How the Nazi Postal Service Was Tricked by the Allied Forces
World War 2 as a whole was probably the biggest and most deadly conflict in history. It was noted for its extreme brutality and the fact that millions lost their lives. But even in the heat of such an awful and deadly war, some strategy and trickery can give one side the upper hand in one way or another.
That is exactly what the Allied forces decided to do in 1944 and 1945 with something they called Operation Cornflakes. Operation Cornflakes was a World War 2 Office of Strategic Services (OSS) operation. The operation involved tricking the German postal service to inadvertently deliver anti-Nazi propaganda to tons of German citizens through the mail.
Propaganda was a favorite tactic of the Office of Strategic Services throughout the war. Propaganda is basically information (often coming from a biased nature) that is used to publicize and promote a certain point of view, belief or cause. It is all about influencing others and furthering an agenda through their deliverance.
And while the Allies used propaganda often, it was often fairly unsuccessful. This is because normally it was distributed through mass airdrops and thus, you had no control over whether it would actually reach their audience and even be seen. They needed a better way that would deliver the propaganda right to their audience without fail or question, and that is exactly the purpose that Operation Cornflakes held.
The way they went about making sure their propaganda reached its target was fairly simple. The Allied forces would fly special planes that airdropped bags of false letters that contained propaganda against the Germans, but that had proper addresses and names on them. They were instructed to drop these near bombed mail trains. It was hoped that during the cleanup of the wreck, the postal service would confuse the false mail for real mail and deliver it anyways. And at the time, mail delivery was pretty chaotic, so they fell for it.
The reason the operation was named Operation Cornflakes was because the mail normally arrived around breakfast time. But despite how easy it sounds to us, the operation was actually pretty tough to pull off. The Allies had to learn all the ins and outs of the postal service industry in Germany, which they got from interviewing and interrogating POWs.
With the knowledge from the POWs and spies, the Allies were able to replicate the German envelopes, stamps and more, which allowed their plan to work. However, eventually, a typo actually ruined this for them as it allowed the Germans to catch up on what they were doing and stop it.
In addition to this operation, the OSS also created a newspaper that was supposed to be from the growing opposition party in Germany, in hopes it would convert some people. They would also spread propaganda to the soldiers in hopes of ruining morale. One of their favorites was to spread rumors that it was common for the women left at home to have casual sex while the soldiers were away.