Tell on Paratroopers

Today we have an unusual poster in that it is exhorting children specifically to be alert for enemy action.


The translation from the Russian has been given either as ‘Children, protect the Motherland! Spy on your enemies and report to your elders!’ or ‘Watch out for enemies, report them to adults.’ Either way, such an active demand on children was unusual in the period. The Soviet Union was, however facing one of the largest invasions in what was to them, the Great Patriotic War.

The handily and inaccurately be-swastikaed aircraft helps show who’s doing the dropping, while the design of the poster is stronger than it at first seems with the landed parachutist only becoming visible after the dropping one, and the dynamic sequence of actions from them to the boy watching to the boy acting as you ‘read’ the poster.

The trope of secret paratroop (or spy) drops was a perennial one across almost all the theatres of the war, and in Britain after the collapse of continental resistance in May 1940, in a write up in The Times on May 21st, of a report given to the British Press by the Dutch Foreign Minister in exile, Mr Van Kleffens, included the sub-heading: “ABOMINABLE TRICKS” where “the landing of parachutists and troops from aeroplanes on this scale, with such abominable ruses de guerre as the use of disguises of nuns, Red Cross nurses, monks, tramcar-conductors, policemen, postmen and Dutch troops.” The paratroops disguised as nuns, perhaps because of the idea’s absurdity or incongruity, gained huge popularity in the invasion scare rumour machine, despite not having a whit of truth to it. (For a Finnish example, on the other side, see here.)

In reality, the Germans did not drop paratroops in the Russian campaign, but as in so much else in wartime work, the threat was enough.

James Kightly, Vintage Aero Writer.

Poster on the Redit thread here, given as USSR, 1941, artist unknown.

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