D-Day: How communications influenced the result

The D-Day landingsThis week marks 70 years since the D-Day landings but you’re unlikely to hear much about the role of communications.

However, propaganda – a distant relative of communications – played a huge role as an instrument of psychological warfare on June 6th, 1944.

Psychological warfare

The Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) Psychological Warfare Division had devised a campaign to drop millions of leaflets.

The aims were to warn civilians, and French and Belgian transport workers, of the impending invasion, and separately, to weaken the morale of German armed forces.

A ‘Special Leaflet Squadron’ – the American 422nd – was established and supplied with unarmed B-17 bombers, camouflaged and modified for night flight.

B-17 crewWarning to civilians and workers

This specially equipped unit took off at 2am and flew beyond the Normandy beaches at dawn on June 6 in advance of the landings. They dropped millions of leaflets in areas earmarked by the Allies for bombing of communication and transport targets.

Holland and Belgium were also leaflet-dropped.

Promoting defeatism

Following the D-Day landings, and after a beachhead was secured, separate leaflets were dropped to German forces to highlight the weakness of the Luftwaffe and the German Navy in being able to prevent the invading armada.

The Allies further promoted a sense of defeatism within the German armed forces by telling them they were encircled, fighting a war on two fronts, and facing overwhelming material superiority.

D-Day mapNine million leaflets

During the evening the Allies also made airdrops to German troops in reserve areas and sought to weaken their resolve by explaining that the Atlantic Wall had been breached.

The news referred to events which had actually taken place earlier that day. As a communications footnote this was also a demonstration of the efficiency of print production in the UK at that time.

Within two days nine million leaflets had been air-dropped.

The leafleting campaign was just one element of the massive propaganda effort but it had performed a key role during the D-Day landings, to inform and warn allies, to weaken and reduce enemy morale, and ultimately to propel the Allied forces on to victory.

Source: History Today

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