Propaganda and Espionage Philately - Part II - Post WWII

By SGM Herb Friedman (Ret.)

Frank Sorensen points to a Communist Chinese "Mail box"
Chinese sign stating that mail for prisoners of war held by the Chinese should be left there.

During the Korean War, the Chinese overprinted propaganda slogans on the back of Communist Chinese commemorative stamps. The English-language overprints are in red on stamps of four denominations: the 1000 dollar airmail issue of 1951, the 400 dollar triangular peace issue of 1951, the 200 dollar issue of 1951 with national emblem, and the 400 dollar Asia Peace Conference issue of 1952. On Christmas Eve, 1952, the Communist Chinese placed these stamps on the barbed wire in front of the UN lines, as a gesture of peace and friendship. What is even more amazing from a "postal" standpoint is that according to Canadian Signals Officer Frank Sorensen on one occasion the Chinese snuck through their mine fields using rice straws to guide them past tripwires and placed a notice in their battalion area, stating that mail for prisoners-of-war held by the Chinese should be left there. Frank said, "The Chinese had a real sense of humor, I'll give them that."


Life not death! Peace not war!

The overprints on the four gift stamps left by the Chinese are:

New China's peaceful construction
Life not death! Peace not war!
Great China and Heroic people
Life not death! Peace not war!

A Nationalist Chinese Air Letter Leaflet 60801600

The U.S. Army 7th PSYOP Group headquartered on Okinawa had a two-man Taiwan Detachment located in Taipei responsible for maintaining liaison between the 7th PSYOP Group and the Republic of China. During the Cold War, from 1958 to 1979, the Red Chinese on the mainland and the Nationalists on Matsu and Quemoy regularly sent leaflets to each other on alternate days by balloon and artillery shell. 
U.S. Army Lieutenant-Colonel Dave Underhill of the 7th PSYOP Group told me about a class he taught:

I presented a three week course of instruction to the Chinese on Taiwan (as requested by the CIA) on leaflet development and dissemination (via balloon). I was able to show the defect in their program that allowed the balloons to end up in such places as Okinawa, India and Laos.  (I was in Laos when one came down there). The group I taught was a collection of people involved in leaflet operations.  It included printers, artists, weather forecasters, etc.  They were a sharp group.  The launch site had a pipeline from an oil processing plat that piped hydrogen to the sight.  They then filled conventional tanks and arranged them in a bank where they were able to open all valves and fill huge balloons without stopping. 

Some of the Nationalist Chinese leaflets attacked Mao; others depicted the happy life of the Chinese on the island of Taiwan or pictured defectors from Communism living a rich and secure life. At least three of the leaflets are in the form of leaflet-airmail letters. In all three, the front of the leaflet appears to be an airmail letter with a red and blue border. Two of the three leaflets also depict a jet aircraft giving an even greater impression of an airmail letter. The back of the leaflets are all text. The codes on the leaflets are 60801600, 60802700 and 60803300.

Leaflet Letter 60801600

Leaflet 60801600 is addressed to:

City of Fuzhou
Mr. Han Xianchu, (in red) Commander of the Fuzhou Military Area Command

(It is requested that whichever of our friends finds this letter finds a way to get it to Han Xianchu himself)

The message on the back of the leaflet is:

Mr. Han Xianchu:

The struggle against Mao Zedong opened by the action of the Million Heroes [a faction of the Red Guards], led by Wuhan military region commander Chen Zaidao, is the signal for the entire PLA to openly oppose Mao; it is a challenge to Mao Zedong's dictatorship. This event not only marks the state of mind of today's entire "Liberation Army," it also shakes the reactionary foundation of Mao Zedong's rule.

Mr. Han Xianchu: The Wuhan military region commander Chen Zaidao was originally your war comrade; now he leads the "Liberation Army" to arise and publicly oppose Mao Zedong. You should respond to his action, supporting him either publicly or secretly. Only by bringing down the autocratic madman Mao Zedong can you be considered true heroes of the people.

Wishing you successful victory.

[Note: In July 1967, Chen Zaidao led the Million Heroes faction against Red Guards inspired by Xie Fuzhi. Chen's alliance with the more conservative military establishment led him to prefer stability to the forces of the Cultural Revolution, which was entering its most chaotic period. Chen was dismissed but regained his status in 1972, after the central government had acted to curtail what it perceived as dangerous instability.]

Leaflet Letter 60802700

Leaflet 60802700 is addressed to:

Commissar Comrade He Yunhong (in red), Political Committee Member, Henan Military District, CCP

(It is requested that whichever of our friends obtains this letter finds a way to get it to Comrade He Yunhong himself)

The message on the back of the leaflet is:

Comrade He Yunhong:

Since Mao Zedong initiated the "Cultural Revolution," and spurred thousands upon thousands of ignorant young "Red Guards" to serve as his tools of struggle, insane chaos has gripped every part of the mainland. Since this turmoil began, it has turned the entire mainland into a fearsome, chaotic hell in which each is out to protect his own.

However, due to your clear intellect, you made the sensible choice, and bravely, boldly, in a planned and organized fashion directed a unit of the Communist Army in Henan to arise and beat the Mao cliques into ignominious defeat on May 26, earning the accolades of the entire nation's workers and farmers. This is the accomplishment of true leadership!

But the Mao clique will certainly not relax its attitude toward you. You should raise your vigilance and bravely arise. The Wuhan military region commander, comrade Chen Zaidao, leads a unit that now stands on the same battle line as you, both having opposed Mao; furthermore there are the countless anti-Mao and anti-Communist revolutionary masses, all acting as your powerful rearguard. Since ancient times, no man of heroism and virtue has ever stood alone.

You absolutely must remember that the great National Army on Taiwan is ready to come to your aid at any time - Bravely advance! Smashing Mao and extinguishing Communism, constructing a new, truly free and democratic China, is the only great path of self-preservation and the salvation of the nation.

Wishing you successful victory.

[Note: He Yunhong was another local military official who attempted to preserve stability by suppressing a Red Guard outbreak. However, his action is here willfully misinterpreted as a deeper revolt against the regime.]

An Alleged CIA Forged Viet Cong Stamp

It was not only the military that produced black propaganda. There is an alleged propaganda postage stamp printed by the Central Intelligence Agency. According to the Vietnam Postage Stamp Collection of the Armed Struggle for the Fatherland Safeguard, by Tran Quang Vy, the 1964 10 xu stamp commemorated the victory at Ap Bac on 2-3 January 1963. This was the first major victory of the Viet Cong over a full division of the Army of South Vietnam (ARVN). Although the South Vietnamese forces were supported by artillery, tanks, and helicopters, they suffered 200 killed and another 300 wounded. Five American helicopters were shot down during the battle. The vignette on the stamp depicts a Viet Cong machine-gunner downing an American CH-47 Chinook helicopter. The stamp was catalogued by Stanley Gibbons as NLF5.

Western Stamp Collector published an article on 5 April 1982 entitled “Ex-Agent’s charges suggest CIA forged Viet Cong stamp.” The story told of an interview in The Washington Post where former Central Intelligence Agency member Frank Liechty stated that he saw sheets of the Viet Cong stamps in a CIA file in the 1960s. He claimed that documents in the file described an agency plan to fabricate evidence of outside support of the Viet Cong. The high quality of the printing would indicate to all that they were produced in Hanoi because the guerrillas in the south could not produce such stamps. Liechty claimed that the CIA intended to send letters written in Vietnamese all over the world and to journalists as part of a plan to facilitate greater US involvement in the Vietnam War. He said that the stamp appeared on the cover of Life Magazine dated 26 February 1965, two days before President Lyndon B. Johnson published his “White Paper” on the war. A week later, two Marine Corps battalions were sent to Vietnam. Liechty was fired in 1978 and depending on who you believe he is either a disgruntled ex-employee or an agent with a conscience that the CIA could no longer control.

CompareVNForgery1.jpg (25384 bytes)

CompareVNForgery2.jpg (25367 bytes)

Genuine stamp. Note the accent mark over the letter A

Fake Stamp. Note the accent mark over the letter A

There are numerous differences between the two stamps. Two of the more obvious are that on the genuine stamp the letters are sharp and the lines straight while the fake has crooked lines of varying thickness. The accent mark over the first “A” in “MAT” has the center of the circle at the bottom while in the fake it is at the top.

When I spoke to a Vietnamese specialist about the alleged CIA fake he replied:

I confirm the stamp is a forgery made by the CIA. We have always heard about this forgery and attempted to discover some facts about it.

A former CIA agent who was stationed in Vietnam during the war adds:

I next examined your forged stamp in high magnification. The incorrect diacritic mark in the word MAT is the correct "lazy crescent moon" mark but mysteriously it has been inverted making it totally impossible in Vietnamese. The inversion clearly proves it a non-Vietnamese fake. You can also see in the fake an unexplained extra graphic element which connects the “M” and the “A” together. There is no reason for it to exist in a genuine Vietnamese stamp since it blots out the linguistically very important dot under the A.

My conclusion: It seems a relatively poor fake. The genuine Ap Bac stamp on your psywar page is clearly the genuine source from which the fake was copied.

This stamp has been offered for sale a few times. It was put up for auction several years ago for $2,000 but did not sell. I was later offered the same stamp for a bargain price of $1,750.00. I pointed out to the dealer that a sheet of 20 stamps had sold for $6,000, so that indicated that an individual stamp is worth about $300.

North Vietnamese Stamp forgery

During the Vietnam War, the Allies produced a parody of the North Vietnam 12 xu red-orange and black stamp of 30 January 1967 showing a Communist group carrying a red flag and centered box with a patriotic statement. In the genuine stamp the statement is the last two sentences of Ho Chi Minh's 20 December 1946 message to Communist fighters, which in whole was:

To the population of the country. We want peace, we have yielded, but the more we yield, the more French imperialists continue to encroach. They resolutely invade our country once more. We are willing to make all necessary sacrifices but will never accept the loss of our country. We will never be enslaved.

Mention of the stamp appears in an 8 December 1967 MACV message:

The issue of a SSPL originated postage stamp modeled after a valid North Vietnamese stamp, the initial distribution to be covert. We are awaiting Washington approval since September 1967, (target date 7 December 1967).

In the May/June 1992 Society of Indochina Philatelists Newsletter, Nguyen Bao Tung explained how he first came across this propaganda parody:

It was on the eve of the Tet festival of the Year of the Tiger, a spring morning in Saigon, February 1974. I was in my office at 5 Pham-Viet-Chanh Street, District 2, Headquarters of the Company 34 Criminal Investigation Department - Military Police.

A close friend of mine, Lieutenant Colonel Z, came to offer me a traditional New Years greeting. At the time I was hosting a weekly philately program on Vietnamese television in Saigon and the previous evening I portrayed "Tet Fun on Stamps." Lieutenant Colonel Z was the ex-director of the broadcast station which had been founded in 1966 and was known as "The Sacred Sword Front" (Guom Thien Al-Quoc).

He handed me a small envelope and said, "I know you are a famous Vietnamese philatelist, but do you have this stamp?" I said, "I have all the North Vietnamese stamps, even this unissued one." This stamp appears to be the Yvert #533 issued on 30 January 1966. Lieutenant Colonel Z pointed at the framed slogan by Ho Chi Minh on the stamp. "Look here carefully" he said. I took a magnifying glass and scanned the stamp.  By all appearances it was still #533. I brought the stamp home that night and opened my Yvert album to North Vietnam stamps to compare with my own copy. While the design, color and perforation were entirely similar, the paper and attribution of the patriotic slogan were different. Instead of "Ho Chi Minh's message to the Communist fighters - 1949," it was "An appeal to North Vietnam from the Sacred Sword Front - 1966," thereby achieving a propaganda and psychological coup.

Later I met Lieutenant Colonel Z and asked him the origin of the stamp. "I regret to tell you that it is a national defense secret," he said. I then knew that I had received a precious stamp. Or at least, a historic philatelic document of the Vietnam War.

In the almost perfect parody, the Allies replaced the message with:

We are willing to make all necessary sacrifices but will never accept annexation of our country by the Chinese. We will never be enslaved.

U.S. Propaganda Leaflet-Postcards to the Viet Cong

Leaflet 14a Front

Although not actual postcards or letters, there are two leaflets that appear to be stamped postcards. I first wrote about these in an article entitled "Postcards to the Enemy," in the November 1975 issue of the Society of Philatelic Americans Journal. They are from the same series and are coded 14a and 14b which indicates that they were prepared to be dropped during the campaign against North Vietnam in early 1965. At first glance the two leaflets are similar, both addressed on the front with what appears to be a postage stamp. Both of the leaflets are addressed on the front to:

To a North Vietnamese Compatriot - North Vietnam

Leaflet 14b Front    Leaflet 14b back

The fake stamps are cancelled "Viet Nam - Saigon - Cong Hoa." The stamp on 14a is a parody of a genuine stamp honoring the sisters Trung Trac and Trung Nhi who resisted the Chinese invasion in 40-44 A.D. They are depicted riding on war elephants against the Chinese with a Republic of Vietnam flag in the background. The second stamp on 14b is a combination that depicts a map of Vietnam, The flag of the Republic and northerners heading south on a raft to escape Communism. The back of each leaflet contains the exact same message:

Dear Compatriot,

You and I are Vietnamese living on the soil of Vietnam. Circumstances, unfortunately, keep you in the North and me in the South.

When your communist rulers cut the country in two, close to one million of our compatriots fled the Communist Zone for the South. Since that sad day, we have been living peacefully, busying ourselves with rebuilding the country and establishing a free and democratic regime in the South.

Unfortunately, for the past ten years the Communists of the North have been waging war in the South with the aim of imposing Communist rule on the free part of our country. Men and weapons have been infiltrated to the South to destroy schools, hospitals, roads and bridges, and kill innocent civilians. In doing this, your Communist rulers claim to "liberate" the southern people. But, we have never asked them to "liberate" us. In fact, what do we want to be liberated from? We are happy with what we have and wish only to be left alone.

But, it is obvious that your Communist rulers are unmoved by our desire for peace.

Now, in face of stepped-up infiltration of men and weapons to intensify the aggressive was against the South, we are compelled to act in self defense. We are bombing the military installations and communication facilities which your Communist rulers are using to sustain their war of aggression in the South.

So, for your safety, please stay away from these targets.

My letter is short but my sentiments are immense. I am cordially yours.

The first record I have of this leaflet being dropped is 20 July 1965. American and Vietnamese aircraft dropped the leaflets over communication routes heading to Hanoi and Haiphong, as well as eight North Vietnamese cities. The leaflets were mixed with two other leaflets and a total of 3,360,000 of the three were disseminated. Another 520,000 of 14a and 14b were dropped on 30 July 1965 over Van Yen, Ba Don and Huong Khe. On 9 December another 480,000 were dropped over the Rao Nay Valley and Ba Don, Cuong Gian and Phu Kinh.

The Masaryk Letter

In the 1950s, at the height of the Cold War, the Free Europe Press (FEP) of the Committee for a Free Europe began printing leaflets for Czechoslovakia. As the program progressed, a number of field sites for launching the balloons were chosen. They are:

1. Fronau: 145 kilometers southeast of Munich.
2. Freyung: 210 kilometers east of Munich.
3. Hohenhard: 350 kilometers northeast of Munich.

In June, the campaign accelerated with the dissemination of a "Masaryk letter." I actually wrote about this "letter" leaflet back in August 1966 in an article entitled "Airmail that Ain't" for The Aerial Leaflet. I wrote about it again in an article entitled "Postcards to the Enemy" in the November 1975 issue of the Society of Philatelic Americans Journal. Some of what I said at the time is:

The address reads: "To all the Members of the Czechoslovakian People's Opposition." Inside is a long message stating that the letter comes "By air from the free World." A printed blue label at the left says "In unity lies the power." The stamp cancel is from the reformer Bohemian Jan Hus and reads "The truth will be victorious." A number of political questions are asked and answered.

The fake envelope bears a very good likeness of the Czechoslovakian stamp commemorating the 85th birthday of President Masaryk. The envelope was sent aloft by balloon on 29 April 1954. The project was to be a major coordinated campaign of words, both printed and over the radio. The aim was to cover Czechoslovakia with anti-Communist propaganda during the May Day holiday. The campaign centered on "The Ten Demands of the People's Opposition." There was even a special song written and played over and over again to insure maximum impact.

A Czech student who defected to the West said: "The night we heard about the content of the 10 demands we all fell silent. We were all very happy and could hardly speak. Finally, my father said that with this sort of basis one can build and fight against the Communist government because the resolution is eternal and objective. By transplanting the 10 demands we could force the regime to change its rule."

Some of the text is:

What is the Czechoslovakian People's Opposition?

It is the million-fold majority that has begun to organize itself systematically. It has its own leaders in its own rows; leaders who grow and harden themselves in a fight. It has its own speakers in the free world, its ownradio stations and print shops. The Czechoslovakian People's Opposition is a political movement of the Czechoslovakian people that is united by a growing consciousness of solidarity, and that is ready to get even with the hostile police regime.


The Tarantel Pieck Envelope

I first wrote about this propaganda "envelope" in The Aerial leaflet of August 1966 and then again in the SPA Journal of November 1975. It was produced by a West German anti-Communist organization called Tarantel ("Tarantula"). It appears to be a postal envelope bearing a Christmas letter written by a young boy to the President of the German Democratic Republic. These leaflets were sent over the border into East Germany by balloon and rocket. It is addressed to:

Comrade President Wilhelm Pieck / Schonhausen Castle / near Berlin Pankow.

On the back we find the return address:

Young Pioneer Klaus Klein, Stalinallee 14

There is a long message inside the envelope and what is interesting is that to the casual reader it seems to just be a general letter from a child that is naive. However, it was cleverly written using words and phrases that contained double-entendre that often was far stronger in its condemnation of the communist system than is first apparent. The letter text is in part:

December 1953

Dear Uncle Comrade President!

Daddy said you are Father Christmas because it is written in the newspaper that your allies will surely help us. So, you will take care of my list of presents, won't you? My wishes for Christmas are:

A pair of shoes made from genuine leather like you and the Party bosses wear.

Lots of self-adhesive transfers depicting Soviet soldiers.

A small saber that must be sharp because daddy cannot find any razor blades.

A real permit so mom can bring me a banana from the Western Sector without having to be fearful.

And you must not be angry when I cannot sing the National Anthem by heart; Instead, I will sing "The sweetest fruit is eaten by the bosses."

There are at least ten trick phrases in the entire text; things like "Father Christmas" implying untrustworthiness, the "Soviet soldier transfers" meaning ineffective troops without a mind of their own, the cancellation time (11:45) often used by both sides in WWII to imply that time was rapidly running out, etc.

The KgU Pieck Propaganda Parody with Noose around his Neck

The hardest part about reviewing the various Cold War parodies and forgeries of the stamps of the DDR is that one can literally write 10,000 words on the subject. This was a big project and went on for quite a while and produced a plethora of items. I am going to try to cut the story down to a paragraph or two but the reader should understand that I am just touching on the subject.

KgU Mailed Envelope
(Courtesy of Oliver Wyrtki)

Here is a KgU envelope addressed to an East German address. Inside was a propaganda leaflet from the "Berlin National Organization German Woman's Democratic Confederation" entitled:

German mothers
German women
The military rages - the hunger grows.

A KgU Propaganda Leaflet

Kampfgruppe gegen Unmenschlichkeit (KgU) or "Combatants Against Inhumanity" was an anti-Communist organization that operated out of Berlin in the early 1950s. The KgU was loosely allied to the western-oriented political group Der Standard Verlag (Standard Publishing House), which also operated out of Berlin. About 1953, Der Standard Verlag produced parodies of two DDR stamps honoring its first president, Wilhelm Pieck. This parody, which included a hangman's noose around Pieck's neck and an altered legend Undeutsche Undemokratische Diktatur, (Un-German Undemocratic Dictator) was used as labels on mail addressed to the West Zone of Germany. More parodies and two forgeries followed, as the KgU directed propaganda attacks upon the East Zone dictatorship and its Soviet masters.

Some of the other parodies were:

Slow Work..

1. The 1953 Five-Year Plan series with new text "Slow work in the Un-German Undemocratic Republic."
2. The 1953 Five-Year Plan series with new text "Spa of the workers."
3. A 6 pfennig blue-violet parody with inscription "To Moscow," showing a worker handing Walter Ulbricht, DDR council president, a pamphlet entitled "Free elections."
4. A 24 pfennig dark carmine parody with the inscription "Berlin-Streets on 17 June...German uprising 1953."

The German Uprising 1953 parody

5. A 24 pfennig dark carmine parody with the inscription "Berlin-Stalinallee / Strasse des 17.Juni / Undeutsche Undemokratische Republik." Stalin Allee was a communist showcase of urban renewal, but was also the scene of a violent uprising against the communists on 17 June 1953.

A KgU Forgery of a DDR Official Mail Stamp

The KgU forgeries of the 1954 Official Mail B issue were printed in sheets of 20. The forgeries are perforated 11; the genuine are perforated 13:12.5, and are printed in sheets of 100. The KgU forged both the 20 pfennig olive stamp and the 24 pfennig dark carmine official stamp.

Kleine Forgeries of KgU Parody Stamps

In 1955, West German Wilhelm Peter Kleine single-handedly undertook to destroy the Communist system in East Germany through propaganda, or at least to sell propaganda items to his fellow citizens. He forged, parodied, and propagandized a sizable number of Deutsche Demokratische Republik stamps, and in the process generated a huge number of stamps, covers, and labels. He forged surcharge and propaganda overprints on the DDR Five-Year Plan stamps; he forged cancellations on covers; he printed numerous propaganda messages on the backs of legitimate DDR stamps; he produced disparaging parodies of several DDR stamps; and he forged his own versions of the successful West German KgU parodies of DDR stamps.

Kleine Parody of the DDR Human Rights Day Stamp

Kleine produced a parody of the DDR 5 pfennig stamp of 1956 celebrating Human Rights Day. The parody is dark olive on dull olive-yellow, as is the original, but the inscriptions have been altered to "Day of the people without rights - German Colony of the Soviet-Russians"

The "Great Leap" Postcard

This is a balloon-borne propaganda leaflet for East Germans bearing the image of a postcard. The card is ostensibly from a defector and former East German soldier Peter Karl. The picture side is in red, blue, and black, and advertises the "1965 Frankfurt Automobile Show." Below a color sketch of various automobiles is the text:

And you could be here too.

The address side is in black, and shows a typewritten address and a postmark at right: "To the comrades of the 2nd Company, 4th Border Guard Regiment." The fake postmark is "My Great Leap - 9/8/63," the date the alleged Peter Karl escaped to West Germany. The title alludes to a famous photograph printed all over the world depicting border guard Conrad Schumann in full uniform jumping over a barbed wire fence in Berlin to escape to the West on 15 August 1961.

The typewritten message at left on the address side is:

Dear Comrades, I have arrived safely in the West. Work, wages, free time, etc. - everything is great!

Your Peter Karl

Leaflets like this were floated by balloon across the East-West German border by West German security units such as the PSK (Psychologisches Streitkrafte) and its successor the PSV (Psychologisches streitkrafte fur Verteidigung).

The Jedermann Envelope

The propaganda leaflet has been folded twice to make four squares. The outside front appears to be a letter. The stamp depicts the "Liberty Bell." The cancel says "Capital of the Reich - Berlin - 23.10.56." The date has purposely been made almost illegible, probably to make it appear to cover a longer period of time. A printed symbol of a hand with three fingers raised translates to "We want (to) vote!" The "W" symbol is also found on the KgU propaganda "Volksaufstand" stamp. During WWII, the American Office of Strategic Services used a similar image with the text Wie lange noch? "How much longer?" to ask when the end of the Nazi regime would occur. The letter is addressed:

Family everyone
Soviet occupied zone of Germany

There is an extremely long message on the inner panels and back of the folded document that discusses the possible reunification of Germany. Some of the propaganda text is:

West Germany, September 1956

Dear Family Everyone

Certainly the participants of the Protestant Day of the Church in Frankfurt/Main have told you a lot in the past weeks about their meetings with us in West Germany. We imagine that these discussions were not only about religious questions but also about the political problems of Germany. Some of the prejudices that we here in West Germany had against people of middle Germany could be eliminated; and also your friends and acquaintances, dear everyones, were able to correct their image about us. We must and want to continue these discussions and contacts to avoid alienation among ourselves. Otherwise, the functionaries who want to split Germany forever have an easy job.

One thing has become evident during the "all-German discussions" in Frankfurt, much to the horror of the Soviet zone functionaries Nuschke and Dieckmann: No reasonable human being in the whole fatherland wants the so-called Socialist All-Germany of Mister Walter Ulbricht... Dieckmann declared in the biggest West-German newspaper "WELT" on 9 August that free elections are not a fundamental question for the SED regime and that single voting lists would be accepted. Otto Nuschke proclaimed on a press conference in Frankfurt on August 12: "All parties in entire Germany can run for election unhindered. The western parties in the east and the eastern parties in the west; the elections could be performed under international control!" Of course, this contradicts all statements made by the SED regime but this is of no importance now...

Dear friends in the Soviet occupied zone!

Please write us your opinion on the political situation and tell us when and where you have found this leaflet. Use a fake sender's address or a covert address for your own security. Your message will be treated confidentially. We thank you in advance and wish you all the best.

Our covert address:

Hans Schreiber
Berlin-Charlottenburg 9
Lindenallee 31

Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations Stamps

Back in the Cold War days I had a number of contacts in various anti-Communist organizations. Some were covertly sponsored by the CIA, some not. One of the largest groups on paper was the Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations (A.B.N.). It was a coordinating center for anti-Communist political organizations from Soviet and other socialist countries. The A.B.N. formation dates back November 1943 when various national and patriotic groups formed an alliance to fight Russian Communism. Many of the states occupied by the USSR sent delegates with the agenda of breaking up the Soviet Union and freeing its captive nations. At the end of WWII, the organization expanded its structure to include Eastern European emigration from other countries under the influence of the Soviets. Among the dozens of member organizations at one time or another was the Bulgarian National Front, the Croatian Liberation Front, the Estonian Liberation Movement and the Hungarian Liberation Movement.  The most active groups among the Bloc were the Ukrainian organizations. The A.B.N organized mass anti-Soviet rallies, protest demonstrations, press conferences, and the distribution of various memoranda. The Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations was disbanded in 1996 after the collapse of the USSR and Soviet communism. Among the various items the organization produced for publicity were commemorative postage stamps such as the ones shown above.

UNITA stamps of the Angolan Civil War

The first stamps I want to mention in depth are those prepared during the civil war in Angola. It has often been said that this was a case where the United States and Russia fought a "hot" war using mercenary troops. The U.S. backed the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) led by Jonas Savimbi and the Russians supported a Cuban military force. To publicize UNITA and raise money for the cause a set of four stamps was produced on commission from the Savimbi rebel authority. The stamps were placed on sale on 28 February 1986. Shortly before that time, U.S. Representative Dan Burton (Republican - Indiana) interceded with the U.S. Postal Service to accept and deliver mail bearing these stamps. One thousand envelopes containing UNITA propaganda are said to have been mailed to organizations and individuals in the United States. All the stamps are multicolored on a yellow background, and all bear a heavy surcharge. The four propaganda stamps are:

10+200 kwanzas, showing Savimbi in uniform.
20+300 kwanzas, showing a black hand and a white hand clasped in front of a UNITA flag.
30+400 kwanzas, showing a tiger.
40+500 kwanzas, showing Savimbi's head and a UNITA flag.

An envelope bearing the four stamps, containing a propaganda message from the American Angolan Public Affairs Council "canceled" with an Angolan cancel dated 11 March 1986, and presumably shipped to Miami, Florida, where it was mailed on 2 April 1986 exists. A letter inside says in part:

Dear Friend:

Thank you for your interest in the cause of freedom in Angola. As the UNITA community in Angola becomes more effective in organizing their affairs, they are now instituting their own official postal service...The letter you are now holding in your hand is one of 1000 letters being sent out today from Free Angola.

Rhodesia Propaganda Postcard

In December 1962 the Rhodesian Front party was elected to power. The party was committed to the concept of white supremacy without the involvement of a United Kingdom that was seen as particularly liberal with the election of a Labor Party Government in 1964. The leader of the Rhodesian Front, Ian Douglas Smith, was elected Prime Minister on 14 April 1964. On Armistice Day, 11 November 1965, the British colony of Southern Rhodesia declared its independence.

The British government had adopted a policy known as 'No Independence before Majority African Rule' (NIBMAR). This policy dictated that those colonies with a substantial population of white settlers would not receive independence except under conditions of universal suffrage and majority rule.

The British government planned and studied a possible military intervention against the Rhodesian government but finally decided that a military response was out of the question. No British politician wanted to deploy British troops against white Rhodesian forces. However, there is evidence that plans were made for a "contested reinforcement," (an interesting neutral term that translates to "invasion"). There was a problem. Would white British troops fight and possibly kill white Rhodesian soldiers, many of whom had been trained by British instructors or served in the British military.

The propaganda postcard above played on that loyalty. They were sent from Rhodesia to the United Kingdom en masse to remind the British government and the people that the Rhodesians had always been loyal and fought and died beside their British brothers. Besides these postcards, a number of air letters were pre-printed with pro-Rhodesia propaganda and sent to selected addresses in Great Britain.

Rhodesia’s Case for Independence

The propaganda product above seems to be a marriage of an air letter and a pamphlet. The Rhodesians have printed a 4-page booklet citing the merits of their case for independence on an air letter preprinted “Air Mail” and “Second Class Air Mail” and all the senders had to do was place a stamp and address on the publication and put it into a mailbox. The item above was sent to the Secretary of the Phoenix Works in Stalybridge, Cheshire, England. The printed message states that other African countries have been granted their independence and questions why Britain has refused the same right to Rhodesia.

Another interesting air letter contains a propaganda message encouraging people to immigrate to Rhodesia. It says in part:

Have you thought about coming to live in Rhodesia? We think you’d love it here…Then there’s the space. Space for everyone…Oh, and on the subject of security in Rhodesia. Don’t believe too many of the stories you hear about us in the papers and on television. Most of it is just sensationalism and biased reporting. Actually, Rhodesia is one of the quietest and safest places you could live in the world today….

The air letter came with a printed note for the buyer that said in part:


This letter is to tell you how, for as little as six pence, you can do a great deal for your country…You must know people like yourself overseas who would love the life we lead here…You can help to get them here by spending sixpence on a stamp and sending the enclosed air letter to them….

Propaganda Air Letters

The Rhodesian government printed several propaganda foreign air letters with text in English, German, French and Spanish. It is believed that they issued freely at local post offices for their citizens to send to friends and relatives all over the world to explain the case for Rhodesian independence. The propaganda message also re-enforced the pro-independence feeling of some Rhodesian Whites and even motivated new white settlers.

The 1966 British Commonwealth Relations Office document adds:

Apart from normal information pamphlets about Rhodesia, some special material was produced, primarily for consumption over­seas (and particularly in Britain). For example, specially printed air-letters were distributed to householders in European areas throughout Rhodesia, which they could post to friends and contacts abroad. They would generally contain a printed propaganda message and leave space for the sender to add some personal greetings. One issue in mid-1965, extolling the delights of (European) life in Rhodesia, formed part of an immigration drive.

Saoirse Eireann Overprint (Freedom of Ireland)

The Normans invaded Britain in 1066. They landed in Ireland a century later in 1169. In 1603 a victory over the Irish in Ulster allowed Britain complete control of Ireland. To solve the problem of a rebellious Ulster, the land was confiscated and given to Scottish farmers. This policy is the foundation of the problem of Northern Ireland today. In the Easter Uprising of 1916, a small band of Irish patriots rebelled and were quickly overwhelmed by the government. The British killed many of the leaders by firing squad, and they thus acquired the status of martyrs. In the last few decades the Republicans of the south have produced a number of propaganda stamps with various pro-Irish and anti-British overprints. For instance, the Irish Republican Army and Sinn Fein (the political arm of the Irish Republican movement) placed political overprints on stamps of Great Britain in 1971 and 1972. In June 1971, September 1971, and March 1972, the "Irish Republican Philatelic Office," located at Sinn Fein headquarters in Kevin Street, Dublin, applied political propaganda overprints on current stamps of Great Britain. The overprints were placed so as to deface the image of Queen Elizabeth II. In press releases they announced this venture and reported that mail posted in Northern Ireland had borne these overprinted stamps. 5,000 copies of the "Saoirse Eireann" overprint were released in 19 June 1971, just three days after the genuine stamp was put on sale.

Support Sinn Fein

Sinn Fein produced 5,000 copies of this overprinted on the 1971 Northern Ireland regional definitive stamp of Great Britain. The overprint was released 25 September 1971. Other Sinn Fein stamps had overprints in Gaelic which translated as "Parliament of Ulster" and "In memory of Derry."

Ulster says No

It was not only the Irish Republicans of the south that produced propaganda overprints. The hard-line loyalists of the north also placed political statements on postage stamps. These overprints on the stamps of Great Britain and Northern Ireland were issued September 1986 to protest the November 1985 Hillsborough accords between Dublin (Irish Republic) and London, which gave the Irish Republic a consultative role in Northern Irish disputes. The overprints appear in five styles, on 6 values of the Queen Elizabeth II definitive series of Great Britain and 4 values of the Queen Elizabeth II regional definitive series for Northern Ireland. These overprints are said to have been applied by the Ulster Party, an obscure Protestant group in Northern Ireland.

There are dozens of other political propaganda statements that are found on British postage stamps. To name just a few, the 1d red George V stamp was overprinted "IRISH FREE STATE PROV. GOVT," reportedly used in Dublin, Kingstown and Blackrock in January 1922. A 4d red Northern Ireland regional stamp was hand-stamped "FREE 69 DERRY," apparently used in August 1969. A 3p "Ulster paintings" stamp was overprinted with an "X" obliterating the Queen's head and a 4-line overprint "SAOIRSE ÉIREANN FIGHT FOR UNITED IRELAND 1916-71" ("Irish Freedom...."). This was released 19 June 1971 reportedly to commemorate 50 years of the Westminster/Stormont government. Another three stamps were overprinted: a 2&#189d Northern Ireland regional stamp overprinted "SUPPORT SINN FÉIN," released 25 September 1971; A 3d Northern Ireland regional stamp overprinted "DÁIL ULADH 1971" ("Ulster Assembly 1971"), released on 25 September 1971; and a 3d Northern Ireland regional stamp overprinted "I gCuimhne DHOIRE 30.1.72" ("In memory of Derry ..."), reportedly to commemorate "Bloody Sunday; released on 15 March 1972. The Protestants replied with stamps overprinted "ULSTER SAYS NO" in different fonts, released 1985-1986. The values known are: 2p green; 3p blue; 4p blue; 13p brown Northern Ireland regional stamp and 18p green Northern Ireland regional stamp. Contemporary copies are known to exist. Some low value British stamps were overprinted with the Orange Order (Unionist) slogan "No Guns No Government." This was a campaign for IRA disarmament. The values known are: 1p purple; 2p green; 4p blue; 5p brown and 8p green. These overprints first appeared in June 2001. And of course, in 1976 the ½p turquoise stamp was overprinted by the Cornish self-government campaign: "KERNOW SELF GOVERNMENT 1976." "Kernow" is the Cornish for "Cornwall."

The Politically Incorrect Stamps and the Atomic Debate

This story begins when The Smithsonian Museum decided to present an exhibit featuring Enola Gay, the B-29 that dropped the first atomic bomb over Hiroshima. Some American politicians felt that the exhibit was too forgiving of the Japanese and too harsh on the American dropping of the bomb. 24 Congressmen sent a letter to the Smithsonian calling the exhibit "a historically narrow revisionist view." For instance, the museum claimed that expected American losses were projected to be 30,000 to 50,000. In fact, most estimates were 10 times higher. David Brinkley said on ABC-TV:

The Smithsonian seems to think it should be presented as an example of American brutality to Japan...I believe there are a lot of grandfathers in America today who never would have been fathers, who would never have lived. Millions of casualties - Japanese as well as Americans were saved by what I think was a moral act by Harry Truman.

Air Force Magazine nnoted that there were 49 photos of Japanese casualties, but just three of American casualties. There was apparently no mention of the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor or the refusal of the Japanese militarists to seek peace, even when the war was clearly lost.

Fifty years after the end of WWII, the United States Postal Service planned to include a picture of the Hiroshima bomb as a historic event in a souvenir sheet commemorating the end of the war. However, due to objections from Japan, followed by pressure from the White House, the design was replaced with a picture of President Truman announcing the end of war. After the stamp was dropped, five different private labels were printed showing the A-bomb stamp design, or similar ones, in response to, or as a protest against the USPS action. The stamp depicted above was printed by U.S. Marine Corps veteran Jerry Newhouse. It depicts a B-29 at upper left, the Atom bomb detonation and the text:

August 1945
Atomic bombs end WWII

There were some early pioneers in the field of propaganda philately and we should show them.

Forged Stamps of Two World Wars

The first serious English-language booklet on the subject of propaganda philately was the 1954 Williams Brothers' 52-page paperback Forged Stamps of Two World Wars.

Gezahnte Kriegspropaganda

The first author who really discussed the propaganda stamps in detail was Joachim Hosang who wrote four German-language paperback booklets between 1954 and 1959 entitled Gezähnte Kriegspropaganda. Peter Rickenback later translated Hosang's first booklet into the English language Stamps in Battledress. About 10 years ago I met a young German researcher and author named Wolfgang Baldus. His work was so impressive that I opened my files to him and today he has become the recognized expert on the subject of propaganda philately. He has written numerous articles, paperback booklets and the two-volume German-language Schwartz Propaganda. 

A Page from the 1987 Wolfgang Pratzsch book Depicting
German Parodies of the Stamps of Great Britain
Unternehmen Wasserwelle (Operation Watermark)

Another German author, Wolfgang Prätzsch, has written extensively on the German productions, most notably in the 40-page paperback booklet Ubternehmen Wasserwelle. These authors are directly responsible for much of what we know today about these clandestine programs.

As I stated at the start of this article, it is just meant to be a very general introduction to espionage forgeries and propaganda parodies. Readers that wish to comment may contact the author at