Campaign of Publicity Affects Enemy Morale
Leaflets Dropped Over Enemy Trenches
"People of Vienna! Meet the Italians! If we so wished, we could drop tons of bombs on your city, but we are simply sending you the greetings of the tricolour, the tricolour of freedom! We Italians do not wage war against citizens, children, old men, and women. We wage war against your government, the enemy of national freedom, with your blind, obstinate and cruel government, which can give you neither bread nor peace and feeds you only on a diet of hatred and elusive hopes."
After publishing his first book of poetry, a young Gabriele d'Annunzio paid for the publication of a story detailing his premature death. Publicity surrounding his "death" drove the sales of his book, launching the literary career of this infamous Italian and assuring him of the power of propaganda. On August 9, 1918, d'Annunzio led a squadron of eleven planes over Vienna, dropping the "tricolour of freedom" across the city, a leaflet that he himself had penned.
Aerial leaflet campaigns were first used broadly during World War I. Many nations printed and dropped messages over enemy lines using baloons, kites, airplanes, and even rockets; Britain's military intelligence estimates more than 26 million came from that nation alone. Messages varied -- some assured good treatment of prisoners, while others reinforced the futility of war or the evils of government.
In spite of orders to turn all such propaganda over to officers, many soldiers taken prisoner were found to be carrying leaflets or other printed propaganda, suggesting their success.
Propaganda on the Home Front
Pro-war messages were not only for the soldiers serving overseas. Even prior to the United States' entrance into the war, the Committee on Public Information worked with every major media outlet to ensure American support for a divisive war.