It was 5 February 1945 and the war was in its endgame. In the skies over the Reich, planes dropped their bombs on a mail train bound for Linz, before a second wave of more insidiously incendiary cargo was released. Mailbags filled with around 3800 propaganda letters – some containing sinister stamps of Hitler wearing a grinning skull – were dropped into the wreckage, ready to be recovered and delivered to the Germans by the postal service. It was the first mission of Operation Cornflakes.
Operation Cornflakes was a WWII Office of Strategic Services (OSS) Psychological Operations campaign designed to dupe the German postal service into inadvertently distributing propaganda through the mail. Nearly 100,000 properly addressed envelopes were stuffed with anti-Nazi subversive material like the Allies’ German language propaganda leaflet, with the aim of it ultimately landing on the breakfast tables of German households each morning – cue the Kellogs-inspired code name.
Adding subliminal insult to psychological injury, forged postage stamps were enclosed subtly designed to resemble the standard stamp bearing Adolf Hitler’s face – except that close inspection would reveal his face had been manipulated to look like an exposed skull, or similarly unbecoming imagery. Furthermore, the country-identifying text along the bottom of the stamp was changed from ‘Deutsches Reich’ (German Empire) to read ‘Futsches Reich’ (Collapsed or Lost Empire). MORE.