Megaphone and Frontline Propaganda

This posting is part of a series which comprise a draft dissertation chapter. Read more about it here. The first posting is found here. The post preceding this one is here.

Don’t shoot,
Listen to me sing the surrender song.
Brothers, listen carefully [repeat]
We are all Chinese,
One! Don’t hate. Two! Don’t hate.
Why do you fight your own people? [repeat]
The Japanese devils have come to our home,
Who wants to serve as their beasts of burden?
If you want to be a soldier you should kill the enemy. [repeat]
The wild warlords act beyond the bounds of reason,
and turn their guns upon themselves.
If you want to be a soldier fight the Japanese,
Recover our lost territory and enjoy peace.
“The Surrender Song” from Laiwu District

One of the most direct ways to win over puppet armies was through frontline propaganda. This could, of course, come in the form of written appeals. In Qinghe, Binhai, and Jiaodong military districts alone Communist forces distributed 160,000 copies of 52 different propaganda items to puppet armies. During the three campaigns against Wu Huawen letters were sent to his officers pleading with them to come over. “Wu Huawen’s wild ambition forced you to become traitors,” one began, “We welcome you to return to our side. Together we can fight the war of resistance and eliminate the great traitor who cheated you: Wu Huawen.” Because many of the soldiers in puppet armies were illiterate, however written propaganda had its limits.

The most effective frontline communication with an enemy force that Communist forces had no direct or indirect relationship with was through the use of nighttime calls through a megaphone (hanhua). Hiding in various locations around a puppet army strong point, these propaganda calls, songs, and chants that were carried out for hours at a time were used to demoralize the enemy through appeals to surrender, threats of future punishment, and the sharing of propaganda news on developments throughout Shandong.

An account of the application of megaphone propaganda against Wu Huawen’s forces can be found in Wang Fang’s memoir. In the winter of 1943, after the completion of the first “Attack Wu Campaign,” Wang personally joined an effort to secure the surrender of some Wu’s troops in a remote fortress. He called out to the enemy, telling them they could join the Eighth Route Army if they only put their weapons down, and that if, instead, they wished to return to their homes, the Eighth Route Army would gladly pay them their traveling expenses. After 30 minutes of these megaphone appeals, shots were fired from the fort, forcing him to relocate. Wang claims that, after another hour of calls from his new location, all 200 of the puppet soldiers inside surrendered.

It wasn’t necessary for an enemy unit to surrender to claim a positive result. In Laiwu, an Enemy Work team under Yu Zizheng carried out megaphone propaganda against one puppet army fort. The fort did not surrender but a friendly relationship was successfully developed. When Japanese forces next carried out a mopping-up campaign in the area, local resistance members were allowed to hide in the fortress. Megaphone propaganda, sometimes called offering “night school,”  (shang yeke), became an ever increasing part of measures to win over puppet armies. By 1944 they had also expanded to include more than just dedicated Enemy Work agents. In southern Shandong, the activity was apparently deemed safe enough a practice that children were given lessons on propaganda calls to the enemy and, “at night they would call out to the puppet armies not to steal their food.”

Broadcasted or shouted propaganda along a long linear front cannot match the isolating effect these efforts must have had in wartime Shandong, or during the civil war after Japanese surrender, when these techniques continued to be used. Communist forces could move relatively freely and very often had their opponents completely surrounded. As the then young Japanese soldier Kuwajima Setsurō, stationed in western Jiaodong, admitted in his memoir, whatever claims there were on the military maps in Shandong, the areas under effective occupation by Japan and its allies in reality consisted only of each county seat and the next largest village. “Almost everything else was under Eighth Route Army control.” When the voices calling for surrender or threatening retribution continued through the night on all sides of a fortification, it is not surprising the impact on morale was considerable.

Next: The Registry of Good and Evil

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