By David Langbart
Airplanes filled the sky over Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944. D-Day. Some planes dropped bombs; some planes towed gliders; some planes dropped paratroopers; some planes dropped . . . paper. Paper in the form of propaganda leaflets. The propaganda was aimed both at the French and at the Germans.
Two days after D-Day, William Phillips, then working in the U.S. Embassy in London, sent his colleague James Clement Dunn, Director of the Office of European Affairs in the Department of State, copies of several of those leaflets (now found in file 811.20200/6-844 of the Central Decimal Files, 1940-1944, NAID 302021). Two examples of the leaflets follow.
The first example, addressed to the “Citizens of France” by Dwight D. Eisenhower as Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces, informs them that “The day of deliverance is coming.” Among other things, this leaflet states (translated from selected portions of the text):
–We will destroy the Nazi tyranny root and branch, so that the people of Europe are reborn in liberty.
-The courage and the immense sacrifice of millions who fought under the banner of the Resistance have already contributed to the success of our arms.
(Continuing translated text):
-The presence of the enemy among you has imposed the tragic necessity of aerial bombing and military and naval operations that have caused you so much loss and suffering. You have accepted these sacrifices with courage and in the heroic tradition of France, as it was the inevitable cost to which we all had to consent to achieve our goal: liberty.
-I am counting on your help for the definitive crushing of Hitlerite Germany and for the restoration of traditional French liberty.
-Once victory is won and France is liberated from the oppressor, the French people will be free to choose, as soon as possible under democratic methods, the government under which they want to live.
-The enemy will fight with the courage of despair. He will employ all means – no matter how cruel – to try to block our progress. But our cause is just, our arms powerful. With our valorous Russian allies, we march towards certain victory.
The second example is aimed at German troops. The front says “Four Front War” and illustrates the existence of the four fronts: the Eastern front (“Ostfront”), the Southern front (“Sudfront”), the Home front (“Heimatfront”), and the Western front (“Westfront”). Note how the arrow showing the Cross-Channel attack points to Calais, not Normandy, apparently as part of the continuing misinformation campaign aimed at diverting German attention away from the primary landing area.
“Four Front War”
The second page says “East front . . . . Home front . . . . South front . . . . and now West front.” The numbered paragraphs describe the reverses befalling Germany on the three fronts listed. The leaflet closes with:
DISASTER IN THE EAST
DISASTER AT HOME
DISASTER IN THE SOUTH
AND NOW THE ALLIES LAND IN THE WEST
THE WEST FRONT IS OPEN
“Four Front War” reverse
Source and Notes:
William Phillips to James C. Dunn, June 8, 1944, file 811.20200/6-844, 1940-44 Central Decimal File, Record Group 59: General Records of the Department of State, National Archives.
I thank my colleagues Ashby Crowder and Sylvia Naylor who provided the translations of the documents used to prepare this post.