A TYPICAL SOUVENIR  ITALY 1944 / 1945

Part 1

Introduction

It is well known and of all times.
A soldier fighting in war is picking up souvenirs to show to the home front after his return.

In the US, many veterans still cherish their Lugers 08, German riffles and ditto helmets. Countless Nazi-daggers are hung-out in display cases or, if relatives do not like this show-off of militarism, have been forgotten about in some drawers. You cant imagine an item that was not brought home.

Many vets also took enemy documents as a souvenir. In ww2 it was considered necessary to, at least, pick up some paper stuff with swastikas depicted on them. An item with SS runes was even better. They would be nice to show to the relatives after war was over.

Portret of John Burridge
Picture. Portet of John Burridge, veteran of the 363rd Infantry Regiment
of the US 91st Division (fifth army). Note the patch!
(coll. Burridge)
Another paper item brought home was the propaganda leaflet.
Many thousands of these must have gotten to the US. A lot of them were included in the GIs letters home. Even more were stuffed among personal belongings and shipped back to all US States after the war. Most veterans only picked up one or a few of these leaflets. But some soldiers were a little different in this ..

Recently I was contacted by Janet.
She wrote to me that she was taking care of one of these brave vets from ww2:
Her father John Burridge!

John is getting at an age now that he is suffering some serious health problems. He and his family decided that time had come to clear out some items from his house. When going through some old papers, Janet found an old scrapbook with some amazing pieces of paper in it. They seemed to be some, newspaper like, small sheets of paper printed in English, Italian, German and some Slavic language. Puzzled by these, she asked her dad about them.

Her father told her that he had been working with these sheets of paper in Italy during World War 2. He was a map reader and clerical aid to commanders. As such he did get samples of most of the leaflets that were used at the front. Very lucky for us, a much younger generation, John saw some importance in the leaflets passing through his hands. He decided to keep as many as possible. Later, he also managed to liberate an empty scrapbook (made in Paris) that he could use to keep the leaflets in.

Now, after so many years had passed since the war, he wondered if these leaflets could be of interest to somebody. Janet, used to browsing the internet, soon found my homepage and contacted me with questions on the scrapbook and its leaflets.
She did send me some pictures and a small list of some titles.

AND I WAS AMAZED!

The leaflets

It is a fact that nowadays all of the leaflets used at the Italian front are rare. This is the case for leaflets prepared by the Germans, but also for the leaflets prepared by the allied. There are only one or two books depicting the allied leaflets in some numbers for the purpose of studying them. The leaflets known are either spread over private collections or in State Archives. And none of them are easily accessible.

I came to the conclusion that this had to be one of the largest collections of leaflets from Italy from the allied side. Aimed at axis forces in the ENGLISH LANGUAGE! Now that needs some explanation.

If you did visit the rest of my homepage, you know that if a leaflet was aimed at Germans, the leaflet had to be written in the German language. The same with leaflets aimed at Italians, Russians, Poles or whatever nation the leaflets were aimed at.

Cover of the scrapbook
Picture. Front cover of the 'Fashion' scrapbook that John liberated
from Paris. Some of the leaflets were pasted in this book. For nowadays
collectors it is difficult to understand why somebody would use glue on
old documents. But in the 'old days' this was common practice.
(coll. Burridge)
The leaflets from the scrapbook, in the German language versions, would have to be shelled or airdropped to the Germans in Italy.

There was a 'small' problem however! The allied artillerymen and aircrews did not like the idea of dropping paper to the Germans!

"Why should we supply them with toilet paper - we would better drop them some High Explosives", was the general thought.

But the higher command had already recognized the importance of the propaganda war with leaflets. So in order to make the leaflets more acceptable to the artillery men at the front and to the crews of the aircraft, it was, at some point, decided that there should be translations in English made to inform the men that were supposed to handle the leaflets on the contents of the propaganda leaflets. It was hoped that they would also recognize the importance of their loads.

So with every load of artillery propaganda shells (shells filled with German language leaflets) and with every leaflet load for the aircraft, only one or two of these translations were included for reading by the men.
Before packing the leaflets into the airplane, or before loading an artillery gun with a propaganda shell, the allied soldier did first look through the ENGLISH translation version that was packed with it. This made it easier for them to understand what the purpose of these papers was.

This also means that only one of these translations came on a great many of German language leaflets! Imagine how few could have survived the war!

And John Burridge managed to keep one of most of these leaflets as a souvenir!

After studying the 200+ leaflet collection, I decided that I had to publish some of them to English speaking historians, students and other visitors to my homepage. None of the German language versions of these leaflets were accessible or even readable to English native speakers without good knowledge on foreign languages like German. So offering some of these translations must help in understanding what the allied told the axis enemy!

What follows below is an account of the whereabouts and doings of John Burridges unit in Italy during WW2. I will concentrate on the period the leaflets were printed in (end of 1944 until april 1945). At appropriate points I will insert pictures of leaflets, maps, other nice documents and photographs. But you have to note that NOT ALL scans are directly related to the text or the period of time described. In those cases, I will mention the date of the leaflet in the caption of the picture.

Most of the documents and leaflets come from the John Burridge collection, some are from my own files. The sources for the unit history also came from John as he did preserve some original wartime booklets for that! It will be indicated what pictures come from John. If the caption of a picture says "(coll. Burridge)", the item originally came from John.

Enjoy this historical story!


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Propaganda leaflets of the second World War

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