SGM Herbert A. Friedman (Ret.)
During WWII, there were a number of leaflets printed and dropped that simply depicted a bomb. It was meant to terrify the finder and show him that the leaflet could have easily been a bomb that would have destroyed him, his family, his home and perhaps even his city. At the same time, the warring nations would sometimes drop the image of a bomb over friendly civilian territories to catch the attention of the finders and motivate them to send money to buy war stamps or bonds or subsidize patriotic organizations. These leaflets must have caused great apprehension because the message was true. The leaflet could have been a bomb and the finder could be dead.
World War II to the Enemy
OWI Leaflet 2013
America threatened Japan with leaflet depictions of bombs on more than one occasion. Office of War Information leaflet 2013 is very impressive from a visual standpoint. It shows a highly detailed and polished vertical black bomb on a red background. There is no text on the front. Curiously, the same exact image is found on leaflet 2014. I will translate both leaflets.
The back of 2013 depicts a vertical silhouette of the bomb with black text on a white background. The purpose of the leaflet is to encourage Japanese civilians to cease resistance. The text is:
These bombings will continue until your militarist leaders give up. You know we have the strength to continue until your beautiful land is laid to ruins. The militarists are continuing the war because they are afraid of punishment. You are the ones who suffer. The whole nation suffers to satisfy a few selfish men. Force your leaders to bring an end to a hopeless war. That is the best prevention against bombing.
Like leaflet 2013, on leaflet 2014 the back depicts a vertical silhouette of the bomb with black text on a white background. The purpose of the leaflet is to tell the Japanese that America did not want to kill civilians, just destroy Japan's military strength. The text is:
This leaflet could have been a bomb.
This is to warn you away from military installations, factories, railways, and harbors where our bombs will strike again and again until the Gumbatsu quits this hopeless war.
Stay away from military objectives!
The Gumbatsu is that mix of the military and big business that President Eisenhower would call the Military-Industrialist Complex years later.
This leaflet was designed in Honolulu by American artist Frances Blakemore. Her story is told in An American Artist in Tokyo, Michiyo Morioka, the Blakemore Foundation, Seattle, WA. Morioka describes the image in artistic terms and says:
Frances created a portrait of a menacing black bomb. She rendered its three dimensionality, cool tactile surface, and compact geometric shape through a precise hatching technique and fine lines. Set against a red background, the bombs perfect appearance emphasizes its inhuman effectiveness as a modern weapon of mass destruction.
I seldom add all-text leaflets to these stories because I believe that the reader wants to see interesting images. A picture is truly worth a thousand words. But, this Allied leaflet dropped right after D-Day fits this theme so well that I thought I had to add it. It does not depict a bomb, but basically tells the Germans that they are a target for Allied bombing and cannot do a thing about it. American aircraft will bomb them on the way to Russia, land and reload and refuel, and then bomb them on the way back. I don't know if any of that is true, but it must have terrified the Germans.
2,100,000 of these leaflets were printed by the Psychological Warfare Division of the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Army and dropped on 21 June 1944. I will just quote some of the text that mentions the Allied ability to bomb at will:
The Air Encirclement is Complete
This leaflet was dropped by an American air fleet on its way to Russia. Soon the same air fleet, operating from Russia will attack again. So, the air encirclement has been completed. No factory, no railway, no port, no military stores, no troop concentrations in Hitlers fortress is now safe from our attack. Hitlers fortress has no roof
On 9 September 1939 Reich Marshall Goering declared:
Our great problem has always been to have to fight on two fronts. By the means of Hitlers brilliant pact, this danger has now been removed for all time.
And on 9 November 1939 Adolf Hitler declared in Munich:
Germany has never been afraid of a war on one front. Now we have only one front, and we shall triumph on that front.
British Leaflet G38/43
This Allied leaflet coded G38/43 charts the bombs dropped by the Germans and British on each other's cities from 1940 to 1943. The leaflet was disseminated over Germany from 21 June 1943 to 11 August 1943. It shows the German bombing of specific British cities starting from 250 tons in 1940, reaching a high of 450 tons in 1941 and declining in 1943 to less than 50 tons. In the meantime, the British bombing of German cities started with just 100 tons in 1940 and in 1943 had already reached 2000 tons. The back of the leaflet highlights the text: The Royal Air Force is stronger today than the German and Italian Air Forces together The United States produces more aircraft than Germany, Italy and Japan combined. The title of the leaflet is:
Fortress Europe has no Roof
The Heaviest Air Raids from 1940 to May 1943
The back has an interesting cartoon where Hitler and the Devil dance arm-in-arm while the Germans bomb Democracy in 1940, but try to quietly sneak away when the Allies bomb the Axis in 1943. The title is Thats how it started.
This Allied leaflet clearly threatens the German finder with a bright red bomb on the front. 2,160,000 copies of this leaflet were printed in December 1944. The Allies explain the purpose of the leaflet:
This leaflet was written to meet the requirements of tactical fighter-bomber dissemination on strafing missions against marching columns, gun emplacements, dumps, strongpoints, etc. It explains what a probable feeling of relief on the part of the Germans is, seeing leaflets instead of bombs drop from the planes. There should be no inherent objection to dissemination of this leaflet by medium bombers.
Some of the text on the front is:
Could have fallen from the plane that dropped this leaflet. Why does the enemy send leaflets instead of bombs? Does he have to perhaps economize with bomb?
NO: This leaflet has a message for YOU. It is supposed to save YOUR life. Examine carefully what it has to say.
Two paragraphs follow:1. Germany has lost the war. If there was anything that might have staved off defeat, it would have been committed now, to prevent the invasion of Germany in the East and West. And since no wonders occur in the machine age, even the utmost bravery and willingness to sacrifice can only have one result: your own death.There are two additional paragraphs on the back that tell of the German demand that they fight to the death and the surprise of the German captives at how well they are treated in the prisoner-of-war camps:
2. You may still be able to save yourself. Sometimes in attacks and counterattacks there is an opportunity to stay behind and let oneself be captured. The enemy can break down all resistance ruthlessly. It is up to you to give a sign, when in a hopeless situation, that you do not wish to commit suicide. You do this by raising your arms and waving something white.
1. We never surrender says the political leadership of Germany. They have declared that they will fight to the last man, yes, to the last woman, and even to the last child before they will admit defeat…
2. I am pleasantly surprised, so says many a German soldier after his capture, when they can confirm the truth of what the allied "propaganda" has told them. He is pleasantly surprised because he finds that prisoners of war are treated decently and according to the stipulations of the Geneva Conference…
Enemy Propaganda BOMBS
From the plane that dropped this leaflet. Why does the enemy send leaflets instead of bombs? Maybe he has to save his bombs? No: This leaflet has something to say to you. It should save your life. Check exactly what it has to say.
Two paragraphs follow:
1. Germany has lost the war.
2. You may still be able to save yourself.
There are two additional paragraphs on the back that tell of the German demand that they fight to the death and the surprise of the German captives at how well they are treated in the prisoner-of-war camps. The paragraphs say in part:
1. We never surrender says the political leadership of Germany. They have declared that they will fight to the last man, yes, to the last woman, and even to the last child before they will admit defeat...
2. I am pleasantly disappointed, so some German soldiers say after the capture, when they can confirm what the allied "propaganda" has told them. He is pleasantly surprised because he finds that prisoners of war are treated decently and according to the stipulations of the Geneva Conference…
The Soviet Union’s FRONT ILLUSTRATED magazine
This May 1943 Russian propaganda magazine is titled FRONT ILLUSTRATED FOR THE GERMAN TROOPS. The monthly magazine always had interesting covers with various Nazi leaders caricatured, and sometime a mixture of photographs done in such a way as to catch the reader's eyes. The issue depicts Hitler and Goering having a discussion as allied bombs fall on Germany. Above them we see the title "Germany in a Ring of Fire." Remember, Goering once promised the German people that no bomb would ever fall on German soil.
Hitler asks Goering, "Didn't you swear that not a single bomb would fall on German territory?"
Goering answers, "Yes, my Fuehrer, but you stated that Germany has the most powerful air force in the world, which can repel all enemy air attacks..."
A Russian propaganda Leaflet in the form of a Postcard
The Russians loved postcard leaflets. I have about 30 of them and my old now-deceased German friend Klaus Kircher even wrote a booklet about them titled POSTCARDS Produced by the Soviets for Aerial Dissemination in WWII. This one falls into the theme of this article because it depicts a half-dozen Soviet bombs marked with the Red Star falling on a group of German officers. Two of the three have lost their heads already. There is no propaganda text on the front or back, but the back does have the usual postcard markings with a place for the address of the sender and recipient, and a large space for a message.
OWI uncoded Leaflet for Occupied China
We know little about this leaflet except it is building up Chinese morale by showing a historic Chinese warrior at the top, and American B-25 Billy Mitchell medium bombers below. A giant bomb is seen falling on a Japanese soldier who is caricatured as some sort of evil animal, perhaps a wolf or a rat. This was quite common in the American leaflets to the Chinese. There is a message on the back showing the insignia of the American Army Air Force. My translators are unable to read the text stating:
I cannot make out the 4 characters on top, they are far to stylized. Reading from the right, the second character looks like it could mean "strike" and the 4th character looks like "mountain." The two small characters on the left look like "hill" and "fly." Must be a 4-character phrase, possibly about a legendary hero, Maybe Guan Yu. Hangchow seems right. Hangchow is famous for Xihu/West Lake and the bottom of the leaflet looks like it could be Xihu scenery.
I was told this was a bomb warning leaflet targeting Hangzhou (AKO Hangchow), and as usual it would tell the native population to stay away from Japanese fortifications as they would soon be bombed by the Allies. The inhabitants would be warned to Evacuate the area. There is a long text message on the back but no code. There should be a code starting with the letter "C" for China. We can recognize the pattern and style and it is clearly an Office of War Information informative leaflet to China. I translated a few lines of the text on the back, and it is clear this is a bomb warning leaflet. The opening and closing lines of the long text are:
To our Chinese friends in Hangchow!
The saying goes that in heaven there is paradise, on earth there are Suchow and Hangchow. Since earliest times, the scenic beauty of Hangchow has been extremely famous…
Now, to aid China, the US Air Force is bombing military targets around Hangchow… transportation, airfields, military bases, factories, bridges railroad stations, etc.
However, when airplanes are dropping bombs from high altitude, they cannot tell who an enemy is and who is a friend. Therefore, we advise you to quickly leave the areas around the above-mentioned targets; save yourself!
USAF in China
The Australians also produced a bomb leaflet for the Japanese coded J.164. The leaflet was to be dropped wherever the Japanese were for as long as it took. The leaflet depicts a falling bomb and the text:
Man kills man
This is not what we prefer to do, but this is war. Behind this bomb is the full moral and material power of the United Nations. Unlimited numbers of bombs will rain on you until your leaders recognize the futility of the struggle they have condemned you to.
A German Anti-American, Anti-British Bomb leaflet
The leaflet when Unfolded
This propaganda leaflet was prepared by the Germans to be disseminated on France. It is similar to the U.S. bomb leaflet dropped on the Japanese. The leaflet is folded into two pages and the front and back depict a black bomb and the words:
R.A.F. = U.S.A.A.F.
During WWII this would have indicated that the Royal Air Force was the same as the United States Army Air Force. Late in the war the Americans bombed by day, the British by night. When opened, the leaflet had a long French-language text which says in part:
Here is the latest model of the incendiary bomb which the liberators are beginning to drop in the millions on your towns and villages.
It is the final product of their science. The perfection is such that you will be able to see children killed outright or burned alive and your homes destroyed in an instant.
Keep this reproduction. If you are lucky enough to escape this new attack which they promise you, you will have in front of you a picture of the weapon your friends used to liberate you
The text goes on to talk about the foolishness of waiting four years for Allied liberation when they have never liberated anyone. It recommends that the Frenchmen join with the Germans for a brighter and better France. It is interesting to see how the enemy took this very American image of a bomb and used it for his own purposes.
Stop Useless Resistance
Another Japanese leaflet for Hong Kong, this one aimed solely at the British. A Japanese bomb drops toward a lone British soldier and the text that says in part:
When the Japanese force makes it attack, Hongkong cannot be escaped from the most fierce bombardment by the Japanese Air Armada. Even with no aid from the land force, it is certain that Hongkong will be smashed into pieces from the air. British officers, we appeal you to consider the very fact. Do not kill your men in meaningless resistance!
A Japanese War Bond Fund Raiser
I like this Japanese poster a lot. It depicts Japanese bombers overhead and one large falling bomb in the center. The poster is asking the people to buy postal war bonds in commemoration of the 1937 China Incident. Apparently the Japanese could not bring themselves to say that they had started a war in China. On the night of 7 July 1937, Japanese units conducted military exercises. Japanese and Chinese forces outside the town of Wanping exchanged fire at approximately 23:00. When a Japanese soldier, Private Shimura Kikujiro, failed to return to his post, the Japanese demanded permission to enter Wanping to search for the missing soldier. The Chinese refused. The soldier was found, but the disagreement escalated. This incident is usually considered the start of the Sino-Chinese war (1937-1945).
The bond drive takes place from 13 to 24 December, but no year is mentioned. The bonds were sold at the post office and the poster was produced by the Ministry of Communications and the Ministry of Treasury. It is a good use of the bomb image and certainly makes a point about the power of the Japanese Air Force.
World War II to Neutral Nations
This Bomb weighs 900 Kilograms
This British propaganda leaflet to neutral Portugal was produced in the form of a postcard. The Portuguese were neutral and Lisbon was a hotbed of political intrigue and espionage. The British wanted to keep Portugal out of the war on the side of the Nazis so they flooded the country with propaganda cards like this showing the might of the British Empire and the sureness of a NAZI defeat. The card is coded "JP" and depicts a British Sergeant Pilot (notice his wings)standing beside a bomb. The text is:
This bomb weighs 900 Kilograms (2,000 pounds)
In 25 days, 16 June to 10 July 1941, the RAF dropped the equivalent of 4,000 bombs like this in attacks on military and industrial objectives in Germany.
Two Cities Bombed
This 16-page British propaganda booklet was published in 1943 and targeted the Portuguese public. With pictures, text, and charts it compared the German Luftwaffe bombing of the civilian town of Coventry with no wartime industry on 19 November 1940 and the Royal Air Force bombing of the German industrial city of Cologne on 30 May 1942. It calls the German bombing unnecessary while the Cologne bombing was part of the war effort.
British bombers being built for use against Germany
The booklet goes on to show British military and industrial strength and claims that the Allies are sure to win the war.
It is interesting to note that the British had broken the German Enigma code and knew the Germans were about to bomb Coventry, but Prime Minister Churchill ordered no defensive measures be taken so the Germans would not know that the British could read their military messages.
The Korean War
This bomb leaflet purports to be a friendly warning for the North Korean workers to stay away from bombed railroads because some of the bombs are timed and could explode after a certain time and that could kill the civilian laborers. Of course, what it really does is keep the railways closed and unrepaired and stop troop movements if the workers followed the instructions in the leaflet. And, there is an excellent chance that the workers would be executed by the Communists if they refused to work.
At the top of the leaflet we see a falling bomb. Below it are four panels. In the first the railways are bombed, in the second workers with tool approach the site. In the third panel a worker touches and unexploded bomb, and in the final panel he is killed by an explosion. The text from top to bottom on the leaflet is:
Warning to workers repairing the railroad
Remember this friendly advice from the United Nations
Time bomb bringing death
If the United Nations planes bomb the railroad dont come to repair it
Buried time bombs can explode any time and kill you
The Vietnam War
The back of the leaflet is all text:
Dear People of North Vietnam:
We are bombing facilities that the Communists use to support their war of aggression against South Vietnam, including:
- Military bases
- Lines of communications [traffic routes]
- Electrical power plants
Danger - Avoid these targets Danger
This crude early 1966 leaflet was printed by the 244th PSYOP Company as part of the I Corps Tactical Zone Joint PSYWAR Civil Affairs Center. The front depicts two Viet Cong squatting in a cave. Above, a B-52 bomber drops a bomb that is heading directly toward that cave. It is interesting to note that about four decades later that same general theme will show Taliban hiding in a cave in Afghanistan about to be bombed. I good idea is never obsolete. The back of the leaflet depicts Viet Cong flying through the air from the B-52 bombings. The text on front and back is:
The tunnel where you try to hide is never safe from the bombs of the B-52
The B-52 can search out its enemy anywhere
This is another very crude leaflet from the 246th PSYOP Company in 1967. It probably does not belong in this story but I am fascinated by the simplicity of it. The Americans labelled the theme as Scare. The front depicts the Vietnamese word for BANG appearing to explode and This could have been a bomb. 200,000 copies of this leaflet were printed for use against the Viet Cong at the request of the Vietnamese 9th Infantry Division. The back is all text:
This leaflet could have been a bomb and brought death to you. The Government of Vietnam and its Allies know you are here. They could have dropped bombs on you instead of leaflets but they wish to give you a chance for a new life, free from oppression and hardships. Return to the Government of Vietnam and a peaceful happy life.
I love working with different translators because they all found the text slightly different. The three translations I got back are this could have been a bomb, this should have been a bomb and this was supposed to be a bomb. There was discussion about the text and some thought that is was not quite right; a very southern Vietnamese. I told them that the ARVN 9th division requested this leaflet. They thought that explained it all because Dang Le is distinctively Southern speak and the 9th ARVN Infantry Division operated in the south (The Mekong Delta). One friend said that everyone knows the Northern and Southern dialects are different. But, there is a Central Vietnamese accent too, and in the far south, the southern Vietnamese use a different colloquial than in other part of the country. That sounds a lot like the United States with our Bostonians and our Louisiana Cajuns.
The front of this leaflet depicts the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk, a single seat subsonic carrier-capable attack aircraft developed for the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps in the early 1950s. The Skyhawk had a top speed of more than 670 miles per hour. The aircraft's five hard-points supported a variety of missiles, bombs and other munitions. It was capable of carrying a bomb load equivalent to that of a World War II-era Boeing B-17 bomber. The text on the front is:
This Jet Will Return to This Area Regularly
This leaflet has an interesting back because over the text there is a bright red bomb which would catch the attention of any passing Viet Cong. The text is:
Life or Death?
You have seen these jets bomb this area. You have probably seen the terrible death and destruction they cause. This area could be bombed again at any moment. If you want to live, you should immediately leave this area.
If you stubbornly stay here, blindly obeying the orders of your superiors, you will die a horrible death.
You need to think about this very carefully and then make your choice.
This early leaflet depicts a falling bomb and was probably meant to scare the hell out of the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong. The code has the SP for Special Projects and that was soon removed when the Americans understood that every leaflet that was seen with those letters was known to be American, and thus suspect. The text is:
The area where you are living could be bombed at any time if the Viet Cong travel through it. For your own safety you should protest to the Viet Cong to force them to go somewhere else and should report immediately to the Government of the Republic of Vietnam if the Viet Cong arrive in your area.
What I found interesting was that this leaflet was depicted in the booklet Communicating with the Vietnamese thru Leaflets, and in the booklet was used as an example of a bad leaflet. The author says:
This leaflet is not effective because it vaguely warns that villages in a general geographical area may be bombed at some point. Warning leaflets should tell when and where to expect the bombing and give the people a chance to evacuate
Operation Desert Storm to the Enemy
After Saddam Hussein sent Iraqi troops to invade Kuwait, the Americans retaliated with over 100 leaflets. This one is very stark and simply shows the BLU-82 super bomb. The BLU-82, sometimes called The Daisy Cutter, is a 15,000-pound conventional bomb, delivered from an MC-130E Combat Talon. It is too heavy for the bomb racks of any bomber. The bomb is actually a thin-walled tank (1/4-inch steel plate) filled with a 12,600-pound explosive "slurry" mixture. The 38-inch fuse extender is the Daisy Cutter component of the BLU-82 system. It explodes the bomb three feet above the ground with the result that maximum destruction occurs at ground level without a crater being formed.
The Pentagon designed the bomb to create an instant helicopter landing zone in the jungles of Vietnam. Rumor has it that a British SAS commando detachment behind the lines in Iraq during Operation Desert Storm witnessed the blast and mushroom cloud from one such bomb and reported:
My God, the Yanks are using nukes.
This leaflet, along with BLU-82 bombs, was dropped on Iraqi positions on four occasions between 6 February and 16 February 1991. 2,000,000 leaflets were printed. Eleven such bombs were eventually dropped on Iraqi positions. It was the largest conventional bomb in existence at the time. At the same time these bombs were dropped the Coalition radio warned the Iraqis:
Brave Iraqi soldiers. Tonight some of you are going to die. Your families will miss you. May Allah rest your souls.
The leaflet text on the front is:
Flee and save your life, or remain and meet your death!
The text on the back is:
You have suffered heavy losses because we have used the most powerful and destructive conventional bomb of this war. It is more powerful than 20 Scud Missiles in respect of explosion capability. We warn you! We shall bomb your position again. Kuwait will be liberated from Saddam's aggression. Hurry and join your brothers from the south. We shall treat you with all our love and respect. Abandon this position. You will never be safe!
Colonel Jeffrey Jones
Colonel Jeffrey Jones, Commander of the 8th PSYOP Battalion used radio in partnership with Saudi, Kuwait and Egyptian forces, and broadcast in Arabic 18 hours per day for 40 days. They transmitted from two ground stations in Saudi Arabia, a platform in Gulf waters and a transmitter in Turkey. The PSYOP radio captured the Iraqi soldiers attention using dramatic methods.
We would tell them that tomorrow we would drop on them the biggest bomb we had. Then, exactly as promised, we dropped a Daisy Cutter (BLU-82) that looks like a small atom bomb detonating. The next time we said we were going to drop another big one like that, the defections increased dramatically. One Iraqi soldier came across clutching 343 safe conduct passes he had been collecting. We found over 52 percent of defectors had been listening to our broadcasts.
A second version of this leaflet was designed that was almost identical except that it had a red border on all four sides. 1,000,000 copies of this second leaflet were ordered. There is no data on dissemination although several rumors of the missions abound.
The USAF later used the BLU-82 bomb in Iraq and in Afghanistan as an anti-personnel weapon and for psychological effects.
Warning, we will Bomb this Position Soon
During the war the Allied Coalition dropped at least eight different versions of a bomb warning leaflet. Each of the first four depicted a different deadly scene on the back: A stealth fighter fires rockets at a tank and a fuel truck; two burning Iraqi tanks with 3 jet fighters overhead; a soldier runs from a burning tank, another soldier lies dead by a burning tank; and a stealth fighter firing rockets at Iraqi jets planes on the ground. There are two varieties of this warning leaflet. This is the LARGE bomb variety with the bomb measuring 4.25 inches in size. The Coalition called these leaflets the Strategic Air Series. They were usually dropped together as a mix. These leaflets were printed on bond paper for dropping by USAF C-130 Hercules and F-16 fighter aircraft. There are also four tissue-paper versions of the same leaflets that were apparently produced for clandestine use by the CIA.
The text on the front of all four of the leaflets over the bomb is:
We will bomb this position soon. Leave your equipment and save your life.
The text on the back of the four leaflets is:
It is too late!
Your equipment is subject to bombing.
Leave your equipment - or defend it and die. The choice is yours!
This position is about to be attacked. Get out quickly and save yourself
Warning! This is only the beginning.
The Coalition also prepared a SMALL bomb variety. It is very similar to the four leaflets above, but the bomb is just three inches in size. Again, there were four leaflets prepared. Unlike the first four bomb warning leaflets, there is no image on the back; just propaganda text. These were probably among the earliest leaflets dropped in the war. The message on the front of the small bomb leaflets is:
This is only the beginning.
This could have been a real bomb. We have no desire to harm innocent people, but Saddam is leading you to certain death and destruction.
We want you to know the truth! Saddam is the cause. Yes, the Multi-national forces have the ability to strike anywhere, and at any time.
The four messages on the back of the leaflets are:
The truth...eight years of war with Iran. Half a million needless deaths. The victories - gone. Now, a generation in peril. A world united against Saddam. No bargaining with him. Don't allow him to be the reason for your annihilation. Don't let Saddam lead you to destruction!!
Saddam Hussein's policy of aggression towards neighboring countries is the sole reason for the bombing of Iraq and the targeting of military positions. The blame lies on Saddam Hussein.
Iraqi military forces: Saddam Hussein's policy of aggression is the only reason for the bombing of Iraq. The bombing is for military targets only. The Multi-national air forces have overwhelming air superiority. Resistance is useless. The outcome is inevitable. Save yourselves. Leave your weapons and immediately go to a safe area. Saddam is to blame!
The truth...Saddam has isolated you from the world. The Arab League, Muslim World League, and United Nations have all condemned Saddam's actions. Forces from 28 countries have assembled as a direct result of his actions and more countries join daily. Don't let Saddam lead you to destruction!!
Operation Enduring Freedom
This is an interesting leaflet that also shows members of the Taliban hiding in underground caves. There is no text. Perhaps it was meant for those fighters that could not read. Whatever the theory was, you do not need to be able to read to understand the meaning of the leaflet. The front depicts three Taliban in deep caves under the ground as Coalition smart bombs head directly toward their hiding place. On the back of the leaflet, two of the entrances have been demolished and the Taliban is now trapped underground. In the third case, the bomb has yet to explode. The concept of dying a slow death trapped under tons of rubble must have been terrifying.
World War II to Friendly Civilians
These bomb leaflets raising money war bonds and patriotic organizations were very popular and I have seen many different types. I show just a few such leaflets here.
Aerial Salute to U.S.O.
This leaflet, dated 2 June 1941 was dropped over New York City and publicized the United Service Organization, dedicated to serving and raising the morale of military personnel. It both seeks to raise over 10 million dollars in funding and seeks volunteer to help run the 360 service clubs. The text on the back of the bomb said in part:
No This isnt a BOMB
It was dropped not to destroy but to build. Dropped by one of your defenders from one of the planes that guard our nations skyways. Dropped to tell you that you can help your defenders. How? The U.S.O. has been formed as a nationwide citizen effort to show our soldiers, sailors and Marines how much we appreciate what they are doing for us.
It plans to operate 360 service clubs for soldiers, sailors and other youth serving our nations defense. The U.S.O. will be GHQ for men on leave. It will operate where it is needed in little town near the big camps. Tomorrow U.S.O. launches a nationwide campaign to raise $10,765,000 to operate its program. Join the Army behind the Army. Get back of our soldiers, sailors and defense workers with the U.S.O.
ITS YOUR CHANCE TO SERVE!
This Might have been a Bomb!
This leaflet was dropped over Montreal, Canada and was designed to raise money for the war effort. It was dropped in various colors and languages. In the United States the people bought war bonds, notice that in Canada they bought war savings certificates.
My friend Chuck Doig publishes The Weekly Pegasus, the e-newsletter of professional readings supporting the Air Force Military Information Support Operations Working Group, and often reprint my PSYOP articles. I am complimented by their interest and in July 2017 they printed this article and added some edited comments of William E. Daugherty from his essay on bomb warning leaflets contained in A Psychological Warfare Casebook:
1. Bomb warnings, where feasible are a powerfully effective means of adding to the desirable psychological effects of bombing, and in directing the behavior of people addressed into paths advantageous to the striking forces.
2. Warnings can be used to reinforce the fears of people and to induce in them panic and flight.
3. Warnings can be used to demonstrate materiel and military superiority.
4. Warnings can be used to reduce a target groups resentment against an attacking air force, and to increase the resentment which the people may hold toward their own political and military leaders.
5. Bomb warning messaging may also be used to discredit the enemys propaganda and to establish credibility for American MISO utterances.
Daugherty drew these conclusions from the results of the United States Strategic Bombing Surveys Morale Division (based on interviews with civilians, military, and government leaders, as well as other evidence) opinion gathering conducted at the end of World War II in Japan. Daugherty summarizes these conclusions quoting from the Morale Divisions findings:
the reaction most commonly experienced, especially in the warned cities, was that of fear. A number of individuals experienced a realization of the great strength of the US and the impotence of Japan. Some interpreted the warnings as evidence of humanitarian instincts on the part of the Americans...Considerable numbers of people moved away from their homes and accustomed places of work when they learned that their home communities were to be bombed. The movements of civilians [away from their homes], in many instances, seriously interfered with the movement of military and other supplies According to the word of Japanese leaders the bomb warning leaflets were among the most successful operations in the field of psychological warfare that were directed against Japanese civilians. There was nothing civil or military authorities could do to limit or counteract the effect of the leaflets; i.e., they were unable to reduce or to limit the impact of the fright the leaflet messages inspired There was little or nothing that could be done [on the part of the Japanese government] to counteract the growing belief of the people in the impotence of the Japanese military, or to reduce the trust that the people placed in the sincerity and truthfulness of American propaganda.
While Daughertys essay and conclusions focus on civilian target audiences, his conclusions equally apply to adversary military personnel as well. The results achieved by the dropping of bomb warning and surrender appeal leaflets on Iraqi forces during the First Gulf War amply support this assertion. According to COL (Ret.) Jack Summe, during this conflict, bomb warning messaging via Leaflets were used to support both combat and deception operations across the entire theater and had a significant impact in degrading enemy morale and his will to fight. Post-testing on Iraqi EPWs [Enemy Prisoners of War] found that 98 percent of the test group was exposed to leaflet products, 80 percent believed the PSYOP message, and 70 percent were influenced by the leaflets to defect, surrender, or otherwise cease resistance. Synchronizing the aerial bombardment of Iraqi forces with bomb warning messaging proved a most effective technique in amplifying the psychological effects of the bombing as well as establishing the truthfulness and credibility of our PSYOP messaging.
Sometimes you are surprised to find that an item you thought was new or unique in fact had a long history. In this case after I wrote the article on WWII war bond leaflets depicting aerial bombs I saw a 100-year old WWI leaflet with exactly the same general message. One side shows the German Krupp armament factories being bombed by Allied aircraft. The other side featured an old WWI bomb and the text:
Every bond you buy is a bomb for Krupp
Third Liberty Loan This card was dropped from a Caproni bombing airplane April 1918
Note: The Caproni was an Italian heavy bomber of World War I. It went through several upgrades as the war went on. Although Italian in design, they were also used by France and by the American Expeditionary Force. It had a crew of four in an open central nacelle (front gunner, two pilots and rear gunner-mechanic), and although each version had different capabilities, the Caproni 4 seems to have maxed the bomb load with 3,197 pounds of bombs.
This is a very short look at propaganda leaflets and other products that used the terrifying image of a bomb as a theme. Readers who wish to comment are encourage to write to the author at Sgmbert@hotmail.com.