FOR SEVERAL weeks now, I had been carrying in my wallet a precious card marked with the cryptic word `Overlord' and under it my name and the Security Officer's signature. `Overlord' as all the world knows today, was the code name for the invasion of Normandy, and the card meant that I was one of the select few taking part at this early stage in the planning of these decisive operations.
In fact, as far as I was concerned, my operations had already begun. To my unit had been assigned the task of `softening up' the German forces in the West. We were to try and produce in them a frame of mind in which they would show the least amount of resistance to the allied armies, when at last the attack was launched. It was for this that Dallas Brooks had prised the giant transmitter from the B.B.C. and handed it to me. And we were already going ahead full blast. Now the general had gone one step further. He had ordered me to make a softening up plan for the B.B.C.'s operations as well, and to see that they fitted in with ours.
I knew what I wanted to do with `Calais'. I was already doing it. I knew too, what I considered the role of the B.B.C. should be at this stage. But were my friends at the B.B.C. going to like it, when I told them? Were they going to accept it? Or was I going to have another fight on my hands, like that with Kirkpatrick over 'Aspidistra'? I was far from sure.
tion with their creature comforts which I had seen the German propagandists induce in the French during the long phoney war that preceded the German invasion of 1940 On `Calais' we were already doing all we could to suggest to the Germans that the war in the West was no war at all, just a `Sitzkrieg' in which all military effort was futile and ludicrous. Worse than that, military efficiency was positively dangerous.
" Units which show themselves smart and efficient," said Calais, "are drafted to the Eastern front. Promotion in France is a sure way to death in Russia."
The defeatist pun of Herr Schlicke, my Friedrichs Werdersches Gymnasium schoolmaster of the first war, `Lieber ein heiles Kreuz als ein eisernes'* was embroidered by us in scores of variations. News item after news item illustrated the general theme that France was regarded by the OKW (High Command of the Wehrmacht) as a theatre of inferior importance and that in quality of manpower and armament the troops in France were far inferior to those on the Eastern Front, which was the operations area where Germany's fate was being decided.
The idea behind this stress of the Eastern Front's priority was, that when the allies attacked, we would be able to tell the German units in France that they had been written off by the High Command, that no reinforcements would be sent to them, no supplies. Their front did not matter.
I could not allow the B.B.C. men to come in on this campaign. For if I did, they would be certain to show our hand in no time at all. They would want to put the campaign over in big lumbering talks and commentaries, not in subtly dispersed news items as we did. Much better therefore, for the B.B.C. to stay right out of it for the time being.
Their best contribution to the softening-up campaign, I argued, would be a stoic unawareness of any change in the West. All I would ask them to do was to emphasise still further the rigours of the war in Russia and the immense resources of the Red Armies with their supplies of American materiel. Under no circumstances should either the B.B.C. or their allies of the Voice of America be allowed to indulge in any threats of the "We are going to crush you with the power of our invincible armada" variety. There would be plenty of time for that after D-Day.
I put all this to Dallas Brooks, and he agreed and approved. But he too, thought we might have a tough job in persuading my British and American colleagues in charge of `white' to practise abstinence and self-restraint-particularly when theyheard `black' campaigning away at the top of `Aspidistra's' overloud voice. I decided I had best find myself some influential allies in addition to Dallas Brooks.
So, together with Donald McLachlan, who had now been attached to the staff of Britain's Admiral Ramsay, the naval commander for Overlord, in order that he might give us still better inside news, I set out to call on the Services planners concerned with the forthcoming operation, and explain our ideas to them. At the Combined Operations Headquarters in Norfolk House we talked with Brigadier Arthur Head and Johnnie Vass. They were enthusiastic. I visited the newly arrived American General Robert McClure, who was to have charge of Psychological Warfare at SHAEF-the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Forces. He promised his support. I dined with General Spaatz, the American Air Force Commander. And in his hospital room I consulted the British psychological warrior who carried the most weight with the Americans-Dick Crossman.
Dick had left London soon after he had been appointed `Director of Political Warfare to the Enemy and Satellites (white)' to go out to North Africa. There he had been masterminding the highly successful Anglo-American psychological warfare effort under McClure during the campaigns in Algeria, Tunis, and Sicily. But now he was back in London, and in hospital with a dangerous embolism which threatened his life -the result, not of enemy action, but of a ferocious wasp sting.
Dick, lying there in his hospital ward, with phlebitis still creeping up his leg and threatening his heart, was all charm and enthusiasm. He had been listening to Calais as he lay in bed, he said, and it was the slickest thing ever.
" Of course," he insisted, "it is not `black'."" No," I said, "it is something new. Donald and I call it `grey'. It is between `Black' and `White'. No doubt many of our German listeners realise we can't really be German. Nevertheless they accept us gratefully, because we don't make that `Boom, boom, boom' V-noise of the B.B.C. which betrays them to the Gestapo and because we sound like ordinary Germans, not a lot of emigres."
" Charming, charming," laughed Dick Crossman, "really charming! Wait till I tell the B.B.C.!" But he did not, of course, betray my treasonable views about their announcers' voices to the B.B.C. and the Voice of America. Instead, when they too called on him in the hospital, he persuaded them that my plan was right, and quite properly had the support of the Services planners.
With the result that when a few days later, Donald, Dallas Brooks, and I faced my `White' colleagues and Carleton Greene, everything went off smoothly and the B.B.C. accepted the role I had assigned to it without objection. So, too, under instructions from MeClure, did the Voice of America.
And I am happy to report that by February 1944 Dick was sufficiently restored to hobble out on a stick and bring his influence to bear on the `white' planning at Supreme headquarters.