by SGM Herbert A. Friedman (Ret.)
Note: The Weekly Pegasus, The newsletter of professional readings of the U.S. Air Force Military Information Support Operations Working Group recommended this article in their 23 December 2017 issue
Sometimes I think that readers might enjoy hearing about the creative process, how a story comes into being. After authoring 60+ articles on propaganda and psychological operations, I was out of interesting topics to write about. In correspondence with my buddy Ed Rouse, the host of this site, I commented on the recent addition of a cigarette paper leaflet to an article on Allied propaganda of the Korean War. He answered with a comment about leaflets being used for more than toilet paper. That rang a bell. The Allies did prepare propaganda toilet paper and distributed it over occupied Europe to insult and ridicule the German leader Adolf Hitler. There were other such campaigns where strange items such as pornography, chocolates, tea, seeds, and even condoms were disseminated by air. There might be a story here. However, illustrations would be scarce.
In the case of a paper leaflet that is produced in the millions there is a good chance that a specimen will be saved as a souvenir, passed down, or archived by the producer or the target nation. In the case of what we are calling "strange" items, they are meant to be utilized. If you drop candy to a child or seeds to a farmer, those items will be immediately consumed or planted. Nobody is saving them for posterity. So, we undertake this project knowing that an article like this will be lightly illustrated.
Thinking more about the subject matter, it occurred to me that there were items that were planned to be dropped, but the operation was cancelled at the last moment. Someone at higher headquarters decided that the campaign was just too foolish or too dangerous to proceed. That could make an interesting second section. Finally, there are things that were dropped but probably should not have been. I thought of an unopened box of leaflets that killed an individual, someone crushed by a food crate, and food packets in the same color as cluster bomb unit (CBU) bomblets. I think we may have the making of a story. Let's see how far we can go with this subject.
Most airdropped PSYOP during wartime is aimed at the enemy. It usually takes the form of leaflets or newspapers, dropped in the millions or even billions that attempt to demoralize and convince an enemy that his war is lost, and that he should throw down his arms and either desert his post or come over to the other side where he will be safe until peace is declared.
There is another kind of PSYOP campaign that is usually aimed more at civilians and occupied peoples. It often uses gifts and small items that are in short supply as a reminder that their allies are still fighting and care about those captive people. It attempts to keep up their morale and remind them that the war is not over and victory is in sight. Their allies have flown hundreds of miles through dangerous enemy territory at great risk just to drop a packet of tea or tobacco and make their life a little less unbearable. They are true and faithful friends. They can be trusted. All they ask in return is that the finder has courage, has faith, and fights on.
FM 3-05.301, Psychological Operations Process Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures, August 2007, talks about the concept:
Novelties and gifts are a unique PSYOP medium that can consist of anything presenting a PSYOP message or symbol. The messages must be short and catchy and general in content. Specific messages may be outdated by time, making the entire stock of novelties or gifts useless. A message-carrying gift may be any item of practical use such as matches, lighters, soap, nail clippers, notebooks, calendars, and T-shirts. PSYOP personnel should mark supplies and materials associated with humanitarian assistance to identify the providing agency or nation. Novelties, such as playing cards, balloons, puzzles, buttons, stickers, and other items of no great practical use, can also carry short messages or symbols. Many of the gift items and novelties must be commercially produced, but the PSYOP unit can produce the following items: Wall calendars with graphic representations of PSYOP themes and written PSYOP messages; Notebooks for schoolchildren with a short message or symbol on the cover and each page and T-shirts with commercially produced press-on messages or symbols.
C-47 dropping leaflets
It should be noted that even though propaganda "gifts" have been dropped from the sky in nearly every major campaign since WWI, that the United States Army FM (Field Manual) 33-1 Psychological Operations Techniques and Procedures is not in favor of such gifts:
The use of novelties must be decided at the highest echelon of command because they are expensive, they require scarce resources, and distribution must be phased into the overall psychological operation.
Gifts, being useful items, do not serve well as propaganda, for the impulse of the recipient is to use the gift, ignoring the message. The major disadvantage of novelties and gifts is the cumulative expense of mass production and distribution. In addition, such items have only a peripheral, passive effect, seldom if ever moving people to action or changing opinions or emotions. At best, such items complement other media.
Gift pack items incuded stationary, wrapping paper, chess game, and calendar
In the story below you will read about the aerial dropping of cigarettes, matches, writing paper, a chess board, etc. Each item has its own section. However, on rare occasions a number of these items were combined in a gift pack. It is only proper that we show this item first. A United Nations Korean War propaganda package that contained a number of different items for the North Korean soldier who was the target of this propaganda campaign.
This Korean War New Years gift kit was coded 8380 and dated 15 December 1952. The kit was produced in an attempt to show the North Korean forces that the U.N. could be trusted and was friendly toward the Koreans. The kit contains five cigarettes, one box of matches, six sheets of stationery, a chess game, a calendar and a greeting card. The kit is wrapped inside a Pliofilm bag inside a greeting wrapper. Pliofilm is a transparent sheeting of chlorinated rubber (rubber hydrochloride) used for raincoats, as a packaging film, etc. It was the first transparent wrapping paper (1934) that could be heat-sealed.
The box of matches (8380A) has the text, Gift of the U.N.
The stationery (8380B) says, May the New Year bring better times.
The chess game Changgi (8380C) has the text, Gift of the U.N.
The calendar (8380D) says, May the New Year bring peace and freedom. A gift from the U.N. May the New Year bring unification and rehabilitation.
The greeting wrapper (8380E) says, Gift of the U.N.
The gift card (8380F) is addressed: To the officers, sergeants and privates of the North Korean Army. Text on the back is: May the New Year bring you much happiness. From the officers and men of the United Nations forces.
The cigarettes have no code or text.
The Pliofilm wrapper has a propaganda message on the front which says:
The U.N. Soldiers present this bag to the North Korean Soldiers
All the free nations stood up firmly to repel the Communist aggression with which the Communists attempted to destroy the
. We, however, have no animosity toward the republicof Korea soldiers who were forced to fight with the Communist Army. North Korea
This bag is our humble gift to you in recognition of our friendship. You will see much more of our friendship when you come over to the U.N. side.
The short message on the back is:
The U.N. Gift Bag
Which you can keep rice in.
Which you can carry water in.
Which you can put other important things in.
Another chess game was coded EUSAK 8625 The EUSAK stands for Eighth U.S. Army Korea. The specimen of this leaflet that I saw had the handwritten note at the center:
This is an elephant chess game. We drop them over the lines in 50 man packets which also include candy, cigarettes and matches, toilet paper and chomping tobacco. I hear they are very popular with the Reds.
The Communists sometimes sent gifts to Allied troops in the front lines. One was a small cloth bag, called a G.I. Care Kit. One soldier noted that the gifts left by the Chinese forces for front line U.S. troops during Christmas made good barter for booze from the flyboys that were always on the hunt for souvenirs. Another gift was a bag of Chinese tea with the following message attached:
Demand Peace, Stop the War!
Peace: This Chinese Famous tea is given you to kill the hillish [sic] time at the front.
During the Cold War a decade later, a North Korean defector recommended various items to be placed in the gift packets floated in plastic bags to Korea by the United States Army 7th PSYOP Group. His choice was:
A Pojaji A square cloth designed to carry articles. An Indan case A container for carrying a medicine used for sweet-smelling breath. Handkerchiefs, soap containers, shoe horns, combs, a money case, childrens toys, childrens fairytale books and picture books for children.
The defector recommended that the best quality items should be used to show the high quality of
items and to create dissatisfaction with poorly made North Korean goods. Republicof Korea
We should add here that the Communists tried to stop their people taking the gifts that were dropped during the Korean War. Dan King wrote a book entitled The Yalu River Boys, Pacific Press, North Charleston, NC, 2018, about his father who was a prisoner in North Korea after his B-29 was shot down. The story mentions the gifts and North Korean official reaction:
The Central Peace Committee was coerced into signing and recording a six-paragraph Message to the U.N. Delegation at Kaesong Cease-Fire negotiations The same document accuses the USAF of dropping booby-trapped toys, cans of food and fountain pens The Chinese even accused the airmen of trying to murder little kids by dropping poison-laced lollipops.
The POWs struck back. They killed a rat, fashioned a tiny parachute with a USAF insignia and attached it to the rat, and tossed it into the bushes:
Wearing rubber gloves and surgical masks, a pair of guards used oversize chopsticks to place the little rakkasan into a jar. Meanwhile, dozens of guards scoured the area for more invaders.
[Note]: By coincidence, Rakkasan was the name of an American propaganda newspaper to the Japanese during WWII.
Retired USAF Lieutenant Colonel Bob Evans was a navigator assigned to the 35th Troop Carrier Squadron at Naha Air Base, Okinawa. He remembers dropping gifts from his C-130A over North Vietnam for Christmas 1965:
During our time at Da Nang AFB, we once flew a Santa Claus run over the area just north of the Demilitarized Zone. We dropped candy, soap, school supplies, and other small items by small parachutes. All the goods were made in South Vietnam, so the thought was that the villagers would use the products. However, North Vietnamese propaganda convinced the villagers that it was an American trick, and that we were trying to poison them. The villagers were pretty clever, though. They washed their cattle with the soap and fed the candy to the pigs.
Medical Envelope 10-363-68
On the general subject of gift medicine, in 1968, the 10th PSYOP Battalion printed 50,000 medical envelopes to be used by U.S. troops whenever they held a medical civic action program Medcap and treated the local people. The text on the front is:
Name of Medicine___________________________
Take tablets of this medicine ___ times every day.
Drink a lot of water. Prevent children from taking this medicine by mistake.
Go Cong MEDCAP
Down with the Viet Cong's policy to exploit the people and make them poor.
The text on the back of the envelope is:
The Viet Cong kill the people and steal their rice while the Government of Vietnam looks after the people and provides medicine for them.
In May 1970, the American forces in Vietnam prepared another medicine envelope coded 3727. It was meant to show the sick people of Vietnam that their government was concerned about their health. 100,000 envelopes containing medicine were distributed nationwide. It is believed that the program was paid for by the Military Assistance Command Plans and Program Division - Advisory (PPA), the paper printed at the Regional Service Center, Manila, and made into envelopes in Saigon. Text on the envelopes is:
MEDICAL CARE FOR THOSE THAT NEED IT
An Aim of your Government
Two Types of Portable Radio Dropped on
Third Type of Portable Radio Dropped on
Note: This is the same type of radio shown in the leaflet below
Small portable Radios have been dropped on a number of occasions in an attempt to make communication with a target audience easier. Radios are cheap, can be fixed so that they only receive one station, and are extremely valuable when dealing with an illiterate people who are unable to read leaflets.
SFC Michael H. Johnson Sr. (
Retired) who served with the 7th Psychological Operations Group reports that there were three types of radios. One was fixed to a single station and then sealed inside with a black compound. There was also a normal transistor and one that had the propaganda station pre-tuned so it was clear and sharp, while all the other stations were slightly out-of-tune and with some static. USA
He added that the radio program was somewhat of a failure because some Special Forces troops had a habit of booby-Trapping the foam containers so that they would explode when opened. "We were sometimes undermined by our own people," he said.
I did not believe this story at first, and am still hesitant to believe it, but when I asked a former officer in the 7th PSYOP Group he answered:
I had not heard that specific story about booby-trapping foam containers, but I have no reason to disbelieve it. There was one report that a body was found on a trail with the head blown off and the right hand missing. It was said that the Special Forces had rigged a radio with explosives. It was turned on, brought to the ear, and exploded. I would say, you cannot discount the extreme possibility that your source was correct.
Similar things may have occurred in
. A North Korean defector reported that a Security Officer and team came to his village with examples of ROK propaganda materials that were booby trapped with explosives. One of the items was a can of shoe polish. My Operations Officer said that he believed that the ROK CIA was involved in booby trapping items. Korea
Alan K. Abner says in PSYWARRIORS Psychological Warfare during the Korean War, Burd Street Press, Shippensburg, PA, 2001, that small cigarette pack size AM radio receivers were dropped during the Korean War as were a limited distribution of shock-proof short-wave transmitters.
One of the earliest mentions of gift radios is mentioned in Stars and Stripes of 18 July 1967 in an article entitled Drop Radios on North Psywar Experts. The article says in part:
American psychological warfare experts have proposed the dropping of small transistor radios into Communist
in order to get allied views across to the population. North Vietnam
Informed sources said the idea was presented to Leonard Marks, Director of the
United StatesInformation Service when he visited Saigonrecently.
The said Marks reacted enthusiastically and asked for cost estimates on the radios in lots of up to one million, an indication that serious consideration is being given to the idea.
The radios would be packed in plastic cases with a spare battery, giving them 20 hours playing time. They would be dropped by tiny parachutes and fixed at a pre-set frequency which would pick up the Voice of
Americaor the Vietnamese governments Voice of Freedom station in . South Vietnam
Thomas C. Sorensen mentions the dissemination of PSYOP radios in The Word War, Harper & Row, N.Y., 1968:
Cheap transistor radios, especially constructed to receive only U. S. and South Vietnamese stations, were sold to peasants and dropped into enemy territory in both North and South Vietnam.
A PSYOP officer who operated out of the 7th PSYOP Group on Okinawa added:
We ordered small portable radios for air drop over North Vietnam. We scheduled a helicopter to drop the radios encased in a foam box on our PSYOP compound to see if they would survive. In the initial tests the batteries were installed in the radio. It didn't work. There was considerable breakage. We took the batteries out of the radio and installed them in the foam box near the radio. That worked fine. The operation was approved. We used a B-52 to drop the radios.
An airman told me in regard to dropping the radios from B-52 bombers:
I was stationed at
AndersonAir Force Base, Guamwhere I worked in the Munitions Maintenance Squadron where we received, stored and assembled bombs that were loaded on the B-52 bombers stationed there. One day we assembled what consisted of small transistor radios which were affixed to the Armed Forces Radio Station (I think), a short instruction sheet, a battery and an earphone in a Styrofoam box (If I remember correctly each radio had a little parachute attached).
Specialist Five Clyde Gaidosh, the air operations NCO of Co A, 8th PSYOP Battalion in Nha Trang, Vietnam from 1969-70 recalls dropping small portable radios that could only receive the Chieu Hoi (Open Arms) station. He recalled that the radios were about 5 inches high by 4 inches wide and about 1 or 2 inches thick. The ones he dropped were a bright yellow. Although he is not sure after 35 years, he believes that they ran on a 9 volt battery and were packed in a plastic waterproof padded bag. He recalls that the small parachutes were about 18 inches to 2 feet across. The radios were dropped from helicopters for pin-point targets and fixed wing aircraft for larger targets.
Specialist Five Paul Merrell who was also in the 8th PSYOP Battalion about the same time adds:
We did occasional drops from Hueys of very cheap transistor radios (with flare parachutes) that were hard-wired to the frequency of the Battalion's 50 Kilowatt radio station at Pleiku.
The Communist North Vietnamese reported the finding of the Allied radio boxes on many occasions. Some of the MACVSOG reports of these discoveries are as follows:
On 2 May 1965, fisherman found large and small boxes floating in the water. The small boxes contained childrens clothing and handkerchiefs. The large boxes were sealed with green tape and wrapped in a nylon bag. When opening the eight large boxes they found radios, about 25cm long and 10cm high. The listeners noted that the radios played Vietnamese music and talk stations. Within every box was a piece of paper that said, This radio set is donated to the people of
. Do not allow anyone to take it from you. Keep it to follow the situation. Security forces found out and two days later confiscated 23 radio sets within the Tuong Lai commune. North Vietnam
During the night of 9 July 1965, rangers using rubber boats, landed on the coast. They advanced 3 kilometers into the mainland near Yen Diem and laid 25 radio sets there, one of which was turned on.
SOG's greatest material limitation in these radio games was a shortage of transistor radios in enemy hands. The solution was simple enough: SOG built its own radios, code-names Peanuts, which were CIA-designed and manufactured in
. Like anything having to do with OP-33, the Peanuts radio was fiendishly clever. No matter how carefully you turned a Peanuts frequency dial, the real Radio Japan Hanoiwas lost in preplanned static, but right there, just a hair away and clear as a bell, was SOG's "Radio ." C130 Blackbirds airdropped them into North Vietnam, inserting eight thousand in 1967. Hanoi
They are mentioned again in John L. Plasters SOG a Photo History of the Secret War, Paladin Press, Boulder, CO, 2000. The author says:
Thousands of peanuts radios were inserted by
recon teams, airdropped by Blackbirds, and floated ashore by Navy Nasty boat crews. U.S.
The MACV-SOG History states that
Declassified SOG documents state that the following numbers of radios were dropped in the early days of the Vietnam War: 949 in 1965, 5000 in 1966 and 11,000 in 1967.
The MACV 1968 Psyop Guide adds:
Small transistor radios which have been locked to a single frequency have been manufactured. Although packaged for free-fall aerial delivery, the radios have been largely distributed by being placed along trails traveled by the Viet Cong, handed to members of known Viet Cong families, and distributed in hamlets and villages inhabited by or close to target audiences. The effectiveness of this program may have been indicated by the destruction of the antenna and the Viet Cong attack on the station.
Gifts have been airdropped or distributed as an adjunct to patrols or waterborne operations. Even through the gifts are often confiscated, the act of giving is contrasted with the act of taking by the enemy. Toys, soap, writing paper, clothes, and food are useful for reinforcing the message.
The dissemination of bulky items which are either vehicles for propaganda (stationery, cigarettes, soap) or permit reception of messages (radio, TV) is most frequently accomplished by hand. Gifts have been released from aircraft by using small chutes attached to the generally unbreakable articles. The major problem with bulky articles is delivery to enemy areas by aerial means. The very limited drift of these articles requires on-target release. This, of course, is particularly hazardous. The articles need not be chute-delivered, for Styrofoam packaging has proved quite reliable for free fall purposes.
The declassified secret report Psychological Operations against North Vietnam: July 1972 January 1973 says about the miniature airdropped radios:
In late September 1967, the suggestion to drop miniaturized radio receivers (mini-radios) was approved as another method of disseminating PSYOP news There were four means of getting leaflets and mini-radios over North Vietnam: the C-130 aircraft, F-4s, B-52s, and drones.
The general concept and rationale behind the use of mini-radios was to apply pressure on the NVN leadership by threatening their monopoly on information for domestic consumption. By dropping mini-radios, it was hoped that the radio audience for U.S. and SVN government broadcasts would be enlarged, and that the party and government would become concerned that an increase in illegal listenership represented a growing divergence from strict loyalty and obedience to government decree. Further, the radios burdened the security apparatus by causing it to search for and retrieve them, and created resentment when an individual either voluntarily or involuntarily gave up the small but valuable item to authorities. Finally, their presence required the government to remind the populace repeatedly that their exposure to information must be restricted .Some new methods of delivery were tried including the flotation of radios to NVN from offshore and balloon delivery.
The United States Army Special Operations Commands journal, Tip of the Spear, January, 2010, adds in an article entitled Vietnams most secret squadron:
The OPLAN 34A unconventional warfare plan included various Psychological Warfare operations, including dropping leaflets and small single-station radios to the North Vietnamese population (tuned to a radio station purported to be run by Hanoi, but really run by SOG), dropping gift kits to peasants, and various other black ops intended to convince North Vietnamese leaders there was an anticommunist insurgency brewing on their own turf.
The North Vietnamese news media was not happy. One comment was:
The people of North Vietnam must absolutely refrain from tuning in to radio stations of the American and their henchmen. We must organize ourselves to collect and burn or destroy them immediately. Keep track of, detect and check in time the action of bad elements who surreptitiously tune in on enemy radio stations to spread groundless rumors and disrupt order and security.
Bob Fulton was the Executive Officer for Regional Service Center (RSC) in Manila, part of the United States Information Agency (USIA) from 1967 to 1970. He told me that the small portable radios caused several discussions:
The radios often caused a confused state of affairs over which agency was responsible for what. I can't remember who approached us on the radios. Think it was someone from Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support (CORDS). We discussed what I knew of the Voice of Americas experience and I referred them to an appropriate contact at VOA. We later printed the instruction leaflet after they acquired the radios for North Vietnam. I think we printed about 10,000 units. I did not know that they were actually air-dropped. I know that during the Cold War for the USSR and Eastern Europe the CIAs preferred dissemination route was through smugglers and the black market.
Radio Dropped on
Retired SFC Mike Johnson recalls that the 7th PSYOP Group in Okinawa also dropped and
distributed small portable radios over
Specialist Gaidosh also recalls a controversial small gadget that was used like a viewer to show the VC what was happening to their families and homes while they were in the field. He says:
The gadget was about 3 inches high and 2 inches wide and had a glazed over square to make it look like a TV and had a hole about 1/2 inch to look through. I think they were bright yellow and red. The light came thru the TV square and the hole was on the opposite side. On the top was a white button to push. As you pushed the button the picture changed. I think they had about 5 or 6 cartoon type graphics and a Chieu Hoi message. I know we dropped some from the 02B aircraft mostly in special targeted areas. I don't think it was a large part of the program. Most people never heard of them. I brought one home, but it was lost years ago.
An officer from the 7th PSYOP Group was unaware of this project but said:
I explored the possibility of using a viewer with a circular insert. You viewed the slides and rotated the disc to see the next slide. They were made in
. I never had the time to get it implemented. Someone else may have done it. Portland, Oregon
In 1964, the 7th Psychological Operations Group (Korea detachment) was given the task of disseminating western news and propaganda into North Korea. The program was called "Operation Jilli." "Jilli" is a Korean word meaning "truth." As part of this plan radios were both airdropped and floated into North Korea.
The air-dropped Radio for Haiti bought in bulk from Radio Shack
In 1994, United States forces landed in Haiti to restore order and return elected President Bertrand Aristide to power in an operation called Uphold Democracy. Once again, radios were given to the people so that they could hear the latest news. There were no special adaptations of these radios; they were simply bought in bulk from Radio Shack. The United States Air Force dropped roughly 10,000 radios across parts of Haiti to let the local people hear the American PSYOP broadcasts.
In order to assure that the Afghans could listen to the American propaganda broadcasts; starting 17 October 2001 U. S. forces distributed small battery-powered portable radios. Initially, several thousand Kaito brand portable radios were distributed by hand. The Kaito was a 220-volt AC radio that was battery, solar and crank (dynamo) powered. Cost was low for quantity purchased and the power source was the prime requirement. The sensitivity and selectivity were poor, and required a very strong signal to work. It was not successful in the mountainous countryside of Afghanistan.
There was a recommendation to use the Grundig FR220 radio. It worked well in the
mountainous terrain and was battery and dynamo powered. The 10th Mountain Division
psychological operations officer headed the purchase of 100,000 FR200 Grundig Emergency
Radios for Coalition Joint Task Force (CJTF) 180 to be delivered to Bagram, Afghanistan,
between November 2003 and February 2004. Over 30,000 Grundig radios had been distributed
by the time he left
The Americans also distributed the WR-004 World Receiver AM, FM and short wave radio produced by the STL Group in the Netherlands under the brand name Super Tech. They were airdropped with the batteries already in the radio. The British apparently dropped crank-powered radios at the same time.
The author with a WSSR-11 digital receiver, the satellite radio used in Afghanistan
The U. S. Army later distributed Worldspace model WSSR-11 digital receivers. They are battery-powered and allow the listener to access over 40 satellite radio services from around the world. Each radio comes with a directional line-of sight antenna. The service uses three satellites, AmeriStar, AfriStar, and AsiaStar.
Small portable radios are still being used in psychological operations to inform
neutrals and enemies of American foreign policy. In November 2004 there was a report that
The subject of radios smuggled into
, the only legal transistor radios have dials permanently set to government stations. But smugglers and itinerant traders bring an increasing number of radios into North Korea ... and that is gratifying news for three tiny broadcasters that beam information north of the border. North Korea
Each night, the three U.S.-financed radio stations crackle onto the air, trying to reach North Koreans who are brave or reckless enough to tune into foreign newscasts in defiance of the Norths Stalinist regime. Greetings from the Voice of Hope began one recent newscast from Open Radio for
. We are trying to reach you to provide you with information. The three Seoul-based broadcasters; Open Radio for North Korea North Korea, Free Radio and Radio Free Chosun each receive about $200,000 annually from the National Endowment for Democracy, a nonprofit body financed by Congress to promote democracy worldwide. North Korea
Retired USAF Lieutenant Colonel Bob Evans remembers dropping radios over North Korea as part of Operation Jilli:
We also flew along the Korean demilitarized zone and dropped tiny pre-tuned radios shrink-wrapped to cardboard leaflets. The radios were tuned to Radio Free Korea.
U.S. Psychological Operations soldiers hand out radios to children in a village in southern Afghanistan. The new radio shows on Army-run stations are seeking to reach wider audiences.
The use of radios as part of a psychological campaign is discussed by M. E. Roberts
in Villages of the Moon, Psychological Operations in Southern Afghanistan, Publish
We also had solar/hand generator short wave radio receivers to give away. In addition to providing access to information in a society that cannot read, these were used to gain support. These radios were highly valued, in part because PSYOP had given them to all returning Hajjis, or persons who had completed the Hajji to
. In Afghan society, to be a Hajji places one in a high status, so for a non-Hajji to receive a radio produced the same connection people in the United States might feel at wearing the shoes Michael Jordan markets. Afghans generally swarm around when anything is given out free, but were especially forceful to get a radio. Mecca
The tactical PSYOP teams also disseminated leaflets, gummed stickers, and newspapers in an attempt to influence the target audience. The PSYOP troops distributed Afghan style bat kites printed with a flag and unity message to the local children. The kites were banned by the Taliban, but the children loved them. If the kites were not flown by a local village, it was a sign that the Taliban still had influence there.
An anti-Communist group known as the Fighters for Free North Korea regularly launch specially-equipped balloon over North Korean territory that include leaflets, money and plastic radios that have AM, FM, and shortwave frequencies. The North Koreans have protested these actions a number of times right up to the present, but the South Korean government claims that the balloons are sent by private citizens and they have no control over them.
In March, 2011 South Korean activists started to bombard North Korea with propaganda material that included footage of Middle East protests and urged rebellion. The Seoul-based Fighters for Free North Korea said it would send about 200,000 propaganda leaflets, 1-dollar bills and USB flash drives carrying videos on the wave of uprising against authoritarian rulers in Egypt, Libya and other Middle Eastern countries. The group has sent about 3 million propaganda leaflets toward North Korea every year since 2004. South Korea's military has also floated balloons carrying about 3 million leaflets containing news about Egyptian and Libyan protests as well as daily necessities like soap, underwear, medicine and radios toward the North since 2010.
During WWII the British forgery section run by Ellic Howe produced cigarette paper
to be dropped on
The Germans Retaliate
Naturally the German forces were quick to use the same sort of propaganda on cigarette paper to the guerrillas fighting in Yugoslavia. This small paper bears the German symbol to show that it is official and says in German and Serbian:
Refugee Identification. Do not shoot, but hand over to the nearest German commander for good treatment.
Leaflet 7092 for North Korea
Leaflet 7092 is printed on cigarette paper that has been prepared in such a way that the finder can cut out perfect rectangles to roll his own cigarettes. At the same time the propaganda reminds the enemy soldier how much he misses cigarettes and promises that should he come over to the Allied side such cigarettes will be freely available. The leaflet was produced by the Psychological Warfare Section, General Headquarters, Far East Command, APO 500, in October 1951. It depicts a North Korean soldier enjoying a cigarette. The purpose of the leaflet is to "establish a favorable contact with the enemy so that he will be more receptive to our direct propaganda." The Korean-language text is:
Perhaps your own supply services are not providing you with cigarette paper. We know that you have been using leaflets to roll your cigarettes.
This is a special cigarette paper leaflet prepared for you by the United Nations Command.
The United Nations gives you plenty of ready-made cigarettes.
ENJOY LIFE and plenty of cigarettes away from the war by coming over to the UN side.
Text on each individual cigarette paper is:
Escape to the U.N. lines.
Retired USAF Lieutenant Colonel Bob Evans remembers a plan to drop cigarette paper over North Korea as part of Operation Jilli during the Cold War:
We found out that because of fear of being caught, the vast majority of the defectors had read the leaflets in an outhouse and then destroyed it; it was a death sentence if you were caught with a propaganda leaflet. When I left Okinawa, the PSYOP folks were working with a cigarette company trying to come up with a leaflet paper with similar characteristics to cigarette paper. This way, more people would pick up the leaflet if they could smoke it after they read it.
United Nations Calendar Leaflet 7217
The above United Nations calendar leaflet was for the year 1953. The text at left offers New Year greetings on behalf of the United Nations Armed Forces. The calendar combines Western and Chinese lunar dates. Among the holidays listed is the establishment of the Republic of Korea.
Calendars have been used as a form of propaganda for the last six decades. They were very popular during the Korean War (we show another at the top of this article in the gift pack) and the United Nations printed many with various propaganda messages prominently displayed. They were featured during the Cold War and again in Vietnam when both the United States and the Viet Cong used them. There is always a need to know what day it is and if one side can get the enemy to use a calendar with a propaganda message on it, you know that propaganda will be seen daily for at least a year.
For many Americans, the Christmas season is their favorite time of the year. This is especially true of those in military service, far from home and their loved ones. Visions of Christmas trees, holly, mistletoe, and snow-covered landscapes bring back pleasant memories of their youth and happy carefree days. Our enemies are aware of this sentimental trait. For over 50 years they have prepared fake Christmas cards that featured those wonderful holiday images as propaganda in an attempt to demoralize the American soldier, make him homesick, and cause him to consider surrender. For example, during World War II the Japanese produced at least seven different Christmas cards to be used against U.S. forces on Guadalcanal in December of 1942.
One card is on blue paper and depicts a pinup drawing of a girl in a transparent white negligee talking on a telephone. Text on the front says "Can't he be original? Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year." The back of the card shows a similar picture of a girl in a black negligee. When opened, the card has a long handwritten note to "Dearest Jim," which starts "Another day passes without word from you and I write wondering whether this will reach you or not. Why, oh why don't I hear from you ?" The letter is signed "Love and kisses, Claire."
Sir Arthur "Bomber" Harris, the WWII head of British Bomber Command once said:
Wellingtonswere put to the questionable employ of dropping pamphlets all over Europe, a game in which we never had the slightest faith. My personal view is that the only thing achieved was largely to supply the Continent's requirements of toilet paper for the five long years of the war.
Harris might have been a prophet. Jim Jablonski told me in May 2010:
My late father was a rifleman in the 104th Infantry Division (Timberwolves) during WWII, and the history of the unit contains an interesting anecdote concerning PSYOP leaflets. Several German soldiers surrendered themselves as the war neared end, and each was found to be in possession of a bundle of "safe passage" leaflets. When asked why he had so many of the papers, one German soldier said that they had been issued to him to use as toilet paper.
It is hard to believe that the German military would issue their troops enemy leaflets, regardless of the need for toilet paper, but I suppose it is possible.
British researcher Lee Richards found a comment in 2016 from a British Eight Army Major dated 25 June 1944 in the field that shows once again that Bomber Harris might have been a prophet:
It is with regret that we must report that copies of Frontpost [an Allied air-dropped newspaper] were found in a mutilated condition in the area of Subiaco [Central Italy]. The leaflets had been torn in two and showed unmistakable signs of having been used fuer gewisse Zwecke [for certain purposes].
The Office of Strategic Services Morale Operations section in Rome had another theory,
and actually prepared propaganda toilet paper to be dropped over Germany. Each sheet of
the paper bore either an anti-Nazi message or a cartoon or caricature attacking Hitler or
some high Nazi Party member. 10,000 copies of the Kameraden 4.25 x 7.5-inch sheet shown
above were printed by
Enough with all this shit! We do not fight for Germany any longer but
only for Hitler and Himmler. The Nazi Party has led us in down this
damn street but now the bigwigs only think of saving their own skin.
They let us die in the dirt. We should hold out until the last
cartridge. But we need the last cartridges to free Germany from the SS
Bread without Butter
A second piece of propaganda toilet paper has a poorly drawn and unidentifiable face, probably that of a bomb ravished sleep-deprived German civilian with text, or just text without the caricature. It is believed that the caricature and text were rubber-stamped onto the paper. The text on one 4.25 x 7.5-inch sheet that bears both the face and a message in perfect German rhyme is:
Bread without butter
Eight oclock in bed
Ass not yet warm
Some of these toilet paper leaflets were found behind the German lines in
In 2015, a large collection of leaflets was offered for sale and the Bread without butter toilet paper leaflet sheet was included. The collection was formed by Corporal Arthur Baker whose discharge states:
Radio Operator Served with the Office of Strategic Service for six months in Italy. Operated and maintained high speed radio equipment used code. Received and sent international Morse Code. Set up and maintained radio communications.
It appears that the corporal had nothing to do with leaflets, but like all Americans he was an avid souvenir collector and brought home about 30 of the Rome OSS Propaganda leaflets.
Use This Side
93,000 copies of a third sheet entitled Diese seite benutzen (Use this
side) were also prepared in
The OSS Rome Final Report of Production and Distribution from 15 July 1944 to 15 May 1945 indicates that in all, 334,000 pieces of toilet paper were prepared with 163,650 sent to Brindisi, 106,120 sent to North Italy, 37,400 sent to France and 21,000 labeled Special.
It is thought that some of these sheets were placed in the lavatory of Swiss trains that traveled into Germany.
British propaganda parody of the German 50 pfennig
This combining of Hitler and toilet paper was not uncommon. For instance, the British printed a propaganda parody of the German 50 pfennig Behelfszahlungsmittel fur die Deutsche Wehrmacht (Auxiliary Payment Certificates for the German Armed Forces). There are four different propaganda messages on the back and they were given the Political Warfare Executive numbers H.692A-D. The leaflet coded H.692B had the text on the back:
I am a piece of Hitlers ass-paper. Nobody accepts me because nobody can buy anything with me.
Toilet paper leaflets may have been used during the Korean War too. Alan K. Abner says:
The various materials used in implementing the goal of the operation covered a wide range such as toilet paper with illustrated sheets with catch words, mottos, slogans etc.
Parody of North Vietnamese 50 Dong National Bank of Vietnam note
The concept of enemy paper money as toilet paper was used again in Vietnam. We are not sure if this note was prepared by American, French or South Vietnamese propagandists, but someone prepared a propaganda parody of North Vietnamese 50 dong National Bank of Vietnam note of 1951 with the front replaced by a line drawing of a peasant squatting and wiping himself with a genuine banknote and the text:
The only use for the paper money of Ho Chi Minh.
During Operation Desert Storm in 1990 a similar propaganda leaflet was prepared.
Operation Desert Storm propaganda leaflet
No military organization has ever taken credit for printing six miniature Iraqi 20 dinar banknotes. Since the Army denies being involved, it has always been assumed that this was a Central Intelligence Agency project. The only published reference to these parodies appeared in Newsweek, 8 June 1993, two years after the end of the war. The article, entitled "First: Smart Bombs. Now: Funny Money" says, "Some funny money ridicules the regime with pictures of an empty grocery store or of Saddam chomping on a cigar. Its no smart bomb, but the dinars value is plunging." The back of one banknote depicts a nearly empty grocery store, with only a large roll of Iraqi banknotes printed on wrapping paper. The caricature might be saying that the money is only good as wrapping paper, or it might imply that it is only to be used for toilet paper. The reader will have to decide. The Arabic text is:
At least it has a value now!
Koean Language Stationery Leaflet 1112
Soldiers at the front seldom have paper to use to write to friends or family back home. Paper is a highly valued commodity for troops in combat. During the Korean War, the Radio Broadcasting and Leaflet Group, Psychological Warfare Section, Far East Command, dropped writing paper on enemy troops in October 1951. Although the paper was intended to be utilized as stationery, Allied propaganda was hidden among the illustrations that showed the happy and safe life of those prisoners who had crossed the United Nations lines and were being fed and clothed in a U.N. prison camp.
Chinese Language Stationery Leaflet 7093
The same leaflet was printed with code number 7093 in the Chinese language. This leaflet was prepared on 25 October 1951. On one side the leaflet depicts a Communist soldier writing home. The text in Chinese is:
You have not got any mail from home for quite a while. You have not written any letters home for quite a while. Cut away the top of this leaflet and then you can use the bottom part for a letter home.
The other side of the leaflet depicts Chinese POWs writing letters home or playing horseshoes as seen above on leaflet 1112. The text is:
These are two pictures of the daily life of Chinese who have surrendered to United Nations forces.
Writing a letter home - Recreation
Vietnam Stationery Leaflet 4-81-69
The 4th PSYOP Group printed a 5.25 x 8-inch stationery leaflet in 1969 that depicts a flowering branch at the left, room for the finder to write at the right, and the text:
Year of the Dog 1970
Nationalist Chinese Bookmark
A bookmark is a strip or band of some material, such as paper, leather or ribbon, put between the pages of a book to mark a place. Psychological operators have used it on numerous occasions to carry their propaganda messages because the bookmarks tend to be saved and placed in a book and every time the reader opens the book the message is the first thing that is seen. PSYOP Bookmarks have been used in Vietnam, Korea and by the Nationalist Chinese on Taiwan.
Many types of foodstuffs have been dropped as part of a PSYOP campaign. The Muslim people annually celebrate Ramadan with a month-long period of prayer and fasting. At the end of Ramadan the fast is broken. Dates are one of the traditional delicacies that are eaten upon the end of the religious observance. During the 2002 American incursion into Afghanistan, California dates were dropped on the people as a symbol of good will. By including dates in the air drop bundles, the United States showed respect for this significant Muslim holiday. A leaflet was prepared to be dropped with the dates. It depicts a date palm and a bowl of dates. The text is:
People of Afghanistan - Eid Mabaruk - We pray that God will accept your prayers and fast. The People of America.
Candy and Chewing Gum
Candy was first airdropped during WWII. Pieces of chocolate were dropped with leaflets "From the children in the Dutch East Indies to the children in Holland." Packets of toffee were dropped on Holland in December 1941. About 16,000 packets were dropped on Amsterdam, Medomblik, Haarlam, Rotterdam, Steenwijk and Osterwald. In 1943 bags of sweets in the shape of the "V for victory" were dropped over Harderwijk.
Sinterklaas (St. Nicolas) Day Candy
The Dutch celebrate Sinterklaas day in December. That is a day when all the
children receive presents, spicy ginger speculaas or pepernoten,
mild anise taai-taai in fancy doll shapes, sugar candy, fancy fruit slices or
rich almond marzipan, and Chocolate letters (you usually get only the first letter of your
first name). On 6 December 1941 (6 December is the legendary date of the death of St.
Nicolas), the Dutch Government-in-Exile combined with the Royal Air Force to drop candy
The Dutch prepared a patriotic postcard to thank the Allies for the foodstuffs that
they dropped during the German occupation. The card was designed by J. Taurel of
British and American food for starving
Dutch-language text is:
This card was prepared in commemoration of the Operation Manna food drops over
A B-17 dropping food over the Netherlands during Operation Manna
Pieter van Marken talks about the Hunger winter of 1944-1945 when some
20,000 people died of starvation in
The Allies sent in planes. The American the 8th Air Force sent hundreds of B-17 bombers and R.A.F. Bomber Command sent hundreds of Avro Lancasters to drop food at Schiphol, and also a great number of other drop zones in still occupied
In fact, both the American Air Force and the Royal Air Force dropped food over all
RAF ground crew loading food supplies into slings for hoisting into the
For instance, on 29 April 1945, aircrews of Royal Air Force 625 Squadron dropped
food from their
Seventeen year old Arie de Jong wrote:
There are no words to describe the emotions experienced on that Sunday afternoon. More than 300 four-engine
, flying exceptionally low, suddenly filled the western horizon. One could see the gunners waving in their turrets. A marvelous sight. One Lancasters roared over the town at 70 feet. I saw the aircraft tacking between church steeples and drop its bags in the South. Everywhere we looked, bombers could be seen. No one remained inside and everybody dared to wave cloths and flags. What a feast! Everyone is excited with joy. The war must be over soon now. Lancaster
Another correspondent adds:
There were large scale food drops at the end of the war in the
. People were starving at that time so it was very welcome. My mother still talks about the smell and taste of the real bread, baked from the flour that was dropped from the air. Netherlands
Operation Manna Painting
Artist John Rutherford of
Readers Digest of December 1967 mentions chewing gum used for PSYOP. It says that the Wrigley plant in Australia prepared special chewing gum to be dropped on the Philippines. The gum was wrapped in special wrappers, one side showing the crossed flags of the United States and the Philippines, the other with the words, I Shall Return MacArthur." Hundreds of cases were dropped from planes on the Philippines.
It wasn't only the Allies that dropped candy. The Evening News of 2 September
1939 stated that the Germans were dropping candy on
Candy bar made from molded explosive
Throat lozenges explosives package
In September 2005, The British Security Service MI5 declassified WWII files that indicated that the Germans had produced WWII candy bars made from a molded explosive. There were also bombs made up to look like throat pastilles, wrapped in a package labelled Surpastilles Vichy-Etat. These bombs were never used in actual sabotage campaigns.
After WWII the German capital city of Berlin, was divided into four sectors with American, British, and French troops controlling the western half of the city and Soviet forces controlling the eastern half. In order to gain control of the entire city, the Soviets created a blockade around Berlin. Trucks, trains, and boats could not bring food and supplies into the city. The Americans reacted with an airlift designed to supply all the food needed by 2.5 million Berliners by aircraft. This was a very dangerous time and a war could have easily broken out if either side made an error in judgment.
American C-54 pilot Lt. Gail Halvorsen flew food and supplies into Berlin during the airlift of 1948-1949. He loved children and wanted to do something special for them. He thought up an operation that he called "Little Vittles." He bought candy at local stores and dropped it with tiny parachutes that he made by hand. His Air Force buddies donated their rations of candy and gum and their handkerchiefs to make the parachutes. For those readers old enough to remember the American wartime "K" or "C" rations, they came with a small candy bar and a tiny green box containing two pieces of Chiclets chewing gum. Today, the American meals ready to eat (MRE) ration comes with a commercial candy bar.
Newspapers printed stories about this "chocolate bomber" and he began receiving packages of candy bars and handkerchiefs in the mail for "Operation Little Vittles." The American Confectioners Association joined the humanitarian operation and sent tons of candy and gum to Westover AFB where it could be forwarded for dropping to the children of Berlin at Rhine Main AFB.
Lt. Halvorsen dropping candy
Soon, all the pilots were dropping candy over the city of Berlin, By January of 1949 Lt. Halvorsen had air dropped more than 250,000 parachutes loaded with candy on for the nearly 100,000 children of Berlin during the Russian blockade. Due to continuing bad publicity and their inability to starve the people of Berlin, the Soviets ended their blockade in May 1949.
One would assume that distributing candy to children always leads to positive results.
This may not be true in
This is not exactly a PSYOP campaign and could be listed under mistakes. It is a great story and I think we should list it.
In December 1950, U.S. Marines at Hagaru-ri, surrounded by thousands of Chinese, had made an urgent call for mortar ammunition: Tootsie Rolls! Send Tootsie Rolls, they radioed. Fighting near the Chosin Reservoir, The Marines used 60 mm mortars to hold off the Chinese. The high-explosive, 3 pound mortar shells, fired at enemy troop emplacements at a rate of over 15 per minute, were lethal.
When the Supply aircraft arrived hours later, hundreds of pallets hit the ground and the Marines opened crate after crate. There were NO mortar rounds, only hundreds of boxes of Tootsie Roll candies. The Marines had used their words for mortar shells, Tootsie Rolls, and the supplies were sent just as ordered.
It turned out that the mistaken drop was a blessing in disguise. Over the next seven days, as the Marines fought their way to the coast in knee-deep snow and sub-zero temperatures, the chocolate candies became a source of nutrition and much-needed energy. To their surprise, the Tootsie Rolls also turned out to be an excellent way of fixing vehicles. Many men attributed the candy to keeping their jeeps, trucks, and tanks running and for saving their lives. Some of the Marines talked about their calamity:
That's all I had to eat for 78 miles, and I still like them.
Those Tootsie Rolls saved my life. They were easy to eat, you could chew on them; they gave you nourishment, and you could also use them for repairs. If a gas tank or a radiator had a hole in it, you could chew a Tootsie Roll and use it to plug the hole.
The cold weather caused cracks in the fuel line causing the vehicles to be inoperable. The marines found that they could chew the tootsie rolls until they were a soft putty and use it to repair the fuel lines as the makeshift putty quickly froze hard fixing the damaged fuel lines.
To this day, whenever the Chosin Few, an organization of veterans who fought at the Reservoir, has a reunion, the Tootsie Roll Company sends cases of the chocolate candies to the gathering. Its become a Marine tradition.
Gift Bags for Aleppo from the Syrian Air Force
As long as we are in the Middle East we should mention Syria. That country was fighting numerous rebel groups to include ISIS, Al Qaida, and Kurds and other rebel forces supplied by America. In July 2016, with the rebel-held city of Aleppo that had been captured in 2012 completely surrounded and thousands of civilians without food or necessities, The Syrian air force dropped food, diapers and other products to help the civilians survive. There were reports that some Syrians distrusted the food thinking it was poisoned and some parents took the packages to the hospital to check if the food was safe to eat.
The Chocolate and marshmallow Moon Pie was originally introduced to South Korea by American soldiers during the Korean War in the 1950s. The treat quickly became popular and in 1974 the South Korean candy company Tongyang Confectionery released their own version: the Orion Choco Pie. In the Kaesong Industrial Zone South Korean companies offered the irresistible Choco Pie to attract North Korean workers. The workers began smuggling them and reselling them at extremely inflated prices on the North Korean black market. According to South Koreas Chosun Ilbo newspaper, a single Choco Pie sells for as much as $9.50 US, more than a worker earns in a week. Embarrassed by the growing popularity of Choco Pie, and its unofficial use as a kind of currency, North Korea banned it as a symbol of capitalism.
On 15 September 2017, around 200 South Korean activists released 50 massive helium balloons, each toting a large bag of snacks. In total, they sent 770 pounds of snacks to the North. The bulk of this weight came from the 10,000 Choco Pies. Perhaps the way to the North Korean mind is through the stomach.
As we show above, the South Koreans used cake against their enemies. The Nationalist Chinese on Taiwan went a step further; they added an entire menu to their cakes, called them Psychological Warfare Foods and designed them for use against the Peoples Republic of China. In April of 2019 the Taiwan News published an article titled Taiwan's PSYOP unit weaponizes snacks for fight against China.
The Chinese use a three-pronged approach of videotaping, audio broadcasting, and publishing at different stages of psychological warfare, including psychological defense, motivational speeches, bulletins, flyers, safety certificates, posters, and other propaganda materials. The Taiwanese forces depicted examples of propaganda foods labeled with simplified Chinese characters, having names such as "surrender instant noodles," "surrender mineral water," "surrender caramel," and "surrender chocolates." The packaging is also printed with the words Lay down your arms, surrender to the ROC [Taiwan] Army. We will protect your safety, along with a map indicating a location to surrender.
What is that smell?
I am not sure this next item should be in the food section. There are some
One infantry division dropped white flags soaked in the Vietnamese fish sauce called Nuoc Mam to hungry enemy soldiers in an effort to persuade them to rally.
The PSYOP/POLWAR Newsletter of December 1969 tells us more:
The First Infantry Division has been dropping white flags soaked in Nuoc Mam into contested or enemy-held areas where the VC and NVA have experienced food shortages. The fish sauce is intended to remind the enemy of his hunger and to induce him to rally to the government.
Apparently, the idea was to dampen the cloth and squeeze the sauce onto your rice. Hopefully, the white cloth was later used to surrender.
Perhaps the most interesting smell plot of WWII was hatched by the Office
of Strategic Services. It allegedly involved spraying a fecal odor on the pants seat of
Japanese officers in
The same plan was studied in a 1944 project, called Who Me? The idea was for French resistance fighters to use foil tubes packed with chemicals that produced a fecal odor on the Germans. The plan never came to fruition because: It was found that people in many areas of the world do not find fecal odor to be offensive. Apparently there would be no German suicides either.
Smells like Hezbollah
During the 34-day Israeli incursion into
Leave in good smell.
Matchbooks and Matchboxes
In times of war the most common and mundane items become scarce. History has shown that matches are such an item. They are hard to find for civilians, and even more difficult for soldiers and guerillas in the field who need to light a cigarette. They are also a nice medium for propaganda since it is very easy to place a message on the cover of the book. Starting with WWII, these matchbooks have been very popular as propaganda gifts.
Japanese matchbox images
Japanese aircraft first dropped matchboxes over the Philippine Islands in 1942 as part of their policy to control Asia under the Greater Co-Prosperity Sphere." The labels on the boxes contained vivid images and anti-American, anti-British, and anti-Chinese text.
The text translation of the three matchbooks above are:
#1 Certain victory.
#2 The might of
#3 The imperial Japanese forces will be victorious.
All of the matchboxes have text at the bottom that says, collect matchbox labels.
MacArthur matchbook and matchbox
At the same time, the Americans dropped matchboxes depicting a portrait of General Douglas MacArthur and his famous promise, "I shall return." These matchboxes were also carried ashore by American submarine.
MG Courtney Whitney explains how these three words became one of the most famous propaganda campaigns in history. He says:
On 10 August 1943 I proposed that various items known to be scarce in the Philippines, such as cigarettes, matches, chewing gum, candy bars, sewing kits, and pencils be sent to the islands by submarine in great quantity for widespread distribution. Each package would bear the crossed American and Philippine flags on one side, and on the other the quotation "I shall return" printed over a facsimile of MacArthur's signature.
This is mentioned again in the OWI News Letter dated 1 June 1945:
The watchers on shore, the tall, bearded American, the squat guerrilla chieftain, heard the submarine before they saw it, a long drawn-out whish! In the darkness that was almost a sigh; the sound of dripping water; a huge sea monster wallowing out of the deep. Then silence again. Finally the long awaited signal. A light blinking cautiously three times; and then three again. Close to shore. Incredibly close.
The bearded man rose from his hiding place, sniffed the salt air. It carried sounds in-land, and the Jap's were less than three miles away. But it drove from his nostrils the sick stench of rotting corpses in the village where the Japs had been before him. He moved toward the shore and greeted a brisk young Ensign who had stepped out of a rubber boat.
"What did you bring us?"
"Tommy guns and ammo," the Ensign answered. "K-rations; Radios; Also chewing gum; cigarettes; matches; and lead pencils."
"Good Lord" exclaimed the bearded man. "Do they think Im opening up a cigar store?"
"It's psychological warfare, sir." The Ensign held up a package of chewing gum, turned on a tiny flashlight so the bearded man could see the printed cover. Three words; MacArthur's stirring slogan: "I Shall Return"
The United States Office of War Information produced a matchbook for Burma coded CBG3 that depicted an airplane and the American flag.
Matchbooks bearing the "V" for victory are thought to have been dropped by the Canadians over the Normandy beachhead shortly after D-Day. An American matchbook depicted a B-29 bomber and the phrase La liberte avant Dieur ("Liberty in the sight of God").
Another matchbook depicted map showing the French railroad system on one side. The text is:
Hasten the victory. Derail the German transportation.
The other side depicted American French and British flags and the text:
Every Frenchman is a soldier of the liberation
The British dropped matchbooks over Siam that depicted a half-clad Siamese angel carrying a thunderbolt and the slogan, "Death to the Japanese."
During the Cold War the West printed small gummed labels showing a woman holding a placard that read, "The Motherland calls you! Serve the people, and not regime." These labels were meant to be stuck on Russian matchboxes.
Nationalist Chinese Matchbooks
In 1963, Chinese nationalist aircraft from Taiwan dropped propaganda matchbooks on Mainland China.
Monta L. Osborne was the Chief of Field Development Division in the Joint United States Public Affairs Office (JUSPAO) in Saigon in charge of the Chieu Hoi (Open Arms) program during the Vietnam War. He mentions disseminating matchbooks and other items during the Vietnam War:
Boxes of matches have been disseminated with the Chieu Hoi symbol and slogan on the cover. Rulers with the Chieu Hoi symbol have been distributed through the schools. This symbol and slogan also are printed on small bars of soap, paper market bags, and even on childrens kites. Plastic market bags have been distributed, with gifts inside, to families in the provinces known to have relatives in the Viet Cong.
British Royal Air Force dropped cigarettes
Cigarettes were even scarcer than matches, and in time of need dedicated smokers will roll almost any leaf they can find into a mock cigarette. On the night of 1 September 1942, one day after the birthday of Queen Wilhelmina, the British Royal Air Force dropped 50,000 packages containing 20 cigarettes each on the occupied people of Holland to lift their spirits and to celebrate the Queens birthday. The cigarette pack was red, white and blue. An inscription at the top of the pack says, "The Netherlands will rise again." Text on one side is "Victory is near." The other side of the pack depicts an outline of the Dutch East Indies showing Borneo, Celebes, Java and Sumatra. The text is, "Have courage." Each individual cigarette bears the message, "OZO" which means, "Orange will rise again." This item is from Hans Moonen's World War II propaganda collection.
Cigarette Pack for
Another Cigarette Pack for
At least three other types of cigarette packages and bags of loose tobacco were dropped by the British. The above pack is all in orange, has a crown at the top, the date 31 August 1941, and a large W for Wilhelmina just below. That pack had a number of V for victory letters in white on both the front and back. The pack became infamous in an odd way. The Dutch Nazis, hoping to embarrass the patriots who were saving and selling these packages, counterfeited them and sold a great number to raise funds for the Fascist organization. They later had a great laugh telling the Dutch that they had been duped and helped support the pro-Germans by purchasing these patriotic packages to show their loyalty. This item is also from Hans Moonen's collection
"I shall return" Cigarette Pack
A Third Cigarette Pack for Holland
Courtesy Rod Oakland
A third cigarette pack for the Netherlands in orange, white and blue. On one side there are three Dutch airmen who have gone to Great Britain and joined the Royal Air Force. The back of the pack depicts a British Spitfire. The text on the top, bottom and sides are:
The Dutch over Holland
Queen and Country
Dutch Fighter Pilots
Holland shall rise again
A similar cigarette pack exists with the same text except for Dutch Navy Pilots.
American forces dropped cigarettes on the Philippine Island that depicted the flags of the United States and the Philippines, and the General Douglas MacArthur quote, "I shall return."
As I mention above, In August 1943, Courtney Whitney, an army intelligence officer on
General Douglas MacArthur's staff, suggested that propaganda items with the General's
famous I Shall Return pledge be distributed to the native population in the
Japanese occupied Philippine
The website Jim's Burnt Offerings tells more about the MacArthur cigarette pack:
The Office of War Information classified the project top secret, and then made arrangements with the Larus & Bro. Tobacco Company of
to manufacture the cigarettes. I Shall Return cigarettes, the companion matchbooks and matchboxes, plus round mirrored reflectors for signaling aircraft, were smuggled behind enemy lines from the U.S. Cargo Submarine Narwhal and dropped at night from B-24 Liberator bombers. These items, along with a sewing kit, were distributed by US and Filipino guerrillas. At the beginning of World War II, Larus & Bro. bid for, and was awarded, a contract to provide small packets of their Richmond, Virginia Cigarettes to be included in a soldier's field rations. In a wing of their factory set aside for this secret work, Larus packaged four Chelsea Chelseacigarettes in a colorful paper label picturing the flags of the USand the . MacArthur's facsimile signature, and the famous I Shall Return slogan were prominently featured. These small packets of American cigarettes helped keep Filipino hope for liberation alive until General MacArthur kept his promise in October 1944. Philippines
Cigarettes with propaganda newspaper Frankfurter Zeitung
The Office of Strategic Services in Bern, Switzerland prepared cigarettes that
contained miniature copies of the American propaganda newspaper Frankfurter Zeitung
There is one report that indicates that during the "Phony War" period in 1939 German troops opposite Strasbourg sent cigarettes by balloon to the French troops. They attempted to befriend their French opponents and told them that Hitler wanted only peace and it was the evil and wicked English that had forced France into war.
Alan K. Abner says that during the Korean War the
A variety of rather gimmicky items such as parcels of Bull
type packets of tobacco with cigarette papers, each with a message. Durham
Cigarette pack to the people on Mainland
During the Cold War in the 1960s the nationalist Chinese on
During the Vietnam War U. S. Marines placed a Chieu Hoi (Open Arms) leaflet and a cigarette in plastic bags and floated them up the mouths of rivers during evening tides.
Credibilis has some Fun with the New Vietnam Cigarette Packs
Credibilis, the 4th PSYOP Group monthly publication said in the issue of April 1968:
Cigarette Packages will Carry PSYOP Messages to Vietnamese
The department of Defense Advanced Research Agency assisted the 4th Group by arranging the manufacture of 100,000 packages of cigarettes imprinted with a propaganda message for distribution to target audiences in Vietnam
They will be distributed during interrogations, later in gift propaganda packages. Mainly, however, field audio-visual teams will distribute them in villages and hamlets.
Each pack contains four cigarettes. The wrapping will be red and yellow with the inscription The Government of Vietnam cares for the people. Printed on each cigarette are the letters VNCH, the abbreviation for republic of Vietnam.
Operation Desert Storm Developmental Artwork
Dissemination of propaganda cigarette packs was planned during
Anybody want to get Stoned?
I thought that dropping those cancer-causing tobacco cigarettes was bad enough, but now we find that a British intelligence chief once dropped opium-laced cigarettes on an enemy during WWI. The story is told by Tom Segev in One Palestine, Complete, Henry Holt and Company, 2001. The author discusses a campaign run by Colonel Richard Meinertzhagen:
Meinertzhagen invented another method of hitting at the enemy. At sunset British planes would circle over concentrations of Turkish forces and drop opium cigarettes on them On 6 November a high percentage of the Turkish Army at Sheria and Gaza were drowsy and befuddled. Some of the prisoners taken were barely coherent and quite incapable of resistance.
In Turn Around and Run like Hell, Murdoch Books, 2007, Joseph Cummins adds:
Meinertzhagen heard that the Turks were desperate for tobacco so be bought thousands of packets of cigarettes on the black market and wrapped them in a leaflet that urged Turkish soldiers to Have a smoke and Surrender. Then on numerous occasions he had himself piloted over the Turkish lines and rained the cigarettes down on the trenches.
On 5 November, the Turks were attempting to make a stand at Sheria, about 15 kilometers southeast of
. So Meinertzhagen went up in his plane and dropped thousands of packets of cigarettes again. The Turks didnt even bother to take a shot at him, so grateful were they for a smoke. Gaza
The difference this time was that Meinertzhagen had laced the butts with opium, also bought from his black market contacts. When the British attacked the next day, they found the Turks in an incoherent state, barely able to defend themselves.
During the years that the government of Colombia fought a war against the guerrilla organization Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) some rather exotic psychological operations were used. One of the strangest occurred in 2008, when a plan was conceived to get the pregnant female guerrillas to defect. The Colombian Army air-dropped 7 million pacifiers into the jungle with a message encouraging the rebels to return to civilization. The operation involved seven helicopters, three airplanes, 960 flight hours, 17,800 gallons of fuel, and 72 soldiers flying twice a week for four months. Perhaps it would have been better to let the babies cry. It might have worked better to get the females out of the bush.
Tea, rather than coffee was the staple drink of Europe during the war years. It was sorely missed in those nations occupied by Germany. As a result, the Allied powers dropped tea on several occasions to keep up the spirits and the morale of the occupied people.
Dutch East Indies Tea
In early 1941 the planters of Batavia and Sumatra in the Dutch East Indies donated 4000 pounds of tea to the Dutch government in exile in London for distribution to the people of the occupied Netherlands. The tea was placed in orange colored cotton bags (Orange being the color of the House of Orange) each containing 2/3 ounces of tea. Each bag had a tag that read, "Holland will rise again. Greetings from the free Netherlands Indies. Keep a good heart." The tag also depicted an orange flower emblem which is the crest of Prince Bernhards family. In spring 1941 the Royal Air Force and Royal Canadian Air Force dropped 1020 tea bags over Edam, Schagen, Alkmaar, Assen, The Hague, Zwolle, Utrecht, Amsterdam, Eindhoven, Breda and Rotterdam. There were numerous additional missions, ending in March 1942. There are differing numbers for the amount of tea bags dropped, 75,000 in one report, and 96,000 in another.
Some of the known "tea" bombings over Holland by the Royal Air Force during 1941 are:
March 1941: 1,020 bags over 11 cities April 1941: 9,770 bags over 6 cities May 1941: 4,470 bags over 4 cities June 1941: 4,585 bags over 5 cities July 1941: 900 bags over 8 cities August 1941: 10,230 bags over 2 cities September 1941 300 bags over Rotterdam December 1941 350 bags over 5 cities
A report on the raid was published in the Dutch East Indies magazine De Bergcultures:
Before they returned home, these men (the air crews) were prepared to carry out an extra mission. They would fly at a low altitude over enemy dominated skies and drop "Tea from Heaven." The psychological purpose of this mission is clear: to raise the spirits of the Dutch people. "We dropped our bombs right on target and then, on the way home, laid a stick of tea bags across Amsterdam."
Curiously, even though tea was in short supply, many of the Dutch people saved the bags as souvenirs rather than use it for the intended purpose. In 1969 it was reported that the dropped teabags were selling in Holland for $20 each.
The British also dropped tea on occupied Belgium.
Terry Gregory mentions his late brother Jack in the
Air Marshall Arthur "Bomber" Harris believed that bombers were meant to drop
bombs and nothing else. He was no friend of psychological warfare. He wrote to Air Vice
Marshall N. H. Bottomley at the Air Ministry in
Can something now please be done to curb and keep within limits these uncorrelated and enthusiastic attempts to shower rubbish all over the world at the expense of the bomber effort.
When it comes to dropping tea, Christmas presents and Easter eggs, things have really gone too far. Something now must really be done to stop this growing urge of the exiled governments and individual busybodies with idle hands to play games in wartime when we are more than too busy on serious things.
I will not drop tea or Easter eggs anywhere unless you guarantee me that the packages are lethal...The only people who are likely to get the Easter eggs are the Gestapo, and why the devil should we feed them Easter eggs? How about quit fooling and getting on with the war? These jesters are getting completely out of hand and it is high time someone put a heavy foot on them or behind them. Im not cross, but I damn soon will be.
Mark R. Jacobson mentions propaganda tea disseminated by the Communists during the Korean War in his PhD thesis, Minds then Hearts: U.S. Political and Psychological Warfare during the Korean War, 2005, Ohio State University. The tea bags had imprinted tags:
Peace: This Chinese Famous tea is given you to kill the hellish [sic] time at the front.
They also distributed small cloth bags entitled GI CARE KIT. We do not know if tea was inside the bag, but there was a message:
Your loved ones want you home sound and safe. American and British soldiers: Dont like dead in the foreign land far from your own states.
Tea was not the only beverage dropped over occupied Europe. Coffee was dropped over Belgium in October, November and December of 1942. A total of 6,150 bags of coffee were dropped on Lessines, Charleroi, Nazareth, Givit, Rochefort, Beaumont and Grammont. Each bag had an attached tag with text in Flemish and French:
The Belgian Congo does not forget you. This is distributed by your friends of the Royal Air Force. Long live Belgium!
Coffee bags were also dropped over the occupied Netherlands and over occupied Poland
with a message from President Roosevelt. The American packet dropped over
Instant coffee. Dissolve in a glass of hot or cold water. Stir well.
What could be a greater gift than a free banknote from the sky? In almost every war since WWI the combatants have prepared forged or parodied banknotes to sap the morale or destroy the economy of the enemy. We will just show one that is a particularly interesting propaganda piece.
German propaganda parody of the American one dollar banknote
In October 1943, French citizens awakened to find the streets of Paris littered with United States $1 Silver Certificates of 1935. The populace was overjoyed, thinking that the generous Americans had dropped dollar bills for the eventual use of the French people after the defeat of the hated German occupation forces. It was only upon close examination that the true significance of the dollars came to light. All the bills had the serial number Y91033384A. Each was in reality a thin strip of photographically prepared paper that had been folded to give the appearance of a legitimate banknote.
The front and the back of the folded leaflet were excellent reproductions of the genuine currency. When the fake dollar was unfolded, a vicious attack upon the United States and world Judaism was exposed. All the inside text is in French.
In the center of the unfolded note is a yellow Star of David. The text is:
This dollar is valid only if signed Morgenthau. The Minister of the United States Treasury is the Jew Morgenthau Junior, allied to the big sharks of international finance. All the Jewish symbols appear on this dollar: the Eagle of Israel, the Triangle, the Eye of Jehovah and the thirteen letters of the device, stars of the halo, arrows, olive branches and steps of the unfinished pyramid. This money is certainly Jewish! This dollar has paid for the Jewish war. The only message that the Anglo-Americans are able to address to us is: Will this dollar be enough to compensate us for the sorrows caused by the Jewish war? Money has no smell ... but the Jew has one!"
This banknote is very well done, extremely realistic, and one of the most popular German banknote leaflets of World War II.
French Francs from the Sky
Sometimes the banknotes were real. The British did an aerial propaganda operation dropping banknotes over occupied France. This one utilized real French banknotes. We dont know the actual denominations of the notes that added up to 600 French francs. We add the note above just as an illustration. Researcher Lee Richards discovered this operation while in the British Archives. According to Lee:
On the night of 25/26 April 1942, the Royal Air Force on a mission to Occupied France, dropped not just bombs but a rather more unusual package over Paris. The package contained 600 French Francs and the following message. Its intention was to publicize the radio propaganda broadcasts of Colonel Britton and his V army.
Colonel Britton was in fact Douglas Ritchie, later director of European broadcasting for the BBC. He originated the V for Victory campaign on 6 June 1941. His broadcasts were identified with the Morse signal for the letter V, and the appropriate bar from Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. In order to drum up listeners for his broadcast, the British dropped the French banknotes and a leaflet:
TO A SOLDIER OF THE "V" ARMY
Here are six hundred francs.
They are the gift of an American friend of liberty who wishes the money to be used in any way most needed to forward the interests of the "V" army in its struggle against the Nazis.
This American sent me a check for five dollars, saying that in the United States a five-dollar bill is sometimes referred to as a "V." I have changed this into francs, and, with French currency ruined by the Germans, have obtained for you six hundred francs as against the one hundred and seventy six francs which the five dollars would have purchased before the war.
I have asked the Royal Air Force to drop this packet in occupied France where I know that a good friend of liberty and decency may easily be found, and I ask that the finder of this packet shall, to the best of his or her ability, use this small sum of money in the way that the giver has suggested.
It is, I know, difficult for you to communicate with us, but if you can find a way I should be glad to hear that you have received this packet.
In case you are unaware of it, I should like to tell you that I broadcast in English from London every Friday at midnight (Central European Summer Time) on wavelengths: 1500 meters, 373 meters, 285 meters and 261 meters and on short waves on the 49 and 21 meter bands.
London broadcasts daily in French on 373 meters and on the 49 meter band, as well as on other short waves, at 7.15, 12.15, 15.15, 17.15, 19.15, 21.15 and 01.15 (Central European Summer Time). You can also hear all these broadcasts on 1500 meters, except those of 19.15 and 23.15.
Good luck to you.
The use of genuine banknotes as air-dropped propaganda is not all that rare. During the Korean War the Allies placed genuine banknotes in gift packages for the North Koreans. Banknotes were dropped on both North Vietnam and Laos by the United States during the Vietnam War. In 2000, genuine Pakistani banknotes were overprinted with a reward for Osama bin Laden. In 2001, U.S. propagandists dropped genuine 100 Afghanis banknotes overprinted with a pro-Coalition message on Afghanistan. South Korean activists regularly send banknotes by balloon to their oppressed Communist brothers in North Korea. There are probably many more examples of banknote operations, some of which may still be classified.
During WWII both the Allies and the Axis used rationing to control their economy and make sure that foodstuffs and other materials were available to soldiers at the front and to the civilian population. The British went to great pains to attack the German rationing system, producing millions of coupons in an attempt to cause confusion, hoarding and suspicion among the German people and government.
Some of the coupons forged by the British were for clothing, bread, margarine, meat, butter, cheese, lard, a soldiers leave ration card, food ration cards for both civilians and soldiers, and other foodstuff ration stamps. There are reports of such forgeries circulating in Germany as early as August 1941. The Hamburger Fremdenblatt mentioned the forgeries and said:
No German man or woman will use them. They hand them over to the police. Otherwise, they risk punishment hard labor or death.
Lebensmittelkarte (Food ration card forgery)
One of the most attractive of the British forgeries is the "Food ration card for
the front line worker with the Führer's thanks." These ration cards
were given to soldiers on the Eastern Front who returned to
Kase (cheese) ration card forgery
Cheese ration coupons were prepared in sheets of 100, each coupon allowing the buyer to purchase 30 grams. The British forgery sheet is usually dated 6 February 1944.
Apparently many German citizens did use the ration coupons because a report in Leaflet Operations in the Month of December 1943 says:
Reports continue to come in from Germany regarding the confusion caused by the dropping of fake ration cards. Two "war economy offenders" who had tried to use a fake card in a market were each sentenced to two years imprisonment at hard labor.
Seed Packets with miniature American propaganda newspaper Frankfurter Zeitung
American PSYOP specialists first dropped Seed packets in WWII and they have been dropped on some occasions since then. The five seed packets depicted above were produced by the Office of Special Services Morale Operations section in Bern, Switzerland by the forger Raymond Schuhl (code name Salembier). Each of the seed packets also contained a miniature American propaganda newspaper Frankfurter Zeitung in the German language. The first packet (tomato) had issue number 454; the next packet (cabbage) had issue number 456, etc. Note also the number "92" stamped on the tomato packet. The OSS used that type of hand-stamped code when they archived these propaganda items.
Seeds were also dropped by American aircraft over Burma. This is discussed in a series
of 1944 lectures as part of the
, there were certain groups we wanted to be friends with and to help us. We knew the Japanese were treating them badly; we knew they were running short of food. We made up a number of seed packets which we dropped by plane thru the area, put a message in them saying that they came from American and Chinese troops, telling them what to do with the packets. We also dropped needle and thread packet. We dropped matchboxes with the American flag and a friendly message. Burma
A Gift from your American Friends
OWI Leaflet XA-40 was dropped over
A Gift from your American Friends
The Japanese have looted your houses, field and garden. But take heart. The Allied
armies have already driven the enemy from the north of
The subject is mentioned again in the classified OWI Far East Training Program
for members about to be assigned to the Outpost Service Bureau in
Our Ledo team got intelligence reports that the
tribesmen in a certain section were starved for vegetables. The Japanese had taken them all. Our teams quickly organized some flights to drop packets of seeds, tomatoes and the like, over this area. These seed packets had illustrations showing what the seeds were, pictures of luscious red tomatoes for instance, and other illustrations showing them how to plant the seeds. This for those who couldnt read. There were also written instructions. And you can be sure the packets bore large American flags and other matter to let them know who their friends were. Burma
The Intelligence and Leaflet Unit, Area III,
OWI-PWT interrogators found several vegetable gardens growing in the
. Villagers who fled to the jungle planted the seeds in and harvest the crop when it is fully grown. All of the villagers expressed gratitude for the gifts and reported that the drops gave them confidence that the Allies would come soon. villageof Mong Nge
Refugees, who crossed the Chinese lines in mid-February, reported that there were about forty flourishing vegetable gardens in the Namhsa area, grown from American seed packets. They said the gift packets gave the natives hope that the Allies would return. Immediately after the seeds were first dropped the people stopped selling vegetables and other food, hiding their supplies against the coming of the Allied forces.
If you are going to have all those seeds you are going to need some rain to make them grow. The United States wanted to make rain over Vietnam, but not necessarily for the best reason. U.S. scientists came up with a concept called Project Compatriot. This chemical seeding of the clouds had previously been tested in Laos under the name Popeye. An interesting code name; sailors like Popeye need water to sail their ships and the U.S. would provide it. Clouds along the Ho Chi Minh Trail were seeded in the hopes that military movement from the north would be stopped by the heavy rains and mud. Apparently the plan was partially successful with some minor flooding and a partial loss of the North Vietnamese rice crop. Of course, the problem was that if the Viet Cong figured out what the U.S. was up to, it could tell the world that America was using weather warfare. The U.S. was already being attacked for germ warfare and gas warfare by the North Vietnamese and nobody wanted to supply them with more ammunition. As a result, the program was highly classified.
The British 14th Army dropped rice to the citizens of Siam inside of a bag that was enclosed in a second bag. This double-bagging protected the rice against spillage on impact with the ground.
Needles and Thread
The United States dropped sewing kits to the Burmese people under Japanese occupation.
Plaster adds is SOG - The Secret War of
Blackbirds also dropped gift kits on
. One gift was a yard of cheap cloth and a sewing needle. There was just enough cloth to make baby diapers or a child's shirt. The PSYOP campaign had two goals. First, the friendly Americans had supplied the cloth. Second, if the Communists attempted to confiscate the diapers or shirt the Vietnamese parents would be incensed at their government. North Vietnam
Navigator Captain Bob Wyatt arrived on
I was shown the little bag of toys and stuff for children dropped over
in December of 1965, but as of the bombing halt in 1968 we stopped dropping over NVN. Hanoi
It is interesting to note that this dropping of toys over
Mission reports indicate that on the night of 10 September 1965 an Air Force C-130
dropped 9,000 packets of toys over
The Communist North Vietnamese reported the finding of gift boxes on many occasions. Some of the MACVSOG reports on these discoveries are as follows:
About Tet 1965 on three occasions gift boxes were found drifting in transparent plastic boxes near Liem Lap hamlet. They contained childrens clothes, handkerchiefs, lighters, pencils, pen and pen holders, and fishing lines and hooks. Security agents confiscated the boxes saying that if they were brought home they would explode. In addition, if the finders wore the clothes after 3 months and 10 days their skin would be swollen and they would die from poison that the enemy soaked into the cloth.
Prior to Childrens Day in October 1965 children found plastic boxes containing a childs yellow T-shirt, 19 sewing needles, 1 roll of thread and many buttons. They took them home.
Declassified SOG documents state that the following numbers of gift kits were dropped
The United States Army Air Force dropped soap on occupied
Soap from your friends, the Americans
Soap for Portugal
During WWII, Portugal was a neutral country. Because both the Allies and the Axis wanted to keep it either neutral or friendly, both sides sent much propaganda there. Picture postcards were one of the most prevalent forms of propaganda, though there were many other printed items. This bar of soap was a gift of the United States, most likely by the Office of War Information. The label reads:
Soap from the People of the United States
Burma Soap package
Propaganda in the form of soap was also dropped on Japanese-occupied Burma and Thailand during WWII. The soap bears a design of a 5-pointed star in a circle and 2 airplanes. The box that it was dropped in has a 48-star American flag on one side and two lines of Burmese (in black) and Thai (in red) text on the other. The message is the same in both languages:
This is a gift from your American friends
Vietnam Soap package. Note the word "Loc" on the back of the wrapping
Soap was used during the Vietnam War as a medium for PSYOP messages. One type of propaganda soap came in a dark red package with bright yellow flowers on the front and back and had the word Loc (Lucky) on it. The design on the wrapper indicates that it was a gift for Tet, the Vietnamese New Years holiday. The 7th PSYOP Group bought about twenty-five thousand Japanese-produced, strongly scented bars of soap, each containing seven different Chieu Hoi messages printed on interior layers for the 1969 Tet campaign. The United States Army refused to talk about this operation but news of it came out during a 1970 meeting of the Senate Foreign Relations Sub-committee on Security Agreements and Commitments Abroad. At other times plastic buckets containing a washcloth, a half piece of elephant soap, needles and thread, and a leaflet were drifted into Viet Cong areas.
The 7th PSYOP Group Unit History of 1967 mentions the soap campaign:
Research was just completed, in December 1967, on the use of soap as a media for disseminating PSYOP messages. A Japanese soap company has devised a technique of printing up to eight different symbols or slogans on a bar of soap in eight different layers of the soap. This was tested by the Special projects Section and is considered to be a possible new breakthrough in PSYOP because of the extensive distribution of soap throughout
The PSYOP/POLWAR Newsletter of August 1968 says in part:
The Nippon Color Soap Company of Japan has developed a process for printing up to eight different messages, pictures or slogans on eight layers of a single bar of soap. If the inner and outer wrappers are included, this allows for ten separate messages in a single package Since soap has a high acceptance value, the message-bearing bars could be used as give-away items in refugee camps, Chieu Hoi Centers, POW camps, medical aid missions, and by civil action groups as well as military patrols .
The PSYOP/POLWAR Newsletter of January 1969 says in part:
Initial shipments of PSYOP soap developed by the 4th PSYOP Group are now in the country. It is a lightly scented soap which reveals seven separate PSYOP messages as it is used. The soap is scheduled for use in support of the 1969 Tet Campaign and will be distributed during the period 18 January to 19 February Twenty-five thousand bars will be disseminated.
The 1969 document Employment of U.S. Army Psychological Operation Units in Vietnam says about the use of soap for PSYOP:
The 7th PSYOP Group developed a technique of disseminating propaganda messages imbedded on successive layers of soap, thus enabling the originator to convey several messages to the user over a considerable period of time. After favorable evaluation by the 4th PSYOP Group for field application to target audiences in the Republic of Vietnam, messages were developed to include a wrapper layout emphasizing that the soap was a gift from the GVN. The layered messages used a soft-sell approach and consisted of symbols and short slogans. The soap was used in support of the 1969 TET Campaign. This was the first field application of PSYOP soap and Naval Force-Vietnam was assigned the mission of conducting an intensive field test to determine the suitability and effectiveness of the soap for possible use as a future PSYOP medium. The field test was conducted in the Delta during riverine operations.
I talked to the Army officer who had first thought of placing propaganda messages in soap in Vietnam and he was still bothered by the fact that although it was his idea, another officer was given credit for it and awarded a Bronze Star Medal. In my experience that is how the Army works. There are times when you achieve a significant victory and are unrewarded and other times when you find yourself being presented a medal that you feel you do not deserve. I always told my hesitant soldiers to accept the decoration regardless of their feeling about it because in the long run it tends to even out. He told me:
I made the original recommendation for its use. It was based on a filler article in the Readers Digest about a soap developed in Japan. It contained the basic description of a layered soap that could be used and I think mentioned the idea that a lady could do a striptease as you washed your hands. Our Japan Detachment (7th PSYOP Group) contacted the company and we were off and running.
Soap wrapper from soap delivered to the Tay Ninh province
(Photo courtesy of Dave Bowers)
A second type of soap had the following text on the wrapper.
To build rural areas is to bring food and clothes to all the people of the country.
[Note: Tay Ninh is a province west of
An American PSYOP officer who stationed in Vietnam from December 1967 to December 1968 in the 4th PSYOP Group thought that the soap operation was a failure. He told me:
We got the soap operation shoved down our throat by the Department of Defense. Some big wig in the Pentagon came up with the idea of inserting 10 different layers of leaflets in a bar of soap. Rumor was it cost well over $100,000 to produce. The concept was that a VC or NVA would pick up this bar of soap dropped from the air and as they washed they would see a PSYOP message. And if they kept the same bar, and did not get throw it away or have their cadre take it from them, they would eventually view 9 more messages. The messages were developed stateside without any input from the field and were amateurish. Not only were these PSYOP Bars of soap extremely difficult to dispense from the various aircraft but, there was never one bit of evidence that a single Viet Cong ever turned himself in or even read the messages.
Thailand soap bar with front and back of the cardboard package
The soap bars were also used against communist insurgents in
Korean Soap package
The Korean soap was manufactured in
Members of the 10th PSYOP Battalion dropped soap and candy in the Delta of
Education was big in our campaign efforts due to the ability to find distinct village populations with roads, canals and surrounding farm lands. We were deadly serious in trying to help the people. We did have some success, but the failure rate of wet baggies plus the poison story by the Viet Cong made the overall mission a failure. Another problem was the local Vietnamese children. Once the kids found baggies floating filled with candy and other goodies they went out and gathered like crazy. I think that the baggies were a great idea. We didn't have the right bags, right sealers, or proper distribution technology to make our attempt successful, but we tried hard and we led the way.
Soap was also used as a secret weapon in a mysterious operation called Commando
Lava, which took place in
FM 33-1-1 Psychological Operations Techniques and Procedures says about gifts such as soap:
Novelties, trinkets, or gifts should be items members of the target audience can use. Toothbrushes, soap, bandages, and notebooks or pencils for children are just a few useful items PSYOP personnel should disseminate when they enter an area. As visual media, these items must have some printed symbol or short theme on them. The symbol used in conjunction with the PSYOP themes the obvious choice and will require prior planning.
In the section on balloons, the FM states:
In addition to leaflets, balloons can drop food, toys, household goods, and daily commodities to the selected target audience.
Airdropped Rescue Boats to the Enemy
Perhaps the most interesting wartime airdropped gift was in the form of
a rubber boat to be used to aid in the surrender and survival of Japanese soldiers on
bypassed islands. During WWII, it was the policy of the Navy to bypass well defended
islands of no strategic value and let the Japanese defenders rot on the vine.
The Navy dropped leaflet 1044 along with rubber boats on
1. First, orally inflate the boat using the rubber tube. Attach the rubber tube to the valve on the inside of the boat, turn the valve to the left, and orally inflate slowly. When the boat is completely inflated, turn the valve to the right and leave it in that position. You will then have a fine boat! It takes a healthy person about 15 minutes to inflate the boat orally.
2. When the boat is finished, set out! What about the waves and the wind conditions? Take off your clothes and make a sail out of them.<>
3. Put your hands through the straps on the two rubber oars and row with them. They will also act as a rudder. The small rubber cup is very handy for bailing out the bilge.
4. When the waves are rough, you can steady the boat by taking hold of the handles on the top. Work them skillfully so that the boat will not turn over. Even though there is a heavy swell, keep courage and go on, humming the song UMI NO TAMI
NARAOTOKO . You can be sure that the boat will not sink. NARA
5. Directly ahead, you can see lights. That is the rescue ship. If you keep on course until you reach the ship, all will be well.
The other side depicts photographs of rescued Japanese soldiers with explanatory captions.
a. Life line lowered from American ship.
b. Step by step, up the ladder to hope.
c. Having washed away the mud of battle, they breathe a sigh of relief.
Care for a Quick Game on the way to the Punji Stakes?
It was apparently decided in November 1967 during the Vietnam War that if the locals
and the Viet Cong could become interested in playing chess, they would be less likely to
set up ambushes and bury mines and punji stakes. As a result, this Joint
Part 2 Strange Air Operations Planned but Cancelled
Hitler's Eagle's Nest
During WWII the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) Dr. Walter C. Langer, a Harvard
psychoanalyst, to do a long-range analysis of Adolf Hitler. A student of Anna Freud for
eight years in
Hitler's apparent obsession with sex was discussed in The Mind of Adolf Hitler, by Dr. Walter C. Langer, Basic Books, NY, 1972:
On his walls are numerous pictures of obscene nudes that conceal nothing and he takes particular delight in looking through a collection of pornographic photographs that Hoffmann has made for him.
Hitler's obsession with pornography led to the strange proposal that the way to win WWII was to drop a bomber-load of pornography over the Eagle's Nest at Obersalzberg near Berchtesgaden. The Führer would come out for his morning walk, be surrounded by photographs of naked woman and immediately go insane.
Glen Yeadon and John Hawkins talk about the sexual plans to unhinge Hitler in The
Nazi Hydra in
Londonbased OSSgroup decided Nazi would implode if only its leader could be demoralized. After conducting a long psychological profile of Hitler, the group decided he could be unhinged by exposure of vast quantities of pornography. The Germany group then assembled the finest collection of pornography. The material was to be dropped by plane around the Führer-bunker. Hitler was to step outside and pick one up and immediately be thrown into a state of madness. But the Air Force liaison stormed out of the first meeting with the OSS , cursing and swearing he would not risk a single life for such an insane plan. OSS
This operation is also mentioned in The Secret Life of Adolf Hitler, By David Lewis. He says:
The American knew of Hitlers obsession with hardcore pornography. He had one of the greatest collections in
. They hoped it would bring about his downfall. They got the idea that if Hitler was suddenly confronted with tons of dirty books and pictures he might go mad and die from a heart attack. They gathered together all the hardcore pornography they could find and packed it into crates, intending to have the whole lot dropped by parachute on his mountain retreat. The crates were designed to break open on impact scattering porn all over the place. Germany
Is that a bomb No, its an urn is that you Toshiro?
Australias National Nine News ran a story by Bob Wurth on 29 November 2006 telling of a declassified psychological operations plan to drop the ashes of dead Japanese soldiers over the enemy.
Apparently, the Australian government had returned the ashes of four dead submariners who died in
in 1942. The four young men had been cremated in Sydney Harbor with full military honors. Radio Sydney Tokyoand the Japanese press called the return of the ashes a chivalrous act that greatly impressed . This interested the military propaganda section of the Allied Intelligence Bureau called the Far Eastern Liaison Office or FELO, based at Windsor and Indooroopilly in Japan . Brisbane
FELO's director, Navy Commander John Proud, concocted a plan to cremate Japanese war dead from battlefields in
. The ashes would then be dropped along with aerial propaganda leaflets drawing attention to this chivalrous act and deploring the unnecessary waste of life. Proud believed that Japanese morale was declining and that the return of the ashes of more Japanese would impress the Japanese soldier that he is fighting gentlemen with military traditions like his own. Proud said: New Guinea
This scheme may seem fantastic at first, but it has been inspired by the somewhat spectacular reaction in Japan to the action of the Royal Australian Navy in cremating the bodies of the Japanese who were killed in the submarines in Sydney Harbor, and returning the ashes to Japan. The cremating would, of course, be done on a comparatively small scale and off the record there would be no guarantee that the ashes were those of the person named on the label.
It would cause considerable embarrassment to the local commanding officers. If the leaflets were properly designed they would inform the troops of our action and the commanding officer would not dare to ignore the return of the ashes.
Allied Commander in Chief General Douglas MacArthur approved the operation.
Commander Proud and his FELO staff in
Brisbanegathered the ashes of war dead and urns identical to those used in . The propaganda leaflet was written tested. It said in part: Japan
Allied commanders respect the traditional regard of the Japanese soldiers for the return to the homeland of the ashes of those who have been killed in battle.
By the end of end of August 1943, the operation was ready. The urns and leaflets were attached to parachutes and loaded aboard the United States Army Air Force B-24 bomber "Little Beaver," tail number 42-40984 in
. The aircraft was ordered to fly to Lae (the second largest city in Port Moresby , occupied by the Japanese is 1942) to drop the remains of the Japanese soldiers. Unfortunately, the operation was not a success. The bomber crashed in Papua, New Guinea on a steep mountainside near the Port Moresby Airport. A cable from Papua New Guinea dated 1 September 1943 reported: Port Moresby
For FELO. Airplane with Flying Officer Keogh and ashes overdue feared lost. Believed not to have reached Lae. Suggest send more ashes and leaflets.
That was the end of the program. Commander Proud tried to resurrect interest in his psychological warfare scheme and to drop more Japanese ashes, but it was abandoned by his senior officers, who thought the scheme no longer worth the effort and risk.
Incendiary Bats over Tokyo
In WWII there was a plan to drop bats from B-29 bombers over Tokyo with incendiaries tied to their bodies. The bats would fly into the eaves of Japanese wood and paper houses and the incendiaries would explode, burning the homes to the ground. The idea came from Dr. Lytle S. Adams, a dental surgeon from Irwin, Pa. On 12 January 1942, Dr. Adams sent the White House a proposal to investigate the possible use of bats as bombers. President Roosevelt sent a note to his aide William Donovan on 19 February 1942 that simply said This man is not a nut. His idea, after being sifted through a top-level scientific review, was passed to the Army Chemical Warfare Service (CWS) for further inquiry in conjunction with Army Air Forces. The experiment was dubbed "Project X-Ray." The Mexican free-tailed bat was selected. Though it weighed but one third of an ounce, it could fly fairly well with a one-ounce bomb. In March 1943, authority to proceed with the experiment came from the United States Army Air Force Headquarters. The test was to "Determine the feasibility of using bats to carry small incendiary bombs into enemy targets." Two sizes of incendiary bombs containing napalm were designed. One weighed seventeen grams and would burn four minutes with a ten-inch flame. The other weighed twenty-eight grams and would burn six minutes with a twelve-inch flame. In May 1943, about 3,500 bats were collected and placed in refrigerators to force them to hibernate. On 21 May 1943, five drops with bats outfitted with dummy bombs were made from a B-25 flying at 5,000 feet. The tests were not successful; most of the bats, not fully recovered from hibernation, did not fly and died on impact. By December 1943 the Marine Corps began similar experimentation. Using bats they started 30 fires. Twenty-two went out, but, according to Robert Sherrod's History of Marine Corps Aviation in World War II, "four of them would have required the services of professional firefighters."
The Bat Bomb
Notice the breathing holes for the bats inside the bomb
A bat bomb was developed that would allow the bats to emerge from hibernation on the way to the ground. 1040 bats were placed in 26 trays in a five-foot bomb. There were 40 separate containers in each tray that held one hibernating bat each. The bomb was dropped from 5,000 feet and slowed by parachute at 1,000 feet. The bomb then split apart and the trays opened like an accordion, held together by cords. As the bats awoke and flew off, a tiny thread-like wire attached to the tray armed the incendiary device. The timer was set for 30 minutes. During tests on 15 December 1943 the device worked exactly as planned and set fire to a mock Japanese wooden village set up in
. The military evaluators stated: It is concluded that the bat bomb is an effective weapon. There were plans to utilize the bomb in September 1944 but the program was suddenly cancelled on 16 February 1944. There was no need for bats to set Utah ablaze. The atom bomb was coming online. By that time, the project had cost the American taxpayer approximately $2 million dollars. Japan
Watch Out for the Pigeons
There is an old joke that claims that statues fear nothing as much as pigeons. During WWII, there was a plan called Project Pigeon to use pigeons to drops things far more dangerous than their usual gifts from above. The animal behaviorist B. F. Skinner believed that he could train pigeons to steer a bomb or a Pelican missile to its target. The plan was rather advanced.
Pigeon guided bomb
The pigeon would be placed inside a bomb or missile connected to various electronics while the image of the target was projected on a lens in front of the bird. Three birds were placed in each bomb and it was a case of majority rules. If two pecked to the right and one did not, the bomb would slowly move to the right. Skinner used seeds to train the birds to continually peck at the center of the picture. As long as the birds did so, the bomb remained on target. The
military invested $25,000 to fund an experimental program. The birds performed well and passed all the tests, but when the results were presented to the National Defense Research Council on 8 October 1944, the concept was declined as being just too weird. When Project Pigeon was declassified in 1948, the United States Navy revived the plan as Project Orcon, attempting to use the birds to guide missiles. The plan was scrapped for the second time in 1953. In recent years some rescue organizations have experimented with birds and relied on their superior eyesight to spot shipwreck survivors in a raft, but it is hard to say if pigeons could have actually guided a bomb to a target. United States
I thought turkeys could fly
In the 1978 television comedy WKRP in
, the radio station manager Mr. Carlson decides to take part in a Thanksgiving Day publicity stunt by dropping twenty live turkeys from a helicopter over a local shopping mall. The stunt turns into a disaster as the turkeys fall from the sky like rocks and the announcer does a parody of the famous radio broadcast of the 1937 Hindenburg disaster at Lakehurst Naval Station, New Jersey: Cincinnati
Oh my God Johnny, theyre turkeys. Johnny, can you get this? Oh, they're plunging to the earth right in front of our eyes! One just went through the windshield of a parked car! Oh, the humanity! The turkeys are hitting the ground like sacks of wet cement. Not since the Hindenburg tragedy has there been anything like this!
The punch line of the story comes at the end where the remorseful Mr. Carlson says:
As God is my witness. I thought turkeys could fly.
Why do we mention this television show? Because sometimes fiction becomes truth. In The Battle for Spain, Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 2006, we find the comment:
In the south, near Andujar, a detachment of 1,200 civil guards and Falangists was holding out in the mountain monastery of
de la Cabeza under Captain Cortes. Nationalist pilots devised an original method of dropping fragile supplies. They attached them to live turkeys which descended flapping their wings, thus serving as parachutes which could also be eaten by the defenders. Santa Maria
A Fox in the Hen House
Along with the bats, it is alleged that the office of Strategic Services also intended to attack
with glowing foxes. This story is told by Robert J. Kodosky in Psychological Operations American Style The Joint United States Public Affairs Office, Vietnam and Beyond, Lexington Books, Lanham, MD, 2007. Kodosky implies that the American government had incorrect beliefs regarding the Asian people, assuming that they were backward and superstitious. The Japan OSSbelieved that Shintoists in saw the fox, when illuminated, as a harbinger of bad times. Japan
The plan was to first drop leaflet telling of the impending doom to follow. Agents would be issued reed whistles that sounded like foxes. Chemicals would be prepared that had a fox odor. Other agents would pretend to be possessed by the fox spirit. Finally, the actual glowing foxes would be loosed over
. The Japan first experimented with fox-shaped balloons covered with luminous paint and later painted live foxes with a radiant chemical so they would glow in the dark. Thirty Glowing foxes were let loose in OSS New York Citys Central Parkas an experiment. Sightseers were terrified. The Sunday Tribune of 21 March 1948 said, Horrified citizens, shocked by the sudden sight of the leaping ghostlike animals, fled from the dark recesses of the park with the screaming jeemies. The war came to an end before Operation Fantasia could be put into operation. We dont know if the foxes would have terrified the Japanese, but apparently they scared the hell out of New Yorkers.<
We find another story about this strange OSS Morale Operations campaign in A Covert Affair, Jennet Conant, Simon and Shuster, New York, 2011:
Huddled on a barge and shivering in the predawn December fog, the dignitaries watched as the cage doors were opened and the animals, which had been dipped in phosphorous to make them easier to track, were dropped into the water... despite assurances that the foxes would instinctively head for shore, they promptly swam out toward the Atlantic and disappeared without a trace. The professor may have been an expert on Japanese superstitions, but he was the class dunce on zoology. A furious Donovan called off the fox project, but it lived on, in only at bibulous OSS meetings.
During the American intervention in Haiti in 1994 the military developed a plan to win the friendship of the local people by dropping soccer balls from helicopters to children below. It is alleged that the CIA bought 1,030 soccer balls, painted with crossed Haitian and American flags on each, and planned to air drop them over Port au Prince before the invasion. Somebody apparently did the math on the weight of a soccer ball falling at high speed from the sky and that plan was quickly cancelled. The last thing the United States needed was a dead Haitian child, killed by a falling soccer ball.
Soccer ball helicopter drop
Curiously, American PSYOP troops revived the concept in 2008 in
. Once again, colorful soccer balls were dropped from low-flying Blackhawk helicopters. Once again, there were problems. Afghanistan
Inflating soccer balls prior to drop
Coalition Flags Soccer ball with Shuhada on Saudi Flag
There were three different styles of soccer balls and one depicted the flags of many Coalition nations to show the strength and Commitment of the Allied nations. However, the Saudi flag has the Shuhada (declaration of faith) written on it. Some Arabs felt that kicking the holy statement was heresy. Allegedly, the military apologized to the Saudis and the Afghans for the gaffe. I should point out in the Armys defense that I was told by one soldier that this was not a military operation. He said that the soccer balls had been prepared and supplied by a private aid group, what we call a "non-governmental organization" (NGO).
Specialist Jessica Stephenson, a psychological operations Soldier assigned to the 362nd PSYOP Company, gives a soccer ball to a youngster during a humanitarian mission to southern
villages on 17 August 2004 Afghanistan
During Operation Iraqi Freedom the U.S. 1st Cavalry Division prepared soccer balls with their insignia (A black horsehead on a yellow shield) on one side and a map of Iraq on the other. The balls were certainly welcomed by the children, but a member of the unit said:
These were given to kids in Iraq. We were told to stop giving them out because the insurgents had threatened to kill anybody with them.
In Colombia, while waging the war against the guerrilla movement FARC, the government wrote messages promoting peace on soccer balls and floated them down the river toward the rebel encampments.
A Backpack for Afghan Students
This backpack baring the flag of Afghanistan was given out by PSYOP troops to Afghan students starting about 2003. The backpack was also given in later years, in both blue and black.
Blue and Black Backpacks in Sangin, Afghanistan
Photo by J.P. Black
U.S. Army Corporal Chris O'Brien, left, with the 312th PSYOP Company hands out a school backpack to an Afghan boy in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, 13 November 2011
U.S. Army soldier passes out pencils to children.
301st PSYOP Company and 3-7 Cavalry soldiers give away school supplies in Safia Bint Abdul Mutaleb School in 2007
U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Sostenes Rocha, assigned to the 307th PSYOP Company, hands out pens to local children during a mission with U.S. soldiers assigned the 4th Infantry Division, to patrol the villages around Malajat, Afghanistan. The purpose of the mission was to gather information from the local population, and to distribute Psychological Operations flyers and radios.
Of course this is not a GI Joe doll, but it is close. This is one of the most interesting items given to Afghan children during the American occupation of that country. Part of the PSYOP mission of consolidation is getting the public to back the local police and military forces. A lot of propaganda was prepared for the new Afghan Army and in this case a Commando doll with M4 rifle and fighting knife was distributed in the villages to promote the Afghan Commandos. One wonders what happens to a child found playing with such a doll when the Taliban enters the village at night.
God is Great Towel
We mention in this article that on several occasion cloth was used for propaganda. In some cases it was material for making clothes, in other cases for diapers or for wash cloths.
Since a towel is used over and over again and is a minor necessity, it stands to reason that they are a good medium for a propaganda message. We know of at least one towel printed with text during Operation Iraqi Freedom. It was brought back by an Army engineering advisor about 2008 from
Camp Victory, the primary component of the Victory Base Complex which occupies the area surrounding the Baghdad International Airportin . Iraq itself lies approximately 5 kilometers from the airport. Camp Victory
The 12 x 30-inch hand towel was printed with the PSYOP message:
God (Allah) is great
We all love (heart)
God (Allah) is great
Unfortunately, no one realized that a religious Muslim would not wipe his body with a towel that has Allah written on it! As a result, they were discarded by the very people the Coalition wished to impress and used only by non-Muslims. The campaign was quietly ended and many of the towels were later destroyed by incineration.
There is a second 28 x 56-inch bath towel features the convoy vehicle warning text used in Operation Iraqi Freedom in both English and Arabic:
CAUTION STAY 100 METERS BACK OR YOU WILL BE SHOT
Since half the towel is in English and this makes little sense as a propaganda product I am sure it was more a souvenir for the Coalition troops than an attempt to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people.
Near the end of WWII the Japanese hatched a desperate plan to drop plague-infested rats on the United States. The "Plague Research Unit" of the 731st Unit of Japans Kwantung Army in Manchuria was secretly engaged in germ warfare research using Chinese and Soviet prisoners as human guinea pigs. Plans called for the deadly rat bombs to be launched by balloons and carried to the American mainland by prevailing winter winds at an altitude of 33,000 feet. The flea-infested rats were to have been kept in ceramic pots which would have broken when the bombs detonated. According to the source, the only reason this plan was never put into action was fear of American reprisal.
The British also seem to have thought about the use of rats as a weapon. A rat-catcher by the name of William Walton claimed in 1955 that during the Second World War he was asked to provide two dozen rats a week to the British War Office. He was told that they were to be gutted and filled with high explosives. The rats would then be scattered around enemy territory.
Allegedly, the British would drop leaflets at the same time warning the people of the danger of rats infested with typhus and warning that any dead rats found should be immediately taken to the nearest high temperature factory furnace where the heat of the flames would be sure to kill all the infectious germs in and on the rat. Of course, the explosives inside the rat would then take out the furnace, and hopefully a good part of the installation. The British government denies that such a plan was ever considered.
SOE Explosive Rat
It appears that to some extent the British did go ahead with their plans. The Special Operations Executive published a booklet called Descriptive Catalogue of Special Devices and Supplies. One of the devices depicted in the catalogue is a dead rat with an explosive inserted inside its body. The booklet explains:
A rat is skinned, the skin being sewn up and filled with plastic explosive to assume the shape of a dead rat. A standard No. 6 primer is set in the plastic explosive. Initiation is be means of a short length of safety fuse with a No. 27 detonator crimped on one end, and a copper tube igniter on the other end, or as in the case of the illustration above, a P.T.F. with a No. 27 detonator attached. The rat is then left amongst the coal beside a boiler and the flames initiate the safety fuse when the rat is thrown on to the fire, or in the of the P.T.F. a time delay is used.
British Researcher Lee Richards added:
The intention was never to indiscriminately drop these from aircraft but to be supplied to the resistance in regular container air drops. Only 100 rats were ever prepared and it seems dropped in a single container drop which was intercepted by the Germans. The capture of the rats actually turned out to be stroke of fortune. This from the official history of the SOE Camouflage Section:
This device caused considerable trouble to the enemy, but not in quite the way that was intended. The container was found by the enemy before any of the rats could be used for operational purposes, but their discovery had an extraordinary moral effect and the device was exhibited at all German Military Schools, a wide search being organized to find the Hundreds of rats which the enemy believed were distributed on the Continent. The trouble caused to them was a much greater success to us than if the rats had actually been used. It is obvious that in the latter case no evidence would have remained, and the enemy would not have discovered their existence. It was a device with a limited operational use, and the happy discovery of it by the enemy was considerably more advantageous to us.
Airborne Rodent Oohrah!
Of course, we are so modern and forward-thinking today that we would never think of dropping rodents on a populated area. Well, maybe not. It was reported in late 2013 that because of the plague 2 million poisonous brown tree snakes on the island of Guam, the United States was dropping 2,000 mice implanted with a tablet containing 80 mg of acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol. Apparently, the snakes are susceptible to Tylenol; the chemical interferes with the ability of snakes blood to carry oxygen. Within 60 hours the snakes, which grow to between 3 and 6 feet in length, are dead. When it comes to air-dropping rodents, what comes around goes around!
The Special Operations Executive was formed in July 1940 with the mission to Set
EuropeAblaze. By 1942, 150 different articles had been produced at Station XI and Station XII based at Aston House, Stevenage. Explosives were also made to resemble coal. This coal would explode when shoveled into a furnace, or into the boiler of a locomotive. The American Office of Strategic Services issued the coal as a kit, shaped like a large piece of coal, but actually a hollow shell into which explosives were packed.
Thomas N. Moon and Carl F. Eifler mention this plan in: The Deadliest Colonel, Vantage Press, New York, 1975. Colonel Eifler commanded
OSSDetachment 101 in during WWII. He says: Burma
Because different coal was used according to the country where it was mined,
had to make the coal in different sizes and colors. The engines in OSS however burned logs. The next step was logical. Logs were carefully stripped of their bark, hollowed out, and filled with explosives. When later thrown into a boiler, it did its job. Burma
Dung Bombs and Sensors
Explosives were also shaped into sugar beets or cow dung.The dung would be dropped or left on the road where it would blow out the tires of any vehicles passing over it.
The use of dung for clandestine operations reappeared in the Vietnam War when the
allegedly developed listening devices that looked like water buffalo dung that could detect the vibrations of someone walking by. These scatterable sensors (seismic intrusion detectors SIDs) were small devices, mostly seismic. They consisted of a seismic detector, a transmitter, an internal antenna, and a battery in a fiberglass or plastic case made to look like animal droppings, a broken branch, a big leaf, or other kinds of forest litter. They were usually delivered by air. A low-flying aircraft would dump a batch of them out along a trail, road, or in a suspected base camp area. We dont know if the story is true or not, but according to one legend the device, nicknamed Turdsid proved to have a major flaw. The Viet Cong routinely picked up buffalo dung to use as fuel in their cooking fires. Many of these expensive covert listening devices literally went up in smoke. United States
Because they were small, their batteries and transmitters were small. The battery life was not long, just a few days. The sensors are about 4 inches long and fashioned in the shape of animal feces. Each had a small pin attached to a piece of plastic that activated them. The Turdsid has three small circular mercury coin batteries, a vibration sensor and an ARFBOUY transmitter. It is activated when a human walks close by.
The report U. S. Air Ground Operations Against the Ho Chi Minh Trail, 1966-1972 adds that the sensors were first made to look like dog excrement, but when it was discovered that there were no dogs along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the sensors were changed to look like branches and pieces of wood.
The idea of turds being of military value did not start in Vietnam. During WWII, the Office of Strategic Services asked Carleton Coon, a Harvard anthropologist to gather roadside stones in French Morocco to be used as models for plaster of Paris-coated tire bombs. Coon couldnt find rocks that were suitable, but he did find countless mule turds that littered the roads. Apparently they were suitable and later made into disguised mines that could be left on routes used by the enemy
Returning to Vietnam, the sensors are also mentioned in John L. Plasters SOG a Photo History of the Secret War:
SOG recon teams hand-emplaced dozens of sensors, disguised as tropical plants. Others were airdropped from
U.S.Navy Neptunes, and still more were delivered by Air Force helicopters of the Thailand-based 21st Special Operations Squadron. U.S.
The Ho Chi Minh Trail Interdiction program was the responsibility of a joint task-force of Army, Navy and Air Force commands. Operational identification was initially listed on DOD organizational charts as Joint Task Force 728. The initial sensor air delivery and attack portion of the program was managed by the
Navy under the code-name Dual Blade, later changing to Dye Marker, and again to Muscle Shoals. Upon transfer of mission to the Air Force in June 1968 as part of the air war, the ground unit identification was changed to Task Force Alpha and the overall electronic warfare program of dropping sensors along the Ho Chi Minh Trail was known as Igloo White. The data was sent to and analyzed by Task Force Alpha personnel in the U.S. at Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base. Infiltration Surveillance Center
CIA Seismic Intruder Setection Device
Museumin has a seismic detector that looks like a turd. They dont actually say that, but it is pretty clear what it is. The display is entitled SEISMIC INTRUDER DETECTION DEVICE The caption near the device is: Langley, Virginia
This Cold War-era motion detector was designed to blend in with local terrain. It can detect movement of people, animals, or objects up to 300 meters. The device is powered by three mercury cells and has a built-in dipole antenna and built-in 150 MHz transmitter, which relays the device's findings through coded impulses.
Jennifer Gabrys mentions a number of these very strange and dangerous gifts from above in her booklet, Airdrop, Book Works, London, 2004. There is some question about whether many of these drops actually occurred. The explosive pens story in particular may have been a black operation that was intended to scare finders of enemy airdropped propaganda and cause them to avoid picking up the items. She says:
Soviet aircraft dropped booby traps on German soldiers during WWII in the form of cognac bottles filled with inflammable liquid, explosive cigarettes, and decoy frogs that exploded when pressed. Anglo-American and German aircraft also dropped a flurry of booby-traps, including dynamite-laden fountain pens and pencils, explosive handbags, chocolates, and loaded dolls and toys. At the flick of a switch, the objects would detonate.
The concept of strange and exotic weapons and agents dropped from the sky has not disappeared from the many think tanks around the
. For instance, declassified 1994 documents from the United States U. S.Air Force Wright Laboratory in , indicate that it proposed to the Pentagon the study of the development of various chemical weapons that would disrupt discipline and morale among enemy troops. The report is in a paper entitled, Harassing, Annoying and Bad Guy Identifying Chemicals. The paper recommends dissemination of the weapons by spray tanks in airplanes or artillery shells. Dayton, Ohio
The strangest plan was for the development of an aphrodisiac sex bomb chemical weapon that would arouse the sexuality of enemy soldiers in the field. The concept was to provoke widespread homosexual behavior among troops. Although the Army might deny it, it is safe to say that its general policy is slightly homophobic. The proposal says, One distasteful but complete non-lethal example would be strong aphrodisiacs, especially if the chemical also caused homosexual behavior. Enemy soldiers having homosexual sex with each other in their fighting positions? They say that all is fair in love and war, but this might be going over the line.
There was also a plan to drop chemicals that would attract swarms of angry wasps, aggressive rats, or larger animals to enemy troop positions. Most insects and many animals produce aggressive warning chemicals (fight or flight) when the hive or nest requests defense, so it might be feasible to reproduce such odors. Of course, for such a weapon to work, it still required that such creatures be nesting nearby. The proposal goes so far as to recommend that the Army position multiple beehives along infiltration routes.
Another proposed project was the development of a chemical designed to cause extremely bad breath or body odor. Identifying enemy guerrillas is always difficult, so the ability to pick an insurgent out of a crowd of civilians by his halitosis or foul smell actually sounds feasible. However, picture the poor American soldier walking down a line of suspected terrorists and leaning toward a suspect as he exhales heavily. Interrogation brought to a new high!
A final proposal called for the production of a chemical that would make the enemy soldier's skin unbearably sensitive to sunlight. Some antibiotics already cause this kind of reaction, so such a chemical agent would probably not be that difficult to produce.
Part 3 Air Drops that May Not Have Been the Best Idea
Operation Provide Promise began on 2 July 1992. Twenty-one nations formed a coalition to resupply war-torn Sarajevo with food and medicine. The Bosnian Serbs remained belligerent and fired on coalition aircraft. They shot down an Italian transport killing the crew. When it became too dangerous to land at Sarajevo Airport, the cargo planes airdropped supplies.
Leaflets were prepared and dropped over Bosnia. They depict a Hercules C-130 USAF cargo plane in front of a faint United States flag. The leaflets picture crates falling by parachute marked with a bright red cross, and are written in Serbo-Croat text, in Latin script on one side and Cyrillic on the other side. The C-130 drops three containers labeled "500 KG." This leaflet was prepared because of accidents that occurred in Somalia in 1992 when President Bush found himself under tremendous pressure to send American troops to protect relief workers and the food shipped to the starving nation. He finally authorized the deployment of American troops in an operation called Restore Hope. Some of the starving Somali people are reported to have rushed mindlessly into the drop zone only to be crushed by falling food crates. The leaflet text is:
Danger! For everyone's safety, let humanitarian aid land before approaching.
On September 11, 2001, terrorists of the al-Qaida (the Base) group, some trained and financed by Saudi Arabian exile-in-hiding Osama bin Laden, attacked the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington DC. President Bush immediately demanded that the ruling fundamentalist Islamic Taliban movement of Afghanistan turn over Mr. bin Laden for trial. President Bush declared a war on terrorism and stated that they would be found and attacked regardless of where they were hiding. American forces were deployed under "Operation Enduring Freedom." The bombing of Afghanistan began on October 7. Along with the bombing, the United States Air Force also dropped food packets for the Afghan refugees.
A problem occurred when it was noticed that the humanitarian food packets were the same yellow color as the bomblets from the Cluster bomb units (CBU). Realizing the danger to children and civilians, the Pentagon immediately ordered leaflets produced and disseminated that warned the Afghans not to pick up the yellow cluster bombs.
The warning leaflet is AFD39. The leaflet depicts a hand reaching toward a food packet on one side and a short message explaining that this is safe. The back of the leaflet depicts a hand reaching for a bomblet, and shows bomblets in several forms on the ground. There is a skull and crossed bones at the center of the leaflet warning finders of the danger.
Who wants C-Rats?
In the American Army troops in the field are given a form of ration that in theory will last damn near forever. In the Korean War I was fed K-Rations from WWII. Then for many years I ate C-Rations. They were not admired much and the ham and lima beans was called Ham and mother-fu*kers by the troops. I did like the spaghetti and meatballs though. When I left the military we were eating Meals Ready to Eat (MREs). None of those dishes would win a Michelin Star.
The 1968 8th PSYOP Battalion leaflet mentions a campaign I never heard of. It is a rather plain all-text leaflet and normally I would not use it in an article but apparently it was dropped with C-Rations to Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army troops in the field in an attempt to get them to surrender. A note on the official translation says "Dropped with C-Rations," so the implication is that this was an airdrop operation. The leaflet message is:
Member of K-2 Battalion, Regiment 174
We buried 400 of your comrades who were killed in the battle of Dak To at Hill 875 and again on 2 February 1968 we killed another 100 when you were trapped at Thanh Canh. Only you know how many others you lost.
We know you are hungry so eat the food we are delivering, and then think. There is more food for you if you rally now. There is only death if you continue to fight
Hide your weapons and approach the nearest GVN or US position with your hands raised. A new life awaits you so do not delay.
I spoke to some Vietnamese friends that tell me the official translation is terrible. Remember, this is not an Army document; it was prepared under contract to the DOD by Pacific Technical Analysts. The Vietnamese said the leaflet actually says:
Soldiers of the Viet Cong K-2 Battalion, 174th Regiment!!!!
400 comrades from the K-2 Battalion were killed on the Dak To battlefield, their bodies littering Hill 875 in the sun, while more than 100 other comrades fell into a trap in Thanh Canh on February 2, 1968.
The remaining comrades are now starving; so hungry they ate the leftover food that we left behind.
Friends, you will have enough to eat and drink, live easy, happy lives if you turn in your weapon and surrender. If you continue fighting, you will die from hunger, thirst, disease or wounds.
Hide your weapon and go to any Vietnamese or American Unit and you will be happily welcomed.
One translation implies the Viet Cong are eating leftovers they found, while the other implies that food was dropped on them. Which is correct? Who knows?
In 1969 the Advanced Research Projects Agency of the Department of Defense studied the effectiveness of U.S PSYOP leaflets in Vietnam. A sample of 1,757 Vietnamese was used to represent the target audience. They included the inhabitants of Viet Cong controlled areas, Hoi Chanh who had defected, and prisoners of war. The questions asked of the panels was the effectiveness of symbols, appeals both locally and national, and the vulnerability of certain groups. Leaflets were judged on a scale of very good, good, fair, bad, and very bad. One problem was to reduce the number of leaflets to a workable size. In this test, 798 leaflets were judged and the leaflets were reduced to 77. Unfortunately, the report did not explain why certain leaflets were good or bad. Leaflet 8(2)2-59-68 was rated SOMEWHAT EFFECTIVE by the panel. I thought they would like it more than that, they were getting free food. But then, it was C-Rats.
On Point, the United States Army in Operation Iraqi Freedom says that it is possible that the first enemy combat death of Operation Iraqi Freedom was caused by a 9th PSYOP Battalion product. It seems that a box of propaganda leaflets released from a Combat Talon aircraft failed to break open because the static line broke. Apparently, the box came down from the sky like the house on the Wicked Witch of the East in The Wizard of Oz and hit an Iraqi soldier square on the head. Mark one kill for PSYOP.
Not the Beatle invasion of America
In February of 1970 the British Evening Echo reported a story entitled "The Day Hitlers Beetles hit Britain." According to the article;
The Germans tried to destroy Britains potato crops by dropping bombs filled with Colorado beetles former British Museum official Richard Ford claimed for the first time. Mr. Ford, naturalist and author, said at his home at Yarmouth, Isle of Wight, that the first beetle bomb was dropped in 1943 on the island.
He said they beat the problem with the aid of teams of evacuee school children (during the war many British children were removed from the cities under bombardment and moved to the countryside). "They were pledged not to talk and then they helped me round up the beetles." He said. Mr. Ford, who is retired, added" "The whole thing was highly hush-hush because the Government did not want to cause alarm among the public". He personally had to deal with a similar bomb in Sussex.
This secrecy is reminiscent of the American failure to disclose that Japanese incendiary balloons were landing and causing fires on the west coast. The concept was not to let the Japanese know that their balloons were succeeding to make landfall. About 9,000 of the balloon bombs (Fugo) were launched against the
starting in November, 1944. Each carried four incendiary bombs and one 33-pound anti-personnel bomb. It is believed that about 500 actually reached the United States , and they were discovered in 16 different states. A tight censorship was imposed to keep the Japanese from knowing where the balloons had landed and what harm they had done. However, on 5 May 1945, a woman and 5 children were killed near USA , while at a church picnic. It was that event that spurred the military to lift the veil of secrecy regarding the Fugos on 22 May, and is the only case of known fatalities from the balloon bombs. Bly, Oregon
Tennis and Golf Balls
During WWII the British Special Operations Executive received a request for tennis and golf balls from a source thought to be a British agent in Belgium. The balls would be used in an attempt to meet with King Leopold at one of the sporting events. They were promptly packed in a container and dropped over Belgium by the Royal Air Force. However, according to Lieutenant General H. J. Giskes, former German Chief of Counter-espionage in Holland, Belgium and Northern France:
Up to the end of the summer of 1942, the German counter-espionage service in Belgium captured about 30 enemy transmitters, most of which had been in touch with England for some time. One transmitter near Brussels was played back to the SOE in London from December 1941 until the spring of 1943 without being discovered.
Those tennis and golf balls were supplies that the Germans needed to amuse themselves, and had nothing to do with King Leopold.
The Ultimate Gifts from Above
In 1962, there was a movie called Mondo Cane that displayed bizarre rituals including a strange Cargo Cult that had sprung up after WWII in the far islands of the pacific. During World War II, on some islands, there were communities that had little, or no, contact with the outside world until American troops showed up. The tribal peoples were generally friendly to the Americans, and the
troops were friendly, and generous. The locals had seen the giant American planes bringing supplies and wanted to bring them back and thus built mockups of air fields and even built mock planes out of grass and tree trunks. It was very sad and most movie-goers felt terrible that these poor people believed that by building an inviting airfield gifts would come to them. U.S.
However, for the last 57 years, the
Air Force has air dropped Christmas gifts donated by military personnel and civilians on 68 isolated islands throughout the Central Pacific. The gifts include toys, medical supplies and all manner of goods. The annual Christmas Drop kept the belief alive in the bounty of the Gods. The transports parachuted the gifts, and the people below waved and smiled, and assured the aircrew that, if they ever got into trouble and had to come down on one of these islands, they would be well received. That would be a continuation of another tradition, for during the war, many downed pilots were found and saved by the natives, only too happy to help these men who had been so generous with their cargo. U.S.
The Greatest Gift of All
In this article we have shown numerous gifts dropped on nations all over the world in various propaganda campaigns. This must be the best gift from above of all time. Allied prisoners starving in Japanese prisoner-of-war camps: sick; dying of disease and malnutrition; their clothes in rags. And then, in the quiet skies above, the drone of friendly American aircraft overhead. No bombs being dropped this time. After 3 or 4 years of captivity, Christmas is here. Clean clothing, soap and razor blades; medicine and best of all FOOD. How miraculous it must have seemed.
We have illustrated just a sampling of the many strange propaganda items that were air-dropped. The author is always interested in hearing about others that were used during the wars of the last half-century. Interested readers are encouraged to write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org .
The author at work