Friday, July 25, 2008

[Propaganda] German leaflet drop on 9th Division at Tobruk

Image from the author's personal collection.

In 1941 Rommel's Afrika Korp commenced the first of a series of propaganda leaflet drops aimed at demoralising the troops of the Australian 9th Division. Hundreds of leaflets were dropped over the occupied areas of Tobruk, especially the Red Line, Tobruk's outer defensive line.

The example above is a scan of a photocopy of an original leaflet dropped on 9th Division troops. The irony of the situation is that rather than demoralise the Aussies the leaflet drop gave the diggers a much needed morale boost. If the invincible German Army was bothering to print leaflets calling on the Australians at Tobruk to surrender then they must be feeling the effects of the ongoing siege. The leaflets became one of the hottest souvenirs of the desert campaign.

Many were sent home to Australia as proud spoils of war while others utilised them for much more practical purposes as writing letters home on the back, keeping a journal or even cigarette paper and in some extreme cases toilet paper. Even funnier is the fact that even if the Aussies had wanted to surrender there were no white flags to use as everything that could have been used was so dirty from the desert's relentless dust that it was no longer white.

Other leaflets were dropped on the 9th Division positions at El Alamein in 1942. These were specifically printed with the 9th Division in mind. I find it interesting that at Tobruk there were Australians, English, Indian and Polish troops and at Alamein the Germans and Italians were opposed by Australians, English, Indian, New Zealanders, South African and other Commonwealth troops but they only ever printed propaganda aimed at demoralising the Australian 9th Division. This was a sign of the high regard held for them by Rommel.

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