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Watchmen on HBO: Did the Germans really drop leaflets in World War I?

Watchmen on HBO: Did the Germans really drop leaflets in World War I?
Germans dropping leaflets on Watchmen. Pic credit: HBO

The second episode of Watchmen aired tonight on HBO and the opening was yet another historical moment for the show.

Last week in the season premiere, the episode began with scenes showing the real-life Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 where angry white people forced their way into a wealthy black community known as Black Wall Street and burned it to the ground, killing men, women, and children.

While that angered many viewers who would prefer that parts of American history should remain hidden, this week had another interesting moment that took place during World War I.

On Watchmen, Germans drop leaflets on African American soldiers

The second episode of Watchmen began with a room of women working on typewriters.

It turned out that these women were Germans in Germany and a high-ranking German official came in to ask if a specific woman spoke fluent English.

She did and he had her come into his office to type out his propaganda message. That message was then dropped as a leaflet onto African American troops marching in World War I, fighting for the United States.

However, the message revealed that black people in Germany were treated equally and were allowed success. It then compared it to America, where black people were once slaves and still answered to white men who did not care about them.

One of these black soldiers was spit on by an American commander on a horse as he read this.

That black soldier was the father from the premiere episode who sent his son to safety after the Tulsa Race Massacre started. The note that he wrote the message to watch over the boy was the leaflet the Germans dropped that day.

That boy grew up to be the old man in the wheelchair that claims he killed Tulsa Police Chief, Judd Crawford.

Did the Germans really drop leaflets in the war?

The act of dropping airborne leaflets was a form of propaganda that was, in fact, something that happened in the First World War and World War II.

Both sides implemented this tactic.

There were many ways to use these leaflets, including threats, offers of rewards, disinformation, communication, and promise of assistance.

The way the Germans in this episode of Watchmen used the leaflets was a way to use factual claims to try to sow discontent.

However, in the First World War, it was Britain that dropped leaflets more than Germany, often sending postcards into the trenches to show prisoners of war living under humane conditions as well as propaganda against the Kaiser.

Britain dropped over 26 million leaflets in the First World War.

What is most impressive is that the leaflets dropped by the Germans in Watchmen were not only real, but they said the same thing as the real leaflets.

Here is a look at the leaflets.

German propaganda leaflet from Watchmen
German propaganda leaflet from Watchmen. Pic credit: HBO
German propaganda leaflets
German propaganda leaflets from the First World War. Pic credit: National Archive

Watchmen airs on HBO on Sunday nights at 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET/PT.


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