The Germans were mobilised against the foreign workers who, from being friends and helpers, were suddenly treated as the `Trojan Horse' within the citadel, an enemy to be feared. German newspapers published warnings to folk-comrades to be on the lookout for foreigners using the `cowardly incendiary packets' (Brandpackchen). Schoolchildren were sent out to try and collect them.
The official police gazette, the Deutsche Yriminal polizeiblatt' on November the 3rd, igq.q., put out a special edition warning police authorities. It was headlined "Enemy Sabotage in the Reich by use of foreign workers and incendiary packs thrown from aircraft. Particularly important for posts of the Geheime Staatspolizei !"
And, of course, we did our best to help the `Braddock' campaign along with the other devices available to us. Our friends of the Polish underground and the other S.O.E. agents in Germany plastered the passenger compartments and lavatories of the German railways with notices issued in the name of the Reich Railways Administration-but prepared and printed by us-which called on folk-comrades to search under the seats for Brandpackchen and if necessary to rip out any part of the fittings which they suspected might be harbouring one. The Soldatensender put out news items attributing fires we knew about from R.A.F. reconnaissance pictures to the foreign workers and their incendiaries.
`Tom Brown' Stevens too, by typically ingenious research contributed examples of alleged foreign worker sabotage. For instance, when he noticed a number of identically worded death notices in a Leipzig newspaper which appeared to have been inserted by families all living in the same district, he guessed there must have been some kind of factory explosion there. From M.E.W. he discovered there were two factories in the area: one making munitions, the other a chemical works. As most of the dead were young women he plumped for the chemical works. It belonged to a firm called Rudel and Fiedler. And, as we discovered later, he was quite right. There had been a great blow-up at Rudel and Fiedler's, only it had nothing to do with foreign workers and Brandpackchen as we alleged. But who was to know that?
There was nothing occult or mystic about my confidence that I could persuade the U.S. Fortress Squadron to do the job for me which `Bomber' Harris had refused to do for Churchill.
The American pilots of the Special Leaflet Squadron had been working with us since the last week of April 1944. This Squadron had come to Europe in 1942 as a regular Bomber Squadron-422 (H) of the 305th Group. In October 1943much to the disappointment of the crews-it was assigned exclusively to leaflet carrying. The leaflets were dropped in a special `leaflet bomb', designed by the squadron's inventive young armaments officer, Captain James Monroe. This was a cylinder of laminated wax paper sixty inches long and eighteen inches in diameter. At an altitude of i,ooo feet a fuse destroyed the container and released the leaflets. Instead of drifting for hundreds of miles, as in the early days of R.A.F. leaflet raids, when the leaflets were dropped any old how from doors and bomb bays, the leaflets-8o,o0o to each bomb-scattered over an area of about one square mile.
Night after night, these courageous young men flew in aircraft armed only with machine-guns on what they called their `milk round' over the German lines in France and Belgium, and far into the German hinterland, distributing our latest instrument of subversion, a daily newspaper which I had named, .Nachrichten far die Truppe, giving it a deliberately flat and neutral title, inspired by the OKW's Mitteilungen fiir die Truppe which we had so frequently counterfeited in the past.
Of all the enterprises I launched during the war, this `News for the Troops' is the one of which I am proudest. For this was a joint British-American venture and the readiness with which my American friends at O.S.S. and SHAEF's American Psychological Warfare boss General Bob McClure placed a team of first class editors and news writers under my orders, I still consider to have been the greatest compliment paid me at any time in my war-time career.
The newspaper team worked in yet another prefabricated barrack which had to be erected in all haste in the MB compound. Every night, for 345 consecutive nights, they put the paper together from the news and talks of the Soldatensender, which they sub-edited and rewrote for print. For, of course, many changes were necessary to adapt our material written for radio to the style of a newspaper. John Elliot, whom I knew from my Berlin days as a painstaking and well-informed correspondent of the New York Herald-Tribune, headed the American team. Dennis Clarke, who had been the Express correspondent in Vienna, took charge of its British counterpart. Dennis, as a gunner officer, had lost an arm and won an M. C. in the same North African battle in which young Virchow had been taken prisoner. But that did not stop the two of them from being the best of friends.
Dennis Clarke and John Elliot took it in turns to edit the paper-and submit the page proofs to me or Karl Robson for final approval. Harold Keeble, today features editor of the Daily Mirror Group, supervised the lay-out in his printing shop at what had once been the Duchess of Bedford's model clinic and nursing home. To print such vast quantities of a daily news sheet we needed a rotary press. John Mills, the General Manager of the Home Counties Newspapers at Luton, provided it. In printing shops and on presses that were already fully occupied putting out the seven provincial weeklies* belonging to the group he and his men night after night turned out an average of two million copies of Nachrichten. Those Luton printers were as proud of Nachrichten as we were. They looked on it as their special contribution to the annihilation of Hitler and they worked smoothly and punctually without ever a hitch.
If the Soldatensender was what Donald and I called `grey' Nachrichten was a dirty off-white. Unlike other allied leaflets it did not proclaim that it was issued by command of General Eisenhower or SHAEF. Nor did it, like `black' leaflets, claim to have some German or non-allied source. Nachrichten just dropped from the heavens, as an offering of the sublime objective truth. Unlike the Soldatensender it did not refer to the allies as the enemy. They were the Anglo-American forces or the Russians. The Germans were `Die Deutschen Truppen'. * The Luton News, The Beds. & Herts. Pictorial, The Herts. Pictorial (Letchworth), The Herts. Pictorial (Hitchen). The West Herts. Post (Watford), The Dunstable Borough Gazette and The Beds. & Herts. Saturday Telegraph.
k;ut whenever possible Nachrichten identified the German unit concerned-'Infantry Regiment g 19', `the 2 i St Panzer Division', or `the 356th Infantry Division', and so on. The talks which on the Soldatensender were delivered by a variety of voices always had the same signatory when used as articles in Nachrichten.
`Oblt. J.v.0' were the initials of the mysterious figure who was our great authority on everything from the struggles between Doenitz and Schniewind in the naval hierarchy, to the impossibility of fighting an air war without fuel or the `impossible' political interference with the army leaders' tactical decisions. Not that the mysterious Captain J, von 0(I always imagined our readers puzzling: "Can that be young Joachim von Ortzen ? or is it perhaps that fellow Johann von Ofterding?")-was at all bashful about writing with expertise on some subject of home politics. Such as, for example, the continued exemption from military service of members of Goebbels's Propaganda Ministry under the terms of an orderreproduced in facsimile-dating back to July the 4th, 1940
Needless to say we had no illusions that JVachrichten would be accepted as a German production-even though the Oberleutnant always wrote from the standpoint of a patriotic German officer. Nachrichten made no attempt to fool anyone. We merely refrained from underlining its allied origin. For two excellent reasons. Firstly because it would not have helped its effectiveness with our German readers for us to have added a by-line `Published by General Eisenhower'. Secondly because to have done so would have meant that the Soldatensender, source of all the news and articles in the sheet, would no longer have been disavowable. To turn Nachrichten into a `white' news sheet-as some of the post-war critics of `black' suggested we should have done-would only have been possible if the B.B.G. German service could have been used as its basis. This, for a variety of reasons, was impossible.
Bruce Lockhart, Dallas Brooks, and I had considered all these points most carefully before launching Nachrichten.
Now with the Flying Fortresses dropping our news sheet on the Germans night after night I felt we were at last ready to play our part in support of the invasion. All that remained was to plan what our role should be on D-Day.