THE SINISTER POWER OF ALLIED PROPAGANDA
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Robert St. John, Associated Press correspondent was billeted in Belgrade when in April 1941 the Reich forces pushed through Yugoslavia, Greece and finally Crete. An English journalist rushed out a story relating how 300,000 British troops were ready to repel the Führer’s legions’. In fact, there were only 40,000 British troops available.
The Reich’s armies swept southwards virtually unchallenged. Having successfully escaped to Cairo, St. John was determined to work objectively but constantly found his reports sabotaged page by page. Often a simple line would be deleted to give the opposite effect from that intended.
A priceless example of this was when he correctly observed that, ‘The evacuation from Greece had not been another Dunkirk; the Greece evacuation had been much worse.’
The censor simply puts a line through the second section of the sentence leaving it to read, ‘The evacuation from Greece had not been another Dunkirk.’
Robert St. John and colleagues conservatively reckoned allied casualties to be 20,000 killed, wounded or captured. This had been changed to read 3,000. During the Battle for Crete, invading German parachutists suffered heavy losses from British troops who fired upon the paratroopers during their descent.
Pro-British Greek partisans were notorious for not taking prisoners. Captured German soldiers routinely had their throats slit by both British servicemen and Communist partisans. A furious Adolf Hitler told the German Army’s Parachute-General Student: ‘You have made a graveyard for our men.’
The arrival of reinforcements eventually smashed the British Army defence and the Greek island of Crete was subsequently occupied. However, from that campaign on, the German leader rejected the idea of parachutists being used as a successful weapon of war.
This lesson was not learned by Field Marshall Montgomery. He wretchedly led parachuted British and US forces to a bloody and humiliating defeat at Arnhem. After training in America the Screaming Eagles were sent to Britain for practice training. In a full-scale rehearsal over Berkshire immediately before D-Day, the unit suffered no less than 436 casualties from parachute jumps that went wrong. Twenty-eight Dakota aircraft returned to their English bases without dropping any troops.
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