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.
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?
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
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
The game is lost. In the big counter-offensive in which Rundstedt said Everything is at stake Germany bled itself out. Here is the story of that great adventure.
Three gamblers sat at the gaming table. They played with your life. Himmler, Rundstedt and Goebbels. What was their aim?
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.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 two paragraphs where the Ardennes Offensive is mentioned:
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
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.
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. 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 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.
The Frontpost Newspaper Produced by the Twelth U.S. Group
Frontpost January 1945
Frontpost (Front Postal Service) was a weekly semi-tactical newspaper produced by the American Twelfth Army group for dissemination by fighter-bombers and medium bombers. The first issue of January 1945 depicts the Bulge and the two headings:
The Battle of Materials Continues
The Americans Fight Back
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 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.
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.
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.
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..
I did not want to add this leaflet to the story because it is just text, and is in fact a special printing by the German researcher and author Klaus Kirchner in Flugblatt-propaganda im 2.weltkrieg, Volume 16. The original leaflet was so damaged that he needed to reprint a better copy as depicted above. 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. The bluff did not work. The Americans held firm and the Germans eventually retreated back to Germany thoroughly beaten.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.