Operation Sheet Iron

This was a US undertaking by the Office of Strategic Services to assist the Italian partisan movement in the production and distribution of its underground newspaper La Riscossa Italiana (1944).

Copy for the newspaper was smuggled across the border from Italy into France by a representative of the partisan propaganda ministry. This man then approached Lieutenant Laird Ogle, a representative of the OSS’s Morale Operations branch, in Annecy to request that the paper be produced there as production was impossible in northern Italy. Ogle arranged for 10,000 copies of the paper to be printed in Grenoble, and these were infiltrated by skiers back into northern Italy through Alpine passes held by German and Italian fascist troops.

The Comitato di Liberazione Nazionale (Committee for National Liberation) later approached the Morale Operations branch with a request for 100,000 more copies of the paper to be printed and dropped on certain targets (especially Turin) in northern Italy as an indication of the close co-operation between the partisans and the Allies.

It was necessary first to undertake a complete make-over of the paper to make it of the size need for air-dropping as a leaflet, yet still be readily legible.

The original La Riscossa Italiana printed at Ogle’s behest was of US newspaper size, but was too blurred for photographing. All the copy was therefore re-set in large clean type in the Morale Operations branch’s print works. From this large edition the text was reduced by photography to 25% of the standard newspaper’s size. This was necessary to reduce weight and bulk for carrying by air, and meant that four times as many papers could be carried in the same volume. This was done in Rome and later 100,000 of the leaflets were dropped by a Douglas A-20 medium attack bomber at dawn on 20 April 1945 over Turin and other cities of northern Italy.