Special Forces - Brazil

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Part Three of a series that takes a look at Special Forces units around the world. This month we look at Brazil.

Propaganda has always played an important role in society, whether it be in politics, religion, culture or even commerce. And it definitely has an important role in war.

Take World War II for example. Nazi Germany had a Ministry of Propaganda. From 1939 to 1945 Joseph Goebbels was the Reich Minister of Propaganda.

Herr Goebbels had some interesting things to say about the use of propaganda. Among the quotes he made were:

Radio was a perfect method of broadcasting propaganda to the civilian population.

The English-language propaganda radio programme Germany Calling was broadcast to audiences in the United Kingdom on the medium wave station Reichssender Hamburg and by shortwave to the United States.

The programme began on 18 September 1939 and continued until 30 April 1945, when the British Army overran Hamburg.

Through such broadcasts, the Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda attempted to discourage and demoralise American, Australian, British, and Canadian troops, and the British population, to suppress the effectiveness of the Allied war effort through propaganda, and to motivate the Allies to agree to peace terms leaving the Nazi regime intact and in power.

Among many techniques used, the Nazi broadcasts reported on the shooting down of Allied aircraft and the sinking of Allied ships, presenting discouraging reports of high losses and casualties among Allied forces.

Although the broadcasts were well known to be Nazi propaganda, they frequently offered the only details available from behind enemy lines concerning the fate of friends and relatives who did not return from bombing raids over Germany.

As a result, Allied troops and civilians frequently listened to German broadcasts despite the sometimes infuriating content and frequent inaccuracies and exaggerations, in the hopes of learning clues about the fate of Allied troops and air crews.

HAW HAW: William Joyce would become better known as Lord Haw-Haw.

Mass Observation interviews warned the Ministry of Information of this; consequently, more attention was given to the official reports of British military casualties.

If you are broadcasting in English to listeners that are English-speaking, then naturally the presenters have to be either English or at least be able to speak near-flawless English for the broadcast to have the right impact.

Lord Haw-Haw

It was radio critic Jonah Barrington of the Daily Express that first coined the name Lord Haw-Haw. He used it to describe a German broadcaster, probably in an attempt to reduce the possible impact of the broadcast.

“He speaks English of the haw-haw, dammit-get-out-of-my-way-variety”.

In practice, the name probably came from the announcers using such verbiage as “So you English believe that you can defeat the superior German forces! Haw, Haw,” a low-brow put-down obviously meant as a discouragement to the opposition.

The “Haw, Haw” name reference was then applied to a number of different announcers and, even soon after Barrington coined the nickname, it was uncertain exactly which specific German broadcaster he was describing.

Some British media and listeners just used “Lord Haw-Haw” as a generic term to describe all English-language German broadcasters, although other nicknames, like “Sinister Sam”, were occasionally used by the BBC to distinguish between obviously different speakers. Poor reception may have contributed to some listeners’ difficulties in distinguishing between broadcasters.

A number of announcers could have been the original Lord Haw-Haw.

Wolf Mittler was a German journalist. Mittler spoke near-flawless English, which he had learned from his mother, who had been born of German parents in Ireland. His persona was described by some listeners as similar to the fictional aristocrat Bertie Wooster.

Reportedly finding political matters distasteful, he was relieved to be replaced by Norman Baillie-Stewart, who stated that Mittler “sounded almost like a caricature of an Englishman”.

It has been speculated that it was Mittler’s voice which Barrington described; if so it would make him the original Lord Haw-Haw.

In 1943, Mittler was deemed suspect and arrested by the Gestapo, but he managed to escape to Switzerland. After the war, he worked extensively for German radio and television.

Norman Baillie-Stewart was a former officer of the Seaforth Highlanders who was cashiered for selling secrets to Nazi Germany. He worked as a broadcaster in Germany for a short time in 1939. He was jailed for five years by the British after the war. For a time he claimed that he was the original Lord Haw-Haw. He did have an upper-class accent, but he later decided that it was probably Mittler whose voice Barrington had heard. He may have been the broadcaster the BBC referred to as “Sinister Sam”.

Eduard Dietze, a Glasgow-born broadcaster of a mixed German-British-Hungarian family background, is another possible, but less likely, candidate for the original Lord Haw-Haw. He was one of the English-speaking announcers with an “upper-crust accent” who were heard on German radio in the early days of the war.

William Joyce

William Brooke Joyce was born in Brooklyn, New York but was raised in Ballinrobe, County Mayo in the Republic of Ireland.

As a teenager he was an informant to the British forces about the IRA members during the Irish War of Independence. He was also a senior member of the British Union of Fascists and fled England when tipped off about his planned internment on 26 August 1939.

In October 1939, the Fascist newspaper Action identified “one of the subsidiary announcers” on German radio, “with a marked nasal intonation”, as one of its former members and distanced itself from him as a “renegade”, whose broadcasts were “likely only to rouse the fighting ire of the average Briton.”

In February 1940, the BBC noted that the Lord Haw-Haw of the early war days (possibly Mittler) was now rarely heard on the air and had been replaced by a new spokesman. Joyce was the main German broadcaster in English for most of the war, and became a naturalised German citizen; he is usually regarded as Lord Haw-Haw, even though he was probably not the person to whom the term originally referred.

He had a peculiar hybrid accent that was not of the conventional upper class variety. His distinctive nasal pronunciation of “Germany calling, Germany calling” may have been the result of a fight as a schoolboy that left him with a broken nose.

Joyce, initially an anonymous broadcaster like the others, eventually revealed his real name to his listeners. The Germans actually capitalised on the fame of the Lord Haw-Haw nickname and came to announce him as “William Joyce, otherwise known as Lord Haw-Haw”.

Joyce recorded his final broadcast on 30 April 1945, during the Battle of Berlin. Rambling and audibly drunk, he chided Britain for pursuing the war beyond mere containment of Germany and repeatedly warned of the “menace” of the Soviet Union. He signed off with a final defiant “Heil Hitler and farewell”.

There are conflicting accounts as to whether this last programme was actually transmitted, although a recording was found in the Apen studios.

The next day Radio Hamburg was seized by British forces, and on 4 May Welsh journalist and broadcaster Wynford Vaughan-Thomas used it to make a mock “Germany Calling” broadcast denouncing Joyce.

Besides broadcasting, Joyce’s duties included writing propaganda for distribution among British prisoners of war, whom he tried to recruit into the British Free Corps. He wrote a book Twilight Over England promoted by the German Ministry of Propaganda, which unfavourably compared the evils of allegedly Jewish-dominated capitalist Britain with the alleged wonders of National Socialist Germany. Adolf Hitler awarded Joyce the War Merit Cross (First and Second Class) for his broadcasts, although they never met.

On 28 May 1945, Joyce was captured by British forces at Flensburg, near the German border with Denmark, which was the last capital of the Third Reich. Spotting a dishevelled figure while resting from gathering firewood, intelligence soldiers engaged him in conversation in French and English. After they asked whether he was Joyce, he reached into his pocket (actually reaching for a false passport); believing he was armed, they shot him through the buttocks, resulting in four wounds.

Two intelligence officers then drove him to a border post and handed him to British military police. Joyce was then taken to London and tried at the Old Bailey on three counts of high treason.

At his trail Joyce pleaded ‘not guilty’ on all three charges. The only evidence offered that he had begun broadcasting from Germany while his British passport was valid was the testimony of a London police inspector who had questioned him before the war while he was an active member of the British Union of Fascists and claimed to have recognised his voice on a propaganda broadcast in the early weeks of the war.

During the processing of the charges Joyce’s American nationality came to light, and it seemed that he would have to be acquitted, based upon a lack of jurisdiction; he could not be convicted of betraying a country that was not his own. He was acquitted of the first and second charges.

However, the Attorney General, Sir Hartley Shawcross, successfully argued that Joyce’s possession of a British passport, even though he had misstated his nationality to get it, entitled him (until it expired) to British diplomatic protection in Germany and therefore he owed allegiance to the King at the time he commenced working for the Germans. It was on this basis that Joyce was convicted of the third charge and sentenced to death on 19 September 1945.

The noted historian A.J.P. Taylor remarked, in his book English History 1914–1945, that “Technically, Joyce was hanged for making a false statement when applying for a passport, the usual penalty for which is a small fine.”

Joyce was executed on 3 January 1946 at Wandsworth Prison, aged 39. He was the next to last person to be hanged for a crime other than murder in the United Kingdom. The last was Theodore Schurch, executed for treachery the following day at Pentonville.In both cases the hangman was Albert Pierrepoint.

As was customary for executed criminals, Joyce’s remains were buried in an unmarked grave within the walls of HMP Wandsworth. In 1976 they were exhumed and reinterred in the Protestant section of the New Cemetery in Bohermore, Galway, Ireland. A Roman Catholic Tridentine Mass was celebrated at his reburial.

Sally and Rose

While Lord Haw-Haw was probably the most famous of the Axis propaganda broadcasters during World War II, he was not alone.

Mildred Elizabeth Gillars, nicknamed ‘Axis Sally’, was an American broadcaster employed by Nazi Germany to disseminate propaganda during World War II.

Her broadcasts, aimed mostly at American troops and the civilian population, included the programmes Home Sweet Home Hour, Midge at the Mike, and GI’s Letter-box and Medical Reports.

Home Sweet Home Hour was a regular propaganda program aimed at making U.S. forces in Europe feel homesick. A running theme of these broadcasts was the infidelity of soldiers’ wives and sweethearts while the listeners were stationed in Europe and North Africa.

The broadcasts were designed to make soldiers feel doubt about their mission, their leaders, and their prospects after the war.

During Midge at the Mike she played American songs interspersed with defeatist propaganda, anti-Semitic rhetoric and attacks on Franklin D. Roosevelt.

GI’s Letter-box and Medical Reports was directed at the U.S. home audience in which Gillars used information on wounded and captured U.S. airmen to cause fear and worry in their families.

Following her capture in post-war Berlin, she became the first woman to be convicted of treason against the United States.

In March 1949, she was sentenced to ten to thirty years’ imprisonment. She was released in 1961 after serving twelve years of her sentence.

She died in Columbus, Ohio on 25 June 1988 at the age of 87.

Tokyo Rose was a name given by Allied troops in the South Pacific during World War II to all female English-speaking radio broadcasters of Japanese propaganda.

The programmes were broadcast in the South Pacific and North America to demoralize Allied forces abroad and their families at home by emphasizing troops’ wartime difficulties and military losses.

Several female broadcasters operated under different aliases and in different cities throughout the Empire, including Tokyo, Manila, and Shanghai. The name “Tokyo Rose” was never actually used by any Japanese broadcaster, but it first appeared in U.S. newspapers in the context of these radio programs in 1943.

During the war, Tokyo Rose was not any one individual, but rather a group of largely unconnected women working within the same propagandist effort throughout the Japanese Empire.

Korea and Vietnam

Anna Wallis Suh was an American missionary and educator. She earned the nickname ‘Seoul City Sue’ as a North Korean propaganda radio announcer to United States forces during the Korean War.

Nicknamed ‘Hanoi Hannah’, Trịnh Thị Ngọ was a Vietnamese radio personality best known for her work during the Vietnam War, when she made English-language broadcasts for North Vietnam directed at United States troops.

Few if any desertions are thought to have happened because of her propaganda work and the soldiers “hooted at her scare tactics”.

They were sometimes impressed, however, when she mentioned the correct location of their unit (when they would “give a toast to her and throw beer cans at the radio”), named US casualties and welcomed Navy ships into port with their correct arrival details and crew members’ names.

There were exaggerated legends of her omniscience, with rumours that she would give clues about everything from specific future North Vietnamese attacks to soldiers’ girlfriends cheating on them at home. In reality, most of her information came from publications such as the US military newspaper, Stars and Stripes.

It has been claimed that US forces in Vietnam distrusted the U.S. Armed Forces Radio bulletins, and listened to Ngọ’s bulletins for information from the U.S.

Modern-day broadcasts

Radio is no longer as popular as it once was. It is seldom used these days for broadcasting propaganda.

Social media, such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, are the modern tools used for broadcasting propaganda.

And while we may never listen to another Lord Haw-Haw, Axis Sally, Tokyo Rose or Hanoi Hannah, we have been exposed to the likes of Baghdad Bob and Azzam the American.

Baghdad Bob, also known as Comical Ali, was Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf. He was the Iraqi Information Minister under Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, acting as spokesperson for the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party and Saddam’s government.

During a press conference he denied that there were any American tanks in Baghdad, even though they were only several hundred metres away and the sounds of combat could be heard in the background.

Adam Yahiye Gadahn (born Adam Pearlman) was an American spokesman and media advisor for the Islamist group al-Qaeda. He appeared in a number of videos produced by al-Qaeda as “Azzam the American” before being killed in a drone strike in January 2015.

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