SGM Herbert A. Friedman (Ret.)

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A WWII Medical Station

Certain psychological warfare themes are so popular that they are used over and over again. We mention some of them in our other articles; reward leaflets for weapons, the threat of aerial bombing, and mine awareness leaflets to give just a few examples. Another leaflet theme that is popular is the attempt to convince an enemy that through malingering, pretending to be ill or causing an injury to yourself, you can survive the war in a comfortable hospital while your buddies fight and die at the front. This theme first became popular during WWII when all the warring sides prepared leaflets telling the enemy how to feign sickness. The Axis powers were open about their propaganda and dropped them from aircraft over Allied troops, while the Allies were more circumspect and most of their malingering leaflets were “Black” leaflets or brochures that pretended to be something else, usually an informative or patriotic publication. This camouflage allowed the German soldier to carry the enemy propaganda without the danger of being caught and possibly charged as a traitor.

The combat medic is required to get injured personnel back on the firing line as soon as possible. Whereas the civilian medic is expected to treat the most severely injured victim first, in combat situations the military medic needs to treat the lesser injured soldier and put his weapon back in action. The malingering leaflet does just the opposite. It attempts to convince the healthy soldier that by using a trick to infer illness he can take his rifle off the line and be sent to the rear. It is obvious that this is an extremely dangerous type of PSYOP, and if successful, could strip the front line of its fighting forces.

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U.S. General Patton Slapped a Soldier
he thought was Malingering during WWII

Combat psychological symptoms have been called shell shock, battle fatigue and PTSD, and they are just now beginning to be fully understood.

It is import to understand that this type of propaganda is a two-edged sword. The primary emphasis is to get the enemy to malinger. However, even if does not, the enemy doctor, knowing about the leaflets and their message is liable to consider an individual that is actually injured to be a malingerer. The lack of medical attention or the forcing of a sick soldier back to the front line will cause a collapse in morale that could be just as valuable as if the soldier followed the suggestions of the leaflet.

The propagandists does not care if the enemy malingers or is sent back to the lines untreated and rails against his own commanders and officers for their lack of care about his health. For the propagandist, it is a win-win situation.

U.S. Army Major Alfred O. Ludwig discusses the problem of malingerers in “Malingering in Combat Soldiers.”

From the military-legal point of view, malingering is punishable under the 96th Article of War. It is usually difficult, if not impossible, to furnish unassailable proof of guilt in such case, and even when the malingerer is convicted and punished he succeeds in his purpose, the evasion of dangerous duty. Practically, the major object in dealing with such cases is to return the malingerer to duty...For the military psychiatrist the detection and management of malingering has an importance much greater than its actual frequency would seem to justify. A few undetected instances of malingering can be highly demoralizing to the troops and destructive of the psychiatrist’s prestige and effectiveness.

The first requisite for the correct diagnosis of malingering is a high degree of alertness. Since psychiatric syndromes are occasionally simulated, it is necessary to be familiar with the various components of the combat neurosis. With sufficient experience it is usually not difficult to differentiate between the atypical behavior of the simulator and the sometimes bizarre reactions of patients with severe anxiety states or hysteria. The simulator is constantly on guard against detection. He makes false or contradictory statements or resorts to easily refuted lies. Sometimes he overplays his hand in an attempt to convince observers that he is really ill. The alarming nature of his actions may sometimes trick the unwary. The patient who is obviously dramatizing should always be suspected. The malingerer is prone to feign emotional disorder, perhaps because he thinks that detection by objective methods is difficult. Amnesia is the most frequently simulated symptom. We have come to look with great suspicion on patients who present themselves with it story of complete amnesia, especially when the usual signs and symptoms of the severe anxiety state are lacking.

The British medical Journal Lancet mentions a German malingering leaflet to British troops

In general, the pamphlet advises, a man must act as if he hated to be ill, stick to one set of symptoms, and “Don't tell the doctor too much!”

Recipes for twelve diseases follow. Samples: “Artificial skin inflammation…Take three times daily…one teaspoonful of a 10% solution of iodine potassium in a glass of water…until a scarlet-like affection of the skin results…Iodine potassium is a completely harmless medicine…

Stomach ulcer. For a number of months you have been suffering of gnawing and burning pains…especially violent 15 to 30 minutes after meals. Heavy foods…fatty meals and greasy foods do not agree with you…The doctor will probably send you to hospital for observation. Very important…At the hospital, take a portion of dried blood powder every evening. The blood test in your stools will be positive.

Heart disease. Smoke 20 to 30 cigarettes a day. But if you normally smoke as much, then you might double that number…Take four [digitalis] tablets daily for one or two weeks… Report to the doctor with the following complaints: You do not feel well and are short of breath after exertions…Occasionally you have attacks of pain in the heart region…There was cold sweat on your forehead during the attack and you had a feeling as though you were going to die…

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German Malingering Propaganda

An entire series of German leaflets used this theme of faking sickness to avoid combat. The German “AM” leaflets were dropped on American troops in Italy starting about January 1945. There are at least thirteen such “AM” leaflets, and there could be more. It is believed that the code stands for Amerikaner medizinische Ratschlage (American addresses, medical advice). In general the leaflets are black text with a bit of bright red color to catch the attention of the American soldier. We will illustrate a few of them and briefly discuss the types of propaganda that is found on others leaflets of this series.

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Leaflet AM1

AM1 depicts a bottle labeled “Laxative” on the front and the text in part:

Tough Going Soldier?

Of course its not your fault. So, why take the punishment? If you’re sick of the whole business, why not try this medicine?


When it has begun to work report to your doctor with the following complaints: Tell him you had a severe attack of dysentery some months ago in Africa, South Italy or some such place with slime and blood in you motions…

Stick to your story at the hospital, and don’t forget to take a laxative from time to time. If you’re clever, you can keep up the game for weeks and months...

The disease is amoebic dysentery; but for Pete’s sake, don’t tell the doctor that, let him find out for himself.

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Leaflet AM2

Leaflet AM2 depicts a mosquito on the front and the text is part:

Malaria mosquitoes sting after sunset.

Mosquito – what will happen if he bites me?

Why, you might get malaria if you don’t keep on eatin’ those goddam pills that upset your stomach all the time.

So what?

Why, after five or ten days you develop a little bit of shakin’ and a little bit of fever…

How often are you gonna repeat that?

Oh, two, three, five, six times, well, until the doctor cures you with his qui-nine or ten tablets…

One of the interesting aspects of this mention of quinine is that there were also black leaflets that implied that quinine would destroy the soldier’s sex urge forever. It was hoped that in order to preserve their libido, some soldiers would refuse to take their issued pills, thus making them susceptible to malaria.

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Leaflet AM3

AM3 is one of the most interesting leaflets considering the current attack on smoking across America and the Western world. Fourteen soldiers are depicted on the front of the leaflet with four being covered by a red “X.” The text is in part:

Your war risk amounts to 37%, which means that more than one third of all men seeing action on the European Continent will not return home.

The back gives some hints about how the soldier might avoid combat:

Smoke 20 to 30 cigarettes a day. Get hold of digitalis tablets…and take four tablets daily for 1 to 2 weeks…Report to the doctor…you do not feel well and are short of breath…you have attacks of pain in the heart region…the doctor will probably have an electrocardiogram done, which as a result of digitalis will show typical signs of disease…

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Leaflet AM4

AM4 depicts a man driving a woman in car (curiously, the man drives from the right side so the Germans might have got confused and thought of a British highway). The text is in part:

Death or Life – which is your way?

The following suggestions may help you avoid becoming a dead hero!

Directions for producing the symptoms of yellow jaundice.

Get hold of 30 to 40 digitalis tablets…eat a lot of chocolate…do not clean you teeth or rinse your moth for a number of days…take one gram of picric acid…the skin and white or your eyes will become yellow…


Leaflet AM5 front

Leaflet AM5 depicts and American soldier on the front. The text is in part:


And an illness is sometimes a life insurance.

The leaflet has been folded to make four sides. It opens to depict three illustrations of arms and legs and various places where pressure can cause a temporary paralysis. Examples are:

Before going to bed wrap a round stone, eraser or short piece of rubber tubing in gauze tissue and fasten firmly to exert pressure on spot “X” (where your funny bone is located…when a sufficient degree of paralysis has resulted report to a doctor

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Leaflet AM5 back

The back page depicts a bended leg and the text in part:

You can produce the same effect on the lower limbs with a bandage around the knee…

Remember: The most important thing about a war is to come back home alive!

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Leaflet AM6

Leaflet AM6 Depicts a clock on the front and an open mouth on the back. This leaflet explains that by putting silver nitrate, yellow mustard and a pinch of gunpowder in your throat you can show all the signs of a sore throat. 

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Leaflet AM7


Leaflet AM7 depicts an American Eagle wearing a helmet on the front and the text in part:

Just a few more weeks - then it will be over!

Is one of the last shots fired in this war going to kill you?

The text on the back tells the American soldier to find “Thyroxine” tablets which will push the pulse rate up to over 100 beats a minute. Tell the doctor of nervousness, weight loss, inability to sleep and sudden temper tantrums and you will be taken off the front lines.

Leaflet AM8

Leaflet AM8 depicts the Statue of Liberty and instructions on how a soldier can use animal blood mixed with his food to cause major stomach problems. It explains how to prepare a powder from the animal blood, exactly what to tell the doctor at the hospital about your symptoms, and if by some accident they send you to the front, to have a relapse. 

Leaflet AM9

Leaflet AM9 depicts an American dollar bill on the front and mentions how much money the profiteers are making at home. It advises soldiers to develop a cough by smoking 20-30 cigarettes a day that simulate tuberculosis. If asked for a sputum sample, the soldier is advised to mix in a drop or two of his own blood.

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Leaflet AM11

Leaflet AM11 depicts a soldier on the battlefield holding what looks like an M1 carbine. This leaflet advises the American soldier how to simulate eczema. Some of the text is:

Scratch surface of skin with edge of a piece of glass so that red lines and scratches , but no bleeding results…grind up roots and bark of daphne tree(see illustration below) and extract juice by pressing out thoroughly…report to doctor when skin affection has developed sufficiently…



AM12 front

Leaflet AM12 depicts an American soldier with his M1 rifle over his shoulder. The text on the front is:


AM12 back

The leaflet opens to depict a syringe and instructions on how the soldier can give himself a urinary infection. 


Leaflet AM13

Leaflet AM13 depicts a spoon full of medicine on a cemetery covered with crosses. The text is:


When opened, and on the back page, the leaflet depicts various places that a soldier could shoot himself with the least chance of doing permanent damage. There are narrations of six alleged soldiers who used this means to avoid combat. An example is:

N. N. shot himself through the muscle group of his right shoulder 2 – 3 inches below the bony ridge of the shoulder bone…he used a regulation German Army pistol and German ammunition…

The Germans also used matchbooks to disseminate malingering propaganda. Issy Pilowski says in Abnormal Illness Behavior, John Wiley & Sons, 1997:

The information was dropped in what appeared to be books of matches but which actually contained information printed on a long strip of thin paper, which folded up concertina-style into the covers of the match book. On this strip were found detailed instructions on how to simulate conditions such as angina, active pulmonary tuberculosis, and a neurological lesion causing “foot drop”…produced by placing a small stone or pebble over the neck of the fibula and tying it firmly in place with a rolled up handkerchief or some other piece of cloth.

Pilowski mentions one case where a number of tankers showed up at “sick call” with a condition similar to the “foot drop” symptom; a weakness in the right foot. The doctor’s immediately suspected malingering knowing of the information that had been dropped on the troops. Further investigation determined that all the men were tank gunners who sat in a cramped position with boxes of ammunition pressing against their leg. The soldiers were found to have an injury caused by their duty, and were medically treated rather than charged as malingerers.

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Japanese Malingering Propaganda

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It is Dangerous to Read the Following

Paul Linebarger mentions Japanese malingering propaganda in Psychological Warfare:

One of the favorite targets of black propaganda is the malingerer. Suspicion of successful malingering inevitably hurts the morale of a unit. Even if the enemy’s instructions are not followed, the troops may suspect genuine psychoneurotics of having faked their troubles. Almost all participants in World War II issued such instructions. This is a Japanese leaflet from the Philippines, 1944-1945.

The front on the folded leaflet depicts a beautiful girl reading a letter and the text: PLEASE DO NOT OPEN. The back depicts a claw-like hand. When opened, the leaflet is entitled: IT IS DANGEROUS TO READ THE FOLLOWING, and contains 13 paragraphs that contain various hints on how one might be medically diagnosed as neurotic. Curiously, the Japanese never tell the soldier to use any of the methods or even recommend that the soldier act in a cowardly way. The paragraphs tell him what not to do. Of course, they hoped that the finder would realize that by reversing the message and acting in the ways identified, the soldier might be hospitalized and be one less that the Japanese would have to face on the firing line. Five of the thirteen Japanese hints are:

Don’t pretend lunacy. Your surgeon will detect such deception and you are sure to be tried by court martial. Or, if you succeed in passing as a lunatic, you will be invalided home without any more chance to rejoin your comrades at the front.

Don’t fall into the habit of glancing sideways at your comrades-in-arms. Your surgeon dislikes such a habit, as it predicts the approaching menace of neuroses.

Don’t eat your own excrement or drink your own urine in the presence of others. If you do, you are sure to be branded as a lunatic, however warmly you may protest.

Don’t mumble the same words immediately after you have spoken them. If you practice it repeatedly, your surgeon’s verdict will inevitably be neurosis.

Don’t imitate an epileptic fit. If you practice it for three days you will certainly have a real one. Then you are on your way to lunacy.

The same leaflet is mentioned by Barak Kushner in The Thought War – Japanese Imperial Propaganda, University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, 2006. I suspect that Kushner never saw the actual leaflet because he says in part:

Americans caricatured Japanese wartime propaganda…They considered the English language propaganda the Japanese produced as inept…One Japanese leaflet, for example, had a beautiful nude woman on one side and on the other listed thirteen “dangerous action.” The leaflet had such outlandish content and so many grievous spelling errors that it probably became the butt of many platoon jokes…This leaflet was directed toward Allied soldiers in Southeast Asia and Australia.

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British Malingering Propaganda

The British produced a great deal of malingering propaganda booklets and brochures. They were usually disguised so that officers and non-commissioned officers would not identify them in the hands of their troops.

I am going to illustrate a few such items but should point out that the expert in this area of British black propaganda is my good friend Lee Richards. Lee is in the process of writing a book on the subject and already offers a booklet that depicts and translates some of the British malingering propaganda. He says:

In 1942 the "black" propaganda section of the British Political Warfare Executive (PWE) produced the first in a range of disguised booklets designed to assist would be malingering German soldiers and munitions workers to fake illness to avoid military service or compulsory factory work. The most famous version was called Krankheit rettet – “Illness Saves by Doctor Do-Good.” The booklet informed its reader how to simulate a multitude of illnesses and diseases from a simple throat infection to life-threatening tuberculosis. It has been translated and reproduced for readers and historians with 21 illustrations. More information on this booklet is available at

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Disguised British Malingering Booklets
(Courtesy Lee Richards –

Researcher Lee Richards found a wartime Top Secret document to the Chiefs of Staff, SHAEF, outlining covert propaganda techniques being applied in support of Operation Overlord. It is entitled REPORT ON SPECIAL OPERATIONS DURING “OVERLORD” It is several pages in length but I will just mention the comment on malingering:

The enemy appears to regard as most dangerous a handbook on methods of malingering which has been printed under various disguises. An order from the High Command warning against this document and expressing concern at the spread of malingering among the troops is in our possession.

Sefton Delmer was one of the stars of Britain’s propaganda campaigns. After leaving university he was recruited by the Daily Express to become head of its new Berlin Bureau. While in Germany he met and became the first British journalist to interview Adolf Hitler. In the 1932 German election Delmer traveled with Hitler on his private aircraft. During this period Delmer was criticized for being a Nazi sympathizer and for a time the British government thought he was in the pay of the Nazi regime. The Nazi leaders were convinced that Delmer was a member of the British Secret Service. He reported on the German western offensive in 1940.

Delmer returned to England and worked, for a time, as an announcer for the German service of the BBC. In September 1940 he was recruited by the Political Warfare Executive (PWE) to organize black propaganda to Nazi Germany. Delmer said about malingering leaflets:

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Krankheit rettet
(Courtesy Lee Richards –

Similar thinking underlay our handbook teaching Germans how to malinger and trick their doctors into granting them a spell of sick leave. We had got this up in a number of different disguises, as a German Navy handbook on Physical Training, as a Hymn book, as a railway time-table, as an almanac and even as a straightforward paperback with the title Krankheit rettet . . . von Dr. med. Wilhelm Wohltat (“Sickness Saves you by William Benefactor, M.D.”).

One disguise which appealed to me-as a non-smoker was a wafer-paper version which was packed inside a well-known German make of cigarette papers for smokers who “rolled their own.” In the P.T. handbook, as in the Hymn book and the time-tables, the first few pages were identical copies of the German original. In the cigarette packets too, the first papers were genuine cigarette papers. It was only when you got further inside all of these “covers” that our “health instructions” made their appearance.

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Krankheit rettet – Inside pages
(Courtesy Lee Richards –

The techniques for malingering which we recommended had been specially devised by the late Dr. J. T. McCurdy of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, a wise old one-eyed Canadian. McCurdy's peace-time job was to practice and teach the healing of mental illness. Now he reveled in applying his expertise against Hitler's Germans in the reverse.

Dr. McCurdy laid down two fundamental rules for malingerers. Firstly “the malingerer must give the physician the impression that here is a patriotic citizen, dedicated to his duty, who has the misfortune to be ill, despite himself.” Secondly the would-be malingerer must never tell the doctor that he is ill, that he is suffering from some specific disease, or volunteer symptoms.

“One single symptom,” said the handbook, “which the doctor has discovered by his own questions, is worth ten which the patient has volunteered.” Then the booklet proceeded to enumerate the symptoms the patient should allow the doctor to discover in examination. It classified these symptoms not by illness, but by what kind of a leave was desired by the patient, whether he wanted a short respite from duty, a longer one, or whether he wanted to be exempt for the duration of the war.

“Our purpose in preparing this little booklet,” I explained to the officers “is twofold, as in the case of the sabotage stickers. On the one hand I hope it will stimulate malingering among the Germans, on the other hand I hope it will cause German doctors who are warned about the handbook, as they are bound to be, to suspect malingering where there is in fact no malingering. I have high hopes that right now they are sending genuinely sick men and women back to duty, possibly even to spread infection, because they believe their symptoms have been faked up with the aid of this unspeakable fellow Dr. med. Wohltat.

My underground clients loved it. Alas, things did not turn out altogether as I had intended. For the German authorities were so impressed with the potentialities of Dr. McCurdy's handbook that they had it translated into English and shot it into the British and American lines. This German-made English version of our opus even outlasted hostilities. Copies of it were fetching a good price in London's Soho right up to 1952. For Britain's new Welfare State had put a premium on the wisdom it purveyed.

Ellic Howe, the PWE forger who actually produced most of the malingering booklets for Sefton Delmer talks about them in The Black Game, Michael Joseph, London, 1982:

H.312 – Malingering booklet (ballistics edition). It was originally published as H.270 “Instructions for Sport in the German Navy.” There were at least 20 other “editions,” each with its own deceptively innocent cover design: miniature hymn books for Roman Catholic and Protestant soldiers, Belgian railway timetables, pocket guides to Oslo, short stories by well-known authors, etc. The text was translated into French, Flemish, Italian and Norwegian. It was also printed as single sheets on very thin Bible paper which were inserted into “Efka” and other cigarette paper packets and in a different and larger format for insertion into a forgery of the envelope for the official Reich lottery tickets. From the last summer of 1942 onwards the “Malingerer” reached members of the German armed forces all over Europe and occasioned countless denunciations on the part of the military and civilian authorities.

The “Malingerer” concept was originated by Dr. John McCurdy, Delmer’s psychological advisor, although much of the text appears to have been written by Rene Halkett, who had at one time briefly studied medicine. He tested many of his prescriptions for simulating illness on long-suffering guinea-pigs…The text was gradually expanded from 64 to 104 pages and eventually included useful information for foreign workers, such as advice on how to buy drugs at pharmacies without attracting attention, how to alter doctor’s prescriptions and how to forge rubber stamps …also how to distil herbs for producing strange symptoms and so on.

Howe mentions that in 1980 the booklet was reprinted again in Germany and sold to individuals who wanted to make false medical claims for financial support. About 6,000 copies were sold in left-wing bookshops. Since the British had originally prepared the book as a black operation and nobody took credit for authorship, no copywrite laws were broken.

Stanley Newcourt-Nowodwoski mentions the booklet and discusses self-inflicted wound in Black Propaganda, Sutton Publishing, UK, 2005:

An extreme option for soldiers was the self-inflicted wound…Dr. Wohltat gave advice on how to do it without leaving the tale-tale powder burns (fire the shot through a loaf of bread). Judging from the numerous Wehrmacht reports and orders on this subject, malingering, and especially self-mutilation, was quite a problem in some units, in spite of an automatic death penalty for the latter.

Charles Cruickshank mentions malingering propaganda in The Fourth Arm: Psychological Warfare 1938 – 1945, Davis-Poynter, London, 1977. He says in part:

Handbooks for the use of would-be malingering German soldiers had innocent titles on the outside covers, for example, “Pocket Guide to Oslo,” “The Soldier’s Songbook,” and “Ballistic Tables.” Some of these contained phonetic instructions in ten languages to enable the soldier to ask in every occupied country from Finland to Greece for the things needed to fake the malady of his choice…

An order by von Rundstedt said “Recently cases of self mutilation have been increasing on a scale that cannot be tolerated. In future, in all wound cases it must be established whether there is any question of self-mutilation…Moreover, an increasing number of soldiers are suffering from skin diseases. It is learned from enemy propaganda and confirmed by medical specialists that these are caused by injecting petrol which leads to a persistent skin disease. In both types of case the strictest examination must be made; and men found guilty should be summarily tried and shot.”

Lee Richards discusses the malingering booklets in depth in his article at". Some of his comments in regard to the various booklets are:

These manuals were produced in a wide range of disguises and forms. The first edition, (H.270), Sportvorschrift für die Kriegsmarine initially appeared to be a German navy manual of sports hints. The first few pages contained legitimate sports text but then the manual diverted into its more seditious content. Five thousand copies were sent to the Free French for distribution in December 1942 and were soon scattered across most of Europe.

A second version followed in January 1943 with the printing on fine, thin Bible paper of 10,000 copies of a small booklet purporting to be a ballistics manual published by the German firm of Actien-Gesellschaft of Nürnberg, (H.312). Then came a mock French-German phrase book titled 1,000 Words of French with 72 pages of malingering tips, (H.363). Various other booklets with camouflaged covers were produced throughout the war including soldiers’ Catholic Hymn books, (H.547 and H.691); facsimiles of Winterhilfswerk charity songbooks, (H.436 and H.437); a military manual on Troop Hygiene, (H.1298); a Grieben guidebook to the city of Oslo, (H.690), and a Norwegian medical booklet on the prevention of Venereal Disease, (H.1105). SOE’s agents were hugely impressed with another edition in the form of a Yearbook for German Soldiers in the North, (H.766).

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Efka – Pyramiden Cigarette Paper
Courtesy of Lee Richards

I depicted this illustration of forged cigarette paper in my article “Strange Gifts from Above.” My explanation was:

During WWII the British forgery section run by Ellic Howe produced cigarette paper to be dropped on Germany on a number of occasions. These black items were given "H" numbers. Some of those known are H.329 (5000 packs of EFKA cigarette paper), H.381 (EFKA-PYRAMIDEN cigarette paper), H.443 (GIZEH cigarette paper), and H.446 (GIZEH cigarette paper). It is known that in some of these cigarette paper packs, of the 50 sheets, at least 10 were printed with malingering instructions. The British prepared a many such malingering documents telling the German worker or serviceman how to feign illness and avoid work or front-line duty.

Richards continues:

The production of the Efka cigarette paper malingering packet, (H.381), was one of the most awkward and time consuming jobs for Howe [Ellic Howe - PWE Forger and Printer] but particularly appealed to Delmer being a non-smoker. These tiny colorful Efka–„Pyramiden“ packets, illustrated with camels standing in front of the Egyptian pyramids, should have contained fifty sheets of cigarette paper for the German soldier who preferred to smoke a “roll-up”. Instead the packs contained ten sheets of tightly hand-folded Bible paper reproducing the complete malingering text. Delmer originally had the idea in December 1942 of using cigarette packets and cigarette paper packs as camouflage for propaganda and asked SOE to procure examples for Howe to duplicate. By mid March 1943 he had produced 5,000 copies of the Efka pack. These were a perfect item for covert dissemination. Being so small an agent could transport them easily and drop them into the coat pocket of a German soldier or leave on a restaurant table or the seat of a train or tram.  

Another disguise concealed the malingering sheets in a Reichslotterie envelope which should have contained State Lottery tickets, (H.542). The front of the envelope boasted the chance of winning 1,000,000 Reichsmarks but potentially something a great deal more valuable was found within.

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H-47 (A/B/C) - Fighting Songs of the R.W.A.

It wasn’t just personal injuries that were a form of malingering. It was also possible to sabotage your aircraft, vehicle or ship so that you could not go to war. The British prepared a postcard that appears to be a regular German patriotic song card, but instead gives malingering instructions. They produced about a dozen different black propaganda postcards during WWII. This card is one of three black British sabotage postcards featuring pictures of marines or sailors accompanied by the text of a song. Each card has a different song but all are headed Kampflied der R.W.A. / Text H. Nackers, Musik Prof Walther Brandt. (The RWA was the Reichsamt für Wirtschaftsausbau, an authority that supported research & development of chemical technology in Germany. In 1938, the RWA strongly recommended the use of poison gas in a coming war). 700 copies of each card were delivered on 9 April 1942 for dissemination to the enemy. The text is:

Fighting Song of the R.W.A.
Text: H. Nackers
Music: Prof. Walther Brandt

Put sand or water into the lubricating oil.
Mix oil or sea water into the batteries.
Put sand, lubricating oil or steel chips
into the high compressed air equipment.
Put bolts or pieces of metal in the main enginesr
And forget to fasten the screws.


Save the U-boat comrades from certain death!!
Make sure that no submarine will be able to put out to sea,
Or, if this is not possible, force its quick return!

Put needles into the main engines
And make sure that the splint pins get lost
Throw cotton waste into oil tanks and pipes>
And spread sand into them.
Mix the colors in a way that they will not quickly dry
But block up the safety valves.


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Ian Fleming’s Submarine Malingering Booklet

Researcher Lee Richards came across this remarkable booklet entitled “Sport Rules for the Navy” that appears at first glance to show submariners how to exercise and keep in good shape. However, after a few pages, it turns into a British instruction book on how to malinger, make yourself sick and save your life instead of going to sea in a U-Boat. The most interesting part of the story is that along with this booklet, Lee found a 4 December 1942 memorandum from the author of the James Bond books, British naval Commander Ian Fleming. He wanted this book disseminated all over Europe and suggests some methods for doing so. Some of the memo text is:

The latest P.W.E. black booklet containing advice on malingering under the guise of a handbook on physical training is of particular interest to the Admiralty, and the D.N.I. would like its distribution stimulated by every possible means.

2. The only Naval channel (apart from Naval Attaché Madrid who has certain duties in connection with S.O.E.) which might be available is Naval Attaché Stockholm, but we are anxious to avoid having to use him for obvious reasons and also because there should be so many other possible and more effective channels available from Sweden into Germany.

3. It is suggested that an effective channel would be through the N.K.V.D., and we would very much like consideration to be given to the possibility of sending by air mail the necessary matrices of the complete booklet for the Soviet to reproduce and infiltrate through their own channels.

4. We are confident that the excellence of the production will strike them immediately and that they would be willing to co-operate with S.O.E.'s representative in Moscow.

5. A further suggestion is that S.O.E. might use their representatives in Spain for passing the booklet over the Pyrenees to the German troops and thus perhaps to Bordeaux.

6. Naturally the most promising centers of distribution would be the German-controlled French Atlantic ports, and we would join with you in requesting first priority for a consignment to be delivered through N.I.D.(C) if you agree.

7. These are only preliminary suggestions upon which you will doubtless be able to improve, but I am at any rate to request that you will be good enough to give the matter your urgent attention since we regard this particular P.W.E. production as a most effective weapon against U-boat personnel.

8. In the above connection we would, of course, be prepared to make a signal to our relevant Naval Attaches to assist your representatives in any way possible without themselves becoming involved as agents.

The NKVD (People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs) was responsible for mass deportations of entire nationalities and Kulaks to unpopulated regions of the country. The predecessor of the MVD, Feared and hated in the Soviet Union, Fleming wants to use these thugs to help him win the war. Truly, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

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American OWI Black Malingering Leaflet

The Office of War Information in Berne produced a black malingering booklet for the Germans. William Warren Wertz Jr. mentions this malingering booklet in his Master of Arts in Political Science thesis entitled Clandestine Propaganda from Berne (1942—1945): United States Leaflets Subverting Hitler, and says that the OWI used a light, erotic touch in the invitation to malinger. The booklet contains 14 cartoon panels where a young soldier named Gustav Lehmann meets his girl, dreams of her, kisses her, is assisted in malingering by Medical Infirmary Assistant Neumann, fools his doctor and eventually finds heavenly bliss in the arms of his Paulinchen. The story starts with a warning about Private Müller, who faked an illness, was caught and sent to prison. We are told that Müller was stupid, but Gustav is much smarter. He knows “the great crab louse killer” Neumann for many years and goes to him for help. They sit together over pipes and Neuman explains how to fool the doctor, what to say, and recommends that Gustav rehearses. Some of the long and poetic text is:

Gustav Lehmann goes on Vacation

When Gustav Lehmann returned
with identical complaints
eight days later,
Dr. Himmelkloss tried hard
to discover the reason for his misery.

Keen to solve the mystery,
our captain in the medical corps soon discovered the misery,
while Gustav quite modestly and craftily offered
the past history of his symptoms
the piss-pot villain had told him.

So, Gustav fools the medical Doctor with the resultant moral of the story:

The moral of the story is that
when the individual is a villain
he doesn’t need to be really sick
to get his medical leave certificate

Researcher Lee Richards reports that in an attempt to ascertain the effects of its clandestine psychological warfare, the Political Warfare Executive routinely monitored neutral and enemy media looking for comment and reaction to its radio broadcasts, underground rumor-mongering and leaflets. The comments of enemy prisoners of war, captured documents and other intelligence sources were also studied. Any comebacks to PWE propaganda campaigns were circulated to interested parties through the following "Evidence of Reception" reports. The following reports on the British malingering leaflets are mentioned:

October 1943: An encouraging comeback to the Ballistics edition of the malingering handbook is contained in the Swiss paper St Galen Tagblatt (8th October 1943), quoting from an article written by a doctor in a Swiss military paper. It reviews the contents in a complimentary manner, remarking that “for an experienced person it is not difficult to guess from which kitchen this psychologically and medically adroit booklet originates.” Another report says the malingering handbook is being sold to unwilling recruits with the story that it was printed for Party members to enable favored ones to dodge conscription.

December 1943: The Swedish magazine Vecko Journalen has given a complimentary write-up to one of the editions of the malingering booklet. The writer says he received his copy from a member of the German armed forces and describes it as “a malingering handbook for war-weary soldiers and workmen.” He praises the thoroughness of this little publication camouflaged as a harmless French-German dictionary.

May/June 1944: A document dated 5 July 1943 captured from the 165th Artillery Regiment is a reply to a circular letter from the Corps Medical Officer asking Unit doctors whether they have noticed soldiers malingering under the influence of one of our booklets camouflaged as PT Hints for the Navy. While the answer in this document was in the negative, it shows that this edition of the Malingerer, handled only by agents, has been widely distributed.

A secret document, dated 8 April 1944, emanating from the Senior Medical Officer of an Army Corps, gives a detailed summary of a 30-page malingering booklet entitled How shall I keep healthy? It describes the booklet as giving advice and instructions to malingerers “in a very clever form.” [This brochure was prepared and printed by SOE in Switzerland from material supplied by us].

A secret order from the Senior Medical Officer, High Command of the Armed Forces, dated Berlin, 12 April 1944, and apparently addressed to all Senior Medical Officers throughout the three Services, is headed “Demoralization of the Armed Forces by means of self-injury.” The order begins as follows: “Recently there have been repeated cases of the circulation of apparently harmless the Armed Forces for the purpose of causing self-injury. Reports by military and civil police have shown that their use has already reached greater proportions than had been assumed heretofore.” It goes on to give examples of malingering methods, (almost all of them taken from our booklets) and instructs Senior Medical Officers to pay more attention to this problem when examining men reporting sick or presenting themselves for the call-up. It winds up: “The examinations will be carried out with the greatest care so as not to rouse the suspicions of the culprit prematurely. When suspicions are sufficiently confirmed that wounds have been self-inflicted, the case will be reported at once to the army court martial authorities. Some cases have already been tried and the death sentence passed. Proof is considerably simpler to obtain than would appear from the instructions.”

United States Malingering Propaganda

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Work Slowly

We do not find malingering propaganda leaflets in the regular white leaflets produced by the military and Office of War Information. However, there is a black leaflet produced by the Office of Strategic Services in Berne, Switzerland. It is coded 119 and the text is:

Work Slowly - Workers across Europe are working more slowly so that Hitler will die faster!

Work Slowly - We need our strength to beat the Nazis.

Work Slowly - The easier we go, the harder it is for Hitler.

Work Slowly - The slower we work, the faster we get to our destination.

Long live the Fourth Empire and German freedom.

America’s Malingering Propaganda for its own Citizens

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Go ahead, Please – take day off.

Although American malingering propaganda for the enemy was very rare, there is plenty of malingering propaganda aimed at its citizens to keep them working hard. Here is a poster produced by Texaco Oil showing a caricatured Japanese soldier begging the Americans to stay home.

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What are you going to do about it?

The poster was produced by the United States Army and tells of the Japanese murdering of U.S. troops in the Philippines in an attempt to motivate the people to work harder and longer

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This poster depicts the statue of Liberty being stabbed in the back and implies that anyone that takes a day off without cause is a traitor to the United States.


These attempts to convince enemy troops to malinger have gone on since WWII. In almost every major war since, leaflets and broadcasts have targeted the enemy and encouraged them to stay home from work and pretend to be sick or to go to work but work more slowly than usual. And what of today? Is malingering still a problem of the military services? The United States Manual for Courts-Martial says in part in regard to malingering:

Article 115—Malingering

Any person subject to this chapter who for the purpose of avoiding work, duty, or service feigns illness, physical disablement, mental lapse or derangement; or intentionally inflicts self - injury; shall be punished as a court-martial may direct..

That the accused feigned illness, physical disablement, mental lapse or derangement, or intentionally inflicted injury upon himself or herself; and That the accused’s purpose or intent in doing so was to avoid the work, duty, or service, the punishment shall be:

Feigning illness, physical disablement, mental lapse, or derangement. Dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for 1 year.

Feigning illness, physical disablement, mental lapse, or derangement in a hostile fire pay zone or in time of war. Dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for 3 years.

Intentional self-inflicted injury. Dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for 5 years.

This is just a very quick look at the theme of malingering on propaganda leaflets. There are certainly many more such leaflets and publications. As always, the author invites interested readers to write with comments or suggestions to