10 Notorious Wartime Propagandists


Efforts to destroy a soldier’s psychology are just as important in destroying his body during wartime. Throughout history, propagandists have served the purpose of draining the will of opposing armies. Oftentimes, a country will even employ people from the opposing side’s nation to show that either there is little merit in the enemy’s efforts or that their own side is the just cause. Names such as Tokyo Rose and Lord Haw-Haw are familiar, but these are some of the less known spreaders of propaganda.

10. John Amery


John Amery had made his family distraught since he was a child; it seemed he was a born troublemaker and provocateur. As a young man, he liked fast cars and fast women. The authorities convicted him of seventy-two driving violations in his lifetime. The first of his three wives was an actress who went by name of Una Wing. His family tried to block the wedding, but they were unsuccessful; it didn’t matter as the marriage soon collapsed. Even earlier in life, he had run away to pursue a career in film directing. He became bankrupt.

It was his actions prior and during World War II however that caused his family the greatest shame. Believing that capitalism wasn’t enough to stand up to the worldwide threat of communism, he began looking to Fascism and National Socialism as the solution. With the advent of the Spanish Civil War, he traveled to Spain to join Franco’s Nationalist forces as an arms smuggler. During World War II, he was in Paris during the German occupation. After Germany invaded the Soviet Union, he began trying to recruit British soldiers in German POW camps in the area to join the Germans in their fight against the Soviet Union. However, out of thousands of prisoners, only thirty men said yes, and they never went into action. He then traveled to Berlin, where he joined the likes of Lord Haw-Haw, broadcasting pro-Nazi propaganda. This was embarrassing as his father was in the Churchill cabinet, and his brother was in special Operations.

At the close of the war, the noose was around his neck both figuratively and literally. On the run to Switzerland with his wife, partisans capture him in northern Italy. They turned him over to the British government, and he has the infamous fate of being one of the few British subjects hanged for treason during the war.

9. Norman Baillie-Stewart

baillie stewart

Amery wasn’t the only Britain enamored with Germany prior to the war. Baillie-Stewart was another individual that brought disgrace upon himself. He had graduated from the prestigious military college, Sandhurst, and gained a commission in the equally famous, Seaforth Highlanders. However, military life became quickly not to his liking. With his heightened sensitivity regarding social class status, he became distraught by the snobbishness of his regiment’s officers.

It was this unhappiness, along with an obsession with a German girl in 1931, which led him to offer military secrets, which were very trivial, to Germany. Germany alerted the British Government, and they soon put Baillie-Stewart under arrest. After trial, he was sentenced a short prison term in the Tower of London. As he perceived he had received unfair treatment, he left the prison in1937 a very bitter man. He traveled to Austria, where he promoted the union of that country with Germany. Anti-Nazi Austrians upset with a foreigner’s meddling in their political affairs, eventually had him deported, and he traveled to Germany, desiring to become a German citizen. To prove his loyalty, he began serving as a broadcaster on a radio station, which employed non-Germans as pro-German media mouthpieces. Management however quickly found him not as enthusiastically Nazi as other, and he was soon sacked, being replaced by the more famous Lord Haw-Haw, William Joyce.

After the war, the authorities viewed Baillie-Stewart more as a nuisance than as a menace. Compared to other traitors, there was less evidence to convict him, and he ended up spending the rest of his life with a changed name in obscurity in Ireland.

8. Seoul City Sue


It’s not only men that have been persuaded to be propagandists against their own country. Anna Wallace Suhr served as the English-speaking mouthpiece for the North Korean regime during the Korean War. How did a southern female missionary end up in Korea as a broadcaster for the communist cause during the early part of the war?

In the 1930s, Anna Wallace moved to Shanghai to pursue teaching. There, she married a Korean man named Suhr. The pleasant times teaching didn’t last when the Japanese invaded and occupied the city, and she and her husband spent the rest of the World War Two in an internment camp, although they were allowed to continue teaching. After the war, they moved to Korea, and when North Korea overran Seoul at the start of the Korean War, the couple soon swore loyalty to the Kim regime. Anna soon began dishing at propaganda to the U.S. troops.

During the war, she went by many names: Rice Ball Kate and Rice Bowl Maggie are two of her others. It was, however, the nickname Seoul City Sue that sank into popular consciousness. She read the names of dead and captured Americans, and specifically addressed to black American troops, inquiring why they were fighting when the government was denying many of their civil rights back home. Her propaganda broadcasts however didn’t last long as U.S. air strikes against Seoul took the station off the air a couple months later. What became of her afterwards is still a mystery, although some believe that she entered South Korea in 1969 during the second Korean conflict, and the South Korean Army executed her as a spy.

7. Rita Zucca


Back in World War II, there were a number of women from Allied countries that decided to throw their lot in with the Axis. The Allies called them Axis Sallys collectively, with the most famous being Mildred Gillars, who broadcasted a message of doom for the Allies from Berlin. Another Axis Sally, who threatened to steal Gillars’ thunder, was Rita Zucca.

Her father, an Italian immigrant to New York, likely had great hopes for his daughter, who worked in his successful restaurant. During her teenage years, she even went to school in a convent in Florence. However, the rise of tensions in Europe in the late 1930s changed everything. Back in Italy, the family still owned property, but Mussolini’s government threatened to take ownership, as they had become Americans. Thus, Rita moved back to Italy inn 1938 and renounced her U.S. citizenship to maintain ownership.

During most of the war, she worked as a simple typist, but as the war was going bad for the Fascists, Mussolini decided he needed his own Axis Sally. The government thus employed her in the radio program Jerry’s Front Calling, where she tried to dishearten the advancing American troops. The troops were not discouraged, and the Allied advance forced here to retreat with Germans following the collapse of the Mussolini government. She continued her propaganda campaign even though she just had a child and the Axis forces were disintegrating, finally hanging up the mic on April 25, 1945. The American government arrested her and began proceedings to try her for treason, but because she had given up her U.S. citizenship, the trial fell through on legal grounds, and she lived the rest of her life in Italy.

6. Hanoi Hannah


Even in Vietnam, U.S. forces were subjected to honey-tongued broadcasts from the enemy. This broadcaster, Trinh Thi Ngo, was homegrown. How did a local woman end up speaking good enough English for the North Vietnamese to employ her as a radio host?

Trinh Thi Ngo grew up in privileged circumstances as the daughter of a factory owner. She had a love for Hollywood movies, particularly for Gone with the Wind, and wanted to be able to understand them without resorting to subtitles. Given private English lessons, she attained enough proficiency for Radio Hanoi to employ her as an English-language newscaster. When the U.S. involvement in the conflict increased, she began her verbal counter-measures against American troops. At the height of her war career, she issued three broadcasts daily, where she discussed American casualties and the likelihood of the soldiers’ women cheating on them back in the States and played the current antiwar songs.

Following the war, Americans has more knowledge of her than her fellow Vietnamese did. Although offered a prestigious opportunity in Saigon later, she gave up her media career to take care of her sick husband. In recent interviews, she says that her role as Hanoi Hannah is all in the past, and that she still desires of visiting the United States.

5. Argentine Annie


It was 1982, and tensions between the U.K. and Argentina over the Falkland Islands had turned into war. As U.K. forces voyaged to reclaim the isles, the Argentina military junta believed that they could win the conflict, but also tried for a public relations coup. Hoping to put a wedge between the close relationship of the U.K. and the U.S., and to discourage the British troops thousands of miles from home, they put on the radio Silvia Fernandez Barrio, a popular Argentine TV anchor.

When the Argentine military forces invaded the Falklands, they took over the local radio station and renamed it “Liberty.” Probably remembering wartime radio broadcasts of the past, they thought that the sweet voice of a woman would make the U.K. forces back down. It was however completely unsuccessful. The broadcasts came to the British government’s knowledge through an elderly ham radio enthusiast’s discovery—in Britain. Although picked up in Britain, it’s still unclear whether any soldiers in Argentina heard Argentine Annie’s propaganda as the broadcast was of very poor quality. During the broadcasts, Barrio would even try to influence America to stay neutral, as both the U.K. and Argentina were anticommunist countries and allies of the U.S. However, U.S. and the rest of the world’s opinion were against Argentina, and the Argentine soldiers soon lost the will the fight. Having the lost the war, the military junta was overthrown a year later.

4. Philippe Henriot


Contrary to popular perception, not everybody in France loathed the German presence following the country’s fall in 1940. Despite the long-term animus between the two countries, some traditionalists believed that resistance to the Germans was futile and that only National Socialism could serve as effective bulwark against Soviet communism. A paramilitary group called the Milice formed in France and served the objectives of the Axis.

Henriot, a politician influenced somewhat by the Maurrasime political philosophy, believed that Vichy France was the real French state and thus joined the Milice. With this belief, he encouraged reprisals against the Resistance, whom he labeled as terrorists. Prior to the war, Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda minister, had made a great impression on Henriot. As Allied forces advanced, he believed that he could become the French Goebbels. Using strong imagery, he fulminated against the forces of Anglo-Americanism. However, with the success of the D-Day landings on June 6, 1944, his time had run out. Posing as fellow collaborators, members of the Resistance assassinated him on June 28.

3. Thomas Baty


Many historians today believe that the date of the beginning of World War II should not be September 1939 but September 1931, when the Japanese Kwantung army invaded and annexed Manchuria. Few people realize that a British legal advisor helped argue the defense of aggressive Japanese policy, which led to Japan leaving the League of Nations and becoming even more radicalized.

That legal advisor was Thomas Baty, and he was quite a character for the period. As an expatriate in Japan, he was also a transvestite who expressed desires that he had rather been born a girl, as he preferred their gentle manners to the rough ideal of men. In the 1920s and 1930s, Baty believed that Japan had the right to intervene in China to protect its interests and its citizens. He believed that China had ceased to function as a working state due to the constant civil wars and warlord activity occurring. It was through Baty’s legal knowledge that the Japanese government put forth their claims in Manchuria. Although Baty had lived in Japan for a number of years before the outbreak of hostilities in 1931, he claimed no national bias, but he believed that Japan had a legal case over the League’s objections. Baty continued to support Japan’s claims up to the Japanese declaration of war on Britain, when he resigned from service as a legal advisor. Following the war, he returned to a similar honorary position, but by the time of his death in 1954, the world had forgotten his role in justifying Japanese aggression.

2. Ayatollah Khomeini


If a person hears the name of Khomeini, he or she usually thinks of the fatwa issued against Salman Rushdie, a moment when the notion of radicalized Islam was thrust into the West’s face. The toppling of the Shah and the establishment of an Islamic republic in Iran was a game changer for the entire world. Between that establishment and the issuing of the fatwa, there was a bloody conflict often forgotten about, the Iran-Iraq War.

It was during that war what has become current news concerning the Sunni-Shia rivalry first reached Western ears. It was also during this war that many become familiar with the tactics of using children in suicide tactics to win military objectives. As Iran began losing their initial momentum during the war, and increasingly lost soldiers to superior Iraqi arms, Khomeini began emphasizing the war more as a holy struggle. He thus encouraged children to join a special force called the Basiji. Not even given weapons, they were equipped with a plastic key, symbolic for the keys of heaven, and Khomeini told them to clear the minefields with their bodies, thus saving the lives of actual soldiers. Western media outlets, such as National Geographic, reported photos of young boys missing limbs or blinded due to these human wave tactics.

Although the war ended in 1988, the killing didn’t end. Later reports allege that Khomeini ordered a fatwa against thousands of Iranians, likely believing the lack of success during the war was due to an insufficient spiritual fervor. It is claimed that children as young as thirteen were executed as enemies of the state and the faith.

1. Haj Amin al-Husseini


This middle eastern World War II figure is probably one of the most influential figures of the 20th and 21st century, yet few know his name or recognize his influence. During the war, he was an was an exile in Germany, and he urged collaboration between the forces of Islam and Nazi Germany as they had a common enemy: the Jewish people. Husseini also believed that if Germany were successful against the British, then their colonial empire would fall, allowing for flourishing Islamic states.

Nazi Germany, though sympathetic to his anti-Semitism, declined to legitimize the exiled leader, as they didn’t want to upset their allies, Vichy France and Italy, who still maintained colonies in the Middle East and North Africa. Still, Husseini urged the Arab nations to revolt against Allied forces, and to fight for the Axis forces as Allied victory would lead to a Jewish state. He encouraged the spread of Nazi propaganda through Arab lands, and by the end of the war, he persuaded Hitler and Himmler to form SS divisions composed of Muslims.

Following the war, the French captured Husseini after he tried fleeing to Switzerland. However, with a fraudulent passport, he escaped custody and fled to Egypt. Until his death in 1974, he continued planting seeds of anti-Semitism in the Middle East.

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