by Herbert A. Friedman

Note: The Weekly Pegasus, The newsletter of professional readings of the U.S. Air Force Military Information Support Operations Working Group recommended this article in their 28 October 2017 issue.

In recent months, I have written a number of articles that explored various psychological operations (PSYOP) themes. We have illustrated and translated aerial propaganda leaflets that featured safe conduct passes, rewards, sex, and even banknotes in an attempt to convince the enemy to follow the instructions of the PSYOP originator. In this article I will discuss a theme that I have arbitrarily designated "death and disfigurement" PSYOP. These leaflets show terrible scenes of dead or mutilated bodies in an attempt to terrorize the enemy and fill him with fear. It was hoped that the sight of such horror would cause the enemy to surrender, desert, or simply hide deep in his dugout or fighting hole and refuse to put himself in jeopardy.

You will notice that there are almost no American leaflets depicting scenes of mutilated or disfigured enemy soldiers. The official American policy for "white" propaganda of the Office of War Information was generally against showing such scenes. However, the "black" propaganda of the WWII Office of Strategic Services encouraged it. In a declassified 1943 secret document The OSS says in part:


Devices designed to undermine an enemy's will to resist by developing in him feelings of fear, distrust of his motives for combat, war weariness, futility of further struggle, and willingness to surrender, (Though each of these aims may be pursued separately, far more effective results may be achieved by saturating the enemy with the greatest amount of material possible, preferably in the order suggested below).

Fear. A continual series of pictures should be dropped over enemy lines, each showing the horrible fashion in which their soldiers met death. One batch of pictures a day should be dropped on them. Each picture might be entitled as follows; "Why?", "The New Order," "His children will miss him," and "More than he bargained for."

The same might be done with pictures of horribly mutilated soldiers who have been removed from the front and sent home. They may also be entitled as follows; "He escaped death," "An Iron Cross and a wooden crutch," and a picture of a blinded soldier entitled, "He never saw the fatherland again."



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9802 45/91

Perhaps the most powerful example of such a leaflet was used by Germany and later Great Britain during WWII. In February of 1945, the Germans dropped a leaflet on the American troops on the Western front coded "9802 45/91," that showed the profile of a face with everything missing from just below the eyes to the lower lip. A first glance one assumes that this is a photograph of a dead body. However, the text on the leaflet states:

This picture is taken from LIFE. It shows how excellent medics can work. Maj. Gen. Norman T. Kirk, Surgeon General of the Army, reported to the annual meeting of the Association of Military Surgeons that 60,000 World War II American soldiers live today, although, had they received the same type of injury in the last war, they would have died.

The soldier on the picture probably is one of those 60,000 'lucky ones.' But take one more look at the picture. We don't want to belittle the skill of modern medics, but what good is it for this unfortunate human being?

And what happened to him and 59,999 others may happen to you. Then people will read 'one more wounded' and will perhaps think of six weeks in a hospital, a furlough, and a Purple Heart. But they will not know of some broken hearts.

Of course, the Germans were lying. The photograph had originally appeared in a 1924 German anti-war book Krieg dem Kriege! ("War Against War!"). The photograph is identified as "Das ganze Gesicht weggeschossen" ("The entire face shot away").

Curiously, the photograph was reprinted after the war in Great Britain with acknowledgement to the original book. The Germans liked the photograph so much that they designed the above leaflet around it in WWII.

The story doesn't end there. The British then decided that they would use the image too. In fact, they used it twice. The Psychological Warfare Executive (PWE) produced a series of stickers in late 1942. They were in the form of "Winterhilfswerk" (WHW). This German organization supported the poor during the cold German winters. The WHW sold various items to raise money to be used for charity. The British produced five gummed stickers in the form of a WHW labels. One of these labels used the image of the soldier with his face shot off. Another label showed Himmler holding a pistol and demanding money for the charity. People assumed that the man with no face (or perhaps with a gigantic open mouth) was Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels and the image became popularly known as "Goebbels talking his face off." The code number of this item is H-235, the "H" represents the name of the head forger, Ellic Howe. The code does not appear on the label, it is found in declassified British wartime records.

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H-292 Stamps

Howe used the image a second time when he designed a pair of very realistic looking postage stamps in late 1942 and early 1943. These were coded H-292. The stamps were prepared in booklets of two sheets of 10 stamps, twenty stamps in all.

Once again, one stamp showed Himmler, the other stamp showed the man with no face. Behind him are the caricatures of two happy Nazi Party officials. The first has often been described as Julius Streicher (editor of the anti-Semitic newspaper Der Sturmer), but there has been conjecture that he might be Robert Ley, Reichorganisationsleiter (Reich Organization Leader), a favorite target of the British propagandists. The second is clearly Hermann Goering (Reichsmarschall of the Luftwaffe). They are smiling and holding champagne glasses. The message is clear. The Party bosses drink and have a good time while the frontline soldier is killed or mutilated.

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Envelope with H-292 Winter Help stamps

A report in the British Public Record Office dated 7 January 1943 states, "H-292 Winter Help stamps. To be delivered today and tomorrow. 10,000 booklets." These stamps seem to have been used by the Polish forces that fought on in England. Several envelopes have been found bearing the stamps with Polish addresses.

This has to be one of the strangest propaganda campaigns of all times. It started as an anti-war photograph in book, seems to have been reproduced in both a British book and perhaps Life magazine, then was used as anti-British propaganda, then returned as anti-Nazi propaganda. There is nothing else in PSYOP history like this particular operation.

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9802 45 90

Another German leaflet from the “98” series is folded so as to depict an American officer and his girl on the front and a severed hand on the back. The inside is all text, with some odd grammar which I leave untouched, and says in part:

These two pictures, a pair of lovers and a lifeless hand lost in battle, are taken from the same magazine, from LIFE.

The touching picture of the loving couple is taken from a love story, the other from a thrilling serie about war veterans arranged in a objective, superior, almost uninterested way with the only ambition to bring out a real scoop.

We German soldiers who saw these pictures have thought about the meaning of this strange contrast of “horror” and “longing.”…We believe that among you Yanks, there is also many a man who asks himself the same and – whether it really pays to risk everything.

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In Trust for Tomorrow

In this leaflet the Germans pull out all the stops. This veteran home from the war has not lost just an arm or a leg; he has lost both arms, both legs and both eyes. His wife and children, obviously starving, wonder how they will survive. The German code is BWK-09-39. That would seem to imply that this is a very early leaflet, prepared for the British troops in France during the “Phoney War,” 3 September 1939 to 10 May 1940, while the Germans and the Allies just threw propaganda at each other before the actual start of the shooting war.

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49 A 9

This is a leaflet with an odd code that I have never seen before. The Germans did sometimes use numbers in their codes, for instance the number 4 was used on leaflets to Norway and Denmark, and 98 for Western Europe. 49 is unknown as far as I know. The theme is also interesting. The Soviets printed many leaflets for the German talking about the cold of the Russian winter. Here the Germans use the same kind of threat against the Allies. The text on the front is:


The back has a long message stating that both Churchill and Eisenhower have warned of a long winter campaign. The Germans tell the Allies that long winters are terrible for the health and there are long-term illnesses that can linger. How to avoid them? Come over to the Germans and be warn, fit and healthy in a nice POW camp.

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The Horror of It

Although we do not know who took the original picture of the hand on the ground, I note that the British used the same image on the cover of a book titled The Horror of it - Camera Records of War's Gruesome Glories.

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* 1310-2-45

Still another gruesome leaflet was produced by the Südstern (Southern Star) section of the Scorpion South Propaganda Organization of the German 10th Army. They were responsible for producing a number of leaflets during the war. These leaflets all have codes that start with a five-pointed star. The leaflet above coded * 1310-2-45 was distributed near the end of the war on Allied troops in Italy. The photo on the front of a leaflet shows a wounded allied soldier receiving first aid at a German dressing (first aid) station. The soldier is missing an eye and half of his face is severely burned. The text on the back of the leaflet is:

World War No. 2 is almost over! Does it still pay?

The Südstern organization produced several series of death and disfigurement leaflets for Allied troops in Italy. One series was produced and dropped in November 1944. The codes run from 306-11-44 to 314-11-44. Each leaflet shows a murdered German baby, woman, or elder who had been raped or murdered by the Russians.

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* 309/11 44

Leaflet * 309/11 44 depicts a young child with a bullet hole in the head. The text on the back is:

This is what your ally has done!

How long will England keep silent?

The inhabitants of the village of Nemmersdorf in East Prussia were taken by surprise in a thrust by Soviet tanks. When two days later our grenadiers had driven back the Bolsheviks, they found the village completely devastated and all inhabitants massacred in the most appalling way.

This picture shows a baby, only nine months old, brutally murdered by a shot through the head.

The second series of Südstern leaflets were produced in March of 1945 and the codes run from 1340-3-45 to 1343-3-45. In this series the Germans depict small groups of murdered Germans.

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* 1343-3-45

Leaflet * 1343-3-45 depicts four German babies dead on the ground. Some of the text is:


But Doolittle and Harris went to the little children!

We don’t know exactly how many little children Doolittle and Harris burned to death in their cowardly attack. For five years of war, Dresden has remained untouched, because it contained no objective of military or economic interest. But once it was filled with thousands of mothers and children of all the nationalities of Eastern Europe, fleeing from Asiatic savagery, Harris found it worth attacking. On the other side of this leaflet you see four of the more than thirty thousand of charred little bodies we dug out of the ruins. Over thirty thousand children and babies burned to death, not counting the mothers and old men.

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The German Propaganda-Abschnitts-Offizier Italien organization printed the “AI” leaflets for use in Italy. Some were printed in Berlin, others in Italy. Leaflet coded AI-046-8-44 depicted a smiling naked British girl rolling up her stocking while a U.S. Army Staff-sergeant fixes his tie nearby. Text on the front is "While you are away." The back depicts a disfigured British soldier dead on the battlefield. The text is:

The Yanks are 'lend-leasing' your women. Their pockets full of cash and no work to do, the boys from overseas are having the time of their lives in Merry Old England. And what young woman, single or married, could resist such "handsome brute from the wide open spaces" to have dinner with, a cocktail at some nightclub, and afterwards.... Anyway, so numerous have become the scandals that all England is talking about them now. Most of you are convinced that the war will be over in four months. Too bad if it should hit you in the last minute.

This leaflet is actually rather clever. It mentions "Lend-lease," a program where the United States sent weapons and materiel to Great Britain to be paid for after the war. It talks about pockets full of money, which would remind the British of their saying about the Yanks, "overpaid. oversexed, and over here." Finally, the term “wide open spaces” reminds us that many Europeans believed that America was still the land where the “Cowboys and Indians” rode the open plains.

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Another Propaganda-Abschnitts-Offizier  leaflet coded AI-172-12-44 depicts a dead soldier that has been so brutalized and desecrated that all that remains is a skull on an emaciated body.  This leaflet claims that the body is that of a dead German that was tortured and mutilated by the Russian Bolshevik Army. The goal of this leaflet was to cast doubt on the choice of having the Russians as allies. The text on the front of the leaflet is: "What would your mother say if this dead soldier were you?" The text on the back of the leaflet reads:

Send this picture home to your mother! Ask her if she would like to see you scalped, your eyes gouged out, your nose cut off and your tongue cut out. When reconquering the town of Schirwindt at the eastern frontier of Germany, German soldiers found this pal of theirs mutilated by Bolshevik savages. Those fiends that have done this are your allies, the bestial godless Bolsheviks! Stalin has successfully duped the world by claiming the Bolshevik system has changed. But in reality, nothing has changed in Soviet Russia. The churches have not been reopened with the exception of a few for propaganda purposes. The same despotism, the same terror and cruelty, the same slavery and wholesale murder still rule the country and the proclamation of "democratic ideals" is a farce. The Bolshevik Moloch has just devoured seven European countries. Finland, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, Rumania, and Bulgaria, are now facing a fate worth than death. The death of millions of civilized Europeans in these countries is sanctioned by your government and you are fighting to help the Bolshevik murderers! They will always be the same: Enemies of civilization and liberty a leopard cannot change its spots.

[Author’s note: Warning. In 2018, reproductions of this leaflet were offered on EBay for $9.99. Several other German leaflets to the Allies with a sexual theme were also offered].

Eastward Bound

It seems that propagandists from every country like the images of skulls and skeletons. This uncoded leaflet depicts a figure I assume is DEATH on the front looking at all the dead bodies of the Allies heading eastward into the Third Reich. That would make in about late 1944 after the invasion of France and the return of the Allies to Europe. The back is all text:


Winter: Death in the Vosges

Snow: Death in the Vosges

Mud: Death in the Vosges

Cold: Death in the Vosges

Darling wife? - Dear mother?: Death in the Vosges

The Kids: Death in the Vosges

All your sufferings: Death in the Vosges


The Vosges are a range of low mountains in eastern France, near its border with Germany. Together with the Palatine Forest to the north on the German side of the border, they form a single geomorphological unit and low mountain range of around 3,100 square miles in area. During the Second World War, in autumn 1944, they were the site of brief but sharp fighting between Franco-American and German forces.

The German propaganda machine produced a number of leaflets for American and British soldiers fighting in Italy and Western Europe that depicted women that had been raped and murdered by the Soviets. This was an attempt to drive a wedge between the Allies and their Soviet compatriots. They are quite awful. I depict just two of them and warn the reader that they are not pleasant. I don’t know if Allied soldiers finding these leaflets would be more disgusted by the Russians committing these atrocities or the Germans for photographing and disseminating them.

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In the Name of Democracy
Klaus Kirchner: Erotic Leaflets in Europe in the 20th Century 

The first leaflet is uncoded and was produced by the German Skorpion West organization for Allied troops in Western Europe. It depicts a dead child at the left and a partially naked woman on the right. Some of the text is:


Little Heidi just turned 4 when the Bolsheviks brought her young life to an end.

Her mother was ravaged and then horribly stabbed…

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Leaflet *1344/4-45
Klaus Kirchner: Erotic Leaflets in Europe in the 20th Century

Leaflet *1344/4-45 was produced by the Sudstern organization for American and British troops fighting in Italy. It depicts a dead spread-legged woman on the front along with a bright red hammer and sickle. The text is:

Red Tracks

Here Soviet soldiers were living before they were driven out of Lauban by the Germans. In this small town alone 148 women, victims of the red blood lust, were raped and murdered.

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Leaflet A-119

A July, 1994 German leaflet aimed at American troops in Northwestern Europe coded A-119 is much milder in its psychological attack. It depicts an American soldier (clearly identified by his helmet) looking into a mirror and seeing a crippled civilian as his reflection. The leaflet was printed in Berlin and disseminated in American soldiers fighting in France.  The text on the front is, "LATER." The back is all text:

Five questions for the American soldier:

1. Are you certain of finding a job if you have the good luck to get back to the States safe and sound from the war? 

2. Won't the best jobs be held by those who were wiser than you and avoided taking part in the war?

3. What security have you for your existence if you come back from the war sick, wounded, minus a limb or even blinded? 

4. Is your family sufficiently provided for if you are one of the many who will never see America again? 

5. Are your savings secure against the inflation which is threatening the USA as a result of the absurdly high war loans, or will you and your family be reduced to beggars after the war?

The Germans seem to like the image of an American veteran on crutches. Their full-color leaflet coded “AEC” dropped starting October 1944 depicted a cripple looking at a healthy young man and woman with the title “Gentlemen prefer blondes but…” A similar image and the same text were used on their uncoded leaflet disseminated in December 1944. Leaflet A-127, disseminated in December 1944, shows a crippled veteran asking for a job and being told “It’s your job to fight.”

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Leaflet A-130

I always was ready to die for my country and never feared death, but I did fear being disfigured or horrible injured. I think most soldiers would tell you the same thing. The same German unit that prepared leaflet A-119 prepared and disseminated leaflet A- 130 starting in December 1944. It depicts a blind American soldier and his two children and the text:

It’s your job to fight!

The Germans make an interesting argument on the back of the leaflet. They talk about WWI and how the veterans were treated. We, who know our American history, remember the “bonus march” and the charge led by Douglas MacArthur against the veterans. The “Bonus Army” was an assemblage of some 43,000 marchers, 17,000 U.S. World War I veterans and their families and friends, who gathered in Washington, D.C. in the summer of 1932 to demand cash-payment redemption of their service certificates. Many of the war veterans had been out of work since the beginning of the Great Depression. Washington police tried to move them out, met with resistance, and two veterans were wounded and later died. President Herbert Hoover then ordered the Army to clear the veterans' campsite. Army Chief of Staff General Douglas MacArthur commanded the infantry and cavalry supported by six tanks. The Bonus Army marchers with their wives and children were driven out, and their shelters and belongings burned. Some of the propaganda text on the leaflet is:

Remember the 1917/18 boys’ tragedy?

They finally walked up to the White House only asking for a chance to make a living.

Did they get their chance?

They were kicked out and treated like tramps, you know.

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Under this Helmet...

I selected this last German leaflet because of the very subtle image. Notice that instead of dead bodies or horribly disfigured soldiers it simply depicts an American helmet. There is a dent in the side so it has been hit by German fire, and underneath we see a growing puddle of blood. I believe this leaflet had a strong message and would cause the finder to stop and think, if just for a few seconds. Beneath the helmet is the text:

Under this helmet crimson with blood was a man – walking forward into hell – risking death – loving life as much as yuo (sic).

The back is all text:

Who is going to launch out into the new battle?

Statesmen? Politicians? Big bankers? Munition manufacturers?

Business leaders who made a fortune during wartime? Editors whose papers stirred up hate?


Just you and the men of the 8th, 29th,102nd and 104th Division, average young Americans with their lives ahead.

We know you have to do it. Stalin, too, expects it. And we are well prepared!

And keep in mind that up to now every fifth man of the US Forces in Europe is wounded, dead, or in captivity.

We can trace this leaflet to the Western Front late in the war since we know that the 102nd Division entered Germany 29 November 1944 and the 104th entered Germany 7 November 1944.

The same image was used on a German leaflet dropped on American soldiers in Western Europe in December 1944. The text on the front of that leaflet is:


Do you want to share his fate?

Helmets are interesting. My first helmet was the classic “Steel Pot.” You could wash your face, shave, cook coffee or eggs and warm your C-rations in it. It had a lot of uses. I never thought for a moment it would stop a carefully aimed bullet, but I did believe it might protect you against small pieces of shrapnel. And, if a bullet came in at an angle you had a chance it would be deflected and you would live.

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A Survivor’s Helmet

This steel helmet took two hits in Vietnam and the bullets were slightly deflected and the wearer survived with little more than a headache. He was a very lucky soldier.

When the steel pot was replaced by the German-style “Fritz” helmet about 1985 the Army wanted to build up our faith and belief in the Kevlar helmet so they sent a soldier around to talk about it. He had gone into Grenada wearing the Kevlar helmet and suffered a broken leg. As he lay on the ground two enemy soldiers found him and fired two AK47 rounds in his head at very close range. He was wearing the new Fritz and somehow the bullets were slightly deflected and went around his head, wounding him badly but not getting to the brain. He stood in front of us with some ugly scars and told this story about how he survived and I am thinking, “He broke his leg, and then took two in the head...what do they call him. Lucky?”

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Korean War Leaflet 7203 – No Steel Pot for the Chinese

Leaflet coded 7203 was produced by the 1st Radio Broadcasting and Leaflet Group on 15 October 1952 and entitled “The Communist Cap of Death.” It targeted Chinese communist forces in Korea. One side shows a skull wearing a Communist soft cap with shrapnel passing through it. The other side shows a United Nations soldier with shrapnel bouncing off his helmet. The text argues that the Communist leadership doesn't care about the lives of its soldiers, while “The United Nations protects its men.” The importance of having a helmet becomes painfully obvious on this two-sided leaflet.

The blue side with the United Nations soldier reads:

The United Nations helmets save their soldiers. The United Nations always takes care of their soldiers. The United Nations has the most sophisticated weapons for their soldiers. There is no United Nations soldier without a helmet. The United Nations General is not like the Communist boss who has prepared only for his own personal safety. The United Nations Commander doesn't waste his soldiers for his own personal benefit. Why do you waste your life for a horrible boss who won't even give you a helmet? Save your life. It is well known that the Communist troops are on the run.

The red side reads:

Save your life, desert! The Communists don't even give you a helmet. They only give you a "bunk hat". It cannot protect you from a bullet. Your boss doesn't care if you die. He doesn't have to worry; he isn't fighting in the field. Your bosses just reap the benefits of your sacrifice. Don't waste your life for the son of a bitch. Why do you waste your life for your boss? Save your skin.

Leaflet 7203 was written in Chinese for the members of the Chinese “Volunteer” Army. The same leaflet was written for the North Korean troops in the Korean Language coded 1227.

The Allies

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The American and British psywarriors were also dropping leaflets that showed German soldiers dead and disfigured. British Leaflet G10 pictures a number of dead Germans on the ground before a wall filled with the death notices of German soldiers. The text at the top is "For Fuehrer and Fatherland" and below the bodies, "Why?" The back is all text, "Hitler can no longer win the war," and lists four reasons why. The leaflets ends, "New millions will die for Hitler!" This leaflet was first dropped on the night of 25/26 March and last dropped on the night of 23/24 April 1942.

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This 1942 British Political Warfare Executive leaflet photograph is hard to identify since the body is in such poor condition. It could be a man face down in the dirt with his pants removed, or it could be a woman. The title La guerra come ve la spacciavano, (“The war in Reality”) shows the Italians clearly that war is not about glory and medals; instead it can be about horrible death.

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British leaflet G12 was dropped from 8 March 1942 to 13 April 1942. It depicts Adolf Hitler smiling as he looks around at a snowy Russian field covered with the bodies of dead German soldiers. A Hitler quote from 24 February 1941 is in bright red, "I feel so fresh. Spring is coming." The back of the leaflet is all text. It is entitled, "To the soldiers of the German armed forces!" The text tells of the terrible disasters that have befallen the German military in the USSR and ends, "A just peace!

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This British leaflet coded G18/1942, dropped over Germany from 17 April until 10 August 1942, was called “His First Campaign.”

The front is divided into two pictures. In the left picture we see a young Hitlerjungen (Hitler Youth), and at the right we see him a bit older as a Stosstruppführer (Storm Troop Leader). The second picture to the right of the front depicts dead bodies on the Eastern Front. The text is:

From Hitler Youth to Storm Trooper

And His Last

What THE WEEK tells – and what it conceals

The back of the leaflet depicts a “The Week” newspaper obituary page filled with notices of the deaths of German soldiers. The text is:

Hitler can no longer win the war, he can only prolong it.

Note: The British dropped almost the same leaflet as G.21, from 4 May until 29 August 1942, now called “What THE WEEK says.” The major difference is that no instead of the pictures being horizontal on the front; they appear in a vertical format.

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The Nazi Party deducted a small amount from the paycheck of the German worker who signed up to receive what would eventually become the "People's Car" (Volkswagen). British leaflet G21 was dropped from 20 April 1943 to 5 May 1943. A photograph at the top of the leaflet depicts Hitler being shown a model of the car that was to be eventually owned by every German. The text is "Hitler sees the model, Berlin 1938." Ferdinand Porsche was commissioned to design a car for the Nazi Kraft Durch Freude organization - the slogan meaning strength, or power through joy.

The picture below shows two dead German soldiers contorted in the North African desert heat next to the military version of the automobile. The text is, "The finished vehicle in Africa 1943." The KDF-Wagen was produced in military versions such as the Type 82 and amphibious Type 166, but it wasn't until after the Second World War that it became available to civilians as the Volkswagen.

The leaflet title is, "Power through Joy!" There is a Hitler quote from 30 January 1941. "I allowed for each possibility ahead of time." The back of the leaflet is all text and entitled "Hitler Strategy." It ends with a discussion of German military disasters in the Soviet Union and North Africa, "After Stalingrad and Tunis?"

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Curiously, an almost identical leaflet was prepared a year earlier. British leaflet G69 (1942) showed the exact same image on the front, except that it was not as sharp and the faces were less clear. The only difference is the text at the bottom which now reads "The finished vehicle in Libya 1942." The message on the back compares the military situations in 1939, 1940, and 1941.

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British leaflet G.56 was dropped from 17 August 1943 to 7 September 1943. The front of the leaflet is all text. The title is, "German women! Rescue your men!" The text tells of the horrible death awaiting the German soldier at the front. It discusses Mussolini and the fact that German soldiers die in Italy while Italians no longer fight. The back of the leaflet has no text. It depicts a dead German soldier on the ground in Italy. He appears to have taken a bullet in the face.

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British leaflet G72 is a four page folded sheet entitled "Stalingrad - February 1943." It depicts a number of photographs of dead German soldiers after military defeats. Besides Stalingrad (February 1943), the leaflet also shows bodies from Tunis (May 1943) and Italy (September 1943). Each of the photos is accompanied by the ever larger text Um Zeit zu gewinnen ("A time to win"). The back of the leaflet depicts an aerial photograph of what is left of Hamburg after Allied bombing raids. The text is "Hamburg July 1943 - Time for the destruction of Germany." This leaflet was dropped over Germany from 22 September 1943 until 6 January 1944.

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The Index of Allied Airborne Leaflets and Magazines tells us that British leaflet G.21, “What Die Woche says,” was dropped from about 4 May 1942 to 29 August 1942. On the front at the top it depicts Hitler Youth who graduate to German Storm Troopers, and below the bodies of dead German soldiers on the Eastern Front.

Die Woche (“The Week”) was an illustrated weekly newspaper published in Berlin from 1899 to 1944. Some of the text on the front is:

What ‘The Week’ shows, and what it does not show

His first campaign - and his last

The back of the leaflet depicts death notices, probably as seen in a German newspaper, and the text:

Hitler can no longer win the war, he can only prolong it

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This leaflet does not show dead or mutilated bodies but it threatens same and therefore I think it is worth adding to this article. It is a tactical leaflet produced by the United States Ninth Army for German soldiers in Northwest Europe in October 1944. The leaflet depicts a tank plough. Some of the text is:

Our tank-plough is no secret weapon. We Americans freely show you our weapons. Our strongly armored tank-ploughs bury many of you alive in your fox holes. Lieutenant Schneps ordered the men of the First and Third detachments (6/343 Infantry Regiment) to let the ploughs pass and then attack the following American infantry. Thus, about 60 defenseless men were covered over while standing in their fox holes.

Almost 50 years later, United States armor using the same weapon buried Iraqi soldiers during Operation Desert Storm in 1991.

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Leaflet ZG 57

I have debated putting this leaflet into the story. It does show a destroyed German Panther tank near St. Pois, but does not show dead bodies. But, it does talk of dead bodies, perhaps thousands of them. As a result, I think we can make a case for adding this leaflet. 4,280,000 copies of leaflet ZG 57 were dropped on the Germans from 30 August to 16 September 1944.

During WWII, as the Allies quickly advanced from their D-Day landings, a large number of German troops were trapped in what became known as the Falaise Gap. Allegedly, the Allies did not want them trapped to an extent where they would fight to the death so left a small opening where the Germans could make their escape. The plan apparently worked and the trapped Germans moved toward the Gap in great numbers. According to this leaflet they were slaughtered to such an extent that it was little more than murder. The front of the leaflet has a statement from an American reporter, the back a similar statement from a British artillery officer. I will translate a brief portion of each side:

It has been the greatest slaughter of German soldiers, the greatest destruction of their equipment, since the war began. Through the naked eye, one can see the shells hit the vehicles which go up in flame and smoke, with little marionettes, which are the German soldiers, run around like ants in a field…The carnage became something altogether fantastic. There arose the sickening atmosphere of something resembling a slaughter house. Somebody – someone high up – was sacrificing thousands of German lives and an army’s equipment for the sake of prestige. Our men lost all desire to fire into this helpless amorphous mass without even aiming…but the destruction had to go on.

We received our targets and fired into them but it was no longer a fair battle. It was mass murder. It was a mass suicide of the German 7th Army. Over 50,000 German soldiers lost their lives in the battle of encirclement within a matter of 10 days…A German officer declared: “That could no longer be called war…No wonder that our Generals rebelled against such insanity…One cannot stop a steamroller with one’s naked hands.”


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O Tannenbaum

During WWII the USSR produced thousands of different leaflets and dropped them in the millions over the German troops invading their homeland. Many of the leaflets used the fear of death and disfigurement as their main focus. This was especially true during and after Stalingrad, where thousands of Germans froze to death during the terrible winter of 1942.

The leaflet we illustrate is one of a set of six that was prepared in the form of a postcard. The picture side depicts a German soldier frozen to death beneath a decorated fir tree. The text is, "O Tannenbaum, O tannenbaum" ("Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree"), a well known German Christmas song.

Each of these cards bears an imitation express label Des Führers Weihnachtsbescherung ("The Leader's Christmas Present") on the back. This comment is satiric in nature because the "present" is death in the Russian snow. 500,000 of the postcards were printed in Moscow on 10 December 1941. They were used all across the Eastern Front. Notice that the card we show has two punch holes at the left. That indicates that it was turned in to German Intelligence where it was filed and kept until the end of the war. In later years these files were opened and the leaflets sold.

The text on the back is, "On Christmas eve the entire family is gathered around the festively decorated Christmas tree. Only, he, the soldier, is missing. He now lies thousands of miles away from his homeland, dead under a snow-covered Russian fir tree. Hitler sent him and millions of other Germans to their death. German soldier, you who are still alive on Christmas eve are consumed with longing for your loved ones. Finish with Hitler! Finish with this senseless war!

German prisoners stated that these leaflets, dropped at a time when the German soldiers had given up all hope of a furlough for the holidays, and when the German people had been warned against celebrating Christmas, had a great effect on them.

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Front Illustrated – February 1943

The Russian 4-page propaganda leaflet newspaper Front Illustrierte fur den Deutschen Soldaten (Front Illustrated for the German Soldiers)was published on a weekly basis from July 1941 to April 1945, 93 issues in all, and then airdropped over German troops. The newspapers were about 90% illustrations with many photographs and photomontages of a defeatist nature showing dead or wounded German troops and destroyed German war weapons and materials. Occasionally special issues would be produced with more than the usual four pages. Hardly an issue can be found that does not show rotting German corpses or burning German tanks on Russian soil. Hitler is often ridiculed, sometimes depicted with Napoleon’s hat, sometimes as a drunk, sometimes as a vulture on a mountain of corpses or sometimes leading an army of skeletons. Other Nazi leaders such as Göring, Goebbels and Himmler appear in various poses as rats, monkeys, money-grubbers and other strange creatures. Many of the illustrations were designed by the Russian artist Alexander Zhitomirsky. Besides German language editions, there were some copies of the newspaper printed in Italian, Romanian and Finnish.

Almost any edition of the newspaper leaflet could be used to show the theme of death and disfigurement. The issue of February 1943 depicts dead Germans piled up in the snow around Stalingrad.

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Daddy where are you?

The Russian leaflet depicts a child looking for her father at the top and below dead German soldiers on the frozen battlefield. This leaflet was dropped by Soviet Aircraft during January of 1942, Code number 697. The text on the front is:

Daddy, we're waiting for you, Daddy, where are you?

The back is the usual surrender message that Hitler is to blame for the war and will make your children orphans. Stay alive to embrace your wife and children. Surrender to the Soviets and survive. The Commander of the Red Army will guarantee your life, good food, mail home and a safe return home when the war is over.

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Daddy is dead!

This very professional Russian leaflet shows a child who has just learned that her father was killed on the Eastern Front. The text on the front is:

Daddy is dead!

Call Hitler! He did it!

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Do you want to return home SO?

This amazing full-color Russian leaflet depicts a German soldier who has returned from the war. He has lost both legs and is rolling on a wheeled platform across the floor. He wife and daughter are in shock and cannot bear to look at him. This is a very emotional image. Most soldiers do not mind dying for their country. What they fear is being horribly crippled or disfigured. The text on the front is:

Do you want to return home SO?

The back says in part:

To hundreds and thousands, Hitler awards Iron Crosses, promises you eternal glory and honor for the subjugation and destruction of millions of people living in the countries of Europe. Hundreds and thousands of you are intoxicated by the bloody victories and hope that the war will bring you and your family happiness…

In vain! Millions of German soldiers have already left their lives on the boundless expanse of the Soviet Union. The iron crosses are a poor consolation for your widows and orphans, and the lofty speeches do not replace the dead bodies.

The message goes on to say that the soldiers will not win honor and glory and happiness, but just death and disfigurement as depicted on the picture on the front of the leaflet. The message ends “Down with Hitler! Down with the Nazis!”

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It wasn't only the Soviets that used frozen soldiers as propaganda. Here the Finnish troops have propped up a frozen Russian soldier in an attempt to intimidate the Soviet troops.

The Korean War

We should start this section by saying that the United States was slowly coming to understand that showing dead and disfigured bodies was having the opposite effect of what was desired. Instead of the enemy losing hope, they seem to have become insulted and agitated and more willing to fight. We find that from the Korean War to the present, the U.S. tried to prohibit the depiction of enemy dead on leaflets, but just like the prohibited use of “Death Cards” in Vietnam, the troops loved leaflets covered with dead bodies and they just kept appearing. Major Albert C. Brauer, served in the Eighth U.S. Army Korea as Chief of the Projects Branch, Psychological Warfare Division, G3 Section (February 1951 to January 1952). He prepared a paper for Georgetown University in 1953 entitled Psychological Warfare Korea 1951. He said in regard to the leaflets depicted dead bodies:

The anti-morale, material superiority (especially photos of dead Communist soldiers) were least effective. The general feeling seemed to be: We know this only too well, but what can we do?” This fatalistic attitude, together with a lack of individual initiative was, I believe, the psychological factors most difficult to combat.

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Leaflet 1058

Since we are discussing death, it is only apt that the first leaflet we depicts has a North Korean soldier blindly following death who is beating a war drum while the soldier’s child weeps behind him. The leaflet was prepared by the Military Intelligence Section, General Staff, Psychological Warfare Branch of the Far East Command. The text on the front is:

The Next Attack – Why Must I be led to my Death?

Some of the text on the back is:

Why have the Communist leaders tried to blind me to the truth about the overwhelming numbers of the United Nations planes, tanks and artillery units?

Why have they tried to deafen me with the hollow pounding of war drums and political indoctrination…deafened me to the anguished cries of my family?

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Leaflet 1074

This Far East Command Psychological Warfare Section leaflet depicts North Korean leader Kim Il Sung addressing a rally of Communist soldiers, most of whom are shown as skeletons. Some of the text is:

First Anniversary of the Korean War

Victory Celebration

This month marks the first anniversary of the Communist assault upon South Korea.

Net results of one year’s fighting in Korea

June 1970 – June 1951

Casualties: 1, 176,750 – Prisoners of War: 162,398 – Material Losses; Incalculable.

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Leaflet 1127

Leaflet 1127 was prepared by the First Radio Broadcasting and Leaflet Group of General Headquarters, Far East Command, Psychological Warfare Section, on 1 December 1951. It is designed to frighten the enemy soldier and make him consider surrendering to the United Nations forces. The front of the leaflet depicts dead and dying North Korean soldiers in an artillery barrage with bright red flames. Text on the front of the leaflet is:

7500 Infantry Companies Destroyed.

The back of the leaflet has a long propaganda message and depicts a line of North Korean soldiers turning into skeletons as they march forward and piling up on the ground. The text is:

When your political officers give you the latest war news they probably distort what should interest you the most - the number of your comrades killed, wounded, or safe behind the United Nations lines.

Since the Korean Army began the war, 681,421 of your countrymen have been killed or wounded. This is equivalent to more than 3,000 full strength Korean infantry companies. 118,486 Korean soldiers have avoided death and wounds by going over the United Nations lines where they are now safe.

Since the beginning of the war the total number of Korean and Chinese soldiers killed or wounded is 1,5000,000! This is equivalent to 7,500 Korean infantry companies!

These figures should prove to you that your leaders have little regard for human life, and that they are putting your life in constant danger.

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Leaflet 6004

The United Nations attempted to destroy the morale of the Chinese “volunteers” and drive a wedge between the enlisted men and the officers fighting in North Korea by disseminating leaflet 6004. It depicted a mass of dead and dying Chinese soldiers under air attack. The text to the right of the vignette is:

Where Are Your Officers?

The back is all text:

Chinese soldiers, Your fighting friends, who have been wounded or captured, ask one question over and over again:

Where are our officers? Whenever planes bomb and strafe us, our officers disappear and our enlisted men are abandoned.

Why should we carry out the orders of invisible men? Why should we serve with ghosts for leaders? Why should Chinese soldiers be slaughtered through the cowardly desertion of their own officers?

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Leaflet 7079 was prepared by the 1st Radio Broadcast and Leaflet Group and ready for dissemination on 24 August 1951.

The black and red leaflet is targeted at the Chinese Army and the theme is to accentuate the enemy's fear of U.N. artillery. The front depicts a single Chinese soldier in the center of a giant target. The text is:


The back depicts a large hole in the ground caused by an artillery explosion:

Death that comes at you continually. It comes with the sun. It comes with the rain. It seeks you out in the night.


It will soon find you with its purr of death and will kill you as it has killed so many of your comrades. How many artillery shells did you hear yesterday? Will you live to hear them again tomorrow? Death is coming, soldier.


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This U.N. leaflet to the Chinese above features a skeleton rotting on top of two pieces of paper, one a letter from home, and the other a newspaper. The title of the leaflet is “Communist prolongation of the war” a campaign the U.N. waged as the North Koreans and Chinese stalled at the peace meetings trying to gain more ground before the eventual armistice. The leaflet was printed on 29 August 1951 by the General Headquarters, Far East Command, Psychological Warfare Bureau. The text on the paper (a family letter) beneath the skull is:

I hope the peace talk is successful. My son can come home safely…Mother

The newspaper he's touching with his hand:

NEWS EXPRESS: Chinese Communists halt Peace Talks, Sending Chinese Soldier to Death.

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The previous three leaflets all used the threat of artillery and air attack to demoralize the enemy. This leaflet depicts a Communist soldier burning to death covered by napalm (jellied gasoline). There cannot be a more horrible death than this. The leaflet was requested from the G3, Eighth U.S. Army (Korea) by the U.S. Army X Corps for use against the 90th Regiment of the 45th North Korean Division, known for its poor morale. The text on the front is:

Warriors of the 90th North Korean People’s Army Regiment!

For whom do you face a fiery death?

Some of the text on the back is:

Again you have tasted the power and destruction of United Nations aircraft and fire bombs! Again fire rains from the sky and may soon kill you!


For whom must you face this horrible death without defense against it? Your leaders fill the air with false promises while the United Nations fills the skies with aircraft and fire bombs….

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Leaflet 7095 was prepared by the 1st Radio Broadcast and Leaflet Group. The black and white leaflet is targeted at the Chinese Army and the front depicts the hand of death grimly counting his army on an abacus. Skulls, similar in size to abacus beads, form the background. The number shown on the abacus is 1,262,335. The back is all text:

Communist Leaders Celebrate Year in Korea.

While Chairman Mao and his henchmen gaily celebrate at home, Chinese soldiers continue to die uselessly in a foreign war. To date, 1,262,335 communist soldiers have died or been wounded in Korea.

As Mao celebrates the event, Death has his own celebration. Each click of the abacus means another communist soldier has died or is suffering. Each day the total climbs higher, higher, higher. Unless you escape, you too, will be killed or wounded.

Don't die for the communists. Save your life. Escape.

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Leaflet 7096 was prepared by the 1st Radio Broadcast and Leaflet Group and ready for dissemination on 24 October 1951.

The black and white leaflet is targeted at the Chinese Army and the text is a parody of a famous Chinese war poem. The front depicts a sleeping woman dreaming of the return of her soldier husband. The text is:

While their forms in dreams arise to fair ones far away...

Her dead husband is depicted on the back of the leaflet with the text:

...but along the river bank their bones lie scattered where they may. Her husband will not return home because he lies dead by a river bank. But, you can escape.

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The First Radio Broadcasting and Leaflet Group leaflet 7225 dated 5 January 1953 depicts a skull wearing a Chinese Army cap. The data sheet explains that this leaflet was designed to show that the Sino-Soviet friendship is a one-way bargain for China and means the ultimate death of the Chinese Communist forces. The text is in Chinese, "This is what the Sino-Soviet friendship means to you, soldier. Escape to the rear or the United Nations now!" There is also an added note in Korean, "This is a United Nations message to the Communist Chinese forces. Post it for them to read."

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Leaflet 7256 depicts a group of Chinese soldiers looking at the dead bodies of Chinese women and children on the ground. The First Radio Broadcasting and Leaflet Group produced this leaflet on 11 June 1953 for Chinese troops in Korea. It is part of a series entitled “Think” meant to cause Chinese soldiers to resent their Russian allies. The photograph was taken from the cover of Life Magazine, 19 January 1953. The back of the leaflet is all text with three large Chinese characters:


The text beneath the photograph says in part:


Is this how the Soviet-modeled Communists liberate the people of China?

Why did they have to kill these poor and innocent people to accomplish their “false liberation?”

THINK! Are these “false liberators” helping you, or helping Soviet Russia?


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A United Nations Korean War leaflet coded 8265 depicts a dead Communist soldier on the ground. The text is "Will you soon be like this?" The leaflet is for the 45th North Korean Army Division. The X Corps requested it as part of an intensified PSYOP effort. It is a rebuttal of Communist claims that the Republic of Korea troops have no artillery.

The back is all text:

Warriors of the 45th North Korean Division. Will you soon be like this? Heaven and earth have been rocking with the might of the Republic of Korea Army artillery. Day and night, the Republic of Korea Army artillery seeks you out. Your political officers have told you that you need not fear the Republic of Korea Army artillery. Have they lied to you once again? Have you had enough of their constant falsehoods? Must your comrades continue to die like dogs for Soviet Russia? There is but one way to escape - Come to the safety of the UN lines. Many of your comrades are already here. DO NOT HESITATE! TOMORROW MAY BE TOO LATE!

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Leaflet 8518

This leaflet is similar to the one above. It depicts a dead Chinese soldier on the ground with what appears to be his broken weapon. It targets the Chinese human wave attacks. Notice the two punch holes at the top that indicate at some point this leaflet was filed in a military archive. Text on the front is:

Victim of Human Wave Tactics

The back is all text and says in part:

Officers and men of the ________ [This is a tactical leaflet and there is a space for entering a target unit – other such leaflets exist]

In your recent attacks you have made some gains. However, the picture on the other side shows the price of your gains. Remember, the United Nations Forces knew you were going to attack.

Your communist masters adapting "Human sea” tactics care nothing for human life. Thousands and thousands of your comrades are already dead or wounded. Will you be next! A wise man would save his life. Come to UN lines at once….

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Leaflet 8721 is a cartoon showing what appear to be three Chinese volunteers. One is bent over in pain. Two others lie on the ground beside him covered with blood. Both the background and the text is bright red. Another obvious threat of death and destruction by the Forces of the United Nations.

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Front and Back of Communist Korean War Propaganda Booklet

The Communists prepared a six-page booklet for use against the American forces during the Korean War. The front and back pages both depicted scenes of death. One cover depicts a dead American flyer with the text “U.S. Airman writes to his buddies.” The other cover depicts two Korean children with the same text, “U.S. Airman writes to his buddies.” Inside there is a long propaganda message that says in part: 

United States Air Force Sergeant Phillip Aaronson is a prisoner of war in North Korea. Here is a letter from him to his old buddies in the Air Force when he asked us to deliver to you. He also wrote to his folks at home asking them to take every action they could to get the war in Korea ended quickly. He wants everyone to read both of these. 

The first letter is to his parents in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. It has the usual propaganda message about the wonderful treatment in a prison camp and asks that the parents work to end the war. 

The second letter is to the B-29 crews that were bombing the communist forces in Korea. Aaronson tells of flying from his airbase in Okinawa and being shot down on 10 November 1950 near the Yalu River. His captors were the most gentlemanly of creatures naturally, and informed him that he was now safe, and gave him a cigarette. They fed him a good meal. He was “pleasantly surprised by the kindness of his captors.” They gave him warm clothes and he suddenly realized that it was the Americans who were the aggressors in Korea. His heart feels “remorse and shame for the tragedy I see each day unfolding before my eyes.” 

The last text page of the booklet is a safe conduct pass. It is not written solely for the American Air Force. British, Philippine, Turks, and other foreign forces in Korea are welcome to come over to the Communist side. The safe conduct pass promises good treatment to all and is signed by “The Korean People’s Army” and “The Chinese People’s Volunteer Forces.”

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Leaflet 8597

During WWII the Germans printed numerous leaflets for the Americans, British and French showing soldiers with one leg, returning home to disappointed wives or girlfriends. Apparently the Americans approved of the concept because this leaflet to the Communist enemy uses exactly the same theme. The leaflet depicts a soldier returning home on crutches after losing his left leg in battle. His wife cries. The text asks:

If you return home with one leg, what can you do?

The text on the back says in part:

Under the false leadership of the Communists, numerous comrades have been killed and thousands and thousands more have been crippled in this war of Communist aggression.

The killed are called “Martyrs.” The cripples return home to so-called “Glory.”


If you have just one leg or one arm, can you till your land? When one is crippled his life is doomed.

Friends, be wise! Save your valuable life and limbs. Come to the United Nation lines at your first opportunity. The United Nations gives good treatment regardless of your rank and ideological belief.

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Leaflet 8693

Leaflet 8693 attempts to frighten the Chinese “volunteers” with threat of death due to military action, starvation and the cold. It depicts a long line of dead or wounded Chinese troops. Some of the text is:

Warriors of the Chinese Forces

Hour after hour the number of dead and wounded increase around you. Your unit suffers bitterly from heavy casualties. See, many of your comrades now lie either dead or wounded. Your unit is almost destroyed. Must you, too, join your comrades in useless death?

Your situation is hopeless. You have done all you can. Now you must preserve your life to return to your family.

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Leaflet 7117

This United Nations leaflet is actually coded R-7117. That indicates that it was so popular among our forces that it was reprinted and disseminated a second time. The image is one that most soldiers would probably consider worse than death. This Chinese soldier has lost both of his hands. In the background we see happier times when he could hold his son, close to his wife and home. It is a heart-breaking image. The back of the leaflet bears the symbol of the United Nations and text. The message on the front of this leaflet is:

If the Soviet Communist leaders agree soon to end the war, maybe I'll still have both hands to hold my child.

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Leaflet 7119

This reprinted UN leaflet (notice the “R” in the code) targeting the Chinese troops depicts a hand holding a slip of paper that says in Chinese:

Give me my life back

A horde of dead and rotting Chinese soldiers killed in Korea look at posters of Mao and Stalin and say:

We dead want our life back too

The most interesting fact about the particular leaflet above is that it was owned by someone who rather overestimated its value. Remember that these leaflet were dropped in their millions and covered the ground for anyone to pick up. Usually one with a nice image might sell for about $25. In this case, the owner placed it in an auction estimated from $8,500 to $18,000, with a starting bid at $3,500 and a 27.5% premium applied to the winning bid. I am going to go out on a limb here and prophesize that this leaflet will receive no bids at this auction.


Vietnam was one of the longest and most emotional wars that the United States has ever fought. It lasted 10 years and tore the country apart. Although Washington fought a politically correct war and never went on a total war footing, in the front lines the fighting was sometimes ferocious and without quarter. It is no surprise that many American PSYOP leaflets showed scenes of dead and disfigured Viet Cong and North Vietnamese regulars.  

The Joint United States Public Affairs Office (JUSPAO) issued Guidance Number 20 on 11 September 1966. It said in part, "Convince the Viet Cong and their supporters that they are doomed to inevitable military defeat, and that each member faces death for a cause that cannot achieve either the national aspirations of the Vietnamese people or the personal aspiration of any Vietnamese individual."

Robert W. Chandler says in The War of Ideas: The U.S. Propaganda Campaign in Vietnam, Westview Press, Boulder, CO, 1981:

Another attempt to reinforce the enemy's fear of death that went awry was the use of brutally macabre leaflets. Photographs and sketches of a head torn from a body, a mass grave, or a skull roasting in flames were used to scare Communist troops into giving up. Others depicted battlefield dead with flies crawling over them and grotesque corpses with twisted limbs showing advanced stages of rigor mortis. As early as 1967, however, it became evident that these appeals failed to impress the enemy and had little effect on their decision to rally (defect). In fact, a reverse or 'boomerang' effect resulted from the use of such leaflets: Many hoi chanh (Viet Cong who had already defected to the national government) felt that these grisly pictures reflected unfavorably on the Republic because the government seemed to be gloating over the deaths of fellow Vietnamese." Chandler says later, "Death themes were repeated over and over in virtually all enemy-oriented communications."

Harry D. Latimer discusses atrocity photographs in U. S. Psychological Operations in Vietnam - a Monograph on National Security Affairs, Brown University, September, 1973. He is talking about the American use of VC atrocities, but his point about the audience avoiding the propaganda applies to all atrocity propaganda:

Do exercise extreme caution when dealing with the subject of VC atrocities. "Bounds of good taste" may be difficult to determine when presenting photographs of atrocity victims, but in general, it should be remembered that a nauseated audience is not necessarily a receptive audience. Extremes in goriness (e.g. close-ups of decapitated victims, disemboweled women in extreme pregnancy, etc.) may simply induce an avoidance reaction rather that the desired emotional reaction. The most effective use of atrocities is when they can be tailored to appeal to the sentiments, such as depicting an innocent child whose leg was blown off by a VC mine – and the stump should be bandaged. The audience can easily see the point (which also can be made verbally in the text) that here is a young child, who could have harmed no one, but must now go through life minus a limb.

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Communicating with Vietnamese thru Leaflets

Communicating with Vietnamese thru Leaflets was a 1968 publication on the creation and distribution of propaganda in Vietnam. It was produced by the Field Development Division and the Office of Policy, Plans, and Research of the Joint United States Public Affairs Office (JUSPAO). The 62 page illustrated booklet was written by Monta Osborne with illustrations added by Phil Katz. Monta L. Osborne was the Chief of Field Development Division in Saigon in charge of the Chieu Hoi (Open Arms) program during the Vietnam War. The booklet was issued to Military Assistance Command - Vietnam (MACV) to be issued to field PSYOP personnel. Also offered to Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support (CORDS) and additional copies printed for all new PSYOP officers and civilians assigned to Vietnam. The book says about atrocity leaflets:

Some atrocity leaflets simply reinforce the widespread feeling that the VC are all powerful, that they can strike when and where they please, that there is no escape, and that the people better accept VC rule. Our goal is to provoke anger without contributing to the people's fears.

The subject is mentioned in the PSYOP/POLWAR Newsletter, September 1968:

POWs and ralliers have recommended against the use of scare, threat and death theme leaflets because they have little effect on the men in the field. Returnees feel that this is especially important in conjunction with a pleas for return to the government…“The scene of death brought about by the government did not show the government in a favorable light – we preferred to think of the government as the head of the family of Vietnam, one who is our benefactor and helps us – death scenes show the government as being unsympathetic and, to a degree, gloating over a victory scored against the very ones that are being asked to return.”  Leaflets depicting battle scenes with scattered dead bodies work against our long range strategic PSYOP objectives and should be avoided.

It is clear the Government was not in favor of leaflets that threatened the enemy or showed them dead on the battlefield. We will show in this section that most military people did not agree with that concept and wanted to depict heaps of dead Viet Cong in their leaflets. There was one official that agreed with the stated policy and tried to stop such leaflets.

Harry Wagner mentions threatening leaflets in The Headless Snake, self-published, 2018. Wagner was involved in PSYOP in Vietnam from 1966 to 1968 as the Director of Psychological Operations in II Corps. He says:

In my capacity of controlling PSYOP for the 1st Field Force Vietnam, it required me to approve all leaflet drops as to content of the leaflet text…I rejected one for reason of it being a blatant threat of intimidation. The leaflet had a drawing of a soldier holding a rifle over a Vietnamese family group with the wording, “You must tell us where the Viet Cong are or we will bomb your village.” I rejected the leaflet and then the storm began. Unknown to me, the leaflet was the work of a Division Commander; a Lieutenant General who pushed it through the printing process without my approval…The Division Commanding General printed four million leaflets to be dropped over the total area of his command. I said “destroy them.” It took three months to burn the leaflets.

An Army officer who took part in both the leaflet production and themes told me:

The overwhelming majority of leaflets we printed said something like “We killed you here, we killed you there, and we will continue killing you everywhere.” The sad part is, post-testing revealed that the enemy felt the Government of South Vietnam should be a government that was saddened by the death of fellow Vietnamese, and not a government that bragged, rejoiced, gloated and exploited through propaganda these deaths. It was an ill-conceived propaganda campaign that at one time accounted for most of the printing effort of the 7th PSYOP Group.

In October 1946, The U.S. Army’s Propaganda Branch, based in the Pentagon, Washington D.C., published a report entitled A Syllabus of Psychological Warfare. It mentions the dangers of atrocity propaganda and warns:

It may lift morale momentarily, but its long-range effect is not favorable to morale…It has been found that atrocity propaganda begets atrocity. An audience subjected to atrocity propaganda will react in the normal human way and will effect reprisals in kind if the opportunity offers, so that the outcome is an auction of cruelty, each side seeking to excel the other in wantonness without achieving any respectable military goal.

Thomas C. Sorensen mentions the use of death in PSYOP in The Word War, Harper & Row, N.Y., 1968:

In "Operation Rigor Mortis" the names of the enemy dead were taken from papers on their bodies and quickly broadcast to their home areas so that potential Viet Cong recruits would know that these young men, contrary to VC promises, had been abandoned to die, far from their homes and ancestral burial grounds.

The British had just successfully finished fighting a Communist uprising in Malaya. They had produced thousands of leaflets including many that showed dead and disfigured bodies. They quickly came to the conclusion that it was a bad idea. Kumar Ramakrishna discusses this in Emergency Propaganda: The Winning of Malayan Hearts and Minds 1948-1958, Curzon Press, Surrey, UK, 2002:

Hugh Greene (Head of the Emergency Information Services) urged that leaflets with photographs of dead terrorists be used with discretion, and not in areas were terrorist morale was still high, in case the leaflets stiffened their resistance…Such leaflets were bad propaganda because they deterred possible surrendering enemy from giving up, for fear that they would be killed by the government.

The Army Institute for Professional Development PSYOP training booklet Propaganda Development dated 17 February 1983 discusses the concept in the chapter entitled "Message Guidelines." It says, "Fear appeals are generally effective. When target analysis indicates fear or extreme concern over certain issues on the part of the target audience, it is true that fear arousing appeals are generally effective in the facilitation of attitudinal and behavioral change. However, this generalization requires qualification. In cases where fear is aroused, the message must also provide the audience a specific course of action which, if followed, will enable the receiver to avoid the undesirable consequences. In other words, when intentionally arousing fear in a target audience, also include an "escape clause."

Further, as a rule of thumb, the more fear evoked in the target audience, the more attitudinal change that is likely to take place. This information should be considered when planning the text for persuasive messages designed to support or convey any campaign themes. This does not mean, however, that the use of fear and terror tactics is appropriate in any PSYOP campaign. Both PSYOP doctrine and national policy, in general, forbid the use of such techniques. Nevertheless, there are still many instances where fear-arousing appeals can be used without US-sponsored threat to life and limb of the target audience...Threats directed at hostile forces, such as "surrender or die" are commonplace when US forces have the guns and credibility to back them up. Consequently, fear arousing appeals can be used without violating doctrine. The use of terror is strictly prohibited. Above all, however, remember that when you have posed a problem or a threat, you should also provide a solution or a means of avoiding the aversive conditions.

Job Order 103

100,000 copies of Job Order 103 were produced by the III Corps Psychological Operations Detachment on 24 January 1966. They were the standard 3 x 6-inches for air dissemination. The holes punched into the leaflet show that it was kept in a loose-leaf type of reference book. The PSYOP companies had not yet been authorized so the various Corps produced their own leaflets.This leaflet was requested by the 1st Infantry Division.

The leaflet depicts a line of dead young men. The US often used the theme that the Viet Cong kidnap your young men, turn them into guerrilla fighters, and then watch as they are killed. The text on the front of this leaflet is:

More than 200 youngsters were killed in Duc-Lap on October 27, 1965.

The back is all text:


Because the Viet Cong know they are losing the battle and they are forced to take youngsters to fight for them.

Don’t let your sons die uselessly like those Viet Cong youngsters that died in Duc-Lap. Don't let your sons be cheated, forced, put into the Viet Cong trap of forcing them to join the insurgent Viet Cong. Keep your sons at home with you or send them to the Government controlled areas.

Job order 144 – 7 March 1966

This larger-than-normal (5 x 8-inches) leaflet is interesting in that a the left we see the bodies of dead Viet Cong guerillas while at the right we see a Vietnamese family. It was requested by the 1 st Infantry Division, for hand dissemination. The text on the front of the leaflet is:

Joining the National Liberation Front, you will see similar deadly scenes shown in this picture.

Chieu Hoi is the path of life for the ralliers. Rally to the National Cause, you have the ability to unite your family, enjoying happiness. The choice is up to you.

Just below this is a leaflet from the 246th PSYOP Company. This unit took over from the III corps soon after this was produced.

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Leaflet 246-362 Shows a dead and rotting Viet Cong soldier on the ground. It also shows a skull bearing the ace of spades symbol. The text is:

Viet Cong! This is a sign of death! Continue your struggle against the National Cause and you will surely die a mournful death like this!

It is interesting to note that the ace of spades was not a cultural indicator of death to the Vietnamese and in fact, had no meaning to them. A JUSPAO policy directive prohibited the image on leaflets, but American soldiers continued to leave the ace of spades as a "death card" on the bodies of Viet Cong.

Stanley Sandler mentions these leaflets in Cease Resistance: It's good for you! A history of US Army Combat Psychological Operations, 1999. He says:

Less happily. 'atrocity' propaganda was extensively used for the first time tactically since World War I, and again also heavily directed toward the civilian population despite some feeling that such messages could frighten the audience into acquiescing to the demands of the enemy. An Army commissioned study warned that the technique could be taken too far, that 'a nauseated audience is not necessarily a receptive audience.'

A similar approach, sometimes called the 'gory' leaflet, was used on a large scale for the first time by U.S. PSYOP forces. The corpses of enemy soldiers and cadre, sometimes named, were shown in close-up detail, sometimes with holes in their heads, sometimes with portions of heads missing, their revolting fate contrasted with the life awaiting defectors.

Leaflet 23-65

This is an early 1965 leaflet produced by the joint PSYWAR Civic Affairs Center of the I Corps Tactical Zone, Republic of Vietnam. The front of this leaflet depicts a dead Communist fighter on the ground. The text is:

Has this man had a proper burial?
Will his family ever learn where his grave is?

On the back a living Communist thinks of his family and wonders:

My family needs me. Am I ever going to see my family again?
Why should I fight my brother Vietnamese comrades?

Leaflet 116-66

Another early I Corps leaflet. This one depicts a dead Viet Cong fighter on the ground. I am tempted to turn this one upside down so you can see the body better, but the text on the bottom proves that they wanted the body seen this way. The leaflet was poorly cut by the printers and the stains are caused by the glue used to paste this specimen into the unit’s leaflet file. The text is:

Many of you have died tragically on the battlefield and no one will know where your grave is.

The back has a long all-text message. It is a tactical leaflet targeting the 325th Viet Cong Battalion:


For a long time, the Viet Cong cadres have taken advantage of you and need you for their cannon fodder. The Viet Cong have no regard for you, and you are making a needless sacrifice. They send you to a battlefield and use their human wave tactics where you tragically die.

Now is the time for you to profoundly reflect and hasten to return to the Republic of Vietnam’s Government and to the people to increase the prosperity of the country and the happiness and abundance of the people before you and your family are forever parted.

The administrative and military authorities and the people are waiting to welcome you just as they have done to your colleagues who have already returned to the true cause.

Leaflet 1151

This is a very early leaflet in the Vietnam war as you can see from the number. At the left front of the leaflet, we see a dead Viet Cong fighter on the ground. To the right is a second image, a wounded Viet Cong fighter being treated in a clean hospital by a Vietnam government doctor and nurse. 

What will your fate be if you are wounded in battle?

A cruel death because of neglect in a primitive Viet Cong jungle hospital where medicines are scarce, and facilities are inadequate.
Recovery and new life through the tender care provided by Government of Vietnam and Allied doctors.


The back is all text:


If you are wounded, find ways to delay and avoid being taken away. Try to go to an open area where you can easily be found by patrols.
If possible, cross to the Government of Vietnam lines. You will be taken to a hospital where you will be well cared for by doctors.


This leaflet was shown to Viet Cong returnees to hear their comments and criticisms. Curiously, the 244th PSYOP Company said it was highly effective but in the same letter quote Viet Cong and NVA prisoners that clearly showed it was not highly effective:

The main deficiency seems to involve creditability. Many Hoi Chanh feel that the leaflet is not authentic, not believable, and thus not effective. Many reasons were stated for the lack of belief in the leaflet. The underlying cause for most of these reasons seems to be insufficient proof of the Government of Vietnam intentions. A lot of the disbelief is no doubt due to Viet Cong propaganda efforts. They don't know who to believe.

The death scene is too horrible, it should show only a wounded Viet Cong and not a horrible death scene. Include an outpost or camp in the picture, and other proof (identification.) that the soldier is truly a Viet Cong that was killed in battle. Include an ARVN soldier treating the wounded or caring for the corpse. In the hospital scene show proof that the wounded soldier is a Viet Cong. (include his name, unit or better yet his signature). Include a statement made by a returnee about the treatment he received from the Republic of Vietnam when wounded. Appeal to dependents and relatives as well as the Viet Cong soldier.

There appears to be a deep resentment when we say or indicate that the Viet Cong are cruel, torturous, unmerciful, or are in any way different from the ARVN. They take this as a personal offense. We use the term Viet Cong in the collective sense while it appears that the individual Viet Cong considers it an attack on himself (as an individual soldier) rather than on the leadership, the party, or the communists.

Some Hoi Chanh stated that a colored leaflet would be an improvement because it is easier to spot in the jungle or in the rice fields. Most mentioned yellow is the easiest color to see, others mentioned red. None felt color would greatly alter the effectiveness of the leaflet once it was spotted.

A few Hoi Chanh stated that the corpses of the Viet Cong killed in action, or the wounded Viet Cong are never left unattended by their comrades in arms. This is in direct disagreement with current reports, (Rand, J-2, etc.) which indicate that Viet Cong are neglecting the wounded and dead. It may be the result of necessity rather than intent. One Viet Cong stated the ARVN also left their dead and wounded unattended on the battlefield.

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2398 - Is this Viet Cong soldier sleeping?

JUSPAO leaflet 2398 depicts a picture of a dead Viet Cong soldier. The text on the front is:

Is this Viet Cong soldier sleeping?

The text on the back of the leaflet is:

He sleeps forever, but he no longer dreams. His heart will no longer quicken when he thinks of home. His arms will never reawaken to embrace his loved ones.

Before you lie down for the eternal sleep, you will never know that you have been betrayed...and the lies you believed in brings only death to you and destruction to your country, and nothing useful. That is the reason for the sad expression on your face. There is a way to escape from that eternal sleep. Respond to the Chieu Hoi and rally to the Republic of Vietnam Government.

Note: The exact same image was used on an earlier JUSPAO leaflet coded SP-1142. The text on the front is the same. The second paragraph on the back is different:

He sleeps forever, but he no longer dreams. His heart will no longer quicken when he thinks of home. His arms will never reawaken to embrace his loved ones.

The tragedy is that even before the great sleep, he knew that he had been betrayed…that the cause he had joined was developed to destroy his brothers, not to help them...that the same leaders who pushed him to the South are also destroying his homeland. This explains the sadness on his face.

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JUSPAO leaflet 2448 is one of the more gruesome leaflets prepared for use against the Communist forces. It depicts a handsome soldier, then a rotting corpse that seems to have taken a bullet directly in the face. The text is:

The Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces have completely crushed  the Viet Cong's general offensive against the cities.

From 30 January 1968 to 15 February 1968, over 34,000 North Vietnamese Regulars and Viet Cong soldiers paid for their crimes. Among them was Major General Tran Do, who was killed in an action at 46th Street in Cholon in the outskirts of Saigon City.

The death of Tran Do, Tran Van Tra and Nguyen Chi Tranh proved that the Communist aggressive policy to take over South Vietnam has severely failed. It was not their inability or incompetence, but the Communist adventurous acts that cause their deaths.

Why do you still hesitate? Try to find an opportunity to return to the National Community and rejoin your families, as tens of thousands have already done.

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The Original Photograph of Tran Do

Brigadier General Tran Do, (real name Ta Ngnoc Phac), a deputy commander-in-chief of the so-called "Liberation Army of South Vietnam", (the Viet Cong Armed Forces), and a Major General in the North Vietnamese Army, as well as Alternate Member of the Central Committee of the Lao Dong Party (formerly Indochinese Communist Party). This photo is believed to have been taken in South Viet Nam. It was discovered during Operation "Junction City" in War Zone "C" (Tay Ninh Province), in March 1967.

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The same image was used on leaflet 96 dropped during the U.S. bombing of North Vietnam. Some of the text on that leaflet is:

Dear Fellow Citizens in North Vietnam

Major General Tran Do was killed at the corners of Nguyen Tieu La and Trieu Da Streets in Cholon (on the outskirts of Saigon) while he was personally commanding the “general offensive” against Saigon and other cities in South Vietnam during the recent TET holiday.

Together with the death of General Tran Do, from 30 January to 29 February 1968, over 42,000 North Vietnamese regulars and Viet Cong were killed, 7,000 others captured, and over 12,000 pieces of assorted weapons seized.

Fellow citizens: He who sows the wind reaps the tempest! The deaths of Generals Nhuyen Chi Tranh and Tran Do and the recent heavy casualties on the Communists constituted a blow of the Republic of Vietnam people and Army, and revealed the complete failure of the Communist plot to take over South Vietnam.

Fellow citizens, be determined to thwart all the attempts of the North Vietnamese Communists who aim to send poor children to die foolishly in South Vietnam.

Under the two photos are the captions:

Photograph of Lieutenant General Tran Do taken last year. The photograph was captured in February 1967 in South Vietnam.

The body of Lieutenant General Tran Do after the battle in Cholon during the attack of the Viet Cong on the occasion of Tet.

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General Tran Do in Hanoi in 1993

In December 2010, I was contacted by artist Marcelino Truong who told me that he had interviewed General Tran Do in Hanoi in 1993. The general was still alive even though he had a price on his head throughout the war and had been reported killed during the Phoenix program. It seems that the wily old general had fooled the Americans and the South Vietnamese. Since the face of the victim in the leaflet above was totally destroyed, it is easy to see how such a mistake could have been made.

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Leaflet 48

Another leaflet dropped over North Vietnam depicts the skull of a North Vietnamese soldier on one side and the text:


This one of the more than 2000 Northern soldiers who died at Plei Me in November 1965. Many thousands have died in other battles and many thousands will continue to die if they don’t come over to the South Vietnamese or allied forces. Only these will live to return home.

The long message on the back attacks the North Vietnamese leaders who claim that there are no Northerners in the South. One of the comments is:

North Vietnam’s Premier Pham Van Dong declared: “The so-called presence of forces of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in South Vietnam is but a myth fabricated by the United States Imperialists by way of justification for their war of aggression in South Vietnam.”

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Leaflet 49

Leaflet 49 is mentioned briefly in The declassified Command History, United States Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, 1967:

The most effective leaflet against the infiltrator was the safe conduct pass, which was considered a kind of insurance. The campaign was best evaluated by the number of NVA soldiers persuaded to rally or accept capture rather than be killed. Some of these were probably influenced by the successful leaflet, “Born in the North to Die in the South.”

The leaflet depicts a dead North Vietnamese soldier on one side and text on other side. The text on the front is:


Tens of thousands of families in the North no longer hear from their dead sons in the Army. THEIR SONS ARE DEAD. This is the fate of those who are sent south. Because of the overwhelming strength of the South Vietnamese Army and Allied forces, the Communist infiltrators in the South are faced with total defeat. Only those who leave the Communist ranks in time will survive to be reunited with their families in the North some day.

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JUSPAO leaflet 2744 shows another dead soldier rotting on the ground. The Chieu Hoi symbols appear at the right and left. Some of the text is:

Let your eyes tell you the truth

Your leaders keep telling you that you have killed many soldiers of the Republic of Vietnam and its allies. Your leaders will deceive you, but your own eyes will not. In the battles in which you have fought did you not mostly see the bodies of your dead comrades?

The Government of Vietnam soldiers do not wish to kill or imprison you. They only want to give you a chance to live as a Vietnamese, with your Vietnamese brothers, in a land of peace, the free South Vietnam.

If you come in voluntarily, you will be accepted, you will be well-treated, and you will be helped to build a new life.

You will be helped to rebuild your life

Chandler specifically mentions dead bodies in War of Ideas. He says, "One of the US Key PSYOP Appeals during the Vietnam War was 'Fear of Death.' The aim was to convince the enemy of the overwhelming danger of being killed if he remained with the communists. Propaganda messages told him 'There are just two choices -- More of this hell which can only end in death for you, or Chieu Hoi and life.'

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North Vietnamese Army Regulars (NVA) coming down the Ho Chi Minh Trail also received such leaflets. JUSPAO leaflet 2660-T shows a dead body in a swamp. Some of the text is,

Why does Hanoi deny this sacrifice on the part of your soldiers in the South? You have come south to fight for a Communist cause.

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Another “trail” leaflet, 95-T, shows a number of dead communists rotting in the sun. Some of the text is:

During the Communists' Tet offensive, the Army of the Republic of South Vietnam and the Allies killed more than 65,000 Communist troops and captured more than 12,000. You are being sent South to replace them. Most of you will be killed far from home and buried in unmarked tombs. Do not listen to the lies of the regime in North Vietnam. Seize the first opportunity to leave your unit and come over to the ranks of the Republic of Vietnam.

PSYOP Policy No 59 dated 20 February 1968 entitled: "The NVA Soldier in South Vietnam as a PSYOP Target" says, "Remind the NVA soldier that the odds are very high that he will be killed or wounded in combat, that he might be hastily buried in an unmarked grave that will forever be unknown to his family."

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Leaflet T-12

A third Ho Chi Minh Trail leaflet depicts a dead North Vietnamese Army soldier on one side with the text: 

Do you want to be used as a Chinese bullet shield and die in vain like this?

The back depicts a Chieu Hoi 5-flag safe conduct pass and the text:

Is it finished when you die?
Your death is only a matter of time.
But after you die, who will feed your wife and children at home?

Who will take care of your parents who are already old and weak? Will you be able to rest peacefully?

There is one way out of this dilemma. Watch for your safe conduct pass and directions to cross the lines to the protection of the Government of South Vietnam. The pass will have this symbol:

Ten million of this leaflet were printed and disseminated.

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JUSPAO leaflet SP-2141 is one of many that show poems, letters or dead mothers or sweethearts crying over their lost loved ones. It depicts a mother crying over the image of her dead son, killed while fighting. The leaflet is designed to encourage enemy soldiers to rally to the government side before being killed in battle. The text on the front of the leaflet is:

We cry for the dead
We are bitter because of the Communists
have destroyed our families.
When will mothers and children be reunited?

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Leaflets SP-782 and SP-852

JUSPAO leaflets SP-782 and SP-852 have two identical photos on the front and the back. One Photo shows a VC bunker and a dead VC. The Second photo shows a VC rallier being reunited with his family. The main difference between them is that 782 was printed in a red ink and is 8 x 5.5-inches and 852 is black and white and 6 x 3-inches. I have also seen this leaflet in blue ink in both sizes and also with the 8th PSYOP Battalion code 8(1)2-185-68. The 8th PSYOP Battalion leaflet has a long text message on the back. >The text on the leaflet is:

It is your choice, either this or that.

The back of the leaflet has the same two photos and reads:

Do you want to die and be buried in an unmarked grave or come back to your family and enjoy the government's protection?

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Leaflet 10-29-68 depicts a number of dead VC heaped on top of each other in the mud. It was dropped in I Corps. Text on the back is:

To Viet Cong fighters in the remains of the 303rd U Minh and Tay Do Battalions: On 8 December 1967 you were defeated by the powerful forces of the Republic of Vietnam armed forces. The battle took place near Vi Thanh and these are the consequences you suffered.

456 Communist soldiers were killed in the battle.
    7 Communists were captured.
  24 crew-served weapons and 106 individual weapons with much military equipment and ammunition were seized.

The operations to come in the area will be continued with similar victories. If you think that living with your family is the most important thing you should bravely escape from the criminals in charge of you and return to the Government of the Republic of Vietnam....

In 1969 the Advanced Research Projects Agency of the Department of Defense studied the effectiveness of U.S PSYOP leaflets in Vietnam. A sample of 1,757 Vietnamese was used to represent the target audience. They included the inhabitants of Viet Cong controlled areas, Hoi Chanh who had defected, and prisoners of war. The questions asked of the panels was the effectiveness of symbols, appeals both locally and national, and the vulnerability of certain groups. Leaflets were judged on a scale of very good, good, fair, bad, and very bad. One problem was to reduce the number of leaflets to a workable size. In this test, 798 leaflets were judged and the leaflets were reduced to 77. Unfortunately, the report did not explain why certain leaflets were good or bad. Leaflet 10-29-68 was rated SOMEWHAT EFFECTIVE by the panel.

That rating makes me wonder about the veracity of this project. I was told over and over again that dead bodies were counter-productive because it enraged the enemy and made them fight harder. Yet here, former Viet Cong say that a leaflet showing bodies was fairly effective. It makes me wonder if they were telling the Americans what they thought they wanted to hear.

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Leaflet 10-262-68

The 10th PSYOP Battalion in Vietnam printed quite a few leaflets depicting dead Viet Cong. 2000 copies of this leaflet were prepared in April 1968 with the theme of “See what happens to those who follow the VC.” These leaflets were large so they were distributed by hand rather than aircraft. I like it because it is a rare “twofer.” Instead of the usual one body, this leaflet features two. The text is:


The two bloodthirsty butchers paid for their sins on 11 April 1968 at Binh Pho, Long Tuyen, Phong Dinh.

Tam Thanh Hong, an assassination section chief of Can Tho city and economic-financial section chief at Binh region.

Tam Thanh Hong, Ba Trung, a military cadre at Binh Thuy area, killed at 2015 hours on 11 April 1968

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Is This a Grave?

A series of leaflets was prepared for those North Vietnamese soldiers fighting in Laos. Leaflet .3 depicts a dead soldier. The text is:  


The back is all text:


Unfortunately, it is not. But it is the final resting place, many, many kilometers from the graves of his ancestors. His body cannot be identified, his grave cannot be marked, and his soul will never find rest. You can avoid this fate. Pick up a safe conduct pass and cross to the Government of his Majesty the King. 

How powerful was the American propaganda message showing the dead bodies of Communist insurgents? The subject was brought up in “Studies of the Chieu Hoi Program” interview by the Simulmatics Corporation coded CH-15. The interviewee is a 15-year old Viet Cong member who was assigned to an Entertainment Group, singing patriotic songs to villagers. It is important to understand that she is very young and not well educated, but her answers are interesting.  

American officer:

What effect do you think it might have to make up a leaflet with photographs of the bodies left behind? Do men in the Viet Cong worry about being left behind or being buried in an unmarked grave?

Viet Cong female:

I think it’s good to show the bodies, because then you make other people afraid of becoming Viet Cong because something bad might happen to them.

American officer:

Do men in the Viet Cong worry about being left behind or being buried in an unmarked grave?

Viet Cong female:

Some Viet Cong are afraid. Some are not afraid. Those who said they were not afraid said they were not afraid because you are dying for the nation and it is glorious.

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Will You Meet This Fate?

Leaflet .5 depicts two dead bodies and the text: 


The back is all text: 


Will you die in Laos far from your ancestral home? Why die needlessly in a foreign country? The people of Laos urge you to stop fighting and rally to the Government of his Majesty the King. You will be warmly welcomed.

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Leaflet # 4

Leaflets were also prepared for the Cambodian Allies of the United States in an attempt to raise their morale and motivate them to fight on. One such leaflet is number 4. There are three photographs on the front and four photographs on the back of this vertical leaflet. The front depicts a single dead North Vietnamese soldier, a row of dead soldiers, and stacks of captured weapons. The text is:

Here are the dead of the atheist savage Viet Cong and North Vietnamese with black teeth whom the Cambodian forces and the population have killed each day by piles and have captured many weapons. All of these atheist imperialist Vietnamese have no power.

The back of the leaflet depicts a single dead soldier, two groups of dead soldiers, and stacks of captured arms. The text is:

We Khymer must fight to save our country so that the atheist Vietnamese cannot come to command us and because our Khymer race has never been under Vietnamese domination.

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Leaflet 7-406-68 reveals a photo of a body of a dead Viet Cong guerrilla left in the jungle, abandoned by his comrades who left so quickly they didn't even bother to retrieve his weapons (note the grenade still on his belt). The text on the leaflet is: "Don't let this happen to you!"

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This 7th PSYOP Battalion leaflet coded 7-361-68 depicts a row of dead Communist Viet Cong. The leaflet was picked up near Landing Zone Bronco, Dac Pho village, I Corps, by a SP4 of the 23rd (Americal) Infantry Division's 11th Light Infantry Brigade in 1968. Text below the photograph on the front is:

These people are dead. Will you be just like them?

The text on the back is in part:

To the cadres of the [South Vietnam] Liberation Front in Quang Ngai Province.

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Leaflet 7-461-68 is still another photo of a dead Viet Cong left in the jungle. The text on the front is:

This is an insane and senseless death!

The back is all text:

Attention, our friends the soldiers of the Liberation Front in the Thuong Duc area! Your acts of terror have caused and continue to cause countless deaths and grief to innocent people. These barbaric acts of terror will only make people, already disgusted by you, even more outraged.

Everyone who has witnessed your despicable acts loathe you. All the people of the South will unanimously rise against you. You can expect nothing but death. The formidable forces that you are up against will overrun your position and you will be ultimately destroyed as were your comrades before you. It is senseless to die here when the Paris Peace Negotiations are taking place. Stop all your senseless acts of war.

Save your life at all costs so you can enjoy life when peace has returned to our country.


The leaflet depicts a dead Viet Cong member killed while trying to steal a bag of rice. What is interesting about this leaflet is that it mimics the Communist pattern of using “threes,” on their leaflets. Many of their leaflets will have themes like “The Three Readies,” “The Three Firsts,” and “The Three Do's,” using the comments to teach various lessons. This leaflet uses the same technique on the back. The text on the front is:

A communist soldier was killed while attempting to steal rice.

The text on the back is: 

Intolerance of political indoctrination.
Intolerance of killing innocent people.
Intolerance of extorting the people for rice.

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No words needed

This uncoded leaflet needs no text.  The images on the front and the back depict a Viet Cong soldier mortally wounded from a head wound.

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You are Haunted...

One of the most striking propaganda images I have seen is this leaflet which depicts a Viet Cong as a death's head. There is no code on the leaflet. The leaflet is on display at the Special Forces Museum at Ft. Bragg, NC. The text is:

You are haunted by death at all times, and those hauntings will increase more and more. The death will come from the air; look for you and annihilate you in the darkness of the night. The death might come to see you at any time; when you are resting or when you are asleep.

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Another leaflet coded 7-474-68 shows a citizen near a dead person (possibly a Viet Cong member) on the street. Text at the right is, "This is a crazy and senseless death."

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Leaflet 7-637-68 is another Chieu Hoi leaflet that shows two photos.  The top photo is a group of Chieu Hoi ralliers playing soccer. The bottom photo is the dead rotting corpse of a VC who opted to continue fighting.  The JUSPAO catalog identifies this leaflet with the title: "Choose between life and death."

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Leaflet 245-64-68

Itwasn't only bullets and mines that killed troops in the field. The threat of disease was always hanging over their heads. This leaflet was produced by the 245th PSYOP Company in Nha Trang in 1968. It depicts a number of Viet Cong dying of malaria at the left and a VC being treated by an American nurse at the right. The text on the front is:

Which is your choice?

This? or this?

These men are victims of malaria and not receiving proper treatment – This is a Hoi Chanh receiving medical treatment from a U.S. medical facility. You can also receive such treatment. Chieu Hoi now!

Some of the text on the back is:

Malaria can kill you as fast as bullets. The artillery strikes, bombs and bullets from our weapons are not the only things that can kill you. Malaria, if not treated quickly and with proper medicines, will kill you just as quickly. Your body will be ravaged, your limbs will tremble, and your eyes will be difficult to keep open. It is easy to catch malaria hiding in the jungle and caves, eating little, but it cannot be cured there. Do you have enough medicine to treat malaria?…Chieu Hoi now!

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Australian Leaflet ATF-010-70

Australian Leaflet ATF-010-70 was produced 4 June 1970 and depicts a dead Communist guerrilla in the jungle. Text to the left of the body is: 

Unburied Communist dead on the battlefield.

The leaflet targeted the Ba Long Province Viet Cong units. The purpose was to demoralize the enemy by the thought of them never being properly buried at home and wandering forever in the afterlife. The text on the back is:

Soldiers and Cadres of D440, D445, C25, C41, and other Ba Long Province Units.

Lately, and especially from 4 May to 23 May, the Government of Vietnam and Allied forces in Phuoc Tuy have found 15 bodies of communist soldiers lying where they died on the battlefield. Some only had a sheet of plastic over them.

Will you soon be killed and left unburied in the jungle?

The leaflets were supplemented with the playing of the “Wandering Soul” tape at night. The Australians used a Pilartus Porter aircraft to fly the missions (it replaced the U. S. Skymaster O-2B aircraft).  They flew at about 1000 feet above ground level just above stalling speed at night without lights. The aircraft engine could not be seen or heard by the enemy on the ground below.

Note: Special thanks to Nguyen Ky Phong for Vietnamese translations.

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A Non-Disseminated Leaflet for Vietnam

On rare occasions leaflet images were found to be just a bit too gory for dissemination. Specialist Fourth Class Charles Kean Jr. was a member of the 245th PSYOP Company in Vietnam during the years 1966-1967. He was trained as a U.S. Army Illustrator and told me that his drawing of a Viet Cong soldier rotting in the jungle was never made into a leaflet. He also did one with rats eating a freshly killed corpse but it was considered too controversial to be placed on a leaflet. He said:

That one had more of a close up of the upper body and face in order to get more detail of the rats, if I recall correctly. Some of the rats were tearing at the VC's face with chunks of flesh in their mouths. It looked pretty disgusting, but that was our aim, to make their resistance look futile and their outcome ghastly.

Another leaflet was about a Viet Cong raid on a village that was told to us, where everyone, including the elderly and children, even infants were slaughtered mercilessly. My leaflet drawing portrayed the massacre as I imagined it with old folks being shot through the head at point blank range, babies impaled by bayonets being held aloft and other gruesome atrocities that sickened even me when I looked at it afterwards. Sometimes that stuff made you crazy. I wish that I had more of the original drawings to share with you. To be honest, after my tour, the less I thought or heard about Vietnam the better.

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Australian Leaflet ATF-042-70

The Australian 1st Psychological Operations Unit printed leaflet ATF-042-70 on 2 October 1970.  About 5,000 leaflets were printed and disseminated by hand. The object was to make Viet Cong guerrilla question his belief in ultimate victory. The leaflet is printed on one side only.  It depicts three dead Viet Cong, one with his eyes still open. 

The text is:

You seek Victory. Is this Victory? They could be living peacefully. You, too, could be leading peaceful lives. Let us stop this senseless killing.


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Leaflet 449

During the Cold War American aircraft regularly dropped leaflets from far out at sea that would target North Korea under an operation called “Focus truth.” Leaflet 449 depicts three happy North Koreans on the front. The text is: 

Members of the 124th Army Unit 

Former Lieutenant Kim Shin-jo, the leader of the 3rd Squad, 1st platoon, 1st Company, the 6th base of the 124th Army Unit. (Middle)  

Former Lieutenant Chung Tong-chun, a member of the 3rd Squad, 2nd platoon, 10th Company, the 1st base of the 124th Army Unit. (Left) 

Former Second Lieutenant Ko Deung-un, the leader of the 1st Squad, 3rd platoon, 9th Company, the 1st base of the 124th Army Unit. (Right) 

The back of the leaflets depicts two dead bodies on the ground: 

These men did not seek sanctuary and suffered the wrath of the very people they thought they had come to help.  

You have been told that your mission in the south is to help people. Observe the people, their attitude, and the economic and political situation. The people will show you the way to Salkil (a road or path to living). The decision will be yours.

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Booklet 97-2-38 Cover

On 4 December 1968, the 24th PSYOP Detachment replaced the Korea Detachment and provided audio and visual PSYOP support to the United Nations Command and the United States Forces in Korea. Ninety-nine percent of all leaflets sent to North Korea came out of the unit’s Visual Branch. A wide-range of messages was designed, mostly in black and white, but some in color. Leaflets were stored in Okinawa and dropped by C-130 flights over ROK territory where they were carried by the wind to the north side of the DMZ, Pyongyang, and areas up to North Korea's side of the Yalu River.

A new leaflet theme, Salkil (the way to live), was introduced in 1968 as part of the defector inducement program. The theme (mentioned in the previous leaflet) was a campaign similar to the Chieu Hoi (Open Arms) campaign in Vietnam to convince terrorists and guerrillas to rally to the government. In September 1968, a North Korean defector indicated that a leaflet he had seen, using the Salkil theme, was the final persuader for his defection. This Allied 12-page booklet coded 97-2-38 is heavily illustrated and has text in both Korean and English. The Republic of Korea flag is on the cover as part of a standard safe conduct pass with the text:


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Chart of Infiltrator Deaths

Interior pages of the booklets show North Korean troops, explain the value of taking the infiltrators and defectors alive, and depicts some defectors who have made prosperous lives in the South. One page uses the theme of death and depicts a dead infiltrator with the text:

Most North Koreans are killed during their infiltration to the South.
A few surrender, and some are captured.


During the Gulf War, the U.S.-led Coalition produced two images that meet the criteria of this article. The first appears in four versions although the vignette is always the same (with some minor changes in the color of the clothes, etc.). The scene depicts an Iraqi father and mother thinking of their son who is at the front. The mother thinks of him and sees him crushed and laying on the sand. Blood pours from his bandaged head, his mouth, his bandaged right arm, his amputated right leg, and his left ankle. The text is "Oh my dear son, when will you return?"

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"Oh my dear son, when will you return?"

The first version is about 6.3 x 3.4 inches on cardboard. The back of this leaflet depicts the Joint Forces symbol and the flags of the 27 nations of the Coalition. In this card, the Mother and father wear dark clothes. In all the other versions, they wear white clothes. The Coalition dropped 113,000 over the Iraqis on the night of 15 January 1991. They dropped 50,000 more leaflets on 23 and 25 February 1991.

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"Oh my dear son, when will you return?" (Second version)

In the second version, the back is blank, but shaded so that the Iraqis could not use it to print their own propaganda text. It is a paper leaflet approximately 6 x 3 inches. There is no record of dissemination.

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"People, believe me. Time is not in our favor."

The third version is a standard paper leaflet about 6 x 3 inches and has an Iraqi looking at a sand-filled hourglass on the back. The text is, "People, believe me. Time is not in our favor." The hourglass is labeled "January." The Coalition had threatened to attack on 15 January 1991 and this leaflet was a warning that the time was fast approaching. The Coalition ordered 80,000 leaflets printed, but there is no record of their dissemination.

The fourth version is identical to the third, except that it is much larger at 11 x 6 inches. The size of this leaflet implies that it was disseminated by hand or by helicopter rather than by leaflet bomb. There is no record of the leaflet being dropped on the Iraqis.

The second Death and Disfigurement image depicts an Iraqi soldier envisioning his own horribly crushed body on the ground. He lies in the sand, his body twisted and bloody. Blood flows from his head, his mouth, his right arm and hand, his left arm, his chest, his left leg, and right foot. The text is, "Staying here means death."

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"Staying here means death."

This leaflet was prepared in two versions. The first is on cardboard, about 6.4 x 3.5 inches. The back of the card depicts the Joint Forces symbol and the flags of the 27 Coalition nations. 25,000 cards were dropped on the night of 15 January 991. 55,000 leaflets were dropped on 3 and 25 February 1991.

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"Staying here means death." (Second version)

The second version was printed on regular 20-pound paper stock and was the standard 6 x 3 inches. 56,000 leaflets were printed. Some were disseminated on the night of 12 January, but the exact number is unknown.

Both of these leaflets send the same message to the Iraqi soldiers. If you stay in place and try to fight the Coalition, you will be mangled and killed. It will not be a clean death. You will not just be shot. You will be ripped and torn and blood will pour from every part of your body. Notice also that both images were dropped the day of the threatened attack on the Iraqi forces.


In early 1999, the Serbs under Slobodan Milosevic, seemed intent on purifying their lands of all foreign ethnic groups. Thousands of ethnic Albanians were persecuted, raped, or murdered. The 19-member North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) took action and unanimously voted to initiate air-strikes. The attack began on 24 March 1999.

There is one NATO leaflet used during the "Operation Allied Force" Kosovo campaign that just barely meets our criteria. It is aimed at the families of the Serbs who had engaged in their military ethnic cleansing operation in Kosovo.

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Leaflet 05-B-03-L001 does not show dead bodies, but it does depict a number of troops boarding a military truck at the left, and a group of men carrying a coffin at the right. The text beneath the group carrying the coffin is, "Sons not coffins!" The back is all text:

Your sons and husbands are being sacrificed in an unnecessary war. Every day they spend in Kosovo-Metohija increases the chance they will be killed by a sniper's bullet or NATO bombs. They are forced to fight without adequate food, ammunition, artillery, support, or fuel. All for what your government calls a "police action" against an ineffective terrorist army". You need your family more than you need a war in Kosovo


After the terrorist attack on the United States on 11 September 2001, President George W. Bush demanded that the Taliban government of Afghanistan surrender Osama bin laden and his al-Qaida cohorts. When that demand was refused by Taliban leader Mullah Omar, the United States and its Coalition allies attacked and quickly conquered Afghanistan. Although over 100 leaflets were designed and dropped, only one image appears to meet our "death and disfigurement" category.


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Leaflet TF11-RP03 shows a dead Taliban or al-Qaida soldier rotting on the ground. The text in Pashto and Dari is "Osama bin Laden the murderer and coward has abandoned al-Qaida. He has abandoned you and run away. Give yourself up and do not die needlessly. You mean nothing to him. Save your families the grief and pain of your death." The back of the leaflet shows a young bin Laden, shaved except for his mustache, in a western style suit and tie. It was hoped that this altered image would offend the fundamentalist Muslims. The text is "Osama bin Laden the murderer and coward has abandoned you." This leaflet implies that bin Laden has abandoned his fundamentalist ways and is hiding in the west.

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The same image was used again in a later leaflet coded TF11-RP13 shown above.

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Leaflet AFD48a

Leaflet AFD48a depicts an armed terrorist at the right. The picture at the left depicts two terrorists running with their entire upper body on fire, reminiscent of napalm attacks during the Vietnam War.  This is one of the most terrifying images produced by the Coalition for Afghan anti-terrorist PSYOP.

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Leaflet AFDH1 3005

Leaflet AFDH1 3005 depicts what appears to be four dead Taliban terrorists in the snow. At the four corners we see the faces of Afghans with their eyes covered. One assumes that these are the faces of the four dead bodies depicted on the leaflet.


In fall 2002, the United States of America began preparations for a second invasion of Iraq. Part of the strategy was to increase the number of flights over the so-called "no-fly" zones. These zones exist to protect the minority Kurds of the north and the Muslim Shiites of the south. The Coalition had last dropped propaganda leaflets on Iraq in November 2001. However, on 3 October 2002 an American A10 "Warthog" fighter-bomber dropped 120,000 leaflets warning the Iraqi military and Baghdad against continuing to fire missiles and artillery at American and British jets.

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There were few death and disfigurement leaflets used during the short war in Iraq. One that barely meets the criteria is IZD057. It was actually designed to encourage Iraqi military forces to desert their weapons, go "absent without leave," and return to their families. The front of the full-color leaflet shows an Iraqi soldier at the left and a group of soldiers at the right. In the center, we can just make out what appears to be a dead Iraqi Soldier. Text is, "Do not risk your life - and the lives of your comrades." The back of the leaflet shows a young boy in school at the left, and a family at the right. Text is "Leave now and go home - Watch your children learn, grow and prosper."  

President Bush spoke to the world on 17 March and gave Saddam Hussein 48 hours to leave Iraq or face attack. He stated that the United States was ready to take unilateral action against Iraq even as the United Nations debated the subject, and France, Germany, and Russia threatened a veto. On the same day, Coalition aircraft set a new record when they dropped 1,440,000 leaflets over nearly 20 different locations in Southern Iraq. One of the leaflets was IZD-2502.

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Leaflet IZD-2502 depicts dead children at the left and right, and a group of Iraqis carrying a casket in the center. The text is, “Your comrades and innocent Iraqi people will be victims if Saddam uses chemical weapons. Do not be a part of this crime. Unit commanders will be held accountable for the use of chemical weapons.” The other side depicts three Coalition troopers and a vehicle “buttoned up” in preparation for a chemical or biological attack. The text is, “Coalition forces are prepared and well trained to defend themselves against chemical weapon attacks.” Dead babies are one of the most potent images a propagandist can use. To this day Vietnam veterans are infuriated by the term “baby killers,” used by anti-war activists in the 60s and 70s.

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Published Death Photos Qusay and Uday Hussein


Although not released as leaflets the above death photos of Saddam Hussein's two sons, Uday and Qusay certainly meet the criteria for a death and disfigurement theme.  In the streets of Baghdad and other Iraqi cities, where people have grown up with the official lies and manipulated media of the Saddam decades, people are still questioning whether the former ruling family is really gone. This need for proof drove the U.S. Administration decision on July 24, 2003 to release the grisly mortuary photographs of Saddam Hussein's sons, blasted by American missiles as they refused to surrender.  The decision to release the graphic photos was extremely difficult as the U.S. was quick to protest and condemn Arab television earlier in the year when they chose to broadcast pictures of American soldiers killed at the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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Death the Puppeteer

In this very macabre vignette the symbol of death is depicted as a puppeteer manipulating a terrorist’s skull. What is strange about this leaflet is that the image is reversed on the back as is the message. So turning the leaflet over, we find a mirror image and some of the text turned around. The text on one side is:

Al-Qaida controls Ansar Alsuna
Ansar Alsuna
They are both Takferian”

The reverse is:

Ansar Alsuna controls al-Qaida”
Ansar Alsuna
They are both Takferian

Note: Ansar Alsuna is a Sunni militia. Their name can be translated to the “Protectors of Alsuna.” The term “Takferian” implies very radical Islamic terrorists associated with Al Qaida whose objectives are to keep Iraq from becoming a free and democratic country, but instead an Islamic state like Afghanistan was under the Taliban.

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Death & disfigurement theme training leaflet

One rarely discovers a training leaflet where American PSYOP troops have practiced the preparation and production of a death and disfigurement leaflet. One such leaflet was offered in September 2003 at auction as a "rare WWII leaflet."

The leaflet depicted a dead American soldier bleeding from the head on the ground. Near him is his M1 carbine. The text is "You will die without seeing them again! Why die in a foreign land for a foreign cause? Litho. 1st L&L Co." The back of the leaflet depicts a mother with two young children and the text, "U.S. Soldiers! Great distances now separate you from your loved ones."

The 1st Loudspeaker and leaflet company was sent to Korea in 1950 and officially authorized in January 1951. The M1 carbine was an issue weapon during the Korean War. The language is in English. Therefore, the leaflet is obviously not aimed at, or prepared by an enemy. The only logical answer would seem to be that it was prepared by our own people prior to or during the Korean War as a training exercise. Perhaps at some later date the text would have been translated into the Korean or Chinese language and the dead soldier would be dressed in a Communist uniform with a Russian or Chinese-made weapon.

There were many more death and disfigurement leaflets used in the various campaigns. The author is always interested in hearing about others. Interested readers are encouraged to write to him at