MARSTON BALCH:
FROM COLLEGE PROFESSOR TO PROPAGANDIST

SGM Herbert A. Friedman (Ret.)

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Marston Balch in Uniform

This story is a bit different from my usual biographies of psychological warfare specialists. In most cases they were alive to be interviewed and they talked about printing leaflets, perhaps dropping those leaflets from aircraft and sometimes radio and loudspeaker broadcasts. In this case the propagandist is deceased and all we have is his papers. But what papers: talk of how he got the job; the training; discussions of salary and what to wear; even the end of the war and how the people were dispersed; This story will be low on activities because we simply don’t know, but will add a lot of background that is never discussed in most biographies. We will see how things were done. I hope the reader will find it interesting.

We must remember at the time The United States was trying to figure out this propaganda thing. It was amateur hour. Roosevelt had named a coordinator of information and it had not worked. Things were moved around into black propaganda (OSS), white propaganda (OWI), military propaganda, etc. The Navy worked with the civilian OWI in Hawaii, Guam and Saipan; the Army under General MacArthur in the Southwest Pacific area refused to work with the civilian OSS. Things were being tried out and fine-tuned. It is nice to get an inside look at how they did it.

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Cadet Captain Marston Balch
Kalamazoo Central High School

Marston Balch was an intellectual who was awarded his PhD by Harvard University in 1931. He held numerous posts in various universities. He wrote a number of books and at one time was professor of Drama and Director of Dramatics at Tufts College. A short biography of the family says:

Professor of Drama and Director of Dramatics at Tufts University for over 35 years. He and his wife Germaine (a native of Southern France, graduate of the Sorbonne and French professor at Tufts) worked from home to support the Free French.

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The Friends of the French Volunteers
Balch was a member of this pro-Free French Group early in the war

As a civilian in 1942 he was already working from home to support the Free French fighting against the Germans. A letter from the “Forces of General De Gaulle” says in part:

I wish to express my very sincere congratulations on the ever increasing enthusiasm for the cause of the Fighting French which your efforts are producing.

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De Gaulle meets Queen Elizabeth

To get an idea of how much the Balch family was valued for their work in support of the Free French, when de Gaulle visited Great Britain in February 1942 and met Queen Elizabeth, a picture was taken. De Gaulle autographed the photo and it was later given to Balch’s wife Germaine, who was also a strong supporter of the fighting French.

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Letter from de Gaulle's Forces

If you wonder why the Balch family and the French were so friendly this letter might help to explain it. Obviously the French Navy has asked Balch and his “France Forever” organization to get some dehydrated food for the sailors. Apparently that was a problem because here a 2 December 1941 letter from General de Gaulle’s forces replies:

I understand all your difficulties regarding the dehydrated foods, but if you can arrive at a result, I will be very glad, because the poor French sailors are in great need of them.

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France Forever

This is the organization that Marston Balch worked with to help the French people long before the United States entered WWII.

Note that the United States was not even in the war, but it will be in less than a week.

During WWII Balch became a field representative of the overseas branch of the Office of War Information from 1943 to 1945. His duties also seem to have involved the Psychological Warfare Branch (PWB) and the United States Information Service. It appears that his French language skills were excellent and he was used by other agencies to write and read reports and propaganda in the French language. He was a war correspondent for the United Nations radio at Algiers and Tunis, Chief of the Cable Desk of the Psychological Warfare Bureau in Algiers in 1943, and Chief of the French Press and Radio Analysis Station of the United States Information Service in Paris in 1944.

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A de Gaulle blotter

In the 1940s, pens had nibs and contained an internal reservoir of liquid ink rather than the dryer ballpoints pens used today. The paper would remain wet after writing and one could accidentally smear the ink with a misguided hand movement. Everyone had a blotter at their desk, a piece of blotting paper used to absorb excess ink so that the ink could not be smeared. It was a very important item. This blotter does double-duty and bears a likeness of General de Gaulle and a patriotic message. Perhaps it is an OWI product? The text is:

Blotter

Whatever happens, the flame of French Resistance must not go away and will not go away.

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TO ALL FRENCHMEN

This French leaflet was in Balch’s papers so it was probably given to him as a gift by some Free French official during the war. The original leaflet was dropped over France by Free French flyers in the Royal Air Force in 1940. It bears the signature of General de Gaulle. There is a portrait of de Gaulle on the back. There was also a poster bearing this message. The text is:

TO ALL FRENCHMEN
France has lost a battle!
But France has not lost the war!

A makeshift Government may have capitulated, giving way to panic, forgetting honor, delivering their country into slavery. Yet nothing is lost!

Nothing is lost, because this war is a world war. In the free universe immense forces have not yet been brought into play. Someday these forces will crush the enemy. On that day France must be present at the Victory. She will then regain her liberty and her greatness. This is my goal, my only goal!

That is why I ask all Frenchmen, wherever they may be, to unite with me in action, in sacrifice and in hope.

Our Country is in danger of death.
Let us fight to save it.
LONG LIVE FRANCE!

In June 1943 Balch received an offer of appointment to the OWI from William C. White, Outpost Service Bureau. It is an interesting letter because it covers some personal data. Some of the more interesting comments are:

The highest salary I can offer is $3800 plus $680 overtime. As soon as you are sent overseas you will draw a living allowance of $2016.

I have no way of knowing whether our men will wear uniform or mufti. At the moment we are in mufti; our men in North Africa are in uniform. If men in London go to uniform, they will have to buy them at their own expense. OWI men when abroad can use the Army medical and dental services without charge. A voluntary annual $125 insurance police will pay $10,000. The terms of enlistment are “For the duration.” Should a man resign he must return home and report to his draft board.

It seems some classes were given at Camp Patrick Henry in Virginia because a letter from the Post Intelligence Officer states:

Mr. Marston Balch has appeared in this office and is under proper orders.

Balch did accept the appointment and we next see that he was sent to the OWI Technical Center in Lloyd Neck, Huntington, Long Island, New York for training. The Basic course was just three weeks long; hardly long enough to prepare men for overseas wartime duty. The first two weeks were devoted to intensive study and work in propaganda techniques. The time is divided equally between theory and practice. The last week is devoted to the area where the man is assigned and the particular work to which he will perform. The subjects taught were:

1. Propaganda as a weapon of warfare.
2. A basic plan of United Nations propaganda.
3. Political reconnaissance, opinion sampling and polls.
4. Principals of leaflets and other forms of propaganda writing.
5. The set-up of OWI. 6. Outpost organization.
7. Choice of media for different target.
8, Dissemination of propaganda.
9. World News Services.
10. The nature of the enemy.
11. Offset reproduction processes.
12. Communications receivers.
13. Broadcasting, recording and monitoring systems.
14. Security and field operations.

In late June 1943, Balch was given instructions on preparation for his overseas duties. He was told that the Marine Hospital in New York City gave inoculations to OWI Field Representatives. He would get typhoid, tetanus, typhus cholera, and smallpox. He did not need to get the shot for yellow fever. His passport application was at the State Department and he would fill it out there. He will carry U.S. Army credentials of a type issued to war correspondents and he will travel by Army ship to Europe and be allowed 130 pounds of luggage.

In July 1943, Balch received permission from his local draft board to leave the United States. Apparently they realized he was not a draft dodger. The letter says in part:

A registrant of this local board has applied for a permit to depart from the United States, and this local board, being convinced that the registrant’s absence is not likely to interfere with the proper administration of the Selective Service Law, hereby authorizes the said registrant to depart from the United States and to remain absent therefrom for an indefinite period.

In July he was also officially approved to join the OWI. His appointment was $3,800 a year as a member of the Overseas Operations Bureau/Outpost Service Bureau. The form ads:

Tenure subject to satisfactory medical examination. FOR DUTY OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES. Patrolled in Washington D.C.

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Balch’s War Department Identification Card

Notice that Balch wears no rank on his military uniform. The tri-fold ID if found can be dropped into a mailbox and is addressed to the Adjutant General, United States Army, Washington D.C.

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Balch reviews radio announcements at the Overseas Operations Branch at Algiers

On 11 August 1943, he received OWI orders for North Africa. His orders said in part:

You are hereby designated an assistant representative of the Overseas Operations Branch of the Office of War Information at Algiers, Algeria.

You will do radio announcing and writing in French and will receive, upon arrival at Algiers, complete instructions as to these and any other duties. In addition to your salary, you will receive an annual living and quarter’s allowance of $1,728.

Robert E. Sherwood
Director of Overseas Operations

The OWI sent a letter to the Customs Bureau in September 1943 stating that Balch was a representative of the Office of War Information and asked that courtesies be extended to him as a government official.

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Balch’s Press Card

Note that though he was OWI, this card identifies him as PWB
In another letter he is identified as an employee of the Department of State
It would appear that he was identified as whatever was needed to complete a mission

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Balch’s Pass for Paris

The military and Allied authorities are asked to authorize the crossing of the border. It is signed on one side by French military intelligence and on the other by a Colonel on the local general staff in Naples. It really does not say anywhere what his job is, just apparently lets him go where he wants.

On 26 August 1943, Balch signed a War Department agreement naming him a war correspondent. The agreement named him as a member of the OWI Outpost Bureau and said in part:

In connection with recognition as a war correspondent outside the continental limits of the United States…I subscribe to the following conditions…

I am subject to the Articles of War and all regulation for the government of the Army issued pursuant to law, when with such forces. I will govern my actions and movements in accordance with the instructions of the War Department and the Commanding Officer of any Army or Navy unit which I might visit or observe…

It is further understood and agreed that undeveloped film which cannot be processed and passed by the Unit Intelligence Officer will be forwarded by him to the War Department...

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A Thanksgiving Menu from the Psychological Warfare Branch

I have often talked about the way the United States military will move heaven and earth to get soldiers a real Thanksgiving dinner with turkey, stuffing and all the trimmings. The card was printed by the PWB Mobile Leaflet Unit and although they put a chicken on the cover, they did serve turkey.

On 2 November 1943, Balch was sent to North Africa and received a Certificate of Identity of Non-Combatant. It read in part:

The bearer, Marston Balch is hereby certified to be a civilian employee of the United States Government attached to the Army of the United States in the North African Theater of Operations and as such, if captured by the enemy is entitled to be treated as a prisoner of war. He will be afforded the same privileges as an officer of the U.S. Army of the grade of Captain.

By the Command of General Eisenhower.

Balch received a copy of the OWI confidential document General Information for Personnel going to the North African area. Some of the instructions were:

Civilians on desk jobs in North African base cities – Algiers, Casablanca, Tunis, etc. - do not need military uniforms. They are required only in advanced operations near the fighting fronts. Most items of military clothing can be bought at the Post Exchanges at these stations.

Since heating is rare, woolen clothing – of the kind worn in New York during the winter – is desirable. The best winter coat for North Africa is a water-proof trench coat with a warm, removable lining.

OWI representatives are entitled to weekly officer’s rations at the Army PX. These include clothing, tobacco of all kinds, candy including chocolate bars, gum and mints, toilet soap, laundry soaps, flints and lighter fluid, hair oil, playing cards, pencils, notebooks, fountain pens, ink, mouthwash, toothpaste and tooth brushes, brown shoe polish (no black), shoe brushes, shaving brushes, spot remover, matches, sun glasses and sewing kits.

There are auxiliary counters for women that sell special such as Kleenex, creams, etc. Certain items of women’s clothing are also for sale but are intended primarily for WAC and Red Cross girls.

It is amazing that someone thought to classify this document. I also found the “no black polish” comment funny. Whenever veterans get together and talk about the old days the term “brown shoe Army” will come up.

In November 1943 Balch received orders to report to Tunisia from the Army’s Psychological Warfare Branch (PWB) at Allied Headquarters.

You are ordered to proceed on or about 16 September 1943 from this station to Tunis, Tunisia on temporary duty in order to carry out an assigned mission and upon completion return to proper station

By Command of General Eisenhower

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United States Information Service Meal Card

To show how he was being shared by three organizations, here is Balch’s pass to take meals at the USIS mess. This was quite common during wartime. In another article I mention an officer was in both the Office of Strategic Services (at night) and the Office of War Information (by day).

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Psychological Warfare Branch ID and Meal Card

We see that Balch apparently had his choice of where to have dinner. The Army also gave him a card. Notice the stripes on the card. That is very British and they often mark their classified documents using that technique. This implies to me that the card was issued by the British side of the PWB. General Eisenhower was very careful to share the duties between Americans and British equally so all that everyone felt like their work was appreciated.

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Balch takes part in a New Year’s 1943 Play for the PWB

I was not going to add this playbill because it seems kind of silly, but then you realize that these members of the Psychological Warfare Branch are at war far from home and someone decided it would be nice to do a little play about their everyday life in North Africa. This is not uncommon in wartime or even in the military. Notice that Balch did take part in the play although they do not mention the role. Notice that Fernand Auberjonois is mentioned. His obituary stated:

Mr. Auberjonois enlisted and was sent to a top-secret training camp in Canada that was run by the British intelligence service. He went on from there to a variety of missions, including stints as top aides to both General George Patton and Dwight D. Eisenhower. He set up allied radio operations in North Africa and helped weave a web of deception to fool the Germans about where the D-Day landings would occur. He also broadcast allied propaganda to French-speaking Europe. Two days after D-Day, he managed to publish La Presse Cherbourgeoise, the first free newspaper of liberated France.

His son, Rene Auberjonois acted in Star Trek Deep Space Nine and Boston Legal and he reads many of the audio books I listen to.

We know from another letter to Balch that he was in Tunis with the PWB in January 1944. Sandy Koffler, the Chief of PWB United Nations Radio in Rabat wrote to apologize for not buying a suitcase that Balch had given him 750 francs to purchase. He explains that his first paycheck was sent from Algiers to Casablanca and apparently got no further. He did not have money to eat in Rabat so spent the 700 francs on food. He did just receive a pay voucher and will buy the suitcase shortly.

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Balch in Algiers 1944
Balch is third from the left (with mustache)

In March 1944 we know that Balch was in Algiers. We have a photograph dated March 1944 that features Balch as one of the crew in the Central News Room, PWB, Allied HQ, Algiers.

There was a report on the Algiers operation in Balch’s papers titled City Desk Report of 1944. Some of the comments are:

The branch of the PWB Algiers News Division known as the City Desk has been in operation since 8 January 1944. Its specific functions include those of clearing to basic and outgoing news and by cable to the OWI in New York and London all important French news reaching it from Algiers sources or through Algiers channels, also, more recently, clearing in the same way political news reaching it from Italy.

The City Desk normally restricts its news to non-military news, particularly French political news; although in answer to the outposts and From New York and London, stories about French military training centers in North Africa and especially about French troops in action in Italy have been sent.

[Note] This does seem to explain why we find some Italian material in Balch’s papers. Apparently the Free French were fighting on the Allied side in Italy and as a result he had to keep an eye on that country too.

Balch’s whereabouts must have been kept very quiet. In October 1944, his wife wrote to the OWI asking where he was and received a letter in reply:

We have just had word the Mr. Balch has gone on into France. Under separate cover I am sending you his new address whereby you can reach him.

I suspect his movements were classified and this separate cover would be a letter delivered by personal messenger and not part of the normal U.S, Mail.

In fact, we find confidential orders for Balch to proceed to Naples, Italy on 12 October 1944 to report to the Psychological Warfare Branch as a permanent change of station.

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A Balch Christmas Card 1944 – Probably sent from France

With the coming of Christmas the Germans launched their Ardennes Offensive, sometimes called “The Battle of the bulge.” The OWI filed long reports on the battle and how it was seen in the European countries. Here is the first paragraph of a report filed by Technical Sergeant J. L. Edel:

It took most papers in Paris two days to realize the full significance of the current German counter-offensive…Early outbursts of optimism have given way to a more sober treatment. Papers have noted the air of “cool confidence” prevailing at SHAEF, and most have stressed, at one time or another, that the situation must be regarded “seriously” but not in any tragic fashion. The military commentators and “armchair generals” have had a field day, but their evaluation of the situation, despite a tendency to over-enthusiasm at times, has been on the whole prudent and logical.

In April 1945 a description sheet was prepared on Balch’s official title and duties. It said that his division was Press, Radio and Pictorial, and his exact title was Chief of the Analysis Desk USIS. His duties were:

  1. Analysis of the Paris Daily Press
  2. Correcting, proofreading and editing of daily press review.
  3. Cabling summaries and extracts from the Paris daily and weekly press.
  4. Analysis of the Paris weekly press.
  5. Check daily and weekly radio reviews and office reports.
  6. Special services to USIS sections, visitors and general administration of Analysis Desk.

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Medal of Chevalier of the Legion of Honor

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Appointment to Chevalier of the Legion of Honor

Because of his services to France during the war, Marston Balch was awarded the title of Chevalier of the Legion of Honor by the French Government.

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The French Medailles de la Resistance

Because of his work for the French during the war he was awarded the French Resistance Medal. The letter awarding him the medal said in part:

As you may know, the Government of the French Republic has created a special decoration, the Medaille de le Resistance to honor those individuals who distinguished themselves in the underground fight against the German invaders. A limited number of such medals were awarded, many posthumously. You have been selected to receive….

French Language Leaflets

We cannot say with certainty the Balch wrote or printed any of these leaflets. He has passed on and he is not talking. What we can say is that he seems to have been a bit of a Francophile and worked both as a civilian and as a government officer to help the Free French, even joining some of their patriotic associations. They knew him and he knew them. He saved everything and there are a number of French-language leaflets in his papers. I have not seen most of these before and they bear no codes. I think we can safely assume that Balch had some part in their production and kept them as souvenirs.

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We Welcome the Liberators Here

This leaflet would seem to be about the time that the Allies liberated Paris. The French made sure that they got a Parisian welcome. I will show the front but translate the front and back:

We Welcome the Liberators Here

Our friends have arrived. Welcome them by placing this leaflet everywhere!

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The Millionth French Repatriate arrives today at the Bourget

During the war, thousands of French citizens were sent to Germany either as prisoners or as workers. In this leaflet we see that the millionth Frenchman who was taken to Germany is returning to the Bourget Airport. I am sure they turned out a nice crowd to receive him.

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A French Underground FFI Leaflet

This leaflet seems to be for an election so we assume this is for General de Gaulle or another FFI leader. On 9 September 1944, de Gaulle and his shadow government returned from Algiers to Paris. There he headed two successive provisional governments. It is hard for a non-Frenchman who was not in France at the end of the war to understand the meaning of the slogans, but luckily a friend who was there remembers it well. He told me:

The 21 October 1945 French election, including women for the first time in France (thanks to Mr. de Gaulle), had to vote for a House of Representatives and tell, by yes or no, if this chamber could vote on a new constitution (The fifth for France). 95% of the people said “Yes.”

Yes, Yes - It's a French vote.

Liberty – Equality – Fraternity – Yes Yes - Two weights one measure

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The French Fleet

The leaflet coded AF 138 was obviously intended to raise the morale of the people of France and also served as a statement to the world that the French were taking part in the war as an equal partner to the allies. The AF leaflets were printed by the British, American and Free French forces for French civilians. A French warship is depicted on the front and the text:

50,000 French sailors and French warships have now joined the United Nations.

Vice-Admiral Auboyneau – May 1944

The back is all text except for a small picture of a warship and a group of the flags of the Allied nations. Some of the text is:

THE FRENCH FLEET TO TAKE ITS PLACE ALONGSIDE ITS ALLIES

A powerful French fleet contributes today to the sacred mission of the liberation of France.

With nearly 200 combat units, the French fleet has taken its place among the victors of the Battle of the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, the Adriatic, and the English Channel…On all the seas of the world…

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Objectif

This leaflet coded F.103 threatens the Germans with bombing. Three scenes show bombing raids on German targets. The text is:

Goals:

Actions at the German airfields…2,500 tons of bombs every 24 hours

The German railways smashed...76,800 tons during the single month of April

German factories crushed...1,000 planes, 4,500 tons on one city, in one night...21 April 1944

One of the comments on the back is:

To remove the German from the countries he occupies, the French, English, American, and Soviet airmen, the squadrons of all the United Nations will strike the Boche wherever he may be.

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Declaration of General Eisenhower

This leaflet is coded F.145.It has a declaration from General Eisenhower on the front on the status of the French underground in French, and on the back the same message in German. The FFI of course is the French Forces of the Interior, sometimes called the Underground or the Maquis. The Germans would generally shoot or hang members of the Underground as terrorists. The text is:

Declaration of General Eisenhower on the Status of the F.F.I.

The Supreme Commander has clear evidence today that the German occupying forces in France, complying with the statements made on June 7, 1944 by the commander-in-chief of the German forces in the west are treating members of the French resistance groups like saboteurs. In consequence, the Supreme Commander declares:

The French forces of the interior constitute a fighting force placed under the commandment of the general Koenig. They form an integral part of the Allied expeditionary forces.

The F.F.I has taken up arms openly against the enemy and has received the order to conduct their operations in accordance with the laws of war. They are furnished with a distinctive emblem and General Eisenhower considers them as an army placed in his command.

In these circumstances, reprisals taken against resistance groups amount to a fragrant violation of the laws of war, laws to which the Germans must submit. Such reprisals can only strengthen the determination of the United Nations to hasten the victorious ending of the war and insist that justice shall be done.

The Supreme Commander is resolved that every possible effort shall be brought into action to find and track down the authors of atrocities committed against the armed forces under his command. Measures have already been taken in this direction. The guilty will be handed over to justice without delay.

Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces.

 

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The Algiers Courier

I would assume this is the paper that Balch worked on while in North Africa. It is dated March 1944 so the Allies have not yet in invaded the coast of France. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and French General Juin are featured on the front of the small 1-page newspaper. Usually when you see a leaflet this small (5.5 x 8-inches) it is designed to be fired by artillery at the enemy. The artillery shell can only hold so many leaflets so miniaturization is important. However, I must confess I have no reason to believe these were fired by artillery rather than dropped by aircraft. Some of the headlines on this leaflet are:

General Alexander congratulates General Juin
The Russians go from victory to victory
Mr. Winston Churchill gives a presentation on the conduct of the war

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The United Nations Courier

The Free French, with the support of the United States and Great Britain published this newspaper. This one is dated 17 June 1944 so is just about 11 days after the D-Day landings on French soil. This one is numbered F.126-10 so that would seem to be the 10th issue which indicates they were trying to airdrop this newspaper daily. This newspaper would have been perfect for Balch because he was sent as a French translator and writer. Some of the headlines on the front and back of the one-page newspaper are:

The Russians break through Finland's second line of defense.

In Normandy - The costly German counterattacks are in vain

The Allies occupy Aquila and Orvieto.

The Super-Fortresses pound Tokyo.

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Le Courrier de l'Air

Le Courrier de l'Air (Air Courier) was an airdropped leaflet newspaper for occupied France and Belgium first dropped during WWI by free-floating paper balloons. The newspaper worked so well that it was printed again by the Allies in WWII, this time dropped by aircraft. The newspapers were printed starting 1941, printed in black and white. In 1942, The British added some color and the header “Brought by the RAF.” Balch’s copy was the standard four pages, dated 15 July 1943. This newspaper was printed by the Political Warfare Executive and dropped from 23 to 25 July 1943. Some of the headlines are:

Towards Liberation - The Assault on the Sicilian Stronghold
Eisenhower’s instructions
The submarine war
The Royal Air Force Attacks the Ruhr and Turin

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L’Amerique en Guerre

As a French speaking American who was expected to write scripts, it is not surprising that Balch also had a copy of the America at War in his papers. This one is dated 10 May 1944 and depicts an American parachutist on the first page. The 4-page newspaper was prepared by the American Office of War Information, the organization that Balch worked for. This issue was dropped over France from 15 May to 31 June 1944. Some of the headlines are:

The Battle of Berlin continues
In Sevastopol
The French masters at home
This American parachutist
Universal resistance
The leader of the Japanese fleet is killed

Italian-Language Leaflets

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This leaflet would seem to have been used in Rome when the Allies entered there. The front is very patriotic and depicts the flags of Great Britain France and the United States. The text on front and back is:

Freedom is on the March

Yesterday’s allies are about to arrive. Spread this leaflet; pass it between you and attach it on the walls of your city.Come and meet us with this leaflet and hurry the day of liberation from the German yoke. From your attitude we will know our true friends.

Of course, if one were cynical he might consider that the U.S. was printing these leaflets to assure big crowds when they marched into these liberated cities. But, I prefer to think that the locals printed them as a welcome.

We wonder why a French expert would have an Italian-language leaflet. I suspect it was part of his PWB duties. I see a “restricted” 2 May 1944 report mentioning that a Julian Fromer has returned from an inspection of outlying units. Some of the report is:

He brings back confirmation of the importance of the job we are doing in providing a news file for Italian press and radio. Our file is the backbone of the Italian news operation and they lean on it heavily as a news and feature file…We must not forget, however, that we are the PWB and not a commercial news agency. We will continue to select stories according to the directive of psychological warfare. That part of our file which implements war directives is greatly appreciated by the people up forward and used in full…Our operation has mushroomed in a short time and is now spread over a wide field….

German-Language Leaflets

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Landser-post for the Germans in Southern France

The American Armed Forces and the Office of War Information and the Office of Strategic Services were all printing newspapers and dropping them over Germany and the occupied nations. This newspaper is coded AF 125/34. Looking at my Guide to Series codes used on Air-Dropped Propaganda Leaflets during WWII, I find that they state that "AF" was for “German troops in the south of France from by Great Britain, the U.S and France starting in 1944.” So, this would be the Allies and the Free French Government-in-exile joining to raise the morale of the occupied French people. I chose this issue because it mentions the Allied landings in France in the center panel of the first page:

Blitzkrieg in the West

Encirclement threatens:

When, on June 6, General Eisenhower’s troops landed in Normandy, and broke through the Atlantic Wall in a breach 100 kilometers wide, the German High Command had to consider the following important question: Is this the first of many planned landing operations in western Europe, or is this attack intended to lead up to the decisive battle in the West?

The fate of the German reserves hangs upon the answer to this question. In this uncertain position, Rommel was compelled to hold back the greater part of his strategic reserves, so as to have them ready to meet new landing operations which had to be expected.

Events have shown that Rommel was the victim of a mistake, and that the Normandy landing represented the commencement of the decisive battle for France. After putting into use again the Port of Cherbourg, the Americans in the Western Sector of the Cherbourg peninsula attacked in force, and after a successful break through near Avranches started a blitzkrieg which for sheer speed puts anything yet seen into the shade. Swift American armored units are making a lightning advance toward the southeast and southwest, and have reached the mouth of the Loire and cut off the peninsula of Brittany. The most important war ports on the Atlantic; Brest, Lorient, St. Nazaire and Nantes have already been taken or are immediately threatened.

Other American tank units are advancing in the direction of Paris. They have taken the towns of Mayenne and Laval and are now less than 200 km from Paris. They have been ordered to advance on Paris as quickly as possible, circumventing the German fortified positions. The FFI are working with them in the closest cooperation and are dealing with the surrounded German positions. German resistance is completely smashed. There can be no more talk of organized resistance in this area.

German units stationed in Southern France are threatened with encirclement by this advance. Occupation of the French capital would cut off their most important line of retreat. Just as on the East Front, the great mistake of Hitler’s policy is making itself felt here, where by ignoring the advice of his military experts, he is sending the once so great and powerful German Army from defeat to defeat.

One might almost think from reading this critique that the Allies wanted the Germans to leave Paris an open city and retreat. It would have meant less Allied death and the salvation of the city under German rule. Of course, it would have meant the escape of most of the German Army, but I do not think the Allies were worried about this at the time. The landing and rapid advance was the most important mission.

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Leaflet GT/5 – The Great Rift

This is another very rare leaflet with a code that is rarely seen. My Guide to Series codes used on Air-Dropped Propaganda Leaflets during WWII, says that it used against German troops in Italy but it is not sure when or who printed it. We can now probably say it was the Americans and British working together. The leaflet mentions the German General’s attempt to assassinate Hitler so that dates it to around August or September 1944. A side note printed in French, Italian, Greek, Russian, Croat, Magyar and Albanian asks the finder to hand the leaflet to any German he meets. Some of the text is:

THE GREAT RIFT: The revolt of the Generals has uncovered a deep rift that runs right through the German nation. On one side are the fanatical Nazis who wish to continue the war until Germany is completely destroyed; and on the other are all those Germans – including many with a good insight into Germany’s real military situation – who want to save what still can be saved.

IT’S ALL THE SAME TO US: We of the United Nations take no part in this quarrel. On one hand we will have nothing to do with Hitler; on the other, we have little time for the rebellious Generals. In the first place they helped Hitler to power, and in the second they hope that, when they sue for peace, to save the remains of Germany's military might. If Hitler has them shot, it is very much what they have brought on themselves.

BUT IT CONCERNS YOU: To you German soldiers the quarrel between Party Leaders and Generals matters very much – To you, who live in the last phase of a lost war must still lay down your lives – whilst at home your places of work are destroyed by Allied air raids, and the Red Army advances ever nearer Germany….

It is interesting that this leaflet mentions Hitler having the Generals shot. In fact, the worst offenders were hung by piano wire and the executions were filmed for Hitler to watch at his pleasure.

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THE RUSSIANS ARE IN EAST PRUSSIA

This is a strange leaflet because it is coded F.147. That would normally to be a British leaflet for France. But it is in German. That makes no sense. Looking up the code the Guide to Series Codes I find: “United States, Great Britain and France.” So, this would be a leaflet, likely by the French government-in-exile, printed by the U.S. and U.K., possibly with Balch’s assistance. I see several leaflets with similar messages. The text is:

THE RUSSIANS ARE IN EAST PRUSSIA

The war with all its horrors is raging in your homeland

And you - standing here in the south of France and waiting for the great miracle that Adolf Hitler has promised you. The miracle happened: The often-declared beaten Russian army is in your home country. You know what war means. Destroyed houses, women and children on the run, devastated fields and villages. These are the unavoidable consequences of war. The Russians know this: they learned it to their bitter cost.

This fate is now threatening your native land. Think of your wife, of your children: think of your parents, your sisters! And you remain here in the south of France, waiting for the great miracle that Adolf Hitler promised you. How long will you go on waiting? Decide. Save your country, save Germany, whatever is left to be saved. Everything that is dead to you can still be saved. You can do it and you must do it, and that will be the great miracle.

Another similar leaflet coded F.146 with the almost the same title has a similar propaganda message:

Unconditional surrender does not mean enslavement, does not mean the annihilation of the German people. The German people will live. If they have houses to live in: if they have factories to work in, if they have fields to sow in.

Hitlers come and go, but the German people will live on. What can be taken from you, besides wife and child? What can be taken from you besides your home land. You have no villa to lose, no fortunes, like the Party bosses.

You are going to work, as you have always worked: you are going to live with your family, as you have always wanted to live, without war, without NAZIs.

You will, you must, build Germany up again. That will be the great miracle that Hitler did not promise you, but that peace promises you and will bring about.

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GERMAN SOLDIER - HITLER HAS LOST THE WAR.

Another French government-in-exile leaflet for the Germans in France. This one coded F.129. At the bottom of the message is a request that the Frenchman finding the leaflet pass it on to a German soldier. I suspect this could lead to an early demise. The Germans did not have much of a sense of humor regarding desertion of defeatism. The text on the front is:

GERMAN SOLDIER

HITLER HAS LOST THE WAR

You all know it…

The short text on the back is:

Have you thought about how to save yourself?

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Der Fuhrer Speaks

I was surprised to see this leaflet title because the British used it several times early in the war when they wanted to embarrass Hitler by quoting things he said that turned out to be wrong. For instance, British leaflets EH.286 and EH.288 both quote Hitler from his Reichstag speeches and his book Mien Kampf. The French were working with the British so it might make sense that they reuse the title of earlier successful leaflets. The leaflet is coded F.118. A comment at the bottom asks any Frenchman finding the leaflet to hand it to a German. The text on the back is:

May the year 1940 bring the decision…It will, whatever happens, be our victory.
Hitler's New Year's Message 1940

The year 1941 will bring the completion of the greatest victory of our history.
Hitler's New Year's Message 1941

The year 1942 should - so we all ask the Lord God - bring the decision to the rescue of our people and the nations associated with us.
Hitler's New Year's Message 1942

The year 1943 may be difficult, but certainly not heavier than the ones that are behind us.
Hitler's New Year's Message 1943

The National Socialist leadership is therefore determined to lead this fight with the utmost fanaticism and to the last consequence.
Hitler's New Year's Message 1944

And should it go wrong. What will you do?
What must you do? The Fuehrer gives you the answer!

If the resources of governmental power cause a nation to be destroyed, then the rebellion of every member of such a people is not only lawful but obligatory.
Hitler, Mein Kampf

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German Officers

This leaflet is not coded, so we do not know if was airdropped, sent Clandestinely behind the lines or used as a newspaper or radio script. Once again, Balch seems to be a jack of all trades. This leaflet mentions the Generals so it was in response to the plot to kill Hitler. This was such a popular U.S. propaganda theme that the Office of Strategic Services did an entire clandestine behind-the-lines operation called Sauerkraut [LINK?] in response to this action by the German Generals. The text says in part:

GERMAN OFFICERS

Germany’s future depends upon you. You know that Hitler has lost the war. Those of you who remember 1918 will realize that the events of that year are now repeating themselves.

The Generals have proved the fact that they have realized this.

German soldiers are now surrendering in greater numbers than they were doing the last 100 days of the previous war. They are following the examples of their generals who know when a battle is finally lost and do not wait for their troops to be decimated so that the NAZI regime can prolong their reign for a few more months.

Germany’s great strategists of the past have shown you that your position is hopeless. With regards to the overwhelming attacks on three land fronts and the air front, you might think about Ludendorff’s worlds in his “War Memoirs 1914-1918.” He wrote”

“We also lost important positions because of great depletions in strength. The stretching power of our forces had failed with continued holding of defenses under heavy artillery fire and through their own losses. We were completely exhausted on the Western Front.”

If Ludendorff were still alive, he would write the same thing, word for word, about the present stage of the war.

And Hindenburg, if he could see Germany’s position today, would repeat what he wrote in his telegram of 3 October 1918:

“The position is daily getting more acute. In these circumstances it is requested to break off the fighting in order to save the German people and their allies from useless sacrifice. Each day wasted is costing the lives of brave soldiers.”

Patriotic French Music

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There were a number of patriotic song sheets among Balch’s papers. He might have just liked music, but since we know that the OWI and other American Armed Forces prepared and wrote numerous propaganda music sheets and leaflets featuring music, it is very possible that these songs were prepared by the OWI to fill the French with patriotism and motivate them to carry on during their days of occupation and liberation. For more information on the use of music as propaganda in wartime click here.

Liberation

The March of the Army of Africa

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I assume this 1943 march was prepared for General de Gaulle and his Fighting French forces in North Africa.

Patriots in Arms

In Homage to the FFI and General Koenig

This 1944 song honors the patriots of the French Forces of the Interior, sometimes called the “Maquis” for a nasty thorny bush in the hills where the Underground operated. After the invasion of Normandy in June 1944, at the request of the French Committee of National Liberation, SHAEF placed about 200,000 resistance fighters under command of General Marie Pierre Koenig, who attempted to unify resistance efforts against the Germans. General Eisenhower confirmed Koenig's command of the FFI on 23 June 1944.

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Free French Booklet from Balch’s files

This booklet is the short history of the Free French from de Gaulle’s escape, the meeting with King George VI, and the building of the Fighting French Army, Navy and Air Force.

On 12 October 1944, Balch and 17 other PWB civilians were suddenly sent on a mission to PWB Headquarters in Naples, Italy. We do not know where they left from because the confidential orders simply say Mediterranean Base Section. The orders say “PCS” and that means that this was a permanent change of station. Balch would be there for a while.

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One of the Four Passes Balch was issued
They all looked just like this one with just minor changes in the text

We see that Balch was issued a series of passes to allow him to use all the services available in Naples, all dated 16 October 1944. He was issued a Hospitalization Pass, a Curfew Pass, a Vehicle Pass and a Special Official Pass. I hope he had a thick wallet.

On 27 January 1945, Balch was asked to prepare a report on the history of the Paris press since the liberation. Since Balch had the job of reading, writing for and reporting on the French press, there was probably nobody better suited for this assignment. He starts by mentioning the Underground press while the Germans were still occupying France. He says as of the date of the letter:

Paris has 19 daily newspapers plus a French Army newspaper. The total circulation of the 19 papers is well over 3,000,000. FIGARO is the leading paper of the Conservatives and makes about 3 million francs a month. LIBERATION, the information Journal and COMBAT, the resistance journal both make about 1 million francs a month. HUMANITE, the Communist newspaper has the best circulation of all.

At the time of liberation, the Provincial Government gave each paper a loan of 3 million francs. The fact that the government might call in the loan at any time might be considered a threat to their free expression. The government suspended all of the newspapers that were deemed to have served the Germans during their occupation. None of the Paris newspapers so banned have thus far been given permission to reopen.

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The Free French Navy Ship “Triumphant”

It is impossible to say who printed this card because there is no printer’s imprint on it. That might lead us to think it was made by the Free French, the OWI, or both.

In July 1945, the OWI prepared a report titled The English and French look at their Allies. Some of the conclusions were that Victory in Europe brought relatively little shift in French attitudes toward the United States…A source of disapproval of America is the feeling that Americans have been too indulgent in their treatment of German prisoners…About 60% of the French believed that the USSR won the war against Germany, not the Americans…And, the French thought that the Americans could have supplied them with more food.

With the Japanese surrender on 15 August 1945 the OWI members received a “thank you” letter from the OWI on the letterhead of the London American Embassy. It said in part:

To all OWIs in the ETO –

“VJ Day.” It marks the realization of what we have all been working for over a long period of time. It also makes the beginning of a new period in which we will all have an opportunity – no matter what we are doing – that we are citizens of the world, not British, French, Russian, Chinese or American. Today begins our opportunity to see that the loss of lives, the families disrupted, the ideologies crushed, shall never be repeated…To each of you I want to express my personal for having had the opportunity of working with you in making our contribution to the victory of right over might – to making possible a world in which we all want to live…

Balch was given 30 days leave in the United States before return to Paris and his orders warned:

Information concerning War Department, Army or personal activities of a military nature within this theater will not be discussed in private or public and will not be disclosed by means of newspapers, magazines, books, lectures or radio, or any other method, without prior clearance through the War Department Bureau of Public Relations or the appropriate Public Relations Officer of Army Installations.

At the end of the war many of the members of the OWI were transferred to the State Department. We know this because Balch saved a “not for distribution” letter explaining the situation. The letter was written to President Truman and said in part:

On August 31st you issued an executive order transferring to the Department of State Overseas Information functions of the Office of War Information and Office of inter-American Affairs. You ordered them to be consolidated until December 31st…Overseas Information Functions of War Agencies in this field have been transferred and consolidated as you directed. Their transferred personnel have been reduced by half, and many of their functions have ended.

The author of the letter then makes a pitch to continue the pro-American activities:

There never was a time, even in the midst of the war, when it was so necessary to replace prejudice with truth, distortion with balance, and suspicion with understanding…

Balch had a 6 April 1946 identification card allowing him to make purchases at the U.S. Army Post Exchange as a member of the U.S. Embassy. Normally only the military and their dependents can enter the PX.

Balch seems to have left government service on 5 August 1946. His Termination of Service letter states that he was an Administrative Officer with a grade of AO-11, stationed in Paris with a salary of $4,600 a year and was employed by the OWI and the State Department.

We never think about the fact that everything was rationed in the United States. I can remember using stamps for meat as a child and recall that we had no car because rubber tires and gasoline were highly rationed. Rations were gold. Of course, if you had some extra dollar bills, you could buy a steak on the black market with few or no ration stamps. On 27 August 1945, Balch was given a letter from the OWI to his local Ration Board stating:

This will introduce Mr. Marston Balch, an employee of the Office of War Information, just returned to the United States…We would greatly appreciate you issuing food stamps and ration coupons….

With the end of the war Balch stayed with the United States Information Service for a while. I see that in May 1946 he was sent to Nice from Paris and identified as the Chief of the Speaker’s Bureau. Civil and military authorities were requested to facilitate his travel in every way possible. He was issued a vehicle and a pass that said:

He is authorized to drive government vehicles (civilian make) registered with this headquarters, and is an employee of the United States Government hired by the USIS at 12 Rue Agguesseau, Paris.

In October 1946, the usual government red tape came into play and Balch was informed that he must be fired because of prohibitions against entry into the American Foreign Service otherwise than by appointment. As usual, when the bullets are flying, rules are bent but in peacetime, everyone becomes very conscious of the rules.

Shortly afterwards in early 1947, Balch is in contact with the Division of Research for Europe, which incidentally was previously the Research and Development Branch of the Office of Strategic Services.

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Marston Balch’s State Department Passport

I found the passport very interesting because it tells us where he went and has various warnings on many pages about where he could not go. On the first page there is a note from the Secretary of State asking that all foreign governments extend protection to him. Page two says he is proceeding abroad on official business for the Office of War Information. Then we see the various customs stamps. Balch first goes to Algeria on official business. There is a stamp from the British and one from the French giving him permission to enter their countries. The American Consulate General gives Balch permission to travel in North Africa and Italy. The American Consulate in Naples gives him permission to travel in France. The American Consulate in Pars stamps his passport. In 1945 the American Consulate gives him permission to travel in France and England for the coming year. We can see that although the war was just over and there were security restrictions all over Europe, Balch was able to travel freely.

With the end of the war Balch stayed with the United States Information Service for a while. I see that in May 1946 he was sent to Nice from Paris and identified as the Chief of the Speaker’s Bureau. Civil and military authorities were requested to facilitate his travel in every way possible. He was issued a vehicle and a pass that said:

He is authorized to drive government vehicles (civilian make) registered with this headquarters, and is an employee of the United States Government hired by the USIS at 12 Rue Agguesseau, Paris.

In October 1946, the usual government red tape came into play and Balch was informed that he must be fired because of prohibitions against entry into the American Foreign Service otherwise than by appointment. As usual, when the bullets are flying, rules are bent but in peacetime, everyone becomes very conscious of the rules.

Shortly afterwards in early 1947, Balch is in contact with the Division of Research for Europe, which incidentally was previously the Research and Development Branch of the Office of Strategic Services.

In 1950 when North Korea invaded South Korea, Balch seems to have volunteered to get back into his old area of expertise. We find a letter from the "Department of Army Chief of Organization, Personnel and Training Branch" that says in part:

We deeply appreciate your prompt reply to the questionnaire we recently sent you. In order to provide a comprehensive and up-to-date of our available potential for psychological warfare, we are now further refining our personnel records. The enclosed form OCS 401 is designed to help us in this effort. Neither this letter nor return of the form connotes any offer of employment now makes any commitment either on your behalf or ours.

It is important to note that at the start of the Korean War the U.S. PSYWAR capabilities were almost nil. Units were being trained and formed on the spot in an attempt to use psychological warfare techniques on the invading North Koreans. Even so, you can see that the Army was being very careful and non-committal about hiring individuals that had expert experience from WWII.

The Balch history of Patriotism and Aid to France

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Ernest Alanson Balch

One wonders what motivates a professor to go off and join the Army to help the French. In the case of Marston Balch we have a clue. His father did very much the same thing in WWI. He enlisted in the YMCA 15 June 1918, was the director of the Foyer Soldat (Soldier's Home), 10th French Army Zone du Soldat, a YMCA Secretary for the American Army, and Discharged on 2 August 1919.

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Ernest Balch's YMCA Paris Permit

Ernest Balch was the Director of History at Kalamazoo College, and later the mayor of Kalamazoo. He served as a civilian in World War One with the YMCA Foyer Soldat while in his 40's.

The American YMCA civilians in France were uniformed and they helped both soldiers and civilians. The list of programs and services that the YMCA provided the military during WWI include morale, welfare and recreation activities; rest-and-recreation programs for battle-weary soldiers, sailors and marines, and canteens and overseas exchanges that modernized the exchange concept. The military adopted and routinely offers many of these services for the soldiers today.

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A YMCA “Hut” in Flanders

William Howard Taft wrote:

The American Young Men's Christian Association in its welfare work served between four and five millions of American soldiers and sailors, at home and overseas. As General Pershing has said, it conducted nine-tenths of the welfare work among the American forces in Europe. Moreover, alone among American welfare societies, this organization, first and last, ministered to not less than nineteen millions of the soldiers of the Allied Armies and extended its helpful activities to over five millions of prisoners of war. Its operations were conducted on western, southern, and eastern fronts in Europe; in northern and eastern Africa; in western, southern, and eastern Asia; in North and South America; and in different parts of the island world. It may be questioned whether in all time a human society has ever brought its helpful ministry to such vast numbers of men and over such wide areas, under such varying conditions, and in so short a time.

A few of the statistics drawn from YMCA records and journals reflect the scale of operations in which the YMCA was engaged:

26,000 paid staff of men and women served with the YMCA.

35,000 volunteers attending to the spiritual and social needs of an armed force of 4.8 million troops.

It performed 90 per cent of all welfare work with American Expeditionary Forces in Europe.

286 casualties, including six men and two women working under the YMCA banner killed in action.

319 citations and decorations awarded YMCA staff and volunteers, including the French Legion of Honor, the Order of the British Empire, the Distinguished Service Cross and the Distinguished Service Medal.

Operated 26 R&R leave centers in France that accommodated 1,944,300 American officers and men.

4000 "huts" and tents operated for recreation and religious services.

One newspaper clipping talks about the need for more YMCA volunteers in France:

The personnel are terribly undermanned and overstrained. Twenty percent of the hut workers are in the hospital on sick leave and others on the verge of collapse from overwork. Men are attempting to do the work of three or four. We must have more men or fail to measure up to what is rightfully expected....The fellow that starts knocking the YMCA when he gets home from the Army better first look around and see if there is a soldier near.

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Les Foyers du Soldat - Union Franco Americaine

(The Hearths of the Soldier - French American Union)
A. G. Warshawsky (1883-1962)

This poster shows and American soldier shaking hands with a French soldier. In the background is a YMCA canteen.

The Union Franco-Americaine was a formal arrangement between the American YMCA and the French Army. In February 1918, the French ministry of war agreed to provide the YMCA with buildings, tables, benches, light, and heat to establish new foyers. In return, the American YMCA provided secretaries and programming. By February 1919, they had established 1452 Foyers du Soldat for the French army. They operated at the front and behind lines, just as American canteens did. At the conclusion of World War I, supreme allied commander Marshal Foch commented on the massive support that was provided by the YMCA during hostilities in an address to YMCA officials and staff:

Thanks to your powerful help we were able to maintain our morale; thanks to the Foyer du Soldat Union Franco-Americaine YMCA, into which the tired soldier came for new strength, and to find a touch of that family life, or at least that familiar contact which seemed to him an infinite comfort. This was the means by which resistance was maintained and you sheltered all that work in the shadow of the finest ideals, the principle of humanity - unselfish service.

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Unseen Friend
YMCA Poster by A.K.Yapp

This is the cover of an 8-page pamphlet printed by the Red Triangle Press of the YMCA. This is booklet 43, so apparently they were turning out many such booklets trying to raise the morale of the men by telling them that Jesus always watched over them.

It appears the YMCA was a cross between what the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army and the USO were in WWII.

Any readers who care to discuss aspects of this article or have information to add are encouraged to write to the author at sgmbert@hotmail.com.