SGM HERB A. FRIEDMAN (Ret.)
Note: With permission of the author this article has been added as a reference source to the Information Operations Class for the Marine Corps Tactics and Operations Group, which trains Operations and Intelligence Officers and Chiefs.
We have thought about writing a report on American PSYOP teams in South America for years. To be honest, the Special Forces keep rather quiet about what they are doing down there. There have been numerous articles in the military literature about Honduras and Guatemala because of the insurgent wars fought in those nations, but not much has been written about the other countries where the United States is heavily involved in humanitarian projects. Much of the battlefield data comes from the magazines Special Warfare and Veritas and I owe them both a debt of gratitude We dont see a lot of publicity articles in the military newspapers and we rarely see any product (Posters, leaflets, etc.), produced and disseminated by American troops south of the border. We have never had sufficient images to make an article worthwhile.
In 2010, I visited Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, the home of the 4th PSYOP Group to do an interview. While there I got to visit several units and was able to actually obtain a few modern leaflets that were being used in South America at the time. With the addition of these few leaflets I thought that there might be enough to write a short, very general article on the subject. We will briefly mention several nations where the United States has been invited to help support the local governments. This is another of those articles where we ask the reader to send in comments, anecdotes, and of course more leaflets. The readers always become a major part of any story I write when they contact me to say, I was there and I brought back a leaflet. Let us hear from you so we can give proper credit to the troops that have suffered in the heat and the humidity in an attempt to help those nations with various projects like health, mine-clearing, drug interdiction and defeating insurgency and terrorism.
4th PSYOP Group Insignia
The U.S. Army regularly makes changes to make their forces more efficient and better able to complete their missions. The name itself has been changed from Propaganda to PSYWAR to PSYOP and most recently Military Information Support Operations. For the purposes of this article we will use the term PSYOP. The official mission of the 4th Psychological Operations Group (Airborne) is to deploy anywhere in the world on short notice to plan, develop and conduct psychological operations and Civil Affairs in support of coalition forces and Washington's government agencies. Battalions within the group have been given different tasks and areas of operation. The personnel of the 4th Group include regional experts and linguists who have a profound understanding of the political, cultural, ethnic, and religious subtleties of the target audience. They are also experts in technical areas such as journalism, radio operations, graphic design, newspaper business, illustration, and long-range tactical communications.
The subordinate unit of the Group assigned the responsibility of South America is the 1st PSYOP Battalion (Southern Command). Each PSYOP Battalion can support a corps. Within the PSYOP battalions are Tactical PSYOP Companies (TPC), each of which can support a division. The Companies are made up of Tactical PSYOP Detachments (TPD), each of which can support a brigade. The detachments can be broken up into Tactical PSYOP Teams (TPT), each of which can support a battalion.
Insignia of the 1st PSYOP Battalion
The 1st Psychological Operations Battalion has regional responsibility for Latin America; the southern hemisphere covered by Southern Command as well the region covered by Atlantic Command. The Battalion produces and disseminates written propaganda. It also has the ability to operate in the radio broadcast field. Their motto is First with the Finest. Although none of the items we will mention are marked, there is an assumption that they were disseminated by members of the 1st Psychological Operations Battalion.
William Yaworsky mentions the 1st PSYOP Battalion in his article: Like Cassandra, I Speak the Truth: US Army Psychological Operations in Latin America, 198789. He says in part:
The 1st PSYOP Battalion had a Forward Support Detachment consisting of 32 soldiers stationed in Panama. Alpha Company of the 1st PSYOP Battalion was subdivided into a Strategic Studies Detachment (SSD); a Propaganda Development Center (PDC); a Printing Press unit; and a tactical Operations Detachment (OpDet). I served for a time in all Alpha Company units except the print plant. The SSD, staffed by approximately 50 soldiers, conducted long-term studies of sensitive foreign countries and deployed primarily to El Salvador to assist the PSYOP effort during that nations civil war. With about 40 soldiers, the PDC largely operated in Honduras, trying to influence both Honduran attitudes and nearby events in Nicaragua. The PDC also collaborated in developing propaganda with the Peruvian Armed Forces, although this work was largely undertaken at Fort Bragg itself. By the late 1980s, the battalion was operating in El Salvador, Honduras, Peru and Panama, countries sharing similar histories of military interference in civilian affairs and human rights abuses.
PSYOP PRODUCTS FOR LATIN AMERICA
This exhibit produced by the U.S. Armys 1st PSYOP Battalion to display their products depicts leaflets, posters, books, newspapers, magazines, records, calendars, cups, backpacks, book bags, shopping bags, T-shirts and other items. The nations targeted in this display are Guatemala, El Salvador, Ecuador, Columbia, Peru and Bolivia. Some of the themes are eradication and interdiction of drugs, development of other crops, humanitarian mine assistance, nation building, and human rights.
The entire Southern Command area of responsibility includes the landmass of Latin America south of Mexico; the waters adjacent to Central and South America; the Caribbean Sea, its 12 island nations and European territories; the Gulf of Mexico; and a portion of the Atlantic Ocean. It encompasses 32 countries (19 in Central and South America and 12 in the Caribbean) and covers about 15.6 million square miles.
Looking through some of my old data I find that SOUTHCOM held training exercises in the year 2002 in Panama, Honduras, Guatemala, Argentina, Nicaragua and Chile. This shows the extent of the American interest in Latin America. Additional data states that the following terrorist organizations were closely watched by the Americans: the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC); the National Liberation Army (ELN); the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC); the Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) and the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA).
The above terrorist groups were known to use the following techniques: extortion; kidnapping; hijacking; infrastructure sabotage; bombing; intimidation; use of narcotics trafficking to fund other terrorist acts and assassinations and massacres.
Veritas volume 4, number 4, 2008 points out how the United States found itself involved in Latin America and lists the wars of national liberation being fought at that time; El Salvador, Argentina, Columbia, Bolivia, Venezuela, Chile, Guatemala and Peru.
Some of the major missions facing the PSYOP teams in Latin America are:
The above poster depicts Columbian forces in a poppy field. In the background an aircraft sprays poison on the poppies. Hopefully it is not Agent Orange. The text is:
Support the Eradication
Two decades engaged in the national fight against drug trafficking
For a country free of drugs
Counterdrug operations support detection, interdiction, disruption, or reduction of any activity that supports illicit drug trafficking. These activities include, but are not limited to decision making and actions, applicable materiel, weapons, and resources used to finance, support, secure, cultivate, process, and transport illegal drugs. To U.S. diplomats in Central and South America and the Caribbean, PSYOP is an effective tool in drug interdiction and eradication. In Columbia, PSYOP troops have worked against terrorist, narcotic trafficking groups and insurgents. They have planned and enacted information campaigns in Peru and Paraguay.
Anti-Drug Propaganda T-Shirt
It was not only leaflets and posters printed by the U.S. Army. Here a Columbian wears a gift T-Shirt with the anti-drug propaganda motto:
We protect our country and our family. Say no to drugs
Looking for Drugs in Bolivia
Sergeant Tim Wallace of the 1st PSYOP Battalion was sent to Bolivia in 1989 to work on counter-drug propaganda. He told me:
I was sent out to film illegal coca fields to bring back to the unit to be used in future products. I spent most of the trip flying around in a Blackhawk helicopter flown by Bolivian pilots looking for illegal coca crops to film from the air and the ground. Later I found out that someone had snapped our photos while we had lunch with our Bolivian pilots at an airport. They were later published in the local news service in Bolivia where we were described as DEA agents. I heard that the bosses back at Ft. Bragg were not too pleased by that.
An Anti-Drug Comic Book for Venezuela
The Adventures of PeteJ
Captain Evan Phelps was a PSYOP officer at Ft. Bragg in the mid-1990s before the Cesar Chavez took power in Venezuela and destroyed the nation with his Communist ideology. As the commander of a Military Information Support Team (MIST) in Venezuela, Phelps helped produce an anti-drug comic book using local printers. His team principally consisted of Sergeant First Class Brad King and Staff Sergeant Fred Marble. The propaganda comic was prepared in an attempt to slow or stop the transportation of drugs and the use of human mules. The team worked with the Civil Defense Police within the Ministry of Justice. The comic book was published and disseminated and was a great success.
In the comic, young PeteJ graduates from the police academy, and soon meets a young girl named Rose. She is tempted by a dope pusher and succumbs to his urging that she swallow rubber capsules filled with drugs to smuggle them inside her stomach. She is next seen at an airport about to smuggle the drugs into Miami. There are drug-sniffing dogs in the airport and her pusher sees them and flees, leaving Rose to her fate. She panics and suddenly one or more of the rubber capsules breaks open in her stomach causing her death. PeteJ attends her funeral and vows to get justice for Rose.
The pusher is next seen selling drugs to children, which threatens the youth of the country. Peter is assigned to the case and watches the movements of the pusher. The drug boss shows up at the pusher's home and the police raid the place. A heroic policeman in full uniform tells the reader that drugs can be eliminated and there is a phone number to be called by a citizen that wants to help law enforcement. The drug boss tries to shoot it out and is killed. The pusher suddenly sees the errors of his ways. He weeps as he is arrested. We are told that a new comic adventure is coming and the last few panels feature patriotic images and anti-drug comments.
Anti-Drug Coloring Books for the Venezuelan National Guard
Miguelito, Norita and their friends
Captain Phelps told me the MIST team also helped Venezuela in the production of patriotic and nation-building coloring books. The two books we depict feature typical school boy Miguelito and his friend Norita. They were designed to promote the childrens esteem in their society. There were so many various police forces that the competition between them was fierce and the Guardia Nacional de Venezuela was always eager to keep their place at the top as the friend to all Venezuelans. In the comic above, the two children play various sports in school and are happy. They are approached by a drug dealer but instead of sampling his wares they go home and tell their parents. The pusher is arrested and the children live happily ever after in a drug free environment.
HUMANITARIAN MINE ACTION
PSYOP soldiers handing out mine awareness materials
Humanitarian mine action consists of activities to reduce the social, economic, and environmental impact of land mines, unexploded ordnance, and small-arms ammunition, sometimes called explosive remnants of war. When approved by the Secretary of Defense, the PSYOP teams plan, coordinate, and execute humanitarian mine action programs. These programs include training the Host Nation in land mine clearance procedures, providing mine awareness education and victims assistance, and assisting in building a Host Nation capacity to sustain the programs after U.S. withdrawal. To U.S. diplomats in Central and South America it is an educational vehicle to publicize landmine awareness in schools and villages.
Military operations that support diplomatic efforts to reach a long-term political settlement are categorized as peacekeeping operations and peace enforcement operations. Peacekeeping operations are military operations undertaken with the consent of all major parties of a dispute; they are designed to monitor and facilitate implementation of an agreement (cease fire, truce, or other such agreement) and support diplomatic efforts to reach a long-term political settlement. Peace enforcement operations are the application of military force or the threat of its use, normally pursuant to international authorization, to compel compliance with resolutions or sanctions designed to maintain or restore peace and order.
FM 3-07.31, Peace Operations: Multi-service Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures for Conducting Peace Operations, provides additional information on peacekeeping operations:
During peace operations, military information forces are employed to create the conditions for diplomatic, economic, and humanitarian efforts to succeed and to transition the United States Government out of involvement. Multiple types of peace operations can occur simultaneously within an operational area.
PSYOP forces support peace operations by informing local populations about the availability of essential health and welfare services; Educating local populaces about peacekeeping agreements and the intent of operations; Influencing local populaces to cooperate with U.S. efforts to suppress anti-peace groups and their destabilizing actions; Directing the populaces compliance with security measures and safety programs; influencing favorable attitudes toward U.S. policies among relevant groups; communicating humanitarian efforts such as medical and veterinary aid, construction, and public facilities activities to garner support for U.S. efforts.
Counter-terrorism operations are actions taken directly against terrorist networks, and indirectly to influence and render global and regional environments inhospitable to terrorist networks. Counter-terrorism operations are the offensive component of programs established by the United States Government and friendly nations designed to preempt the actions of violent extremist organizations. PSYOP activities include influencing local populaces to decrease support for violent extremist organizations, and to provide time-sensitive, actionable information to target violent extremist organizations
This leaflet to the guerrillas in the field depicts a young daughter at the left, a photograph of a happy family and a note. The text is:
Guerrilla, your family misses you.
Poppa, Come back home and bring joy and brighten my life again...
Come home and make a better life for your family
The back of the leaflet depicts the same photograph in color and a childs happy drawing of My Family. The text is:
Go back and live a decent life with your family.
Counterinsurgency operations are comprehensive civilian and military efforts taken to defeat an insurgency and to address any core grievances. An insurgency is an internal threat that uses subversion and violence to achieve political objectives. Insurgents usually benefit from solicited and unsolicited support from state and non-state actors, including international terrorist organizations that seek to capitalize on such opportunities. A comprehensive and concerted civilian and military effort is required to defeat an insurgency, and to redress the basis for the dissent. Generally, when insurgent movements receive significant external support, they pose an insurmountable threat, often greater than the affected nations ability to defeat it independently.
There is a theory that counter-insurgency in Latin America saved the Special Forces. Their numbers in Vietnam had declined from 13,000 to only 3,000 between 1969 and 1980. With the rise of Communist and insurgent activity in Latin America, there was a need for a trained elite force to help local nations resist and remain independent.rom 1980-1987 U.S. Special Forces helped fight seven small brushfire wars in South America.
There may be some truth to this theory since an article in the October, 1993 issue of Special Warfare states in regard to U.S. military aid to El Salvador in the early 1980s:
We should have weighted the development of national PSYOP and Civil Affairs campaigns much heavier in our initial concept. But there were no PSYOP or Civil Affairs units on active duty, the restructuring from Vietnam had virtually wiped them out.
Some Examples of both the military and humanitarian action are:
The American presence in Bolivia is most remembered by the death of Che Guevara in that country by Bolivian Rangers trained by the American Special Forces. Guevara is revered by the Left who consider him a great charismatic leader and collect his images on posters and T-shirts. In fact, he was a poor leader, operated without much military logic and was never able to revolutionize the peasants and form a local army. He had failed in Guatemala, been quietly invited to leave Cuba by Castro when he insulted the USSR, failed in Argentina, and again in the Republic of the Congo where he called his communist-supported troops lazy and undisciplined.
The first American advisors were sent to Bolivia in 1967 tasked with the job of training a 650-man Ranger Battalion. This was exactly what Che Guevara wanted. He believed that the entrance of American forces would revolutionize the peasants and he envisioned another Vietnam in Latin America. Unfortunately for him, he got exactly what he wanted.
The Americans worked hard to gain the support of the people and besides the military training to the Ranger Battalion they took part in what we would now call civil affair actions, with medical treatment and lessons on sanitation and health. They initially did three MEDCAPs in Las Cruces and three in Los Chacos at the invitation of the Peace Corps. They also helped the native people keep their land when it was about to be sold to Japanese and Okinawan investors. Finally, they built a new school in Esperanza. These were not ugly Americans.
By September 1967, Ches small band of revolutionaries had fought the Bolivian Army a number of times; taking losses in every battle and being slowly pushed back further and further into the hills. His civilian support group in La Paz had also been arrested. He was on his own with little food, ammunition, medicine and no way to communicate with Cuba. On 8 October 1967, Che and his remaining fighters were trapped and captured in the Churo Canyon. The following morning Che was executed on the orders of the President of Bolivia. Che Guevara wanted a war and he got one. He thought that the Bolivians had the weakest army in Latin America but with the training of the U.S. Special Forces, their Ranger battalion became a fine aggressive military organization that could win battles on their own.
The nation-building leaflet depicts a number of Columbian soldiers setting up an observation post on a hilltop while helicopters fly overhead. The text is:
Serving his people
The indigenous people and the Columbian Army united!
A Colombian Special Forces Morale Poster
This Special Forces poster was a morale booster. The regions where that poster was distributed were the regions that there was minimal military presence. The populace in certain regions was reluctant to report FARC activity because of the consequences sure to follow. The Colombian military wanted to bring awareness to the people in those regions by saying something like We have an elite force that is fighting to keep our country safe against those who terrorize. It was hoped that this would build the confidence of the people in their government.
It was reported that the U.S. Army's 4th Psychological Operations Group regularly worked in operations against the Columbian insurgent army FARC.The Colombian army took the lead in the national response to the decades-old insurgency of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, or FARC. The Insurgents plan was to create a revolutionary army capable of taking on the security forces. To fund this endeavor and to gain manpower, FARC exploited the narcotics trade. It taxed all facets of the drug trade. By protecting and controlling production areas, it not only secured its income but recruited from the peasants. The goal was the creation of a 28,000-man army divided into 48 guerrilla fronts. Since FARC used cocaine to build an army, perhaps we should briefly look at the cocaine trade.
Cocaine is produced from the cultivation and processing of the South American coca plant. The coca plant is cultivated only in South America, with the major suppliers being Colombia, Bolivia and Peru. Despite massive efforts by the United States Government and local law enforcement and paramilitary organizations that have resulted in the seizure and destruction of over 46% of the worlds cocaine supply, the market for this drug continues to flourish. Historically, cocaine has followed the well-established trafficking routes through Central America, then Mexico and then into the US.
Captured American contractors
Three U.S. contractors were captured during an anti-drug operation in 2003 and have been held by FARC ever since. The leaflet above depicts Keith D. Stansell, Thomas H. Howes and Marc D. Gonsalves. The leaflet gives the phone numbers to call if any individual has information about the three. Some of the text is:
Their families and friends are seeking information that would allow the rescue of these people. They depend on you for their freedom.
Do you know where they are?
Veritas, Volume 2, Number 4, 2006 mentions the drug trade in Columbia:
In 1987, the United States launched Operation SNOWCAP A coordinated 12-country effort to disrupt the growing, processing and transportation systems supporting the cocaine industry The drug trade has a terrible impact on the United States. There are 50,000 drug-related deaths yearly in the United States with 19,000 directly attributable to drugs .
Sergeant Victor Washington
U.S. Army Sergeant Victor Washington of A Company, 1st PSYOP Battalion was deployed to Colombia as part of a MIST (Military Information Support Team) in 2008 and 2009 as a multimedia illustrator. The next two leaflets that we depict were all designed by him.
This leaflet depicts a Colombian mother looking at a photograph of her daughter who has joined the rebels. At the right the mother and daughter are shown together. Half the image is in full color, the other half in black and white. The text is:
My daughter, return home
Without you my life has is colorless
Guerrilla, return home
The back of the leaflet has three small pictures of a man whispering to a friend, talking to a guerrilla and holding a weapon. The text is:
Do not hesitate. Demobilize now. Plan to reclaim your life
Demobilize, give your weapons to the nation.
We respect life and liberty. Do not hesitate, do it quickly!
Toll free phone: 128 ... Any of the authorities, unit of the military, or police will take your call.
1. Do not tell anyone your plans.
2. Do not talk in public about your intentions.
3. Bring us your arms and explosives and receive a reward.
Washington told me:
The picture of the woman sitting on the bed holding a picture was our maid, with a superimposed picture of her actual daughter over a picture frame. We staged that picture specifically for the purpose of creating that product.
Terrorism has many faces
This leaflet features the photographs of five terrorist leaders. Above them is barbed wire and below them is the telephone number to call with information and a comment that there is a reward for their capture. The leaflet names and describes accused terrorists Luis Carlos Arango, Mantego, Mlirio Remorado, Luis Oscar Usuga Restrepo and Alfredo Alarcon Nachado. The text is:
Terrorism has many faces
End the nightmare of terrorism and get a reward of up to $5,000,000,000.
The back of the leaflet depicts happy Colombian children in school at the left and working in the jungle at the right. Victor told me:
The children on the right side of the picture are working in a cocoa field, harvesting coca leaves for the production of cocaine. The FARC hires these children to do the dirty work for them. The phone number to inform on the terrorists is at the lower left.
The text is:
What future do you want for your family?
Do not hesitate, inform now
Washington later told me:
The reward amount of course is in Colombian currency. That 5,000,000,000 pesos was equivalent to about 1 million US dollars at the time. I designed many leaflets for themes such as reporting FARC activities and about reporting narcotics trafficking activities such as the use of semi-submersible drug subs. The leaflets encouraging FARC members to "demobilize" has been and will always be a re-occurring theme. The only time we deviated from deterrence of terrorist activities was when we had a major operation called Operation Jaque in 2008 which three American and One French hostage were rescued. I provided multimedia support for that mission.
The Three Ways
Other leaflets were prepared to increase pressure on the FARC and ELN to accept the terms of the peace agreement with the Colombian Government. This leaflet depicts a guerilla at the left with lines leading to three fates: a happy family, prison; or death. The text is:
The three ways.
Guerrilla, it is in your hands to choose the destiny of your life.
Do not think about it, demobilization is the way out.
Come Free Yourself
A second leaflet is all text. It says in part:
Come, free yourself and enjoy:
Health; freedom; tranquility; a family; a profession; a job; economic stability; a dignified old age.
Combat Support and Services Battalion No. 23.
Security is also in your hands.
To the members of the ELN, the Criminal Bands in the service of the narcotic traffickers, and the networks that support terrorism and delinquency.
Government phone numbers appear at the far right.
Colombian Government PSYOP
This Fredy Builes Reuters photograph published in December 2011 depicts Colombian President Juan Manual Santos placing transparent spheres containing messages urging the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) members to come over to the government side. The spheres were placed in the Ortequaza River and contain a small internal battery that keeps them lit for up to six days.
The same issue of Veritas features an article on PSYOP in Columbia by Robert W. Jones Jr. Some of his comments are:
For many years U.S. PSYOP had provided support to the U.S. Embassy in Bogota through the auspices of the Overt Peacetime Psychological Operations Program (OP3) U.S PSYOP support was limited to counter-drug operations By 1992, the main component for U.S. PSYOP was the Military Information Support team (MIST)
In 1997 Occidental petroleum lobbied Congress for help [against oil pipeline attacks]. A 7th Special Forces Group reinforced company trained the Columbian 18th Brigade to protect the pipeline counter insurgency radio programs were developed and broadcast After 9/11, under expanded authority, PSYOP could now assist not only the Columbian National Police, but also the Army, in the fight against narco-terrorists The MIST now changed its name to PSYOP Support Element (PSE), but later changed back to MIST in 2006.
The Colombians now have their own PSYOP unit, the Groupo Especial de Operaciones Sicologicas (Psychological Operations Special Group). Each Army division headquarters is equipped with a tactical development center with a computer workstation and print risograph machine.
Colombia Operation Christmas
Colombian Ministry of Defense Poster
Before you became a Guerrilla you were my daughter
I hope you will be home this Christmas
Demobilize. Everything is possible at Christmas
In 2010, The Ministry of Defense had commandos put Christmas trees deep in the heart of guerrilla territory. Colombian Special Forces soldiers infiltrated the remote Macarena mountain range to dress an 82-foot high tree with 2,000 lights. When guerrillas approached the tree, movement sensors made it light up and a banner announced the following message:
If Christmas can come to the jungle, you can come home. Demobilize. Everything is possible at Christmas.
The army says it will put up trees in nine other rebel-held zones to spread the message that Christmas is a good time to abandon armed struggle. Operation Christmas was carried out by elite troops using Blackhawk helicopters. A commercial made by the military shows the soldiers, dressed in camouflage uniforms and face paint, wrapping 2,000 lights around the branches and trunk. A Colombian military spokesman said, For us, the most important month is December. Many make the final decision about demobilizing this month.
Traditionally, the holiday season sees a larger number of defections as rebels reflect on being away from home and loved ones. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said that rebel leaders tell their followers that they will be killed if they turn themselves in, but the Christmas trees give another message, he said. The first year that this campaign was used 331 Guerrillas turned themselves in.
In 2011, the Colombians created a campaign called Rivers of Light in which family members put messages and small gifts in 7,000 LED-illuminated capsules sent floating down rivers the guerrillas were known to frequent. In 2012, the MOD created Operation Bethlehem, setting up searchlights in small villages, a beacon of light that told the guerrillas where to go to turn themselves in. In 2013, Working with the mothers of the guerrillas, under operation Mothers Voice the MOD enlarged baby photos of rebel fighters and emblazoned them with the message:
Before you were a guerrilla you were my child -- This Christmas I'll wait for you at home.
There is also a humanitarian demobilization (amnesty) program that looks like the Chieu Hoi (Open Arms) program of Vietnam. In addition to amnesty, the former guerrillas are entitled to job retraining, a small business loan, and a cash bonus. Other innovative techniques were a popular human rights card issued to Colombian soldiers that depicted a bikini model on the back and a series of ads using chess pieces along with the pictures of wanted guerrillas shown on nightly TV soap operas. The Americans also provided school notebooks for Colombian children with anti-drug messages on the front and back.
El Salvador was controlled by a rich land-owning class up until the late 1970s. The 1979 victory by Sandinista guerrillas in nearby Nicaragua served as a wake-up call that compelled a group of junior reform minded officers to oust El Salvadors then government leader, General Carlos Humberto Romero. Sixteen separate leftist factions organized together under the political title of Revolutionary Democratic Front (FDR). The FDRs military counterpart was the FMLN (Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front). Spurred on by the successes of communist revolutionaries in their takeover of nearby Nicaragua, in 1981 the FMLN launched what it called its final offensive in an attack on the Salvadoran junta with the expectation of a quick victory. The FMLN believed that their attack would inspire a popular insurrection that would sweep them into power. The FMLN was eventually driven off in a costly defeat. President Carter, not wanting to see the government of El Salvador fall, recommended US aid for El Salvador and hastily deployed three teams of advisors to assist the ESAF (El Salvadoran Armed Forces) in 1981. Efforts in El Salvador consisted of advisory support to the government in a counterinsurgent effort.
William Yaworsky mentions El Salvador and says in part:
Overall US war strategy in El Salvador emphasized reformation of the Salvadoran government and armed forces. Specifically, land reform, political reform, economic development, and human rights. Cartoon-like material that glorified the military was prepared for the rural poor. PSYOP advisors were also assigned to the Salvadoran militarys C5 (PSYOP Section) and other US government agencies became heavily engaged in the propaganda campaign. Propaganda was targeted directly at FMLN guerrillas, particularly via weapons-for-cash appeals disseminated through leaflet drops. Once a leaflet had been designed it would be quickly mass-produced for distribution to El Salvadors patrolling infantry battalions, or dropped over enemy territory by planes or helicopters.
Propaganda leaflets distributed by the FMLN in the El Paraiso area.
Special Warfare, spring 2001 mentions a FARC attack at El Paraiso. In this case the Communist insurgents carried propaganda leaflets onto the base. Some of the comments are:
The FMLN had more than 1,000 armed guerrillas active in Chalatenango. In some villages, the guerrillas walked about openly, displaying their weapons and conducting propaganda sessions that often lasted for hours.
After the unsuccessful attack: [American advisor] Roth counted five dead Salvadorans, and the area was littered with unexploded charges and guerrilla propaganda.
The FMLNs propaganda continued to claim success, but in the end, the people of El Salvador, the audience the guerrillas needed to win over, didnt believe the propaganda. In the hinterlands and in the small villages of the north, the people saw firsthand what the rebels stood for. They knew the outcomes of the numerous combat actions.
Soldiers, the rich pay the officers
Another FMLN propaganda leaflet was in the form of a cartoon with three panels on the front and three on the back. In the first panel an officer stands in front of a rich landowner receiving his orders; in the second panel soldiers point toward a farm and in the third a farmers wife holds a child while soldiers stand over her dead husband in the background. The text is:
Soldiers, the rich pay the officers so that they will kill the people! Desert!
The first panel on the back of the leaflet shows unwilling civilians being led by army troops; the second shows the civilians at basic training being beaten by the soldiers, and the third depicts the Communist rebels chasing fleeing military officers and one FMLN rebel shaking hands with a conscript who thinks of returning home. The text is:
Soldiers, they recruited you by force, they mistreated you. The FMLN fights for the people. Desert!
A Black Leaflet attacking the FMLN
Veritas, Volume 3, Number 3, 2007 discusses the battle in more depth and depicts a black leaflet depicting two armed FMLN guerillas. Apparently the rebels had originally produced the photograph for propaganda, but according to Veritas:
FMLN newspaper photos were doctored to highlight guerilla atrocities and win popular support for the government of South America.
The text of the leaflet is:
THIS IS the one who kills, steals, destroys and kidnaps your family.
YOUR ENEMY who wants violence.
Tell your community.
Report where he hides; your family is entitled to be together.
Two decades later in November 2009, U.S. military forces supported disaster relief efforts in El Salvador after heavy rains triggered floods and mudslides that caused widespread damage. About 40 U.S. troops and four helicopters from Joint Task Force-Bravo deployed to the Central American nation and worked with local officials and international relief organizations to airlift more than 373,000 pounds of aid, provide medical care to nearly 3,000 people and assist damage assessment efforts.
Because Guatemala borders on Mexico, drug traffickers have set up safe havens in this nation as well as used it for a safe corridor to move their product between Columbia and Mexico. It is almost reminiscent of the Vietnam War when North Vietnam used Laos and Cambodia as safe havens and to move their troops into battle through neutral countries that theoretically would not attack them. U.S. Special Forces worked with the local police and military in an attempt to stop the drug trade. PSYOP and Civil Affairs teams helped bring in medical support that treated over 2,000 patients. There is also talk of recruiting the local tribes just as the United States used Montagnards in Vietnam and Kuna and Embera tribesmen in Panama.
Southern Command reported that The U.S. military supported relief efforts in Guatemala after Tropical Storm Agatha caused widespread flooding and mudslides in late May 2010. A contingent of about 70 U.S. military personnel, USS Underwood and five helicopters deployed to the Central American nation and worked with local and international responders to provide humanitarian assistance to areas identified by the Guatemalan government. U.S. forces airlifted more than 160,000 pounds of food & water and provided infrastructure assessments.
William Yaworsky mentions Honduras in part:
The Honduras operation was the brainchild of Lieutenant Colonel Layton Dunbar, the then commander of the 1st PSYOP Battalion. The Military Information Support Team conducted television, newspaper, and radio operations designed to familiarize the Honduran citizenry with American soldiers. One poster, informally known as Pissing on the Sandinistas Mona Lisa (because it was based on a similar painting made by a popular Nicaraguan artist) portrayed a US soldier standing alongside his Honduran counterpart, both encircled by dancing children.
The revolution in Honduras has been called The Polite Revolution. From 1981 to 1985, U.S. military and economic aid to Honduras jumped from $31 million to $282 million. The United States established a continuing military presence in Honduras with the purpose of supporting the Contra guerrillas fighting the Nicaraguan government and also developed an air strip and a modern port in Honduras. The Honduran army quietly waged a campaign against Marxist-Leninist militias such as the Cinchoneros Popular Liberation Movement which had ties to the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and leftist rebels in El Salvador, notorious for kidnappings and bombings. In 1988, as a result of threatening actions by the forces of the Nicaraguans, U.S. forces were deployed to Honduras. There was a number of U.S. Army Military Information Support Teams (MIST) sent to Honduras in support of the legal government.
This poster depicts dark and light hands building a wall consisting of the flags of Honduras and the United States. It was designed about 1988 by Private First Class Tim Wallace of the 1st PSYOP Battalions MIST 2. The text is:
In Cooperation is Progress
Tim told me:
I did up a full color rough of this poster and when the Colonel came to our building to be briefed he saw it on my desk. He loved it and the next thing we knew they were printing thousands of these in the capitol and they were passed out around the country. There was some criticism because it depicted a wall being built and some felt that was not a good image. Yes, we were building a wall, and the Soviets were in Nicaragua in masse and I thought working together to build a wall would be a good image.
This image of a wall has been used on other American propaganda leaflets. During Operation Desert Storm a leaflet was designed showing a Coalition and an Iraqi soldier looking at each other over a brick wall and the text: Don't you see it is time to tear down the barricades? During Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan a Coalition consolidation leaflet showed Afghans piling bricks and the text Brick by brick, together you can make one Afghanistan.
This Tim Wallace poster depicts a Honduran and an American soldier smiling among happy Honduran children. The text is:
In Unity is Progress
Tim said about this poster:
This poster has been nick-named Pissing on the Sandinista Mona Lisa. The Commander brought me a famous Sandinista poster with patriotic imagery from their revolution. He told me the changes that he wanted done; I added a few of my own. Taking out the communist symbolism took about a week, and then it was a matter of replacing them with friendlier images. I did a little PSYOP when I drew the Honduran flag which represent the five countries of Central America. I hid one in the fold, (Nicaragua), and one is half hidden, (El Salvador).
Artist Tim Wallace
Here the artist is shown in the process of designing the poster depicted above. Tim was back in Honduras in 1989, now a sergeant, as part of MIST 4.
We are Opening the Road
This very colorful poster depicts an American and a Honduran soldier cutting through a field with machetes and opening up a road that is marked with the flags of both countries. The text is:
We are Opening the Road to Peace and Progress
Time said about this poster:
It is a full color poster in support of the Yoro Road Project. I didnt want any text on it. I felt the image I came up with was really strong and one of the better paintings that I did in my years in PSYOP. The Airborne Special Operations Museum has the original painting along with the poster and has made in an artifact in the Army Museum system. The printer in Honduras screwed up on the poster because I painted the word "Yoro" with the clouds spelling out the words, but the printer took the initiative and just overlapped the words, taking away a little from the overall visual image. There is a Miami Herald newspaper photo where Hondurans are seen using the posters as umbrellas during the highway ceremonies.
In Unity is Liberty
This leaflet depicts Francisco Morizan and American President John F. Kennedy in the clouds. The title of the leaflet is:
In Unity is Liberty, Peace and progress
Tim told me:
The poster of John F. Kennedy and Honduras's 1st president was something that the commander wanted badly. I did everything I could to talk them out of it, but they would hear none of it. In a poster you want to say as few things as possible. It should be read with just a glance of the eye; two to three seconds at most. The last thing you want to do is cram as much text into it as possible over the image. I obviously lost that battle. I tried to make it as interesting as possible so that someone would at least come up to it just to find out what it was. I relied on an old device out of art history by immortalizing them with eyes painted similar to Greek and Roman sculpture, and shaping their images in the clouds with the beams of light making a subtle cross. I think I was able to salvage it from being horrible to just bad.
Calendars are a wonderful propaganda tool. During the Korean and Vietnam Wars the U.S, produced many calendars that were given to the people. Each contained propaganda text and images and the people would use the calendar for a full year, perhaps looking at it daily to check the date. Of all the propaganda products, calendars might give the most bang for the buck. In Vietnam, the Viet Cong also produced anti-war calendars for American soldiers, mostly like the one above, just a single card with text on one side and the year and months on the back.
The image on this calendar showing the flags of Honduras and the United States was designed by Tim Wallace. He said that it was a simple graphic based on the main message of the initial Military Information Support Teams of the late 1980's in Honduras: In Unity/Cooperation is progress/peace. The officer in charge of the MIST wanted the graphic on many of the art projects that were produced at that time. Tim searched for the image of a dove and his Major said, Heres one, referring to a small dove image on his credit card. Tim did not believe that it was ever meant to be a major piece of propaganda, just a recurring image that represented the MIST team to be placed on signs, products and graphics like a letter head. He remembers drawing that damn thing over and over again on briefing charts too. One side of the card depicts all twelve months. The other side has a list of all the important Honduran holidays, an 8-inch ruler and the patriotic image at the bottom. Tim said that the image was placed on most of the printed propaganda at the time. The text on this side is:
In Unity there is Progress
Text on the calendar side is:
Courtesy of the Joint Task Force Bravo
One reason for the emphasis and support Reagan gave to operations in Nicaragua was that Central America was not South East Asia, but Americas back yard, one short step from the American homeland itself. The alarming gains made by communist influences in Central America, especially the Sandinista takeover in Nicaragua, forced America to draw the line against communist aggression. The United States was determined not to make the anti-insurgency an American War. Therefore, although the Reagan administration sanctioned military action, this action was to consist primarily of economic support, military hardware, and limited advisory support. In short, a conventional US Military response was ruled out as inappropriate.
Loudspeakers outside the Vatican Embassy
William Yaworsky says about Panama in part:
Virtually the entire 1st PSYOP Battalion deployed to Panama for Operation Just Cause, along with select elements drawn from elsewhere in the 4th PSYOP Group. This enabled the US forces to print 300,000 safe-conduct passes guaranteeing proper treatment and medical attention that were distributed in leaflet form. These leaflets came in three versions, and were designed to appeal to the Panamanian Defense Forces, Dignity Battalions, and members of the regime. A cash-for-weapons program popularized by PSYOP induced Panamanian civilians to turn over 56,000 weapons to US forces. By 8 January, 1990, US PSYOP in Panama had disseminated over one million leaflets and handbills, 50,000 posters and 550,000 newspapers.
Most readers will remember the American invasion of Panama to rid the nation of General Manual Noriega. PSYOP troops were depicted playing loud music outside the Vatican nunciature (embassy) in a PSYOP campaign that became known around the world. The military mission was to defend the Canal Zone, evacuate civilians, and destroy or neutralize the Panamanian Defense Forces (PDF).
Safe Conduct Pass for Panamanian Forces
There were at least three safe conduct passes prepared by American PSYOP troops during Operation Just Cause. They are all in English on one side and Spanish on the other. One large 8 ½ x 5 ½ inch pass is all text:
Safe Conduct Pass Instructions.
This safe conduct pass is for use by the dignity battalions and codepadi. The bearer of this pass, upon presenting it to any U.S. Military member or public Panamanian force, will be guaranteed protection, medical attention, food, and shelter.
Major General Marc A. Cisneros,
Commanding General, U.S. Army South.
Safe Conduct Pass Instructions.
Authors note: The Codepadi was the Institutional Committees to Defend the Country and Dignity members. This same pass also was printed in a smaller version, 4 ¼ x 2 ¾ inches. The message is identical.
Operations Just Cause Lessons Learned - Soldiers and Leadership, 90-9, Volume 1, October 1990, says:
The 1st Battalion of the 4th PSYOP Group provided loudspeaker teams to maneuver battalions during D-Day operations. Its mission was to assist maneuver units in convincing the Panama Defense Forces elements to surrender by announcing the conditions of surrender after a show of force by the maneuver unit. Its efforts to convince the PDF to surrender saved American and Panamanian lives. Additionally, PSYOP elements were critical during stability operations by assisting in refugee control, disseminating information, and participating in programs such as money for weapons.
Loudspeaker Humvee in Panama
Operations Just Cause Lessons Learned - Operations, 90-9, Volume 2, October 1990, adds:
PSYOP were an integral part of JUST CAUSE. The loudspeaker teams deployed with conventional units proved effective in reducing resistance and controlling the local populace. Integration of major themes below joint task force level was slow at first, but picked up momentum as programs like money for weapons began impacting directly on tactical units.
Securing Ft. Amador, an installation shared by the U.S. and Panamanian Defense Forces was difficult. American dependents could not be evacuated in advance of the attack. PSYOP loudspeaker teams, from the 1st Battalion, 4th PSYOP Group, were a key asset. When initial appeals failed to persuade the PDF to surrender, the commander modified the broadcasts. The holdouts were warned that resistance was hopeless in the face of overwhelming firepower and a series of demonstrations took place, escalating from small arms to 105mm howitzer rounds. Subsequent broadcasts convinced the PDF to give up.
A more recent humanitarian action was New Horizons Panama 2010, a 12-week U.S. Southern Command humanitarian assistance mission designed to improve critical infrastructure and provide free medical care at various locations throughout Panama. During New Horizons more than 250 Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines participated in six construction projects and five medical missions. Engineers constructed new additions or improved existing facilities at four schools and two medical clinics in the Darien region, and medical professionals provided medical care to thousands of patients.
William Yaworsky discusses this campaign in an article entitled Target Analysis of Shining Path Insurgents in Peru: An Example of US Army Psychological Operations, Journal of Strategic Studies, August 2009. He says in part:
In the spring of 1988, a team of Peruvian military officers arrived at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, having been tasked with developing a strategic propaganda campaign directed at countering the influence of the Sendero Luminoso. Officers from the Peruvian Armed Forces teamed with US forces to conduct target analysis and campaign development. From 1 May to 3 June 1988, this joint Task Force Inti shared their experiences and perspectives to hammer out useful propaganda. Safety for family, personal safety, and economic circumstances were identified as the most easily exploitable vulnerabilities. Other vulnerabilities were deemed to be only moderately susceptible to exploitation: lack of resources; religious orientation; and response to authorities.
Specialist Tim Wallace was given a Peruvian Communist poster in and asked to produce anti-Communist propaganda using the same general theme and look. In this poster we see the Peruvian Communist leader Gonzalo holding the flag of the Peruvian Communist Party while angry citizens march below holding AK-47 rifles. The Communist Party of Peru: Partido Comunista del Peru, more commonly known as the Shining Path: Sendero Luminoso, is a Maoist guerrilla insurgent organization. When it first launched the internal conflict in Peru in 1980, its stated goal was to replace what it saw as bourgeois democracy with "New Democracy." The Shining Path was founded in the late 1960s by Abimael Guzman, a former university philosophy professor referred to by his followers by his nom de guerre Presidente Gonzalo. Abimael Guzman was captured in Lima on 12 September 1992 and his movement soon withered. The text is:
Workers of the World Unite
5 Years of War
The Communist Party of Peru May 1980 - 1985
8 Years of Deception
Tim prepared a number of different leaflets, each with a slightly different image and text. In the first leaflet, the leader Gonzalo holds his people with chains around their necks. Notice that in the leaflet Tim has added red color to the flag and the spear point at the bottom of the poster. I asked Tim if he also added colors to the second and third parody, but he said that he did not. The image is very close to the Communist poster but says instead:
8 years of Deception
Communist Party of Peru SL
The Treachery of Gonzalo
8 years of Popular Lies
In this second Tim Wallace leaflet, Gonzalo is made to appear more evil by the addition of devils horns to his head. A dead body rests on his pitchfork. While some people are still chained, others are challenging the leader. The text is:
8 years of Popular Lies
Communist Party of Peru SL
Enough of deceit, I will not follow you
8 years of Deception (2)
In the final Tim Wallace leaflet the people of Peru have turned against Gonzalo and his pitchfork is melting. The text on this final leaflet is:
8 years of Deception
Communist Party of Peru SL
The Treachery of Gonzalo
Tim told me about this project:
I don't remember much about this "Project Inti" in 1987. Lieutenant Colonel Dunbar (Later Commander of the 4th PSYOP Group) had us working in an isolated facility, and all I remember is some Peruvian officers who were visiting. I drew what LTC Dunbar and the Peruvian officers wanted. I was new to the 1st PSYOP Battalion and was pretty excited by the mystery. I think that this was the project where LTC Dunbar started to take an interest in my talents as an illustrator and put me to work on other missions. I always appreciated how LTC Dunbar gave me the opportunities to serve and use my talent while he was my Battalion Commander. Later, when he became Group Commander, he called me by name to join him in the Persian Gulf to create leaflets during Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
Jason Heeg wrote about PSYOP in Peru in an article entitled Use of psychological operations during the insurgency in Peru, 19701995: Limitations in a context of human rights abuses in the Journal of Intelligence and Terrorism Studies, 4 October 2016. Some of his comments are:
Keep working without fear!
A shining Path guerilla about to kill a worker is grabbed by a giant Peruvian soldier who says:
Ayachuchans, complete your daily work, the forces of order will protect you from the delinquent subversives!
Where are you going, son of Satan?
Two Peruvian Army propaganda leaflets that were preserved in the Gorriti collection of ephemera at Princeton University were used in Ayacucho during 1983. They provide evidence that the government was employing psychological actions.
You will Never Defeat us!
The second leaflet depicts a giant Peruvian soldier protecting a worker from Shining Path terrorists. The text is:
Ayachuchans, the forces of order protect you; reject the delinquent subversives of the Shining Path!
Get out! Never come back
In May of 1988, a group of nine Peruvian military officers travelled to Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, to work with members of the US Armys first Psychological Operations Battalion. The effort was known as Project Inti and aimed to enhance the psychological operations campaign of the Peruvian military against the Shining Path.
The Peruvian police raided one of Guzmans safe houses in Lima and uncovered 4 tons of propaganda and documents as well as video tapes and pictures of high-level meetings. On 12 September 1992, Guzman was captured in another safe house in Lima, and many of the other top leaders were captured within the next few weeks. On 24 September 1992, in Lima, the National Police invited journalists to photograph Guzman in captivity, and the pictures were widely circulated across the country in print media.
Before Cesar Chavez took power in Venezuela and destroyed its economy with his Communist theories that put the nation deep into debt, the United States regularly sent Military Information Support Teams (MIST) to help the people both economically and in the war against drugs. The operations had interesting names like Denounce, Dont be a Mule, K9, Say No and Traffic Center.
Denounce targeted good civic-minded and honest citizens to create an atmosphere of hostility towards the drug trade and to generate actionable intelligence for the police. It worked relatively well. I have seen four posters using this theme. They are all rather arty and modernistic. One depicts what seems to be the brightly colored face of a drug dealer, another depicts a user with his head in his hands sitting on the ground, a third and fourth shows flames over the nation. I have selected one with the flames because it seems the most colorful. The text is:
Do not let this flame spread
You are also responsible
Heroine Cocaine Marijuana
Dont be a Mule
The cross-trafficking of drugs by individuals was a point of concern and many of the propaganda leaflets and posters worked on dissuading amateurs and others with reservations about getting caught. It was not difficult to get these printed products placed prominently in areas frequented by travelers. The characterization of the mule was intended to identify the smugglers using the term already adopted by those responsible for the illicit trade. I have seen about a dozen of these small leaflets. We depict three of the anti-mule products. The text is:
Dont let them use you. Say no to drugs
Do not let them use you. Dont be mules
Dont be mules. Say no to drugs
This poster depicts Venezuelan government troops standing at parade rest with their dogs. The text is:
Our dogs don't like drugs
You decide to report them!
A second poster depicts the same photograph but at the left a close-up of a large police dog has been added. Both have the symbol of the National Guard at the bottom and National anti-drug campaign of the National Guard along with a phone number to call to inform on drug pushers. The United States had invested a great deal of money in getting the Government of Venezuela trained drug dogs and then training the government handlers to use them properly. They had developed an esprit de corps and the Americans wanted to motivate them even further. There was some thought of printing baseball cards for each of the dogs for the kids to collect, but that idea did not come to fruition.
This reminds me of Nancy Reagan and her policy of Just say no to drugs. This theme is very similar. In the poster above we see a pile of skulls and bones. The text tells us who they are and what we should do:
These are the eternal members of the drug consumer club
Say no to drugs
A second poster depicts a dirty alley and the chalk drawing of a body that was found dead there. The text is:
The road to drugs is short ... and there is no way out.
Say no to drugs
This is a series of posters that are almost like those you might see in a travel agents office. There are wonderful full-color pictures of Venezuela, its people and wildlife. However, each poster also has a warning about using drugs in the country. I have seen a number of different posters but chose one that shows a bright colorful Toucan and the text:
Welcome to Venezuela
In this country we do not tolerate drug trafficking
There is another type of poster which was called cross trafficking. I have only seen one specimen of this type. At the left we see the chalk markings of a dead body in the alley; at the right a drug trafficker is behind bars, and wearing a dunce hat to boot. It talks about the penalties for those that traffic drugs in Venezuela and shows that the penalties are very serious and worse than in other countries with the notable exception of Iran. The poster implies that if you transport drugs you will end up dead or in jail. The text is:
Transporting drugs leads to just two things:
The penalty for possession and transportation of a kilo of cocaine or heroin
Country Penalty Venezuela 10 to 20 years U.S.A. 5 to 20 years France 5 to 20 years Italy 8 to 20 years Mexico 7 to 12 years Iran Death
You decide. Denounce them now! Your Information helps!
Land Mine Awareness Comic Book
The Superman and Wonder Woman Mine Awareness Comic Book
The U.S. Government is strongly committed to land mine awareness throughout the Third World. As part of the program a number of comic books were prepared to be read by children. The first was entitled Superman - Deadly Legacy. It was prepared for children in the Former Yugoslavia and was printed in both the Cyrillic alphabet used by Serbs and the Roman alphabet used by Croats and Muslims. A Kosovo version of the comic book was released in the school system through UNICEF and through non-governmental organizations operating in the area.
A comic book in the Spanish language was released for children in Latin America on 11 June 1998 at UNICEF House at UN headquarters in New York City. It is entitled Superman and Wonder Woman - the Hidden Killer. Soldiers from the 1st PSYOP Battalion (Airborne), Fort Bragg, North Carolina, conducted assessments in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Honduras, provided background information and photos and recommended a story line to the creative staff at DC Comics. The collaboration ensured accuracy and that Central American children would be able to identify with the villages, countryside and clothing depicted in the new book. Once the story and artwork were completed, the battalion tested the comic book in Central America to see if it conveyed the intended message. Members of the Armys Special Forces, as well as the staffs of UNICEF, U.S. embassies and local governments, worked together to distribute the book throughout the region.
The comic books were distributed through U.S. embassies, and presented to the Ministries of Education in Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. A U.S. Southern Command Mine Awareness Team assisted the host ministries of education in the distribution. The initial printing was Six hundred fifty thousand copies of the book, 560,000 in Spanish and 90,000 in English. Mine-awareness posters based on the comic book, 170,000 in Spanish and 30,000 in English, were distributed in Latin America. The Spanish-language comic book is 32 pages long and includes 24 pages of story and eight pages of activities targeting children between 8 and 15. Text on the back is:
Superman and Wonder Woman have come to help the children of Central America! But even when they cannot be here, you can keep yourself safe from landmines.
This book tells of the story of Brothers Miguel, Diego, and Sister Gabriella. One brother suddenly finds himself in a minefield. He is rescued by the super-heroes, shown some mine-warning signs, and then introduced to a military de-miner. Later, Gabriella washing clothes in a stream also comes upon a mine. She is saved by Wonder Woman. The children are shown signs and posters depicting different mines and meet a child who has been injured. They then kick their soccer ball into an area that sets off another mine. The book contains a number of mine warning stickers, and features a two-page scene depicting a countryside with various signs and clues of hidden mine fields. The reader is urged to place the stickers on those sites. It closes with a 10-point quiz and the warning:
Spread the word: Mines Kill!
CUBA The Bay of Pigs
To be honest, this section does not belong in this article. It was an actual invasion; a small war, and deserves a complete article of its own. However, we do not have enough propaganda leaflets and printed materials to display for an in-depth article. All of the propaganda material dropped on Cuba went into a black hole and nothing came out. However, we have a lot of data on the invasion propaganda and my partner Major Ed Rouse suggested we place it here. Enjoy!
I wont go into the history of the invasion. Our readers know that Fidel Castro took over Cuba in January 1951 and installed a Communist regime. Cubans in the United States wanted to recover their country so with the help of the Central Intelligence Agency a plan was hatched to retake the island in April 1961. Kennedy once said that on his inauguration day Eisenhower warned him to avoid the hair-brained CIA scheme, but he ignored the suggestion. The invasion took place, and although the U.S. claimed no nationals were involved, U.S. Navy personnel told me that they took Cuban troops right up to the beach in landing craft. No U.S. military aircraft were to be used so B-26 bombers and other aircraft such as C46 and C-54 cargo planes with insignia painted over were flown by civilians, many contract pilots, members of the U.S. Reserves and National Guard. As the invasion went bad there was a call for fighter aircraft, but Kennedy refused. Fidel Castro later said that this was the main reason for the invasions failure.
During Tet 1968, North Vietnam ordered its guerrillas in the South to attack cities and military bases expecting the Vietnamese people to rise up and support the revolution. They did not and the result was over 30,000 Viet Cong killed or captured.
Brigade 2506 Flag
In the case of Cuba, the anti-Castro fighters believed that the Cuban people would rush to join their ranks and free themselves from Communism. About 1,400 fighters from Brigade 2506 invaded in 1961; the Cuban people did not rise up and the Brigade members were captured or killed except for about three dozen that were rescued by American military craft.
This is the short story of the PSYOP of that invasion. We have very few actual leaflets from the invasion. I am sure that many Americans and perhaps some Cubans kept souvenirs of this air-dropped propaganda. We would love to hear from anyone who saved some of the original pieces. It would be nice to take this section and change it into a major article.
We do know that on 17 September 1962 a secret memorandum was sent to General Lansdale on the subject of a request for approval to start a propaganda balloon campaign against Cuba as part of Operation Mongoose.
Helium inflated balloons were to be flown from a foreign-flag ship located at least 10 miles from Cuba in international waters. To protect U.S. involvement the ship would be chartered by a Cuban exile that was well-known and acceptable to the Cuban anti-Castro exiles. The sponsor would be put in touch with a cleared balloon facility and purchase the balloons. The sponsor would contact the Cuban Revolutionary Council and work with them. Anti-Castro groups could submit propaganda and if found acceptable by the CIA it would be accepted and disseminated by balloon.
Brigade 2506 Paratroopers
Cuban groups would hopefully prepare acceptable propaganda, but if not the CIA would produce the anti-Castro leaflets and provide timely ideas, themes, news items and technical assistance. Propaganda might also be prepared for Soviet and Soviet-bloc personnel. For increased security, the sponsor is the only non-American to deal with the CIA.
Twenty balloons an hour could be launched from a station into the easterly trade winds, each carrying four pounds of leaflets (2,000 to 4,000 leaflets). Four such stations could launch 80 balloons an hour. It was estimated that 2,000,000 to 4,000,000 leaflets a month could be delivered.
Another secret CIA document entitled Propaganda Action Plan in Support of Military Forces makes some of the following points:
On D-Day the propaganda campaign will enter its action stage. The two primary propaganda mechanisms will be radio and leaflet operations.
Medium wave Radio Swan Political programming will be eliminated and the best talent will be utilized under Unity Program controlled by Miami. In addition to Radio Swan, there will be clandestine programs, ostensibly originating within Cuba at least twice a day. It is hoped that the Cuban Freedom Committee will sponsor a music and news program a mild Tokyo Rose operation, from a Key West Station. Propaganda teams infiltrating into Cuba will carry Viking Transmitters that can broadcast from denied areas within the country.
Pre-invasion leaflets will be stepped up shortly before D-Day. The D-Day leaflet will be a statement from the military leader (Roughly in the form of Eisenhowers D-Day statement). It is understand that weather, accident or low priority on available aircraft may preclude the actual dropping of this leaflet.
D-Day plus 1 leaflets will be specific instructions to the military and militia about how they should defect. Delicately intimidating, hopefully promising that they can play a glorious role in the overthrow of the tyrant.
D-Day plus 2 leaflets will be specific instructions to the general populace on civil resistance, sabotage and how to locate radio stations for guidance. . Messages geared to women, youth, workers, etc.
Target of opportunity leaflets will be written according to developments in the fighting. They may be in the form of amnesty passes so soldiers can surrender or defect with impunity.
The Genuine Cuban 20 Peso Banknote
CIA Counterfeit Cuban Note F69 with serial number at right
CIA Counterfeit Cuban Note F70 Counterfeit without serial number
It is alleged that the United States CIA forged Cuban 20 pesos Banco Nacional de Cuba notes of 1961 for the Bay of Pigs (Playa Girón) invasion. According to Alejandro Quesada in The Bay of Pigs: Cuba 1961, Osprey Publishing, 2009:
Each Brigade member taking part in the invasion was issued approximately 100 counterfeit Cuban pesos made by the CIA. This money was intended for purchasing supplies from the peasants and/or bribery.
The forgery; or a similar operation is mentioned in Bay of Pigs, Peter Wyden, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1979. Wyden says:
When two million worth of pesos came ashore in four jute sacks that had gotten wet, the sacks were leaking blue, red, and green liquid, but the underground workers were only mildly annoyed. They knew that the CIA was sending them counterfeit money; that the printing and the paper were excellent but the ink was so unreliable you could usually wipe it off with saliva. The counterfeit money, tens and twenties, was used by middlemen who bought expensive items such as cars from people they hoped never to see again. The currency supplied to the infiltrators for their own use was authentic; at least the ink did not run.
The forgeries are rather easy to spot because of their serial numbers or lack of same. Four types are known:
1. F69 at left; no serial number at right.
2. F69 at left; reduced size serial number at right.
3. F70 at left; no serial number at right.
4. F70 at left: serial number at right.
Preparing to invade
Very little has appeared in the U.S. press about the PSYOP of the invasion of the Bay of Pigs. It was a classified CIA operation. However, the Communists felt no need to keep any secrets and the book by Juan Carlos Rodriquez, The Inevitable Battle From the Bay of Pigs to Playa Giron, Editorial Capitan San Luis, Havana, Cuba, 2013, although Cuban propaganda, does talk a lot about American PSYOP. Some of his data seems to be from the formerly classified CIAs own Inspectors General Survey of the Cuban Operation. Some of the comments are:
A psychological warfare campaign had been carried out by radio stations prepared especially for that purpose. One of them had gone on the air eleven months earlier: Radio Swan (Radio Free Cuba), which came in clearly, powerfully, and with a triumphal tone. Swan Island was a small island in the Gulf of Honduras.
The American command post was set up in a Washington DC building known as Quarters Eye. Propaganda plans were drawn up for psychologically softening up the Cuban people This was the source of pamphlets dropped over the island Cuba did not have sufficient or adequate radar equipment several small planes in the Florida Keys dropped hundreds of thousands of pamphlets urging people to carry out sabotage, set fire to sugar cane fields and to attack militia members.
In Happy Valley, Nicaragua, the operations base for Brigade 2506, 11 million brochures were ready to be dropped over Cuban territory By the time of the invasion, a total of 12 million pounds of leaflets had been dropped on Cuba.
The CIA estimates for the cost of propaganda operations was $500,000 in fiscal year 1960 and $1,200,000 in fiscal year 1961.
There are also anti-Castro propaganda overprints known on various Cuban banknotes. For instance, U.S. News and World Report stated on 20 May 1963 that evidence was mounting that harassment of Fidel Castros Communist regime was growing inside Cuba. Cubas one peso banknote depicted Castros Triumphal entry into Havana in 1959, but on many of the notes in circulation, anti-Castro forces had printed the message:
Valueless for food. Valueless for clothing.
Because Communism is hunger, misery and destruction.
This is the work of the great traitor.
Anti-Cuban Invasion Propaganda Leaflets
Numerous propaganda leaflets were printed along with the fake banknotes. This Miami Herald staff photograph taken by Bill Kuenzel depicts a number of anti-Castro sabotage and propaganda leaflets washed up on Miami Beach on 26 July, 1963. One of the leaflets depicts two ways to sabotage a telephone and text. Many of the leaflets end with Sabotage is necessary for liberty and Russians: out of Cuba. Another depicts cogs in a machine and an oil can and asks Cuban workers to sabotage production by breaking machinery and not oiling it. A third propaganda leaflet depicts an automobile motor and radiator. It tells the Cubans:
If it is necessary to damage official vehicles or those confiscated from businesses. Zero oil to the motor. Zero water to the radiator.
A fourth leaflet depicts a hand dropping a lit match into flammable materials and tells the Cubans:
It causes fires Drop matches or cigars where there are rags, straw, wood, paper and fuel.
A Propaganda Banknote
A poor photocopy from CIA files
This banknote leaflet was dropped during the Bay of Pigs invasion. It is a 10 peso note depicting Fidel Castro on the front with the serial number D682697A. The propaganda message on the back in Spanish is:
Peasants! You have the right to have your own piece of land. Fight for it against INRA.
Note: INRA is the Instituto Nacional de Reforma Agraria (National Institute for Agrarian Reform), formed by the Fidel Castro government in 1959.
We know a good deal about the propaganda missions over Cuba from the CIA Official History of the Bay of Pigs Operation.
The B-26 bomber
Documents on air operations show that in late November 1960, a major air strike was planned for B-26's bombers carrying both ordnance and leaflets against unspecified targets in Cuba. Two other B-26s flew a propaganda drop on 12 December 1960. They worked the western end of Cuba, from the Isle of Pines to Cienfuegos, including Havana; and on the same night, a C-54 cargo aircraft dropped leaflets in the Manzanillo area. The total leaflets dropped during the three December 1960 missions by the B26s were 1,700 pounds and 1000 pounds of leaflets. The C-54 dropped 1,000 pounds of leaflets.
The Fish Symbol Leaflet
A poor photocopy from CIA files
It appears that the limited aircraft assigned to the invasion were unable to drop all the leaflets that had been printed. On 15 February 1961, 75,000 leaflets asking teachers to support a student strike were available from Miami for an upcoming drop and that 100 pounds of materials bearing the fish symbol were also ready for use in a drop aimed at Villanueva University in Havana. On 18 February, a cable stated that there were approximately 18,000 pounds of leaflets in a warehouse ready for pickup. A small leaflet was prepared that contained 12 perforated fish symbols that could be stuck on walls or tables. This could be the leaflet mentioned above a second fish leaflet. Notice that this fish is the same secret symbol used by early Christians besieged in the Roman Empire. The CIA seems to be saying that like the early Christians, Cuban Catholics today were being martyred by the Communist regime.
In all, there were 23 leaflet drops between 12 December 1960 and the collapse of the Bay of Pigs Operation. About 12 million leaflets were dropped in addition to assorted publications.
The CIA report mentions some specific leaflets. One suggestion was that leaflets should be prepared depicting the crucifix upside down, to signify the Soviet treatment of religion, and that these leaflets should be distributed widely through Cuba. There is no indication that this particular leaflet was ever printed.
In another instance, the Hammer and Sickle was used to form the T in the word Traidor on a sticker that was prepared for propaganda use. In anticipation of the possible visit, 10,000 stickers of an anti-Khrushchev, anti-Soviet nature were forwarded from Headquarters to Havana Station. The legend on one of these was Cuba, Yes; Russia, No; Khrushchev, No;" and a second item showed a prisoner behind bars formed by the stripes of the Cuban flag with the words Sin Palabras, (Without Words). The stickers were never used.
A Safe Conduct Pass
A poor photocopy from CIA files
Another leaflet was in the form of a safe conduct pass with six paragraphs explaining how to surrender and a warning against carrying weapons or crossing the lines at night. It bears a small fish symbol similar to the early Christian symbol at the bottom left. The fish was a symbol of the liberation movement.
A leaflet was prepared for use with armaments drops. It had 11 short paragraphs and basically told the recipients that the end of Communism was near, to use the arms in their fight and not to let them fall into enemy hands.
While all of this was going on the CIA had prepared a radio station to broadcast from Swan Island and inside Cuba, a CIA-controlled action group produced and distributed anti-Castro and anti-Communist publications. The CIA was in contact with groups outside Cuba who assisted in producing similar materials for clandestine introduction into Cuba.
The CIA documents reveal that during the fiscal years 1960-1961 they spent 1.1 million dollars on radio operations and programming and establishment of transmitters, and $600,000 on press and publications. This assumed the invasion would take place in 1961. If it occurred sooner, more money was promised.
Before leaving Cuba we should point out that it was not only during the Bay of Pigs invasion that propaganda was used against it. The United States regularly produced propaganda that was anti-Castro and anti-Communist. One campaign in late January 1962 was built around offering rewards for Cubans who killed Communist officials. Another plan was to produce leaflets showing an overweight Castro with beautiful women and bountiful tables of food explaining that his rations were different from the common worker.
During the Bay of Pigs the liberation movement used fish symbols. Later, the CIA decided to use the term worm since Castro called all anti-revolutionaries worms. A whole propaganda campaign was planned around Gusano Libre (Free Worm) leaflets flown over Cuba by helium balloons from ships sailing close to the island. The CIA produced thousands of leaflets showing a small worm taking part in various sabotage acts. The balloon operation was to be called Mongoose It was estimated that each balloon would carry 2000 to 4000 leaflets. The CIA estimated a 500-balloon operation with a total of 2 million to 4 million leaflets delivered.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff were briefed on a leaflet program for Cuba in October 1962. Some of the classified confidential comments were:
A program for the surveillance of Cuba was announced by the President on 22 October, and has since been initiated. On 26 October, the President approved the text of a leaflet, drafted at the White House, to be used in a leaflet campaign to accompany the surveillance program.
The text was delivered to Ft. Bragg, North Carolina and reproduction began at 1500 hours, 26 October 1962. The leaflets will be loaded into air delivery containers, moved to Pope Air Force Base, then to McCoy AFB, Florida for final launch.
The code word for this operation is Bugle Call. 16 F-105s will deliver the leaflets from medium height (2,500 to 5,000 feet). 32 containers, 1,600,000 leaflets per strike.
Operation, Bugle Call would ultimately drop six million leaflets by F-105 fighters showing the Russian missiles on Cuban soil to convince any Cubans that believed it was an American propaganda plot. One leaflet is entitled La Verdad (the Truth) and depicts a Russian missile site on Cuban soil.
The full text on the front and back of this leaflet is:
The Russians have secretly built offensive nuclear missile bases in Cuba. The bases endanger Cuban lives and world peace, because Cuba is now a forward base for Russian aggression.
The Russians, with the consent of Castro, did their work in secret. Cubans are not allowed on these bases. But the bases are there.
To protect the Cuban people - and all the people of the Western Hemisphere President Kennedy, with the unanimous approval of all the Latin American nations, has imposed quarantine on offensive war equipment being shipped into Cuba. Food is not being stopped medicine is not being stopped only aggressive Russian war materials.
When the war weapons are removed from Cuba, the quarantine will end.
Under the Map
Eight or ten Russian offensive nuclear missile bases are located near Guanajay, San Cristobal, and Sagua la Grande.
This photo was taken within the past week from an airplane flying over Cuba. It shows a Russian offensive nuclear missile base near San Cristobal. This is one of several bases hastily and secretly built by and for the Russians.
These Bases Endanger Human Lives!
Leaflets were also prepared in case the United States took part in a full scale invasion of Cuba. One showed a woman and child among falling bombs, the other depicted Fidel Castro sneaking off the island with bags of gold.
I remind the readers that this is not meant to be an in-depth look at American PSYOP activities in Latin America. For the most part, little has been published about these activities and my main source of information has been from returning veterans. I need to see any leaflets or posters brought back from Latin America and hear any stories or anecdotes from veterans who served there with a PSYOP unit. If you can add anything to this article or care to comment I urge you to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.