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. 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.
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.
8th 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 8th 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 8th 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.
[Note: Prior to August 26, 2011, the 1st PSYOP Battalion (A) was a subordinate unit of the 4th PSYOP GROUP (A).]
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.
The general concept of American PSYOP in Latin and South America is mentioned in U.S. Special Operations Forces 1996 Posture Statement. It says in part:
Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations in support of the U.S. Southern Commands area of responsibility are extensive and dynamic. CA forces participate in a de-mining program in Honduras and counter-drug programs in several central and South American countries.
PSYOP forces conduct foreign internal defense training and joint/combined exercises, supporting humanitarian assistance exercises, and conducting combat and peacetime engagement operation. PSYOP units have routinely provided five PSYOP teams, one each for Colombia, Guatemala, Venezuela, Bolivia and Equator PSYOP personnel also provide de-mining help for Honduras, as well as humanitarian support throughout the region. PSYOP forces support counter-drug operations theater-wide by distributing information designed to discourage illegal drug use and trafficking.
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, Colombia, 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, Colombia, Bolivia, Venezuela, Chile, Guatemala and Peru.
Some of the major missions facing the PSYOP teams in Latin America are:
The above poster depicts Colombian 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 Colombia, 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 Colombian 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.
Historian Philip M. Taylor said in an article entitled Psychological Operations in the 1990s:
PSYOP Military Information Support Teams (MISTs) were deployed to Barbados, St. Lucia and Grenada to work with local committees to develop drug awareness campaigns; media ranging from bumper stickers to television commercials were used as part of the fight against narco-terrorism. In Bolivia, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Jamaica, other MISTs were deployed to work alongside anti-drugs campaigners directed at schoolchildren using coloring books, videos and other media. In Bolivia, they were said to have helped to decrease the numbers of hectares that were used to cultivate coca. In Belize, cholera prevention materials were supplied, and in Venezuela, PSYOP personnel developed information campaigns supporting "democratization, professionalization of the military, civil-military relations, and counter-drug operations.
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.
VITAL MEDICAL SERVICES
Free Healthcare Events
For a Happy and Healthy Belize
The poster and leaflet above were prepared for the Beyond the Horizon operation in Belize by the 344th Tactical PSYOP Company (Airborne), in support of Army South's TF Jaguar during summer 2017. The 344th is part of 17th Psychological Operations Battalion, regionally aligned with Latin America, so it supports Army South's BTH mission annually. Notice that the products are in English. Belize is mostly English speaking, so although Spanish versions were printed, English was the primary language the PSYOP Company disseminated. The blank fields were for us to mark in the dates, since they were often changed at the last minute.
Operation Beyond the Horizon (BTH) is an annual exercise deploying regular Army, National Guard and Reserve Soldiers for two-week rotations to work with the Belize Defence Force and civic agencies, bringing vital services and resources to rural communities. BTH is part of U.S. Army South and U.S. Southern Command's humanitarian and civic assistance program.
Army South has planned and conducted BTHs since 2008 in the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. U.S. personnel from the Army Reserve, National Guard and active-duty forces construct schools and clinics and provide medical, dental and veterinarian support.
During the exercise, a total of nearly 1,800 U.S. service personnel representing Army, Air Force and Marines deploy to Belize. Medical services include routine checkups, immunizations, and eye exams, in addition to other types of medical care. The United States, in cooperation with the government of Belize, has coordinated for the completion of five engineering projects (three medical clinics, a three-room school as well as barracks and facility improvements).
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.
As early as 2001, the U.S was sending Regional Information Support Teams (RIST) and Military Information Support Teams (MIST) to Colombia. The term RIST or MIST is used because it is more palatable than psychological operations (PSYOP) to the governments and public of Latin America. The number one mission of RIST Colombia is support to the Andean Ridge Initiative. The RIST is the United States Southern Commands number one priority in the drug war. In Bolivia, the 4th PSYOP Group maintains permanent MISTs that coordinate their PSYOP programs with the RIST in Colombia. In addition, temporary MISTs deploy for shorter duration to Venezuela, Ecuador, Guatemala, El Salvador, the Bahamas, and the Dominican Republic. The majority of peacetime PSYOP missions in the Southern Command are funded with counterdrug money, but PSYOP also support a humanitarian demining mission each quarter. In 2001, there were up to 14 soldiers for RIST manning at the United States Embassy in Bogota, Colombia, but they produced as many products as the joint PSYOP task force in Sarajevo, which has 43 personnel. RIST Colombias main support effort is eradication, interdiction, and institution building.
The nation-building leaflet depicts a number of Colombian soldiers setting up an observation post on a hilltop while helicopters fly overhead. The text is:
Serving his people
The indigenous people and the Colombian 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.
A brief note about terrorism in Colombia. Special Warfare, Volume 31, Issue 3, 2018, discussed Colombia in depth. I add its description of the Colombian problem:
FARC: The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia was a Marxist Leninist insurgent group in Colombia from 1964 until 2016 when it signed a peace accord with the Colombian Government. At the height of its strength in the 2000s, the FARC claimed to have some 18,000 men and women. Since the signing of the accord, the FARC has renounced violence and handed over its weapons to the government and UN verification observers.
ELN: The National Liberation Army is a Marxist insurgent group that advocates a composite ideology of Marxism and liberation theology. The ELN began its campaign in 1964 and despite a series of efforts to negotiate peace; the attempts have yet to result in serious discussions. Colombia and the ELN are attempting to revive talks that failed in early January 2018 following the termination of a three-month old bilateral ceasefire.
It was reported that the U.S. Army's 8th Psychological Operations Group regularly worked in operations against the Colombian 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 until 2008. 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?
The three captives after their rescue: Keith Stansell, Marc Gonsalves and Thomas Howes. All worked for Northrop Grumman and were captured in 2003 by FARC rebels after their light aircraft crashed in the jungles during a counter-narcotics operation. They were freed on July 3, 2008 during Operation Jaque, a daring operation that involved months of intelligence gathering and a ruse in which the guerrillas were tricked into loading their captives onto a disguised government helicopter. The three wrote a book about their ordeal called: Out of Captivity: Surviving 1,967 Days in the Colombian Jungle.
It appears that PSYOP helped rescue the three U.S. contractors mentioned above. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) held three defense contract employees captive for more than five years. The tip lines promoted by PSYOP Soldiers furnished actionable intelligence that facilitated the rescue. Once their ordeal was over, all three former hostages recounted how the leaflets and messages that PSYOP Soldiers produced kept their hopes up. PSYOP also played a significant role when a top FARC rebel commander, Jorge Briceno (better known as Mono Jojoy), was killed in a Colombian military raid in September 2010. This operation, supported by PSYOP, was a particularly severe blow to Latin America's oldest and most formidable guerrilla insurgency.
Another Leaflet in Regard to the Three Hostages
This leaflet depicts the three on one side with various telephone numbers that can be called and the text in part:
Speak up and claim up to 10,000 million pesos. Colombians, give information on the location of the three American hostages kidnapped by FARC and receive this million peso cash reward.
The back of the leaflet depicts three men with their hands tied and a chain representing their captive situation being broken. Once again, various phone numbers at the bottom of the leaflet. The text says in part:
Free Colombia from the chain of kidnapping
Four years ago these men were kidnapped. At present they are being held in captivity away from their families and their freedom. Colombians, break your silence and help to find them and the thousands of Colombians who are also in the same situation. We are waiting for your call.
This leaflet was sent to us by Technical Sergeant Michael C. Bernhardt who worked in the Air Force Special Operations Command in the 919th Special Operations Wing and the 711th Special Operations Squadron for 17 of his 23 years service. His crew at Duke Field, Elgin Air Force Base, had been alerted to support a mission to drop the leaflets, and they were standby to possibly pick up the hostages if released. The hostages were rescued early and the mission was aborted.
Veritas, Volume 2, Number 4, 2006 mentions the drug trade in Colombia:
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.
Sergeant Sam Harding
In 1993, Psychological Operations Specialist Sam Harding graduated from the PSYOP School at Ft. Bragg. In 1994 he deployed to Haiti for Operation Uphold Democracy and was awarded a Humanitarian Service medal there. He told me:
Officers were moving in and out of battalions and teams which made everything difficult and might have caused some enlisted troops to retire. Every six months a new officer would take over the teams and we enlisted would have to show them the ropes, explain how things were done, sometimes brief for them to a Southern Command General Officer, and conduct operations with the host nation simply because some officers lacked the linguistic ability. Many Private First Class and Specialist Fours were doing jobs that should have been done by Captains. In Haiti I was pretty new and still learning my trade; I knew no Haitian Creole language so I mostly did basic grunt-work. I went on patrols, guarded various locations and I actually did some product development, but that time was confusing and I dont remember the exact projects I was involved in.
In 1995 he graduated the Basic Spanish Language Course and was assigned to Company A of the 1st PSYOP Battalion. He was then deployed to Colombia as team Sergeant of the Military Information Support Team (MIST) as a psychological operations specialist. Harding worked in the Product Development Work Station developing counter-narcotics products. He was awarded the Joint Service achievement medal for his high-quality products supporting the operation and impeding drug trafficking along with the Colombian police. His linguistic abilities allowed him to work with the Colombian Navy to prevent and curtail the use of illegal drugs. He told me:
Prior to 1995, our PSYOP efforts were mostly to inform the populace of land mines left in place by insurgent forces such as the FARC or ELN. Kids would wander into areas were these mines were located and either play with them or unknowingly detonate them by disturbing them. Efforts were made to try to curb this by informing the population of what the mines looked like. I dont think I saved any of those leaflets but it was a mainstay even during the time I was there. Also prior to 1995 great efforts were made in the war against Pablo Escobar before his death in 1993.
During my time in-country from 1995 to 1996, we focused on the King Pins of the Cali cartel. We also focused on informing farmers that if they grew illicit crops, those crops would be eradicated by aircraft defoliants. However, the Government would pay them to grow fruit instead. There were campaigns in effect such as Say No to Drugs (Dino ala droga) which involved Dino the owl and was exclusively made directly from America's "DARE" campaign. Other efforts included increasing the reputation of the Colombian National Police, Army and Navy in a positive way. They were considered corrupt due to the cartels in the past having bribed them to look the other way. There were campaigns in effect to stay away from the FARC or the ELN and not to join them. Much of this fell on deaf ears since those guerrilla groups would provide medical, money and food for farmers in distant areas that was more than the Government could provide. Everything always looked good on paper but it was the follow-through that would be the issue. There was an old PSYOP theory that you never ask the people to do what they cannot, and in this case the farmers would be killed if they resisted. They had very little choice. Much of our PSYOP activity was invisible and if we did anything, we always made sure that the Colombians received the credit instead of us.
Joint Service Achievement Medal
He was awarded the Joint Service Achievement Medal. His award citation concluded:
Specialist Hardings exemplary performance and dedication to duty represent the finest example of Army professionalism. His ability in computers, psychological operations, and the Spanish language to create PSYOP products supported the U.S. Counter-narcotic objectives in Colombia.
Colombian Lanceros (Rangers) that Harding worked with in early 1996.
Harding is kneeling in the front row, second man from the left.
In February 1996, Harding was awarded a certificate from the Colombian Special Forces for teaching a PSYOP Course in their non-commissioned officer school.
In April 1996, Harding graduated from the Colombian Army parachuting course. In 2000, as a Reservist he retired as a Sergeant from the 305th PSYOP Company. Sam was kind enough to send me some of the leaflets that he used in Colombia. They are below. He sent me eleven leaflets to add to this article. I have changed a few words from the literal Spanish to make the English translation work a bit better:
For a Drug Free Generation
This small 6.5 x 3.5-inch gummed sticker has a back that can be pulled off so it can be placed anywhere. It depicts a happy Colombian boy and the text:
For a drug free generation
Let's collaborate 9800 19800
Bogota 280 2555
The National Police
Guarantee your Return
This cardboard anti-drug leaflet is 8.5 x 3.5-inches in size. The text on the front is:
Guarantee your Return
Dont transport drugs
Your trip could be longer than you think
A Campaign of the Colombian National Police for a drug free Generation
In case the reader does not understand the danger fully, the back of the leaflet lists the penalties in different countries:
The U.S.A from 5 to 20 years; France from 5 to 20 years; Italy from 8 to 20 years; Mexico from 7 to 12 years; Iran DEATH PENALTY.
Which is Better?
It is not enough to threaten the drug mule with incarceration; the farmer growing the drugs must be encouraged to stop growing them. This can be done many ways; they can be paid and encouraged to grow food crops, or they can be threatened with having their drug crops sprayed with defoliants that might destroy the ground. The farmer was in a bad position. On one side he was threatened by armed drug dealers, on the other by armed government forces. He was between the proverbial rock and a hard place.
Which is Better?
This poster depicts a Colombian family eating formal dinner and the wreckage of a home after a bombing by drug traffickers. The text is:
Which is Better?
A Colombia without poppies, safe and at peace,
Or a Colombia with Narco-guerrillas, terrorism and the social problems they generate.
LET'S ALL WORK FOR A SAFER COLOMBIA
A second similar poster from a large group of posters on the same subject depicts farmers in their fields. The text is:
LET'S ALL WORK FOR A SAFER COLOMBIA
Without the coke and the poppies - Free from Narco-Guerrilla violence and drug traffickers For a Colombia at peace.
About prohibited plant crops and drug dealers You will received a great reward - Absolute privacy is guaranteed - Call free from any part of the country at 980 13913.
Many leaflets warn the farmers and the drug cartels in a nice way. Some go straight for the throat. This small 4 x 5.5-inch cardboard leaflet depicts helicopters and points out they are armed with the implication they might just kill those involved in the drug trade. The text is:
Our Aircraft are Armed.
No poppy cultivator escapes arrest!
The back depicts a farmer behind bars that look like poppy plants. The text is:
To avoid arrest, immediately remove all poppy bushes from your crops.
Do you know what the guerrilla is?
Do you Know what the Guerrilla is?
Harding also sent some anti-terrorist leaflets aimed at FARC. The first depicts the letters FARC with various symbols of death and torture. The text on the front is:
Do you know what the guerrilla is?
Fanatics, Gangs, hatred and Cowards
The back says:
50,000 deaths of innocents in 40 years.
Billions in material losses
Horror, crying and poverty, widows and orphans
Thank you Guerrillas!
This leaflet depicts the Guerrilla movement FARC as Death and shows young men being led to the slaughter. The text on the back is:
When the guerrilla arrives at your house, he doesn't have the purpose of helping your family. He just seeks your support to continue committing crimes.
Don't let the guerrillas take your children. Their promises of equality, salary, welfare and security are all pure LIES.
FOR PEACE AND PROSPERITY NOTE BOOK
Whenever American PSYOP units help a foreign country in turmoil, one of the efforts made is to support the local government, police and military. It is not enough to attack the criminals and terrorists; the good guys must be supported and the loyalty of the people must be strengthened. In this case we see a Colombian solider giving a soccer ball to a young boy while a young girl hugs him. This is actually a lined notebook that the children can use in school. The text on the front is:
FOR PEACE AND PROSPERITY
THE COLOMBIAN NATIONAL ARMY
The back page of the booklet contains multiplication tables and the National Anthem of Colombia. There are 11 paragraphs to the anthem. I will translate the first two:
The dreadful night has ceased.
Sublime Liberty beams forth the dawn of her invincible light.
All of humanity that groans within its chains,
understands the words of He who died on the cross.
Independence!" shouts the American world;
The land of Columbus Is bathed in heroes' blood.
But this great doctrine; "The king is not the sovereign" resounds,
and those who suffer bless their passion.
FOR PEACE AND PROSPERITY LEAFLET
This leaflet uses the same motto on the front as the book above. The leaflet targets the family while the note book targeted school children. We see a soldier shaking hands with a father while a mother with child and a young boy stand by. The text on the back is long so I will just translate a sentence or two:
Every day in the whole country, men and women who work with will and love dedicate their selfless efforts to try to save the life, property and honor of all Colombians.
This year, we want together with the authorities, government entities and private companies, to undertake an intense activity to restore peace in the region and seek development and a better way of living in the community. That is why the collaboration and support that you as a Colombian can do is of vital importance
It was not only the Army that PSYOP Supported. This small 3 x 4-inch notepad depicted a Colombian Marine on the front. Inside the cover was a 1995 calendar and on the back was their Marine Hymn. The text on the cover is:
The Marine Infantry
The Country Trusts Me
The Colombian Naval Infantry is also referred to as the Colombian Marines. It is the marine force of the Colombian National Navy. The 24,000-member Colombian Marine Infantry is organized into a single division with four brigades, each with several battalions plus numerous small security units.
If the Army and Marines were mentioned in the PSYOP products of course the Navy would be also. This is a book cover for a child in school. It is placed over the book to protect it and every time the child picks up the book he is reminded of the glory of the Navy and how they protect the nation. The cover depicts a sailor with two children and the text:
THE NATIONAL NAVY
Working with you for the future of Colombia
The inside left cover depicts all the days of the week to mark in the childs classes and a Colombian patrol boat. The inside right cover has the multiplication tables and the text:
We protect the sea so that your future is better
The back of the cover has the Navy seal and the Navy Hymn. There are four stanzas of the song so I will just add the chorus:
Long live Colombia, I'm a sailor;
By my flag, by my inheritance I>
live in the jealous and fierce waves,
I am a knight of the wide sea.
Reward Poster One
Whenever there is a guerrilla war at some point the government will print Wanted Posters. I show two here. One that mentions the rewards and one that does not. The first poster depicts five culprits with the rewards offered from $10,000 to $100,000. Some of the text is:
The true work of the subversives is: DESTROY COLOMBIA - KILL INNOCENTS - PROTECT COKE LABORATORIES.
Those responsible must be captured for their criminal actions against the Colombian people. The government and the National Army guarantee absolute privacy to those who provide information.
Reward Poster Two
As I mentioned, some of the posters do not mention reward amounts. It appears that the ones with the heading Colombians do and the ones with the heading Guerrilla do not. This poster also depicts five culprits. Some of the text is:
YOU MAY BE THE NEXT TO BE CAPTURED!
The true work of the subversives is: DESTROY COLOMBIA - KILL INNOCENTS - PROTECT COKE LABORATORIES.
YOUR TIME IS RUNNING OUT - SURRENDER!
An Assortment of Colombia leaflets
Colombian Police drop reward leaaflets
Anti-drug police in Colombia have dropped thousands of leaflets from helicopters offering a $5 million reward for a drug lord implicated in attacks against police.
The leaflets were dropped over the town of Apartado, near Colombia's border with Panama. Gulf Cartel leader Dario Antonio Usuga is the target of the reward. The Colombian-born drug lord is also known as Otoniel. Colombia's Gulf gang has been implicated in the shooting deaths of many of the one dozen police officers killed in the border area over the last month. Rewards of $800,000 were offered for two top associates. Leaflets were also aimed at locating drug plantations and labs.
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.
Another former member of the 1st Battalion sent me several leaflets that were used in the fight against terrorism. The first one depicts wanted criminals, one of which has already been captured by the government of Colombia. The leaflet capitalizes on the death of Raul Reyes, and asks for information on additional FARC Commanders. The front of the leaflet shows five terrorists and the text:
Your information resulted in the death of terrorist Raul Reyes.
Now we are looking for Edgar Tovar, Joaquin Gomez, Oliver Solarte and Jairo Martinez.
Text on the back is:
For a Colombia in Peace. Call and receive your reward. Total confidentiality.
The second depicts a FARC fighter eating rice from a banana leaf while his leader eats a big meal of meat, beans and other delicacies. He also seems to have an attractive female hanging onto his arm. The text tries to drive a division between the common soldier and the bosses. It is:
Don't suffer further humiliation.
Why keep dealing with hunger, empty promises, diseases, maltreatment, and torture?
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.
A Wanted leaflet, depicting FARC leader Carlos Antonio Lozada
The text is:
For information that helps us find Carlos Antonio Lozada
We absolutely promise to protect your life
Earn up to 1.2 million pesos
Julián Gallo Cubillos AKA Carlos Antonio Lozada is a former Colombian guerrilla member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). During his early years Lozada allegedly became a member of the Communist Youth (Juventudes Comunistas), and later joined the Colombian Communist Party and subsequently became a member of FARC guerrillas. According to the US Department of State, Lozada is a member of the Higher Command of FARC and participated in setting and then implementing FARC's cocaine policies directing and controlling the production, manufacture, and distribution of hundreds of tons of cocaine to the United States and the world.
Nostalgic Christmas Leaflets and Posters to FARC Guerrillas
We depict three of the propaganda leaflets, each with a different image but all with a lovely family and child and the same message:
Before being a guerrilla
YOU ARE MY SON
Guerrilla there is another life
This leaflet depicts a guerrilla returning home to his family and hugging his child on one side and the text:
Guerrilla there is another life, Demobilization is the way out to another life.
The other side shows a smiling guerrilla who has returned home and now is working at a legitimate job, and the text:
Change from the loneliness and fear Guerrilla, to a legal and dignified life.
This leaflet depicts a Colombian family with a gaping hole where the Guerrilla should be on the front. The text is:
Regain your place: Your family, your country, liberty, life and new opportunities await you.
The back urges the guerrilla not to hesitate any longer, but to demobilize immediately. Instructions are provided as to how the guerrilla can make contact with the government. Some of the text is:
Do not tell anyone your plans
Do not speak in public about your boredom
Bring us your weapons and explosives. You will receive a reward
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 government also wrote messages promoting peace on soccer balls
and floated them down the river toward the FARC rebel encampments.
The same issue of Veritas features an article on PSYOP in Colombia 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 Colombian 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 Colombian 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.
Starting its operations in 1964, the Colombian terrorist group FARC used violent, criminal methods, such as kidnapping for ransom, extortion, drug trafficking, blackmail, and bombings. The rebel group based in the jungles of Colombia was responsible for more than 6,000 kidnappings alone since the year 2000. Their prisoners were often military personnel.
The Colombian military knew that FARC allowed the captives to listen to the radio. It produced a song with a hidden Morse code message knowing that the FARC rebels were uneducated and completely illiterate when it came to Morse code. The hit single, titled Better Days, was performed by Natalia Gutierrez Y Angelo.
The lyrics were also written so they would invoke feelings of captivity and longing for freedom, with the chorus going:
A new dawn singing this message
From my heart,
Although Im tied up and alone I feel as if Im by your side
Listen to this message brother
The Morse code message beeping in the chorus directly afterwards read:
19 people rescued, youre next. Dont lose hope.
Soldiers that were later released said that the message, once it was deciphered, was passed through to other prisoners and it soon became well-known among the captives, without ever being revealed to FARC. The operation was kept secret until 2011, when the military officially announced that the song Better Days which had by then become a cult classic was, in fact, part of the clandestine hostage rescue mission.
We are all Human Beings
I apologize for the lack of sharpness in the next two posters. Each photograph was rather small and any attempt to bring it up to a proper size caused a loss of resolution. The First poster depicts a guerrilla receiving medical treatment from the Army medics. Often the guerrillas are told by their leaders that they will be killed or mistreated if they surrender or are captured. Here they (and the Colombian Army) are shown and told that they will be treated kindly and with respect. The text is:
We are all human beings. Respect the life of the wounded enemy
Over 30,000 Human Rights posters were produced and disseminated to the Colombian general population and military. Messages on the posters included the commitment of the Colombian military to the defense and protection of human rights in Colombia and emphasis on the Joint Task Force South respect for human rights and international law.
Everything you should know
In Vietnam, defoliants were used to take away concealment from the guerrillas. It turned out that the Agent Orange was very poisonous and people have suffered for decades since. Here the government is using defoliants and spraying to kill the crops of drug producing plants. The text is:
Everything you need to know about glyphosate
Unfortunately because of the poor resolution we cannot translate the rest of the booklet. We can assume that the people are told that it is a harmless product that will not poison or injure man or beast. Glyphosate is a broad-spectrum systemic herbicide and crop desiccant. It is used to kill weeds, especially annual broadleaf weeds and grasses that compete with crops. It was discovered to be an herbicide by Monsanto chemist John E. Franz in 1970. Monsanto brought it to market in 1974 under the trade name Roundup.
Thousands of eradication information booklets were produced and disseminated to the Colombian general population. The booklets provided information on Glyphosate, the herbicide that is used for aerial eradication in Colombia. The booklets objective was to persuade Colombians that Glyphosate is not harmful to the environment.
In Colombia the Clock is ticking on Illicit Crops
This Eradication handbill was produced and disseminated to the Colombian general population. The PSYOP supported objectives of this series of leaflets were to discourage the planting of illicit crops and to provide notice that Colombian Security Forces would continue to eradicate new illicit crops. A defoliation spray plane is depicted at the left and a helicopter and Army trooper is depicted at the right. The text says:
In Colombia the Clock is ticking on Illicit Crops
We are going to eradicate them because this land also deserves a future
Search for a legal cultivation alternative to plant
The planting of marijuana, coca and poppy is prohibited. Law 30 of 1986
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.
Reward Leaflet for the FARC leader known as Cano
The reward offers a reward of up to 2.5 million for anyone who will inform on the terrorist leader. It tells the people that their decision will overcome fear.
Janice Burton wrote an article entitled ARSOF in Colombia: 50 Years of Persistent Engagement for Special Warfare, October - December 2012, Vol. 25, No. 1. She said in part:
Captain Maurice Valentine has been working closely with the developing Colombian PSYOP force for more than a year. The team he has on the ground has been there eight months.
Everything we do is in support of the Colombian National Plan for Consolidation and is aimed at security, support to the populace and providing a state presence. For us, security is more of a support effort, working with the Colombian National Police and Armed Forces.
The U.S. PSYOP teams working in Colombia have a very straight forward plan and align their missions with the objectives of Special Operations Command-Southern Command. They have two intermediate objectives, the first of which is to counter transnational organized crime and the second is maintaining positive U.S. military influence of the developing Colombian forces. They do the latter by building the capacity within the forces to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, deterring and disrupting violent extremist organizations and defeating attacks by those organizations.
More than 8,000,000 leaflets have gone out over the last years, which have had a direct impact on the problem. According to Valentine at least 290 desertions from the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) have been a direct result of the campaign. The campaigns focus is based on what the individual is missing by his association with the FARC or the drug traffickers. It encourages participants to come home and be a part of their family.
The 4th PSYOP Group adds:
MIST Colombia consisted of one officer and eight enlisted personnel based out of Bogota, Colombia and one analyst working from both Bogota and Fort Bragg. A primary focus of the teams mission was to provide PSYOP planning support to the Colombian Military. In addition, the MIST worked closely with Joint Task Force Omega and Task Force South Tolima efforts to pursue and capture or kill top FARC commanders as part of Defense Support to Public Diplomacy. An important component of this effort was to convince FARC insurgents to demobilize and provide operational intelligence for Colombian Military Special Forces planners. In 2011 the MIST exploited the successes of numerous Special Operations Forces missions including the death of FARC Secretariat member Mono Jojoy and numerous FARC Front commanders. In November this effort culminated in the death of the FARCs supreme commander, Alfonso Cano. The MIST also provided support to the Colombian Navy and counter-narcotics police by developing, and disseminating products in support of a program seeking information on the location of Self-Propelled Semi and Fully-Submersibles used to carry cocaine for eventual entry into the United States. This data led to the location of multiple ship-building locations. The MIST coordinated multiple counter-recruitment efforts to reach youth in high conflict areas.
In 2013, FARC declared that it will continue to kidnap members of the Colombian security forces, and announced that it would enforce a strike in west Colombia in a show of strength as peace talks take place in Cuba:
We reserve the right to take prisoner members of the security forces who surrender in combat. They are called prisoners of war, and this happens in every conflict around the world.
The United States continues to aid Colombia and offer suggestions on more efficient ways to teach psychological operations. Below we see two American PSYOP troopers training in a Colombian PSYOP course.
From left: U.S. Army Sergeant Russell Robson and U.S. Army Captain Jake Bruder, students in the Basic Psychological Operations Course, sit with Colombian Army Colonel César Alberto Karán Benítez, commandant of ESMAI.
(Photo: Myriam Ortega, Dialogo)
U.S. Army Sergeant Russell (Rusty) Robson told me about his 2018 graduation from the Colombian Armys School of International Missions and Comprehensive Action (ESMAI). Rusty is a 37F, PSYOP sergeant. He deployed with Company B, of the 1st PSYOP Battalion, Detachment 1B30 to Bogota, Colombia, in early 2018. He worked in the U.S. embassy for 2 months working as part of the Military Information Support Team. He was then tasked, together with Captain Jake Bruder, to attend the Colombian PSYOP course as a student, to better understand the Colombian psychological Operations doctrine so that the Americans could support it better and more efficiently.
The Graduating Class
The training was mentioned in the 10 July 2018 issue of DIALOGO, The Digital Military Magazine. The article entitled U.S. Service Members Train in Colombia was written by Myriam Ortega and says in part:
For more than 11 weeks, Colombian and U.S. service members strengthened their knowledge on techniques and resources to transmit messages to hostile, neutral, or friendly audiences to support the Colombian Army's institutional objectives. The course covered the Colombian Armed Forces lessons learned on comprehensive action tasks that strengthen the Colombian government while providing humanitarian assistance to communities in need.
Colombian PSYOP Badge
Colombian Army Colonel Cesar Alberto Karán Benitez, commandant of ESMAI, said: We need to find other roles that favor the countrys development. We have a myriad of capabilities to offer the Colombian people. Our new Army doctrine focuses on how to help more, how to face the new challenges that come after conflict.
ESMAI has become a pioneering school for regional training, evidenced by the high number of international students. In recent years, more than 300 foreign officers and noncommissioned officers trained in different disciplines. In June, two U.S. officers finished the Basic PSYOP Course, while one Ecuadorean and two Mexican students took part in the next edition of the course, in July. Other ESMAI courses attract international participation as well, such as the Combat Camera Course that ended in August with 14 foreign students enrolled.
Special Warfare mentions ESMAI:
The U.S. Armys 1st Psychological Operations Battalion can claim success through the establishment of a dedicated Psychological Operations course at Colombias Escuela de Misiones Internacionales y Acción Integral or ESMAI; translated as The School of International Missions and Integrated Action. Acción Integral serves as the Colombian equivalent of U.S. Civil Affairs and PSYOP, but they are integrated within a single command structure from the Ministry of Defense down to battalion and company levels.
Prior to the establishment of ESMAI, the training of Colombian PSYOP personnel fell under the direction of Escuela de Relaciones Civiles y Militares (ERCM), the School of Civil and Military Relations. The school's training was derived from the original mobile training teams sent from 1st Psychological Operations Battalion (Airborne), and with the assistance of ERCM instructors, trained Colombia Military forces in the art and science of PSYOP.
The members of 1st PSYOP Battalion work in conjunction with the leadership of ESMAI to constantly improve the capability and the relationship that has developed over the past three decades. 1st POB Soldiers provide vast knowledge of PSYOP from operations around the world, in both combat and non-combat environments.
The American Students Take Part in Civic Action Programs
Here they warn children of the danger of drugs
(Photo by Colombian Army Second Lieutenant Laurie Gutiérrez)
1st PSYOP Battalion Captain Jake Bruder added: Our presence here serves two purposes. To attend the course and learn about comprehensive action, because its something new for us, and we want to learn how to support and help Colombia in the peace process and in the Armys development. Unlike the U.S. Army, the Colombian Army implements PSYOP in exercises carried out within Colombia. We only conduct PSYOP outside U.S. territory, in Colombia and other countries. Im going to use that knowledge to develop my teams operations with comprehensive action brigades and battalions.
The Class Graduation Plaque
1st PSYOP Battalion Sergeant Russell Robson said about PSYOP: This tool can be very powerful, we use it to win wars without firing weapons; it helps induce behavior in our targets that favors our objectives. Its been very good for us; especially for me, because I made many friends here. I was able to see their situation in their unit, outside the school, such as what they have to do when they get here. That helps us have a vantage point on how to improve things. It also serves as an example to be better soldiers, better leaders.
One of the changes that should occur before reaching an international level is a deeper understanding of target audiences. We are not talking about classes or big groups of people; it might be only one person. And thats the analysis we should do?an analysis of psychographic and demographic conditions, as well as vulnerabilities. You must look ahead. How will I do it, how to connect the whole strategic plan, and how will I carry it out when Im not from that country, when I dont speak their language?
We have seen some FARC propaganda but the images are generally small, blurry and unusable (as shown above). We can tell you about one leaflet prepared by FARC. The rebel group declared that it will continue to kidnap members of the Colombian security forces, and announced that it would enforce a strike in west Colombia in a show of strength as peace talks take place in Cuba. In a public statement signed by the peace negotiators currently in Havana, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) declared:
We reserve the right to take prisoner members of the security forces who surrender in combat. They are called prisoners of war, and this happens in every conflict around the world.
The group said that it had repeatedly tried to organize prisoner swaps, but the government had rejected their approaches. The statement followed the kidnapping of two police officers in the western Valle del Cauca province on 25 January 2013.
Medical and Civic Action Day
During the Vietnam War the U.S. Army, in an attempt to win the hearts and minds of the people performed what they called Medcaps and Dentcaps, where Psychological Operations troops and medics went into the field and treated the people with free medical and dental services to show that the Government cared about their welfare. A similar program was sponsored again in Ecuador in 2007 when medical teams went into the countryside to help the poorest people of the country. This poster has seven photographs showing the teams helping the people in various ways. The text is:
Welcome to the Medical and Civic Action Day
Together for a Better Ecuador
1. Please take care of your children.
2. If you are given a number, please be respectful of your turn and wait to be called.
3. Don't leave the line.
4. Be patient.
We will attend to you as quickly as possible! Thank you for your collaboration.
The Military does serve... ... because it is our duty
The U.S. Army Military Information Support Teams in Ecuador mostly seem to have been involved in the war or drugs. The 1st PSYOP Battalion was responsible for placing anti-drug billboards in many of the major cities in that country in 1970. We depict several below along with where they were placed. Note that instead of attacking the drugs, the billboards often attack the chemicals used to make those drugs.
Protect our Environment - Shushufindi
In this case, white gasoline could be used in the preparation and purification of cocaine and thus it was outlawed in Ecuador. A young girl is depicted by a stream contaminated by a white gasoline drum. This billboard says:
Protect our environment.
Call 1800-drugs 376-427.
Your identity will be protected. Denounce the illicit traffic of white gasoline
Suspicious Trucks Tulcan, Mascarilla
In this billboard a soldier is depicted holding a handcuffed prisoner while the stopped truck is seen in the background. The text is:
Denounce suspicious trucks circulating on third-level roads.
Call 1800-drugs 376-427.
Your identity will be protected. Denounce the trafficking of illegal chemicals
Respect Poli, San Geronimo
This leaflet depicts an illegal truck that has been stopped and searched by local government forces. We see the driver handcuffed behind the open dorrs and about to be on his way to a long prison sentence. The text is:
Our country deserves respect.
Call 1800-drugs 376-427.
Your identity will be protected.
Denounce the trafficking of illegal chemicals
Unified El Oro
This billboard depicts a drug trafficker under arrest in the center. At the left a patriotic Ecuadorian has called the government. At the right we see the barrels of chemicals used in the making of drugs. The text is:
United against drug trafficking.
Call 1800-drugs 376-427.
Your identity will be protected.
Denounce the trafficking of illegal chemicals
Unified II Ecumil
This same message is used in another billboard with a confusing image of arms in camouflage uniforms grasping each other. Perhaps it means all the services and police united against drugs? In the center are chemical drums with a prohibited symbol over them.
United against drug trafficking.
Call 1800-drugs 376-427.
Your identity will be protected.
Denounce the trafficking of illegal chemicals
A Void San Lorenzo
I have seen this image done two ways. The meaning is that if the husband of a family is caught drug trafficking he will be sent to prison and the family will be left without the breadwinner. In one version of this billboard the place where the husband should be is blank, in another, the silhouette is black. The text is identical in both formats. The text is:
The illegal traffic of chemicals can leave an empty void in your family
Call 1800-drugs 376-427.
Denounce drug trafficking.
The United States Special Operations Forces Posture Statement 1994 mentions PSYOP personnel preparing counter-drug educational material for school children in Ecuador. The pictures are in black and white and in the first a child is offered pills by a drug pusher and says NO. In the second a hypodermic needed is depicted and the text:
The Drugs kill Citizenship!
1980s El Salvador Banknote Propaganda Leaflet brought back by a US Advisor
One side shows a machine gun and offers a reward to any guerrilla who turns one in. The text is:
Combatant approach the nearest barracks
$1500 Colon Money in Exchange
The Armed Forces protects you
The other side bears a reproduction of an old El Salvador 100 Colon banknote. El Salvador adopted the U.S. dollar as the official currency in 2001. The added propaganda text to the propaganda Colon note is:
Hand over your weapon and receive money
Think of God, your country and your family
Sergeant Greg N. Stricker told me that back about 1987 he and members of the Operational Detachment of the 1st PSYOP Battalion were working with the Propaganda Development Center doing analysis. His team looked at various banknotes that might be used as a safe conduct pass, (some in Central America with a strong Communist presence, and some in South America with strong ties to terror or narcotics) considering if they might be reproduced for psychological operations. Greg developed a plan for one Central American country but it was disapproved because of the memories of propaganda banknotes from the Vietnam War that so closely resembled the real thing that they were passed by the local people as real currency. It took 4 or 5 versions of the planned propaganda banknote to get approval until it was finally designed close enough to look and feel like the a real banknote to get picked up, but not real enough to be confused for genuine notes. This is reminiscent of the propaganda banknotes made in Saudi Arabia during Desert Storm that were close to Iraqi money but purposely blurred just a bit. The unit did print some prepackaged currency propaganda but only a small amount of propaganda banknotes.
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.
In more recent years, Salvadoran criminal gangs have become a major problem, even in the United States. Special Warfare says:
MS-13: The Mara Salvatrucha 13 gang originated in 1980 in Los Angeles with Salvadorans who migrated to the United States during the civil wars in El Salvador. The gang's primary purpose was to protect Salvadorans from more established gangs in Los Angeles. The gang now operates throughout North and Central America. Most members are principally from El Salvador, but it has a sizable base in Guatemala and Honduras. MS-13 activities include extortion, kidnapping and controlling the drug market.
Philip Taylor says in: Global Communications, International Affairs and the Media Since 1945, Routledge, 2002:
In early 1984 President Reagan ordered the U.S Department of Defense to rebuild its military PSYOP capabilities, which resulted in the PSYOP Master Plan, approved by Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger in 1985. It was this document that extended the brief of PSYOP beyond war situations to embrace peacetime and crisis situations, in other words contingencies short of war. For the first time in two decades military PSYOP became the responsibility of Special Operations Forces rather than Military Intelligence. In El Salvador for instance, a C-5 PSYOP Directorate was established within the El Salvadorian Armed Forces in 1983 with the help of American advisors from Ft. Bragg. By January 1985 it was conducting a nation-wide multi-media campaign
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.
Yaworski added in: I Speak the Truth: US Army Psychological Operations in Latin America:
Salvadoran President Jose Napoleon Duarte was an astute student of propaganda and understood very well the need to reach out to the lower classes. The US Embassy in San Salvador had been able to direct money into underwriting a nationwide chain of radio stations that provided for widespread dissemination of politically oriented material. A scholarly journal, "Ana´lisis," was started in 1988, supported in part by the Universidad Nueva San Salvador.
Cartoon-like material that glorified the military was prepared for the rural poor. A primary objective for the PSYOP element was to impart on the Salvadoran Armed Forces respect for human rights. For example, US PSYOP produced a training film for the Salvadoran army called "Dos Patrullas" ("Two Patrols"), which depicted the consequences of alternative methods of interacting with civilians. In Dos Patrullas Part One, a Salvadoran army unit is seen sweeping into a village and abusing the citizens. After the armys departure, the civilians are eagerly joining the insurgent Frente´ Farabundo Marti para la Liberacio´n Nacional (FMLN), which had been fighting the government since 1980. In Part Two of the film, the same Salvadoran army patrol is seen entering the village, only this time treating the civilians with dignity and attempting to address their needs. Now the villagers alert the army to where the rebels are hiding. The insurgents are tracked down and neutralized.
The US contingent also assisted in the production of television propaganda discrediting the FMLN. The television piece featured interviews with civilians criticizing the guerrillas for their violence and displayed family members grieving over the deaths of relatives. 1st Battalion members also worked directly for the Salvadoran CivilMilitary Affairs Section advising a unit of 27 female Salvadoran PSYOP specialists. The Salvadoran unit was divided into three nine-person, regionally oriented teams targeting the eastern, northern, and central/ western provinces.
In a campaign designed to implicate the guerrillas in the death or dismemberment of innocent civilians, leaflets warned people to beware of mines planted by the FMLN. One particularly dramatic poster displayed a little girl horribly mutilated by an FMLN explosive. This particular poster was created by a US government official who held a Ph.D. in anthropology.
A 1988 Southern Command publication entitled El Salvador Psychological Operations Assessment says in part:
The national security strategy of the United States has evolved over the past several years from a singular emphasis on "human rights" to a broader, more comprehensive approach. As it relates to Latin America, it stresses three strategic objectives -- democracy, economic development, and security.
A sample of recognized successes would include: a national counter-mine campaign centered around a poster showing a young female victim on crutches and asking "What about her human rights"; Radio CuscatlAn -- which has been ranked between third and seventh in terms of popularity of radio stations in El Salvador -- is considered another success at the national level; a money for arms effort has netted a substantial number of young defectors and their weapons; a newspaper for members of the armed forces is being printed on a monthly basis and is thought to be quite popular with the troops; and, support for ongoing military operations such as PHOENIX 14 has been deemed successful. Perhaps the most effective PSYOP campaign at the operational level revolves around the defection of such ex-Comandantes as Miguel Castellanos and "Ernesto". Finally, the general PSYOP effort has resulted in large numbers of insurgents allowing themselves to be captured, turning themselves in to government forces, or simply fading out of the movement. By any measure, this has got to be termed a success.
A PSYOP "OPSIC" (Operational Security) Poster from the 6th Infantry Brigade of the El Salvadorian Army prepared during the El Salvador Civil War, 15 October 1979 to 16 January 1992.
Max G. Manwaring & Corth Prisk Say in: El Salvador at War: An Oral History of Conflict from the 1979 Insurrection to the Present, Diane Publishing, 1995:
Colonel James J. Steele, Commander, U.S. Military Group in El Salvador, 1984 to 1986, added:
There is an interest in PSYOP and civic action within the Salvadoran armed forces that's far greater than anything that we saw in Vietnam. It's an integral part of what they're doing. The idea of getting people to defect is central to the plans of every brigade. They are training Psychological Operations experts for every unit. We've played a role in that process, and I think it's one of the things that we can really be proud of. They're putting out a lot of leaflets. They're using loud speakers. They're using radio spots very effectively. It hasn't always been that way. I think we played a role in that education process, but they've seen the results that's come from successful psychological operations and that's been an impetus to what has been done. They've put some good people into the program. The guy in charge of psychological operations who just [February, 19871 turned it over, was truly an evangelist. I can recall that he got up and gave a briefing -- this was after a guy named Miguel Castellanos, who was one of the political leaders of the FPL. They initiated a campaign around him. They put out posters, they put him on the radio, they put him on television, and he also helped them with their PSYOPS campaign. For example, it changed the whole approach on how they would deal with the guerrillas and deal with their supporters. For example, if you look at some of the early posters and early leaflets, it would be addressed to 'terrorists,' and then it would give the message. He said, 'That's ridiculous! If you call someone a terrorist, you've immediately turned them off. They're not even going to read your message. Call them I or comva. That's what their fellow guerrillas call them. Present it that way and then get your message across. To the extent that you can make your propaganda look something like theirs, you'll get them to read it.
The Assessment adds:
The decision was made to start psychological operations and it was part of this whole process of change. The main target was enemy forces. The Salvadorans themselves put out the first message to these people. Since they were new at this, my opinion is that they were not very good. For example, they would address the guerrillas as terrorists. When I first came to El Salvador in '84, it still was almost an unwritten rule that you could not call the guerrillas, guerrillas. You could not use the term guerrilla here within Army publications or Army audio/visual material. They were terrorists. They had to be called terrorists. They were not insurgents, they were not revolutionaries; they were terrorists. There is a legal reason. Everybody harped back on the legal reason, saying well we don't want to recognize them as a belligerent force, and basically we just want to treat them as criminals, as bands of criminals. Well, that's fine except these bands of criminals at that time, were taking over major towns in the interior, were overrunning cuartels and furthermore by any kind of analytical definition, they were not just terrorists. They had an infrastructure, they had a political movement. They had organized mass support. They had all the indicators that they were a genuine insurgent movement.
Sergeant J. Scott Bowman
The duty uniform was civilian attire, no uniforms
Specialist Four J. Scott Bowman was a 96B (Intelligence Analyst) and a 96F (Psychological Operations specialist) and a member of the 1st PSYOP Battalion who deployed to Panama, El Salvador and Grenada. He was promoted to sergeant in June 1984.
He joined the Army in 1982 and took Basic Training at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri. He was granted Top Secret security clearance and sent to Ft. Huachuca for Intelligence Analyst (96B) training. He was assigned to the 4th PSYOP Group, 1st PSYOP Battalion at Ft. Bragg, NC. He was sent to Panama in April, 1983 as a Private First Class on a 3-month temporary duty (TDY) assignment which extended into a 6-month tour. He spent most of his time in Panama gathering intelligence for use in Psychological Operations for the Southern Command region.
He flew with the crew on Coronet Solo to evaluate dissemination capabilities for the airborne platform. The Coronet Solo was a modified C-130 that the Air Force used for civilian broadcasts in radio and television. The airborne radio and television broadcast mission originated in the mid-1960s with the EC-121 (known as Coronet Solo). The mission later transitioned to the EC-130E (1980). Other variations of the aircraft were Volant Solo and Commando Solo. He flew in the aircraft to see if it could be a platform in Psychological Operations for Southern Command implementation. He later filed a hand-written report on its capabilities and forwarded it to his headquarters.
Propaganda T-Shirts in El Salvador
Towards peace OPSIC - the vital weapon
PSYOP created these for the Department 5 personnel in El Salvador. The idea was to hand them out and spread the word in the Armed Forces that PSYOP was here.
I am one of the 55 El Salvador
Military involvement in El Salvador was limited by Congress to just 55 advisors on the ground. They didn't want another Vietnam escalation. Of course, there were ways around that. Bowman was never counted as one of the 55 because he was on a TDY assignment and never permanently assigned.
Other Patriotic Anti-Communist T-shirts
He was sent TDY to El Salvador 3 times during this period and helped to establish a Psychological Warfare branch for the El Salvador Armed Forces (Department 5). He returned to Ft. Bragg in September, 1983. He was promoted to Specialist 4 in October, 1983.
He was then sent to a Psychological Operations training course in October, 1983. The Army had established a new MOS for Psychological Operations (96F) and they were anxious to get folks trained for it. He said:
The training wasnt much different than any other classroom training. Sometimes it was exciting; at other times it was boring. Much of the time spent writing notes and committing ideas and plans to memory.
A page from Bowmans 96F notebook
I had already learned so much in Central America from the on-the-job experience that some of the classroom training and real-world exercises seemed to come a bit too late. When I graduated from the course, I was sent to the SCIF because of my top-secret clearance. The SCIF (Sensitive Compartmentalized Information Facility) was a one-level, non-windowed brick building sitting right off Normandy Drive right around the corner from 4th PSYOP Group. You needed Top Secret clearance to enter this heavily secured building. This is where all of the sensitive information gathered around the world came into (through teletype in those days!) As a side note, the first time I saw a fax machine was inside the mountain facility on Ancon Hill in Panama and it was the size of a washing machine! I spent most of 1985 collecting specific pieces of intelligence and using that information to brief the Battalion Commander on relevant matters. Many others in the 96F class went to the operational detachment branch of PSYOP.
Bowmans Graduation Picture from PSYOP School
Bowman is in the second row; third soldier from the right
Bowman told me about his Grenada experience:
Operation Urgent Fury (Grenada) got underway at the end of October, 1983. I was at the Galaxy Drive-in movie theater on Friday, October 28th, watching the Halloween weekend, dusk-to-dawn horror movie line-up. We were 45 minutes into the first feature, The Town That Dreaded Sundown, when the audio was interrupted and my name was called out and I was asked to come to the concession stand. Many of us were on alert that weekend because of the developments in Grenada and I was immediately ordered back to Post. Because I was still in the 96F training class, I did not deploy immediately. I stayed in training during the day and gathered information in the evenings to help in presenting Situation Reports to the Battalion Commander. Upon graduation, I was deployed to Grenada. By the time I got there, however, the situation was well under control. I spent most of my time setting up a makeshift movie theater to help relieve the stress first and then the boredom later of those troops still on the Island.
He was promoted to Sergeant in June 1984. Scott was not a collector of propaganda and did not take samples of the work he disseminated. He collected souvenirs from the countries he visited rather than the PSYOP he produced. He donated most of what he had to the General Patton Museum in Chiriaco Summit, California some years ago. He looked through his files and found a few things that he thought the readers might find interesting. He told me:
I was deployed a second time to Panama in April 1984 on a 3-month TDY assignment which extended into a 6-month tour. I continued my assignment of gathering intelligence for use in Psychological Operations for Southern Command. I was also Sent TDY to El Salvador on two month-long deployments. While there I wrote a 34-page Amnesty program outline that was submitted to the EL Salvador Armed Forces for execution. I understand that President Duarte integrated a few of these principles into the Amnesty plan that he implemented.
The El Salvador PSYOP Badge
The badge was designed by U.S. Army Major Howard Anders. He had it officially recognized and wore it on his BDU's. I don't know if he ever had a Class A version authorized.
I was assigned to and Graduated from the El Salvador Psychological Operations course. I and Specialist 4 Roberto Reyes were the first two Americans to graduate from this new course and be issued the badge.
This diploma from the General Staff of the Armed Forces of El Salvador says that Sergeant J. Scott Bowman has mastered the subjects taught in the course of psychological operations in cooperation with the Army of the United States.
I spent most of my time in El Salvador training civilian personnel on Psychological Warfare practices for the newly established Department 5 of the El Salvador Armed Forces (ESAF).My remaining time In Panama was spent gathering intelligence to be used by Department 5 in El Salvador.
A Prototype 1st Battalion Insignia
This was a prototype 1st PSYOP Battalion insignia from one of the young Salvadorian artists working with Department 5. We were training civilians to do the PSYOP work. Department 5 was attached to the El Salvador Armed Forces and that could also be why they didn't want themselves advertised. They used the terms D-1, D-2, like we used S-1 (Personnel), S-2 (Intelligence) etc. I'm not sure why they did that. It might have been so that they would appear more civilian than military. He wanted me to share this with those at Ft. Bragg, hoping it would catch on and become our new insignia for the deployed Battalion in El Salvador. It never gained any traction with the higher-ups and this is probably the only existing pencil drawing.
An Anti-American poster
This anti-American poster was found in the field and turned into Department 5. It depicts an American soldier with his hands up and a guerrilla with a gun in his face. The poster is signed by two groups, The Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN - Started as a guerrilla movement, became a political party in 1992); and the Farabundo Martí Liberation People's Forces (FPL One of the earliest guerrilla movements in El Salvador that later joined with the FMLN). The text is:
No Yankee Invader will survive El Salvador
In 1984, the Defense Intelligence Agency sent unclassified photographs of enemy graffiti to the El Salvador armed forces to study, and from there they were sent to Department 5. This was an efficient way for the enemy to present propaganda to the people; spray paint cans were extremely cheap and effective propaganda tools.
Bowman was issued a card in El Salvador that warns of Soviet propaganda techniques. He thought it was very old and suspected it might go all the way back to Vietnam. It tells of various anti-American themes the Soviets might use: race; death and mutilation; nuclear and chemical warfare; dangers to the family at home; and class struggle between officers and enlisted men.
The back of the card explains PSYOP and the methods of dissemination. A comment was written on the back of the card recommending it be updated (the writer really wanted it in Spanish for the PSYOP troops and local soldiers). Bowman says that as far as he knows, the card was never updated by Department 5 and written in Spanish.
An American Advisor to El Salvador is assassinated
Bowman said about this:
This was the first American killed in El Salvador. This is a piece of message traffic that came in to us referencing the assassination of Lieutenant Commander Albert Schaufelberger. The interesting story behind this is that it would later be reported that he was killed while sitting in his bullet-proof limousine. That "bullet-proof limousine" actually turned out to be a 1974 armor-plated Ford Maverick and was the same vehicle used to pick me up at the El Salvador air field on my first trip there.
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.
Salvadoran officials address a Morazán department community on 6 October 2016 during a national police academy recruiting event in Morazán, El Salvador. For months a Special Operations Command South assigned PSYOP Team, together with the International Narcotics and the Law Enforcement Affairs Bureau at the American Embassy, helped the Government of El Salvador and explained the best practices to strengthen police academy recruitment campaigns. (Photo by Major Cesar Santiago)
PSYOP troops continued to help the citizens of El Salvador and in 2015 soldiers of the 399th Tactical PSYOP Company interfaced with the local residents to provide information about a medical readiness training exercise being conducted for their benefit during Beyond the Horizon 2015. Information campaigns were conducted to communicate the upcoming Medical Readiness Training Exercise (MEDRETE) and the benefits to the locals. Services provided include dentistry, optometry, gynecology, pediatrics, hepatitis and tetanus vaccinations for children and other general medical treatment.
The PSYOP troops used Radio messages, loudspeaker messages, handbills, and posters and also did some key leader engagements to rally the local communities. The efforts of PSYOP have contributed to thousands of Salvadorans attending the medical readiness training exercise and taking advantage of the benefits available.
U.S. military personnel conducted humanitarian and civic assistance in conjunction with Brazilian, Canadian, Chilean and Salvadoran militaries. Troops specializing in engineering, construction and health provided needed services to Salvadoran communities while building important relationships with partner nations.
At the top of this section we mention that the current threat in El Salvador seems to be from criminal gangs like MS-13. Special Warfare mentions some PSYOP actions taken against the gangs.
A social media product from the anti-extortion campaign
Extortionists control their victims to intimidate them
Another social media product from the El-Salvador anti-extortion campaign
You do not have to pay extortion
The businessmen who are hoping to bring the country forward have to pay protection money to the gangs to ensure they can keep their doors open. It is nothing for a restaurant owner to pay $2,000 or more a month. The impacts of the gangs and their business practices have major repercussions in the country and particularly to its economy. The Central Bank of El Salvador estimates that Salvadorans spend $756 million in extortion fees every year. DENIED REVENUE focuses on countering extortion attempts by the gangs. This campaign allows the El Salvadoran people to see that the government can and will protect them, but it also calls on the people to be active participants in building a safer El Salvador. These advertisement and others like them are part of an anti-extortion campaign started in 2017 in joint effort between the National Civil Police Force and the Regional PSYOP Team. When arrests happen, the PSYOP teams showcase the arrests to the population, again, increasing the perception of the police and of their security in their communities, businesses and homes.
A Policeman gives Heroes Gifts to a Salvadoran Child
A PSYOP Audio/Visual team developed products to support El Salvador's ongoing information campaign to champion the National Police as the HEROES OF EL SALVADOR. The Heroes of El Salvador campaign focuses on increasing the image enhancement for the El Salvador Police. After the Heroes campaign was launched approval ratings of the police increased. This effort has laid the foundation for future campaigns as the National Police continue to seek opportunities for community cohesiveness.
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 Colombia 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, the 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.
PSYOP soldiers assigned to the 118th PSYOP Company of the 10 th PSYOP Battalion, posts a sign to notify locals that weapons are not permitted at a construction site where U.S. and Guatemalan Soldiers build a new school for local villagers during Beyond the Horizon 2014, Zacapa, Guatemala, 16 April 2014. through various medical, dental, and civic action programs. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Justin P. Morelli)
A young Guatemalan girl holds up a pamphlet handed out by U.S. Army Soldiers in regard to an upcoming medical readiness training exercise during Beyond the Horizon 2014, Zacapa, Guatemala, 16 April 2014. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Justin P. Morelli)
Army Sergeant First Class Norma Christensen, of the 303rd Information Operations Battalion, and Sergeant Chris Matthewson, assigned to the 318th Tactical Psychological Company, 10th Psychological Battalion, speaks with a local Guatemalan woman about an upcoming Medical Readiness Training Program during Beyond the Horizon, Zacapa, Guatemala, 5 May 2014. Beyond the Horizon is an annual exercise that embraces the partnership between the United States and Guatemala, to provide focused humanitarian assistance through various medical, dental, and civic action programs. (Photo by Sgt. Austin Berner)
Corporal Jonathan Soto with the 344th PSYOP Company hands out flyers and talks to locals about the upcoming free medical clinic that will be provided by the U.S. military at Palo Gordo, Guatemala, on 29 March 2016. (Photo by Sergeant Prosper Ndow)
U.S. Army Specialist Eric Isaacs with the 345th Psychological Operations company holds a loudspeaker while they broadcast about a free medical clinic that will be provided by the U.S. Army at San, Marcos, Guatemala, March 31, 2016. Task Force Red Wolf and Army South conducts Humanitarian Civil Assistance Training to include tactical level construction projects and Medical Readiness Training Exercises providing medical access and building schools in Guatemala with the Guatemalan Government and non-government agencies from March 5, 2016 to June 18, 2016 in order to improve the mission readiness of US Forces.
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.
Yaworsky also wrote an article entitled: Like Cassandra, I Speak the Truth: US Army Psychological Operations in Latin America. He said in part:
Each MIST comprised at least one officer and six or seven soldiers. It was hoped the Honduran people would perceive that their government was actually doing something positive. The MIST also conducted television, newspaper, and radio operations designed to familiarize the Honduran citizenry with American soldiers. While U.S. engineers and medical teams undertook construction and health service delivery, they would be filmed and photographed by PSYOP specialists. A bi-monthly radio program titled Hello USA was also established that played popular rock and roll music interspaced with PSYOP information. The messages conveyed various themes, such as freedom of speech, democracy, and nutrition.
A television program titled Ante el Mundo (Before the World) was also produced, co-hosted by a US PSYOP enlisted man and the civilian head of the Honduran militarys public relations office. The US government purchased TV airtime in 30-and 45-minute blocks during Honduran primetime, specifically to disseminate the show, something of a novelty at the time. Each episode of Ante el Mundo had a broadcast duration of approximately thirty minutes, ostensibly to highlight Honduran culture. For example, one of the first episodes examined the Mayan archaeological site at Copan. The show was interspaced with commercials showing US soldiers and Hondurans working cooperatively.
The MIST effort also benefited from the presence of a Special Operations Forces Humanitarian Assistance Team (SOFHAT) that conducted health, sanitation, and especially education operations in the countryside near La Ceiba in conjunction with the 4th Honduran Infantry Battalion. Latrines and sewage systems were constructed in villages and medical assistance was provided to the populace. This program was so successful that eventually its management came to be the object of bureaucratic infighting and it was eventually handed over in its entirety to the Special Forces.
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 Morazan and American President John F. Kennedy in the clouds. The title of the leaflet is:
In Unity is Liberty, Peace and progress
An excerpt from Morazan's Will and Testament is seen on the left side of the leaflet:
I Declare: That my love for Central America dies with me. I encourage the youth who are called to give life to this country, that I leave with sadness for remaining in anarchy, and I desire that they imitate my example of dying with resolve before leaving the country abandoned to the disorder in which it disgracefully finds itself today.
[Note: Francisco Morazan was a Central American politician who was President of the Federal Republic of Central America from 1830 to 1839. Prior to that he was the head of state of the nation of Honduras. He was executed by opposition forces].
A comment by President Kennedy is seen at the right side of the leaflet:
Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and success of liberty.
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.
Tim Wallace produced a number of very attractive propaganda posters for Panama. This first poster depicts the flags of Panama and the United States and two hands shaking. The text is:
Welcome to Panama
Liberty and Democracy
Captain Cuevas and Colonel Mick (at the right) give out Free Toothbrushes to the People
Sometimes the United States simply send units to the Countries of South and Central America to help with medical, construction, or even training problems. This is not exactly PSYOP but it is all part of the winning of hearts and minds. Retired U.S. Army Colonel Brooks A. Mick was a surgeon who was sent to Panama on several occasions to provide medical and dental help. He told me:
I was Commanding Officer of the 118th Field Hospital, Army Reserve, out of Ft. Story, Virginia. This mission would have been approximately 2001. We were in Panama for 2 weeks. We set the SOUTHCOM record for most patients treated, medical and dental combined, during one of their medical missions. Next year, we broke that record. We were near the Pacific coast, and were in the northwest end of Panama in the Chiriqui District, and visited several small towns. We had physicians, dentists, and a veterinarian. The people would ride in on their horses to see the vet. National Guard medical units are still, I believe, running health improvement missions to Panama, Honduras, Bolivia, and elsewhere in Central and South America.
Dental work, repair and extraction
Captain Cuevas' dental technicians and specialists explain to the people how to properly care for there teeth. Many of the Panamanians, through poor dental hygiene and a love of candy had severe tooth decay. We had to pull a lot of teeth.
A Plaque Commemorating the School used as a temporary Hospital
This school was built through the alliance for progress with the Cooperation of the
Peoples of the Republic of Panama and the United States of America
We set up our medical center in a school that had been by the Americans many years ago. The schools were primitive affairs, mainly one or two large rooms with a few smaller ones serving perhaps as offices for the teachers. Nothing was set up for medical care at all. We set up tables, laid out dental instruments, screened off areas or used a smaller room for medical examinations. We registered the patients and triaged them by problems on the front porch of the hospital. Toothaches, foot fungus, stomach aches, were the most common, but there were many other medical problems. In the large main room of the school, 2 or 3 dentists worked on patients in portable dental chairs. Most of the teeth were so badly gone that they could only be pulled, not repaired.
We had a Panamanian-born First Lieutenant in my unit who was invaluable, as he could translate English to Spanish and Spanish into the language of the Indians in the area. Otherwise, we would have been lost, as the Indians frequently were not fluent in Spanish, although some were. The schools did not have running water. I built tripods from scrounged material, hung jerry-cans of water over a basin so we could wash our hands between patients. This was our old “Be Prepared” Boy Scout expertise. The latrines were especially primitive, very unsanitary, and created considerable difficulty for the female troops. We set up generators to supply electricity. The patients arrived mainly on foot, occasional donkey, and a few, who had heard we had a veterinarian, rode their horses in to the schools.
Little children would beg for chocolate candy through the windows of the school where we were operating our medical and dental clinics. Other children would stand outside the school and watch us treat the people.
No transportation was provided for the Indians or other patients to get to the school. The more well-to-do rode in on horses or donkeys. The Indians walked in from the mountains. A common complaint of the more elderly was that they wanted medicine so they could have strength to again walk up and down the mountains as when they were younger. We had no fountain of youth.
We know very little about PSYOP in Paraguay except that the U.S. Army 1st PSYOP Battalion was there at least on one occasion.
In 2005, the U. S. Army Military Information Support Team (MIST) helped Paraguay's National Anti-Drug Secretariat to design and use Wanted Posters and media spots in the newspapers and on radio to obtain leads on their Most Wanted Persons. These advertisements produced many calls and positive leads but faced stiff resistance reprisals. In the face of mounting pressure, the drug traffickers obstructed the program through intimidation. The locally-contracted billboard vendor reported three incidents that resulted in the suspension of all postings in the region. In each case, the contract employees or the land owners supporting implementation of the program received death threats.
In August of 2009, The 1st PSYOP Battalion was invited by the Ambassador, U.S. Office of Defense Cooperation Paraguay, to deploy a Military Information Support Team (MIST) to Paraguay. The Team was ordered to Asuncion, Paraguay from 1 October 2009 through 30 September 2010, to conduct the approved Trans-Regional PSYOP Program to support stability operations whose purpose is to eliminate internal threats and deny conditions that could be exploited by terrorists, drug trafficking organizations, and their enablers. The MIST programs were to focus on disrupting conditions that could be exploited by violent extremist activities and their enabling networks.
The Special Operations Command South did not have the organic assets to conduct PSYOP planning to support Public Diplomacy so the MIST would align itself with other Department of Defense and inter-agency information operation activities in order to disrupt illegal activities that support transnational narco-terrorism and terrorism operations in Paraguay. These activities would assist and enhance the partner nation in their ability to deter the establishment of illegal institutions.
There were currently no active indigenous terrorist organizations in Paraguay. There were no political groups or parties that were currently active in the country that are specifically targeting U.S. interests. However, given the presence of sympathizers and support for extremist terrorist groups in the border Area of Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil, visitors there could not discount the possibility of terrorist activity, to include random acts of anti-American violence. The general threat in the designated training areas in and around Asuncion is low for domestic terrorism and high for crime. The U.S. Ambassador or his/her designated representative had final product approval and dissemination authority of all PSYOP products intended for dissemination during peacetime activities. Personnel were not authorized to deploy with weapons and deployed with organic equipment minus weapons.
An Original Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) propaganda leaflet depicting
Peruvian Communist leader Abimael Gonzalo later parodied by U.S. PSYOP Forces
Declaration of the people's war serving a global revolution
Special Warfare describes the Shining Path movement:
The Communist Party of Peru, more commonly known as the Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso), is a terrorist group in Peru. When it first started its period of terrorism in 1980, its stated goal was to replace the bourgeois democracy with "New Democracy." Since the capture of its founder, Abimael Guzman, in 1992, the group has gradually faded and is now largely confined to a rugged coca growing region in south-central Peru.
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:
The conflict in Peru, 19701995, provides a powerful example of the use of psychological operations methods. Both the government of Peru and the insurgent Shining Path used them. The objective of the Peruvian government was to mitigate the Shining Path to the point that it was no longer a threat. The government used psychological operations as an adjunct to its counterinsurgency and counter-terrorism strategies.
Three trends surfaced during the research process. First, the Peruvian Army developed a robust psychological operations capability during the internal conflict, but its success was undermined by human rights abuses. Second, the Peruvian Army failed to assess the effectiveness of its psychological operations campaign. Finally, the Peruvian governments victory was probably helped more by the Shining Paths counterproductive extreme violence and terrorism than an effective psychological warfare campaign. On 1 January 1981 Peruvian Army directed the activation of la Direccion de Operacions Sicologicas (Psychological Operations Directorate, DIRAS) that combined the disparate capabilities into one central office located at the Army Headquarters in Lima.
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. Both leaflets show a well-groomed soldier in pristine uniform complete with web gear, helmet, and weapon protecting local workers from scraggly looking Shining Path members. The soldier in both photos is larger than the local workers and towers over the Shining Path members. The first reads: Ayachuchans, complete your daily work, the forces of order will protect you from the delinquent subversives! while the soldier grabs the Shining Path member and asks him Where are you going, son of Satan? The second reads: Ayachuchans, the forces of order protect you, reject the delinquent subversives of the Shining Path! while the worker, holding a shovel in one hand and a Peruvian flag in the other yells, Get out! Never come back!
In May of 1988, a group of nine Peruvian military officers traveled 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. During the project, the participants conducted a detailed target analysis and evaluated the vulnerabilities and susceptibilities of the general population and the Shining Path members and potential members
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 Peru Shining Path Movement also used PSYOP. Jason Heeg talks about it in The Shining Paths Employment of Psychological Warfare during its Terrorism Campaign in Peru, 1970-1992, Special Operations Journal, Volume 3, Issue 2, 2017. He says in part:
Manuel Rubén Abimael Guzmán Reynoso founded the Shining Path following an ideological disagreement with the leaders of the Peruvian Communist Party. In 1965, Guzman traveled to China and witnessed first-hand the preparations for Maos Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution. He went back to China for a short period in 1969. During this trip, he received instruction in the use of propaganda.
Four slogans were developed that would be used to indoctrinate the cadres and the peasant supporters: The masses clamor to organize rebellion; Actions speak; Let us begin to tear down the walls; and Raise the banner of optimism and let enthusiasm overflow.
The propaganda element created a poster in the early 1980s based on Eugene Delacroixs classic painting of Marianne leading the people during the French Revolution of 1789. The Shining Paths version shows Guzman in his usual professor garb and book in hand leading a group of indigenous Andean people. Marianne is in the background and the French flag replaced by the red flag of communism and her musket with bayonet upgraded to a modern assault rifle. The men of the group are raising their assault rifles in victory while an Incan princess and a peasant mother holding a baby look on approvingly. Another from 1985 shows Guzman holding the red flag of communism, his book not present, standing above and behind a group of armed militant workers. The text reads: 5 years of popular war and Proletariats of every country unite! One poster, which is dated August 1984, shows a peasant worker with communist flag and an AK-47 leading a large group of peasants carrying flags, machetes, and assault rifles.
Manuel Rubén Abimael Guzmán Reynoso in Jail
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.
Major General Oscar de Jesus Reto Otero
Chief of the General Staff of the Peruvian Army
Dialogo, the digital military Magazine mentioned Peruvian PSYOP in its issue of 23 August 2018:
The Peruvian Army School of Psychological Operations started an unprecedented pilot program to strengthen the troops moral values on July 1, 2018. The semester-long program precedes the Armys national campaign, A Better Citizen. Meant for officers who will graduate in December, the program is carried out in several facilities of the Army in Lima, such as Chorrillos Military School and the Peruvian Army Technical School. Its goal: to adjust the campaign strategy and provide officers with the tools necessary to pass on the message to the troops, all while stimulating their own moral values.
In the last 40 years, society as a whole has undergone a crisis in values, Colonel Jorge Reyes Gutierrez, commandant of the Peruvian Army School of Psychological Operations, told Dialogo. In our case, we had to deal with terrorism and the economic crisis. Due to a lack of good role models, some people opted for the wrong path. This gave rise to the image of drug traffickers and terrorists.
The Peruvian Army School of Psychological Operations
The School of Psychological Operations opened in 1994 in the district of Santiago de Surco, Lima. The first basic psychological operations program, however, was taught in 1984 at the Armys premises.
With the support of the schools expertsanthropologists, sociologists, psychologists, and journaliststhe school found ways to reinforce good habits in the troops, so these could be passed on to relatives and friends. The model, in its adjustment phase, is based on repetition. According to a 2009 study of University College London, habits are forged in about 66 days.
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!
In the Pentagons 2011 budget, there was a request for a psychological operations program for the Southern Command which coordinates all US military missions in Latin America. The PSYOP had a 2011 budget of $768.8 million and included a 30-minute, five-day-a-week Voice of America Spanish television program for Venezuela. In the Pentagons 2011 budget, there was a request for a psychological operations program for the Southern Command which coordinates all US military missions in Latin America. The PSYOP had a 2011 budget of $768.8 million and included a 30-minute, five-day-a-week Voice of America Spanish television program for Venezuela.
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 1959 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.
Brigade 2506 Patch
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.
On 26 October 2017, formerly classified documents of the Cuban leafleting plan were made available from the files on the assassination of President Kennedy. One of the more interesting ones was classified top secret and in regard to a reward for the death of Fidel Castro.
One plot encouraged Cubans to kill government officials for financial rewards. It was called Operation Bounty. The bounties for targeting Communist informers, cell leaders, department heads, foreign supporters, and government officials ranged from $5,000 to as much as $100,000. The plan was to drop leaflets from the air on Cuba advertising the rewards.
A meager two cents was offered for the killing of Cuba's Prime Minister Fidel Castro.
The leaflets would be dropped in phases. The first series would just bear names; the next would bear their titles; and a third series would mention the bounties. The Castro leaflet would be the final one. To collect the reward, a Cuban would show the leaflet and proof of killing the named individual; his Communist Party membership card was an example of acceptable proof.
Edward Lansdale, a dirty tricks expert with experience in the Philippines and Vietnam said that the offering for the Cuban leader was meant to denigrate Castro in the eyes of the Cuban population. Lansdale claimed that he "tabled" the concept because he didn't think it was something that should be seriously undertaken or supported further.
Other documents showed that the CIA was in contract with Boss Sam Giancona of the Mafia in 1959 and 1960, and discussions were held on using poison or botulism against Castro.
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.
The Bay of Pigs “Victory” Medallion
I want to place this under the counterfeit money because some people have called them “victory coins.” They bear no denomination, so I think we need to call them “medallions” or “commemorative coins. I will stick with medallions.
As you know by now, the invasion was an unqualified disaster; Castro’s military forces captured or killed most of the invasion force within three days. The Soviet Union, having found an ally in Castro, feared for his government’s survival. Tensions rose between the US and Soviets, paving the way the following year for the Cuban Missile Crisis that brought the world to the brink of nuclear disaster.
However, some were planning for victory. This 3.7cm x 0.2cm silver coin commemorating an anticipated Bay of Pigs victory features an outline of Cuba with a rebel invader advancing past a fallen member of Castro’s military in the foreground. The text in Spanish is There will be no end but victory – 17 April 1961.
The reverse side prominently displays a cross, shield, and the flag of Cuba with the phrases in English - Crusade to Free Cuba and There will be no end but victory.
There is no mention of who designed and had the medallion minted, but it is on the CIA website, and they did run the operation. I think this might be one of theirs. At least they never disseminated the medallions, or did they? It seems they did not go for silver as reported. Another source claims they were made of stainless steel…much less expensive.
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.
In 2018, Max Boot mentioned the "worm" operation in his book: The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Tragedy in Vietnam:
Under Lansdales prodding, the CIA had come up with a symbol for the Cuban resistance: Gusano Libre (Free Worm). Castro had denigrated his enemies as worms; the CIA hoped to turn a term of derision into a symbol of resistance and pride. Cartoons were commissioned and mailed to Cuban households showing a smirking worm cutting electrical wires and spilling tacks in front of a jeep carrying Castros troops. Soon to come were Gusano Libre pins, armbands, seals, pencils, balloons, etc., which could be delivered to Cuba via helium-filled balloons launched from a chartered ship in international waters. A State Department official expressed well-justified skepticism about whether worms of the world unite will cause people to revolt, but such doubts were ignored in the heat of the moment.
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.
A Lieutenant assigned to the 1st PSYOP Battalion during the Cuban Missile Crisis told me that while at Ft. Bragg:
When the Cuban Missile Crisis occurred, the S-4 called me and told me to take covered trucks to Pope AFB, and bring them directly to the Battalion's print shop (I was one of few with a Top Secret clearance). We had triple concertina wire around the print shop while we printed leaflets and packed them into leaflet bombs. I don't know if the leaflet bombs were dropped, nor if there was any other form of dissemination. The leaflets were highly classified at the time and still may be, although a photo later appeared in media (I think Air Force magazine was one).
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.