Operation Harvard Project

This was a US operation by the Office of Strategic Services to undermine German morale with pamphlets, posters and other disinformation and propaganda material (March 1944/May 1945).

The 'Harvard Project' was started by Lieutenant William Casey, a US Navy officer, for implementation by the Sioux Mission of the OSS’s Morale Operations Branch in Stockholm, Sweden. The clandestine two-man team was one of the first Morale Operations Branch units to begin operations during March 1944. Under Department of State cover and with equipment supplied by the Office of War Information, the Sioux Mission began the production of rumours and more than 250,000 pamphlets, leaflets, stickers, and letters which were then disseminated by Special Operations agents of the OSS throughout Europe.

The 'Harvard Project' itself comprised a four-page, letter-size weekly business publication, Handel und Wandel (trade and commerce), which purported to be a factual analysis of world economic news of interest to the European market. The undertaking was designed to convince German businessmen that if they freed themselves from Nazi rule, Allied business interests would co-operate with them in turning Germany into a capitalist bulwark against Bolshevism. The operation therefore aimed to create a division between industrialists and businessmen and the Nazis, and to push business groups to press the army to surrender before everything was destroyed.

Limited distribution of the newsletter, each being printed to the extent of about 1,000 copies, was carried out by SO agents or sent through the mail.

The weight and bulk of printed materials always made agent distribution risky. The Morale Operations Branch’s solution was to produce pre-gummed stickers and pre-cut stencils which looked handwritten. Agents could quickly attach stickers to any surface with little risk, and stencils came with an easy-to-use paint pen specially developed by the OSS’s research and development branch. Stickers and stencils consisted of simple anti-Nazi or defeatist slogans such as 'When Hitler dies-Germany lives … .. We quit', 'Capitulate', and 'Must you be the last one to die?'

The Morale Operations Branch also produced posters, but their weight and bulk limited their use. Examples included a depiction of cemetery crosses, one bearing the epitaph 'Killed on the last day of World War II. Will you be the last one to die?' Another showed a view from the bottom of an open grave with the caption 'Where the German soldier sets his foot, from there he never leaves. A. Hitler, 7 Oct. 1942'. Other posters relied for the effect on the use of symbolism, such as a German soldier crucified on a swastika, or Hitler’s face superimposed on a skull and crossbones.