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A Bill Mauldin Cartoon

Tell them leaflet people the krauts ain’t got time fer readin’ today.

Bill Mauldin was an American editorial cartoonist who won two Pulitzer Prizes for his work. He was most famous for his World War II cartoons depicting two American soldiers, “Willie and Joe,” weary and bedraggled infantry troopers who stoically endured the difficulties and dangers of duty in the field. These cartoons were widely published and distributed in the American army, abroad and in the United States. One Stars and Stripes cartoon showed American GI’s firing High explosive rounds at the Germans and when asked why they were not firing leaflet shells they gave the cannon-cocker’s opinion of firing leaflet shells at the Germans. It is rumored that General Patton hated the cartoon and the dirty unshaven troops and wanted it out of Stars and Stripes, but the men loved it and General Eisenhower gently told Patton to stand down.

Mauldin says in his book Up Front that he thought the German leaflets were more interesting than the American ones. He mentions a German leaflet showing an American war profiteer with a wife of a soldier at the front and says the men loved those leaflets and would run out of their foxholes to get them. We show a similar leaflet below. The Germans just loved to print those sexy cartoon leaflets. Mauldin says about an Anzio barrage:

The pictures were spicy and the guys were hard up for reading latter. A lot of the guys risked their necks to scramble out and get copies.

He mentions another case where the Americans knew that the German liked to sit around and read the leaflets after a barrage. They sent leaflets over the Germans, then waited a few moments for them to come out into the open and sent a barrage of high explosives. The artillerymen felt great about killing the “Krauts” but the psychological warfare troops hated this kind of act. It made the leaflets lose all credibility and kept the Germans from reading them. The plan was to get them out of their holes to read the literature, not force them to stay undercover and make the leaflets useless.

A brief word about distributing propaganda leaflets. There are dozens of ways to disseminate them and in fact I have written an article discussing a myriad of methods. It is generally accepted that artillery fire is the most accurate.

The aircraft pilots consider themselves very good and one told me he could fly 30 miles off the coast of North Korea and drop leaflets on Kim il-sung’s doorstep. That could be true, but there are lots of WWII cases of leaflets dropped on Germany ending up in France or Belgium. A strong wind thousands of feet up can move a light piece of paper a long way.

The same can be said for balloons. You can measure the airspeed and direction, check your maps and set a timer to drop leaflets over a target, but the slightest change in wind direction can blow your balloon and leaflets many miles off course.

The advantage of artillery is that often you are in sight of a target. You can see it a few miles away and know that it is held by the enemy. You can fire a shell directly at the target a few hundred feet high and when the leaflets are released so close to the ground there is little chance that they will be blown astray. Even better, if you in sight of the target you can correct fire and be even more accurate. I am not a big fan of artillery shells for leaflets because they tend to wrinkle them and sometime singe them from the blast. There also are very few leaflets compared to what an airplane can drop. Still, I think I agree that leaflet artillery is the most accurate form of dissemination.

World War I

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The WWI French Leaflet shell

Perhaps the earliest use of artillery to disseminate propaganda occurred in WWI when a French Captain Naud developed an artillery shell capable of disseminating leaflets. Doug Ewell mentioned this shell in The Proper Gander, The official publication of the PSYOP Regimental Association. He explained that the projectile was fired from the French 75mm Model 1897 field gun. The shell body had a solid base that contained an explosive charge. The chamber above the charge contained about 160 leaflets rolled around a hollow tube. Once fired, the fuse would detonate the base charge and blow the nose cover clear and allow the leaflet roll to be ejected from the shell and dispersed. The maximum range for this projectile was about 5,000 meters. Naud's first order was for 50,000 shells and was to be delivered by the end of October 1918.

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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 WWI. Usually such leaflets are rolled, but this seems like a very efficient use of the available space. The disk is 2 1/2 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 front text is depicted below. The center portion says “safe conduct” in German, French and English:

The dead do not come home

But those captured remain alive to see their homeland again

Laissez passier - passierschein - safe conduct

World War II

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105mm leaflet artillery round - P for Propaganda

I thought I would open this section with an interesting anecdote from WWII. Paul M. A. Linebarger says in Psychological Warfare, Second Edition, 1954:

On rare occasions, it becomes possible for radio support to be given a specific unit. The American standard-wave broadcasting station was set up in the vicinity of Lorient while that French port, still held by the Nazis, was under American siege. The History of the 2d Mobile Broadcasting Company describes the operation as being the first attempt to coordinate artillery, leaflet, and radio propaganda.

The station had learned the location of the billets of various [Nazi] units in the town, together with the names of their key personnel. With this information, a "game" was arranged with the artillery. One day, at a certain time, these units were addressed by name and their members were told to go outside their buildings and five minutes later they would receive a message. Precisely, five minutes later, leaflet shells released the messages advising surrender. The ability of the Americans to do things like that impressed the German soldiers with their hopeless position more than words.

According to a recent FM-33-1-1 Psychological Operations Techniques and Procedures, PSYOP units may use either of two types of leaflet artillery rounds (LARs) - the 155-mm LAR (XM951) or the 105-mm LAR (M84). The 155-mm LAR is preferred for use in PSYOP because it was specifically designed to deliver leaflets. The 105-mm LAR is actually a modified smoke round and is less safe than the 155-mm shell.

The 155-mm LAR accepts a leaflet roll 4-5 inches in height, with a 1-inch inner and 4-inch outer diameter. The number of leaflets will depend on size and paper weight, but a standard load is about 2000 leaflets (four rolls of 500). The round can travel up to 20,000 meters and separates in flight to release the leaflets.

The 105-mm LAR leaflet roll is 10 1/2 inches in height with an outer diameter of 3 inches. The maximum range is 11,500 meters and the desired burst height is 27 to 46 meters. The accuracy of these shells is not very good because the weight of the leaflet-filled round is so light that standard firing tables do not match the ballistics.

According to Leaflet Operations in the Western European Theater, 1944-1945, published by the Psychological Warfare Division of SHAEF:

The employment of artillery for leafleting can be traced back to the French use of the 75mm field piece for propaganda purposes on the Western Front in 1918. In WWII, the idea was first put into practice with the British 25-pounder during the Tunisian campaign of 1942-43.

Although experiments were made with the propaganda use of other artillery weapons, the 105mm in the U. S. Area, and the 25-pounder in the British, were the mainstays of the artillery leafleting effort. Limited use was made of the 155mm smoke shell. However, when firing it at ranges over 5,000 yards it is generally impossible to observe where shells burst except by aerial observation, which is often unavailable. This is somewhat of a drawback to the use of longer-range weapons that the 105mm.

One of the better research books on psychological warfare and operations is the 1959 Introduction to Wartime Leaflets by Carl Berger, Special Operations Research Office, The American University, Operating under Contract with The Department of the Army. Berger looked at all the phases of PSYOP, leaflets, loudspeakers, artillery shells, leaflet rockets and artillery, and gives the reader a good general view of their military use. He says about artillery:

Between the two World Wars information on the experiments with the trench mortar and the French 75 leaflet shell seems to have been lost or forgotten, much as aircraft delivery techniques had been between World War II and Korea. Not until 1943 did a British propaganda officer in Tunisia, Captain Con O'Neill, aided by an Ordnance expert, “re-discover” the artillery shell as an important technique for leaflet distribution.

As O'Neill later wrote: “… Leaflets dropped from 15,000 feet will, if a 10-mph wind is blowing, drift up to 2.5 miles before they touch earth…I had on one occasion the experience of watching our own leaflets fall all around me, twenty minutes after medium bombers had attacked a target 6 or 7 miles distant; and such errors were inevitably common.”

In view of this situation, O'Neill began to experiment with the British 25-pounder shell. on January 22, 1943, his modified “propaganda shell” was tested, and twelve days later the first seven rounds were fired at the German troops. leaflets were dispersed by air bursts about 300 feet above enemy positions and accuracy was good up to 12,000 yards. O'Neill’s propaganda shell quickly proved a success.

The O'Neill shell was subsequently introduced into the American Army and stimulated the Americans in North Africa to experiment with other projectiles. When the U.S. Fifth Army landed in Italy in September 1943, the standard 105mm howitzer smoke shell was also considered suitable for carrying leaflets. The 105mm howitzer gave an average maximum range of 8,000 yards, good enough to reach as far back as battalion, regimental and sometimes division command posts. Towards the end of the war in Italy, the Fifth Army Combat Propaganda Team was distributing over 2,000,000 leaflets a week by shell fire.

The Germans sought to counter Allied leaflet fire with devices of their own, including a rifle grenade launcher with a reported range of up to 500 yards, and converted mortar grenades. Neither of these weapons, however, were so useful as the 105-mm howitzer and the 25-pounder.

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Loading artillery shell with leaflets

Publicity and Psychological Warfare mentions artillery leafleting in WWII:

The basic weapon used for the purpose of firing leaflets in the American Army was the 105mm Howitzer M2 or M2A1 and the shell used was the 105mm shell, Smoke M64 or M2A1. This shell was drawn by psychological warfare personnel and modified by them for leaflet use. The M84 BE Smoke shell was equipped with the M54 fuse capable of 25 seconds time of flight which corresponds approximately to a range of 8,000 yards. At distances greater than 8,000 yards the M 67 fuse which has a time of flight of 75 seconds was tested. This utilizes the maximum range of the 105mm Howitzer, approximately 12,000 yards.

A limited use of the 155mm Howitzer smoke shell was made in the European Theater, but despite the fact that three times as many leaflets may be placed in the 155mm than in the 105mm, ordnance officers concerned with the supply of ammunition believe it is more efficient and cheaper to fire 3 rounds of the 105mm in preference to one round of 155mm.

The battery is out of HE. Kin you use a couple tons of leaflets?

A Bill Mauldin Cartoon Mentioning Artillery and Leaflets
An American editorial cartoonist who won two Pulitzer Prizes for his work

Arthur T. Hadley mentions the problem of finding the shells in Heads or Tails: A Life of Random Luck and Risky Choices. He says the biggest problem he had as a member of the Fifth Mobile Radio Broadcasting Company in support of the 12th Army group in 1944 was finding smoke shells. He would send his men out to scrounge for smoke shells and then they would seek shelter where they could remove the smoke canisters and insert the leaflet rolls. This problem was never solved.

At the end of WWII the General Board report on European Strategy, Tactics, and Administration during WWII mentioned artillery and themes:

Artillery shells are employed for the distribution of leaflets because:

Artillery provides the only sure means of delivering leaflets at the right time to specified enemy units, and artillery provides the means of rapidly distributing leaflets written on the spot from local intelligence to fit the tactical situation.

The 12th Army Group fired leaflet shells at a rate of 10,000 to 15,000 a month after the Normandy landings. The “Feldpost,” a tiny but newsy leaflet, was distributed by artillery.

Surrender Leaflets used the following themes:

The general idea of surrender; surrender is honorable for the German; methods of surrender; and the Act of surrender is now the most reasonable act under existing circumstances.

The “Six points” were a secondary theme:

Immediate removal from the danger zone; decent treatment; the same food as Americans ate, “The best fed army in the world”; hospital care; postal privileges, and return home after the war “as soon as possible.”

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The American 105mm Leaflet Round
Psychological Warfare – Part One – December 1944

The U.S. Navy prepared leaflets in Hawaii and Saipan in conjunction with the Office of War Information for use against the enemy. They were led by the Commander-in-Chief Pacific and produced a number of informational booklets for their troops. This classified “confidential” book Psychological Warfare – Part One – December 1944, diagram explains the working of the U.S. 105mm shell and how to utilize it. The PSYOP staff is warned that a large “P” should be painted in red for leaflet aimed at enemy military, and white if aimed at enemy civilians. With a light breeze and the leaflets leaving the shell at a height of 300-400 feet, the area covered by leaflets will be approximately 150 yards in diameter. The maximum range of the shell is 8,300 yards.

A firing table document for firing propaganda leaflet shells believed to be from the estate
of Major F.M. Dearborn Jr. who commanded a battery of batteries of 4 guns during WWII.

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An American 105mm Shell loaded with Safe Conduct passes
Photo courtesy Lee Richard

Shortly after the end of WWII, the U.S. Army Air Force prepared a classified report titled Special Operations: AFF Aid to European Resistance Movements 1943-1945. As might be expected, the bulk of the 286-page report was on Air Force operations but scattered here and there artillery leafleting was mentioned as was the official passierschein leaflet. I combine the comments:

Local tactical leaflets, designed to serve a temporary situation, were disseminated largely by artillery and fighter bombers. There were three basic tactical leaflets. Most important was the passierschein, which was introduced in July 1944. Effective from the beginning, this passport to a prisoner-of-war cage Went through three revisions.

In the Italian theater, leaflet operations would use various methods for distribution: artillery for pin-pointing local tactical leaflets and fighter-bombers for targets beyond artillery range.

In France, artillery fired about 10,000,000 leaflets.

The newspaper Feldpost was delivered by leaflet shells. Frontbrief, a Seventh Army weekly newspaper was also fired by artillery to fill in the propaganda gap.

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The Standard Allied WWII Safe Conduct pass

In general, all of the Passierschein (Safe conduct pass) were nearly the same. They were prepared in several colors (mostly red) and all had the same message in German and English on the front:


The German soldier who carries this safe conduct is using it as a sign of his genuine wish to give himself up. He is to be disarmed, to be well looked after, to receive food and medical attention as required and to be removed from the danger zone as soon as possible.

Dwight D. Eisenhower,
Supreme Commander,
Allied Expeditionary Force

It was believed that the German troops were so indoctrinated that a very official document looking not unlike a college diploma with various national seals and the commander’s signature would be needed to encourage their surrender. It had to look official! Hundreds of millions of these passes were printed. Some of the leaflets also have the message in French on the front. All of the leaflets have the great seals of the United States and the United Kingdom on the top front; those with French-language text also have the seal of France. All of the passes bear the facsimile signature of General Dwight D. Eisenhower. The messages on the back differ in subject and length but most stressed six points.

1. Immediate removal from the danger zone.
2. Decent treatment as befits soldiers.
3. The same food as American soldiers.
4. Hospital care.
5. Postal privileges.
6. Return home after the war as soon as possible.

American propaganda for its Artillery forces

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Paper Bullets

Artillery troops did not want to fire paper at the enemy. They did not want to send the Japanese reading material, they wanted to kill them. They preferred high explosives. The Psychological troops prepared numerous propaganda booklets and posters trying to convince American troops of the importance of the leaflet artillery shell.

This June 1945 poster was produced by the Army Information Branch, Army Service Forces, during WWII to show both the soldiers and civilians the value of psychological warfare and propaganda leaflets. The title is Paper Bullets, and it shows battle scenes from the Pacific in a “comic book” style. The first panel depicts a leaflet to the Japanese; the next has Allied intelligence determining where the enemy is; Psywar troops plan leaflets; the leaflets are printed; they are loaded into leaflet bombs; they are disseminated from American and British bombers; they are fired at the Japanese by leaflet shell; the Japanese surrender to Allied troops; and finally the prisoners are interrogated by Allied officers to gain information for further operations.

Beneath the illustrations is text explaining the value of leaflets, a safe conduct pass aimed at the Germans and a translation of the Passierschein.

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How Paper Bullets Save Lives

The poster above explains to the soldier that every enemy who surrenders is one less soldier that can kill an American. The explanation is in a long message that starts:

What the Hell kind of a war is this – firing paper pamphlets at the enemy? Nobody ever got killed with a hunk of paper!

I show just the portion of the poster that depicts the leaflet artillery shell.

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The British 25-pounder Leaflet Round
Psychological Warfare – Part One – December 1944

Since the Americans might find themselves working with their British allies, another page was prepared to show how to use that particular shell. With a light breeze and the leaflets leaving the shell at a height of 300-400 feet, the area covered by leaflets will be approximately 400 yards by 200 yards.

A secret document used by the British Political Warfare Executive Training School was written by Captain David J. Alexander titled “The Propaganda Shell” and says in part:

The distribution of tactical leaflets by means of artillery shells has up to the present time been restricted as the technique is not yet fully developed and because the circumstances in which they can be usefully employed are comparatively rare.


Successful distribution of leaflets by shells can only take place under certain conditions – the ideal being static warfare – as, for example, at times during the campaign in Tunisia.

Shells are filled and leaflets printed close to the frontline. They are fired by units of artillery which are in range with the enemy over long periods when it should be possible to arrange regular shooting plans. It is interesting to note that during a period when over sixty million leaflets were dropped from the air – in North Africa – only 265,000 leaflets were fired from guns. These figures might give the impression that leaflet shells are of little importance, but they are in fact of great value for the distribution of leaflets aimed at a particular unit or a particular target.


Leaflets are naturally tactical and have a local value. They may give names of officers of an enemy unit or names of some of their comrades who have been taken prisoner. They may tell the enemy a bad piece of news for him at a critical moment, or they may be safe passes with which individual soldiers will be able to come over to our lines unharmed. The leaflets are either 4½ x 7 inches (2 rolls per shell) or 9 x 7 inches (one roll per shell). The same sized leaflets have also been used in the 105mm shell but an extra 2½ inches must be filled with cardboard washers. They are packed in rolls of 225 (this figure varies according to the thickness of the paper). One man can fill 30 shells in an hour with ready rolled leaflets or make 50 rolls an hour. I have seen leaflets which have been fired by guns. They are rumpled up and the edges are generally scorched by the explosion, but they are quite readable. The shell should explode over a camp, a gun-site or a trench and leaflets are showered down on the men.

Until 31 August 1943 P.W.E. had distributed 479,000 leaflets by shells and another 220,000 by patrols. A word about the latter. They are also tactical leaflets of local value, which are given to certain units who send out patrols at night. The men leave the leaflets where the enemy can find them in the morning. Both the propaganda shell and the patrol leaflets are devices to overcome the problem of drift when leaflets are dropped from aircraft.

Loading the 25-pound Leaflet Shell

I add my address to every article just in case some interested writer cares to comment. The bad part is that with my address all over the Internet I get a lot of spam mail. The good part is that every now and then I do get a letter from a reader. In this case, Stu McDonald from the 15th Field Artillery Regiment RCA Museum of Vancouver, BC, Canada sends a photograph and a comment:

Private R.J. Travis of No.3 Leaflet Unit placing propaganda leaflets into a shell to be fired by Sergeant T. McCormick of the 191 Hearst and Essex Yeomanry Field Regiment, Royal Artillery (R.A.) (British Army), into German-held positions in Dunkirk, France, about 15-25 September 1944. The photo is part of the collection at Library and Archives Canada (in Ottawa).

The photo was taken by Lieutenant Frank Dubervill, who was serving in the "Canadian Army Film and Photo Unit" (CAFPU) in 1944. The photo shows a Royal Artillery (British) gun detachment commander and another soldier (from Number 3 Leaflet Unit) preparing a 25-pound round. The artillery unit is the 191st Hertfordshire and Essex Yeomanry artillery regiment. This regiment had supported the Canadian Army's 8th Infantry Brigade in Normandy and would be familiar to Canadian Army photographers.

The cap badges and sleeve insignia have been censored (obliterated) by the Canadian Army. I think I see a charge thermometer at the bottom of the photo. I thought you might be interested in this photo.

A British Gun Crew Firing Propaganda Leaflets in Italy
U.S. National Archives

A U.S. Department of Defense paper entitled Dissemination of Leaflets by Artillery mentions some facts that must be considered when planning a leaflet artillery mission:

To insure maximum leaflet dispersal, a maximum of 25 rounds must be fired into an area 500 x 500 yards. Early hours of morning or just before dusk are the best hours for firing leaflets. Restricted visibility allows the enemy soldiers to pick them up with the least fear of retaliation from their officers. Leaflets fired into open fields on the front lines are seldom picked up due to the obvious danger of being observed. In dense woods, best distribution is obtained by firing all rounds on impact, thus avoiding high loss of leaflets which would tend to cling to the foliage of trees.

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Americans instruct a citizen of Cherbourg, France who has volunteered to assist in loading 155mm Howitzer shells with leaflets put out by the Psychological Warfare Division of the Allied Expeditionary Force. Left to right: William Locke of Cambridge, Mass, who is in charge of printing the leaflets, the French woman volunteer worker, and Sam Boal of New York City, who helps to gather the material used in the leaflets.

A report to the War Department on the part played by the United States Army in the development of Psychological Warfare organization, policy and operational technique in the North African, Sicilian, Italian and Southern France campaigns entitled Psychological Warfare in the Mediterranean Theater mentions leaflet artillery in depth. I will quote just a few comments of interest:

As of April 1, 1943, PWB had printed 5,520,000 leaflets...100,000 delivered by artillery shell. Leaflets were delivered from the presses, either in the rear areas or from mobile presses at the front, to the base artillery ammunition supply points, where the leaflet rolls were inserted with a band slit into smoke shells from which the canisters had been removed. The shells were then transported to the gun positions by the Ordnance. Although varying with the weight of paper used, the 25-pounder and the 105mm shells held an average of 440 and 750 leaflets respectively…In January 1944, the 5th Army artillery fired 5,249 shells, containing 2,234,500 leaflets, of which 461,250 were the larger copies of the Frontpost newspaper…In one week in April 1945, just prior to the conclusion of hostilities, the 15th Army Group printed 20,000,000 leaflets; the 5th Army distributed 368,640 by shell and the 8th Army disseminated 655,800 by shell.

The Second Mobile Radio Broadcasting Company

Unit Organization

The Second Mobile Radio Broadcasting Company was the first propaganda company to reach England, the first to land on the French Coast. And the first to bring in prisoners during the Normandy Campaign. Preliminary estimates of the company’s accomplishments show that its members printed more than 10,000,000 tactical leaflets and produced more than 100 different leaflets in German, Polish, Russian, and French; distributed over 25,000,000 leaflets by shell and bomb; caried out several hundred combat and rear area and consolidation loudspeaker missions; edited dozens of editions for newspapers for German soldiers and civilians; and from Cherbourg, Rennes, Lorient, and Luxembourg broadcast radio programs to the people of Europe. Although the name sounds like the company specialized in radio, the chart above shows that it was involved in every phase of psychological warfare to include Intelligence, loudspeakers, the printing, preparing, and delivering leaflet shells to the artillery, and of course, radio.

Leaflet Artillery Preparation

Just before D-Day members of the company’s artillery section travelled to London to study the technique of preparing leaflets for artillery shell dissemination. They then headed for Salisbury Plains to carry out experiments with shells under varying conditions. They wrote a report including approximate range tables and suggesting the alternate M-67 fuses for extreme ranges. The only shell used was the 105mm smoke round with M-54 fuse of the Chemical Warfare Service, which together with the British 25-pounder had been found most suitable by the First Mobile Company in the North Africa and Italy campaigns.

In October 1944, the Mobile Radio Company joined the U.S. First Army. At the end of the war, they looked back on 63 different leaflets written and a total of 6,000,000 copies printed, which together with leaflets from other units amounted to 25,000 artillery shells and 1,650 leaflet bombs loaded and delivered. When the leaflets were for artillery dissemination, a crew of local girls would form them into rolls and the artillery liaison section would load the rolls into 105mm BE Smoke shells after which they would deliver them to the appropriate artillery locations as directed by the artillery liaison officer.

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British PSYOP Troops fire Leaflets at Germans in Sicily

In August, 1943, British troops fire leaflets over German lines during the battle for the Island of Sicily. The leaflets told the Germans of the rapid Allied advances in Italy, the futility of resistance, and the advantages of surrendering to the Allies. Notice the soldier at the right holding the rolled leaflets that his comrade is placing into the shells.

The paper then lists firing tables for the Howitzer, 105mm, M2 and M2A1; shell 26.4 pound M84 (leaflet). For example, at 5000 yards with charge 5 the elevation in mils should be set at 256.7 and the fuse set for 16 seconds. With charge 7 the elevation is 147.3 with a 12.8 second fuse.

The Operations Research Office (ORO) of the Johns Hopkins University published a 1950 booklet entitled The Value of Propaganda Leaflets Disseminated by Aircraft. Authors Kenneth W. Yarnold and Jean Marie Dady believed that artillery rounds were the most effective in regard to cost:

Artillery disseminated propaganda was one of the cheapest forms of PSYOP when compared against military advances. A small expenditure of propaganda shells was needed to produce important results.

The tactical leaflets dropped by aircraft in northwest Europe in support of the First, Third, Seventh and Ninth Armies, sometimes amounted to an expenditure of leaflets as high as 28 million per month produced no effect on the tactical situation that could be detected by the techniques of analysis used in the present report. This contrasts high effectiveness for leaflets disseminated by artillery and probably value for propaganda put out by loudspeakers in certain circumstances.

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CT-42 – Make Free the Street for the SS

Some entire series of American leaflets were fired by artillery; for instance, the American First Army CT series. On D-Day + 6 they were firing leaflets packed inside 105mm shells at the Germans.

Military documents state that 300,000 copies of CT-42 were printed in Brussels on 6 January 1945 for the First Army. Another 200,000 copies were printed on 7 January 1945. Many of these CT leaflets are text only and I prefer to show the readers leaflets with images. However, this leaflet is interesting because it is a “divide and conquer” piece which attempts to turn the German soldier against the SS alluding to its preferred treatment. This all-text leaflet was delivered to the Germans by artillery in January 1945. Some of the text is:

The Rundstedt winter offensive has broken down. And with it the last hope of the German High Command to postpone the inevitable defeat for a few weeks. The last reserves, the last supplies have been squandered…The leaders now try to withdraw troops before the American pincer move can cut off the wedge.

However, it is not you who are being withdrawn but the SS. You must keep the roads open until the SS men have escaped. You must remain in your position, although your position has become untenable. Only if you risk your life do the gentlemen of the SS have a chance to escape…You have one choice: to hold out and die for the SS, or to quit and live for yourself.

Author’s Note: It appears that the First Army might have fired the first American leaflet artillery on the Continent. According to my old friend Rod Oakland, writing in Leaflets Disseminated by Artillery Shell, on Day-D plus 6, as the First U.S. Army was battling toward Cherbourg, the G-2 Intelligence Section requested a leaflet about how to surrender. The artillery officer had brought a small supply of leaflets to France, but they did not mention the excellent treatment German prisoners would receive in an American POW camp. G-2 sat down and produced a message but there were no printing presses. Making do with what they had, a mimeograph machine was found and the leaflets adequate to fill six 105 mm smoke shells reproduced. This was the initial leaflet barrage in Europe. Oakland says the operation was successful and soon a handful of enemy troops approached the American lines holding the leaflets.

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Leaflet MD 213

Corporal Larry Sitney was in Battery A of the 356th Field Artillery Battalion of the 94th Infantry Division near Lorient, France, from early September 1944 until the end of December 1944. About October, his unit fired some black and white tactical leaflets into the German positions at Lorient from a 105mm Howitzer battery. One such leaflet was coded “MD 213.” At the time Sitney fired the propaganda shells the war had passed the unit and the 94th Infantry Division was attached directly to the 12th Army Group. Leaflet MD 213 is entitled Passierschien (Safe Conduct) and explains how to surrender in German, French and English on the front. The English text is:


For individuals or groups

German soldiers carrying this safe conduct are using it as a sign that they have decided to cease fighting. They are to be treated fairly, according to the Geneva Convention. No matter whether captured by American or French soldiers, they are to be removed from the zone of battle as soon as possible and conducted to an American Prisoner of War camp.

All troops in this sector operate under American orders and must follow strictly the provisions of the Geneva Convention.

It appears that the Germans did not want to be captured by the French who they had brutalized all through the occupation and the Americans had to reassure them that they would be eventually placed in American captivity. The back of the leaflet is entitled “How to surrender” and contains six steps that the soldier must take when approaching Allied lines. Examples are:

Hold your hands over your head, palms forward.

If possible, wave this leaflet or anything white to indicate your intention to surrender.

The leaflet ends with a reminder that the Americans are broadcasting to the Germans:

News from the Battlefields in France, Belgium Holland and Germany is brought to you by the American field radio station near Lorient. Daily at 1400 and 2130 o’clock on 423 meters.

The code “MD” most likely signifies “Mobile Davidson.” The Davidson press was the workhorse of the American PSYOP specialist and the 12th Army Group had two of them. Their equipment chart states:

Printing equipment including 2 each Davidson Duplicator press, complete with Beatty Process Camera, Accessories, spare parts and tools, installed in printing equipment truck as indicated in Signal Section on special list of equipment for 1st Mobile Radio Broadcasting Company, dated 18 April 1943.

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The standard Passierschein Allied safe conduct pass disseminated by Artillery

The old smoke markings must be removed from the shell casings and projectiles. A large "P" for PSYOP is stenciled on the shell. Each shell could hold upwards of 1,500 leaflets, and by the end of June 1944, 900 of these shells had been fired at the Germans in the 1st U.S. Army sector alone. Many of the leaflets are crushed during setback, burned by the ejection charge, or torn during emission. The standard Passierschein Allied safe conduct pass depicted above is a good example of the problems with artillery dissemination. Notice the crinkled effect of the paper caused by the force of the emission blast. Notice also that the top of the leaflet has either been blown off or burned away by the force of the explosion. Although this is an extreme example, artillery leaflets are quite commonly found in this condition.

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An Artillery-fired leaflet from my files

I was just looking at the above comments and thought they were not strong enough. Many of the artillery fired leaflets are totally rippled and you can feel the ripples with your fingers. Scorch marks and holes are not rare. To show a better example of what might happen I add this American leaflet Soldiers of the 84th Division fired at the Germans. You gain accuracy, but you can certainly lose legibility.

The Psychological Warfare Division Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force – An Account of its operations in the Western European Campaign 1944 – 1945 gives some of the total numbers in regard to WWII leaflets:

Through the agency of the Special leaflet squadron, approximately 80% of all leaflets disseminated in the areas of the Anglo-American armies were by the 8th Air Force. Approximately 10% was done by the Royal Air Force, approximately 5% by the fighter-bombers of the Tactical Air Force, and approximately 5% by artillery. A total of approximately 5,997,000,000 leaflets were distributed over the Continent by aircraft based in the United Kingdom during the leaflet operation in the European Theater.

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Paper Bullets – How they beat the Jap

There was also an artillery leaflet war in Asia. Speaking of artillery, it was very difficult to get the U.S. Army cannon-cockers to shoot leaflets at the enemy. They wanted to send high explosives over the front lines and cause extensive death and destruction. General MacArthur’s Psychological Warfare Branch knew that the leaflets would expedite surrenders which would lead directly to military intelligence and a more efficient method to fight the war and a quicker victory. The PWB printed the restricted booklet Paper Bullets – How they beat the Jap, in an attempt to motivate the artillerymen to use the leaflet shells. The booklet even asks the rhetorical question:

What the hell kind of war is this firing leaflets at the enemy? Nobody ever got killed with a hunk of paper…Psychological Warfare, that’s what the Army calls it.

Notice that this same line was used in the poster How Paper Bullets Save Lives that we show earlier in this article.

The 8-page booklet features one of the early “I surrender” leaflets aimed at the Japanese Army, explains the power of combat propaganda, and instructions on how to load and fire the leaflet shells. The back of the booklet depicts a Japanese soldier surrendering.

William A. Vatcher wrote a report on American propaganda entitled Combat propaganda Against the Japanese in the Central Pacific. He says in part that a combat propaganda team was provided in the Operation Plan for “Operation Iceberg,” (The invasion of Okinawa)…The plan provided that thirteen hundred 105mm propaganda artillery shells would be available.

Tests were made experimenting with firing the propaganda shells from 105mm Howitzers mounted on tanks. One test indicated that the smaller the leaflets, the better the distribution. The first tests used 10-inch leaflets with the fuse set at a prescribed height over the enemy target. The 10-inch leaflet proved too large to scatter adequately. Many leaflets stuck together in bunches and many were burned at the ends. Subsequent tests with smaller leaflets were more successful. (We should add here that during the Vietnam War where much research was done on the mathematics of leafleting the best size was found to be about 3 x 5-inches to 4 x 6-inches).

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Leaflet 13-J-6

The 1st Cavalry Division was locked in a bitter battle with the Japanese defenders of Ormoc in the Philippines. The PWB Liaison officer attached to the division requested this leaflet on 20 November 1944 to break the Japanese morale. The text is:

Ceaselessly Firing

No sleep. No peace. Day and night the ceaseless firing of the artillery haunts you. Like devils, the shells find you and kill you. All around you can see your comrades dying after each barrage.

Leaflet 3-J-1

Soldiers from 361st Field Artillery Battalion load propaganda leaflet 3-J-1 to be fired over Japanese lines,
Leyte, December 1944.
(Photo by US Army Tech3 Harold Newman)

Army Psychological Warfare Branch leaflet 3-J-1 seems to be the first in a series of leaflets that depicts Japanese soldiers left behind as General MacArthur advanced using his "Island-Hopping" campaign. Other similar leaflets depicted a lone Japanese soldier standing on an island (6-J-1) or a lone Japanese soldier watching a battle take place on a nearby island (22-J-1). These leaflets all had the basic same message. You are cut off and there will be no resupply. There will be no food, no water, no ammunition, and no reinforcements. Some of the text on this leaflet is:

Agony of Days Ahead

Now that our offensive has reached your island, we can predict your future clearly. We can do this because with our own eyes we have seen the end of the Japanese forces abandoned in the Solomons, New Guinea, Attu, Guam, Saipan, and Palau. The Japanese forces will try to counter-attack and each time they will suffer great losses. Many of them will be injured by our bombing. Because of lack of treatment, they will die slowly. Others will suffer from lack of food. They will be no way to withdraw. Some of you will be driven to suicide. The rest will face hunger and exhaustion and be forced to live like animals.

Before you reach this miserable state, which is more than men ought to endure so far from home, we want you to keep something in mind. Those who choose to come to an honorable understanding with us will find that we treat them as human beings, not as enemies. We shall hold it a duty to see that they gave clothing food, shelter, and medical care.

No sleep. No peace. Day and night the ceaseless firing of the artillery haunts you. Like devils, the shells find you and kill you. All around you can see your comrades dying after each barrage.

Carl Berger sums up the use of artillery:

The experience of World War II led American propagandists to feel that artillery was the best method for getting leaflets to front-line troops, whereas light aircraft or fighter bombers were useful for reaching those areas directly behind the front lines. For targets deep in the enemy’s territory, medium and heavy bombers increased the reach of the leaflet's message. In addition, the Germans had proved the rocket to be a feasible means of leaflet delivery. Whatever the effectiveness of the leaflet's message might be, military men had the means to get it in quantity to the enemy's troops, to his civilians, and to peoples in occupied countries.

A Luxembourg Museum Exhibit.

The battle of the Bulge mostly took place in Belgium and the loss of life and destruction was terrible. The people believed the war was almost over, so the sudden appearance of German tanks took everyone, including the Allied armies by surprise. In the Musee National D'histoire Militaire in Diekirch, Luxembourg, close to the Belgian border, there is a Battle of the Bulge display featuring military items of WWII. This exhibit depicts a genuine and mockup leaflet artillery shell and several Allied propaganda leaflets.

German Propaganda

An Early German Propaganda shell

In WWII, the German launched leaflets from something like a mortar. A 1944 Moscow military manual titled The German Army's Pyrotechnical Ammunition Guide, written to teach their troops about the German weapon called them Propaganda bombs. I think a better name for it would be Propaganda shell.

Nick Smirnoff told me about these propaganda weapons:

They were launched also from a cardboard tube with a wooden bottom. This construction was deemed unfit for usage at the front because of the limited range and the position of the launcher being easily identified because the firing charge was gunpowder and created much smoke. And by the middle of 1942 these leaflet shells were no longer used on the front.

These German Leaflet shells were excavated in Russia about 2010. They were filled with German OKW/WPr leaflets of the Üb series.

German author Klaus Kirchner wrote about these leaflet shells in Flugblätter aus Deutschland 1941:

The so-called "propaganda bombs" with a diameter of 12 centimeters, were cardboard balls that were filled with flyers and fired into the area of ​​the enemy with the help of a small powder charge. Shortly before the end of the trajectory, the paper ball burst and the propaganda leaflets floated freely to the earth. The capacity of the propaganda bombs and their firing range of around 500 meters, however, were far too small for the required effort. Since the sparks and smoke also drew the enemy's attention to the launch site when it was fired, the operating staff was at risk.

The Russians called this a mortar (as I am tempted to do) and mention the German use of it for firing signal shells. I assume for firing leaflets it would be at about a 45-degree angle.

Mortar for signal shells

1. Cylinder Tube
2 - Wooden block
3 - Steel circle
4 - Spike

Loading of the mortar for high-powered signals

Firing the mortar with a signal shell with a flash tube

Propaganda Shell “GREIF” with Ejection Charge

Sometimes German frontline troops invented leaflet shells by themselves. For example, there is a leaflet shell called the Greif, found in documents of the 50th army corps. According to that document, it was invented and produced at frontline workshops of the 122nd infantry division on the Leningrad front about February 1942.

The document depicts something that looks like a big shotgun shell. It was difficult to translate due to its age and the many abbreviations of German military equipment. The casing of the cylinder or shell is called “a special container” and has a top glued on. The bottom two-thirds has another glued ring, I assume for support. The top three-quarters of the cylinder is empty and identified as “Space for propaganda items.” At the bottom of the leaflet section is a cardboard lid and directly below it, packed in sand is a paper bag containing 80 grams of black powder. This explosive part of the cylinder is reinforced by more cardboard and adhesive tape. There is another lid and below it a thin layer of sand. The bottom of the cylinder is the major charge with 250 grams of black powder. A 6-centimeter fuse runs from the short charge to the larger charge. A 25-centimeter fuse is taped at the bottom of the large charge and runs to a charging handle.

Looking at the German diagram it appears that after the cylinder is carefully aimed, the charging handle is pulled, exploding the large charge, and lighting the smaller fuse. The cylinder or shell containing the leaflet travels a certain distance through the air until the small charge ignites, distributing the leaflets.

Russian Researcher Nick Smirnov told me more about this exotic home-made propaganda shell. He has studied the German documents in great detail. He said:

I think the German soldiers wanted to create a cheap and simple propaganda shell and wanted to reuse parts of munition covers for their 105mm howitzer rather than trash them. The Propaganda shell Greif was launched from the 105mm tube. The tube is not shown in the sketch above.

The leaflet-container is made of the cylinder cardboard cover of the powder charge for the 105mm howitzer le.Fh.18. The cap at the top is glued. The top three-quarters of the cylinder is empty and can be packed with about 400-450 leaflets 105 x 148mm in size. At the bottom of the leaflet section is a cardboard lid (gas seal) and directly below it, packed in sand is a paper bag containing 80 grams of black powder. That is the actual shell.


The Munition Containers the Greif was made From

This shell is put onto the cap of the howitzer munition container, which is filled with 250 grams of black powder, and held together with gummed tape. The 6-centimeter fuse, going from the shell, is plugged into the black powder. The Germans called this part the breech-loading cartridge. There is a 25-centimeter fuse going outside the cartridge and a detonating fuse model Anz.29/Ausf.H.

The Anz.29/Ausf.H. Fuse

The bottom half of the shell is re-enforced by an external cylinder of gummed paper, and all this construction is loaded into Cartridge Cover Number 6 of the le.Fh.18. This is the Germans call “the directing body.”

The sand in the shell is used to protect the leaflets from the flame, while the sand in the directing body is used to make it heavier and therefore increase the firing range. The small additional weight helps to overcome wind resistance. The directing body is used to direct the flight of the shell. The sand in the bottom also absorbs the shock of firing.

When the 25-centimeter fuse burned out after about 35 seconds, the powder exploded, and the shell was thrown into the air. The flight time was about 7.5 seconds, the time it took for the 6-centimeter fuse to burn, then the powder in the shell exploded, and leaflets were distributed.  The optimum altitude should be about 20-30 meters. The firing range is about 400-450 meters. It can be changed by changing an angle of slope the launching tube. The optimal angle is 40-45 degrees. If there is a head wind, the angle should be decreased, if there is a tail wind, the angle should be increased.

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A leaflet roll found in an old German artillery shell

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Surrender Leaflet found inside an unexploded artillery leaflet shell fired by German soldiers at Soviet Troops

Another German propaganda shell found in 2023 in the St. Petersburg area.
The shell filled with pristine anti-Russian leaflets.

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This German document prepared by one of their Propaganda Kompanies explains how leaflets are produced and disseminated. The document is titled Leaflet Production. It starts with information being gathered. Then the text is written and translated into the language of the target. Then the leaflet is designed and printed. Upon completion it is transported to the front. It is then loaded into the means of dissemination. The drawing shows artillery, balloons and aircraft being used against the enemy.

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The German Leaflet Artillery Shell
Klaus Kirchner – Flugblatter aus Deutschland 1939-1940

The time fuse is inside the top element labeled Zeitzunder M 23; the explosive charge is below in a wooden block; and the large area with the “1” is where two rolls of leaflets are placed.

German leaflet artillery shells are mentioned in Klaus Kirchner’s Leaflets from Germany for American Soldiers in Western Europe 1945. The German shell was painted red and white and the title of the field manual D456 for their use is:

For official use only!

Instructions for Loading the 10cm White-Red Shell

For light howitzer 16 and light field howitzer 38

24 June 1940

Berlin 1940

Kirchner adds that the shells are reliable and he has never heard of a dud. The leaflets were relatively undamaged with just a light crinkling. The disadvantages were a high production and administrative cost, and the tight rolling of the leaflets had to be performed on a special machine often far from the front lines. The shell held about 500 leaflets and the range was from 6 to 7 kilometers. The leaflets were fired by the light field Howitzer (Leicht Feldhausbitz) model 18 in the caliber 10.5.

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The German Light Field Howitzer 18

Kirchner says:

The “White-Red” shell named after its very conspicuous color marking was intended to be used in the light field howitzer 18. This artillery shell, created especially for the targeted distribution of leaflets on the front, was first used in an area between the rivers Rhine and Mosel in April 1940. It contained the leaflets “La France” and “Soldats Francais!” (“French Soldiers!”). The time fuse was adjusted for a leaflet drop at a height of about 100 meters, shortly before the trajectory ended. The pressure of the explosion was transferred through a block of wood onto a canister, which contained the rolled leaflets, and then into the bottom of the shell. The roll of leaflets left the undamaged mantle of the shell through the bottom and dissolved into single leaflets.

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La France

This German leaflet was fired against the French in the early days of the war. It depicts Joan of Arc weeping at the grave of a destroyed France. The leaflets were fired from about April 1 to the end of the month in 1940. 320,000 leaflets were printed. There is a long message on the back entitled: “Joan of Arc cries…”

The German Propaganda Kompanie Einheiten (PK Units) was comprised of two light reporting teams consisting of a few writers and photographers, and one heavy team with additional movie and radio personnel. Prior to the German invasion of the Sudetenland, eleven propaganda companies were set up: five in the army, four in the Luftwaffe, and two in the navy.

Starting about 1938 they were appointed by propaganda Minister Josef Goebbel’s Das Reichsministerium für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda (The Reich Ministry for Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda - RMVP), but when at the front they came under the command of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (Armed Forces High Command – OKW).

The German military wanted to control propaganda troops. They formed the Wehrmacht Propaganda Department (Wehrmachtpropaganda-Abteilung - WPr.). During the course of the war, the size of the propaganda troops increased to about division strength (some 15,000 troops) in 1942. There were dozens of unit scattered all over occupied Europe. Some of the units were; Army Command Southeast (Propaganda-Abteilung Südost), Propagandastaffel Kroatien, Propaganda-Abteilung Frankreich (PAF) and from the Air Force Luftwaffe Kriegsberichterkompanie (KBK).

All of the film shot by the PK was for the exclusive use of the Propaganda Ministry. Adolf Hitler always worried about the loyalty of the Army and eventually moved all of the propaganda sections to the Schutzstaffeln (Protection Squads – SS).

The Germans loved propaganda. They leafleted the Allies day and night by aircraft, artillery and rocket. This was especially true in Italy after the early Allied landings and even more so in Western Europe after the D-Day landings. I should show 100 leaflets here but I will just show two that I found particularly interesting. The Germans liked to feature sex, anti-Semitism and “divide and conquer” themes. Here is one using sex to lower the soldier’s morale.

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It was a memorable day for Bill

The next leaflet shows a civilian at a picnic with a woman. Her legs are open giving him a tempting view. Text on the back says in part:

BILL THE SHEIK. Bill Turner, well-paid assistant to the manager of a war production plant, was one of those many strong young fellows who had made up their minds not to don a soldier's uniform at any cost. Having the right connections, he not only succeeded in that but was now sitting tight in the job that rightfully belonged to Frank Merritt, tall and handsome college football hero. Frank had been sent to Europe to fight for the cause of Big Business, war profiteers and Wall Street sharks. His fiancée, shapely Vivian Hope, who was working as stenographer in the same plant, had not seen him for over two years. She was lonely and often had the blues. When smartly dressed Bill Turner, who had that definite come-hither look in his eyes, asked her one day in a casual way to go with him to the movies, she didn't mind joining him. That night they saw a picture of a romantic love affair that affected them deeply…

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While you are Away

This German leaflet uses sex as a way to drive a wedge between the British and their American allies. It depicts a smiling naked British girl rolling up her stocking while a U.S. Army Staff-sergeant fixes his tie nearby. The back of the leaflet 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 a “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.

The Korean War

Dissemination of Leaflets by artillery. August 1950, classified “Restricted.

This Psychological Warfare Branch Korean War Intelligence booklet explains the use of leaflet shells, how to load them and the formulae to fire them. For instance, the introduction is:

For disseminating leaflets, artillery has the following capabilities:

Artillery can distribute leaflets with pin-point accuracy.
Artillery can rapidly distribute leaflets written on the spot from local intelligence that fits the tactical situation.
Artillery can disseminate leaflets with reasonable accuracy regardless of weather conditions.
Dissemination of leaflets by artillery fire permits close coordination between PSYOP campaigns and combat operations of a tactical unit.

For disseminating leaflets, artillery has the following limitations:

Artillery has limited range and cannot reach troop concentrations deep in the enemy’s rear areas.
One artillery round has a limited carrying capacity for leaflets. Many rounds are necessary to cover even a small area.

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The 1st Radio Broadcasting and Leaflet Group fill 105mm Rounds in Korea
Photo courtesy Lee Richard

Not much changed between the wars. The trusted 105mm round is still being used to disseminate leaflets in this November 1952 Department of Defense photograph. Notice the men are stenciling the leaflet designation on the shells. It would not do to try and fire high explosive artillery at the enemy during an attack only to discover that the shells contained just paper, no explosives. That mistake could be fatal. Army Ordnance sent 10,000 leaflet artillery shells to EUSAK monthly. They were divided among the various corps with 500 held in reserve for emergency tactical use. One of the most interesting taboos was that no leaflet was ever to use the term “Communist Guerillas” on leaflets; they were only to use the term “Bandits.”

Stephen Pease mentions the artillery shell used during the Korean War:

The 105mm howitzer shell held 400 four-by-five-inch leaflets. Usually, an empty smoke shell was used; smoke shells were easily modified in the field into leaflet carriers.

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U.S. Army personnel prepare propaganda leaflets in roll form to be placed into leaflet bombs which will be dropped on Communist-held territory in Korea.

Early in the Korean War the military did not have a dedicated artillery leaflet shell. The 105 mm howitzer smoke shell and the British “25 pounder” smoke shell were most suitable to convert to leaflet shells. With the smoke canister removed each shell could hold about 400 4 x 5-inch leaflets. Artillery can disseminate leaflets with great accuracy and is unaffected by weather conditions. They are best used immediately after an artillery bombardment, preferably at dawn or dusk when the enemy can pick up the leaflets without being seen.

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Rolled leaflets are loaded into 500 pound M16A1/2 Cluster Adapter Bombs by
3rd Reproduction Company soldiers at Motosumiyoshi, Japan.
(Photo courtesy of Veritas magazine)

During the Korean War artillery was the most accurate means of delivery. Between June 1950 and July 1953 the Eighth U.S. Army delivered over 100 million leaflets by artillery, with over 15,000 shells a month being fired at the enemy during peak periods.

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Leaflet 7079

The black and red leaflet 7079 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 leaflet was disseminated on 24 August 1951. 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.


During the Korean War artillery was the most accurate means of delivery. Between June 1950 and July 1953 the Eighth U.S. Army delivered over 100 million leaflets by artillery, with over 15,000 shells a month being fired at the enemy during peak periods. Between June 1950 and July 1953 the Eighth U.S. Army delivered over 100 million leaflets by artillery, with over 15,000 shells a month being fired at the enemy during peak periods.

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A Korean Worker loads a Leaflet Artillery Shell for his American Allies


Members of the 6th Radio Broadcasting and Leaflet Group load Leaflet Shells.

This film titled PSYCHOLOGICAL WARFARE IN ALASKA was found in the National Archives and depicts a PSYWAR unit in Alaska in the 1950s. It is short, about ten minutes, but does a good job of explaining leaflets, leaflet artillery and bombs, and loudspeakers both on the ground and in the air.

The film depicts the M84 smoke shell for 105 howitzers being adapted for leaflet use. A 25-second M54 fuse is used for ranges up to 8.000 yards, and a 75-second M67 fuse is used for ranges up to 12,000 yards. The base plate is opened, and the smoke element is removed. The explosive element in the head of the shell is untouched. The leaflets are then rolled tightly together. The roll must not be more than 3.5-inches thick. It is tied with a string to keep the roll tight, and the string is cut once the roll has started to be placed in the shell. The shell is closed and stenciled so it can be identified for leaflet use.

Canadian Signals Officer Frank Sorensen recalls his introduction to the leaflet shell during the Korean War:

One evening some of my artillery friends came in with several empty artillery shells and a cardboard carton, asking whether they could work in my winter dugout. It had a wooden floor, improvised stove, a hung ceiling and electric lighting in addition to my telephone. They had emptied smoke shell canisters and planned to stuff them with leaflets that they would fire as an airburst over the enemy. Their first attempts to fire a shell had poor results, and I suspected the leaflets were probably burnt by the base charge that ejected them. So I suggested a better way that would avoid damaging the leaflets.

We rolled up a bundle of the leaflets, wrapped it tightly with a string, and then pasted a paper band around the roll. The roll was made just right for a snug fit into the shell casing. It was lowered into the shell casing; the string was then pulled to tear the paper band so the bundle wouldn’t be ejected as a lump. Three such rolls filled it quite snugly.

I don’t know just how many were in each, but we filled several shells that evening. I did not see the burst but they said they fluttered down like snow, just as we had hoped. At the end there were still many leaflets left over so I kept a wad, which I used to give out as mementos back home.

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Leaflet 8715

When we find leaflets without the crinkled effect of the shell explosion we must wonder if they were really fired by artillery. Sometimes we know for sure that they were meant to be fired from artillery because they are still in the shell. In this case the leaflets were found inside a 155 mm shell that had malfunctioned. Approximately 200 copies of this 8th U.S. Army Korea leaflet were printed in Chinese on 13 January 1953 and rolled tightly inside the shell. The front shows a Chinese soldier with his rifle. The text is:

On the Korean War battlegrounds, Chinese soldiers were given Russian surplus weapons to fight for the Russians.

On the back of the leaflet two Russian officers are drinking with two Chinese women. The text is:

Inside the Chinese mainland, Soviet “advisors” are bleeding the Chinese people’s blood and sweat for their utmost enjoyment and pleasure.

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The Psychological Warfare School Textbook

This 1952 paper-back textbook was used by students at the Psychological Warfare School at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, during the Korean War. Inside, there are explanations of Psychological warfare and it uses, and several Korean War leaflets are shown along with their translations. Notice that the images on the cover depict all the ways to deliver propaganda. There are leaflet aircraft, a loudspeaker tank, surrender leaflets, a leaflet bomb, and front and center a leaflet artillery shell.

The Korean War 6000 and 9000 Artillery Leaflet Series

Leaflets Designed to be Fired by Artillery

The 6000 series were 4x5-inch reduced-size Chinese-language anti-morale leaflets, suitable for artillery dissemination. The next two leaflets we depict are both smaller leaflets with a crude cartoon image and a simple message for the Chinese soldier, you are being betrayed by your officers.

Leaflet 6003

A rather crude leaflet depicting a Chinese soldier with his bayonet up against the chest of his officer. The text on the front says:

Recognize exactly who your true enemy is.
Chinese Soldier - Chinese Communist Troop Officer

The back is all text:

Chinese soldiers!

Your Chinese Communist troop officers are your true enemies. They force you to take part in the Korean War because of the USSR’s Communist Party and are letting you die in vain. They have been deceiving you and restricting your freedom.

Turn the muzzle of your gun toward your officers and shoot them. As soon as you have successfully done this, run to the United Nations forces side and surrender. We will guarantee the safety of your life. We will never inflict any pain or suffering on you. We will treat you well.

Leaflet 6004

My original notes on leaflet 6004 written decades ago was: “UN aircraft bombs Chinese soldiers, many dead on the ground. 'Where did your officers run away and disappear to?' The text claims that Chinese officers always run away from bombings.”

This leaflet seems to be drawn by the same artist who drew 6004. The front depicts dead Chinese troops everywhere and not an officer to be seen. The text is:

Where did your officers run away and disappear to?

The back is all text:

Chinese soldiers!

Your companions-in-arms who were taken prisoner after being wounded, always said, "Whenever we were attacked, bombed and machinegunned by aircraft, there were no officers who remained with us at our position. They all ran away from our position leaving us behind and always disappeared without fail."

Where had they run away to and disappeared? Why are we expected to obey the orders of our officers who run away and disappear leaving us behind? Why are we needed to fight on the battlefields of Korea for sake of ghosts who run away and hide?

Your cowardly officers run away and hide leaving you to behind with no thought of your safety. Why do you need to fight on the battlefields of Korea and die?

The 9000 leaflets were also all specifically designed for artillery shells; 4x5-inch reduced-size Korean-language anti-morale leaflets suitable for artillery dissemination. I have records of about one dozen from this series. Some examples are:

9005. Blue safe conduct pass signed “MacArthur” with a red text on back.

9009. Two Chinese soldiers laugh at sweating North Korean soldier. They were printed by the Psychological Warfare Branch of the Far East Command. The text is:

Koreans bear the brunt of the fighting

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Artillery Leaflet 9012

9012. Lone Korean soldier is attacked by giant tank labeled “UN” and the sky is full of B-29 bombers. They were printed for the Military Intelligence Section of the Far East Command. The text is:

The sky thunders, the Earth rocks, human flesh cannot stand against planes and tanks.

9013. Korean soldier on ground looks up at three attacking UN bombers.

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Artillery leaflet R 9020*

R 9020*. A United Nations soldier calls in air support; a Communist soldier is strafed. The leaflet title is “Air Support.”The asterisk after the number 9020 signifies that the leaflet was requested by PSYWAR Eighth U.S. Army Korea. The “R” signifies that this was a reprint, a leaflet considered so well written that it was reprinted to be disseminated more than once. This leaflet contrasts air support given UN soldiers and the lack of such support given to communist soldiers.

The front of the leaflet depicts a UN soldier calling an air strike against Communist forces. The text is:

Air Support!

UN soldier calls in air strike against Communists.

The back of the leaflet shows a North Korean soldier hopelessly hunting for cover as the unchallenged UN Air Force strafes his position. The text is:

Air Support???

NO! This Communist soldier gets only false promises from his leaders!

Throw off your bondage! Escape to the UN Lines

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Artillery Leaflet 9026

This is one of my favorite types of Leaflet, what we might call the standard Korean War safe conduct pass. They always looked a great deal like this one, and usually had the United Nations symbol and a dove of peace at the top, and the name of the current military commander at the bottom. That signatures changed as different generals were put in charge. I have copies signed by MacArthur, Clark, Ridgway and Van Fleet. This one was produced by the 1st Radio and Broadcasting group on 30 April 1952 and bears Ridgway’s signature. Meant to be placed in an artillery shell, it is about half the size of a standard leaflet. It tells the enemy exactly how to surrender and also has a message in English to tell the Allied troops how to treat the prisoner.

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Words and Pictures

There is an interesting discussion of the leaflet shell in the classified secret document ORO-T-3 FEC: U. S. Psywar Operations in the Korean War, 23 January 1951. This is a very early report on the first six months of the war which would go on for over three years from 25 June 25 1950 to 27 July 1953:

Artillery shells were used for leaflet dissemination more extensively during the summer, in the fighting on the perimeter, than at any time since. There are apparently no complete records of its use, and few detailed and documented accounts even of specific incidences. There are available however, anecdotes of occasions when shells were used to good effect to deliver surrender leaflets to enemy troops, local intelligence having indicated that good results may be obtained. One such case concerns an enemy soldier who surrendered somewhere on the northern front of the perimeter in August, and who reported that others of his unit wanted to surrender but lacked leaflet passes. Several shells were fired, and a number of additional prisoners came in carrying the passes.

The Psychological Warfare activities report of G-2, EUSAK, for the weeks ending 31 October and 7 November indicate that there was some use of the shells in those weeks.

In the X Corps area the PSYWAR Officer made strenuous efforts to obtain and load an adequate number of base-ejector shells. The first shells obtained numbered 94. Ordnance in the 1st Marine Division loaded the first 68 on 14 November with Korean leaflets, and the 26 later with Chinese leaflets. A plan was made to obtain 300 shells and to load them half and half with Korean and Chinese leaflets…The plan for loading 300 shells was never fulfilled…The ship Denise was scheduled to arrive with 1450 shells but when the ship arrived the unloading concentrated on urgently needed combat ammunition….

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SSG Mason, X Corps Psywar, shows how a roll of 400 Psywar leaflets fits in
a 105 mm howitzer smoke canister shell.
(Photo courtesy of Veritas magazine)

Mark R. Jacobson wrote a PhD dissertation titled Minds Then Hearts: U.S. Political and Psychological Warfare during the Korean War, Ohio State University, 2005. He said in regard to leaflet shells:

Artillery provided the most accurate means for delivering propaganda to specific enemy front line units. About 400-800 leaflets could fit in each modified 105 mm smoke shell. Between June 1950 and July 1953, Eighth US Army-Korea (EUSAK) distributed, approximately, over 100 million leaflets via artillery shell with ammunition expenditure reaching about 15,000 rounds a month during peak periods of use. Artillery shells proved particularly useful during both the fight along the Pusan perimeter in 1950 and during the static war just north of the 38th parallel from mid-1951 until the 1953 Armistice…Taking a page from the Psywar playbooks of the world wars, Psychological Warfare Branch, Far Eastern Command distributed several hundred pamphlets in August 1950 entitled “Dissemination of Leaflets by Artillery” to staffs at EUSAK, X Corps and various divisional and regimental staffs… The competition between artillery units and EUSAK Psywar elements for artillery shells was a perpetual problem for the duration of the war. Artillery personnel, understandably, had greater faith in their 105 mm rounds than “morale busting” propaganda leaflets.

The technical memorandum Eighth Army Psychological Warfare in the Korean War was printed in December 1951. The mention some of the problems with Korean Psywar, especially the fact that many combat units did not want to waste an artillery shell on propaganda leaflets:

Until 1 September 1951, EUSAK Psywar had disseminated only safe conduct passes by shell, and even these in relatively small quantities (an estimated 2,000,000 since the beginning of the Korean War). The practice here may be about to change. Sizable quantities of each of three surrender-mission leaflets were recently loaded in propaganda-shell by the army ordinance company, and the PWD, which supervised the loading, will presumably take steps to get them used. It remains to note the factors that have militated against more extensive use of propaganda shell for leaflet dissemination in the Korean War.  Artillery units have, in general, taken the position that their logistical problems (the Korean terrain, the overloading of the north-south arteries, and the absence of lateral highways) are difficult enough even if they confine their basic load to indispensable high explosive shells, and must not be further complicated by less than indispensable items like propaganda-shells. The premise that underlies this position, namely, that leaflets are as a matter of course inferior, militarily, to shrapnel and napalm, seems inconsistent with the high priority EUSAK assigns to leaflet dissemination in other contexts. It should be disposed of by a directive instructing artillery units to include a certain percentage of propaganda-shell in their basic loads.

Dick Sayers tells us what it feels like to be leaflet-shelled in No Victory, No Sting, Town House Press, Pittsboro NC, 1992. He says in part:

We heard what we recognized as an enemy shell come whistling our way and we hit the dirt. We heard the round explode in the air above us and we then knew what it was, a propaganda shell, and we heard the empty, broken cartridge flutter on down and strike the hillside with a heavy thud not far from us and bound on down the hill. Resuming our ascent of the hill, we stopped along the way to pick up a few of those falling leaves.

On one side was a picture of a girl parading up a city street carrying a placard that read “Peace – Hands off Korea.” The caption above it read “Your loves ones are demanding peace.” I turned it over. The other side was the familiar safe conduct pass.

Berger sums up Korea:

During the Korean War, the 105mm propaganda shell made a comeback when an estimated 100,000,000 leaflets were disseminated by U.N. artillerymen during the three-year conflict.

The Vietnam War

The U.S. Special Forces learns about PSYOP

The cover of this lesson depicts leaflet aircraft, leaflet balloons, a loudspeaker tank, leaflets, a leaflet bomb, and artillery shell.
They have the whole field covered. 

December 1965

The Psychological Operations Guide says about leaflet mortars:

An 81mm mortar projectile has been developed by the U.S. Navy for use as a leaflet round. The round is the Projectile, Leaflet, Mortar, EX 4-0 and is available from the Naval Ammunition Depot, Crane, Indiana.

An Exploded View of the EX 4-0 Projectile.

The projectile consists of the body tube and tail cone of the 8lmm illuminating cartridge M301A2, the M84 time fuse, M4 fin assembly with ignition cartridge and propellant charges. A three-piece breakaway canister, pressure plate and shear plate are assembled into the body tube.

One of the earliest comments on leaflet shells is found in the PSYOP Newsletter of May 1967:

Colonel Bill Pietsch of the II Field Force asked about the policy of using artillery to deliver leaflets. He suggests slipping in one or two containing leaflets containing leaflets during an artillery barrage. There is no MACV policy to prevent the use of this delivery. The availability of 105 and 155mm smoke shells converted for leaflet use is being determined at this time. A leaflet round has been developed by the U.S. Navy for the 81mm mortar and action is being taken to receive a supply.

More is said in the June issue:

The 105mm Howitzer is the only one currently available in Vietnam. Steps are being taken to acquire the 81mm and the 155mm.

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Leaflet 246-327-67

This leaflet was produced by the 246th PSYOP Company in 1967 and depicts what appears to be an M109 155mm self-propelled howitzer clearly marked with the designation “US Army,” with the main gun aimed directly at the reader. The text above the weapon is:

You Cannot Escape

The back of the leaflet is all text and threatens the Viet Cong with artillery:

This leaflet was delivered by an artillery shell. Artillery can reach any target. What do you think? You could be killed by the next artillery volley. What should you do? Rally to the government in accordance with the government's Chieu Hoi policy.

The 5th PSYOP Group’s undated Smart Book for Psy-Operations says:

The three methods of dissemination are surface delivery, ground-to-ground delivery, and air-to-ground delivery.

Surface delivery uses line crossers, patrols, and agents.

Ground-to-ground delivery uses artillery (105mm howitzer only), mortars (81mm), static-fire mortars, leaflet landmines, and sea floats.

Air-to-ground delivery uses leaflet bombs, fused packages, loose airdrop by hand, static line box or bomb (high altitude), and balloons.

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A 105-mm howitzer in Vietnam

First Lieutenant Winston Groom talks about his introduction to the leaflet shell in early 1967 Vietnam with the 245th PSYOP Company. He was supporting the 1st Brigade of the 4th Division at the time:

One day the Operations Officer (S-3) told me that the artillery dump had received a shipment of several hundred propaganda leaflet shells, apparently left over from the Korean War. The S-3 had a half dozen of them delivered to the artillery firebase and I went down with one of my sergeants and picked them up. The artillery people didn't know the first thing about them, except how to fire them out of a 105 howitzer.

I didn't know much about artillery, but my sergeant claimed that he knew enough to open the shells up, but I stood a long ways away when he did it. Inside of the shell where the explosive would be was a long wood dowel with round wood base and top plates, sort of like one of those devices that holds up paper kitchen towels, but larger. The shells were already loaded with Korean-language leaflets, so we removed them and I ordered some new leaflets from Nha Trang.

The leaflets had to be rolled into a wad around the wood dowel in a kind of corkscrew fashion, so they were in there tight. Then, just before firing, the dowel was carefully removed. Anyway that’s how the ones in Korean had been done. When the shell arrived at its projected spot four or five hundred feet above the target area, the fuse was supposed to propel the leaflets out in a wad, which would then separate they could flutter to the ground.

The captain who ran the artillery didn't seem very happy about having to fire his guns with these things, because, he said they were damn near shot out already, but he agreed to fire one for us. The gun captain had his men load the leaflet shell into the howitzer, which had been aimed at a hamlet a few hundred yards behind the stand of palms and banana trees on the far edge of the paddy. This hamlet had been known to contain Viet Cong at some point, and there was no good reason to suspect that they were still not there. Anyway, this was just a practice run.

The gun captain gave the order and the gun went off, and the shell, leaflets, and everything, came tearing out of the barrel in a huge flaming wad that arced across the rice paddy toward the village and kept on going. The artillery captain was watching through his binoculars, but the shell and burning wad went right on out of sight, trailing white smoke behind it.

The Standard U.S, 7-flag Chieu Hoi Safe Conduct Pass

We can seldom say which leaflets were fired by artillery rather than dropped by aircraft. Sometimes a certain rippling effect can be seen on the paper caused by the blast of the shell. Other times the leaflets are singed or burnt by that same blast. Notice that this leaflet has both crinkling and some singing. In this case we have a comment by a military collector that kept this leaflet. He said:

Here are some real ones from my collection. Fired from 155mm leaflet shells.

Note that any reader wanting to know more about these safe conduct passes or “Get out of jail” leaflets can find more at my article Flag Safe Conduct Leaflets.

Propaganda Shell from the Archives of the 7th PSYOP Group
Circa 1968

The 4th PSYOP Group Monthly Report for March 1969 mentions a "threat of artillery" leaflet:

A leaflet was developed for dissemination through artillery rounds. A 5 x 8-inch leaflet for use with the BE M-84 round was designed. The text warns the enemy that he has just seen and experienced the power of artillery and that the only way to avoid further attacks and insure his life is to rally or surrender. The illustration used is of a 105 mm Howitzer viewed face-on with death coming from the barrel.

The 4th PSYOP Group Monthly Report for August 1970 mentions the testing of leaflet shells to study the spread of the propaganda. Being PSYOP-oriented, they even mention the weight of the leaflet paper:

On 7 July, 25 rounds of the 105 mm leaflet disseminator were fired from Camp Radcliff. Using 20 weight paper; 800-900 leaflets were rolled into each round. All rounds were fired close to the camp perimeter so that the results could be easily viewed. The leaflets were rolled in many different fashions but they all were disseminated equally. The 4th Division has another 150 rounds which are prepared to be fired by the team on 9 July 1970.

The 1st Brigade of the 9th Infantry Division says their first use of leaflet artillery during Operation Akron V from 11-21 January 1968. Their report of the operation says in part:

A first was introduced during this operation. This was the use of 105mm artillery shells filled with leaflets. There was a total of 667,600 leaflets disseminated during this operation. Of these, 24,000 were dispersed by means of the 105mm artillery rounds. The themes of the leaflets were: Chieu Hoi mixture, Chieu Hoi questions, Allied power, Safe conduct Passes, and assorted Tet leaflets. There were also two special leaflets developed and printed for use against the 274th Viet Cong Regiment.

The greatest discovery of this operation from a PSYOP point of view was the discovery of the 105mm artillery shells. This gives the timely delivery of propaganda on a particular unit, while they are still in contact with our forces. The only drawback to the shells is that they are prepacked with standard Chieu Hoi messages and safe conduct passes.

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Leaflet T-04

Leaflet T-04 depicts a 175 mm cannon on the front. The back depicts the front of the 5-flag safe conduct pass at right, and text at the left:

This gun has not been aimed at you yet. If it had been aimed at you, you would not be reading these lines. This is a 175 millimeter cannon. It shoots a 75 kilogram round more than 30 kilometers and is able to destroy everything in the target area. You are indeed fortunate to escape this terrible fate by finding this safe conduct pass which points the way for you to come across and live under the protection of the government of the Republic of Vietnam.

Over 14 million T-4 leaflets were disseminated in the DMZ to Dong Hoi in October and November 1967 and again April and May 1968.

The PSYOP Newsletter of May 1967 talks about artillery leaflet distribution:

Colonel Bill Pietach suggests slipping in one or two leaflet rounds with regular high explosive and incendiary rounds suggesting the security of the Chieu Hoi camps…There is no MACV policy to prevent the use of this means of delivery.

The newsletter states that advantages and disadvantages can be found in FM 33-5 (1966). It says:

Artillery. The weapon chiefly used by United States artillery units to fire propaganda shells is the 105-mm howitzer. The principal carrier of propaganda leaflets is the base ejection smoke shell M84, used with the 105­howitzer. This method of leaflet dissemination is not wholly satisfactory because the weight of the leaflet-filled round is so light that standard firing tables do not match its ballistics. Many of the unprotected leaflets are crushed during setback, burned by the ejection charge, or torn during emission.

The artillery shell, M-118, 155-mm (BE, Smoke) is a secondary device for leaflet dissemination by artillery. It is a base ejection, smoke round fired from the 155mm howitzer. A time fuse ignites a charge which ejects the baseplate and leaflet load. The Capacity of the round is approximately 909 18cm x 20cm (5 inch by 8 inch) leaflets. The M-118 will accept any roll or combination of rolls which do not exceed 38cm (15 inches) in length and 10cm (4 inches) in diameter. One trained, 2-man team using improvised rolling devices to expedite the loading process can load approximately 25 of these shells per hour. This round should be used only where the M-84 is not available or when the range of the target exceeds the capability of the 105-mm howitzer. The M-118 shell dispersion pattern on the ground is influenced by leaflet descent characteristics, height of burst, terrain, and prevailing winds.

Leaflet R-1

This full color leaflet features the 1st Infantry Division patch in full color. The text on the front is:

You are engaged in combat with the invincible 1st Infantry Division. You cannot win.

The back is all text:


Do not resist. Hide your weapon, raise your hands over your head and present yourself to any American soldier. You will be welcome. It is hopeless for you to resist. Stop resisting and survive.


So, why did I add this leaflet to this page? Because it was printed by the U.S. Army 7th PSYOP Group on 21 October 1966 and the full code number was 1409-VSL-R-1. The leaflet was 2-inches by 5-inches in size. And most important:

1,000,000 copies of this leaflet were printed for use by the 1st Infantry Division. They specified the size and indicated that they planned to disseminate the leaflet by artillery rounds.

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The PSYOP-POLWAR Newsletter

The PSYOP Newsletter was printed by the United States Military Assistance Command to inform commanders, PSYOP personnel, and PSYWAR advisors of psychological operations in Vietnam and to exchange ideas and lessons learned. Later Vietnamese POLWAR personnel were added and the name was changed to the PSYOP-POLWAR Newsletter. Looking through my copy from June 1967 I find the following comment:

The PSYOP-POLWAR Newsletter of January 1968 says:

There are three types of leaflet rounds, the 155 mm Howitzer, the 105 mm Howitzer, and the 82 mm mortar. Of the three, the 105 mm leaflet round is the only one currently available in Vietnam. Steps are being taken to acquire stocks of both the 81 mm and 155 mm.

The PSYOP-POLWAR Newsletter of January 1969 adds:

Members of the Third Marine Division added an extra punch to PSYOP recently with the delivery of leaflets by 105mm artillery rounds. Each artillery round contains approximately 800 leaflets. Since we normally speak of leaflets in the millions, 800 seems a very small quantity. It is significant to note that these leaflets can be put on target, in mountainous terrain, in any kind of weather, day or night, with pinpoint accuracy.

The issue of March 1969 talks about “Another PSYOP Weapon.”

Personnel about Navy swift boats have been successfully using 81mm leaflet rounds to deliver PSYOP messages into Viet Cong strongholds during Market Time activities in the lower Ca Mau Peninsula. This is considered an excellent method of accurately delivering a small quantity of leaflets into hostile areas.

Was There a Real Forrest Gump and did he use Leaflet Artillery?

I added this section because I simply cannot resist. Sergeant Sammy L. Davis was born in Dayton, Ohio, on 1 November 1946. After graduating high school in 1966, Sammy joined the Army and volunteered as an artilleryman, following in his father's footsteps. While deployed in Vietnam, Davis' team was besieged by enemy forces, with their only barricade being the river between them and the enemy battalion. Taking mortar fire, Davis retaliated with his machine gun and 105mm Howitzer and operated the device despite advancing troops to cover the heavily outmanned U.S. soldiers. Sergeant Davis remained with the Howitzer even after taking damage from an enemy mortar round and fired any remaining ammunition, including a propaganda shell filled with patriotic leaflets.

Hearing struggling American soldiers across the river, Sammy, who could not swim, constructed a raft out of an air mattress from camp, paddled along the river to cover and carry several wounded soldiers to safety. Davis then aided another artillery crew after refusing medical assistance for his burns and extensive injuries.

He was later presented the Medal of Honor by Lyndon B. Johnson on 19 November 1968. Footage of his ceremony and elements of Davis' citation were used in the 1994 film "Forrest Gump," with lead actor Tom Hanks' face super-imposed on top of Sammy's.

Thanks to Medals of America

Hanoi Propaganda

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The Enemy Shoots Back

It is not often that we can show a leaflet and say for absolutely sure that it was fired by the Viet Cong or North Vietnamese Army. This leaflet was found by Second Class Petty Officer Steve Beers, Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit (SeaBees) 301, Detachment Bravo, Khe Sahn, the Republic of Vietnam. It was delivered by an enemy artillery shell burst in Khe Sahn on 27 March 1968. The Communists liked using Defense Secretary Robert Strange McNamara as a target. The leaflet ridicules McNamara by pointing out his optimistic statements from 1963 to 1966. It goes on to claim that he lied and more Americans have been wounded or killed each year.

An October 1967 Military Assistance Command Vietnam J2 (Intelligence document) adds:

On 30 September and 2 October, Con Thien received nine artillery rounds containing propaganda leaflets which were exploded at an altitude of 500 feet. This was a new artillery technique in the Con Thien area.

A May 1968 Military Assistance Command Vietnam J2 (Intelligence document) adds:

There was in increase in the number of English language propaganda leaflets found round US installations. Several reports were received of Viet Cong propaganda cadre using public address systems for propaganda broadcasts in the vicinity of U.S. troop emplacements. In another instance, the enemy fired four 82mm mortar rounds containing English language propaganda leaflets into a US compound. As in the past, the propaganda themes stressed that this was a war that should be settled by the Vietnamese. US troops were urged to refuse to take part in sweep operations, to demand an end to the war, and to be returned home. Although the enemy's recent effort against US troops appears to be somewhat more sophisticated than past attempts, there are no indications that it has any appreciable effect on US troops.

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Communist Leaflet Mortar

This photograph from Hanoi claims that their troops were firing propaganda
leaflet mortar shells at a U.S. base in Quang Tri Province in South Vietnam.

The Vietnamese People’s Army Newspaper of 1 May 2017 mentioned the use of leaflet rockets and leaflet mortar rounds in an article entitled: Unique and Effective Attack Spearhead. The story indicates that the North Vietnamese ability to print propaganda leaflets was much greater than we believed. We know that the Viet Cong in the bush had small portable printers. However, the Enemy Proselyting Department in Hanoi was printing a higher grade leaflet and they had plenty of printing capacity to do that. They could print 100,000 at a time and that is the sign of a modern operation. The authors say in part:

During the resistance war against the Americans to save the nation (1954-1975) the Enemy Proselyting Department was both a responsible agency of the General Political Department and an action agency of the Military Proselyting Bureau of the Central Unification Committee. The Enemy Proselyting Department paid special attention to providing guidance for and arranging the introduction of many different methods of conducting propaganda operations through the use of documents, leaflets, and various types of printed materials and propaganda equipment.

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A Communist Hanoi-Printed 1969 Calendar

The department constantly encouraged the writing and production of military-enemy proselyting leaflets, drawings [cartoons], posters, and calendars along with dozens of different publications to support our military-enemy proselyting propaganda operations. During the first six months of 1968 alone the department printed a total of almost there million copies of ten different leaflets and calendars and coordinated the design and production of ten thousand leaflet artillery rounds (each round containing approximately 500-600 small leaflets), primarily targeted against American troops along with a small number targeted against Lao puppet army troops.

During the Route 9-Tri Thien campaign, the Front printed three different types of leaflets for use in separate, individual situations (attack, fighting the enemy after he had fallen back to regroup, and fighting off enemy counterattacks). When the campaign began the department printed 100,000 additional leaflets of three different types, and in the middle of the campaign it printed 100,000 more leaflets of two different types. The department provided staff advice for the General Political Department’s effort to produce and ship hundreds of thousands of leaflets, consisting of 16 different types of leaflets targeted on puppet army troops and four different types of leaflets targeted against American troops and to ship to the front lines 560 leaflet rockets, 7,200 leaflet mortar rounds, 238 megaphones, and 19 loudspeakers.

The Cold War

Historically, the Red Chinese and Nationalist soldiers stationed on Quemoy regularly fired leaflet artillery shells at each other all through the cold war. The leaflets are larger than American leaflets (the standard U.S. leaflet is 6 x 3-inches) because they were not meant to be dropped by aircraft. Few of the leaflets bear code numbers. There are numerous reports of the Red Chinese artillery leaflets falling on Taiwan and the outer islands.

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Nationalist Chinese Propaganda Envelope

I chose to show this item in this section because it actually shows a leaflet shell along with a loudspeaker, balloons, gift items to go in a float and leaflets. Each of these was used to disseminate Nationalist Chinese propaganda. The envelope contained eleven Nationalist Chinese leaflets. At the left of the envelope there is a radio antenna and the text:



We believe this envelope was prepared or at least disseminated by the Kinmen Defense Command (KDC) located on Kinmen Island. The Kinmen Defense Command was the front line in any attempt by Communist China to take Taiwan or its islands. An estimated 80% of the Republic of China Army is located on Taiwan, while the remainder is stationed on the smaller islands of Kinmen, Matsu and Penghu. We believe this envelope was prepared about 1964.

East and West Germany

Propaganda “Shell” from East Germany

Through the many years of the Cold War (from 1959 to 1972 in Germany), the German Federal Republic (FRG) and the German People’s Republic (DDR) sent propaganda leaflets to each other. The DDR mostly used small paper rockets to carry their leaflets while the FRG mostly used balloons. I wonder if the West thought firing a rocket into Communist Germany might be considered an act of war. Millions of leaflets were disseminated.

On some occasions propaganda shells like the above filled with Communist propaganda leaflets were shot from East Germany into West Germany. They are designed to explode in the air distributing the leaflets. The leaflet contained messages such as speeches by DDR state and party leader Walter Ulbricht who describes the government of the Federal Republic as “warmongers” and calls for overthrowing it. In contrast, the alleged openness and peace of the DDR is praised. The same or similar apparatus was used to deliver leaflets by balloon. Note that the propaganda “shell” is made from wood with no heavy metal parts that might cause severe injury to anyone on the receiving side of the border

The bickering between the two states ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1998 and the reunification of Germany in 1990.

Operation Desert Storm

Two hundred 155mm leaflet artillery shells were taken to the Persian Gulf in 1990 to be used against the Iraqi occupiers of Kuwait. Because of the speed of the Coalition advance, only nine were actually fired against the Iraqis during Operation Desert Storm. An old friend was one of the U. S. Army explosive ordnance disposal specialists assigned the task of disarming the shells at the end of the war. It was a rush job because the Saudis wanted all American military out of their country by the high holy days of Ramadan. The Warrant Officer opened some of the 155mm shells out of curiosity and later told me that mixed in the rolls were just three different black and white leaflets. He said that the contents were all safe conduct passes. These are the Army leaflets fired against the Iraqis:

U.S. Army Artillery Leaflets

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C21 - Safe Conduct Pass

On this leaflet an Iraqi soldier thinks of overwhelming Coalition power, thinks of his family, and then surrenders. This has been called the standard safe conduct pass because it and its variants were produced and dropped in great numbers. The original printing order was for 1,500,000 leaflets. More were printed because the first air drop on 16 January consisted of 2,000,000 leaflets. This leaflet is found on a very white paper and variations exist where there is no Arabic on Saudi flag and the Arabic headline missing. There are a number of similar leaflets using this same front with various backs.

We know that this leaflet was inserted into artillery shells. 60 such loaded shells with 150,000 leaflets identified as “Safe Conduct Pass 13A-26” were stored in Logistics base Charlie. Another 25 shells with 100,000 leaflets were stored at Logistics Base Alpha. Log Base Alpha (supported VII Corps) was an intermediate supply depot in the east located on the Tapline Road. Log Base Charlie (supported the XVIII Corps) was in the west, 7 miles from the Iraqi border near Rafha and designed to be ready by 11 February. This meant a five day supply of rations, 3.4 million gallons of fuel and 15 to 45 tons of ammunition.

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C56 – Big Gun

A giant cannon covered with Coalition flags is aimed at a lone Iraqi soldier. The text on the front is:

The VII Corps of the Multi-national forces is heading in your direction. Your fellow soldiers along the front either surrendered or have been killed. Your turn will be next.

200,000 of the leaflets were printed. 20 artillery shells and 100,000 of these leaflets identified as “Big Gun 7-2” were at logistics Base Alpha. My EOD pal who found these leaflets in an artillery shell told me:

The leaflets were downloaded from the shells at the King Khalid Military City (KKMC) Theater Storage Facility Area 4 in January 1992. There were between 100 and 200 engineering prototype 155mm projectiles stored in two areas from two different units. They were unmarked but bore a metal parts number that indicated they were experimental and were produced in November 1990. A small quantity of the projectiles, perhaps 12-20, had been prepared for fire, loaded with leaflets, expulsion charges installed, but not fused. The leaflets were in four round bundles, separated by pusher plates, spacers, and enclosed in two semi-circular steel sleeves. I saw some evidence on the projectiles that they had been hastily converted from VX binary chemical shells. They were on the pallet in a horizontal rather than the normal upright configuration.

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C58 – Tank Surrender

Iraqi tankers surrender to massed U.S. armor. The text on the back is:

Follow these instructions if you want to survive. Raise your barrel to maximum elevation. Face your barrel to the rear. Leave all the tank hatches open. Put your hands over your head and approach slowly. Wave a white cloth as a signal that you want to survive and live in peace, or wave this leaflet. All armies of the Multi-national forces understand that this pass shows your honorable commitment to peace.

This leaflet was called “Tank Surrender” by the Coalition. Internal codes for it were “3G” and “13L-03-6.” The original request was for 600,000 leaflets on 25 January 1991. However, 100,000 were sent to Logistics Base Alpha for the artillery. 60,000 leaflets were sent for placement in M29 bombs on 21 February 1991 and another 60,000 on 24 February 1991. 430,000 leaflets were in the inventory at the end of the war so all the leaflets were obviously not disseminated. 100,000 leaflets identified as “Tank Surrender 13L-03-6” and 20 artillery shells were at Logistics Base Alpha.

U. S. Marine Artillery Leaflets

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C25 – Marcent Surrender

In this U. S. Marine Corps leaflet an Iraqi soldier thinks of overwhelming Coalition power, his family, and then surrenders. The text on the back is:

The USA respects the Geneva Convention. If you quit fighting we assure the following; Humane treatment, food and water, medical care, and shelter. Return home after the war is over.

In total, 776,000 copies of this leaflet were printed. The internal code name for this leaflet is “MARCENT SURRENDER.” The U.S. Marines were issued 18 leaflet artillery shells and 356,000 copies of this leaflet, We do not know if they were fired at the Iraqis.

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C53 - MOUT

In this Coalition leaflet three Iraqis surrender from a smoking building. The message on the back is one again:

The USA respects the Geneva Convention. If you quit fighting we assure the following;

Humane treatment, food and water, medical care, and shelter. Return home after the war is over.

96,000 of these leaflets were first printed and later orders raised the total to 1,776,000. However, it appears that only about one million were actually disseminated. The internal name of this leaflet is “MOUT.” This means “Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain,” and was used either because the Iraqis are surrendering from a building, or because it was meant to be used in cities and villages. The Marines were issued 14 leaflet artillery rounds and 308,000 copies of this leaflet identified as “MOUT 55-01-1.”

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Leaflet Artillery Card from Desert Storm

The War on Terror

Unfortunately we do not have an example of the leaflet in question, but this report tells us that the concept of delivering leaflets by artillery shell is still valid. On 15 April 2017, Syrian government troops used artillery to disseminate leaflets calling on militants in Qaboun, a north-eastern neighborhood of the country's capital of Damascus, to lay down arms and receive amnesty. The Syrian armed forces command hoped that the guerrillas would accept President Bashar Assad's offer of amnesty for rebels who lay down their arms so that there will be no need for launching an operation in Qaboun, which would lead to casualties. The leaflets were delivered using ten 122-mm special shells. They differ from the operational combat shells by having a very small detonating charge, designated for dispersing leaflets. Each shell contained 1,000 leaflets of A6 size. The A6 paper is 105 x 148 mm, or 4.1 x 5.8 inches.

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Surrender Now…

We depict a typical Syrian surrender leaflet. The Syrians disseminated over 160,000 leaflets in the East Ghouta region of rural Damascus. The short message to the rebels was:

Surrender Now, The Syrian Army Is Coming! Long live Assad!

Self-propelled Guns

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The 2S1 Gvosdika self-propelled Howitzer

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The Syrian Arab Republic amnesty leaflets

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The Red Propaganda Leaflet Shell

Self-propelled guns have also used their main gun to spread propaganda leaflets. The vehicle firing the leaflets in this case appears to be the 2S1 Gvosdika self-propelled Howitzer, deployed in large numbers by the Soviet Army during the Civil War in Syria.

The Syrian Arab Republic forces of President Assad used both self-propelled guns and Mi-8 helicopters to disseminate leaflets over the suburbs of Damascus. From the self-propelled guns, the leaflets were distributed by special 122-mm “Red shells - Propaganda.” Each projectile holds up to 1000 leaflets. The leaflets, fired by the Howitzer or dropped from the air were the same; both declare an amnesty and surrender guarantee:

The Syrian leadership confirms its commitment to President Bashar Assad's decree of 2016 No. 15, in which he guarantees amnesty for members of the insurgency who voluntarily surrender their weapons and switched to the side of government forces. Those who are not ready to receive amnesty and become a law-abiding citizen of the state can leave the surrounded area with their families along the provided humanitarian corridor.

The reverse of the leaflet demands a signed commitment and declaration of loyalty.

I declare that I refuse military operations against the army and ask them to grant me amnesty. Amnesty is guaranteed by the supreme command of the SAA.

Print name and Signature.

You can enter your name and the names of four more people in the table.

Amnesty is guaranteed to the signer and 4 additional rebels who renounce armed resistance. This information was released by a Russian blogger named Alexey Pelevin and of course Russia and Iran have strongly backed Assad against the revolutionary forces.

Ukraine – 2022


In 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine hoping to return it to the fold as part of rebuilding the old USSR. It was expected that the war would be over in 72-96 hours, but Ukraine surprised everyone by allowing their women and children to flee to exile but kept all the men to fight. The result was that the Russians were stymied for over a month and could only helplessly bombard the towns and cities with artillery, rocket, and aircraft sorties. Not much in the way of leaflet shelling has come to light but there was a mention of leaflet artillery.

This leaflet mission was depicted on Twitter. Leaflets were seen blowing across the ground in in what appeared to be deep tank tracks in the ground. A Russian soldier holding the leaflets in his gloved hand then proceeded to crush them and throw them away. The short tweet was apparently accompanied by a Russian comment:

According to our positions near Kirillovka, Ukraine militants fired artillery shells, which carried leaflets calling for our surrender.

The leaflets are alleged to say:


If you want to live - surrender!


Russian Leaflet Shells

On 17 April 2022, A Russian short film on their leaflet artillery appeared on Facebook. It showed the shells being loaded, described by a spokesman, and then fired by what appeared to be a self-propelled gun. The Russians claimed to have about 1000 Ukraine fighters trapped in a steel factory in Mariupol. The film caption was:

Russians loading pamphlets with surrender instructions into shells to be fired over Mariupol where pockets of Ukrainian resistance are holding out.


On 24 May 2022, a self-propelled howitzer 2S1 Gvozdika of pro-Russian troops fires a leaflet shell in the direction of Sievierodonetsk to disperse information materials from the combat positions in the in the Luhansk region, Ukraine.

Photo by: Alexander Ermochenko – Reuters

It is not often that one combatant in a war depicts an enemy leaflet shell and its contents. Ukraine was kind enough to do so in October 2023 when it found an exploded Russian shell.

An Unexploded Russian Leaflet Shell.

The inside of the shell showing the Leaflets.

On 11 October 2023 Ukrayinska Pravda announced that the Russians had launched a projectile with propaganda at Ukraine's south, but the operation failed:

Russian occupiers launched a projectile with propaganda leaflets over the south of Ukraine, but it did not explode. Russian occupiers, trying to carry out propaganda and misinformation among our people – both military and civilians – launched a special projectile. The plan of the occupiers foresaw that it was supposed to open in the air so that the leaflets would scatter around. But, like all the plans of the enemy, the projectile simply fell to the ground, without spreading its deceitful stuffing.

One of the Leaflets removed from the shell.

Ukraine made the projectile sound very secret and mysterious but of course this was simply a leaflet shell that did not explode. The story depicts the shell, the leaflets packed inside and one of the leaflets.

This has been a brief look at the use of artillery to disseminate leaflets in warfare. Readers who have questions or would like to discuss the use of artillery further are encouraged to e-mail the author at