Saturday, May 8, 2010

"The Po is waiting for you" - German Propaganda Leaflet Against British India

It's leaflet time once again! Today's leaflet is based on one of the important campaign in Europe during WWII called "Po Valley Campaign" in 1945. It was the last campaign in Italy in WW2 and resulted in the complete surrender of the German forces that were occupying Italy.

Before I share the propaganda leaflet dropped by German forces over allied troops specially over 8th Indian Infantry Division which was part of this campaign, here is brief history on Po Valley fighting.

After Rome was captured in June 1944, the next objective was to advance as quickly as possible and force the Germans out of Italy and hopefully to move into Austria or Hungary. The main targets of this plan were the manufacturing centers of the cities that were in the low plains of the Po River and its tributaries. However, the Germans managed to establish a strong defensive line in the northern Apennines Mountains and stopped the Allied advance just short of Bologna and Highway #9. The Allies halted their North Apennines Campaign in November 1944, when the fall rains made it too difficult to support further fighting.

It wasn't until April 1945 before the Allies launched a spring offensive, that attacked across the Po Valley. The campaign, that became known as the Po Valley Campaign, began with the British 8th Army (including commonwealth troops such as 8th Indian Infantry Division, New Zealand's 20 Battalion and Armoured Regiment etc) attacking on the eastern flank and was followed by a major assault by the American 5th Army that captured Bologna. Then the 5th Army drove due north and crossed the Po River and pushed on to the Alps. On the western coast, the 92nd Infantry Division supported by 442 & 473 Regimental Combat Teams, drove along the western coast line and captured Genoa and only advanced a little further before the cease-fire order.

The Po Valley Campaign lasted only 21 days. The Germans were caught by surprise and could not organize a retreat or a fall-back position. The fighting was very confused and very fast paced. Many German small units simply arrived into a town to find it occupied by Allies. The German soldiers surrendered by the thousands.

During this push, the Italian partisans launched attacks behind the lines against the German troops. Benito Mussolini was captured by the partisans and was executed. The German surrender was announced on 2 May, 1945, thus ending the Po Valley Campaign and the War.

There are hundreds of links on this if one searches on Google. Some of most noted ones are here for people who are interested in reading in details:

Finally, here comes the most awaited part :D

Shown above is front side of the propaganda leaflet dropped by German Forces on 8th Indian Infantry Division. The leaflet is numbered as 1908-1-45 on left lower corner. The leaflet is of size 203 x 295 mm. The leaflet carries a text "The Po is waiting for you" in English and Urdu/Arabic.

It shows on front a colourful scene of the Italian countryside on either side of the Po River, with the towns of Cremona, Brescia, Mantova, Verona, Padova, Rovigo, Modena and Ferrara, and in the right foreground a smiling young woman holding a large basket of grapes and oranges.

While on the reverse, it shows a black and white illustration of a laughing skeleton wading in the Po River with a wrecked bridge in the background, and soldiers on boats being attacked and killed by enemy shell fire.

The Germans produced a number of leaflets with the same concept, showing Allied soldiers drowning beneath the dark waters and titles such as “Death in the Po” or “The Po is Waiting for You.”

These leaflets were warning for allied troops of what was waiting for them if they tried to cross the Po River. It is one of my favorite leaflet because of carrying great illustration and visible message.


Swanny said...

Very interesting thanks.

I have copy of the leaflet but without the Urdu/ Arabic inscription, and the number is different.i.e. 1305/1/45.

I assume that 1/45 signifies January 1945.

Thanks again.


Hmmm!!! Let's see..... said...

That's great to hear. Do you also collect India related WWII propaganda leaflets?

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