SGM Herbert A. Friedman (Ret.)
During WWII, there were a number of leaflets printed and dropped that simply depicted a bomb. It was meant to terrify the finder and show him that the leaflet could have easily been a bomb that would have destroyed him, his family, his home and perhaps even his city. At the same time, the warring nations would sometimes drop the image of a bomb over friendly civilian territories to catch the attention of the finders and motivate them to send money to buy war stamps or bonds or subsidize patriotic organizations. These leaflets must have caused great apprehension because the message was true. The leaflet could have been a bomb and the finder could be dead.
World War II to the Enemy
OWI Leaflet 2014
America threatened Japan with leaflet depictions of bombs on more than one occasion. Office of War Information leaflet 2014 is very impressive from a visual standpoint. It shows a highly detailed and polished vertical black bomb on a red background. There is no text on the front.
The back depicts a vertical silhouette of the bomb with black text on a white background. The purpose of the leaflet is to tell the Japanese that America did not want to kill civilians, just destroy Japan's military strength. The text is:
This leaflet could have been a bomb.
This is to warn you away from military installations, factories, railways, and harbors where our bombs will strike again and again until the Gumbatsu quits this hopeless war.
Stay away from military objectives!
The Gumbatsu is that mix of the military and big business that President Eisenhower would call the Military-Industrialist Complex years later.
This leaflet was designed in Honolulu by American artist Frances Blakemore. Her story is told in An American Artist in Tokyo, Michiyo Morioka, the Blakemore Foundation, Seattle, WA. Morioka describes the image in artistic terms and says:
Frances created a portrait of a menacing black bomb. She rendered its three dimensionality, cool tactile surface, and compact geometric shape through a precise hatching technique and fine lines. Set against a red background, the bombs perfect appearance emphasizes its inhuman effectiveness as a modern weapon of mass destruction.
The identical image of a bomb is found on the front of leaflet 2013. The message is different:
These bombings will continue until your militarist leaders give up. You know we have the strength to continue until your beautiful land is in ruins. The militarists are continuing the war because they are afraid of punishment. You are the ones who suffer. The whole nation suffers to satisfy a few selfish men. Force your leaders to bring an end to a hopeless war. That is the best prevention against bombing.
The Australians also produced a bomb leaflet for the Japanese coded J.164. The leaflet was to be dropped wherever the Japanese were for as long as it took. The leaflet depicts a falling bomb and the text:
Man kills man
This is not what we prefer to do, but this is war. Behind this bomb is the full moral and material power of the United Nations. Unlimited numbers of bombs will rain on you until your leaders recognize the futility of the struggle they have condemned you to.
A German Anti-American, Anti-British Bomb leaflet
This propaganda leaflet was prepared by the Germans to be disseminated on France. It is similar to the U.S. bomb leaflet dropped on the Japanese. The leaflet is folded into two pages and the front and back depict a black bomb and the words:
R.A.F. = U.S.A.A.F.
During WWII this would have indicated that the Royal Air Force was the same as the United States Army Air Force. Late in the war the Americans bombed by day, the British by night. When opened, the leaflet had a long French-language text which says in part:
Here is the latest model of the incendiary bomb which the liberators are beginning to drop in the millions on your towns and villages.
It is the final product of their science. The perfection is such that you will be able to see children killed outright or burned alive and your homes destroyed in an instant.
Keep this reproduction. If you are lucky enough to escape this new attack which they promise you, you will have in front of you a picture of the weapon your friends used to liberate you
The text goes on to talk about the foolishness of waiting four years for Allied liberation when they have never liberated anyone. It recommends that the Frenchmen join with the Germans for a brighter and better France. It is interesting to see how the enemy took this very American image of a bomb and used it for his own purposes.
World War II to Neutral Nations
This Bomb weighs 900 Kilograms
This British propaganda leaflet to neutral Portugal was produced in the form of a postcard. The Portuguese were neutral and Lisbon was a hotbed of political intrigue and espionage. The British wanted to keep Portugal out of the war on the side of the Nazis so they flooded the country with propaganda cards like this showing the might of the British Empire and the sureness of a NAZI defeat. The card is coded "JP" and depicts a British Sergeant Pilot (notice his wings)standing beside a bomb. The text is:
This bomb weighs 900 Kilograms (2,000 pounds)
In 25 days, 16 June to 10 July 1941, the RAF dropped the equivalent of 4,000 bombs like this in attacks on military and industrial objectives in Germany.
The Korean War
This bomb leaflet purports to be a friendly warning for the North Korean workers to stay away from bombed railroads because some of the bombs are timed and could explode after a certain time and that could kill the civilian laborers. Of course, what it really does is keep the railways closed and unrepaired and stop troop movements if the workers followed the instructions in the leaflet. And, there is an excellent chance that the workers would be executed by the Communists if they refused to work.
At the top of the leaflet we see a falling bomb. Below it are four panels. In the first the railways are bombed, in the second workers with tool approach the site. In the third panel a worker touches and unexploded bomb, and in the final panel he is killed by an explosion. The text from top to bottom on the leaflet is:
Warning to workers repairing the railroad
Remember this friendly advice from the United Nations
Time bomb bringing death
If the United Nations planes bomb the railroad dont come to repair it
Buried time bombs can explode any time and kill you
Operation Desert Storm to the Enemy
After Saddam Hussein sent Iraqi troops to invade Kuwait, the Americans retaliated with over 100 leaflets. This one is very stark and simply shows the BLU-82 super bomb. The BLU-82, sometimes called The Daisy Cutter, is a 15,000-pound conventional bomb, delivered from an MC-130E Combat Talon. It is too heavy for the bomb racks of any bomber. The bomb is actually a thin-walled tank (1/4-inch steel plate) filled with a 12,600-pound explosive "slurry" mixture. The 38-inch fuse extender is the Daisy Cutter component of the BLU-82 system. It explodes the bomb three feet above the ground with the result that maximum destruction occurs at ground level without a crater being formed.
The Pentagon designed the bomb to create an instant helicopter landing zone in the jungles of Vietnam. Rumor has it that a British SAS commando detachment behind the lines in Iraq during Operation Desert Storm witnessed the blast and mushroom cloud from one such bomb and reported:
My God, the Yanks are using nukes.
This leaflet, along with BLU-82 bombs, was dropped on Iraqi positions on four occasions between 6 February and 16 February 1991. 2,000,000 leaflets were printed. Eleven such bombs were eventually dropped on Iraqi positions. It was the largest conventional bomb in existence at the time. At the same time these bombs were dropped the Coalition radio warned the Iraqis:
Brave Iraqi soldiers. Tonight some of you are going to die. Your families will miss you. May Allah rest your souls.
The leaflet text on the front is:
Flee and save your life, or remain and meet your death!
The text on the back is:
You have suffered heavy losses because we have used the most powerful and destructive conventional bomb of this war. It is more powerful than 20 Scud Missiles in respect of explosion capability. We warn you! We shall bomb your position again. Kuwait will be liberated from Saddam's aggression. Hurry and join your brothers from the south. We shall treat you with all our love and respect. Abandon this position. You will never be safe!
A second version of this leaflet was designed that was almost identical except that it had a red border on all four sides. 1,000,000 copies of this second leaflet were ordered. There is no data on dissemination although several rumors of the missions abound.
The USAF later used the BLU-82 bomb in Iraq and in Afghanistan as an anti-personnel weapon and for psychological effects.
Warning, we will Bomb this Position Soon
During the war the Allied Coalition dropped at least eight different versions of a bomb warning leaflet. Each of the first four depicted a different deadly scene on the back: A stealth fighter fires rockets at a tank and a fuel truck; two burning Iraqi tanks with 3 jet fighters overhead; a soldier runs from a burning tank, another soldier lies dead by a burning tank; and a stealth fighter firing rockets at Iraqi jets planes on the ground. There are two varieties of this warning leaflet. This is the LARGE bomb variety with the bomb measuring 4.25 inches in size. The Coalition called these leaflets the Strategic Air Series. They were usually dropped together as a mix. These leaflets were printed on bond paper for dropping by USAF C-130 Hercules and F-16 fighter aircraft. There are also four tissue-paper versions of the same leaflets that were apparently produced for clandestine use by the CIA.
The text on the front of all four of the leaflets over the bomb is:
We will bomb this position soon. Leave your equipment and save your life.
The text on the back of the four leaflets is:
It is too late!
Your equipment is subject to bombing.
Leave your equipment - or defend it and die. The choice is yours!
This position is about to be attacked. Get out quickly and save yourself
Warning! This is only the beginning.
The Coalition also prepared a SMALL bomb variety. It is very similar to the four leaflets above, but the bomb is just three inches in size. Again, there were four leaflets prepared. Unlike the first four bomb warning leaflets, there is no image on the back; just propaganda text. These were probably among the earliest leaflets dropped in the war. The message on the front of the small bomb leaflets is:
This is only the beginning.
This could have been a real bomb. We have no desire to harm innocent people, but Saddam is leading you to certain death and destruction.
We want you to know the truth! Saddam is the cause. Yes, the Multi-national forces have the ability to strike anywhere, and at any time.
The four messages on the back of the leaflets are:
The truth...eight years of war with Iran. Half a million needless deaths. The victories - gone. Now, a generation in peril. A world united against Saddam. No bargaining with him. Don't allow him to be the reason for your annihilation. Don't let Saddam lead you to destruction.
Saddam Hussein's policy of aggression towards neighboring countries is the sole reason for the bombing of Iraq and the targeting of military positions. The blame lies on Saddam Hussein.
Iraqi military forces: Saddam Hussein's policy of aggression is the only reason for the bombing of Iraq. The bombing is for military targets only. The Multi-national air forces have overwhelming air superiority. Resistance is useless. The outcome is inevitable. Save yourselves. Leave your weapons and immediately go to a safe area. Saddam is to blame!
The truth...Saddam has isolated you from the world. The Arab League, Muslim World League, and United Nations have all condemned Saddam's actions. Forces from 28 countries have assembled as a direct result of his actions and more countries join daily. Don't let Saddam lead you to
World War II to Friendly Civilians
These bomb leaflets raising money war bonds and patriotic organizations were very popular and I have seen many different types. I show just a few such leaflets here.
Aerial Salute to U.S.O.
This leaflet, dated 2 June 1941 was dropped over New York City and publicized the United Service Organization, dedicated to serving and raising the morale of military personnel. It both seeks to raise over 10 million dollars in funding and seeks volunteer to help run the 360 service clubs.
This Might have been a Bomb!
This leaflet was dropped over Montreal, Canada and was designed to raise money for the war effort. It was dropped in various colors and languages. In the United States the people bought war bonds, notice that in Canada they bought war savings certificates.
This is a very short look at propaganda leaflets and other products that used the terrifying image of a bomb as a theme. Readers who wish to comment are encourage to write to the author at Sgmbert@hotmail.com.