As we discussed in Part 3, the domestic home front became a battle for ideas and slogans as the Roosevelt administration pushed the nation to get ready for war. FDR established the Office of Coordinator of Information (COI), based on the directions of Colonel William Donovan. Col Donovan spent considerable time with British officials, and after meeting with the head of British Secret Intelligence Service, Stewart Menzies, Donovan was convinced the U.S. needed a similar system of centralized intelligence. This would not happen to the extent Donovan initially wanted–he was concerned about creating new agencies that would risk “encroaching on the FBI, Army and Navy Intelligence, or other departments of Government.” Regardless, the decision was made to split the COI into OWI and OSS. Donovan would continue to be the director of the OSS, an instrument in wartime espionage, covert action, propaganda and counterintelligence. Additionally, the OWI still retained the Psychological Warfare Branch (PWB), which also worked to create propaganda against foreign audiences.

Despite being drawn into the war because of the attack by the Japanese Empire, Roosevelt chose to win the war in Europe first, and thus concentrated much of the resources to that theater in the war’s onset. Although America cultivated many ideas from their British counterparts, the British themselves gained much of their military experience from their enemies. It was no surprise that Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy were especially adept at military and civilian propaganda.

Organizations and Agencies

Despite breaking up the COI into OWI and OSS respectively, the OSS was still capable of a multitude of different overseas operations. Propaganda (black) came out of the Morale Operations Branch of the Strategic Services Operations Branch. Created in January 1943, its primary function was to attack “the morale and the political unity of the enemy through… psychological means operating or purporting to operate within the enemy or occupied territories.

OSS chart
OSS Organization Chart |

In general, cooperation between missions and their respective theater officers was scant, hindered in some part by jealously guarding their home turf.  But this cooperation was probably better compared to coordination with the military, who had an initial unenthusiastic response to PSYOPs and Psychological Warfare. This was particularly evident in the Pacific among senior Naval Commanders who, at best, supported minimal ad-hoc efforts. However, by the start of the European Theater, the Army was serious enough to create a Psychological Warfare Division/Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (PWD/SHAEF), using the experiences of the earlier Joint Psychological Warfare Unit attached to Allied Forces HQ during the North Africa campaign. Various other units would be mobilized or reorganized during the entire course of the war, and by no means subject specifically to the organizations mentioned in this article. The situation is best described as “fluid” where Psychological Operations and Psychological Warfare was continually shifted, changed, and formed to better respond to dynamic situations and relative ad-hoc nature of the Allied personnel involved.

Plenty of Extras, so Read All About it

Like the prior world war, leaflets remained one of the most effective and wide scale means of dissemination. Some specialty leaflets were passed off covertly, but most were delivered by conventional military means. The U.S. had a specialty leaflet squadron of the Eighth Air Force based in England that supported both European and Mediterranean theaters, while the Royal Air Force had a similar squadron of bomber aircraft. The Allies first commenced air dropped leaflet operations over Kiel, a Northern German port city, in September 1939. Different methods of leaflet dissemination were used, all with varying strengths and weaknesses: straight leaflet packages, time fuse packages, leaflet drop belly tank, the 300 lb cylindrical Monroe Bomb, etc. By 1944, the M-26 Leaflet Bomb, a frangible propaganda bomb, was developed that could disperse leaflets in a more acceptable and predictable pattern. It also had the advantage of being similar in size and appearance to regular bombs, making for more enthusiastic aircrews when loading. It could also be dropped at any altitude and dispersed with more flexibility compared to earlier methods. There was also a number of specialty leaflet dispersion methods developed specifically for the jungle conditions of Burma and the Pacific theater.

MK 26 Leaflet bomb
Mark 26 leaflet bomb |

The British and French military (and later American) forces continued with strategies from the previous world war and sought to deliver leaflets by mortar or artillery shells. These shells were set to explode in mid-air, showering the enemy troops with leaflets instead of shrapnel. There were some attempts to adapt these to rifle grenades, similar to German efforts, but this method limited the number of leaflets that could be effectively dispersed and did not see any widespread use.

The OSS MO branch clandestinely established printing missions in various localities around the world, often to better create material more conducive to their audiences. This included offices in London, Paris, Stockholm and Bern. Other missions expanded to Cairo, Algiers, Rome, Naples and a litany of other Italian locations. The primary source of activities was anti-Axis propaganda pamphlets and other print material. Some missions also handled forgeries and even printed newspapers for consumption by civilians or enemy troops. One such mission, Operation Cornflakes, dispersed mailbags of fake newspapers and letters into Germany, misdirected to look like they were created by Nazi resistant members.

S.H.A.E.F. Newsletter
Example of S.H.A.E.F Newsletters |

Like WWI, most leaflets were geared toward enemy troops, urging them to surrender. They were initially rebuffed, but as the war progressed and Axis advances were reversed, Allied leaflets became more susceptible to the war-fatigued audiences. A few leaflets also went to great lengths to criminalize and de-legitimize the Nazi Government or ruling Japanese Military Junta, lambasting the rulers and separating the blame from the ordinary citizens and soldiers. Other leaflets told the growing might of the Allied forces, such as highlighting the differences in bombing conducted on both sides with Allies increasing and Germany dropping precipitously. Still, others showed images of death and destruction while urging the recipient Axis soldier to avoid the same fate. Some leaflets were especially timely, when images of bombed-out German cities was used on Japanese leaflets with the accompanying warning: “Don’t make the same mistake as your allied did.”