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The Propaganda Rocket

SGM Herbert A. Friedman (Ret.)

This is the third in what I believe will be four short articles on the more exotic forms of propaganda leaflet dissemination. They are the Propaganda Float, the Propaganda Balloon, the Propaganda Rocket and the Propaganda Artillery Shell.

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The Congreve Rocket

The Chinese invented the rocket around 1100 AD. These rockets used solid propellants and were mainly used as a form of entertainment as fireworks. It was quickly discovered that it made an excellent and terrifying weapon. Much later, it was found to be a way to deliver messages to the enemy, quickly flying over the battle lines and releasing its leaflets at a set time. North Americans probably first saw the rocket as a weapon when the British fired the Cosgreve rocket at Ft. McHenry during the War of 1812; see The National Anthem: “And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air…”

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The Katyusha Rocket

During World War Two, Americans watching newsreels in darkened theaters saw the Russian Katyusha rockets screaming as they shrieked through the air against the German forces. They were a nightmare of flaming light and blaring noise.

The war rocket is a big heavy clumsy thing and not too accurate. The propaganda rocket is a much smaller item and might be made of paper or cardboard and only has to fly a short distance and deliver its propaganda cargo. In this article we will mention some of the places these rockets were used.

The Spanish Civil War

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General Franco

During the Spanish Civil War both sides used small rockets to distribute propaganda leaflets over the enemy. The leaflets were in a compartment at the front of the rocket, an explosive charge close behind, followed by the gunpowder fuel. The newspaper Milicia Popular (Popular Militia) stated in September 1936:

For distances up to 800 meters the leaflets can be sent by means of rockets which on exploding release the leaflets in the air like a shower.

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GERONA BARCELONA
Long live Spanish Catalonia! Franco! Long live Spain!
LERIDA TARRAGONA

A Franco Fascist leaflet dropped after the fall of Gerona.

In an article in The Aero Field (No. 6, 1957), Dr. Max Kronstein writes:

The introducing of the rocket as a propaganda tool in the Spanish campaign was reported in British newspapers during the war. The Daily Telegraph of London reported on 12 February, 1938 that both sides used a rocket with a range of a mile and a half, which scattered 1,000 pamphlets at a time.

The Swiss Illustrated Journal of 20 April 1938 reported that the leaflets were printed in a ruined house near the actual front with hurriedly instructed soldiers acting as printers. The same magazine showed a photo of one of the rockets which carried 400 of these front-printed leaflets across no-man's land and exploded above the trenches scattering the leaflets over the surrounding area...the Swiss journal reported there were as many as 20 to 50 propaganda rockets crossed the line on certain days.

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Republican Cigarette Paper used as a leaflet

Spain for the Spaniards. Your mother and my mother cry to see that brothers and sisters take part in an unjust war for the benefit of strangers

Of course, the Republican left-wing forces struck back. One document says in part:

The 5th Regiment ...Will send propaganda to enemy soldiers instructing them to desert from the Fascists...Up to now the system of small packages makes the Fascist Army Chiefs vigilance easy and impedes the soldiers’ collecting our leaflets. The solution lies in distributing our propaganda material in such a way that will make it easier for soldiers of the enemy to collect it.

The system is to launch it by means of rockets, which on bursting disperse the leaflets, provoking a real show of these and putting them in reach of soldiers who can then read them without their leaders being able to avoid it, and then follow the instructions given in the leaflets.

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A Spanish Civil War Leaflet Rocket

The daily paper Milicia Popular said in September 1936:

To launch proclamations over enemy lines these leaflets should be printed on very fine paper of different colors to catch the attention of the soldiers of the enemy lines and spread well.

German WWII Leaflet Rockets

The Germans had a number of rockets that were designed to carry leaflets over enemy lines. Toward the end of the war they also used the V-1 rockets to carry leaflets on several occasions.

German General Walter Dornberger stated that his department of the Board of Ordnance, Rocket Development (WaPruef II) designed and developed small solid-fuel rockets that could carry propaganda leaflets about 6-7 miles. The rockets had a container tightly packed with propaganda leaflets that were fired against front-line Allied troops in Italy.

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General Walter Dornberger, head of the V2 program (center)
with Dr. Todt (right), Hitler's armament minister, at Peenemünde in 1941.

The United States War Department Handbook on German Military Forces of March 1945 says that the 73mmPropaganda rocket launcher (Propagandawerfer) consists of a simple cage hinged to a framework base of tubular steel and supported at the front by an adjustable arm. The weapon is intended for close range delivery of paper propaganda. The rocket weighs 7.1 pounds and instead of a bursting charge or chemical filling contains 8 ounces of propaganda leaflets.

Dr. Max Kronstein, writing in The Falling Leaf of June 1962 (The Journal of the Psywar Society), adds, “These small rockets were called Flugblattgeschoose.”

In the Diary of a German Soldier, Wilhelm Pruller says:

We got a new gun today with a barrel made of cardboard. And it shoots too, as far as two kilometers. The bullets are propaganda bombs which comprise more than 100 leaflets.

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German propaganda rockets being fired at the Allies

A 1941 report on the German Propaganda Werfer 41 (Propaganda launcher 41) says:

The propaganda shell 41 is fired from the propaganda launcher 41. It is propelled by a rocket motor and travels at a speed of 250 meters per second. The propaganda shell contains 200 leaflets. The range of this shell is 3,400 meters. The exploding point is 100-150 meters above the ground.

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German WWII Propaganda Rocket

The rocket above is the German WWII P.Rg.41 propaganda rocket. It had a plastic nose cap and the leaflets were placed inside the top portion with a spring that would throw the leaflets in opposite directions once the ejector charge separated the top from the bottom (propellant) part of the rocket.

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The Pr Gs 41 Internal and External

Klaus Kirchner – Flugblatt-propaganda im 2. Weltkrieg

Internal numbers: 1 - Bakelite or wooden nose cap; 2 - Spring to spread leaflets after ejection; 3 – leaflet roll; 4 – Rocket propellant; 5 – Percussion cap.

The German author Klaus Kirchner says that the rocket had an advantage over propaganda artillery shells because it could be loaded with the latest news right at the front. It was also light and mobile enough to be fired from just about everywhere regardless of the terrain and did not require the use of an Army artillery unit. The disadvantage was that it left a trail of smoke that pointed to where the rocket was fired from. That meant that the people firing the rockets had approximately two minutes to pack up and leave the site before the Allies counter-battery fire would be encountered. The German used this propaganda rocket from 1941 until the end of the war. Kirchner continues:

After World War II it was occasionally possible to find the “Pr Gs 41” leaflet rockets which had misfired and buried themselves in the ground. The rockets consist of the following parts: Rocket body; Bakelite nose cap; Tube with split case to accommodate leaflet roll and keep it from crinkling; Baffle plate to push the leaflet roll out of the rocket tube and Spreading spring to open the roll of leaflets after ejection.

The rocket body is about 16 inches in length, with a maximum external diameter of 2.9 inches and a weight of less than 7 lbs. The interesting parts are the base venting venturis, half of which are inclined to rotate and stabilized the rocket in flight.

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The German Pr Gs 41 rocket launcher

The rocket is launched when the rocket is dropped down the tube of the mobile launcher and the percussion cap strikes the firing pin. Four rockets were packed in a metal air-tight box with Pr Gs 41 painted on the lid.

Max Kronstein says in an article entitled “Small rocket leaflets at the Italian Front of WWII. He said in part:

In 1943, the Germans reorganized their Psychologische Kampffuhrungs Einheiten or “PK” units. The headquarters of this campaign on the Italian front was Castel Bevilaqua where groups of Italian girls loaded the leaflets in the rockets. The rockets were shot from small portable stands. They could carry leaflets over 3000 yards. About 58 different small English-language leaflets were printed for use against the Americans.

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Indeed, and amusing war – for the Americans.

Both the German Army Propaganda units and later the SS units printed this same “divide and conquer” leaflet that depicts an American soldier with a British girl and the text:

Indeed, and amusing war – for the Americans.

Each of the German leaflets is printed in two sizes. They are 15 x 21cm. and 9 x 15cm. The larger size was disseminated by aircraft or artillery and the smaller size was for the German propaganda rocket Propaganda Geschoss 41. The theme implies that while the British are at the front, the Americans are back in Great Britain with their wives and girlfriends.

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Another German Propaganda Geschoss 41 leaflet Rocket

This rocket was dug up after WWII and was offered for sale along with four propaganda leaflets used against the allied Americans during Christmas 1944 when they were fighting “the Battle of the Bulge” near Bastogne, Belgium.

The German leaflet depicted above makes use of Christmas symbols. The front of the leaflet depicts a small blond-haired girl holding a sprig of mistletoe with a candle to her right. Behind her is the visage of her father, apparently killed in action with a bullet hole in his helmet, although his eyes are partially open. The text is:

Daddy, I’m so afraid!

On the back of the leaflet there are a number of Christmas symbols surrounding the text. Among them are angels, the Star of Bethlehem, Christmas candles and pine sprigs, etc. The text is terribly written and full of grammatical errors. It is:

HARK…the HERALD ANGELS sing!

Well soldier, here you are in “no-Mans land,” just before Christmas far away from home and your loved ones. Your sweetheart or wife, your little girl, or perhaps even your little boy, don’t you feel them worrying about you, praying for you? Yes old boy, praying and hoping you’ll come home again, soon. Will you come back, are you sure to see those loved ones again?

This is Christmas time, Yule-time . . . The Yule-log, the Mistletoe, the Christmas tree, whatever it is, it’s home and all that you think fine to celebrate the day of our Savior.

Man, have you thought about it. What if you don’t come back . . . what of those dear ones?

Well soldier, “PEACE ON EARTH GOOD WILL TOWARDS MEN” . . . for where there’s a will there’s a way . . . only 300 yards ahead and

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

An American wartime report on the rocket says:

The projectile consists of two steel tubes screwed into a central joint. The lower tube contains the rocket motor and the upper serves as a container for the leaflets. The projectile is spin-stabilized and is fired from a propagandawerfer.

The British “Projectile Development Establishment” prepared a November 1943 report on the rocket entitled “Foreign Ammunition – German 7.3 cm Propaganda Rocket.” It consisted of a complete breakdown of the size and weight of every rocket component. Some of the statistics are:

The weight of the complete round is 7 pounds 2 ounces; the overall length of round 16.1 inches.

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What about Calling up Sam Levy

This German leaflet has an antisemetic theme and shows a beautiful woman and has a double-entendre title. She is reaching for a phone to call a Jewish draft dodger for a date while her man is at the front; but “calling up” was also a term for the draft and we are led to believe she is wondering why no Jews have been called for military service. The leaflets were fired by rocket at American forces in January 1945 during the battle of the bulge and later used in numerous other locations. You can see the scorch marks and crinkling from where the rocket exploded and blew the leaflet into the air. I could place a pristine mint leaflet here, but I think it is better to show the result of the rocket dispersal. This leaflet has no code but we know from other records that its internal code was 980 245/88. The vast majority of these leaflets have no overprint, but a few have been stamped on the front: “To the poor Devils of the 29th!” The 29th Infantry Division was assigned to XIII Corps from 8 December 1944 to 23 February 1945.

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German V1 Rocket

In June 1944, Germany distributed leaflets over the Allies in Great Britain, Belgium, and Holland using their vaunted “Vengeance weapon,” the V1 rocket. It actually had a pulse-jet engine but it was close to a rocket and led directly to today’s Tomahawk cruise missile. The leaflets were placed in a small canister, which ejected automatically from a hole near the wing as soon as the engine turned off. The V1 was equipped with a revolution counter, which shut down the engine after a pre-arranged number of turns. The bomb then went into a steep vertical dive and impact was almost instantaneous.

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V.1 P.O.W. POST

This is one of the more iconic leaflets actually carried to England in a V1 rocket. There are at least three variations of this leaflet and each has a number of genuine letters from British prisoners of war to their families at home. The British were using every means of deception to make the German rockets miss London, having their “turned” German agents radioing Berlin that the rockets needed to travel a bit longer and a bit further to the north, etc. When these letters were found, the British suspected that the Germans were hoping the finders would notify the newspaper and that they would thus know exactly where the rocket landed. Of course, there is no proof of this. However, the British confiscated all the leaflets immediately just to be safe. But, someone will always beat the police to the scene of an accident so many of these leaflets were taken by on-lookers as souvenirs and thus they were saved for posterity.

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AI-081-7-44

A number of the German leaflets simply showed the phrase "V1" on the front. Apparently the Germans believed that the very sight of such a phrase was enough to terrify the Allies. One such leaflet is coded AI-081-7-44. The "V1" is in red. The title on the back of the leaflet is "FACTS CONCERNING V NUMBER 1." There is a long 5-paragraph propaganda text below the title. The first two paragraphs are:

1. No AA barrage and no fighter planes can prevent the gigantic "Doodle Bugs," as the Londoners call them, from coming over. The "Doodle Bugs" travel at a tremendous speed making them invulnerable to attacks.

2. "V Number 1" does not depend on weather, time season, or visibility. It is an "all weather" and "round the clock" weapon of deadly nerve-wrecking regularity. It is robbing Britishers of their sleep, keeping them down in the shelters and away from their work benches and desks.

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The Other Side # 1

The Other Side is the title of a pamphlet scattered over southeast England by the V1. The pamphlet was four pages long and only six issues are known to exist. Number one depicts a V1 on the front and the heading V1 - Those ‘last few shots.’ It also depicts a British Lancaster bomber with the caption:

This is a Lancaster bomber, one of the machines used by the R.A.F. in terror raids on Germany. Thousands have been shot down.

The V1 did not live up to its potential. Once Prime Minister Churchill moved his anti-aircraft guns to the coast, a great number were shot down. The Royal Air Force also discovered that by stripping down their Spitfire and Hawker Tempest fighters they could catch the V1. At night, British Mosquitoes joined the fight. There was no need for radar because the flames from the V1 engine could be seen from 10 miles away. The pilots would sometimes fire on the flying bombs; other times use their wing to tip it over, causing the V1 to crash into unpopulated woods and meadows. Between June and mid-August 1944, the handful of Tempests shot down 638 flying bombs. By August 1944, the threat of the V1 was mostly eliminated by the sudden arrival of two electronic aids for anti-aircraft guns, both developed in the USA. The use of radar to aim the anti-aircraft guns, and the proximity fuse. Of the 30,000 V1s manufactured, about 10,000 were fired at England. Of these, about 7000 were "hits" in that they landed somewhere in England. About half, 3876, landed in the Greater London area. An almost equal number were shot down or crashed into tethered barrage balloons.

The United States has experimented with leaflet rockets. In 1950 The Chief of the Ordnance Corps directed Redstone Arsenal scientists to determine the feasibility of a white phosphorus smoke rocket. The study resulted in a plan for two rockets, but Ordnance suspended the program in early 1952 because the Army Field Forces had no immediate need for such weapons. In March 1952, however, Ordnance instructed Redstone to adapt the rocket for propaganda leaflet dissemination. The arsenal delivered T229 rockets to the Psychological Warfare Center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in June 1954.

The Cold War – East Germany to West Germany

The use of rockets to disseminate political propaganda leaflets in Germany and even Berlin itself during the Cold War is well documented. Some examples from 1954:

On 23 February 1954 Communist agitators fired leaflet rockets over the West Berlin Fair Grounds. The leaflets contained anti-Adenauer messages.

On 22 December 1954 rockets were fired from the Tiergarten towards Friedrich Street. Leaflets were found in front of the Soviet Embassy.

In May 1956, East German rockets were fired over the Central Stadium in Berlin that was supposed to release Free German Youth banners. They failed to release the banners.

A March, 1964 report states that 85 different leaflets were fired over lower Saxony from the DDR attacking the militaristic German Federal Government and their armed forces.

A May, 1971 report said that tourists walking in the Harz mountain were mistakenly asked by loudspeaker to defect to the East and were suddenly blanketed by leaflets fired from the DDR. The leaflets had a map of the Harz Mountain area and a back page of text. They were carried by three types of leaflets: one a typical looking “sky rocket” that carried about 150 leaflets; another was a round ball raised by a rocket with a timer that exploded the ball and released the leaflets; the third is pipe-shaped with a timer to release the leaflets. German authorities said that the three types of rockets had been used since 1968.

There are literally hundreds of such cases where rockets were fired from both sides of the Iron Curtain.

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Thank you Stalin...

During the Cold War the two Germanys sent propaganda to each other through rockets, balloons, the mail and even by tossing leaflets off high buildings into the wind. You can seldom tell if a propaganda leaflet was actually sent by rocket, but in this case we know that the above leaflet was sent to the West by rocket in May 1955 because the Communist East Germans have been kind enough to print a small rocket at the lower right. The text is:

The German Democratic Republic thanks Stalin for his confidence!

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5 Good Points for Security and Peace in Europe

Another leaflet rocketed into West Germany by the German Democratic Republic says on the front:

5 Good Points for Security and Peace in Europe

The back is all text:

Security and peace in Europe– the DDR has a clear plan for it.

1. The DDR is effectively calling for a convening of a European security conference as soon as possible without preconditions.

2. The DDR is ready to become a member of the UN and its specialized agencies.

3. The DDR has expressed their willingness to establish normal diplomatic relations with all states.

4. The DDR is in favor of the establishment of diplomatic relations in accordance with the rules of international law and the Federal Republic of Germany).

5. The DDR is prepared to contribute to the normalization of relations with respect to West Berlin, and thus contribute to the relaxation of the center of Europe.

This is how the DDR thinks ahead for Europe's future, its tomorrow! And where is the good will and constructive attitude of the Federal Republic of Germany?

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Stop the American Beetles!

The Russians blockaded Berlin from 1948 to 1949. American and British aircraft flew in food and other supplies and eventually defeated the blockade. During that time East Germany was hit with a potato beetle infestation and decided that it was an American plot. This leaflet claims that the airlift is just a pretext for ruining East German farming by dropping “imperialist weapons,” the potato-devouring Colorado beetles.

The Cold War - West Germany to East Germany

General Walter Bedell "Beetle" Smith was Eisenhower's chief of staff at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) during WWII. After World War II, he served as the U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union, then in 1950, the head of the Central Intelligence Agency. He mentioned in his log of 27 December 1951:

A propaganda supply team in Germany has prepared over half a million items of propaganda to celebrate Stalin’s 72nd birthday. Among them are 50, 000 posters with a picture of aged Stalin saying, “The Stalins come and go,” a play on the remark Stalin once made, “The Hitlers come and go.” Another 400,000 small stickers showing an almost empty hour glass and either a death head of Stalin’s profile are also being put up in the Soviet Zone of Germany. And finally, 100, 000 leaflets will be sent into East Germany by rocket, wishing a “Merry Christmas to all and an unhappy birthday to Stalin.”

This has been a very short look at the use of rockets to disperse propaganda leaflets. There have not been many nations that thought the use of rockets was worth the trouble since aircraft can drop so many more leaflets and cover such a larger area. Some propaganda drops from the air can number 10 to 12 million leaflets on a single mission. The author encourages readers with questions or comments to write to him at sgmbert@hotmail.com.