Odd Shaped Propaganda Leaflets

SGM Herbert A. Friedman (Ret.)

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A Safe Conduct Pass for Japanese Soldiers

The shape of propaganda leaflets is a long and interesting story. During WWII it would seem that the shapes varied a great deal, but the leaflets were always fairly large. Many, like the “I Cease Resistance” leaflets used against the Japanese were 9.5 x 13 inches, while some American Psychological Warfare Branch leaflets used in the Philippines were 10 x 14 inches.

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A Safe Conduct Pass for German Soldiers

The classic American safe conduct leaflet to Germany was usually 5 x 8.5 inches. Looking through the wartime booklets I see hundreds of calculations of firing leaflet artillery shells and dropping leaflet bombs. There is discussion on the altitude, the fuse, etc., but very little information on the actual leaflet. There seemed little interest in how the size of the leaflet and the weight of its paper could change the drift and pattern of a propaganda leaflet.

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A Reward Leaflet for North Korean, Chinese and Russian Pilots

This continued in Korea when the leaflet sizes varied a great deal. Most American leaflets for Korea measured about 5 x 7.5 inches, but the large “Moolah” leaflets offering $100,000 for a MiG fighter measured 8 x 10 inches. Sometimes the leaflet size was determined by the paper size. If the large sheet could fit 100 leaflets of one size or just 80 of another with some blank waste paper, the size that filled the sheet best would often be used.

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Low, Medium, and High Altitude Leaflet Dissemination Guide.

This changed in Vietnam when the 7th PSYOP Group published the booklet Low, Medium, and High Altitude Leaflet Dissemination Guide. My friend, Major David D. Underhill did the calculations for leaflet spread and drift from various altitudes using different sized leaflets. The 7th Group commander M. W. Lundelius said in the introduction:

The data contained in this book represents years of study conducted under government contract by Johns Hopkins University. It also reflects the years of field study and experimentation by Major David D. Underhill who has done extensive research into the subject of leaflet dissemination techniques while with the 7th Psychological Operations Group.

I don’t want to go into great detail, but some of the 31 chapters in this booklet are: Computing leaflet drift; Contrast of leaflet characteristics, determining the flight altitude; Humidity and its effect on leaflets; and Types of paper. After the publication of this guide dropping leaflets in a specific manner to get a very detailed coverage of an area became as easy as looking up the proper chart. If you know the weight and size of the leaflet, and the altitude of the aircraft and wind, you could pinpoint delivery. As Underhill one told me:

I can drop leaflets from well out over the ocean on Kim Il sung’s doorstep.

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A Standard Vietnam War 6 x 3 inch Leaflet

Using these calculations the American PSYOP staff generally used a standard 6 x 3 inch leaflet during the Vietnam War. It was shown to be the most efficient size with the best drift and spread for the buck. Dave Underhill gave me many of his papers when he retired. Here are his notes on the standard leaflet:

20 Pound paper will give you 519 leaflets per pound. It is the mainstay of high altitude operations against North Vietnam and North Korea. It is the standard safe conduct pass size. The falling rate 2.5 feet per second. The spread factor 1.11. That means in 10 miles of drift will spread out 11.1 miles along the major axis (plus add on one half of the release altitude). The time for one half of leaflet mass to fall 25,000 feet 3.24 hours.

General Ed Burba and I served together as majors. He asked me “what is the best leaflet size?” I gave him a 6 x 3 inch leaflet and told him “A damn fool can hit the target with this leaflet.” He later told me that I was right, and that he had damn fools; troops with no previous experience in dropping leaflets. He said you could see the dispersal taking place before they even hit the ground.

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Leaflets being released from C-130

The booklet is mentioned in the 1968 classified Secret Checo Southeast Asia Report, Psychological Operations by USAF and VNAF in SVN.

The accurate placement of leaflets dropped by an aircraft on a target has been the subject of much research ever since World War II. A variety of methods have been developed which allow deployment under different target conditions. The motion of leaflets and their dispersion have been found to be functions of many parameters including leaflet size, weight, height of deployment, method of deployment, and local wind conditions. Much of this research is summarized in a draft report published by the 7th PSYOP Group.

A primary outgrowth of this research has been the technique for high altitude dissemination of leaflets using the C-130 aircraft. The mission is complicated in this case by the necessity of the crew working in oxygen masks because of the extreme altitude. A special box is used to contain the leaflets. The box is cut and has webbing attached to a static line; when pushed out the rear of the aircraft, it hits the end of this line, spilling the contents into the airstream. Storage of the leaflet boxes in the C-130 has been designed to minimize the physical effort required to handle them as they are dispensed.

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JUSPAO Leaflet 1746

Even though the booklet Low, Medium, and High Altitude Leaflet Dissemination Guide clearly stated that the 6 x 3-inch leaflet was the most accurate and dependable, sometimes the U.S. leaflets were still made of a very odd elongated size. Leaflet 1746 is a perfect example. It is clear why they wanted to use a wide-angle lens since they wanted to show a mountain of rice confiscated from the Viet Cong. The problem, of course, is that if this leaflet was airdropped over the enemy it is probably impossible to know where it will fall. The image on the front is very powerful and depicts a virtual mountain of rice that the Viet Cong had hidden away to feed them for months. The message on the front of the leaflet is directly to the Viet Cong troops that have lost their rations and rather mocking:


This is just a portion of the 3.3 million kilograms of National Liberation Front rice used to feed its troops that our army has confiscated.

There is a long message on the back:


During a sweep operation at An Son, northwest of Saigon, the Army of the Republic of Vietnam totally destroyed the Command Center of the NLF's Saigon-Cho Lon-Gia Dinh Regional Headquarters. Our troops confiscated more than 3 million 300 thousand kilograms of rice, 8 million 700 thousand kilograms of salt, 578 weapons of various types, 7,622 uniforms, 1,099 grenades, 392 mines, and untold numbers of documents, medical and construction materials, etc.

Our army and the army of our allies killed 720 NLF cadres and received 503 more who volunteered to come over to our just nationalist cause through the Chieu Hoi program.This secret base area, which has remained secure for the past 20 years, was totally destroyed.

The NLF, which has long been short of food and weapons, now is in even more desperate straits. If you continue to remain in the NLF's ranks, what will happen to you?

Other leaflets that were handed out and not airdropped were larger, but the falling characteristics of the standard leaflet were found to be best for air drops. Paper cost was again an issue, but In Vietnam if there was some blank paper left at the end of a sheet the printers had smaller leaflets that were considered to be “all purpose” that they would add to the sheet. Nobody wanted to waste paper. This hesitation to waste paper is addressed in The PSYOP Newsletter of 15 July 1968:

Personnel engaged in leaflet printing and preparation should review FM 33-5 and adjust their leaflet size selection based upon data contained therein. For aerial leaflet dissemination throughout South Vietnam, the 6 x 3 inch leaflet on 20 and 16 pound paper (also known as 50 and 40 pound paper) are considered superior to all other leaflet sizes. FM 33-5 states “this leaflet size and these paper weights have very favorable aerial dissemination characteristics and can be more effectively disseminated by inexperienced personnel than any other Known leaflet.”

Some psy-operators have been reluctant to use this size because it does not properly accommodate the 10 x l6 inch press sheet. Keeping in mind the above two statements quoted from FM 33-5, the operator should realize that discarding 25% of the paper in the cutting process is preferable to discarding up to 100% in the dissemination process due to poor leaflet size selection.

Now, having introduced the subject of the standardized leaflet and why it was selected for economy and efficiency, I will ask the reader to forget all that. In this article we will discuss very strange leaflets of odd and outlandish shapes that would be impossible to determine drift and spread on, and were just dropped willy-nilly with the hope they would land somewhere near the target area.

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A Circular Artillery Leaflet


This leaflet was prepared as a round paper disk to fit inside a British artillery shell during WWII. Usually such leaflets are rolled, but this seems like a very efficient use of the available space. The disk is 2 ½ inches in diameter with text in three concentric rings reading from the outside to the center-most. There is text on both the front and back of the disk. The center portion says “safe conduct” in German, French and English. Life Magazine of 13 December 1943 claimed that this circular leaflet was used against the Germans in Tunisia. The text on the front is:

The dead do not come home

But those captured remain alive to see their homeland again

Laissez passier – passierschein – safe conduct

The back of the artillery leaflet is:

You are surrounded here; soon the trap will close.

German soldier, if you do not want to share the fate of the encircled troops of Stalingrad, there is only one way out of the fiery trap. Come to us! Get captured! Bring this safe conduct pass with you!

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This interesting German antisemetic propaganda leaflet to France folds to show a helmet marked “U.S.A Army” on the front and the back. One helmet has the text: “Helmet” and the other has the text “or Hide?” When turned over, there is an antisemetic propaganda statement:

The American News Bulletin says:

American Army authorities granted 910,000 draft deferments.

To whom?

113 blacks.

909,807 Caucasians, including 543,000 Jews.

In America, as in France, the Jews prefer: “to hide” rather than wear the helmet and make war.

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Easter 44

This German leaflet targeted French civilians and implied that the British lied in their propaganda. It is in the shape of a winged Church bell. The front text is “Easter 44” which was 9 April 1944. The back has a short message:

I have just returned from Rome…

The English weren’t there yet…

Perhaps…on Trinity Sunday?

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A Head of Broccoli?

This strange German leaflet to France at first looked like a head of broccoli or perhaps a bouquet for a pretty girl. The back is all text and says:

How happy you would be in this beautiful month of May, under the sign of this charming flower - without your government of misfortune and this English war, for which you pay the costs!

The Germans also dropped a number of odd shaped leaflets on Italy. My images of them are very blurry, found on a BBC Television; 2 December 1982 documentary called Collecting Now that depicted my old friend Reginald Auckland's impressive collection of aerial propaganda leaflets. Reginald was one of the founding fathers of leaflets collecting, picking them up in England after German raids in WWII. We later worked together as officers of the Psywar Society.

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One is a donkey shaped leaflet that bore the face of Winston Churchill. Another is in the shape of a phonograph record with the title Il Vecchio Disco. There is also an interesting mechanical leaflet that shows Churchill and Roosevelt smiling with the text Before Invasion. When a tab is pulled the smile turns into a frown and the text to After Invasion.

Just as the German often attacked the Allies for their sayings such as “home by Christmas,” in this leaflet they point out that some Allied newspapers claimed that Rome would fall by Easter and that has not happened. The implication is that all the Allied proclamations of victory were false.

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A Last Appeal to Reason by Adolf Hitler
Speech before the Reichstag, 19 July 1940

Germany did not want to fight the British Empire. Great Britain declared war on Germany after the Wehrmacht attacked Poland. Hitler decided to try to appeal to the British personally so dropped this newspaper over the British Isles, hoping to somehow convince the British that they should ally themselves with Germany. During the war, both the British and Americans would drop miniature newspapers on Germany, small enough to carry over a million in one aircraft. In this case, the Germans may have printed one of the largest leaflets ever dropped. This was a full-sized newspaper.

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Imitation is the Sincerest form of Flattery

This leaflet is not really an odd shape so the reader can make a case that it does not belong here. But it is an odd image. The Germans have taken a patriotic American flyer asking citizens to buy war bonds to support the war effort, and turned it into an anti-American leaflet. The front is identical to the American flyer. The back starts off like a patriotic message, but then the Germans quickly change it into an anti-American leaflet. We know it is German because the alpha-numeric code starting with “Asc” was one used by the Germans in Western Europe in 1945. Some of the changed text on the back is:

BUY WAR BONDS – The more you buy – the longer the slaughter will last. The longer the slaughter lasts – the greater your chance of being unemployed - - - should you get home again…So BUY WAR BONDS. Your turn to die – like F.D.R.s prosperity of 1933 – is just around the corner.

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The German “Puzzle” Leaflet

The Germans often tried to take advantage of the alleged latent anti-Semitic feelings of the Allies. One item dropped during the early stages of the war shows a lovely nude blond holding a copy of the Times. She is wearing a British Army helmet and looking into a full-length mirror. Her image, as shown in the mirror, is that of a dark-haired obviously Jewish woman. She is in an ape-like crouched position with a sinister smirk on her face. In her hand, the mirror image of the Times is reversed and now reads "Semit." This is a very imaginative piece of propaganda. It has a sexual image and yet sends the message that the British are fighting the war for the Jews. This particular leaflet was dropped in a number of different versions. The most interesting variety is an 18-piece puzzle dropped in an envelope. The finder is expected to put the puzzle together to see the image.

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The German “Stamp” leaflets

We have just looked at what may be the largest leaflet ever dropped from aircraft. Now we see what must be the smallest leaflet planned to be dropped from an aircraft, tiny mock postage stamps. As part of their espionage campaign, the British had begun forging and parodying German stamps early in the war. These stamps ridiculed German leaders and were meant to be sent into Germany and its occupied territories to lower German morale and raise the morale of the formerly free people now under German rule.

The Germans were furious. They wanted retaliation and thus produced a prodigious number of mock British stamps and placed propaganda symbols like the Jewish Star of David and the Communist hammer and sickle on them. In the six German parodies of the Great Britain 1937 King George VI, the Star of David appears atop the crown at top center and in the thistle at top right. The hammer and sickle appears in the flower at top left and replacing the "pence" symbol in the value field. The six value of the stamp are: 1/2 pence green, 1 pence red, 1 1/2 pence lilac-brown, 2 pence orange, 2 1/2 pence blue, and 3 pence violet. These stamps were also heavily overprinted with a number of different propaganda slogans.

The original plan was to drop them over Great Britain so no gum was placed on the back. This plan never came to fruition. The stamps were so small and so light that dropped from aircraft they would have probably been blown by the wind 20 miles, landing in the English Channel. As a result, German agents were given the stamps and sent to various neutral territories to place these stamps into circulation. The agents saw the opportunity to make a quick buck so most of them sold the stamps to philatelic dealers and such and made a tidy profit. For those that want to know more about philatelic propaganda I recommend my article Stamp Propaganda.

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The German Tree Leaf for France and Belgium

In early 1943, Churchill announced that the Allied invasion of Europe would take place during the year. At the end of 1943, with Germany still controlling the continent, the German propagandists produced a leaflet that was disseminated in occupied France and Belgium. The text is:

I fell out of the tree, oh Churchill!

Where are you? Where are your soldiers?

In reality, The Allies changed the 1943 invasion of Europe (Operation Round-up) to the invasion of North Africa (Operation Torch). The Allies would not have had the manpower and materiel that they had in 1944, but the German defenses would have been weaker. Some historians believe that holding off the invasion of Europe for one year lengthened the war. There was a second similar leaflet produced by the Germans for France.

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[Find in Leaves, you can show just the front or both sides]

The British also prepared a leaflet in the form of a tree leaf. In late 1941, they dropped a leaflet in the form of an oak leaf on Germany. The leaflet has an autumn-brown color. There is a masthead of a newspaper on both sides, with added text above and below. The British might have copied the newspaper headlines from a genuine German newspaper, but more likely, it is a propaganda text meant to embarrass the Nazi hierarchy and show them to be liars. The newspaper depicted is the Münchner Neueste Nachrichten (Munich’s latest news) Vol. 93, New Years´ issue, No. 366, Munich.

The text at the top and bottom on the front of the oak leaf leaflet is:

The leaves are falling. The promised final victory fails to appear.

The newspaper headlines are:

1941 Shall be the year of final victory.

The New Year’s order of the Führer to the Wehrmacht.

The year of the Hercules.

The world at the turning point.

The text at the top and bottom on the back of the leaflet is:

In Russia fallen leaves cover fallen soldiers. And snow covers the leaves which cover the fallen soldiers.

The newspaper headlines are:


Into the year of the final victory 1941.

Orders of the day to the Wehrmacht departments. General field marshal von Brauchitsch. To the Army!

Order of the day of the Führer and Supreme Commander to the Pan-German Wehrmacht. The year 1941 will bring the completion of the biggest victory of our history.

Appeal of the Reichsführer SS.

The British Political Warfare Executive (PWE) prepared the leaflet. It was given the code number EH.527. The secret British propaganda organization "Department EH" was located in room 207 of "Electra House,” (the Imperial Communications Center on London's Victoria Embankment), in early 1939. It was the source of the "EH" leaflets. The British government mobilized the department on 25 August 1939 and moved it to Woburn Abbey for greater secrecy and safety. The PWE replaced Electra House in August of 1941. Curiously, the name of the early department head and chief forger was Ellic Howe,  (codename Armin Hull) also an "EH."

The oak leaf leaflets were first dropped on the night of 30 November and last dropped on the night of 29 December 1941. The number of leaflets produced in unknown but it is known that the Allies dropped them on Kiel, Wilhelshaven, the Hauge, Frankfurt, Dusseldorf, Saarbrucken, Aachen, Bremen and Koblenz.

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Courtesy of psywar.org

I asked my friend, British researcher Lee Richards if he could think of any odd-shaped leaflets and he said, “What about the long concertina leaflet?” Lee was talking about an uncoded 1940 “EH” leaflet that was folded into six pages and opened up to 76 x 18.5 centimeters. The British sent 97,000 of these leaflets to Germany by balloon between 28 February and 26 March 1940, and dropped 80,000 more of these leaflets from aircraft between 18 and 24 March 1940. One side is all text and statistics and says in part:




France 41.9 million

French Empire 64.9 million

Great Britain 46.0 million

British Dominions 28.4 million

British Colonies 72.7 million

India 352.8 million

[Total] 606.7 million

Greater Germany 83.1 million (Including BohemiaMoravia)

The other side of the concertina leaflet depicts various war scenes of military might and says in part:

France and Britain have made common cause to defeat the evil spirit of Nazism which seeks continually to dominate other peoples by force. To that end, which our two nations will pursue to the last, we have pooled the immense resources of the French and British world Empires. Our armies are fighting shoulder to shoulder: together our war Navies have swept German shipping from the Seven Seas: our merchant services are carrying on uninterrupted trade with neutral countries. We are sharing our vast reserves of raw materials, of food supplies and petrol: in the manufacture of armaments and other munitions of war we are exchanging our experience and ideas.

In the last war it was three years before France and Britain achieved unity of command; in only the third month of this our world Empires have already established not only unity of command but also amalgamation of all means of war. This complete identification of all out interests will inevitably bring us victory in this war, as in the last.

First victory, then the peace, which shall provide that every nation, including Germany, shall have the right to enjoy an ordered, prosperous, and tranquil life. But if the German people wish to escape from the maze of aggressions and wars into which their unscrupulous leaders have conducted them, they have the remedy in their own hands. We, the British and the French, will lay down our arms only when we can treat with a Government whose word can be trusted, and when we are satisfied that the wrongs done to weaker nations can be righted, and lasting security established.

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U-boat Volunteers Forward
Courtesy of psywar.org

The British also liked to make what we call “mechanical leaflets.” These are leaflets with tabs to pull that change the image and meaning of the leaflet. One example is G.7 (“G” for “Germany”) that targeted U-Boat crews. Such leaflets tended to be a bit heavier than the usual ones, and I am sure there was no formula to tell where they would fall when dropped from aircraft. This leaflet was designed by the British Political Warfare Executive and dropped from 5 April to 4 September 1942. The front depicts a modern and sleek German submarine and a proud sailor. When the tab is pulled we see the submarine being destroyed by mines and the sailor now drowned under the sea. The back is all text and that also changes when the tab is pulled. The text on the front is:


We journey against England.


The text visible after pulling tab:


We journey down to a cool grave.

Some of the text on the back is:



The text visible after pulling tab:

The 2,000 German U-boat sailors who are now prisoners of war. They are the lucky survivors. For every two German U-boat sailors who are rescued by the British and taken prisoner, five are drowned.

Life insurance companies in neutral countries estimated a year ago that the average expectation of life of a German U-boat sailor on active service was 62 days. Since then the figure has been reduced.

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This is the New Order
Courtesy of psywar.org

Another British Political Warfare Executive mechanical leaflet is B.12 (“B” for “Belgium”). This pop-up mechanical card was also produced in French (EH(F).106), Dutch (H.24/42) and Arabic (RW.0213). 12,960 copies were printed and first dropped 11 August 1942 and last dropped 15 October 1942. At first glance the card seems to depict a German officer feeding a Belgian family. When properly manipulated the German officer is seen stealing the food from the Belgian family. The text is:


Belgians have to shoulder the expenses of the German occupying forces. The official German figures in the Brusseler Zeitung give the amount of 15,000 million of francs a year. This means 2,000 francs per head per year, including women and children. Between the end of December 1940 and August 1941 the national debt increased by 45 percent.

Belgium produces enough potatoes to provide every inhabitant with 8 kilos a week. What is the allowance now? The Belgian cattle stock could provide 725 grams of meat a week for every inhabitant. Don’t forget that the German Army of occupation devours 1,000 tons of meat a year. From the moment the Boche entered Belgium and requisitioned the cattle the milk production was reduced by 50 percent.

Whatever shortage there is exists because the German devours everything himself. And what he doesn’t eat himself he sends to Germany for the Boche families.

The New Order Illustrated:
Germany stealing your food

Whatever shortage there is exists because the German devours everything himself. And what he doesn’t eat himself he sends to Germany for the Boche families.

The New Order Illustrated:
Germany stealing your food

Leaflets to be Folded

During WWII and afterwards several leaflets were prepared that needed to be folded to get their message across. The first are the “Pig Leaflets.” There are several varieties of this one, but they have one thing in common, when you fold the four images of a swine, they come together to form some enemy leader. In most cases this was Hitler, but some other leaders have met the same fate, Mussolini for one, and most recently Russia’s President Putin after his invasion of Ukraine. The British were known to make these for use in German-occupied territories like Holland and Poland. They were also produced in the United States as an anti-Hitler patriotic gag.

This second leaflet is a large one that at first glance appears to be a NAZI Swastika. As you do each fold you get to see the British text and end up with a “V” for victory:

British Victories all over Europe
Look at…
In Poland and Soviet Russia
In Yugoslavia and Greece
I France and the Lowlands
In Norway and Denmark

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Your Happiness at Home in Australia

The Japanese made a great many leaflets during the early stages of WWII when they were all-victorious. This leaflet dropped on New Guinea by the Japanese is one of a number of folding or “trick” leaflets that the Japanese created for Australia and New Guinea for use against the Americans and Australians. I have seen at least five different ones but I think this is the most interesting. It is a bit on the sexy side, but seems to make the most use of image and color.

When fully folded it seems to be just a regular leaflet, but when unfolded it has an anti-morale, anti-American message. The leaflet is 7 1/8-inches by 3 3/8-inches folded and 7 1/8-inches by 10-inches unfolded. At first glance we see just an Australian soldier and his wife in bed. The text is:

Your happiness at home in Australia

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After some manipulation of the folds we see the bare-breasted Australian wife waving at her husband on the battlefield with explosions and a burial cross nearby. The text is simply:


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After further manipulation the Australian soldier is depicted again in battle at the top and his wife is now apparently being assaulted by an American officer below. The text in the center of the vignette with a background of helmets and skulls is:

That American war mongers may indulge in this!

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Black tablet version of Kiri Leaflet

The United States prepared two leaflets in the form of leaves for the Japanese. One has a white tablet, the other a black tablet. The black tablet version is a very realistic looking "kiri" tree leaflet dropped on the Japanese in 1943 and 1944. The Kiri tree is known as "Royal Paulownia." It is native to the Orient. It is also called the Chinese Empress tree and the Princess tree. The early fall of the kiri tree leaves is considered a bad omen in Japan.

The text on the front is:

A falling Paulownia leaf is the unlucky omen of the inevitable destruction of the military power of Japan. As these leaves scatter about they do nothing but pile up sorrow and bad luck.

The text on the back is:

Before spring comes a second time, American bombs, falling like Paulownias falling from far away, will bring disaster and bad luck.

Life Magazine of 9 July 1945 mentioned American psychological operations and the kiri leaf in a pictorial story entitled: Leaflets dropped on home islands attack Nippon’s militarist caste. Some of the story said:

Last week Japanese civilians were told that they must help defend the Jap home islands when the Americans invade and were warned that they must “not allow themselves to be taken prisoner or die dishonorable deaths.” If obeyed, the order to commit suicide rather than surrender would produce a terrible holocaust. The Americans are trying to crack the core of this credo by deluging Japan with propaganda leaflets and broadcasts.

Along with factual leaflets, the Americans drop one that is shaped like a kiri leaf which capitalizes on the peculiarly Japanese obsession with the poetry and omens of death. Every B-29 raid on Japan now drops about 750,000 pieces of propaganda on Japan…The Japs are urged to fight against the U.S. leaflets with “strong nerves” and warned of severe penalties for failing to turn in the leaflets to the nearest police station.

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Aerial Salute to USO

Leaflets were not always dropped on the enemy. Sometimes they were dropped on your own citizens to raise morale and money. This leaflet in the form of a bomb, dated 2 June 1941, was dropped over New York City and publicized the United Service Organization, dedicated to serving and raising the morale of military personnel. It both seeks to raise over 10 million dollars in funding and seeks volunteer to help run the 360 service clubs. The text on the back of the bomb said in part:

No…This isn’t a BOMB

It was dropped not to destroy but to build. Dropped by one of your defenders from one of the planes that guard our nation’s skyways. Dropped to tell you that you can help your defenders. How? The U.S.O. has been formed as a nationwide citizen effort to show our soldiers, sailors and Marines how much we appreciate what they are doing for us.

It plans to operate 360 service clubs for soldiers, sailors and other youth serving our nation’s defense. The U.S.O. will be GHQ for men on leave. It will operate where it is needed – in little town near the big camps. Tomorrow U.S.O. launches a nationwide campaign to raise $10,765,000 to operate its program. Join the Army behind the Army. Get back of our soldiers, sailors and defense workers with the U.S.O.


Korean War

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Dummy Airfield Streamer Number 15

One of the strangest propaganda items dropped by United Nations aircraft was this streamer, dropped over “dummy” airfields (areas where deceptive models of buildings and aircraft were placed by the North Koreans in an attempt to fool the United Nations into wasting bombs on valueless targets). It was hoped that by pointing out that their deception had failed, the Communist leaders would lose “face” and be embarrassed in front of the local people and their own soldiers.<

This 23 June 1952 streamer was requested by the United States Fifth Air Force from The Eighth U.S. Army in Korea and says:

The United Nations knows that your leaders have built dummy airfields in this area!

The aggression and lies of the Communists cannot be concealed!

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Slogan Streamer 8666

A second “slogan streamer” is coded 8666 and was prepared on 4 August 1952. It is targeted at Chinese forces in Korea and depicts poverty-stricken people and the text:

Under the Communists, the rich become poor and the poor become poorer

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German Flight officer Lieutenant Hiddessen drops a streamer during WWI

Note: We are not sure exactly how these Korean War streamers were dropped. In WWI streamers were often used to drop messages on the enemy such as to report the death of a pilot in aerial battle. The streamer was used to catch the attention of the target audience. Usually, they would be tied to a weight or a bag of sand so as to be fully opened when dropped. I doubt that was done during the Korean War so they may have been dropped folded, or perhaps some other method was used to drop them fully extended.

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Leaflet 8656

This 30 June 1952 U.S. Eighth Army Headquarters leaflet is the only example of a triangular propaganda leaflet that I have ever seen. It is a very odd shape and one wonders how the flight characteristics of the leaflet were figured out by the propagandists who were assigned the task of dropping it on a target site with some accuracy. The leaflet was dropped on Chinese troops and depicts a Communist soldier being forced to confess to fellow troops on the front, and the same troops escaping from the dark to the light on the back. Leaflet 8650 used the exact same theme. There was a belief that pointing out the demeaning and embarrassing nature of these so-called “confessions” might motivate an enemy to desert the Communist forces. The text is:


Come over to the United Nations and you won’t have to torture yourself.

Come over to the United Nations and be free of humiliation by the Communists.

Come over to the United Nations and you will not be “pressed” with three confessions and one examination.

I thought the readers might be interested in the Chinese Communist concept of confessions so pulled out my 1972 Peking copy of Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse Tung (“The Little Red Book”) and found this passage:

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41186100 - Circular Leaflet

After the end of World War II, the Nationalist and the Communist Chinese continued to fight a civil war from July 1946 to September 1949 that eventually led to the defeat of Chiang Kai-shek and the escape of his Kuomintang government, his army, and over a million refugees to the island of Taiwan. Ever since, both sides have occasionally sent leaflets to each other through artillery, balloons and even kites and floats.

The Chinese appear to like circular leaflets. When leaflets are airdropped the size and proportions are very important because the disseminator wants to know exactly how far and how fast the leaflet will drop and how much ground it will cover. Since these Chinese leaflets were carried by balloon and there was no worry about rotation and coverage, they could prepare the leaflets in any form that they wished. A second leaflet in the circular format has the Chinese character for “Happiness” on the front and a short message explaining how that happiness is to be found on Taiwan on the back.

The leaflet above again depicts Red Chinese Air Force defector Li Xianbin. The picture shows him being welcomed by throngs in Taipei. The text is:

On November 11, 1965, at 2:30, Li Xianbin heroically piloted his Ilyushin 28 no. 0195 jet bomber towards Free Taiwan.

Text on the back of the leaflet outlines the system of awards payable in gold for defectors from the mainland. The caption at the bottom notes that holding on to this leaflet can serve as proof of intent to defect.

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51213800 - Happy New Year

A number of the Chinese Nationalist leaflets are very "arty." That is to say, they have various forms that make them different from the standard 3 x 6-inch U.S. leaflet. In this case, the leaflet is in the form of a Chinese screen. The two doors on the front open to show the leaflet message inside. The text on the outside basically says "Happy New Year." The propaganda message appears when one opens the screen. The title on the inside is:

To heed the glorious call of President Chiang, uniting against the Communist Party, is the only bright path to salvation for us and for the nation!

The text lists Chiang Kai-shek's three proclamations to members of the political and military establishment on the mainland, which are basically: Do not actively resist us [during our invasion to re-take the mainland] and we will not harass you; if you accept Kuomintang leadership and abide by the ten stipulations proclaimed in 1962 you will be able to keep your political or military rank; the ultimate goal is to be rid of Mao Zedong and construct a China based on the Three People's Principles of Sun Yat-sen.

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51110100 - Defecting Militia Leader

Some of the Chinese leaflets are cut in such a way that opening the leaflet (like a greeting card) exposes the picture and message inside. In this case, part of the first page has been cut out to expose some of the picture beneath on the second page. A number of leaflets were prepared like this one with different fancy designs in the cut-away portion. In this case, the text to the left of the vignette says:

Paving the way for Communist Party cadres to stride toward freedom: Chinese Communist militia leader Zhang Zongyao (Chang Tsung-yao

The text tells of how the Communist militia officer defected to Taiwan, found a way to freedom and set an example for his fellow officers.

Operation Desert Storm

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Shatt al Arab Card

I add this Coalition in the form of a postcard not because of its shape, but because of its weight. Normal 6 x 3 inch leaflets are printed on 20 pound paper and the mathematical drift formula details exactly where they will fall when dropped from an aircraft. The Coalition decided to print these cards on 110 pound paper. As a result they did not auto-rotate properly and there was no telling where they would fall. Therefore, they were usually dropped from helicopters low to the ground where the target was in plain sight.

This cardboard leaflet depicts an Iraqi soldier carrying Saddam on his back. The sign reads “Shatt al Arab.” The crow is evil omen. The text is parody of popular Iraqi song telling of a man's difficulties with his love:

I crossed the Shatt al Arab as you wished, and I obeyed your orders. I feel death at the door, and I feel I am at my last breath, and I sigh deeply.

The back of the card features the Joint Forces seal and 27 flags of the Coalition.

Early in the deployment four different leaflets were prepared on cardboard. The leaflets are very handsome and sturdy, but were not accurate when air-dropped. These leaflets are very powerful from a graphics standpoint because they show all the flags of the coalition nations on one side in full color. Although they are the most attractive of the Gulf War leaflets, we might say that they were a failure. The first airdrop of 113,000 leaflets was on the night of 12 January.

Note: Weight is the most common specification of paper because it is sold on a weight basis. Basis weight is the weight in pounds of a ream containing 480, 500 or 1,000 sheets cut to a basic ream size. The weight of this cardboard leaflet was 6 times greater than a standard paper leaflet.

Israel vs Lebanon -2006

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Cedar tree deodorizer

On 12 July 2006, Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon crossed the border into Israel, killed eight soldiers and abducted two others. Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said that a prisoner exchange was the only way to secure the release of the soldiers, who he said were being held in a “secure and remote” location. He said:

No military operation will return them. The prisoners will not be returned except through one way: indirect negotiations and a trade.

The Israelis immediately retaliated. It was not only propaganda leaflets that the Israelis dropped on Lebanon. They also dropped at least one cedar-scented automobile deodorizer in the shape of the national symbol of Lebanon, the cedar tree. The propaganda aspect was the tiny head of Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah peeking out from behind the tree, symbolically hiding behind and among the people of Lebanon. One report stated that:

Hundreds of people were scrambling the streets to pick up the Cedars…If anyone is reading this from the Israeli Defense Forces; you have to know that these are the sort of creative things that work...It's much better than throwing leaflets with a list of the names of 100 Hezbollah soldiers dead.

There is a brief text at the bottom of the air freshener that quotes a well-known Lebanese idiomatic expression that means “get away from us,” but also means:

Leave us with a good smell

I spoke to a source in Lebanon who told me that the air fresheners were very popular. However, as we have seen in recent conflicts where soldiers and civilians were told that enemy leaflets had been laced with infectious disease, apparently there was an attempt on the part of Hezbollah to convince the Lebanese that the air fresheners had been irradiated by the Israelis and were deadly to handle.

This has been a very quick look at the fascinating field of odd-shaped propaganda leaflets used in various wars and operations. Any reader wishing to comment is encouraged to write the author at sgmbert@hotmail.com.