show the reader what a leaflet looks like after it has been in a shell that has exploded and ejected it into the air over the enemy. As you can see, there is a crinkling effect and sometimes the leaflets are singed or burned. Using artillery is a very accurate way to send a leaflet, but I cannot help but think that the end result is extremely difficult to read.
CPH-22 Soldiers Duty, Soldiers Luck
This all-text leaflet was delivered to the Germans by artillery in January 1945. Some of the text on the front is:
The German counter-offensive in the Ardennes ended half way. Namur, Liege, and Aachen are still in Allied hands. The German occupied area is becoming steadily smaller.
All plans had to be readjusted. Gasoline was in short supply right from the beginning. Food was not supplied for days. Mobile units had lost their way. Heavy weapons did not come forward. Some units had lost their way for days. Relief was not coming through. Himmlers insufficiently trained Volksgrenadier Division suffered the greatest losses
It is interesting to note that this leaflet does not mention Adolf Hitler. Instead, it attacks Heinrich Himmler.
An Artillery-fired CPH-25 Leaflet and Translation
This leaflet does not even mention the Bulge, but it gives the dates 15 December and 16 December, the day before the battle started and the day the battle started. It tells of the confusion in German ranks and the happiness this soldier had at being captured and safe. The other side of the leaflet shows the family “At home,” and very happy together.
The WG (German Workers) series of leaflet were produced by the United States and Great Britain starting in early September 1944. The Allies had landed in Europe and this series was one of the final ones in the push to eventual victory. 5,560,130 copies of WG.30 were prepared for dissemination over Germany from 2 February to 27 February 1945. The front of the leaflet mentions Rundstedts failures and tells the workers of each occupied country in their own language:
First in the West:
The last effort in Rundstedts offensive SMASHED.
Now in the East:
COLLAPSE. The Russians have penetrated deep into Germany!
FRENCH WORKERS! In the East: Collapse! The Russians have penetrated deep into Germany!
ITALIAN WORKERS! In the East: Collapse! The Russians have penetrated deep into Germany!
RUSSIAN WORKERS! In the East: Collapse! The Russians have penetrated deep into Germany!
POLISH WORKERS! In the East: Collapse! The Russians have penetrated deep into Germany!
The text is rather repetitious, but it gets the theme across to the readers. The message on the back goes on the tell the people what to do, and ends by asking the civilian workers to listen to the Allied radios: London, Luxembourg, and Moscow, and learn the truth about what is really happening; the Allied bombing offensive; events inside Germany; and the postwar plan of the Allies.
8,473,180 copies of WG.37 were prepared for dissemination over Germany from 22 February to 19 March 1945. The leaflet tells of the continual German defeats and mentions Rundstedts failed offensive. The back of the leaflet mentions the recent Crimea Conference, and how the defeated Germany will be ruled. The text on the front is:
In the West:
After Rundstedts offensive of despair: The assault of the West Wall.
Nearly 900,000 German prisoners since D-Day.
The Anglo American air offensive from the West Wall up to the Eastern Front.
In the East:
Silesia, the Ruhr of the East is lost.
Saxonys industrial district is threatened.
East Prussia is overrun.
Zhukovs armies are in front of Berlin.
The CT Series Produced by First U.S. Army
The CT series were disseminated by artillery. They were produced and distributed by the United States First Army in Western Europe from D-Day+6 to the end of the war. A complete list of the CT series is illustrated by Rod Oakland in Leaflets Disseminated by Artillery Shell, the Psywar Society Blatter No. 23, 1996. Several leaflets mention the failed offensive. I note CT-35, 41, 42, 43, and 44.
CT-42 Make Free the Street for the SS
Military documents state that 300,000 copies of CT-42 were printed in Brussels on 6 January 1945 for the First Army. Another 200,000 copies were printed on 7 January 1945. Many of these CT leaflets are text only and I prefer to show the readers leaflets with images. However, this leaflet is interesting because it is a divide and conquer piece which attempts to turn the German soldier against the SS alluding to its preferred treatment. This all-text leaflet was delivered to the Germans by artillery in January 1945. Some of the text is:
The Rundstedt winter offensive has broken down. And with it the last hope of the German High Command to postpone the inevitable defeat for a few weeks. The last reserves, the last supplies have been squandered The leaders now try to withdraw troops before the American pincer move can cut off the wedge.
However, it is not you who are being withdrawn but the SS. You must keep the roads open until the SS men have escaped. You must remain in your position, although your position has become untenable. Only if you risk your life do the gentlemen of the SS have a chance to escape You have one choice: to hold out and die for the SS, or to quit and live for yourself.
CT-44 Himmlers Christmas Gift to the German People
CT-44 depicts Heinrich Himmler placing coffins under a Christmas tree as gift for the people of Germany. This leaflet was delivered to the Germans by artillery in January 1945. The base of the Christmas tree is labeled The Offensive. Text on the various gifts read:
Smashed supply routes
1000 tanks destroyed
The last reserves, sacrificed
Note once again that there is no mention of the Fuehrer. The Allies blame this fiasco on Heinrich Himmler, not Adolf Hitler. Other leaflets ask Where is Hitler. It may be that there was already a belief that Himmler had replaced Hitler.
The PWB Series Produced by the Third U.S. Army
PWB-38 The Rundstedt Offensive Failed
This leaflet depicts the Bulge on one side (In the West) and Soviet advances on the other side (In the East). The leaflet was disseminated in January 1945. On the western side it features a map of the bulge and the following text:
The Rundstedt Offensive failed
The last desperate offense in the west was a failure. German soldiers had been driven into the offensive without sufficient equipment and supplies. The massive Allied material superiority in tanks, airplanes, cannons, etc., was overwhelming and the German forces are now being pushed back
The effectiveness of the high level Battle of the Bulge leaflet operation is confirmed by the following report from the Psychological Warfare Officer of the Third U.S. Army. I have edited for brevity:
From the time the Germans broke through and created the Ardennes salient until they had been finally driven back onto their own side of the Siegfried line, all requests for fighter-bomber drops were withheld at 3rd Army. The weather was consistently bad throughout most of this period and on those days when the weather was operational for the fighter-bombers it was felt that their entire strength should be used in support of the ground forces.
As the Germans were throwing in new troops, it was necessary to conduct a large-scale leaflet operation with the reduced facilities then at our disposal. Enemy troops in the line in actual contact with our forces could be reached by artillery-borne leaflets, but the only way that the large forces the enemy shuttled back and forth in the interior of the salient could be leafleted was by high-level bombers operating from the United Kingdom.
It was decided at this time that every effort would be made to use high-level bombers against pinpoint enemy targets with leaflets that were sometimes only a few kilometers from the actual front lines. Aerial photographs were studied each day and all other sources of information were carefully perused in search of suitable targets for these operations.
A close check was kept upon the results of these operations. Day after day it was possible to list many towns and villages in the salient that had been reached during the previous night.
As the Germans fell back and we advanced into the territory they had recovered in the first hours of their attack, reports began to come in of the actual results of the high-level leaflet operations. Corps Liaison Officers and combat loud speaker crews, working closely behind the advancing front lines were able to see exactly where the bombs which had been ordered for towns and villages in the area had been dropped. Leaflets in these areas were picked up and returned to Headquarters with notations indicating the area in which they were found and wherever possible, an indication of the date on which they had been dropped. These records were then carefully compared with the records of the requests and the records of the reported drops, with most gratifying results.
Prisoners taken during the operation against the Ardennes salient all claimed to have been deeply impressed by the leaflets. Even toward the end of the operation many German soldiers believed, until they found copies of our leaflets, that they were defending a flank under difficult circumstances but the spearhead the German attack had passed on to Liege, Brussels and even Paris. When they learned the true state of affairs they were often ready to capitulate.
Although no official figures are available, it would seem reasonable to estimate that more than half of the prisoners taken in the last week of December and during the month of January had seen our leaflets. A great many still had leaflets with them and in most cases the leaflets proved to be those which had, been dropped by high-level bombers in the interior of the salient.
This leaflet is titled “The Situation Today.” It depicts a map of Germany on 28 January 1945. You can clearly see the Allies coming from the west and the Soviets from the east. The back is all text and discusses the advance of the Allies and the Soviets. The leaflet ends with a request that the Germans look at the map and throw their arms away and surrender. Since this article is about the Bulge, I will only translate the part of the text that mentions the failed offensive:
VON RUNSTEDT’S OFFENSIVE
The German armies have, at last, been brought to bay. From the East and the West, the Allies advance to the kill.
Achieved but one result: the destruction of his one forces. His 6th SS-Panzer Army has been badly mauled. Many of the best Panzer and Infantry Divisions on the Western Front are nothing but broken remnants, and the Allied Armies, fresh and magnificently equipped, are now driving through the West Wall.
The 7A Series Produced by the Seventh U.S. Army
Three Seventh Army leaflets mention the offensive; 7A-A15 Who pays the Price; 7A-A71 Your Great Hour has Arrived; and the news sheet 7A-C16 Rundstedts Armies in Retreat. All were disseminated in January 1945. They are all text only so I choose to depict just one.
7A-A71 Your Great Hour has Arrived
Some of the text on this leaflet is:
Your great hour has arrived
And with these words General Field marshal von Rundstedt started the German offensive with 25 divisions in the West. 100,000 German soldiers have been lost. 40,000 found the way to captivity. 60,000 are dead or wounded. The hopeless operation in the Ardennes brought new misery for uncounted German families The great hour of the Western Front has become the great mistake.
Frontline News-Letter for German Soldiers in the West - Produced by the Seventh U..S. Army
7A-C14 - The Big Fight in the Ardennes
An official newspaper of the U.S. 7th Army in Western Europe, the Frontbrief was first printed on 2 December 1944. The first issue was coded 7A-C10. Issue 7A-C14 was dated 1 January 1945 and mentioned the Ardennes Offensive, but with no maps or images. Some of the text is:
The big fight in the Ardennes
Successes of the U.S.A. - Counteroffensive
Hodges comes forward - Bastogne supported. The tip of the German bulge, which had reached the Meuse River in the area of ??Dinant last week, was 6 kilometers from the American forces brought in to attack the German northern flank.
Front letter 7A-C15 dated 2 January 1945 mentioned German General Rundstedt with the headline Rundstedts Bulge narrowed. The Germans actually used the term wedge, but we will use the more familiar word Bulge. Front letter 7A-C16 dated 3 January 1945 had the headline Rundstedt's Army in Retreat. Front letter 7A-C16 dated 4 January 1945 adds simply Ardennes Retreat. The last issue of Front letter known to have been issued by the 7th Army is 7A-C23 dated 3 March 1945.
Note: General Courtney Hodges, commander of the U.S. First Army Is seldom mentioned for his actions during the battle of the Bulge while General George Patton and his Third Army are given the credit for breaking the German circle around Bastogne. This newspaper is one of the very few that mentions General Hodge.
The U.S. Seventh Army did not take part in the Battle of the Bulge, but it extended its flanks to take over much of the area that had been the responsibility of U.S. Third Army, commanded by General Patton who had previously commanded the Seventh, which allowed the Third to relieve surrounded American forces besieged at Bastogne. Later, along with the French First Army, the Seventh went on the offensive in February 1945. After capturing the city of Strasbourg, the Seventh went into the Saar, assaulted the Siegfried Line, and reached the River Rhine during the first week of March, 1945.
The Frontpost Newspaper Produced by the Twelth U.S. Group
Frontpost January 1945
Frontpost (Front Postal Service) was a weekly semi-tactical newspaper that featured News for German troops produced by the American Twelfth Army group for dissemination by fighter-bombers and medium bombers. From August 1944 to May 1945, the Allied 12th Army Group Newspaper, appeared every two or three days initially and then weekly, printed by its American production team in France and then in Luxembourg. Each issue bore the motto Der Starke braucht die Wahrheit nicht zu scheue (The strong need not fear the truth). The first issue of January 1945 depicts the Bulge and the two headings:
The Battle of Materials Continues
The Americans Fight Back
Frontpost A slightly later Edition as the tide turns against the Germans
This 12 January edition tells of the Germans pulling back after constant attacks by the Allied forces. Since I show a German-language newspaper above, I show the English-language translation of this issue here. The PWB always made a limited number of English-language editions for filing and so that the Allies who distributed the newspapers could see what they were dropping on the enemy.
Frontpost contained accurate news of the war. The first issue, dated 14 August 1944, was prepared in the operations tent in a field near St. Sauveur in Normandy. The printing of the first issues (Nos. 1 through 5) was done at Rennes, in Brittany. Single-sheet (two-page) issues were produced thrice weekly. With the advance through France, the publication site for Frontpost and tactical leaflets was moved to Paris soon after the fall of the city. The first Paris-printed issue was dated 31 August 1944. Nine issues (Nos. 6-14) were printed in Paris.
Beginning with issue No. 15 (dated 22 September 1944), printing was moved to the plant of the Luxemburger Wort in the city of Luxembourg. Beginning with No. 33, dated 13 November 1944, the newspaper became a four-page weekly. Since Frontpost was being airdropped inside Germany, its content began to include news of interest to German civilians in addition to soldiers. Frontpost continued publication through issue No. 48, dated 20 April 1945.
A classified confidential Psychological Warfare Branch Combat Team booklet says in the Frontpost chapter:
One of the most important undertakings of the PWB Combat Team in the field is the editing, printing, and distribution of Frontpost, a miniature but complete weekly newspaper delivered to German troops in the immediate operational zone. This newspaper, written in German, is delivered regularly once a week to the opposing troops in shells fired by Allied artillery.
Although strictly an informative newspaper edited in a neutral manner, it fulfills major propaganda aims by providing German troops with an impartial, objective presentation of world news which is not available through any German medium.
The leaflets were packed into shells that could carry 400 copies of the newspaper.
The Twelfth United States Army Group was the largest and most powerful U.S. Army formation ever to take to the field. It controlled the majority of American forces on the Western Front in 1944 and 1945. It was commanded by General Omar Bradley with its headquarters established in London on 14 July 1944.
The Twelfth Army Group controlled four field armies: the First, Third, Ninth and Fifteenth United States Armies. By the end of the war the Twelfth Army Group was a force that numbered over 1.3 million men. The history of the PSYOP troops of the Group is told in the previously restricted book, Publicity and Psychological Warfare 12th Army Group, January 1943 - August 1945.
The book mentions the Battle of the Bulge and basically says that the civilian press gave a completely wrong picture of the battle. It says in part:
On 16 December 1944, the German armies of the west under Von Rundstedt counterattacked through the thinly held positions of the 12th Army group in the Ardennes Forest. Initial German gains were rapidly consolidated and exploited during this period. War correspondents exhibited, in some cases, a variety of panic These correspondents, and the stories they wrote, contributed greatly to unbalanced press reports during this period Two overall briefings by General Bradley had done much to put the battle in the Ardennes in its proper prospective. Instead of a defeat, as faulty reporting in some cases indicated, it proved to be an outstanding American victory.
The Feldpost Newspaper Produced by the Twelfth U.S. Army Group
Feldpost (Field Postal Service) was a weekly semi-tactical newspaper published by the American Twelfth Army group in Western Europe for dissemination by leaflet shell. The first issue of January 1945 depicts the Bulge (The same picture as in Frontpost above) and the two headings:
German Air Catastrophe
The Americans strike back
The story of the American counter-attack mentions General Patton and his tanks and the 101st Airborne Division and their defense of Bastogne. About 33 issues of Feldpost were produced from November 1944 to April 1945. By November 1944, due to the closeness of the fighting and rapidly fluctuating front line it was decided to add to the Frontpost newspaper a smaller-sized single-sheet abridged version, called Feldpost, that could be shelled to front line troops by artillery. These were designed to reach units with great precision that airdrops could not. The first issue appeared 5 November 1944. Feldpost was initially issued once a week; later twice weekly.
The book Publicity and Psychological Warfare 1943-1945 by the 12th U.S. Army Group European Theater of Operations, mentions the newspapers in greater detail:
Early in November it was decided that the airdrop of Frontpost did not entirely fill the demand for getting news to the German troops facing us, since areas where a newspaper might be effective were sometimes not being reached by airdrop. To remedy this situation, it was decided to produce a leaflet-sized newspaper to be fired from artillery shells. The first issue of this leaflet-newspaper, called Feldpost, ("Field Post") appeared under the date of 5 November 1944. Feldpost employed the same methods and had the same objectives as its bigger brother Frontpost. Many of the same features were included, but in condensed, stripped-down form.
The American 87th Infantry Division took part in the battle of the Bulge. Researcher Robert Allen send me some of the material he had accumulated on his own and from NARA. For instance, I notice that on the night of 31 December 1944, the Division Intelligence Journal says the division artillery will fire leaflets at the enemy:
Request disposition of propaganda shells.
Propaganda leaflets will be fired at St. Hubert and towns north of Morisy.
One message was received that mentioned a leaflet drop. Unfortunately, the leaflet may have been one of ours:
Attached leaflet dropped over our command post at 1900.
Allen had this propaganda newspaper among his files.
Nachrichten fur die Truppen – 31 December 1944 - Produced by PWB, SHAEF
Nachrichten fur die Truppen (News for the troops) was a joint British-American venture. It was published by the Psychological Warfare Division at SHAEF. It was a daily leaflet newspaper, at first of two, and then four sides, which was dropped continuously on or behind the German Western front from 25 April 1944 until the German capitulation.
Sefton Delmer, the British psychological warfare chief said about the newspaper:
The Office of Strategic Services and SHAEF’s American psychological-warfare boss General Bob McClure placed a team of first-class editors and news writers on the project. Nachrichten was a dirty off-white. Unlike other Allied leaflets it did not proclaim that it was issued by command of General Eisenhower of SHAEF. Nor did it, like "black" leaflets claim to have some German or non-Allied source. Nachrichten just dropped from the heavens, as an offering of the sublime objective truth. It did not refer to the Allies as the enemy. They were the Anglo-American forces or the Russians. The Germans were Die Deutschen Truppen.
As expected, the aerial newspaper mentions the German offensive:
Two armored divisions try to hold St. Hubert and Rochefort.
Rundstedt must regroup his troops.
Today, on the 15th day of the western offensive, members of two armored divisions and the Führer’s personal brigade "Gross-Deutschland" are in heavy defensive battles, and the westernmost base in the breakthrough area, the cities of Rochefort and St. Hubert are fighting against ever stronger American attacks.
A second story is opens:
Kassel Railway Station Devastated by Bombs.
New attacks of an incessant annihilation offensive against the replenishment system for the German West-Offensive hit numerous marshalling yards and other railway facilities in the Reich yesterday…
The AgG Series Produced by the Twenty-first British Army Group
AgG-20 - This was the Plan
Notice that this leaflet is similar to with the exact same text as ZG-95 above
The 21st Army Group was a British headquarters formation, in command of two field armies and other supporting units, consisting primarily of British and Canadian forces. It was established in London during July 1943, under the command of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF). The 21st Army Group operated in Northern France, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany from June 1944 until the end of the war in Europe in 1945.
When the Germans broke through Allied lines during the Battle of the Bulge, General Eisenhower was presented with a problem. The German divisions had sliced through US lines, leaving some American formations north and south of the new German Bulge. The headquarters of the U.S. 12th Army Group lay to the south, and so Eisenhower decided to place American forces north of the "Bulge" salient under 21st Army Group. After the battle, control of the U.S 1st Army which had been placed under Field Marshal Montgomery's temporary command was returned to General Bradley's 12th Army Group. The U.S 9th Army remained under Montgomery longer, before being returned to American command in Germany. So, at the height of the battle the 12th Army Group lost control of two Armies to the 21st Army Group under General Montgomery. The AgG leaflet was a product of this mixed 21st AG.
Leaflet AgG.25b The Rundstedt Offensive
This 21st Army Group leaflet was prepared in both a 25a and 25b variety. The front is the same on both leaflets, showing the Bulge and all the Allied forces attacking it. Notice that at the right the word Kaputt has been added. This tells the Germans that their offensive is dead. The text on the front of the leaflet is:
The Rundstedt Offensive
Opened on 16 December 1944: on 16 January 1945 - BROKEN
The map shows your location of 16 January 1945. It does not show your dead or your crippled or your precious material losses. And the latest news from the east: Warsaw has been liberated by units of the Russian and Polish armies
I have seen several other leaflets that mention the Ardennes Offensive but most seem repetitious. I believe that we have a good sampling of the Allied propaganda leaflets above. Now it is time to look at the German propaganda.
Researcher Lee Richards has studied the British rumor machine and wrote about it in a book entitled: Whispers of War Underground Propaganda Rumour-mongering in the Second World War. The British Underground Propaganda Committee regularly turned out rumors to be fed to the Germans in an attempt to destroy their morale. Rumors are a perfect medium for unacknowledgeable clandestine propaganda and deception. They are incredibly hard to trace and near impossible to prove their origin; they can spread like the proverbial wildfire. The British called them Sibs, from the Latin word Sibilare, meaning to hiss.
On 22 December1944, while the Germans were still advancing the rumor was spread among their troops that the great counter-offensive by 15-20 German divisions out of the 70-odd available for defense of the whole western Front was a desperate gamble from the outset. The only argument that could be found in favor of it was: better than a horrible end now than horror unending. This would imply to the common soldiers that his own high command were fools or defeatists, and worse, their entire front was now open to Allied attack.
On 29 December 1944, the British whispered to the Germans that the failure of Rundstedts offensive was largely due to the lack of cooperation between politically appointed officers and the old-line Wehrmacht officers. It was not the loyal German soldiers that lost the battle; it was the Nazis and their brainless political appointees.
On 12 January the German heard rumors that their command was using female soldiers on the front lines. It is hard to know how this was supposed to exploit the German soldier except perhaps to tell him that they were really scraping the bottom of the barrel now.
There is one notable case of black propaganda on the theme of the Ardennes offensive. Apparently the leaflet was never disseminated so we can only tell its history as found in the Lee Richards book: The Black Art, British Clandestine Psychological Warfare against the Third Reich. Lee explains that the Germans produced a news leaflet that allowed their soldiers to ask questions about the state of the war and receive official answers. The British discovered these Skorpion leaflets and immediately started work on counterfeiting them and changing the text in a way that might destroy the enemys morale. An example is the British copy of Skorpion Sk 2. We quote Lees text in part:
What is the aim of the offensive? Skorpion was asked. It explained the strategic plan But, conceded Skorpion, For this, as for any other great and daring strategic plan, a great deal of luck is needed. This good luck was denied our forces. Skorpion was further asked, But does this mean the offensive was useless? Skorpion replies, of course not. No matter the huge sacrifices of men and material, no matter the geographical objectives not met, what matters is the accomplishment of the inner purpose .
So, while appearing to be a positive pro-German leaflet, this British forgery tells the troops of the operations failure and the great loss of men and materials. It does not leave the Germans with any feeling of victory.
The Germans prepared a pair of leaflets that German researcher Klaus Kirchner called “black,” although they really do not fit the profile. A true black leaflet pretends to be from someone else rather than the true originator. So, in this case they might claim to be from the British or Americans. They do not. These are clearly German leaflets. They are deceptive though, since one claims to be a German leaflet targeting the U.S. 9th Army and the other, the British 2nd Army. In fact, it is just the opposite. The leaflet to the Americans tells of how easy the British have had it and the leaflet to the British tells them how easy the Americans have had it. Each one is dropped on the other army with the hope of causing confusion and dissention by troops thinking they have carried more than their weight during the fight. The leaflet to the Americans is coded C.E. (Canadiens and English) while the leaflet to the British is coded A (Americans). The Germans show these are deceptive leaflet with their codes
Field Marshall Montgomery
According to the British National Archives, The Germans greatest propaganda success occurred from one of their black radio broadcasts. Dr. Joseph Quinn explains in an article titled How Nazi fake news split Allied commanders in 1945. He explains that the battle was clearly an American victory, one that had come at the cost of more than 80,000 US troops killed, wounded and captured. The Germans prepared a radio broadcast which was featured as being Field-Marshal Montgomerys press conference of 7 January 1945. In it, Montgomery took full credit for winning the battle. There was already bad feeling between Montgomery and Patton, and the British General had also fought Eisenhower over who would command the ground war in Europe. This broadcast pulled the scab off the wound. It purported to be an official BBC comment on their normal wavelength on the press conference which cleverly slanted the whole affair in a way calculated to give most offense to the Americans. Some of the comments were:
In the first three weeks since Montgomery tacked the German Ardennes Offensive he has transformed it into a headache for Rundstedt He found no defense lines, the Americans somewhat bewildered, few reserves on hand and supply lines cut.
The American First Army had been completely out of contact with General Bradley. He quickly studied maps and began to tidy up the front. He took over scattered American forces, planned his action and stopped the German drive The Battle of the Ardennes can now be written off, thanks to Field Marshall Montgomery.
General Omar Bradley
General Omar Bradley, the commander of 12th Army Group, who was enraged by Montgomerys lack of mention of the key American field commanders in the Allied counterattack during the Ardennes battle, issued his own statement to the press on 9 January. The British Daily Mail entered the fray arguing that Montgomery had been treated unjustly by the Americans, who had accepted the authenticity of the fake broadcast all too readily. This was now a public relations crisis. Winston Churchill stated that through no fault of their own, the two countries have been engaged in this battle. Eisenhower told Churchill that his generals were so enraged that none wanted to serve under Montgomery. On 18 January 1945, Churchill tried to end the incident by reporting to the House of Commons:
The United States troops have done almost all the fighting and have suffered almost all the losses. Only one British Army Corps was engaged in this action. All the rest of the 30 or more divisions which have been fighting continuously for the last month, are United States troops. The Americans have lost 60 to 80 men for every one of ours. [This was] The greatest American battle of the war and will, I believe, be regarded as an ever famous American victory.
General Eisenhower later recalled this incident as one that caused him more distress and worry than did any similar one of the war.
Battle of the Bulge German PSYOP
The Germans seemed to have dropped close to a hundred leaflets during the period December 1944 to January 1945. There is a good chance that the majority; or even all of them were dropped on Allied soldiers facing the Bulge. However, for the purposes of this article the leaflet must mention the German offensive so I am going to omit dozens of very interesting colorful leaflets. Searching through my files I found about a dozen German leaflets that mention the Ardennes offensive. Whereas the Allied propaganda almost always talks about the defeat in the past tense, some of the German leaflets were actually used during the attack. To balance this article I will select some that bear interesting text or images. More might be added later if the image or the message merits it.
The German Skorpion leaflet No. 615
This may be the most impressive leaflet prepared by the Germans for their own troops during the Battle of the Bulge. It is in full color and depicts a mauled fist crushing everything as it smashes through the American and British lines. As German troops advanced into the Bulge they were handed these leaflets that has a long statistical message on the back and claimed that in 30 days, 160,000 Allied troops had been killed or wounded. It should be noted that these Skorpion morale leaflets were produced by the SS, not the Wehrmacht, and they were often forged by the British causing great confusion among German troops.
The German Blitz Offensive
There is no doubt this leaflet was used during the offensive since it plainly tells American troops of the German attack. The leaflet was disseminated in December 1944. Some of the comments on the back of the leaflet are:
According to German reports, the American First Army is in a state of complete disorganization. Up to date the number of prisoners taken by the advancing German units amount to 110,000 men.
Field Marshall Model’s “Blitz Offensive.
There were about a dozen of these “A.” leaflets without number. That is very odd, but perhaps the “A” is for a unit or for a theme. This leaflet points out that to get the truth you must read a Swiss newspaper and goes on to allegedly quote that paper as saying the Germans were moving ahead everywhere. The story continues on the back and ends with the statement:
The German Supreme Command announced on 21 December, “The successes of our Panzer formations and specialist troops, now operating far in the rear of the enemy, also on the fifth day of the offensive exceeded all expectations.
Get Wise Buddy!
This is a third “A.” leaflet, once more all text. This would be just a day or two later than the above leaflet. The text tells the Americans that the Germans are all around and even behind them. On the back, the Germans tell the American’s that even general Eisenhower understands that it is no crime to surrender when you are surrounded:
I, Dwight D. Eisenhower, declare that a soldier who gives himself up when the situation has become hopeless cannot be called a coward. It is no dishonor to break off a fight when the odds are against you. Nobody is expected to commit suicide when his sacrifice is of no use to his country.
AMERICAN SOLDIERS – A.129
We have pointed out the large number of “A.” leaflets with no number above. There are several leaflets dropped by the Germans later in the month of December that did have a number. All the ones I have seen had a large 3-digit number so perhaps the Germans were trying to fool the Americans into thinking that had somehow not found the first hundred or so. Four leaflets were prepared with the codes A.127 to A.130, three with the title IT’S YOUR JOB TO FIGHT! and one with the title IT’S YOUR JOB TO DIE! Each of the four has a different text on the back. Three different images were depicted on the four leaflets. Above we depict A.129. The leaflet targets American soldiers on the back and reminds them of how they were treated after WWI when veterans marched on Washington D.C trying to get Congress to give them a promised Bonus for the service in the war. They were routed by American calvary, as the German’s say, “treated like bums.” The Germans ask why the soldiers are willing to die for the “Jewish jobbers of Wall Street?” The American troops are told to go home and “make sure that grafters and war boomsters keep away from your women.”
The German 10.5-centimeter Leaflet Shell
A German 10-centimeter artillery shell was produced after 1940 and used for leaflet dissemination in the Light Field Howitzer 16 and Light Field Howitzer 38. It is mentioned in a German document dated 26 June 1940 – Berlin. The Germans are believed to have called it the Weiss-Rot-Goschosses, (“White Red Shell”) The shell weighed 13.65 kilograms and could hold about 600 grams or 500 leaflets. The range was about 6 to 7 kilometers. One such shell was found after the war containing leaflets A.127 to A.130 and the leaflet “Free Pass – Radio Information.” I should point out that a second German document states that the shell was 10.5 centimeters and could only be fired by the Light Field Howitzer model 18/39. Perhaps there was a second improved shell? In the picture above, the fuse at top is protected by a cap and the leaflet code is stenciled on the outside of the shell.
The leaflet is a safe conduct pass leaflet trying to get the Allied finder to send information to the German radio station. It bears no code, and the front has a long message in English and German. It is nicely written and instead of calling the bearer of the leaflet a deserter or a prisoner, it calls him a patriot who recognized the danger of Bolshevism. The back is a message to Jerry’s Front radio, bearing the “Patriot’s” name, rank, address, town, and country. There is a space for a 15-word message that will be broadcast so his unit and his family will know he is alive.
This leaflet is almost in the form of a newsletter. It implies that the Americans are not aware of their situation and tells them (from the German side) exactly what is going on in the offensive. The leaflet was disseminated in December 1944. It bears no code and is printed on one side only.
One son of a veteran said:
This is a WWII souvenir from my late father's estate. He was in the 509th Airborne Infantry Regiment and participated in the Battle of the Bulge. Germany was on the retreat everywhere and Hitler decided to use all his reserves for one last, secret attack.
Winston Churchill told us the Truth!
This all-text, uncoded leaflet was clearly aimed at the British and tried to convince them that their lives would be wasted helping the foolish Americans. Some of the text on the back of the leaflet is:
30,000 prisoners were brought in the first week of the offensive. The losses in dead and wounded are by far greater and careful estimates put them down at 150,000 to 200,000 men. As happened before, the Americans intended to show off once more by marching up to Berlin on their own in order that their folks at home might celebrate them as the great victors Instead of working with you in good fellowship they got into a tight corner by their desire to show off. Now you are expected to help them in their efforts to get out of their troubles....
What is almost funny about this leaflet is that the Germans have no idea that the Americans will make no attempt at taking Berlin. In fact, to their utter disgust, U.S. forces were stopped and the Soviets were allowed to take the German capital. This would eventually lead to a divided Berlin and a Berlin Wall during the decade of Cold War.
This German leaflet coded K1 + 907 A is quite rare, and the code is not even listed in the Guide to Series Codes used on Air-Dropped Propaganda Leaflets during WWII. In Fact, German researcher and author Klaus Kirchner showed a mock-up of the leaflet in Flugblatt-propaganda im 2.Weltkrieg, Volume 16. An actual copy of the leaflet finally became available in 2018. What makes this December 1944 leaflet so interesting is that it mentions the town of Bastogne where one of the great defensive actions of the Battle of the Bulge took place. The Germans could not take the town so here try a bluff and claim that they knew what the Americans would do; how they would defend; but that they would be ultimately victorious. They also add a bit of divide and conquer by pointing out that some American forces are under Montgomerys command. The bluff did not work. The Americans held firm and the Germans eventually retreated to Germany thoroughly beaten. Note that very distinct crinkling on the leaflet. A second copy appeared in 2020 and had the same crinkling. That indicates that the leaflet was fired at the Allies by German artillery. The crinkling is always found on leaflets that have been forced out of an artillery shell by an explosion.
The German mention of Bastogne is interesting because that where one of the great battles of the Ardennes offensive took place. In order to reach the port of Antwerp the Germans had to seize the roadways through eastern Belgium. Because all seven main roads in the Ardennes mountain range converged on the small town of Bastogne, control of its crossroads was vital to the German attack. They surrounded the town from 20 December until 27 December when the siege of the American forces was finally broken by elements of General George Pattons Third Army.
This is a German newspaper leaflet dropped on American troops. We can see by the date that it was disseminated about two weeks into the offensive. If we are to believe the Germans, they are victorious on all fronts and the Allied lines are in retreat everywhere. Notice also the Merry Christmas and Happy New Year greeting.
The Other Side
Another newspaper leaflet dropped on the Allied troops was four pages long and entitled The Other Side. In fact, not only was it dropped by German aircraft; there are numerous instances when it was placed on a V1 rocket and fired against England. There are no German records of leaflet dissemination by V1 rocket but we know that five only issues of The Other Side were printed, probably from November 1944 to February 1945. The leaflets are mentioned in R.G. Aucklands, V1 Rocket Propaganda Leaflets 1944-1945, the Psywar Society, 1963.
Issue four is undated but mentions the Battle of the Bulge on several pages. These leaflets were sent by V1 against England several times and were found in the British Midlands at Lancashire and Shropshire on Christmas Eve 1944. Issue Four was also found in Antwerp, Belgium in February 1945 and Holland at least eight times in places like Gelderland, Zeeland, and North Brabant from January to February 1945. Since the citizens of those last two targets probably could not read English, it is assumed the leaflets were for American and British troops at those locations. The comments on the front are in part:
All the same, this hasnt stopped Hitler from starting a sudden offensive into Belgium and Luxemburg. It seems as if a great deal that you did was in vain.
On page Two we see:
Say fellows, has someone been telling you stories? Or how come you didnt know anything about the German Army, which attached into Southeast Belgium, until it was pretty much all around you? Werent the German Army marked on any of the maps your Intelligence Officers had?
My Dearest Darling
This German leaflet is in the form of a letter from the wife of U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Joe Seibel to her husband at the front. It starts with an attack on the British (the old divide-and-conquer ploy), and then attacks that stinking son-of-a-witch Roosevelt) for the war, conveniently forgetting that Adolf Hitler declared war on the United States. The letter is dated 20 December, which puts it right in the middle of the Battle of the Bulge. The Germans liked this leaflet and printed it with various codes and uncoded. I have seen it with the code SKJ 2000" and 27.
Darling! Hallo Connie!
This leaflet is very similar to the one above. It is a letter from Sergeant Jack Zocchi to his wife at home and once again is very sympathetic to the German cause. In fact, the Germans ask the Americans to write to their Congressman to end the war. The letter is dated 19 December 1944 and this particular leaflet was allegedly carried by a propaganda rocket by the Germans over the Allied lines. The Code is A and I have seen about 23 leaflets all with the same code A used by an unknown German propaganda unit about the time of the Bulge.
Instructions for the American Prisoners of War
This is a very interesting leaflet. It could mean exactly what it says and simply be a very arrogant leaflet prepared by the Germans in advance to demand that Americans obey orders and act in a proper manner when captured by the Germans. Or, it could be kind of a grey propaganda with a hidden agenda. It tells Americans of the wonderful treatment they will receive as prisoners as long as they behave themselves. A reader might think. I can safely surrender as long as I act correctly. They will treat me well. The leaflet was disseminated in December 1944.
Up and Down
This December 1944 leaflet depicts two British soldiers and graves. It warns the soldiers that they are being kept in the dark about the offensive and suggests that they might want to consider surrendering before the slaughter starts. Some of the text on the back is:
On the go again December 16. Strong German forces launched a large-scale attack in the central part of the Western Front.
December 20. The German Supreme Command announced in the daily communique: more than 10,000 prisoners taken. 200 tanks captured or destroyed. 124 planes knocked out
December 21. Rapid advance of German troops across the road from Liege to Arlon. More than 20,000 prisoners .
Look at it properly!
This leaflet was dropped in January 1945 as the battle started to turn against the Germans. It depicts a massive tank and the long message on the back seems to be aimed at terrorizing Allied troops with secret weapons yet to arrive on the battlefield. The text says in part:
Look at it properly!
This is the latest German amphibious tank having still stronger armor plates than the well-known Royal Tiger. Its firing capacity surpasses everything known so far. It simply vomits fire. The funny part about it is that it can swim. It does not bother about the inundations caused by us. At any moment it may emerge in front of your positions, but you have to hold out. Dont think the German offensive was launched in a few places only. That was only the beginning
This German Christmas Sudstern (Southern Cross) leaflet is coded *378-12-44/12, which indicates it was disseminated in December of 1944. The front depicts a young child carrying a Christmas tree and the text:
May you have a Merry Christmas
The text on the back says:
Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas
John Calvin Coolidge Jr.
Soldiers of the 9th and 10th Tank, 101st Parachute and 28th Infantry Divisions, did your officers tell you that you are surrounded and outnumbered here? Well, here you are just before Christmas far away from home and stuck in the worst imaginable military situation. Will you come back, are you sure to see your loved ones again? Put a stop to it now...one way or another.
A Merry Christmas!
A Merry Christmas! (Back)
This is another Christmas-themed leaflet used during the Battle of the Bulge. This German leaflet depicts a wife and children at Christmas with the grandparents at their right. The text is written in a homey southern style and reminds of us old-fashioned country folk. The back has a rather long message talking about Christmas in the old days and then goes on to recommend that the soldier be injured and states that he can be home by Christmas with any luck. It tells the soldier that he will not be kept in France because of the need for beds due to massive, Allied casualties. He will be sent home. The code of this leaflet is “A.” Several such leaflets for Allied troops in Western Europe were fired by rocket and grenade in January of 1945. For instance, another leaflet with the “A.” code was entitled “To the Men of the British 2nd Army.” One soldier who found this leaflet during the Battle of the Bulge, on 23 December wrote:
Nazis in town 300 yards to our front.
DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES, BUT POWs DO!
Note: because of the mention of the 9th and 10th Armored Divisions, and the 101st Airborne and 28th Infantry Divisions we can say that this leaflet was probably dropped on Bastogne. The time is right and all the mentioned units were there. There is one problem with this leaflet. The Southern Star leaflets were dropped in Italy. In fact, the two leaflets on either side of this one, *377-12-44 and *379-12-44 were both dropped on Italy. BUT, notice that this leaflet *378-12-44/12 has an added 12 at the back. I can only assume that it was considered such a powerful leaflet that it was taken from Italy with a slight change in code number and dropped on Western Europe.
A German PG-41 leaflet Rocket
Daddy, I'm so afraid!
This rocket was dug up after WWII along with four propaganda leaflets used against the Americans during Christmas 1944 when they were fighting the Battle of the Bulge. The picture shows us more German leaflets used against American forces. The leaflet with the blond girl second from the left is well known to us. The Germans began dissemination of this uncoded leaflet about the start of January 1944. It makes use of Christmas symbols. The front of the leaflet depicts a small blond-haired girl holding a sprig of mistletoe with a candle to her right. Behind her is the visage of her father, apparently killed in action with a bullet hole in his helmet, although his eyes are partially open. The text is:
Daddy, Im so afraid!
Hark the Herald Angels sing!
On the back of the leaflet there are a number of Christmas symbols surrounding the text. Among them are angels, the Star of Bethlehem, Christmas candles and pine sprigs, etc. The text is terribly written and full of grammatical errors. In general, I try to show the finest and cleanest leaflets possible in this article. However, in March of 2017, a reader sent me photograph of the back of this very leaflet that his father, a trooper in the 101st Airborne picked up off the snowy ground of Bastogne and brought home. You can see how the leaflet is ragged from the wet ground and being folded and carried in a pocket for weeks or possibly months. I think it is good to show the reader how most of these leaflets actually looked on the battlefront rather than the pristine images I usually show from intelligence files. This is a perfect example. The text is:
HARK the HERALD ANGELS sing!
Well soldier, here you are in no-Mans land, just before Christmas far away from home and your loved ones. Your sweetheart or wife, your little girl, or perhaps even your little boy, dont you feel them worrying about you, praying for you? Yes old boy, praying and hoping youll come home again, soon. Will you come back, are you sure to see those loved ones again?
This is Christmas time, Yule-time . . . The Yule-log, the Mistletoe, the Christmas tree, whatever it is, its home and all that you think fine to celebrate the day of our Savior. Man, have you thought about it. What if you dont come back . . . What of those dear ones?
Well soldier, PEACE ON EARTH GOOD WILL TOWARDS MEN . . . For where theres a will theres a way . . . Only 300 yards ahead and...
Another German leaflet rocketed at the Allies shows a Christmas symbol. This uncoded leaflet depicts an evergreen tree of some kind meant to resemble a Christmas tree. Some of the text on the back is:
We thought you would be home for Christmas.
Well boys take it easy youve been promised so many things.
Its not your first and certainly not your last disappointment.
Cheer up Console yourself with Jerry.
He wishes you a MERRY CHRISTMAS and the best of luck in the NEW YEAR.
As soon as General George S. Patton entered Bastogne just after Christmas 1944,
he decorated Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe with the Distinguished Service Cross
for his leadership in commanding the surrounded Bastogne garrison.
Longing for you
Although not in the picture of the rocket leaflet above, this leaflet coded 49 A5was found by a veteran of the 705th Tank Destroyer Battalion while defending Bastogne. The front of the leaflet depicts a lovely woman waiting for her lover to return, a lipstick kiss and the words:
Longing for you
The back is much more interesting. It depicts a bloody skull wearing a helmet and the words:
Waiting for you
The Chairman of the JCS commemorates the Heroes of the Bulge
"This is as Far as the Bastards are going"
General Henry H. Shelton, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the story of the above poster at the 60th Anniversary of the Airborne at Fort Benning, Georgia, on April 13, 2000.
The poster is a photograph of a dirty, scrappy, tough paratrooper, PFC Vernon Haught, of the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment, marching in the dead of that cold, snowy winter with a rucksack on his back. Going to reinforce the retreating American forces in Belgium. His expression leaves no doubt about his determination. He is moving out to go toe-to-toe with the enemy in Belgium. As you look at the poster, it strikes you that nowhere in this photograph do you see a parachute. And you and I both know there doesn't have to be one -- you simply know from the look: he's Airborne.
Under the photo is a quote from PFC Martin, also of the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment, who during the battle asked a retreating tank destroyer commander, "Are you looking for a safe place?" When the tank commander answered yes, PFC Martin replied, "Well buddy just pull that vehicle behind me -- I am the 82d Airborne and this is as far as the bastards are going." Imagine, an Airborne PFC telling a guy in a tank to follow him.
Waffen-SS commando Otto Skorzeny
German infiltrators lined up for execution by firing squad after conviction by a military court
for wearing U.S. uniforms during the Battle of the Bulge. December 23, 1944.
A German tank disguised as an American tank during Operation Greif.
It is well known that the Germans used many of their soldiers that had been educated in the United States or could speak good English to infiltrate the American lines under Operation Greif, commanded by Waffen-SS commando Otto Skorzeny. Many were caught and executed. They did not do much damage but did caused a lot of confusion in the American lines. How could they be identified? Here is a 3rd Army message sent to the troops explaining the problem.
Prisoners of war have been taken in First U.S. Army rear areas in American uniforms complete with American paybooks and service records and carrying US .45 Caliber pistols but wearing German dog tags and carrying German radios. The prisoners were in American Jeeps. Suspicious persons will be checked. Following questions are:
1. Password and reply.
2. Show Dog tags.
3. Name unit and Describe Shoulder Patch.
4. What staging area in US.
5. Questions on World Series.
6. Price of an air mail stamp.
7. Price of V-Mail
8. Sinatra's First Name.
Interrogation revealed about 40 such agents have been sent - highest rank Major.
This is just a short look at the propaganda of the Battle of the Bulge. I could easily double the size of this article but I just want to give the reader an idea of what was being produced in the way of psychological warfare leaflets during this crucial battle. Readers that would care to discuss this article are encouraged to write to the author at email@example.com.