The OSS Morale Operations (MO) branch produced and disseminated ‘black’ propaganda to destabilize enemy governments and encourage resistance movements at the strategic and tactical levels. OSS Director William J. Donovan believed that “persuasion, penetration, and intimidation” were modern day counterparts to “sapping and mining in the siege warfare of former days.”
MO designed and printed leaflets, spread false rumors, and produced radio broadcasts aimed at Axis and enemy-occupied countries. Radio broadcasts against the Germans supposedly came from a clandestine station in France, but actually originated in England. The broadcasts were designed to be entertaining in order to get enemy soldiers to listen. The propaganda was interspersed throughout the programs. The ‘entertainment’ portion included popular songs in German, such as “Lili Marlene,” recorded for MO by Marlene Dietrich.
Operation SAUERKRAUT was highly successful. Released prisoners of war agreed to slip behind their lines in German uniform to disseminate MO leaflets and false rumors in north Italy. One leaflet announced that Field Marshal Albert Kesselring [the German Commanding General], was resigning his post because he believed the war lost. Kesselring had to formally deny the announcement. Operation CORNFLAKES filled German mailbags with personal letters containing MO propaganda. These decoy mailbags were dropped by Allied aircraft during attacks on enemy rail yards. The hope was that the Germans would think the scattered mailbags were real and put them through their postal system. MO was so effective in Italy that an estimated 10,000 enemy troops surrendered or deserted. For these and other efforts, MO is a part of today’s Psychological Operations legacy.