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The Propaganda Rocket

SGM Herbert A. Friedman (Ret.)

This is the third in what I believe will be four short articles on the more exotic forms of propaganda leaflet dissemination. They are the Propaganda Float, the Propaganda Balloon, the Propaganda Rocket and the Propaganda Artillery Shell.

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The Congreve Rocket

The Chinese invented the rocket around 1100 AD. These rockets used solid propellants and were mainly used as a form of entertainment as fireworks. It was quickly discovered that it made an excellent and terrifying weapon. Much later, it was found to be a way to deliver messages to the enemy, quickly flying over the battle lines and releasing its leaflets at a set time. North Americans probably first saw the rocket as a weapon when the British fired the Cosgreve rocket at Ft. McHenry during the War of 1812; see The National Anthem: “And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air…”

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The Katyusha Rocket

During World War Two, Americans watching newsreels in darkened theaters saw the Russian Katyusha rockets screaming as they shrieked through the air against the German forces. They were a nightmare of flaming light and blaring noise.

The war rocket is a big heavy clumsy thing and not too accurate. The propaganda rocket is a much smaller item and might be made of paper or cardboard and only has to fly a short distance and deliver its propaganda cargo. In this article we will mention some of the places these rockets were used.

The Spanish Civil War

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General Franco

During the Spanish Civil War both sides used small rockets to distribute propaganda leaflets over the enemy. The leaflets were in a compartment at the front of the rocket, an explosive charge close behind, followed by the gunpowder fuel. The newspaper Milicia Popular (Popular Militia) stated in September 1936:

For distances up to 800 meters the leaflets can be sent by means of rockets which on exploding release the leaflets in the air like a shower.

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Long live Spanish Catalonia! Franco! Long live Spain!

A Franco Fascist leaflet dropped after the fall of Gerona.

In an article in The Aero Field (No. 6, 1957), Dr. Max Kronstein writes:

The introducing of the rocket as a propaganda tool in the Spanish campaign was reported in British newspapers during the war. The Daily Telegraph of London reported on 12 February, 1938 that both sides used a rocket with a range of a mile and a half, which scattered 1,000 pamphlets at a time.

The Swiss Illustrated Journal of 20 April 1938 reported that the leaflets were printed in a ruined house near the actual front with hurriedly instructed soldiers acting as printers. The same magazine showed a photo of one of the rockets which carried 400 of these front-printed leaflets across no-man's land and exploded above the trenches scattering the leaflets over the surrounding area...the Swiss journal reported there were as many as 20 to 50 propaganda rockets crossed the line on certain days.

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Republican Cigarette Paper used as a leaflet

Spain for the Spaniards. Your mother and my mother cry to see that brothers and sisters take part in an unjust war for the benefit of strangers

Of course, the Republican left-wing forces struck back. One document says in part:

The 5th Regiment ...Will send propaganda to enemy soldiers instructing them to desert from the Fascists...Up to now the system of small packages makes the Fascist Army Chiefs vigilance easy and impedes the soldiers’ collecting our leaflets. The solution lies in distributing our propaganda material in such a way that will make it easier for soldiers of the enemy to collect it.

The system is to launch it by means of rockets, which on bursting disperse the leaflets, provoking a real show of these and putting them in reach of soldiers who can then read them without their leaders being able to avoid it, and then follow the instructions given in the leaflets.

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A Spanish Civil War Leaflet Rocket

The daily paper Milicia Popular said in September 1936:

To launch proclamations over enemy lines these leaflets should be printed on very fine paper of different colors to catch the attention of the soldiers of the enemy lines and spread well.

On 27 January 1939, New York City newspapers mentioned Franco’s propaganda rockets:

On the central Madrid-Valencia front, loudspeakers told the Loyalist soldiers of the fall of Barcelona. The rebels also carried out a spectacular system of firing 11,000 rockets over the lines into Loyalist territory on the Madrid front carrying leaflets which proclaimed the capture of Barcelona.

Rocket expert and Scientist Willy Ley mentioned this action in Missiles, Moon probes, and Mega-parsecs.

Photographs of the rockets showed that they were black-powder rockets of simple construction but of a fairly large size. In all probability, Franco’s men had come across a store of Spanish signal rockets and adapted them for the purpose…Quite a few years after I learned about the use of propaganda rockets in the Spanish Civil War, I found out that the idea had not been new, even then. On 6 July 1897, the U.S. Patent Office granted patent number 585,805 to Otto Wilhelmi of Dusseldorf, Germany. The title of the patent is simply ROCKET, but the description tells its purpose.

“This invention relates to a rocket provided with a charge of circulars or other advertising matter, which is released when the rocket is exploded and which in descending is thus distributed over a large area.”

German WWII Leaflet Rockets

The Germans had a number of rockets that were designed to carry leaflets over enemy lines. Toward the end of the war they also used the V-1 rockets to carry leaflets on several occasions.

German General Walter Dornberger stated that his department of the Board of Ordnance, Rocket Development (WaPruef II) designed and developed small solid-fuel rockets that could carry propaganda leaflets about 6-7 miles. The rockets had a container tightly packed with propaganda leaflets that were fired against front-line Allied troops in Italy.

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General Walter Dornberger, head of the V2 program (center)
with Dr. Todt (right), Hitler's armament minister, at Peenemünde in 1941.

The United States War Department Handbook on German Military Forces of March 1945 says that the 73mmPropaganda rocket launcher (Propagandawerfer) consists of a simple cage hinged to a framework base of tubular steel and supported at the front by an adjustable arm. The weapon is intended for close range delivery of paper propaganda. The rocket weighs 7.1 pounds and instead of a bursting charge or chemical filling contains 8 ounces of propaganda leaflets.

Dr. Max Kronstein, writing in The Falling Leaf of June 1962 (The Journal of the Psywar Society), adds, “These small rockets were called Flugblattgeschoose.”

In the Diary of a German Soldier, Wilhelm Pruller says:

We got a new gun today with a barrel made of cardboard. And it shoots too, as far as two kilometers. The bullets are propaganda bombs which comprise more than 100 leaflets.

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German propaganda rockets being fired at the Allies

A 1941 report on the German Propaganda Werfer 41 (Propaganda launcher 41) says:

The propaganda shell 41 is fired from the propaganda launcher 41. It is propelled by a rocket motor and travels at a speed of 250 meters per second. The propaganda shell contains 200 leaflets. The range of this shell is 3,400 meters. The exploding point is 100-150 meters above the ground.

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A German Propaganda Rocket Unit in Italy

A German Propaganda Officer inspects a leaflet aimed at Allied troops before having it inserted in a rocket at the Anzio-Nettuno landing site in winter 1944.

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A Typical Anzio-Nettuno leaflet

Onward Christian Soldiers

The Germans fired a lot of brochures and booklets to Allied troops in Italy in 1944 and 1945. This is a 20-page booklet of poetry. It was produced by the German propaganda unit “Kurt Eggers” and coded *1302-1-45. It is a small booklet at just 11 x 15 centimeters. On the inside page the Germans explain:

A collection of poems by British soldiers for British soldiers. Selected, illustrated, and printed by “Comrades of the other side.”

Some of the titles of the poems are “Metamorphosis, Recompense, Whitehall hymn. Military cemetery, Colonel help,” and “For King and Country.” The poems are mostly defeatist with the writers talking about useless death in a winless war. One that depicts a "Tommy" on the toilet and uses anti-Semitism for its trick ending is “For King and Country.”

Don’t waste your time when you take a crap,
the time you lose will help a Jap.

Don’t fart around when you have to piss
Hitler will love the hours you miss.

So, crap in your pants and piss in your shoes,
and we’ll win the war for the lousy Jews.

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German WWII Propaganda Rocket

The rocket above is the German WWII P.Rg.41 propaganda rocket. It had a plastic nose cap and the leaflets were placed inside the top portion with a spring that would throw the leaflets in opposite directions once the ejector charge separated the top from the bottom (propellant) part of the rocket.

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The Pr Gs 41 Internal and External

Klaus Kirchner – Flugblatt-propaganda im 2. Weltkrieg

Internal numbers: 1 - Bakelite or wooden nose cap; 2 - Spring to spread leaflets after ejection; 3 – leaflet roll; 4 – Rocket propellant; 5 – Percussion cap.

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A German soldier prepares a Pr Gs 41 rocket launcher

The German author Klaus Kirchner says that the rocket had an advantage over propaganda artillery shells because it could be loaded with the latest news right at the front. It was also light and mobile enough to be fired from just about everywhere regardless of the terrain and did not require the use of an Army artillery unit. The disadvantage was that it left a trail of smoke that pointed to where the rocket was fired from. That meant that the people firing the rockets had approximately two minutes to pack up and leave the site before the Allies counter-battery fire would be encountered. The German used this propaganda rocket from 1941 until the end of the war. Kirchner continues:

After World War II it was occasionally possible to find the “Pr Gs 41” leaflet rockets which had misfired and buried themselves in the ground. The rockets consist of the following parts: Rocket body; Bakelite nose cap; Tube with split case to accommodate leaflet roll and keep it from crinkling; Baffle plate to push the leaflet roll out of the rocket tube and Spreading spring to open the roll of leaflets after ejection.

The rocket body is about 16 inches in length, with a maximum external diameter of 2.9 inches and a weight of less than 7 lbs. The interesting parts are the base venting venturis, half of which are inclined to rotate and stabilized the rocket in flight.

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The German Pr Gs 41 rocket launcher

The rocket is launched when the rocket is dropped down the tube of the mobile launcher and the percussion cap strikes the firing pin. Four rockets were packed in a metal air-tight box with Pr Gs 41 painted on the lid.

Max Kronstein says in an article entitled “Small rocket leaflets at the Italian Front of WWII. He said in part:

In 1943, the Germans reorganized their Psychologische Kampffuhrungs Einheiten or “PK” units. The headquarters of this campaign on the Italian front was Castel Bevilaqua where groups of Italian girls loaded the leaflets in the rockets. The rockets were shot from small portable stands. They could carry leaflets over 3000 yards. About 58 different small English-language leaflets were printed for use against the Americans.

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 German rocket and artillery shell and some German leaflets.

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Indeed, and amusing war – for the Americans.

Both the German Army Propaganda units and later the SS units printed this same “divide and conquer” leaflet that depicts an American soldier with a British girl and the text:

Indeed, and amusing war – for the Americans.

Each of the German leaflets is printed in two sizes. They are 15 x 21cm. and 9 x 15cm. The larger size was disseminated by aircraft or artillery and the smaller size was for the German propaganda rocket Propaganda Geschoss 41. The theme implies that while the British are at the front, the Americans are back in Great Britain with their wives and girlfriends.

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For them the War is over

I was not going to add this leaflet but the message is so ironic. According to the German leaflet specialist Klaus Kirchner, this leaflet was prepared to give the Americans confidence in the German SS. Klaus says:

The SS Organization “Skorpion West” produced and disseminated this leaflet with the help of rockets at the time of the “Battle of the Bulge.” It was the intention of this leaflet to create trust and credibility among American soldiers in the SS which was feared and hated.

The leaflet depicts German SS troops feeding captured American soldiers. Is the picture real? Are those actually Americans? Notice that the third from the left has two bullet holes in his helmet. Could it be that the Germans dressed some of their own in the uniforms of dead Americans? We will never know. There were three such leaflets prepared, all with happy Americans being fed. The text on the back says on all three:

For them the war is over.

According to your propaganda there must be dynamite in the soup. But you too will find that spoons are better than guns.

Dead men tell no tales but P.W.s do!

I said that this leaflet was ironic. While the Germans try to show the trustworthiness and honor of their SS troops, on 17 December 1944 near Malmedy, 84 American POWs were machine-gunned in an open field by other SS troops. I have always believed that this massacre by the SS won the battle for the Allies. Once it became know that Germans were killing those that surrendered, the American troops became determined to hold the lines until reinforcements arrived. The SS action stiffened the back of the Americans, filled them with fury, and caused them to fight to the death, ultimately halting what appeared to be an overwhelming and unstoppable German advance

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Another German Propaganda Geschoss 41 leaflet Rocket

This rocket was dug up after WWII and was offered for sale along with four propaganda leaflets used against the allied Americans during Christmas 1944 when they were fighting “the Battle of the Bulge” near Bastogne, Belgium.

The German leaflet depicted above makes use of Christmas symbols. The front of the leaflet depicts a small blond-haired girl holding a sprig of mistletoe with a candle to her right. Behind her is the visage of her father, apparently killed in action with a bullet hole in his helmet, although his eyes are partially open. The text is:

Daddy, I’m so afraid!

On the back of the leaflet there are a number of Christmas symbols surrounding the text. Among them are angels, the Star of Bethlehem, Christmas candles and pine sprigs, etc. The text is terribly written and full of grammatical errors. It is:


Well soldier, here you are in “no-Mans land,” just before Christmas far away from home and your loved ones. Your sweetheart or wife, your little girl, or perhaps even your little boy, don’t you feel them worrying about you, praying for you? Yes old boy, praying and hoping you’ll come home again, soon. Will you come back, are you sure to see those loved ones again?

This is Christmas time, Yule-time . . . The Yule-log, the Mistletoe, the Christmas tree, whatever it is, it’s home and all that you think fine to celebrate the day of our Savior.

Man, have you thought about it. What if you don’t come back . . . what of those dear ones?

Well soldier, “PEACE ON EARTH GOOD WILL TOWARDS MEN” . . . for where there’s a will there’s a way . . . only 300 yards ahead and


An American wartime report on the rocket says:

The projectile consists of two steel tubes screwed into a central joint. The lower tube contains the rocket motor and the upper serves as a container for the leaflets. The projectile is spin-stabilized and is fired from a propagandawerfer.

The British “Projectile Development Establishment” prepared a November 1943 report on the rocket entitled “Foreign Ammunition – German 7.3 cm Propaganda Rocket.” It consisted of a complete breakdown of the size and weight of every rocket component. Some of the statistics are:

The weight of the complete round is 7 pounds 2 ounces; the overall length of round 16.1 inches.


Two Ways of Spending the War

Klaus Kirchner wrote in Flugblatt-Propaganda in 2.Weltkrieg (edited for brevity):

In April 1940, the German Werhmachtpropaganda found a way to disseminate pornographic images, hide their authorship and avoid compromising their moral integrity. The soldier looking at the leaflet would find nothing unusual at first. When held to the light, the pornographic image became apparent…These leaflets were found in a Bavarian Lake inside the rocket Pr. Gs. 41.

I wrote about these pornographic leaflets in three magazine articles between 1967 and 1983. I later wrote about them in a article entitled Sex and Psychological Operations. In that article I said in part:

The Germans produced see-through pornographic leaflets to be disseminated by rocket for use against the Americans advancing near the “Siegfried Line” about December 1944. The front of the 10 x 14cm leaflet depicts a dead American corporal in the foreground and a second soldier draped over the barbed wire in the background. The text at the top of the leaflet is “Two ways of spending the war” and at the bottom, “Fighting.” The back of the leaflet is blank except for text at the lower left which reads “and?” and the series number, for instance; “No. 1 Series: Rich man’s war, poor man’s fight.” Only four numbers have surfaced in the past 50 years. We know that number 1, 3, 4 and 9 exist. There may be others that have never been found, or the Germans may have just used some random numbers hoping to confuse the Americans and make them search for leaflets that were never printed.

The use of the propaganda slogan “Rich man’s war, poor man’s fight” by the Germans is very interesting because it was first used by the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War. At that time, any southerner with 20 slaves or more was allowed to return to the plantation while those with less than twenty or none had to stay and fight. The poor southerners who were forced to remain on the front lines were the first to say, “Rich man’s war, poor man’s fight.”

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What about Calling up Sam Levy

This German leaflet has an antisemetic theme and shows a beautiful woman and has a double-entendre title. She is reaching for a phone to call a Jewish draft dodger for a date while her man is at the front; but “calling up” was also a term for the draft and we are led to believe she is wondering why no Jews have been called for military service. The leaflets were fired by rocket at American forces in January 1945 during the battle of the bulge and later used in numerous other locations. You can see the scorch marks and crinkling from where the rocket exploded and blew the leaflet into the air. I could place a pristine mint leaflet here, but I think it is better to show the result of the rocket dispersal. This leaflet has no code but we know from other records that its internal code was 980 245/88. The vast majority of these leaflets have no overprint, but a few have been stamped on the front: “To the poor Devils of the 29th!” The 29th Infantry Division was assigned to XIII Corps from 8 December 1944 to 23 February 1945.

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German V1 Rocket

In June 1944, Germany distributed leaflets over the Allies in Great Britain, Belgium, and Holland using their vaunted “Vengeance weapon,” the V1 rocket. It actually had a pulse-jet engine but it was close to a rocket and led directly to today’s Tomahawk cruise missile. The leaflets were placed in a small canister, which ejected automatically from a hole near the wing as soon as the engine turned off. The V1 was equipped with a revolution counter, which shut down the engine after a pre-arranged number of turns. The bomb then went into a steep vertical dive and impact was almost instantaneous.

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This is one of the more iconic leaflets actually carried to England in a V1 rocket. There are at least three variations of this leaflet and each has a number of genuine letters from British prisoners of war to their families at home. The British were using every means of deception to make the German rockets miss London, having their “turned” German agents radioing Berlin that the rockets needed to travel a bit longer and a bit further to the north, etc. When these letters were found, the British suspected that the Germans were hoping the finders would notify the newspaper and that they would thus know exactly where the rocket landed. Of course, there is no proof of this. However, the British confiscated all the leaflets immediately just to be safe. But, someone will always beat the police to the scene of an accident so many of these leaflets were taken by on-lookers as souvenirs and thus they were saved for posterity.

Carl Berger mentions the German V1 in An introduction to Wartime Leaflets, Special Operation Research Office, The American University, Washington D.C., 1959:

The exact method for scattering the leaflets from rockets was discovered on 31 January 1945, when anti-aircraft fire caused a low order detonation on the warhead of a V-1. The bomb was recovered almost intact and was investigated by the 77th Ordnance Bomb Disposal Squad, U.S. Ninth Air Force. A normal V-1 had been fitted with a container and ingenious ejector mechanism for propaganda leaflets.

As the bomb is launched, wrote the Bomb Disposal officer, the friction igniter is functioned, initiating the safety fuse, which burns at the rate of three (3) inches per minute. The fuse continues to burn during flight, and when burned through (about 20 minutes in this case) ignites the black powder charge. This charge then blows the propaganda pamphlets out the rear end of the tube. This particular V-1 hold copies of a German propaganda magazine, called Signal.

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A number of the German leaflets simply showed the phrase "V1" on the front. Apparently the Germans believed that the very sight of such a phrase was enough to terrify the Allies. One such leaflet is coded AI-081-7-44. The "V1" is in red. The title on the back of the leaflet is "FACTS CONCERNING V NUMBER 1." There is a long 5-paragraph propaganda text below the title. The first two paragraphs are:

1. No AA barrage and no fighter planes can prevent the gigantic "Doodle Bugs," as the Londoners call them, from coming over. The "Doodle Bugs" travel at a tremendous speed making them invulnerable to attacks.

2. "V Number 1" does not depend on weather, time season, or visibility. It is an "all weather" and "round the clock" weapon of deadly nerve-wrecking regularity. It is robbing Britishers of their sleep, keeping them down in the shelters and away from their work benches and desks.

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The Other Side # 1

The Other Side is the title of a pamphlet scattered over southeast England by the V1. The pamphlet was four pages long and only six issues are known to exist. Number one depicts a V1 on the front and the heading V1 - Those ‘last few shots.’ It also depicts a British Lancaster bomber with the caption:

This is a Lancaster bomber, one of the machines used by the R.A.F. in terror raids on Germany. Thousands have been shot down.

The V1 did not live up to its potential. Once Prime Minister Churchill moved his anti-aircraft guns to the coast, a great number were shot down. The Royal Air Force also discovered that by stripping down their Spitfire and Hawker Tempest fighters they could catch the V1. At night, British Mosquitoes joined the fight. There was no need for radar because the flames from the V1 engine could be seen from 10 miles away. The pilots would sometimes fire on the flying bombs; other times use their wing to tip it over, causing the V1 to crash into unpopulated woods and meadows. Between June and mid-August 1944, the handful of Tempests shot down 638 flying bombs. By August 1944, the threat of the V1 was mostly eliminated by the sudden arrival of two electronic aids for anti-aircraft guns, both developed in the USA. The use of radar to aim the anti-aircraft guns, and the proximity fuse. Of the 30,000 V1s manufactured, about 10,000 were fired at England. Of these, about 7000 were "hits" in that they landed somewhere in England. About half, 3876, landed in the Greater London area. An almost equal number were shot down or crashed into tethered barrage balloons.

The United States has experimented with leaflet rockets. In 1950 The Chief of the Ordnance Corps directed Redstone Arsenal scientists to determine the feasibility of a white phosphorus smoke rocket. The study resulted in a plan for two rockets, but Ordnance suspended the program in early 1952 because the Army Field Forces had no immediate need for such weapons. In March 1952, however, Ordnance instructed Redstone to adapt the rocket for propaganda leaflet dissemination. The arsenal delivered T229 rockets to the Psychological Warfare Center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in June 1954.

Berger mentions this American rocket:

The only other known recent development in the "leaflet rocket" field, undertaken by the U.S Army is a standard dissemination unit for close support of tactical operations. This rocket, designated the T-229 115-mm, is equipped with its own launcher, has a range of 1,000 to 2,500 yards, and can carry approximately 700 leaflets per round.

The Cold War – East Germany to West Germany

The use of rockets to disseminate political propaganda leaflets in Germany and even Berlin itself during the Cold War is well documented. Some examples from 1954:

On 23 February 1954 Communist agitators fired leaflet rockets over the West Berlin Fair Grounds. The leaflets contained anti-Adenauer messages.

On 22 December 1954 rockets were fired from the Tiergarten towards Friedrich Street. Leaflets were found in front of the Soviet Embassy.

In May 1956, East German rockets were fired over the Central Stadium in Berlin that was supposed to release Free German Youth banners. They failed to release the banners.

A March, 1964 report states that 85 different leaflets were fired over lower Saxony from the DDR attacking the militaristic German Federal Government and their armed forces.

A May, 1971 report said that tourists walking in the Harz mountain were mistakenly asked by loudspeaker to defect to the East and were suddenly blanketed by leaflets fired from the DDR. The leaflets had a map of the Harz Mountain area and a back page of text. They were carried by three types of leaflets: one a typical looking “sky rocket” that carried about 150 leaflets; another was a round ball raised by a rocket with a timer that exploded the ball and released the leaflets; the third is pipe-shaped with a timer to release the leaflets. German authorities said that the three types of rockets had been used since 1968.

There are literally hundreds of such cases where rockets were fired from both sides of the Iron Curtain.

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Thank you Stalin...

During the Cold War the two Germanys sent propaganda to each other through rockets, balloons, the mail and even by tossing leaflets off high buildings into the wind. You can seldom tell if a propaganda leaflet was actually sent by rocket, but in this case we know that the above leaflet was sent to the West by rocket in May 1955 because the Communist East Germans have been kind enough to print a small rocket at the lower right. The text is:

The German Democratic Republic thanks Stalin for his confidence!

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5 Good Points for Security and Peace in Europe

Another leaflet rocketed into West Germany by the German Democratic Republic says on the front:

5 Good Points for Security and Peace in Europe

The back is all text:

Security and peace in Europe– the DDR has a clear plan for it.

1. The DDR is effectively calling for a convening of a European security conference as soon as possible without preconditions.

2. The DDR is ready to become a member of the UN and its specialized agencies.

3. The DDR has expressed their willingness to establish normal diplomatic relations with all states.

4. The DDR is in favor of the establishment of diplomatic relations in accordance with the rules of international law and the Federal Republic of Germany).

5. The DDR is prepared to contribute to the normalization of relations with respect to West Berlin, and thus contribute to the relaxation of the center of Europe.

This is how the DDR thinks ahead for Europe's future, its tomorrow! And where is the good will and constructive attitude of the Federal Republic of Germany?

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Stop the American Beetles!

The Russians blockaded Berlin from 1948 to 1949. American and British aircraft flew in food and other supplies and eventually defeated the blockade. During that time East Germany was hit with a potato beetle infestation and decided that it was an American plot. This leaflet claims that the airlift is just a pretext for ruining East German farming by dropping “imperialist weapons,” the potato-devouring Colorado beetles.

The United Press International reported on a problem that occurred when the East Germans used Leaflet rockets against West Germany.

A capricious west wind thwarted a Communist leaflet propaganda barrage across the West German border. The East Germans launched miniature rockets carrying large number of leaflets calculated to saturate the Walkenreid-Harz Mountain border area. But a stiff west wind came up suddenly and blew the majority of them back to East German territory.

The Cold War - West Germany to East Germany

General Walter Bedell "Beetle" Smith was Eisenhower's chief of staff at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) during WWII. After World War II, he served as the U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union, then in 1950, the head of the Central Intelligence Agency. He mentioned in his log of 27 December 1951:

A propaganda supply team in Germany has prepared over half a million items of propaganda to celebrate Stalin’s 72nd birthday. Among them are 50, 000 posters with a picture of aged Stalin saying, “The Stalins come and go,” a play on the remark Stalin once made, “The Hitlers come and go.” Another 400,000 small stickers showing an almost empty hour glass and either a death head of Stalin’s profile are also being put up in the Soviet Zone of Germany. And finally, 100, 000 leaflets will be sent into East Germany by rocket, wishing a “Merry Christmas to all and an unhappy birthday to Stalin.”

The CIA Searches for a Rocket it can call its Own!

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In June 1953, the CIA sent an agent to witness a test firing of fifty 4.5-inch rockets at Ft. Bragg, NC. The rocket was apparently made at the Redstone Arsenal. The tests proved that the leaflet tetral booster engine was too powerful and was burning up the leaflets. A test was to be made back at the Redstone Arsenal with 10 grams of black powder to blow the leaflets from the rocket.

In December 1953, the CIA sent a request that a better leaflet rocket be developed. The text says in part:

This division has an interest in some method for distributing leaflets at distances of 1000 to 3000 yards from the launching point…It is desirable that the payload be comparable to that of a leaflet bomb. The rockets should be relatively cheap, easy to operate and preferably constructed completely of paper or cardboard.

It appears the rocket development might have started by February 1954. A heavily redacted CIA document to Research and Development states in part:

This division is very definitely interested in the proposed TSS Project MD-91 leaflet rocket. At present it is difficult to approximate the possible scope of future rocket operations. Indications are, however, that small leaflet rocket operations will be possible in the near future…The quoted range of 2000 yards is adequate for most division operations. The quoted cost of $10 to $20 per rocket is within the scope of present budget limitations.

By October 1955, a four-inch non-metallic leaflet rocket was being developed by the CIA. Several designs had been tested at 600, 1200, 1800 and 2400 yards, but the different designs were found to be complicated. A rocket with a range of 1200 and 2400 yards was more efficient and easier to design. This rocket would be cheaper, could be produced much more quickly, and would have less moving parts.

A 9 November 1955 letter says that the rockets will have two ranges, 1000 and 3000 meters. The propellant is smokeless and will burn out in two seconds. The rocket will travel by momentum and there will be no trail left behind it.

In May 1956, there is a request that 200 rockets be purchased. Where the rockets are going has been redacted.

In September of 1956, phase two of the rocket design was finished and phase three was begun. Unfortunately, the letter does not explain what was accomplished and what still needs to be accomplished.

An October 1956 document points out that the CIA leaflet rocket will be fin-stabilized frangible plastic missile carrying 28 ounces on leaflets. The ranges are now 1000 or 3000 meters. The rocket will be 27 inches long and 4 inches wide.

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 said about rockets:

The only known recent development in the leaflet rocket field, undertaken by the U.S. Army is a standard dissemination unit for close support of tactical operations. This rocket, designated the T-229 115mm, is equipped with its own launcher, has a range of 1,000-2,500 yards, and can carry approximately 700 leaflets per round.

The Army Joins the Search

The T-133 and T-127 being tested at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina.
Notice the “General Ridgway” caps on the two soldiers. A sure sign of the 1950s.

The Charlotte News of 21 February 1955 told of U.S. Army experiments to produce a portable multi-barreled leaflet launcher at Ft. Bragg. Their first attempt, the T-133 (Golf Bag) was a fiber glass disposable barrel that fired a single rocket. The T-133 was simple to fire and came with a carry strap and a sheet with instructions.

The second attempt, the T-127 was made of aluminum and reusable. The original model had three battery-fired barrels but could be produced with as many as 20 barrels. The barrels could be fired singly, or in a rapid-fire pattern. Each rocket can hold up to 600 leaflets and accurately reach 2,000 yards. The concept was to have a “rocket squad” with its own vehicle that could move close to the front and fire the rockets at the enemy.

One problem with using the new PSYWAR weapon was that with just 600 leaflets per rocket, it would take about 800 rockets to saturate a large front. One aircraft can do that in seconds.

Vietnam War – Hanoi Propaganda

As far as we know. The United States did not use propaganda rockets during the Vietnam War. We have never heard of the North Vietnamese or Viet Cong using rockets, but according to a recent newspaper they did so. 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. In addition to preparing and issuing this equipment and studying the installation of military proselyting loudspeakers in vehicles, officers of the Enemy Proselyting Department also provided training to infantry, sapper, artillery, and armored units in how to fire leaflet rockets and leaflet mortar rounds.

During the long years of the resistance war against the Americans to save the nation, one of the most outstanding achievements of the Enemy Proselyting Department was its direct involvement in writing scripts and coordinating with the Voice of Vietnam, Liberation Radio, etc. for Puppet Proselyting, American Proselyting (in English) and Korean Proselyting (in Korean) broadcasts over the radio. The department directly participated in directing and running Liberation Radio Station A; organized the establishment of Radio Station T14 to broadcast and to relay broadcasts of military-enemy proselyting programs; designed and made various types of equipment such as high-powered loudspeakers, hand megaphones, etc.; wrote propaganda contact and provided guidance to units in how to carry out various types of military-enemy proselyting, such as distributing leaflets, letters, stamps, books, newspapers, posters, and films and firing leaflet artillery rounds and leaflet rockets.

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North Vietnamese Propaganda Leaflet Rocket

The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum has a North Vietnamese propaganda rocket on display in the Rockets and Missiles exhibition at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA. It was a modified standard artillery type solid fuel rocket. Most likely, the rocket had a very short range of a mile or less but was sufficient to scatter small sheets of propaganda messages urging U.S. troops and allied South Vietnamese troops to surrender, written in both English and Vietnamese.

The North Vietnamese Leaflet Rocket 520D

I found an American Intelligence translation of a North Vietnamese document about a leaflet rocket. The instructions are confusing, and we do not know how accurate the translation is. I have not copied the entire 5 pages of instructions. Some of the data is:

Weight of the rocket: 13 kilograms
Weight of the leaflets: 1 kilogram.
Maximum range: 4,600 meters as a firing angle of 45 degrees.
Bursting point for dropping of leaflets: I,300 meters above the ground.
Maximum velocity: 330 meters per second.
Duration of flight before dropping leaflets: A maximum of 30 seconds at 45 degrees, a minimum of 4.3 seconds at 27 degrees.

The rocket must be contained in an aluminum tube with a booklet on instructions on the use of the rocket. Preparations for assembling leaflets. Take the rocket out of the box. (Do not tear the tail fins). Separate the front rocket from the chamber containing leaflets. (It is not necessary to remove the cartridge fuse). Remove the upper piston and cardboard covers from the rocket. Remove the propellant charge bag. Roll up the leaflets for insertion into the chamber. The leaflets should not be crumpled or longer than the leaflet chamber. Insert the roll of leaflets into the leaflet chamber. Leaflets must be dry and rolled in cylindrical form. The diameter of the roll of leaflets is almost equivalent to the diameter of the rocket chamber containing the leaflets. The roll of leaflets must be the same as the length of the chamber. The leaflets are Wrapped with two sheets of wrapping paper and one or two coats of cardboard paper. To keep leaflets from being torn when firing, the portion of cardboard paper is on the end of the roll of leaflets, near the warhead (wrapping paper and cardboard paper are in the box containing the rockets).

Control the electrical source and the wiring system on the launching stand. Connect the two additional wires onto the cam (situated at the left leg of the launching mount). Turn the crank of the firing device. Connect the two ends of the additional wires and press the button (on the firing device). The sparks produced on the two additional wire ends show that the electric tension is strong enough for operation. (The voltage must be nine to 12 volts if dry-cell batteries or accumulators are used.).

The rocket must be placed on the mount with the two edges of the mount flanking it. The two fins of the rocket must be fitted in the grooves of the mount. The propellant must be dry). During assembly, the front portion of the rocket must be turned to the last groove. Before launching the rocket, do not remove the safety pin or fuse cover. Once the safety pin and fuse cover are removed, do not drop the rocket.

15 December 70


In February 2021, thousands of Russian military personnel amassed near the Russo-Ukrainian border, while President Vladimir Putin explained that this was just maneuvers that had been planned much earlier. In September 2021, the Russian troops started to build up once more, with about 100,000 troops surrounding Ukraine on three sides. The United States watched carefully from satellites and said over and over that an invasion was imminent. Most people believed it was political rhetoric because who in this age would want to start a war that could easily escalate? Meanwhile, some NATO countries began to send military weapons to Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized the independence of the two republics in the Donbas region of Ukraine that he had invented and already occupied called the Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic. Russian troops and tanks moved into the region to allegedly keep the peace and “De-Nazify” Ukraine. His argument was like Hitler’s in 1939 when the Germans claimed that the Poles were murdering Germans in the street and needed to be protected. The only thing Putin did not do was dress some convicts in Ukraine uniforms and attack a Russian radio station as a premise to war.

On 24 February 2022, the Russians officially invaded all the Ukraine with somewhere between 150,000 and 200,000 troops, these troops were not well-trained, believed they were playing war games and certainly were not ready for war. Putin not only lied to the world press, but he also lied to his own troops. Many were shocked to find themselves in battle. The Ukraine captured many and allowed them to call home to their parents to tell them they had found themselves in an unexpected war but were being treated well. The common belief was that the war would be over in two or three days as the massive Russian forces easily overran the Ukraine forces. Instead, the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensy decided to stand and fight and basically allowed women and children to leave while the men were ordered to stay and fight. Against great odds, Ukraine fought the Russians for months.

Most Russian propaganda was dropped by aircraft or fired by artillery. At one point they made a short film showing them printing leaflets, packing them in rockets and shooting them at the Ukraine forces. These pictures were all “grabbed” from that film.

Russian Rocket delivery of Leaflets

The Leaflets to be rocketed at the Ukrainian lines
This short Russian film depicts the leaflets being printed, cut, and rolled by Russian technicians.

The actual Rockets being Unloaded from their Crates
Here we see the Longer Rocket Payload Capsule being Removed from the Rocket Body for Loading

The leaflets being rocketed at the Ukrainians
Here the Multiple Rocket Launcher unleashes a barrage of Rockets toward the Ukraine Lines

This has been a very short look at the use of rockets to disperse propaganda leaflets. There have not been many nations that thought the use of rockets was worth the trouble since aircraft can drop so many more leaflets and cover such a larger area. Some propaganda drops from the air can number 10 to 12 million leaflets on a single mission. The author encourages readers with questions or comments to write to him at