Operation Volkssender Drei

people's station no. 3

This was a US 'black propaganda' undertaking by the Office of Strategic Services (September/October 1944).

Following the liberation of the cities of Paris and Luxembourg, 26 agents of the Office of Strategic Services' Morale Operations department took the 'black' radio programme from the UK to the European continent. The 'Volkssender Drei' programmes, which had been approved by the Psychological Warfare Division in September 1944, were broadcast from a radio station at Villebon, near Paris, between 22.00 and 23.00. The programmes purported to come from an anti-Nazi garrison commander named Hoffmann, allegedly the son of the general who had signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in 1918, and who lived in a mountainous region of Germany, had 'liberated' his town from the Nazis and was waiting to turn it over to the Allies.

Capitalising on German civilian fears of Nazi scorched-earth policies, the reports of Hoffmann’s supposed action were designed to offer hope and encouragement. Indeed, Hoffmann 'requested' other German leaders to flow his example and establish anti-Nazi civil administrations.

The 'Volkssender Drei' programmes were based on talks by deserters, workers, housewives, youth leaders, and trade unionists, all supposedly citizens of Hoffmann’s village. These persons, as well as Hoffmann and his colleagues, a junior officer named Weber and a trade unionist called Karl, provided sabotage instructions, read the text of leaflets, stickers, and pamphlets, and issued fake coded messages to underground groups. Hoffmann and people, who claimed to be a part of a German 'Freedom Party', provided advice to civilians on subverting the war effort, gave information from the fronts, and as time went on, reported brief and exaggerated news. The 'Volkssender Drei' programmes continued until a time late in October 1944 when the Allies supposedly liberated Hoffmann’s town.

The programmes were reported in French newspapers and were known to at least 2,000 prisoners of war, who, in the words of one, 'believed it meant the end of Germany'. The Nazis repeatedly jammed the broadcasts, yet 'Volkssender Drei' was so secret and also so convincing that US 12th Army Group radio-monitoring personnel, unaware of the operation, awakened Lieutenant General Omar N. Bradley, the army group commander, on the night of the first broadcast to give him the news of Hoffmann’s actions. Bradley put a parachute regiment on alert to aid with the liberation and ordered 24-hour monitoring of the frequency in hopes of pinpointing Hoffmann’s location.