Operation Annie

'Annie' was a US propaganda offensive, under the auspices of the Office of Strategic Services, to beam radio transmissions at German listeners in the Rhineland (December 1944/25 April 1945).

The capture of the Radio Luxembourg transmitter in September 1944 gave the Office of Strategic Services' Morale Operations branch access to the most powerful radio transmitter in continental Europe. The radio facilities in the city of Luxembourg had been used by the Germans up to a time just before their capture, and no preparations had been made either to destroy the station or to jam its broadcasts. Thus the station was left intact, and possessed the most up-to-date equipment then available.

In co-operation with Lieutenant General Omar N. Bradley’s US 12th Army Group, the Morale Operations branch received approval in early December 1944 to run a 'black' campaign from Luxembourg under the codename 'Annie', otherwise Radio 1212. 'Annie' broadcast from the same station, although on a different frequency, as the British Political Warfare Executive and US Office of War Information for their daytime 'white' broadcasts, so special provision was made to prevent any connection being made between the two.

Radio 1212 ran nightly from 24.00 to 06.30, and purported to come from an anti-Nazi group in the Rhineland area. Its news and information were addressed primarily to Rhinelanders, who were then in the immediate path of the Allied advance. The programming therefore comprised Rhenish music, news and emotionally heavy features using speakers with Rhenish accents. Its chief announcer, the Morale Operations branch’s Benno Frank, spoke to German troops and civilians alike, talked about military events and air raids, gave extracts from Oberkommando der Wehrmacht communiqués, and gave information about the ways in which the listener could evade Nazi party orders. Instructions and addresses were also given to fictitious underground groups, as too was information on how well 'liberated' Germans were faring under the benevolent nature of their Allied occupation.

'Annie' thus possessed a subtle and clearly subversive mission. Although planned and executed a 'black' operation, Radio 1212 was not at first wholly subversive, for it concentrated on the provision of truthful, factual information as a means of building trust in its output. Once the desired level of trust had been established, however, and after the Allied breakthrough in the Mosel river area, Radio 1212 began to insert false reports, evacuation and mobilisation orders, rumours and highly exaggerated information in the hope of causing chaos. After the the Allies had breached the German defences along the Rhine river, Radio 1212 invented a resistance movement within Germany and encouraged everyone to join it.

Reports from prisoners of war, civilians and the Swedish press indicated that the audience for 'Annie' was large for the 125 nights that it continued to 25 April 1945. Even members of the Nazi party reportedly listened to Radio 1212. One Swedish newspaper stated that the resistance organisation responsible for Radio 1212 had branches in all towns and villages in the areas to the west of the lines between Hamburg and Bremen and between Braunschweig and Munich, and was organised to prevent any implementation of scorched-earth policies by the Nazis. Other sources also maintained that Radio 1212 was a legitimate station. In overall terms, Nazi reactions to Radio 1212 indicated that the undertaking was among the most successful campaigns of its type in the course of the war.

The planners of the Morale Operations branch anticipated further clandestine radio operations in the spring of 1945, but the rapid pace of the Allied advance and the chronic shortage of personnel, who were now being transferred to the Pacific and Far Eastern theatres, led to the postponement and then cancellation of plans for future campaigns.