SGM Herbert A. Friedman (Ret.) 

In 2009, photographs from this article were featured in the Eugene Liptak booklet: Office of Strategic Services 1942-45, Osprey publishing, Oxford, UK, 2009.

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Office of Strategic Services Document mentioning Operation Sauerkraut

I have previously written about Operations Cornflakes, a psychological warfare campaign waged by the United States Office of Strategic Services (OSS) Morale Operations (MO) section in Rome during WWII. Operations Cornflakes was designed to drop German mail sacks containing subversive material in carefully addressed envelopes inside the Reich near shot-up enemy trains. The same people in the 2677th Regiment of the OSS (Provisional) who were involved in the Cornflakes operation were also preparing propaganda for use in Operation Sauerkraut, a plan to use captured German prisoners of war to distribute Allied propaganda behind enemy lines. In fact, many of the leaflets that I have depicted in the Cornflakes article were also used in the Sauerkraut campaign. The data below is from a large number of official Sauerkraut documents in my possession and from personal interviews with some members of the Rome OSS team.

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The Official OSS “Story of the Sauerkrauts”

The OSS regularly produced these booklets for visiting Congressmen and those that held the purse-strings in Washington D.C. Another such “publicity booklet” is “The Story of Cornflakes, Pig Iron and Sheet Iron,” all Rome Morale Operations campaigns. Some of these booklets were found in wartime OSS housing in Rome after the end of WWII.

The Sauerkraut story begins on 20 July 1944 when the German generals attempted to assassinate their Fuehrer, Adolf Hitler. Just hours after the first reports of the attempted coup, MO Rome was busy devising ways to capitalize on the news from Germany. The OSS identified the situation:

The attempted assassination of Hitler provided an unusual psychological moment to attack the morale of the German Army if appropriate propaganda could be circulated without delay.

Ordinary methods of infiltration via aircraft drops were not considered speedy enough. Several members of the OSS staff had been meeting with “friendly, trustworthy” German prisoners over a period of several months attempting to determine their political views. The implementation of the program was defined:

Passing agents directly through the front lines to distribute freshly-conceived rumors, leaflets, fake orders and ‘official’ proclamations, as well as longer-ranged arousers of homesickness such as fake Germans women’s ‘lonely hearts clubs’.”

The 2677th Regiment OSS (Provisional)

The Regiment was not activated until July 1944. Headquarters of the 2677th Regiment OSS (Provisional) was originally established at the former Fifth Army Detachment base in the palace at San Leucio, near Caserta, with complete responsibility for all OSS operations from the Mediterranean into France, Italy, the Balkans, and the Middle East. It was authorized 476 officers and 1,498 enlisted men. Under the new 2677th Regiment, activities were channeled into three main efforts - to southern France, up the Italian mainland, and toward the Balkans. Four OSS Companies, A, B, C and D, were established. For better communication with OSS Bern, a Swiss Desk was established at Regiment headquarters in July 1944. At the time of the Sauerkraut operation the Regiment was headquartered in Rome.

We know that the Morale Operations Sauerkraut unit was part of Company D of the 2677 Provisional OSS Regiment based near Siena, Italy. We know there were 3 officers, one enlisted man and three civilians. All used code-names that were very close to their real names, sometimes just a letter or two different. The team members came and went so it is impossible to say with any accuracy who they were but reading secret coded reports seems to imply that the officers were; First Lieutenant Jack Daniels; a Major Dewart; Captain Erik Anderson, and finally First Lieutenant Arthur Tritsch who seems to have commanded the unit at some point.

The enlisted person is more difficult. We know that Private Barbara Lauwers of the Woman’s Army Corps was a member, but they may have put her in a different category as a female WAC member. We know there were a Sergeant Alfio Durso who also acted as a printer and a Corporal Glass who also acted as a driver. A Sergeant Ring is also mentioned in one report so at least three of the four people we mention here are obviously the enlisted personnel of the team.

I only found three civilians so these names could be accurate. We know Eddie Lindner for sure, and a George Carpenter and Broch de Rotherman are also mentioned. We assume these were the three.

The Morale Operation seems to not have been well-supported. Documents show that Edward Warner, the Chief of MO complained about his inability to get people transferred to his unit and to get them promoted once transferred. He found that several of the people sent to him were temperamental and a constant source of worry over their complaints and “prima donna” attitudes. He complains that since his organization was formed, they had received none of the supplies they requested. Included in the requests was radios (he had none), miniature printing presses, and electrolytes. He actually tells higher headquarters:

It is urgently requested that Washington keeps closer touch with such requests as mentioned above and see that the requirements of the field are taken care of and taken care of promptly, or else that reasons are stated for the failure to fill such requests.

Perhaps we should take a moment to talk about Morale Operations in general. The concept of Morale Operations is mentioned in Ann Todd’s book: OSS Operation Black Mail – One woman’s covert War against the Imperial Japanese Army, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD, 2017. The author tells us about the people involved and the expectations of their propaganda:

They were not elite soldiers poached from the regular armed forces or movie stars who flocked to OSS in search of adventure and the chance to make a difference. MO brought in a wave of artists, journalists, and people who were deeply familiar with the languages and cultures of far-flung parts of the globe. Creative types. Professionals, many too old to enlist but eager to join the war, preferably “over there.” They would learn the art of black propaganda. Their job was to bend all their creative energies to destroying the morale of the Japanese soldier, as well as his family back home, infecting both with defeatism and a burning desire to end the war. The goal was to deceive and trick the enemy into surrendering, thereby saving many lives on both sides.

MO had its own unique requirements, first and foremost a willingness to toil at something for which there would be no rewards, not even intangible ones. The battle to demoralize the enemy never concluded with clear victory or defeat, and rarely was there any indication an operation had achieved a desired result. Additionally, the practice of deception was viewed askance by everyone else involved in the war effort. MO was unsavory in the eyes of the military, government, and Allies, but none of this mattered because it was valued by one person: William J. Donovan.

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The Prisoner-of-War camp at Averso

Within two days after the assassination attempt, on 22 July 1943, Major Dewart and Corporal Lauwers departed for the prison camp at Aversa, near Naples. They recruited sixteen agents within 24 hours.

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The prisoners on their way to Siena, Dewart and Lauwers behind in an automobile

The 16 POWs were released into OSS custody and placed on trucks for Siena. Less than four days after the plan was first thought up, on 25 July, three teams of agents were sent behind enemy lines.

The German agents started out as a small group and grew as more agents were needed and some were removed because of various security worries. Linder mentions 20 German agents in his final report but that does not mean that they all saw action.

A 19 December 1944 report mentions the equipment that each team member carried. I note:

Proper identification and passes
Berretta pistols and German rifles.
Forty rounds of ammo each.
American compasses.
Italian and Swiss watches.
3000 pieces of printed Morale Operations propaganda.
2300 to 7800 lire in all denominations.
German steel helmets, uniforms and field equipment.
Italian cigarettes, matches and stationery.
First aid packets.

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The Lonely Hearts Club leaflet designed by Corporal Barbara Lauwers
Note the badge at lower left to be cut off and stuck on a soldier’s glass

Eight faked field post letters in the German language were produced by the OSS in Italy. They were printed in Rome between the summer of 1944 and the spring of 1945. The total number of forged field post letters that were printed in Rome is indicated in an OSS production report. 287,000 copies were produced in the period between 15 July 1944 and the end of the war. Of these, 257,232 copies were reportedly distributed, an average of 32,000 copies of each letter. This “lonely hearts club” leaflet is in the form of a field post folded letter.

This letter allegedly originates from the Verein Einsamer Kriegerfrauen, (VEK) (“The League of Lonely War Women”). This message attempts to destroy the morale of the soldier in the field by making him believe that his wife, girlfriend or sister was having “patriotic” casual sex while he was fighting at the front. The text is:

Summer 1944

Dear frontline soldier!

When will you have leave again?

When will you be able to forget your arduous soldier’s duties for a while, for a few days of joy, happiness and love? We at home know of your heroic struggle. We understand that even the bravest gets tired sometime and need a soft pillow, tenderness and healthy enjoyment.

We are waiting for you:

For you who must spend your leave in a foreign town; for you whom the war has deprived of a home; for you who is alone in the world without a wife, fiancée or a flirt.

We are waiting for you:

Cut our symbol from this letter. In every coffee shop, in every bar near a railway station, place it on your glass so that it can be clearly seen. A member of our VEK will soon contact you. The dreams you had at the front, and the longings of your lonely nights, will be fulfilled... We want you, not your money. Therefore, you should always show our membership card (to anyone who may approach you). There are members everywhere, because we women understand our duties to the homeland and to its defenders.

We are, of course, are selfish too – we have been separated from our men for many years. With all those foreigners around us, we would like once more to press a real German youth to our bosom. No inhibitions now: Your wife, sister, or lover is one of us as well.

We think of you and Germany’s future. Which rests – rusts.

League of Lonely War Women.

The League of Lonely War Women was the creation of Women's Army Corps (WAC) and OSS Morale Operations agent Corporal Barbara Lauwers. The operation was so successful that the Washington Post was fooled and ran a story on 10 October 1944 entitled, “German soldiers on leave from the Italian front have only to pin an entwined heart of their lapel during furloughs home to find a girl friend.” The newspaper got the story from a circular that was captured on the Eighth Army front. The circular had been written by Lauwers and carried behind German lines by the Sauerkraut agents. The Central Intelligence Agency website says about this operation:

Lauwers was the only woman on the staff and was credited with inventing the “League of Lonely War Women” campaign, which sought to demoralize German soldiers with the belief that any soldier on leave could get a girlfriend by wearing a paper heart pinned to his lapel. The heart was the League’s symbol that appeared on a leaflet distributed to the Axis troops. If a soldier wore the heart symbol, a member of the League would approach him and offer her companionship. The goal of the campaign was to undermine Axis morale by insinuating that the soldiers’ wives or girlfriends were being promiscuous or unfaithful to them.

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Corporal Barbara Lauwers
(OSS Morale Operations Italy)

Barbara was a native of Czechoslovakia and spoke a number of languages fluently. Her code name was Zuzka. She graduated from the Masaryk University in Brno with a doctor of law degree. In 1941, she came to the United States and served for eighteen months in the Czechoslovak press relations office. On 1 June 1943, Lauwers became an American citizen. A few hours later, she joined the U.S. Army and was sent to Florida to begin training. After completing basic training, she was sent to the Women’s Army Corps officers’ school in Georgia. It was there that she was singled out for special service. Lauwers and two other women left immediately for Washington, D.C. Only upon arrival [in Washington] they were told that they were assigned to the OSS. Immediately she went through intensive indoctrination and was told:

Work and keep quiet about it, mind your own business and don’t ask questions, be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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Lauwers is awarded the bronze Star

Lauwers’ first overseas station was in Algiers, Algeria. She later served in Rome for the duration of the war. Corporal Barbara Lauwers was decorated with the Bronze Star for her black operations work for the OSS.

While assigned to interrogate prisoners a German sergeant bragged about the great number of Czechs and Slovaks that were assigned the worst missions in the German Army. She prepared leaflets in both languages which said in part:

Shed this German yoke of shame, cross over to the partisans.

The message was distributed via leaflets and a BBC broadcast to Northern Italy. It worked. Six hundred Czechoslovak soldiers crossed the lines to the Allies, many of them carrying Lauwers’ leaflets in their pockets. The success of this operation earned Lauwers a Bronze Star, which was presented to her on April 6, 1945 by the MO chief in Rome. Lauwers said about her award:

I was told to put on my uniform and a little bit of lipstick and when we marched out, I was called to step forward. Chills still run down my spine when I think about it.

In the Summer 2002 issue of the OSS Society Newsletter Lauwers mentioned meeting OSS Director “Wild Bill” Donovan (edited for brevity):

The Regimental Headquarters in Algiers was blessed by an unexpected visit of its supreme commander, General William “Wild Bill” Donovan. In his honor our Colonel Eddy organized a social. Since there were not enough ladies in the area, he sent a sergeant to our billets and summoned all the OSS/WACs to the gate where he picked five of us. He ordered us to re-don our uniforms, shine our shoes, and be in the truck PDQ!

We were dropped off at the Colonel’s villa (known as Foxhole One) and joined the party. I stepped out on the terrace where several handsome OSS officers were milling around our distinguished guest.There he was in uniform with a pistol in his hand aiming at a target across the ravine beneath the terrace. Bang! Bang! But the target, a metal ring shape, remained silent. Suddenly the General looked in my direction, stepped forward, handed me the pistol and half invited, half ordered me with a twinkle in his eyes:

“Try your luck, Soldier!”

Well, why not! I took the .45 pistol and turned my feeble eyes haltingly in the direction of the target. Slowly, I pulled the trigger and what do you know? The target responded. Bull’s Eye! I was not the only one surprised, amazed, and much impressed. I swallowed hard, returned the pistol to the General, and quickly made a perfect about-face. For a while thereafter my buddies called me “Sharpshooter.” 

In 2006, Barbara Lauwers wrote a brief explanation of the
Morale Operations mission for the OSS Society Newsletter.

In 2010, some of the data in this section on Barbara Lauwers was used in the production of a Department of Defense sponsored TV broadcast by the American Forces Radio and Television Service entitled “American Heritage: American Patriots.” Her last married name was Barbara Podoski.

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OSS print shop displaying examples of their black propaganda

According to the Shadow War against Hitler, Christof Mauch, Columbia University Press, NY, 1999:

The plan that Company D hatched the night of July 21, 1944 was surprisingly simple and seemed to solve all outstanding problems at a single stroke. As agents for the covert actions, it would not be OSS or military people who would be recruited, but rather German prisoners of war. An idea concocted by the philosopher Frederick Burkhardt and the Austrian aristocrat Oliver von Schneditz [code name Oliver Rockhill], two Research and Development agents working in Italy. It did not take long to come up with a name for the new OSS project. We wanted to give the operation a title name that would be very German and at the same time widely understood. I think it was Eddie Lindner's idea. "How about Sauerkraut? The Germans are called Krauts anyway." Sauerkraut seemed absolutely appropriate for the operation.

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The OSS print shop prepares leaflets and gummed stickers

Now was the time to strike. While two members of the team departed to the prison camp at Aversa, near Naples, to select candidates, other members were hard at work producing a series of tactical leaflets to take advantage of the situation. The first was a special order of the day declaring that Field Marshall Walther Von Brauchitsch had taken control of Germany. Other leaflets called on German troops to take revolutionary actions, and a special edition of the Allied black newspaper Das Neue Deutschland was printed.

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Das Neue Deutschland

Meanwhile, Captain William T. Dewart and Corporal Barbara Lauwers had recruited sixteen German prisoners who volunteered to act as American agents.

The concept of secretly sending Americans behind the wire in prisoner-of-war camps was apparently not that uncommon. In 2011, I was contacted by the family of Technical Sergeant (T3) Werner A. Bloch, who they believed was in the OSS during the war. Bloch was a German-Jewish refugee who arrived in the US in 1939 and was drafted into the US Army in 1940. He was fluent in French and Belgian and his native language was German so he was assigned to Intelligence duties. His record shows that he was assigned in both Sicily and Rome with the military occupational specialty of Intelligence non-commissioned officer (631). He told his family that during the war:

I was often dressed in a German uniform and placed in a stockade of recently captured prisoners where my mission was to strike up conversations to establish which ones were candidates for coming over to our side. Once they were selected and volunteered, I identified myself and interrogated them to glean more information.

German Equipment Room of the OSS Clothing and Equipment Office

We have no pictures of the equipment room in Italy where these soldiers were dressed, but we do have one from the equipment room in London. I assume they were similar. This is the German Equipment Room of the OSS Clothing and Equipment Office. It contains a small but complete stock of enemy clothing and weapons. All clothing is fitted to the individual agent to eliminate any possible cause for suspicion. During the last 6 months of 1944 they equipped 314 agents.

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Special Documents Prepared to Substantiate the Agent’s Cover Stories

Back at Operation Sauerkraut, another OSS officer named Ed Lindner prepared fake credentials and gathered uniforms and weapons for the agents. The German prisoners were driven to Rome, and by the time they arrived on 23 July, the propaganda literature and leaflets were prepared and waiting. The teams were moved close to the front lines at Sienna. While the men were issued their uniforms and weapons, Ed Lindner schooled them on their cover stories and supplied them with documents and currency. The teams were well equipped with uniforms, credentials, weapons, compasses, matches, and miscellaneous items. They were issued money, Italian cigarettes, matches, stationery, and first aid kits. Each POW carried from 2300 lire to 7800 lire in mixed denominations. Three teams of three men each were scheduled to cross the lines at the Arno River and then be on their own. They were to penetrate as deeply as possible, placing leaflets and proclamations on trees, buildings, into trucks, and scattering them on the streets.

Author John Lisle who has studied the OSS told me about the forging of documents in the London OSS office. Although I doubt the Sauerkraut crew did quite as many documents, they certainly did those that were required to keep their agents alive if questioned:

Among the documents that they most often forged were passports, discharge forms, ration tickets, railway passes, driver’s licenses, and travel papers. Each document had to look completely authentic, down to every minute detail, from the hue of an ink to the texture of the paper. Even the photographs had to match specific style of their supposed country of origin. For example, the German Army had a rule that photographs on identity documents couldn’t show a person’s right ear. Arthur Velleman, a Documents Division worker with an exceedingly sharp eye, wrote to someone who submitted pictures in the wrong style, “If you want us to use these pictures we will do so on your responsibility.”

Passports were among the most difficult documents to forge. For the best results, the workers in the Documents Division took an authentic passport—usually obtained from a prisoner of war or scavenged from a dead body—removed the writing and filled in the blanks with fake information. But even that was a cumbersome process. To remove the writing, they first blotted the passport with a mixture of potassium permanganate and sulfuric acid. Once it turned brown, they treated it with a solution of weak oxalic acid until the writing disappeared. The blank passport was now ready for new writing. If the workers used an ink that was too opaque, they would have to repeat the entire process.

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OSS Counterfeit Nazi Party Dues Stamps

Notice at the far right of the photograph above some stamps are depicted. The OSS in Rome was forging Nazi Party dues stamps to be placed on their Party membership cards. Having one or more of the Sauerkraut agents being a card-carrying member of the Nazi Party can only have helped their efforts to be accepted by any German military Police they ran across.

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At the Front Eddie Linder prepares documents using improvised implements.
We see the forged Soldiers ID book, fake NAZI rubber stamps, etc.

The charcoal sketches in this story were prepared by German Sauerkraut agent Willy Haseneier. Haseneier was captured 4 June 1944. He was in the Wehrmacht for 22 months, stationed in Denmark and later Italy where he made maps for the German High Command. He spoke English quite well and was interested in motion pictures. He claimed to have never been a NAZI and while in Denmark he actually helped the underground with propaganda posters and stickers.

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Self-portrait by Will Haseneier

An artist and graduate of the Düsseldorf Art Academy, we was used by his OSS handlers to forge identity papers, passes, credentials and signatures. On his own he kept a pictorial record of all the Sauerkraut team and various actions that occurred before and during a mission. At the end of the war he worked for the Allies producing visual aids for the Nurnberg trials. He immigrated to Hollywood after the war and found fame as "Will Williams," illustrating book covers, comic books, movie posters, and portraits of actors. Ironically, some of his drawings were called "the secret agent series," a subject he was very familiar with.

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Eddie Linder (Eddie Zinder)

Declassified documents show that Edmund Friedrich Linder was an Austrian born in Vienna 11 May 1908. His father was an American citizen working for Republic Steel in Cleveland, Ohio. After the Germans entered Austria, Linder first went to Switzerland and later Belgium while awaiting papers to allow him to enter the United States. He tried to join the American military but was turned down as an alien. He was cleared to join the British Pioneers. He eventually joined the American OSS assigned to the Algiers MO section 1 August 1943. An October 1944 letter to the Chief of Morale Operations describes Linder using his code name and says in part:

Eddie Zinder, Austrian, is now applying for American citizenship...Eddie is a remarkably versatile young man, having written many leaflets, the song “Wie Lange Noch,” acted as a doctor at various times and is the supreme master of briefing, preparation of documents and preparing prisoners of war for infiltration.

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Wie Lange Noch – How Much Longer?

This Eddie Zinder leaflet depicts a hairy foreign worker in bed with the wife of a German soldier at the front. The text is:

How much longer will these foreigners disgrace our women?

Readers might be confused by the various spelling of this agent’s name. Understand that although he was born “Linder,” he adopted his father’s Paul Americanized name “Lindner,” and the OSS used the code-name “Zinder.” In all the correspondence I have seen the names are used interchangeably, so I have followed that pattern and used the name that appears in a specific document when talking about a specific campaign.

All the teams returned safely two days later. Some of the men had penetrated as far as three miles behind the German lines. They reported that they had disseminated the propaganda and German soldiers were eagerly reading the literature. They also brought back intelligence about defensive positions and German military movements. As a result, the Fifth Army G2 (Intelligence) requested that more teams be sent behind the lines.

The Story of the Sauerkrauts, an OSS booklet printed in Rome in May 1945 gives a brief description of the operation. Some of the comments are:

Unimpeachable credentials were vitally important. Special documents had to be prepared to substantiate the agent’s cover stories. After the operation started, the Germans made frequent changes in their documents and it was necessary to check and duplicate these changes. Although the agents were accosted by German Military Police on many occasions, there was only one instance in which their credentials were questioned. A special department was set up so that the documentation could be completed in the field. A wide variety of official rubber stamps were manufactured in Research and development in Rome. Every conceivable kind of insignia had to be located. Uniforms were completed down to the last detail. Hose of a wrong color might give a man away and destroy the entire operation. Weapons had to be supplied.

In regard to the training of the men the report says:

Each man was interviewed thoroughly and tests of his character were made. As each was accepted, a complete record of his past performances and his qualifications was entered in the files. The men were trained in the use of the German light machine gun, explosives, map reading, and the operations of American and German vehicles. They practiced the dissemination of MO material and their cover stories.

The files on some of the men are interesting. Let’s look at one. Hans Tappert was a 33-year old Protestant who spoke five languages. His family was persecuted and his father was shot by the Nazis. His mother was placed in Bochum penitentiary for anti-Nazi activities. She was later moved to Finsterwalde Concentration Camp where she died and was cremated in 1937. Tappert was tried three times for anti-Nazi activities. He was jailed for 18 months in 1934, but was still drafted into the Wehrmacht in 1940. He was confined for 6 months that year and then was sent to Greece. In 1943 he was court-martialed again and sentenced to 18 months. After six months he was let out and was sent to the Italian front. He immediately deserted to the partisans and later surrendered to the Americans. He took part in Sauerkraut missions 2 and 3.

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Der Oesterreicher

Clayton D. Laurie mentions the black newspaper Der Oesterreicher in The Propaganda Warriors, Clayton D. Laurie, University Press of Kansas, 1996. He says that it was purported to represent a resistance group and sought to split Austria from Germany by portraying the former country as a Nazi-occupied nation. The Sauerkraut teams also carried Italian-language newspapers such as Voice of Italy and Voice of the Patriot behind the lines.

We know that the Germans soon became aware of the American activities because they began lighting their frontlines with flares. They had not done so previously.

The OSS semi-monthly report of 3 August 1944 says in part:

The bomb attack on Hitler was exploited as rapidly and extensively as possible by MO.

Two bogus leaflets, printed on captured German Feldpost forms were prepared and disseminated.

For the first time – it is believed – German deserters were used for the infiltration of enemy lines. A group of 14 [there was fear of double-agents among the group and some were returned to the prison camp] was recruited, briefed, and given MO material, and headed for the front within 48 hours after the bomb assault.

Additional printed matter in the form of three more leaflets not yet off the press was prepared and will be ready in a day or so.

Just as in Operation Cornflakes, the printing was done by Corporal Egidio Clemente, a master printer who supervised the OSS presses.

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Forged German military identification booklet

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The sticker shows a broken swastika and says: Freedom! Peace!

The Office of Strategic Services offices in Rome produced hundreds of different “pin-prick” gummed labels as part of their mission to destroy the morale of the German people and military and to make the Nazis believe there was a vigorous underground movement in their midst. In the past I made a collage of such leaflets (I have about 100 of them). Most of these labels had short messages, sometimes with an illustration, and they were all meant to be stuck on tables, walls, mirrors, etc.; wherever the Germans congregated so they were daily reminded of the folly of the war and the evils of the Nazi regime. Some of the short messages on the gummed labels are:

Die for Hitler?; Freedom! Peace!; Nazis out; One people: Austria; one Empire: Austria, No Leader!; Peace on Earth not peace under the Earth; Later is too late; Away with the (Swastika image), Peace still today; The last cartridge for the [swastika]-bigwigs; Hitler´s death – Germany´s life; Volkssturm = SOS of the SS: [swastika] this is the enemy!: [burial cross] you?; [cross with helmet] you?; You are fighting for the party, not for Germany!; Down with the [swastika]; Shit; End the war!; and Germany 1939: “people without territory…” Germany 1945 territory without people?

The Sauerkraut printed material was prepared in two qualities; very good or very crude. There is a reason for this. The documents, hand-stamps, Nazi Party dues stamps and identification papers that the agents carried behind the lines had to be perfect. They had to pass inspection by the German military police. At the same time, the leaflets, gummed labels, and posters had to look crude. The plan was for the German soldiers to think that there was an underground anti-Nazi movement that existed all around them. If the stickers on the wall were too good, it would be apparent that they were of Allied origin. As a result, many of the leaflets had the appearance of crudely mimeographed sheets that had been produced in a basement on a hand-cranked machine.

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Some Sauerkraut Leaflets ready to be carried across enemy lines

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Ten Commandments for Austrians

Notice that one of the leaflets in the collage is entitled Zehn Gebote für Osterreicher (“Ten Commandments for Austrians”). This leaflet was also used in the Cornflakes operation. The text of the leaflet is:

Ten Commandments for Austrians

1) YOU SHALL never forget that your home is Austria and not "Ostmark" or Pan-Germany. ["Ostmark" was the name of Austria within the Third Reich].

2)YOU SHALL NOT make common cause with the Nazis, the traitors and oppressors of Austria, the blasphemers and war profiteers.

3) YOU SHALL clearly be aware that you have only one enemy, the parasitic Germans of Hitler’s Reich, and that everyone who fights against the Third Reich contributes to the liberation of Austria and is, therefore, your friend.

4) YOU SHALL NOT prolong the suffering of our home by contributing to the continuation of the senseless war which is already lost, be it through your combat service in the Wehrmacht or through your work in an office or a factory.

5) YOU SHALL, contrarily, strive for shortening the murderous war with all your strength: When you are in the army, avoid active service by simulating illness and surrender at the first opportunity. The free Austria needs you as a living Austrian, not as a dead "Ostmärker". When you are working, then escape work by letting your boss know that you are sick and sabotage wherever you can the total murderous mission of the Germans.

6) YOU SHALL NOT deny your wish for freedom and your love to your home in fear and faintheartedness of the shameful hangman’s assistants of the Gestapo. Time has come to proceed to action!

7) YOU SHALL prepare the day of the liberation by starting right now to write down the names of Nazi criminals and exploiters from the Old Reich, to make clear who will be fired and who will be hanged.

8) YOU SHALL NOT obey the orders of party functionaries or Nazi authorities. The majority of these orders just lead to a further enslavement of our homeland and bring death and misery to us Austrians.

9) YOU SHALL do everything you can to strengthen and disseminate the wish and will for the liberation of Austria among your relatives and friends, and you shall join the existing resistance groups or form such ones yourself.

10) YOU SHALL NOT say "Heil Hitler" but revive the good old Austrian greeting "Grüss Gott" ["God be greeted"], and you shall always think of Austria’s liberation and independence!


Sauerkraut mission ONE took place on 25 July 1944. Eight Germans crossed the lines in three teams. Two teams returned on the 27th and reported completion of their mission. They had witnessed enemy troops reading the MO material, including an 8-man SS patrol which read the leaflets, discussed them and then put them in their pockets. One team could not cross the lines because the German lit up the area with flares. There was some doubt on behalf of the American forces about the use of POWs on spying and propaganda missions. American intelligence suspected a spy among the group and three men were returned to the prison camp and another three put under surveillance. There was also an alleged accidental shooting of an American soldier. None of this is detailed in the reports but it was over five weeks before another mission was sent across enemy lines.

Sauerkraut mission TWO took place on 7 September 1944 when seven German agents in three teams were sent behind the lines northwest of Florence. Their mission was:

To disseminate specially prepared black propaganda material throughout their itinerary, placing special emphasis on bivouac areas, installations and vehicles. Material to be placed on the sides of buildings, fences, and trees when possible. Material to be left lying on the floor in buildings likely to be used as headquarters and installations by retreating front line troops. Material to be left lying on the ground and attached to trees and bushes in any places likely to be seen by troops. If possible, material to be posted in public places in any towns entered.

The teams all returned safely and reported on the German defenses in their sector. This was published on 10 September as an intelligence bulletin and contained such data as:

A battalion of the German 4th Parachute Division is ill-clad, poorly fed (no rations in the past three days) and believed that the war was lost.

A German artillery unit in L’Isola has so little ammunition that they can only fire after telephone permission from the Division Commander.

Two tiger tanks and three light tanks are hidden in a group of four houses by crossroads L-712098.

At the same time, they reported leaving MO propaganda in a German medical station. Other material was planted on the walls of the medical station, inside officer’s quarters, in supply trucks, storage warehouses, and in six ambulances left unattended. Some leaflets were placed in unguarded Tiger tanks, and in a mechanic’s tool kit.

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SS Officer reads the MO proclamation
Willy Haseneier gives his impression of the German’s officer’s reaction to the propaganda

Sauerkraut mission THREE took place on 2 October near Florence. Three teams were involved, now bearing the names, “Ada,” “Marie,” and “Rosie.” This time the agents on their way to Bologna ran into German SS troops while placing propaganda on a tree near Route 64. A German officer read the literature, realized it was anti-Nazi and alerted his men. A firefight ensued and the “Marie” team reported killing from three to seven of the enemy. MO took advantage of this incident and prepared a leaflet that said, “Street fighting provoked by SS men against troops of the Wehrmacht.” That leaflet was infiltrated on 8 October. MO also started a rumor to be carried by the agents that Hitler had been caught at the Swiss border trying to flee Germany. In addition, other rumors were that Field Marshall Albert Kesselring was either wounded or had tried to commit suicide, and that maps found on a Russian pilot shot down near Vienna showed local areas suitable for massed landings by airborne forces.

Once again, all items of MO material given to the team for distribution were placed as directed. The success of this mission caused the Fifth Army to request that the operation be broadened, and another twenty German prisoners were brought into the program.

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Merkblatt fur kriegsgefangene deutsche Soldaten

Explanatory leaflet for captured German soldiers

(To put in the pay book!)

1.) Keep your soldier’s honor by behaving respectably in captivity and strengthen thus the respect of the enemy for you and the German army!

2.) You must only tell your a) name b) military rank c) day and place of birth d) home address. Nobody can force you to tell more!

3.) Answer to all further questions just with this sentence: "I do not know this!"

4.) Consider always that every further statement is treason. And Treason is murdering comrades!

By the end of October the German prisoners were being treated like honored guests and a building was put aside for them in the Fifth Army sector. Reported problems were clothing and operational enemy equipment. As the project grew there was need for more uniforms and more military materiel. The OSS was also trying to open a “second front” with another holding area for German prisoner-agents in the Eighth Army sector. Lack of transportation seems to have been a major problem. The unit had few trucks at its disposal.

By 15 November 1944 the MO section was feeling quite confident in their Sauerkraut operation. The Fifth Army German holding area was complete. The area had its own mess hall and rationing system, supply room, and administrative detachment. Agents had been recruited, screened, and in some cases replaced. A German supply dump was found and with it rifles, bayonets, mess-kits and helmets. Italian-language leaflets were delivered for use against the Monte Rosa Division immediately after it had appeared in the front lines in the Fifth Army’s sector. A “black list” leaflet of wanted war criminals was printed and delivered. There is a printed comment from a partisan leader that these "black lists" were very powerful tools and often kept the fascist leaders insides their homes for weeks after the leaflets were placed in the center of Italian towns.

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A final briefing and study of the MO leaflets before the mission
The team gets to see the anti-NAZI propaganda they will be disseminating behind the lines

Sauerkraut mission FOUR was made up of 3-man teams “Sylvia,” “Lou,” and “Texas.” They went behind the lines on the nights of 21, 22 and 23 November northwest of Florence. The teams were to split up and reconnoiter the towns of Zocca, Vergato, Sestola, and Pievepelago.

Their instructions were to disseminate MO material among German troops, place posters and leaflets wherever it might be suitable, in and around military installations, bivouac areas, supply depots and in German vehicles. The teams returned to San Marcello on 26 November. They reported that the propaganda had been distributed along Route 12 in the area of Abetone and along Route 64 near Bologna and Vergato. They gathered tactical intelligence on mined areas, artillery emplacements, and identified an Alpine Division. The Sauerkraut teams were rated successful since:

The teams proved thoroughly reliable as agents. Their equipment, provide by Moral Operations, stood the test of an inspection of credentials by enemy military police.

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MO Toilet Paper
The finder is told to wipe his butt with the Fuehrer: Use this side

Sauerkraut mission FIVE consisted of a three-man team code-named “California.” It was to pass through the lines on 30 November, proceed through Bologna, Vergato, Casatechio, Riale-Rivabello-Montepassore and Cereglio-Vergato. It would disseminate MO material, carry out intelligence assignments, report on German morale, and pass the following rumor:

Himmler found a “doppelganger” (double) for Hitler for the purpose of presenting that man as Hitler himself. The Fuehrer has disappeared and it is possible that he is dead, seriously ill, or that he fled to some foreign country like Switzerland or Argentina.

The team returned safely on 3 December. Their after-action report states that they left MO special toilet-paper in latrines and in bars on Route 9. The OSS produced a number of different types of Hitler toilet paper, all showing the Führer in embarrassing poses or with crude text attacking the Nazi Party.

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MO Toilet Paper

There are several versions of the toilet paper, some with pictures, and some with just text. This piece of paper has the German-language message:

Comrades! Stop this shit! We do not fight for Germany but only for Hitler and Himmler. The NSDAP led us this damned way but now the bigwigs are only trying to save their own skin. They let us die in the mud; they want us to hold out until the last bullet. However, we need the last bullets to free Germany from this SS-shit. Enough! Peace!

By 19 December the Sauerkraut teams were being used to check the “exactness and accuracy of details to be employed in writing MO material.”

Sauerkraut mission SIX was made up of the two-man team “Utah” and infiltrated on 23 December. The two German agents were armed with a Schmeisser submachine gun, two Beretta pistols and a Mauser 98 rifle. Its mission was to spread propaganda material among newly arrived troops, discover the morale of the German troops, and determine the units of the troops. It distributed seven pounds of MO material around Marzabotto Mission in cars, houses, trees and milestone markers. It reported on the location of the 16th SS Division, the 267th Regiment of the 94th Division, and elements of a parachute division. The parachute troops were reported to have low morale because they were unhappy being attached to and commanded by infantry officers. The team returned safely on 25 December.

Sauerkraut mission SEVEN was a two-man team called “Idaho.” It was infiltrated by II Corps on the night of 23 February, and sent back a carrier pigeon with the message that it had safely crossed the lines. The team’s route was Santa Maria, Castel D’Aiano, Villa D’Aiano, Zocca, Vignola and Vergato. It identified German units, artillery, hospitals, dumps, and defenses. MO material was spread along the route and placed in empty farmhouses where German soldiers sleep. MO gummer sticks were placed on trees and walls when the opportunity permitted. They were given a meal by a German noncommissioned officer that consisted of noodles, tomatoes and donkey meat. It was so bad they quietly threw it away.

Sauerkraut mission EIGHT was a three-man team called “Vonita,” infiltrated on 25 February. It was to travel along highway 64 south of Vergato and proceed to the town of Montese, spreading propaganda all the way. The team returned safely on 28 February.

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Sauerkraut Agents enter the Swollen Arno River under fire

Sauerkraut mission NINE was a three-man team called “Ohio.” It crossed the lines on 26 February, proceeded to the area of Zocca, and all but one man returned safely on 1 March. The agents were armed with a Schmeisser submachinegun, Beretta pistols and the Mauser 98 rifle. Besides their false documents they were issued 8600 Italian lira. The only admitted fatality of a Sauerkraut agent occurred during mission nine. The team's cover story was that they were from the 232nd Infantry Division stationed near Zocca. Upon their return, MO agent Gustav Preuss was missing. The team members reported that he had been captured. A 2 May 1945 letter from Ed Lindner to the Chief of the MO Branch on the subject of the agent's death says in part:

A recent report from Mr. Halama states that he interrogated a German prisoner, Major Neubauer, who happened to be present at a German police station when our agent was brought in by a patrol. Our agent was in possession of credentials which were issued to him by us under the name of Gustav Schalk. His German soldbuch showed that he belonged to one of the German units in Italy. The German MP telephoned the respective German unit listed in the agent's soldbuch in order to check with the company commander.

The agent tried to escape and was wounded by a shot in the abdomen. Major Neubauer does not believe that Preuss will live. However, he was evacuated to a German field hospital in Modena.

A German document showed that the soldier who captured our agent, Candidate Schmitz, 1st Company, 194 AT Battalion, was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class by Major General Steinmetz, the Division Commander

There was a Sauerkraut mission ten but I have been unable to obtain any record of the results.

Sauerkraut mission ELEVEN was a two-man team called "Pennsylvania." Its mission was to cross the lines near highway 64 towards Vergato. As always the team would spread MO material, check the morale of the enemy troops, identify the opposing units, and discover and mark the location of gun emplacements and fortifications. It infiltrated 18 March and returned on 21 March.

This team did exceptionally well. The agents met a pair of German soldiers who wanted to defect but were not sure where the Americans were and were afraid to surrender without a safe conduct pass. The Sauerkraut agents brought the two Germans back across the lines and turned them over to the American prisoner-of-war authorities. The team distributed their MO material as it traveled, posted flyers on walls and trees, put some in an ox cart, and covered the back of a military bus that carried German troops from Tole to Casalecchio. They were told that 90% of German Army transport in Italy consisted of horses, oxen and mules.

They were told that German troops were being read a statement and ordered to sign it. It was directly from Hitler and said:

Soldiers who are taken prisoner in other than large scale engagements will be considered deserters, and their families will be held accountable.

There were two more Sauerkraut missions before the operation was cancelled. I believe the last mission was number thirteen.

The story of the fate of the German agents does not reflect pride on the United States Army. The agents were promised preferential treatment but were eventually returned to the POW camp where they received no special treatment and were shunned by their fellow prisoners because of their contact with the Americans.

Ed Lindner fought with the American headquarters about the German agents. He wrote a report that pointed out that their status should have been "alien civilians" and not prisoners of war since they had been released to the OSS. He tried to get the agents paid for their services but was told, "Extra compensation for POWs is not looked upon with favor by this headquarters." The Sauerkraut agents never received any pay for their services. A request for an allowance for recreational purposes was denied. When Lindner wanted them released as alien civilians he was told "No, they are prisoners of war. Return them with men and adequate guard to Caserta." This was a shameful act on the part of the American military forces. They used these men, put them behind the lines at great personal risk, made promises to them about preferential treatment, and then tossed them back into a POW camp when they were no longer needed. Lindner stated, "None were put on his feet by OSS or even helped in his return into civilian life. Something could and should have been done for these men, who did an outstanding job for the OSS."

It is hard to determine if the Sauerkraut agents were better or worse off than their comrades who stayed in the prison cages. It is true that they lived better in the OSS compound, certainly ate better food, and apparently were able to have occasional sex with local Italian girls. On one occasion, one POW smuggled a note out and managed to sneak three local girls into the villa. The Americans were not amused. All of the prisoners were punished by being sent back behind the wire. At the same time, they were in a very unclear status. They were no longer considered prisoners of war, appeared on no official records, and were not employees of the OSS or United States government. They received no payment, not even the small stipend given to prisoners of war, and received no mail or Red Cross parcels as did the most ardent pro-Nazi POW.

According to international law the holding power is responsible for the protection and safety of prisoners of war and expressly forbidden to put them in danger. It is illegal to send them into dangerous or life-threatening situations, so the OSS was clearly in violation of the rules of warfare. The agents were all made to sign waivers that stated clearly that they were volunteers and willing to go behind the lines. Military lawyers thought that this would protect the United States from lawsuits should the prisoners ever bring their case before an international court. All is fair in love and war, and an Army will do what is needed to win, but the Sauerkraut agents were an OSS embarrassment in 1945 and quietly returned to the prison camp and forgotten.

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  GumGermany1939.jpg (320422 bytes)  GumHerunterMitDem.jpg (110961 bytes)

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A group of MO propaganda gummed labels

The Office of Strategic Services offices in Rome produced hundreds of different “pin-prick” gummed labels as part of their mission to destroy the morale of the German people and military and to make the Nazis believe there was a vigorous underground movement in their midst. In the past I made a collage of such leaflets (I have about 100 of them). Most of these labels had short messages, sometimes with an illustration, and they were all meant to be stuck on tables, walls, mirrors, etc.; wherever the Germans congregated so they were daily reminded of the folly of the war and the evils of the Nazi regime. Some of the short messages on the gummed labels are:

Die for Hitler?; Freedom! Peace!; Nazis out; One people: Austria; one Empire: Austria, No Leader!; Peace on Earth not peace under the Earth; Later is too late; Away with the (Swastika image), Peace still today; The last cartridge for the [swastika]-bigwigs; Hitler´s death – Germany´s life; Volkssturm = SOS of the SS: [swastika] this is the enemy!: [burial cross] you?; [cross with helmet] you?; You are fighting for the party, not for Germany!; Down with the [swastika]; Shit; End the war!; and Germany 1939: “people without territory…” Germany 1945 territory without people?

There is only one written record of a Sauerkraut agent being killed on a mission. However, I interviewed an individual who was aware of a dead German being found virtually unmarked on the side of an Italian road. He believed that the soldier had been killed by the concussion from a nearby blast. In the German’s knapsack were a pile of gummed stickers and propaganda labels that indicate that this was a Sauerkraut agent carrying MO material behind the lines. Some of the crude stickers show a burial cross and the word “Du?” (You?), or a gallows with the words “Hitler, Himmler an den Galgen,” (“Hitler, Himmler at the gallows”). Others have such messages as "Bigwigs in clover, Soldiers in the mud," "Later is too late," "Nazis out," "Home," "Piss off!," "Freedom! “Peace!” and “Die for Hitler?” There were also postcards from the “War Mothers Group” and faked bombing notification forms. In all, there were several dozen different types of propaganda.

There is no official mention of this individual, but since it is expressly forbidden to place prisoners-of-war in danger, the U.S.A. might have just decided that this poor fellow never existed.

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War Mothers Group Feldpost card

This propaganda Feldpost card is a good imitation of a genuine patriotic card showing ME-109s on the front. The back is inscribed in facsimile handwriting in Gothic script which was still frequently used in Germany during the war. At the bottom right there is an emblem that represents the seal of the “Ring der Kriegermutter” (War mother’s group). The OSS wanted the finders to believe that there was an organized group of miserable, lonely mothers who asked their sons in the field to desert or surrender. The poor handwriting is meant to convince the finder that a simple, uneducated woman wrote the card. The message is:

At home, in the sixth winter of the war.

Dear sons in the field!

Now that Germany has become a battlefield, we mothers have joined together to beg your help. After five years of struggle against overwhelming enemy power you have done more than your duty. Today, the war is lost and the enemy is within our country! We are abandoned and helpless – do not leave your mothers alone in the hour of danger! Come home!!! The mother is your nearest!”

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Volkssturm - Schwere Panzer Feldpost Postcard

Another black postcard is a parody attacking the elderly Volkssturm called to service to protect the Reich in the last days of the war. There is no inscription on the address side of this card. The reverse features a caricature of two obese women on roller skates. Both wear armbands with a swastika, and little hats with a flower or a flag. The lady at left carries a broom as a weapon; the lady behind her has an umbrella. The inscription on top reads "Volkssturm" (People’s Resistance), and at the bottom "Schwere Panzer" (Heavy tanks). The postcard ridicules the German attempt of autumn 1944 to mobilize military power by conscripting children and elderly people. On September 25, 1944, Hitler called all male individuals between the age of 16 and 60, who did not already serve in the Wehrmacht, to arms.

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OSS Artist Saul Steinberg with his colleague Barbara Lauwers
in the OSS Morale Operations office, Rome, 1944.
The Saul Steinberg Foundation

One of the artists who worked in the OSS Morale Office in Rome was Saul Steinberg of The New Yorker fame. Steinberg drew the Schwere Panzer postcard. In official papers such as the Semi-Monthly Report, M.O. Section, Period 15-31 July 1944 Steinberg was never given a code name or a duty. It simply said “Lt. Saul Steinberg, USNR.” Steinberg did not go behind the lines or deal in black operations so there was no need for a code name. He was a “floater” who did illustrative work as needed such as flyers, postcards and covers for song sheets allegedly from anti-Nazi organizations.

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Artist Saul Steinberg’s drawing of the OSS Morale Operations Leaflet Packing room,
from “Collection of Cartoons Produced by MO Artist Lt. (jg) Saul Steinberg.”
NARA, Washington, DC, RG226, E99, Box 40, folder 6.

Although Romanian by birth, Steinberg had escaped from wartime Italy in 1941. He had a diploma from the Reggio Politecnico, but under Italy’s new anti-Semitic laws he was identified as “Saul Steinberg, of the Hebrew race.” By 1942 he was working for the Office of War Information and was soon commissioned an Ensign in the Naval Reserve working for Intelligence in Washington, DC. In 1943 he was sent to Kunming, China, and by December he was in Algeria. He was next sent to North Africa and finally to the OSS in Allied-occupied Rome. In September, 1944, he was ordered back to Washington.

Christof Mauch concludes:

Sauerkraut agents discovered the 4th Parachute Division, found the site of German “Tiger” tanks, and determined where infantry divisions were staying. Colonel Kenneth Mann, who led the MO Branch since May 1944 reported that Operation Sauerkraut had been a complete success and that those skeptics who warned that the German prisoners of war would simply dispose of their propaganda material were proven wrong.

Barbara Lauwers recalls that “actually there was no security.” The 16 German prisoners of war recruited for Sauerkraut sat down with two OSS agents in the loading space of a truck. “The sixteen guys could have overpowered those two MPs very easily, sixteen against two, even though those two MPs had guns.” The agents, however, proved “eager to cooperate.”

The Sauerkraut Interim Conclusion

 I have read an interim conclusion written 19 December 1944 after Sauerkraut missions I through IV. It said in part:

The new techniques of infiltrating POW agents has proven successful in spite of skepticism on the part of some OSS and Army officials…Over a period of three months in which some 14 POW agents infiltrated into the lines…No instance of their acting as double agents occurred; Their security was never blown; Instead of dumping their MO propaganda material it was definitely proved that the POW agents took it deep into the lines in some sections and planted it in proper places as evidenced by its appearance on regular POWs and deserters.

The War Report – History of the OSS

Two volumes covering the history of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during World War II were produced in 1949 by the History Project, Strategic Services Unit, Office of the Assistant Secretary of War, War Department, Washington, D. C. The formal title of the report is War Report, Office of Strategic Services (OSS), it is also known as OSS War Report, Washington Organization, and Operations in the Field. These two volumes remained classified "Top Secret" for 53 years after they were completed. Volume 1 covers the organization of the OSS. Volume 2 covers OSS coordinated operations in the field. Looking through the report I see Sauerkraut mentioned several times:

An attempt was made on Hitler's life on 20 July while the rumor campaign was in progress. The attempted assassination gave MO unexpected opportunities. The "black" directive instructed the field to play up in every way the rumor that Hitler had really been killed. Later, the theme that Hitler was dead was abandoned, and Hitler's continued silence was explained by alleging a growing schism within the Nazi Party (Himmler would not allow Hitler to speak), Hitler's flight by submarine to Argentina or Japan, and, finally, the proposal that Hitler was actually insane. These rumors, launched or encouraged by "black" methods, were picked up by Allied broadcasting stations, which gave them increased circulation by speculating on their veracity. MO/ Cairo planted stories implicating Von Papen and other Germans in Turkey in the anti-Hitler plot. MO Rome, through the SAUERKRAUT operations, infiltrated German Prisoners-of-war to plant subversive material, and the German commander in Italy, General Kesselring, was forced to deny authorship of an "official proclamation" posted by these agents in his name.

MO improvised another effective way of reaching German soldiers in each locality at a given moment. The SAUERKRAUT operations utilized carefully screened POW's who were infiltrated in German uniform behind enemy lines. This plan was first used following the attempt of 20 July 1944 on Hitler's life, when MO wished to post a forged military announcement by General Kesselring to the effect that he was resigning his command, knowing that the "war is lost to Germany", and that senseless slaughter would be the only result of Hitler's Last Stand Order. The usual method of agent infiltration by parachute drop was dismissed as too slow for this purpose, and the SAUERKRAUT teams were quickly recruited, briefed, and dispatched. The operation was highly successful, and Kesselring found it necessary on 13 September to deny authorship of the proclamation. Subsequent fakes were equally effective and provoked strong German countermeasures. None of the Prisoners-of-war used in these operations were captured by the Germans nor, so far as is known, were any of them "turned" against MO. In addition to their distribution of subversive material, the agents brought back valuable tactical intelligence. A.C. of S., G-2, Fifth Army, recognized the contribution, requesting that further operations of a like nature be undertaken.

Kesselring was not the only General attacked. The OSS also faked a letter from General Ludendorff:

The so-called Ludendorff Surrender Leaflet produced by Morale Operations was conceived around General Ludendorff's justification for his decision to escape to Sweden in the last hours of World War I, when he stated that, “It is more important to save officer personnel for future wars than to die in a battle that is already lost. Soldiers are easily found but officers are a rarer commodity.” This pamphlet was part of a general program designed to encourage the creation by German forces of soldiers' committees to resist “last stand orders,” to cause disaffection between the SS and the Wehrmacht, the SS and the Luftwaffe, and soldiers and officers. The leaflet purported to be instructions to the officer corps from the German High Command with a notation that it was to be read by officers only, as it might, if read by the soldier, lead him to revolt. It was distributed along the Western Front and was dropped on German troops sparingly (four copies by each pilot) by the 9th Air Force in a routine operation, the effects of which were “black,” since, in the confusion of retreat, the soldier was not likely to realize that the pamphlet was faked.

Operation Ravioli

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OSS Forged Italian Social Republic Ministry of the Armed Forces Personal Booklet

We should mention that there was also an Operation Ravioli that was supposed to be similar to Sauerkraut, but use Italian prisoners of war. This plan seems not to have been a success. The Italians simply did not have the drive of the Germans and failed to achieve much success. There is one early MO comment that the Italian volunteers are “virtually worthless.” In a 5 March 1945 memorandum entitled "Current operations and plans," The status of Operation Ravioli is mentioned. Some of the comments are:

Larry has been busy interviewing three couriers from the Modena area. They are not of first rate character and could not suit our needs for Ravioli but they gave useful information. According to your directives, we prefer to spend a little more time waiting rather than waste it completely with a second-rate job.

Still, the author is optimistic:

From all these contacts it becomes more and more evident that the Ravioli operation will be easy to conduct as soon as we have the right man to handle it across the lines.

A 15-31 semi-monthly report states:

Lt Bruzzese interrogated 5 prospective agents at the Partisan Rest Camp…Colonel Riepe, 15th Army group gave his formal approval for the Ravioli plan.

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This leaflet is one of many that the Sauerkraut agents brought behind to instruct Partisans how to safely disseminate the OSS leaflets. It is entitled “Instructions” and tells anti-Fascists how to hide the source of the leaflets. Some of the text is:


The propaganda continues in this package, created by the actions of the enemies. Do not be ashamed of telling no one the part played by the Allies in the distribution. It becomes more effective when the enemy does not know the source. Keep it secret. To increase the effect and reduce the risks of distribution, it is advisable to spread these leaflets around in a quiet manner, not in mass; otherwise they would seem to have been dropped by airplanes Let them fall sporadically, as if by chance, where it's easy to notice them. It is up to you to find the ways and places.

Ravioli mission ONE was finally completed when three Italian partisans were sent behind the lines in Fascist uniforms on 14 April 1945. They were to proceed to Castelnuovo and disseminate MO material among Republican fascist troops, in and around military installations, bivouac areas, supply depots, vehicles and road houses. Their orders were to distribute propaganda and gather intelligence on enemy strength and return on 17 April. The team got nervous and instead of waiting for their guides to arrive and night to fall, decided to return the American lines in full daylight. The Germans opened fire with mortars and machine guns thinking that they were Italian Army deserters, but the three agents returned safely, if breathless. As a result, a decision was made to send partisans in civilian clothes across the lines and hold off sending agents in Italian uniforms until “some later stage in the campaign.”

The American in charge of the Italian operation seems to have been a Second Lieutenant Larry Bruzzese. He apparently never lost confidence in his agents. Of course, they were “his men” so he may have grown close to them. He says that the problem was that the Italians had turned against the Fascists and the Partisans would attack them on sight. He says in part in a 20 April 1945 document entitled Complete Report on Ravioli Operation No. One:

Mission: Disseminate MO material among Republican Fascist troops at night, in and around military installations, bivouac areas, supply depots, vehicles and road-houses…Contacts by the team with enemy Fascist troops were made impossible because the front sector was abandoned by the enemy, the few Fascist troops that were still there were confined to artillery positions, and Fascist troops are not allowed to circulate except in full formations led by an officer.

Bruzzese concludes that the uniforms were a hindrance and not an asset:

Due to the easier access and greater freedom employed by partisans in that particular front sector and in the immediate rear lines, we contemplate to send the next team of agents in civilian clothes as Partisans.

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An OSS forged Envelope to send Propaganda from

The National Fascist Federation of Craftsmen: the Provincial Secretary of Siena.

Both operations are mentioned by Clayton D. Laurie:

The Sauerkraut and Ravioli missions exemplified perfectly the willingness of the OSS leadership to use whatever means were necessary to defeat the Nazis since these operations were in violation of the 1929 Geneva Convention and the U.S. Army Rules of Land Warfare, both of which applied to the OSS. William Casey was a major proponent of using expendable POWs for MO work and for equally dangerous SO and SI missions. He assured OSS member J. Russell Forgan of the full cooperation of the U.S. Army's provost marshal's office, which had guaranteed the OSS an unending supply of POWs.

This ends our brief look at the Sauerkraut operations. It was a very daring use of enemy prisoners to distribute propaganda and gain intelligence for Allied forces. It was extremely successful and would have certainly gone on to greater successes had the war in Europe not ended in mid-1945.

Any readers who might care to comment or have additional information are encouraged to write the author at sgmbert@hotmail.com.