Operation Cornflakes 

Germany #518 – A genuine used stamp from the era.

On February 5, 1945, the US began a secret operation to overthrow Hitler with postage stamps.

By the early months of 1945, the world had been at war for over three years. Germany appeared to be nearing defeat, but American casualties were mounting as its resources dwindled. An idea was hatched – a brilliant plan to bring down the Nazi government. The weapon chosen to defeat Hitler – postage stamps!

Germany #O92-95 – German Official stamps from the war era.

The Office of Strategic Services (OSS) – an intelligence agency and forerunner of today’s CIA – was formed during World War II. Throughout the war, one of its most effective tools was propaganda aimed at demoralizing the German people, which OSS officials hoped would spark a revolt against the Nazis.

However, getting the propaganda into the hands of every day Germans was challenging. The OSS had dropped leaflets from the air, but wind, rain, and other factors often destroyed the materials before they reached the intended audience.

Item #M9023 – Collection of 95 Third Reich stamps.

Then a bold plan developed – use Nazi government workers to distribute misinformation to their citizens via their own postal service. If effective, it would have a powerful psychological effect on the German people.

To launch the operation, OSS operatives quizzed German POWs who had been postal workers to learn even the smallest details about the mail service. Stamp samples, cancellations, mail sacks, and envelopes were studied. Two million mailing addresses were gathered and envelopes were created using legitimate businesses as return addresses. Propaganda pieces were printed and special bombs were produced to carry mailbags. A newspaper entitled Das Neue Deutschland, which claimed to be printed by an opposition group in Germany, was produced to urge fellow Germans to join the movement.

And most importantly, stamps had to be produced. The then-current 6pf and 12pf German stamps picturing Adolf Hitler were forged for use on covers. Another version of the 12pf stamp was also printed with an image of Hitler’s skull and the inscription “Futsches Reich” (Ruined Empire). These stamps were included in the envelopes along with other anti-Nazi propaganda pieces.

Forgeries produced by the US for Operation Cornflakes. We don’t have any available right now, but you can compare these to the genuine stamps offered in this article.

To smuggle the stamps into Germany, OSS officials planned to bomb mail trains and drop mailbags near the wreckage. By using the specially designed bombs, OSS operatives hoped to mimic realistic damage caused by bombs without destroying the propaganda pieces.

Because most mail was delivered very early in the morning, as Germans were sitting down for breakfast, the scheme was dubbed “Operation Cornflakes.” The operation launched on February 5, 1945. Allied planes dropped bombs on a mail train bound for Linz, Hitler’s childhood home. Bags filled with almost 3,000 propaganda pieces were then dropped into the wreckage, where they mixed with actual German mail sacks. They were later salvaged by German authorities and delivered as usual.

Germany #506//22 – Genuine Germany stamps from the era.

 

Over a three-month period, 20 missions were flown, with 320 fake mailbags dropped – about 96,000 propaganda pieces in all. But a mistake was made during the March 16 air raid. After the phony mail was collected from the wreckage, a German clerk noticed a misspelling in one of the return addresses. “Wiener Giro-und Kassenverein,” a central securities deposit, had been misspelled “Wiener Giro-und Cassenverein.” When the same error was found on several other pieces of mail, German officials opened the envelopes and discovered the propaganda.

 

Germany #512//23 – Genuine used Germany stamps from the era.

Later questioned about the success of Operation Cornflakes, some 10,000 German deserters and POWs said they had been affected by the campaign. And we know the raids taxed the Nazi’s by burdening their postal service and destroying mail routes.

 

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13 responses to "Operation Cornflakes "

13 thoughts on “Operation Cornflakes ”

  1. Wow, this is very interesting. I have a rather extensive collection of German WWII stamps, as well as pre and post WWII. I never knew there were these forgeries out there. I am going to have to re-examine my collection to determine what I have. I have oodles of what I considered duplicates, but there may be these forgeries among them. Gosh this is a new hobby exercise for me. Thanks so much Mystic for this very interesting article.

    Reply
  2. The comment that the US was running out of resources is a little far fetched – the war years started in Europe in 1939 and it was only the US that had been in the war for 3 years – facts, please.

    Reply
  3. One of the many stories that were hidden from the public during WW II. Fascinating that forged stamps were used to distribute propaganda. Another lesson in history that demonstrates the importance of stamp collecting as an educational tool.

    Reply
  4. I too have a fair amount of German stamps from that time!
    As well a WWII Buff I never heard of this operation!
    Wouldn’t it be great to find even1 of these forgeries!

    Reply
  5. Interesting piece. My collection includes five of these stamps that have “Ukraine” in bold at bottom left centered above the word “Deutches.” Could they have been meant for use in the “cornflakes” operation? I’ve assumed they were printed for use in the Ukraine during German war time occupation.

    Reply
  6. Very interesting and appreciate your bringing these stories
    to our attention. First time I heard of it. Thanks for the
    service i receive from Mystic.

    Reply
    • My grandfather tole about this a long time ago but It’s nice to have a more complete picture that what I remember! GREAT STORY!!

      Reply

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