SGM Herbert A. Friedman (Ret.)
Map of Okinawa
The battle of Okinawa, also known as Operation Iceberg, took place in April-June 1945. It was the largest amphibious landing in the Pacific theater of World War II. It also resulted in the largest casualties with over 100,000 Japanese casualties and 50,000 casualties for the Allies.
This small island was close to the Japanese home Islands and considered part of Japan. They fought fiercely to hold it and for the first time the kamikaze were used in great numbers leading to enormous losses of U.S. personnel and material. We could write 500 pages on the battle of Okinawa, but as always, this article is about the psychological operations used on, or mentioning that island. For the first time U.S. forces used psychological warfare in depth and the result was more prisoners than had ever been taken before. This was the first major success of PSYOP against the Japanese and what was learned there was used in all the battles to follow.
The PSYOP Plan
OWI Leaflet 2113
This leaflet is entitled The Living. Imagine the shock when Japanese troops who never surrender are told that this picture depicts 7,519 Japanese who have surrendered on Okinawa. The count will eventually reach over 11,000. It tells the Japanese that instead of a futile death; why not live to build a new Japan.
Army PWB Leaflet 136-J-1
Although this leaflet was
printed by the U.S. for use in the Philippines, it depicts Japan under siege and an Allied
line of advance leading directly to Okinawa. It does not mention Okinawa but two lines of
attack are shown moving toward the island the three lines are seen leaving it on their way
to the invasion of Japan. The title on the front is:
IS JAPAN NEXT?
The text on the back is:
The American offensive rolls on relentlessly. As a result of the inferior strategy of the militarists, the Japanese forces were defeated everywhere. Meanwhile, however, the militarists continue to announce Great Victory.
Today the American troops in the Pacific are being augmented by great forces from Europe. The Japanese homeland is being relentlessly bombed. The war is progressing quickly toward Japan herself.
Unconditional surrender means the end of the war and the destruction of the militarists. It does not mean the enslavement or the extermination of the people.
The first large-scale use of PSYOP in the Pacific was the Okinawa campaign. The Office of War Information (OWI) working with the Navy on Saipan printed more than six million leaflets to be dropped on Japanese troops and Okinawan civilians. The Army PWB in the Southwest Pacific also prepared some leaflets that used Okinawa as a theme. Curiously, other nations used the lesson of Okinawa in their propaganda. The Australians printed a leaflet for use against the Japanese coded J.302. The leaflet is large and there are five photos on the front, including: Allied wounded evacuated by air; American Marines advance; wrecked Japanese planes on the ground; and Allied guns fire day and night. Some of the text is:
Okinawa fell to the Allies on 22 June. On Okinawa, for the first time in the Pacific War, large bodies of Japanese troops recognized the futility of continuing resistance against overwhelming odds. During the last few days of the campaign more than 9,000 officers and men surrendered, and those men are being treated with respect by the Americans
Loudspeaker teams were used in depth. The result was the surrender of 11,409 prisoners of war. The gradual improvement in loudspeaker propaganda is interesting to note. An research study on WWII psychological warfare mentions a case study from the Battle of Okinawa. It contrasted how aggressive surrender demands with threats of flamethrowers merely increased resistance, while a revised loudspeaker broadcast that was more in line with Japanese cultural beliefs worked. According to the report, an American Infantry officer with a loudspeaker team and a Japanese linguist under orders to translate exactly broadcast this message:
Japanese soldiers; come out of hiding and surrender or I'm going to burn you out with my flamethrowers!
In a second case, a more cultural message was broadcast:
Attention! I am the lawful American commander in the area. Attention! I have been ordered, by superiors to end resistance in this area. Attention! I order all Japanese personnel to assemble, in soldierly fashion. Attention! I must end your resistance soon. I have flamethrowers. I would regret the unfortunate consequences of the use of flamethrowers.
Surrender instructions to the enemy were broadcast by Japanese troops who had surrendered and were willing to help bring in more of their comrades and save their lives. Here a prisoner-of-war voluntarily broadcasts from an LCI standing off the rocky cliff near Hill 89.
According to the case study, most of the Japanese soldiers fought to the death in the first case, while most surrendered after the second approach. In the first message there is a threat. In the second message there is respect, a mention of military law and a formal system of assembly. The Japanese are asked to assemble, not surrender. For those Japanese that knew the war was lost and wanted a way to save face, this second approach seemed to offer an honorable way to survive.
Up until the Okinawa campaign it was believed that Japanese troops could not be convinced to surrender. Fifth Fleet carrier planes dropped some five million leaflets on the island. The psychological warfare teams' immediate objective was to depress Japanese morale so that the enemy soldiers would surrender rather than resist. The long-range goal was more ambitious: to promote the idea that Okinawans were ethnically and culturally different from the home island Japanese. The leaflets told the Japanese soldier why and how should surrender and the Okinawan citizens not to be afraid, for they were not regarded as the enemy.
For the first time, a Combat Propaganda Team of officers, linguists and artists went ashore with the invasion forces to conduct a campaign in coordination with the assault. The team was led by Lieutenant W. B. Stephenson, USNR.
The United States had lost a tremendous number of killed and wounded during the Iwo Jima campaign. It was the carnage from Iwo Jima that indicated the need to find a way to convince the Japanese defenders to surrender. Prior to Iwo Jima it was believed that the Japanese would never surrender and must be killed to the last man. Psychological Operations was believed to be the answer to this problem. It would convince the Japanese to surrender and save American lives. Okinawa would be the proving ground.
General Simon Bolivar Buckner
Months prior to the attack, General Simon Bolivar Buckner, Commander of the U.S. Tenth Army, requested that two series of leaflets be prepared for the Operation Iceberg Okinawa campaign. One should discourage civilians from obstructing the advance of U.S. troops; the second should weaken the resistance of the Japanese military.
General Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr., at right, surveys fighting just a few hours before Japanese artillery killed him.
The propaganda section contacted the commanders of all important organizations prior to the invasion to explain what they needed and what they could accomplish. They devoted over three months to this selling and planning phase. Combat commanders want to hear about bombs and shells, not paper. They are hard to convince that using men and supplies to drop propaganda serves any purpose. Leaflet drop demonstrations were held near Tenth Army Headquarters in Hawaii and they were publicized widely to get as many commanders and men enthused about the project.
Navy PV-1 "Polly"
Knowing that American soldiers loved souvenirs, the propaganda section distributed sample leaflets to all the attendees to keep. They asked and received the operation order for the invasion and found that they would start dropping leaflets seven days before the invasion, and then switch to phase two on D-Day+10. They were issued 1,300 105mm propaganda shells and told that they would have one Navy PV-1 Polly plane equipped with loudspeakers. They were issued 100 empty propaganda bombs and 800,000 safe conduct leaflets to be used in the final phase of the propaganda campaign. By the start of the invasion this number was raised to 555 propaganda bombs loaded aboard 13 escort aircraft carriers (CVEs). Seventy-five percent of the leaflet drops were planned for the towns of Shuri, Naha, Yonabaru, and points south. In central Okinawa the principal targets were Yontan, Kadena, and Machinato airfields.
Japanese Commander General Mitsuru Ushijima
We should mention that Buckner was not afraid of new concepts and imaginative ideas. No Japanese commander had ever surrendered his forces in the field but Buckner had his propaganda team prepare and drop a leaflet on 10 June 1945 that requested the Japanese commander surrender. The plan was not successful but it showed that Buckner was open to suggestions on the value of propaganda.
The United States Army in World War II: The War in the Pacific adds in a chapter entitled Okinawa: the Last Battle:
The decline of enemy morale may have resulted in part from a campaign of psychological warfare which General Buckner started before the April landing and intensified as the assault against the Yaeju-Dake began. From 25 March until the end of organized fighting, planes dropped about 8,000,000 propaganda leaflets on the island. Until mid-June these leaflets were aimed at winning the confidence of the civilians and soldiers and at spreading defeatism. Through a letter addressed to General Ushijima and dropped behind enemy lines on the morning of 10 June, General Buckner hoped to initiate mass surrender by the Japanese:
The forces under your command have fought bravely and well, and your infantry tactics have merited the respect of your opponents . . . . Like myself, you are an infantry general long schooled and practiced in infantry warfare . . . . I believe, therefore, that you understand as clearly as I, that the destruction of all Japanese resistance on the island is merely a matter of days . . . .
General Buckner then invited Ushijima to enter negotiations for surrender. No one seriously expected Ushijima to respond to this bid for surrender. Two days later planes scattered another 30,000 leaflets over enemy ground, this time emphasizing Ushijima's refusal to negotiate for surrender and his selfish determination to commit his entire army to destruction, and calling upon his subordinate officers and men to quit of their own accord. Another appeal was made on 14 June.
The American plan called for an extensive effort to weaken the enemys will to resist. Intelligence agencies prepared 5,700,000 leaflets to be dropped over Okinawa from carrier planes. More millions of leaflets were to be printed at the target and be scattered over specific areas by bombs and shells. Tanks with amplifiers, an airplane with an ultra-loud speaker, and remotely controlled radios dropped behind enemy lines would also tell the enemy why and how he should surrender.
Interpreters or prisoners broadcast pleas of "cease resistance" over other portable loudspeakers set up in the southern tip of the island. The Japanese surrendered by twos or threes, apprehensive and hesitant and with curious expressions of hope and fear. Many prisoners offered to return to induce their comrades to surrender. Usually they were given cigarettes to take back to the caves as proof of American promises. Two such "bait-boys," known as "Murrymoto" and "Goto," brought back several hundred prisoners and were so faithful that their captors allowed them to carry weapons and live in the company perimeter during the night. In this manner 7,401 Japanese soldiers, including more than 200 commissioned officers and 3,339 unarmed laborers, surrendered to Tenth Army troops.
Once the invasion was underway, 95% of all the leaflets were printed aboard the ships of the invasion fleet; the other 5% were printed onshore by the topographic reproduction units of the 24th Corps and third Amphibious Corps. They were hand-written by a Nisei (Japanese-Americans), then produced in lots of about 50,000, bundled and sent to be dropped by tactical aircraft flying from the newly captured Kadena AFB. The first hand-written tactical leaflet to Okinawan civilians said in part:
Those of you who wish to enter the American occupied area may do so during day in safety. Do not enter the American occupied area or loiter near it at night because we fear that you will be mistaken for a Japanese soldier.
A week later a second tactical leaflet was written that said in part:
If you move along with the Japanese forces, or if you aid the Japanese forces, you will receive the same treatment as the Japanese forces.
A 10th Army surrender leaflet was issued to the Okinawan public. It read:
...Place complete trust in the American Army. You will be given food, water and medical care and will be treated with kindness....
Five days before the landings on Okinawa, Naval aircraft received mission orders to drop propaganda leaflets on several locations on Okinawa. These leaflets were an appeal for the civilians of Okinawa to surrender themselves to the American troops to save themselves from being wounded or killed in the coming invasion.
Eight pre-invasion leaflets were prepared in all. The reader should understand this is just a small percentage of the total leaflets that would be printed and dropped as the battle went on. The final one said in part:
Come out of your caves and other hiding places at once. All of you. Come in groups, bringing with you only those possessions which you can readily carry.
The Americans were worried about not being able to tell the Japanese military from Okinawan civilians. In an attempt to solve this problem one leaflet was prepared that warned the civilians against wearing Japanese military clothing for warmth because the Americans could mistakenly shoot them.
Nine themes were designed for the Okinawa campaign:
1. Cite lies of Japanese leaders.
2. Create dissension and friction.
3. Play up American industrial might.
4. Create a feeling of panic and terror.
5. Appeal to physical needs.
6. Show the futility of self-destruction.
7. Appeal indirectly for surrender.
8. Appeal to authority and respect for law.
9. Appeal to non-Japanese combatants.
Certain subjects were taboo. Just before embarkation a final meeting with the Combat Team was called to discuss policy. They would be no horror leaflets (scenes of horribly mangled or disfigured dead or wounded Japanese soldiers) and no leaflets would make grandiose promises that could not be fulfilled. They would not speak ill of the Emperor or attack Japanese legends like Admiral Togo or General Nogi. They would not attack the Japanese Constitution, customs, habits, religions, or the status of women.
The Japanese did retaliate with propaganda leaflets, but without air superiority, their attempts were feeble. After the death of President Roosevelt on 12 April 1945, The Japanese prepared leaflets for the U.S. forces which claimed that Roosevelt had died due to the strain of the high losses on Okinawa. The leaflets said that the losses would be higher still:
The dreadful loss that led your late leader to death will make you orphans on the island. The Japanese special attack corps will sink your vessels to the last destroyer. You will witness it in the near future.
OWI Leaflet 1055
Okinawan natives had been told by the Japanese that the Americans were barbarians who would kill them. This leaflet shows that the natives were lied to. An American soldier walks with three small Okinawan children. The text is:
Little loved ones cared for by Americans await their fathers return.
Admiral Chester W. Nimitz
The Office of War Information, working in conjunction with the U.S. Navy dropped over 200 different leaflets on Japanese troops. In general, these leaflets and the text was designed and written in San Francisco. They were then radio-telegraphed to Honolulu, Hawaii where the leaflets were fine-tuned, and finally sent to the advanced naval base on Saipan from where they were printed and placed in American aircraft to be dropped over the enemy. The Saipan leaflets were all coded with a simple number that could be anything from 1 to 5000. Some leaflets were prepared at Admiral Nimitzs headquarters on Guam and these leaflet had no code number.
Nimitz had authorized a small psychological warfare (PW) section in his headquarters in early June, 1944. Allison B. Gilmore mentions the section in: You cant fight Tanks with Bayonets, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE, 1998:
OWI did not establish a presence in Nimitzs command until March 1944, when it opened an overseas branch in Honolulu and began full scale propaganda activities. From Hawaii OWI worked under the jurisdiction of the Joint Intelligence Center, Pacific Ocean Areas (JICPOA), operating jointly with Nimitzs Psychological Warfare Section, created by June 1944.
Just days before the end of the war Nimitz decided to upgrade his own section into a branch. The military PW section worked hand-in-hand with the civilian Office of War Information (OWI) unit headquartered in Honolulu and later with a forward base on Saipan. The Navy PW section started with just five officers and two enlisted men. When it was decided to concentrate on PSYOP during the invasion of Okinawa, six more officers were added to the section. The PW section continued to expand and had combat propaganda teams at Okinawa, Peleliu and Majuro. It moved with Admiral Nimitz to his headquarters in Guam, What is most interesting is that although it was a Navy section, it consisted of members from the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force.
There is no way to say how many different leaflets were dropped on Okinawa, perhaps a majority of all of the OWI leaflets to Japan during the battle, but in this article we will depict some of the leaflets that actually mention Okinawa and show some that have the nine themes for PSYOP against Okinawa mentioned above. We have found one reference to Okinawa propaganda in a previously classified OWI-Naval report called The Leaflet Newsletter - Area III - Far East, dated 20 April 1945 citing a report from the OWI in Honolulu. It says:
Over Okinawa we dropped leaflets 523 to 534 inclusive, 811 and 8028 The majority of these leaflets were dual purpose, including a message to Japanese troops and another to civilians.
Looking through my files I see that the leaflets mentioned are entitled:
523, 525, 527, 528, 529, 531 To military men.
524 American troops and supplies.
526 Instructions to Island Inhabitants.
530 To soldiers.
532 Recently Rear Admiral Walter Hennecke. (Germans surrender)
811 The bearer has ceased resistance. (Safe Conduct Pass)
8028 Japanese on Saipan received good care from American troops. (For civilians)
OWI Leaflet 2028
We add leaflet 2028 to show one from the above OWI list of leaflets dropped on Okinawa. It depicts photographs of Japanese women preparing cakes, a group of Japanese sitting waiting for medical treatment, a group of Japanese under American care, and Japanese obtaining water. The text is:
Japanese on Saipan receive good care from American troops
When American troops landed on Saipan, there were about 25,000 Japanese civilians on the island. A few of them committed suicide because they had been told that they would be mistreated. The others came into the American camp and are being well cared for as these pictures show. Men, women and children are receiving food. They receive medical care if they are sick. Those who wish to do so are working and are paid for it.
Many of the low number Saipan leaflets mentioned Okinawa in an attempt to destroy Japanese moral. Leaflets bearing the numbers 100 to 399 were prepared for the period of bombardment of an entire tactical area, preliminary to any further action to be taken in that area. It was believed that the Japanese had no knowledge of the war situation so many leaflets mentioned that Okinawa had fallen as a way of showing the enemy that they were losing the war. I will mention three examples; there are about a half-dozen in all.
Leaflet 116 depicts sinking Japanese ships and was designed to lower moral and develop a realization of the helplessness of Japans position. One line is:
The Americans occupy Saipan, the Philippines, Iwo Jima and Okinawa has already fallen into American hands.
Leaflet 121 depicts an American officer eating with Japanese prisoners and was designed to refute Japanese propaganda concerning American brutality. One line is:
The Japanese soldiers and civilians who came to an understanding with the Americans on Attu, Saipan, Iwo Jima and Okinawa are receiving very kind treatment
Leaflet 123 depicts an American soldier carrying an injured Okinawan woman and is designed to destroy the Japanese belief in inevitable victory. Some of the text is:
This is the way in which the Americans are kind. Women and children are aided by American forces on Okinawa.
Barak Kushner refutes the relative value of some of the OWI leaflets to Okinawa in The Thought War Japanese Imperial Propaganda, University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, 2006:
As the battle for Okinawa surged in April 1945, the OWI and the American armed forces began to assess their most comprehensive campaign launched to date. Out of a garrison of approximately 120,000 Japanese troops, 11,000 POWs were taken, but only 7,400 were Japanese soldiers. The others were Korean or Taiwanese laborers. While it was a partial success compared with efforts elsewhere, the approximately 50,000 German POWs a month who flooded into U.S. camps from August 1944 until the spring of 1945 dwarfed Japanese surrender statistics.
But then he adds:
One reason behind the small numbers of Japanese soldiers captured by U.S. forces may have been the fact that U.S. soldiers slaughtered wounded or surrendering Japanese soldiers.
The Leaflet Themes
Overcoming the last resistance on Okinawa was aided by propaganda leaflets, one of which is being read by a prisoner awaiting transportation to the rear. Many civilians gave up at the same time. At numerous points, however, severe fighting continued.
OWI Leaflet 2079
This leaflet shows Naha City, the capital city of Okinawa, before and after an American bombing. I show the leaflet horizontal because I think it is easier to see the damage. This leaflet warned the Japanese of the total destruction of their industry and advised them to save the country and stop their resistance.The text on the front is:
Naha City of Okinawa Prefecture before the bombing.
The back of the leaflet depicts a B-17 bomber attacking railroad yards and surrounding buildings. The text is:
BEFORE FALLING SEEK THE ASSISTANCE OF YOUR CANE!
The bombing so far has destroyed only a small part of the Japanese industry. However, as time goes on the degree of destruction will be multiplied and Japan will become a ruin. It is not loyal to your country to sit and watch its destruction without doing anything. That is an attitude taken by cowardly persons.
Save your country! Stop resistance! Seek the assistance of your cane before falling!
I have also seen this leaflet printed on a bright yellow paper that would stand out well on the ground after a bombing.
The same photograph of Naha City before and after the bombing appears on leaflet 131. This leaflet is aimed at islands held by the Japanese and seeks to destroy their morale. On that second leaflet, the back is all text. The text on the front of leaflet 131 is:
The City of Naha Before and after Bombing.
The back has a very long message so I will only translate a small part:
Saipan is 3,300 miles from Pearl Harbor whereas your island is less than 1,000 miles from American bases. Therefore, it is obvious that we are able to take your island whenever we think the trouble is worthwhile. We considered Iwo Jima, the Philippines, and Okinawa more important to us than this island and we took those Islands first. The Japanese leaders know that we are able to capture this island but they are going to repeat the same mistake as in the South Seas where the abandoned hundreds of thousands of your soldiers. They will sacrifice you the same way .
This is just a brief look at the concepts behind the propaganda leaflets dropped on the Island of Okinawa. We will now depict nine leaflets that match the themes mention above as part of the PSYOP plan.
OWI Leaflet 2023
Cite the lies of Japanese leaders. There are numerous leaflets on this theme. The Japanese lied all the time claiming victory after victory. For instance, leaflet 702 is one of dozens that tell the Japanese that the Americans are kind and charitable, and the Japanese stories about their cruelty were just false propaganda. Leaflet 2001 tells the readers that Japanese radio announcers lie and are forced to broadcast the information that the Military demands. We depict leaflet 2023 that shows American naval aircraft about to attack the Japanese troops and reminds them:
Those planes are from American carriers your leaders told you were sunk off Taiwan. Now our bombs tell you that not one carrier was sunk off Taiwan.
OWI Leaflet 2063
Create dissension and friction. American propaganda tried to create dissension by telling the Japanese troops that their officers received special privileges; and the Japanese civilians that the Gumbatsu (what President Eisenhower called the Military-Industrial Complex) had started an illegal war and was making money while Japanese soldiers were killed on the battlefield. This leaflet depicts St. Lukes Hospital in Tokyo that was a gift from America to Japan. It reminds the people who the real war criminals are:
We did not start this war. As you know, this war was started by the attack on Pearl Harbor without warning and without the approval of the Emperor Instead of fearing us, you should fear the military clique who have betrayed the Emperor .
OWI Leaflet 1005
Play up American industrial might. There are well over a dozen leaflets on this theme showing Japan surrounded by the US Navy, covered with Air Force bombers and telling the Japanese soldiers that the USA can out-produce Japan and can make ships and planes faster than the Japanese can destroy them. It was hard to pick one leaflet for this theme. 808 threatens them with: Dont you know that resistance against our overwhelming strength is futile? Do you enjoy being pounded and shelled to bits? I picked 1005 to place here. I dont care for the image, just a vast fleet of American ships and planes over Japan, but I do like the text:
Since 8 December 1941, the United States has built more than 33,000,000 tons of shipping
Since 8 December 1941, the United States has built more than 171,000 planes. Modern wars are won not be spirit but by overwhelming industrial production.
OWI Leaflet 2046
Create a feeling of panic and terror. There were dozens of leaflets that fit this criteria, bombs exploding, fires, dead soldiers, destroyed families and Japanese wives forced into prostitution by starvation, etc. I have tried to find the leaflet that best expresses this terror.
Leaflet 2046 is from a series of leaflets that showed the horror of American bombing. The text is meant to describe the bomber, its range, bomb-load and fire-power together with indication of the havoc its bombs can create. It explains that nothing can save the Japanese people from American bombs:
These American bombers above your heads are very advanced and powerful. Even engineers could not have dreamed of these powerful planes just five years ago. These bombers are twenty times bigger than yours, and its armor is so thick and bullets would not penetrate, unless the bullets hit its crucial areas, which is less than one third of total surface of its body. Not only are these bombers able to fly at a much higher altitude than your latest fighter planes, but they also can carry a full load of bombs as far as two thousand miles away.
OWI Leaflet 1006
Appeal to physical needs. The Japanese of course had many physical needs. They were starving, wet, dirty, lacked medical care, and could see death coming straight at them. The Americans would usually promise safety in a POW camp, clean clothing, food, medical care and surprisingly, cigarettes. Picking a leaflet that best met these criteria was difficult. I suspect that starvation was a major physical need so I selected this leaflet that depicts a wonderful plate of Japanese delicacies. Just what was needed to tempt a soldier living on roots, grass and insects:
Your island has been isolated and cut off from all aid and supplies. You have almost no food and are slowly starving to death. You are as human as we are and the thought of your hunger is far from pleasant. if you are hungry and wish to have good food, indicate that fact by displaying a large visible cross along the southeast intersection of the airfield runway. We will then be able to help you.
Combat Propaganda adds:
Together with the life-saving leaflets were scattered leaflets which pictured on one side a plate of brightly colored and delicious looking food. The purpose was to implement and intensify the surrender campaign. It was hoped that the picture of the food would play upon the senses of the Japanese soldiers and further tempt them to surrender.
By the way, this leaflet proves that you need to know your enemy. I believe the plate is very tempting to the average Japanese soldier. The Japanese dropped a similar leaflet on US soldiers also showing a salad. How wrong they were. They should have depicted a hamburger on a steak. I am sure that leaflet was a failure.
We will give you water and food
I thought the reader might be interested in this OWI attempt to teach American soldiers some Japanese language so that they might get the Japanese to surrender without the aid of a PSYOP soldier and translator.
OWI Leaflet 701
Show the futility of self-destruction. The U.S. Army looked at this a little differently than the Navy. Their leaflets on the Philippines discussed hari-kari and why the Japanese soldier should resist. The Navy leaflets seem to be more on the subject of why fight on until the death for the militarists and industrialists who wanted this unjust war. Two Japanese captives are depicted playing Chinese checkers. Their faces are partially blocked for their protection.This leaflet is one of the very few Navy products that mentions seppuku (ritual suicide) so it seems a good choice for this theme:
If you commit seppuku you will be the last of your family. You wont be able to carry on your line. No good to you, to your family, or to Japan will come from such an act. When the war is over, you wont be alive to enjoy peace and happiness.
OWI Leaflet 811
Appeal indirectly for surrender. There was no shortage of surrender leaflets. In fact, almost every leaflet had a surrender message somewhere in the text, often the last line at the bottom. Looking through the OWI leaflets I found four that were almost completely about surrender. I picked leaflet 811 because it is entirely about surrender, and in fact looks like it was copied from early Australian leaflets to the Japanese which were quite similar. The same message appears on the front in back in English and Japanese.
OWI Leaflet 2118
Appeal to authority and respect for law. This was a tough theme. There were dozens of such leaflets to the Philippines telling the people to obey the laws and not to commit crimes or use the black market. I did not find any such leaflets among the OWI products. I assume those leaflets on Okinawa were mostly tactical and printed in the field so we do not have them at a strategic level. This leaflet actually informs the Japanese soldiers that the war is over and orders them to follow the Emperors decree. Some of the text is:
To the large number of loyal and brave officers and men of the Imperial forces, who have died in battle and from sickness, goes our deepest grief. At the same time we believe the loyalty and achievement of you officers and men of the Imperial forces will comply with our intention and will maintain solid unity and strict discipline in your movement, and that you will bear the hardest of all difficulties and bear the unbearable and leave the everlasting foundation of the nation.
OWI Leaflet 534
Appeal to non-Japanese combatants. I had a few leaflets to choose from in this category but I really like this one. We see American troops advancing and one man using a flame-thrower. The text is an appeal to civilians and humanitarian in nature. Some of the text is:
American forces have landed elsewhere on your island and are making excellent progress. Most of the civilians who stayed in the path of the on-rushing army were killed because of their own foolishness. Unless you are prepared to suffer a similar fate, stay away from the beaches. Shells and bombs cannot tell the difference between civilians and soldiers
OWI Leaflet 2516 Newspaper Marianas Jiho
The United States always printed propaganda newspapers for the enemy because it was aware that they had no knowledge of the current state of the war. One million copies of the Japanese-language newspaper the Marianas Jiho (Marianas News Review) was printed each week. Other papers were the Hawaiian Weekly News, Makoto (Truth), Rakkasan News (Parachute News) and the Ryukyu Shuho (Okinawa Weekly). Newspapers were printed in other languages to include the Korean-language Chosen Weekly News and Chosen Liberty Weekly, and the Chinese language Worlds Weekly News.
The above copy of the Marianas Weekly tells the Japanese troops about victories of the Australians, good treatment of Japanese prisoners and civilians, and how Saipan is becoming a stable place with law and order and food once again. There are several pictures, but the one of importance to this article is the American soldier treating an Okinawan boy to a can of milk.
The Hawaii Weekly News No. 2505
The Americans believed that the Japanese did not believe their own newspapers, so the OWI printed this one to tell them the truth about the war. This issue of the newspaper tells of the American pounding of the Okinawan shoreline and actually depicts a map of the island at the bottom right. Issue 2507 tells the Japanese that the Americans have occupied Taugen Island in the Ryukyus chain and brags that the United States is now delivering air mail to the troops fighting on Okinawa.
Korean Language Newspaper Chosen Weekly News No. 4517
There were many Koreans among the Japanese military and civilian workforce on Okinawa. Newspapers were dropped to them describing the Allied advances. The Japanese had discouraged the use of the Korean language so this newspaper showed Americas backing of Koreas desire for independence. Each newspaper was a single sheet and usually contained several photographs or cartoons.
OWI Newspaper 4515 Mentions that the Americans have captured Naha air field and depicts American tanks entering the air base. Newspaper 4517 Mentions American General Bruckner killed on Okinawa, Japanese Admiral Minoru Ota found dead in a cave, and American Admiral Nimitzs declaration that Okinawa has been taken. 4518 says that Okinawa is about to become a great American war base and reports that thousands of Japanese have surrendered.
Sometimes the leaflets and newspapers could be a problem. Naval pilot Garland E. Buddy Bell flew a scout plane off the cruiser USS Tuscaloosa said:
My most vivid memory occurred during a spotting mission over Okinawa when I flew into thousands of falling propaganda leaflets dropped by one of our planes. The airplane appeared to be running into a snow storm. Hundreds of the leaflets caught on the wings and the cockpit canopy. Cracking the canopy, I was able to grab one before they all blew off. The leaflet was the Ryukyu Shuho or Okinawa Weekly.
Leaflet 5000 Weekly Magazine
I have leaflet 5000 in two different sizes, 9.75 x 7.25-inches and 10.25 x 8-inches. It is entitled: Weekly Magazine. It has five photographs on the front and six on the back. All of the photos are in regard to Okinawa.
At the upper left on the front we see American troops with flamethrowers and explosives. The text is:
A 6th Division Marine flamethrower team on Okinawa blasts stubborn Japanese defenders.
At the upper right we see an American translator explaining how Okinawan survivors will be fed:
The activities of an American translator are seen explaining the distribution of food and supplies to local inhabitants.
At the lower left we see American troops watching an explosion and the text:
An American demolition team uses dynamite to destroy a Japanese bunker.
At the lower right, the women of Okinawa welcome American soldiers with green tea:
American GIs have removed their shoes to accept a friendly cup of green tea from Okinawan ladies.
The pictures seem to compare scenes of war and peace. In the center is a big fat mess sergeant reminiscent of the mess sergeant in Beetle Bailey holding a ladle filled no doubt with something tasty that he just cooked. Curiously, the ladle leaves a shadow on his chest that looks like the Japanese Hinomaru (what we called the rising sun meatball, the symbol of Japan). The text talks about the idea of war reverting to peace, very Japanese and exotic:
If the hand that holds the ladle once held a rifle, the Hinomaru on his chest will disappear someday.
Clearly the OWI is telling the Japanese that Americans are friendly and can be trusted and with peace it is safe to go to them where they will be fed and treated well.
Because I knew so little about these last two items I did a thorough search of all my OWI files. I did not find the leaflets mentioned in any text, but I did find a chart entitled:
NUMBER AND QUANTITY OF EACH LEAFLET AND NEWSPAPER PRODUCED BY OWI ON SAIPAN 20 MAY TO 20 AUGUST 1945.
The line-graph is not what I would call really accurate, but it seems to indicate that 150,000 copies of Leaflet 5000 were printed in a category called Newspapers.
Leaflet 5001 Weekly Pictorial
This large 10 x 8-inch leaflet is called a newspaper by the OWI on Saipan and their records show that 250,000 were printed after the photos were taken in June 1945. There are five photographs on each side, some showing destruction, others showing the friendly interaction between Japanese and American troops. The leaflet depicts the Japanese city of Kobe in flames, Japanese surrendering to the Americans after hiding on Guam for a year, a B-29 bomber taking off, and at the bottom left what the leaflet calls:
A heartwarming scene of a young boy on Okinawa examining the binoculars of a US Coast Guardsman. The two have become friends.
U.S. Army Psychological Warfare Branch Leaflets
Okinawa was in Nimitzs Navy area, not MacArthurs Southwest Pacific area. Even so, some of the Army leaflets used in the Philippine Islands depict scenes from Okinawa. The 1st U. S. Army leaflet above depicts and American soldier with an Okinawan child. The text is:
A little Okinawan girl has made friends with a soldier.
Saying Give me candy and Lets play, she has flustered her big American friend.
Isnt this a pleasant scene?
Another leaflet depicts three photographs of Americans with Okinawan civilians and the text:
On Okinawa, once a grim battlefield, the storm has passed and peace is returning
Under the friendly protection of Americans, reconstruction is going on. The present conditions in Okinawa clearly refutes the propaganda of the militarists.
The statement of U.S. President Truman that unconditional surrender does not mean enslavement or extermination is fully borne out by the situation on Okinawa.
The Japanese never seem to have taken the American leaflets seriously. At the end of the battle American interrogators questioned the Japanese about the effectiveness of the leaflets. The Japanese stated:
Three kinds of leaflets were received by Okinawans prior to the invasion. They were:
Those dropped to military personnel asking for surrender; those telling the civilians to take to the hills until further word from the American commander; and those telling of the good treatment accorded Japanese civilians on Saipan.
Nobody believed the American leaflets when they were first dropped. After the Americans landed, however, the Okinawans realized that what the leaflets said as to treatment was true.
The Bruckner leaflets for Civilians and Japanese Troops
We mention the leaflets requested by General Bruckner at the start of this article, but we had never actually seen any of them. But, in 2017, a collection of Okinawa leaflets was found in the estate of a soldier named Charles R. Miller, assigned to G-4 (Supply), Transportation Section of the 10th Army. He landed on Okinawa 12 April 1945, and stayed until after the end of the war. We know the code numbers of the leaflets (X) and their themes. They are not standard OWI codes which are just numeric, so I believe the items mentioned below are those Bruckner leaflets.
When I first saw that X code I went to the Psywar Societys publication: The Guide to Series Codes used on Air Dropped Propaganda Leaflets during WWII. That book was no help. The entry was: X - ??? - To Japanese troops from the U.S. They did not have a clue.
Then I went to my own notes from 40 years ago. I had a folder entitled: Leaflet Lists where I had mentioned all of the various leaflet codes that I was aware of. Sure enough, I found the X leaflets with the heading: United States Southwest Pacific Area Psychological Warfare Branch to Okinawa. So, the Navy OWI leaflets were used because there were Marines, and it looks like Bruckners 10th Army used Army PWB leaflets. That makes sense. MacArthurs Army troops get Army leaflets. Now, I must mention a disclaimer. Although my records show that these were Army leaflets the Navy and OWI also claim responsibility saying that 50,000 to 100,000 of each were printed at Pearl Harbor. Whom do you believe?
X-1 To Okinawan Evacuees. Five cartoon panels.
25 April 1945. The front depicts an Okinawan civilian seeing American aircraft, jeeps, oil drums and a dead body. The back is all text:
Those of you who are resigned to entering the American area of occupation may do so during the day with safety. Do not enter the American areas and loiter around at night because we fear you will be mistaken for a Japanese soldier. Furthermore, be sure never to wear arms, uniforms, leggings or other items of Japanese equipment, for you may be mistaken as a Japanese soldier .
The U.S. military was afraid that the Okinawans did not realize the risk of Japanese infiltration into the American lines and the danger they would be in if they were mistaken for Japanese troops.
X-2 With only old men and women women carrying wood, etc.
1 May 1945. The front of this leaflet depicts women trying to rebuild Okinawa. The back is all text and says in part:
With only old men and women we cannot hope to rebuild Okinawa.
Men of Okinawa, as you all know, most of Okinawa is now under the control of the American Army. Your parents, sisters and children who are under the protection of the kind Americans await your return with anxiety the duty of the young men of Okinawa is to return and work for their families and for Okinawa! Return to your families who are eagerly awaiting you.
X-3 This is the truth. Japanese receive the same medical treatment as Americans.
Do not be afraid. If you try no tricks we will give you kind dignified treatment
The leaflet shows an injured Japanese soldier being treated by an American medic as proof of good treatment. It tells the Japanese how to Come over to our side.
X-4 The American Army is a friend to all. Japanese family.
X-5 The American Army is a friend to all. Japanese family.
X-6 Come to Taira and Nakajin for food. An American soldier distributes food.
Do not leave your children behind. Take them along and travel as a complete family unit. Bring as much food and clothing as you can. Come quickly to Taira and Nakajin!
This leaflet was prepared in cooperation with the Third Amphibious Corps for people in the northern sector of the island. It was addressed to the residents of the Motobu Peninsula.
X-7 To all internees. All text.
It is illegal for a civilian to conceal his knowledge of the identity of masquerading soldiers. The civilian who fails to report such knowledge to the authorities is violating his duty to the law and to his family and his community
This leaflet was prepared in conjunction with the U.S. Military Government and with the Counter-Intelligence Corps. Several Japanese soldiers had discarded their uniforms and entered the civilian internment camps disguised as Okinawans.
X-8 On 7 April, a patrol
You can be assured that unconscious Japanese soldiers who fall into our hands will be treated as the brave warriors that they are
This leaflet tells the Japanese soldiers not to listen to the lies of the militarists. It tells of a Japanese soldier who was unconscious and found by the American patrol. Since he was unconscious, his capture cannot be considered as surrendering so he lost no honor. It gives them a face-saving way of surrender. Just pretend to be unconscious.
X-9 Mercy knows no enemy. American soldiers treat injured Japanese soldier.
I feel it is my duty to mention the unexpectedly kind treatment, which actually astounded me. When I noted the medical treatment accorded to our wounded I felt that from none but America, renowned for its wealth, would such facilities be possible
This is the testimony of a Japanese soldier as to the good treatment he received at the hands of the Americans. There were two errors in this leaflet. A black border represented death to the Japanese. The soldier was on a stretcher and in the Japanese Army this was reserved for officers. This leaflet had not been seen by Japanese prisoners beforehand, and the lack of a consultation showed.
The back of the leaflet was a five-panel cartoon story where a Japanese soldier discards his uniform and strips down to his shorts. With his hands raised he approaches an American soldier. In the last two panels he is shown peacefully eating a bowl of rice and sitting on a cot smoking a cigarette.
X-10 Proclamation to the Civilians of Okinawa. All Text.
This is a U.S. Army Proclamation for Civilians. It is all text and printed on one side only. Some of the text is:
Never resist American troops anywhere. Remember, they intend no harm to you. Wear light colored clothing so that you can be easily identified. Do not go through the American lines until ordered to do so by the Commander of the American forces. Never approach the American lines at night. Those civilians that value their lives will follow these instructions
X-11 My dear native home. Mount Fuji.
The leaflet is blue and depicts Mt. Fuji on the front. The image is the same as OWI leaflet 101, but it is reversed. That is, the two trees that are on the left in the 101 leaflet are at the right in the X leaflet. The back is all text and says in part:
My dear native home. There lies my peaceful home; green fields and flowing streams. And there awaits my wife, children and aged parents. My dear native home. The lofty snow-capped Fuji stands as if beckoning.
Here on the Island of Okinawa, completely isolated from your homeland, you fight a futile war which the militarists of Japan started. Here you fight to die. There they live enjoying the glories and beauties of the four seasons. Their children and wives enjoy their love and care.
X-12 People of Okinawa. Civilians walk on the roads.
Come out of your cave and other hiding places at once; all of you. Come in groups, bringing only those possessions which you can readily carry. Follow the roads and head for the nearest point on the Seacoast Highway
X-13 Dont lean your ladder against a cloud. All text.
The suicide units are helpless against the great mass of American planes and guns. There is no hope for a Japanese victory over the great power, strength, determination, and weapons of the American forces
This letter was an attempt to talk the Japanese out of committing suicide. It mentions several other battles where the Japanese used Banzai charges against the American troops and were killed in great numbers.
X-14 It is common talk among the Japanese All text
X-15 To Japanese officers. All text.
America is now at war because she was attacked without warning at Pearl Harbor. Then, as now, America desired peace and an opportunity to achieve economic progress and prosperity by trading freely with the rest of the world
X-16 To all Japanese soldiers. All text.
Dispose of all arms and ammunition. Raise both hands high above your head. Come out waving either a white cloth of this sheet of paper. Select open spaces. Do this without hesitation, alone or in no more than groups of three...
The Marines take Shuri Castle, Okinawa, 1945.
Shuri Castle served as the Japanese Army headquarters on Okinawa.
They carefully check the dead bodies to be sure no armed Japanese soldier is playing possum.
The Newspaper Ryukyu Shuho (The Ryukyu Weekly News)
The newspaper is mentioned in The U.S. Army Campaigns of WWII RYUKYUS:
The fighting had been devastating, but it might have been worse had it not been for the work of the Tenth Army's psychological warfare units before and during the invasion. Between 25 March and 17 April carrier planes from the supporting Fifth Fleet dropped some five million leaflets on the islands, as well as copies of the psychological warfare office's newspaper, the Ryukyu Shuho, which attracted considerable attention among enemy soldiers and civilians alike. Other propaganda tools-such as tank-mounted amplifiers, aircraft with loudspeakers, and remotely controlled radios parachuted behind enemy lines-contributed to the psychological operations effort by underlining the harsh conditions the defenders were enduring, disparaging Japanese chances for success, and promising humane treatment for those who offered no resistance to the approaching Americans. Regardless of the machinery used the objective was the same: to depress Japanese morale so that enemy soldiers would surrender rather than resist, and thereby prolong the fighting.
The document Combat Propaganda against the Japanese in the Central Pacific adds:
The Japanese were omnivorous readers and ready recipients of any printed material It was agreed beforehand that the basic editorial policy would be to present all news items factually, truthfully, and without slant The Japanese POWs who had seen and read the newssheet did not classify it as senden (propaganda) as they did the leaflets. Six issues of the Ryukyo Shuho were prepared, one of which was a gogai (extra).
My records show that this Japanese-language newspaper was also prepared by MacArthurs Psychological Warfare Branch in the SWPA. I have the dates for the six editions. The X in the code is apparently Okinawa, and the N is Newspaper. The six issues were dated: 29 April 1945; 6 May 1945; 9 May 1945; 13 May 1945; 20 May 1945 and 28 May 1945.
Photo of General Bruckner and the current situation on Okinawa
XN-1. 29 April 1945. The newspaper shows General Bruckner, the current situation on Okinawa, and has an anti-Hitler cartoon and news of the battle. Some of the stories are:
American forces continue to advance on Okinawa, now hold three-quarters of the island. The battle ship Yamato, the largest in the world has been sunk off of Okinawa. B-29s bomb Tokyo. Food and clothing is being distributed to Okinawan civilians by the Americans .
XN-2. 6 May 1945. This issue was interesting because a Japanese Army Lieutenant had surrendered and agreed to work 100% with the Americans, but asked to be able to stay with an Okinawan nurse he loved. The Army agreed, but said they must be married. He was given a new Japanese uniform and polished boots and the bride was dressed in a traditional kimono. They were married in a Shinto ceremony. The entire wedding was covered in the newspaper to show the Japanese that the Americans were friendly to the Japanese and willing to work with them.
XN-3. 9 May 1945. A special reduced extra all-text edition to announce the surrender of Germany. Fifty 105 mm leaflet shells, each bearing about 400 newssheets were fired by the artillery of II Corps. Another 50,000 were dropped by torpedo bombers.
Germany has surrendered to the Forces of the United States, Great Britain, Russia and France. This historic news was flashed to the world after the German Chief of Staff, General Jodl, signed the unconditional surrender articles at General Eisenhowers command post in France. The articles were signed on 7 May at 0230 French time.
I add an OWI leaflet here because the Combat Propaganda report says that a leaflet to Japanese soldiers that had been prepared months earlier on Oahu, anticipating Germanys fall, was dropped at this time. 80,000 copies had been brought to Okinawa for use during the battle for the island
Leaflet 2094 conveys to the Japanese what Unconditional Surrender would mean to them. The leaders of Japan had used the term to motivate the people to fight on, telling them that they would be disgraced and the Emperor would be humiliated should Japan lose the war. It became a powerful psychological weapon for the militarists. The text on the OWI leaflet was from a speech by President Harry S. Truman. To remind the Japanese people that they were partners with a losing ally who could no longer tie up vast number of American troops in Europe, the leaflet depicted the German surrender. The text to the right of the German surrender is:
Germany surrendered unconditionally to the Allied Forces on 7 May 1945. General Gustav Jodl, Wehrmacht Chief of Staff signed for the Germans.
Smiling German civilians wave white flags of surrender at soldiers of the 94th Infantry Division of the U. S. 3rd Army.
The other side of the leaflet depicts President Truman and various Japanese aircraft and vehicles. The text is:
Unconditional Surrender means simply the laying down of arms.
Harry S. Truman, President of the United States said in a message to the Japanese people, "Unconditional surrender is a purely military term meaning only the yielding of arms. It does not entail enslavement. It does not entail the extermination of the Japanese people. These thoughts have been injected only by your former Premier, General Koiso, as an ignoble device to compel your people to continue a hopeless war."
XN-4. 13 May 1945. This issue bears a portrait of General Douglas MacArthur, has a cartoon of two Japanese sad-sack soldiers, and news:
The Okinawa battle is unchanged but the Americans continue their slow advance. Now that the Germans have surrendered, all airpower in Europe will be transferred to the Pacific. The Allies are shooting down Japanese planes faster than Japan can build them. Iwo Jima based aircraft are now attacking the Japanese homeland and, there has been a shake-up in the Japanese Cabinet and Sukuki is now in control.
XN-5. 20 May 1945. This issue has a photograph of Winston Churchill and more war news:
The U.S. 20th Air Force says that 500 B-29's, the greatest formation ever since the beginning of WWII, air raided the Nagoya City, the third largest city in Japan. They destroyed three square miles of the city. The air-raids were of the greatest since the beginning of WWII. Oil tanks and refineries at Tokuyana and Otake have been destroyed and the smoke is rising 15,000 feet high in the air. The B-29's also attacked air fields in Shikoku and Kyushu, including the largest oil tanks at an island near Kyushu. U.S. Troops are Planning a Move from Europe to the Pacific Theater.
The author in a C-47 off on a mission
This story means a lot to me because my first overseas tour when I was a member of the Air Force was on Okinawa back in the early 1950s. The people were kind and generous, but the country had not been rebuilt and many of the roads were still dirt. I used to dive for lobster off Naha Air Base and the ocean floor was stained red from the rust of hundreds of thousands of naval artillery shells fired at the island. There were many areas marked off limits and barbed-wired because they were caves that still held Japanese bodies and were possibly mined. Many of the troops searched these caves for souvenirs and a skull was a favorite find, brought back to the barracks and placed on a table with a ball cap and pipe. It was a Hell of a place for a teenager.
This is a very short look at the kind of psychological Warfare the United States used on Okinawa. I have tried to keep the story down to the bare bones. Readers who have comments are encouraged to write to the author at Sgmbert@hotmail.com.