SGM Herbert A. Friedman (Ret.)
The 8th PSYOP Battalion Crest
A gold color metal and enamel device 1 1/8 inches in height, consisting of a black octagon within a white border one point up, bearing four gold lightning flashes radiating from the base point, overall between the flashes, two and two, a gold quill pen; all above a gold scroll inscribed TRIUMPHUS PERSUASIONIS (Triumph of Persuasion) in black.
The black background of the octagon refers to the darkness of ignorance in reference to the uninformed state of mind of the Battalions target audience. The white border conveys light and knowledge and points to the units goal of enlightening the mind by means of persuasion. The lightning flashes imply radio broadcasts or oral words; the quill is for written words and together they represent the methods used by the organization to persuade the target audience. The eight sides suggest the Battalions numerical designation.
The Coat of Arms
A bottle green shield on an silver greay octagon, four lightning flashes two and two radiating from the base and between the flashes a quill. A laurel wreath superimposed by a bamboo annulet Or and surmounted by two scimitars hilts to a base with a red dragon's head
The bottle green and silver gray are colors traditionally associated with Psychological Operations organizations. The black background of the octagon refers to the darkness of ignorance in reference to the uninformed state of mind of the Battalions target audience. The silver gray border conveys light and knowledge and points to the units goal of enlightening the mind by means of persuasion. The lightning flashes imply radio broadcasts or oral words; the quill is for written words and together they represent the methods used by the organization to persuade the target audience. The eight sides suggest the Battalions numerical designation.The many campaigns in which the unit participated in Vietnam are recalled by the bamboo annulet and the dragon's head. The annulet also denotes continuity of achievement during Vietnam service. The scimitars signify unit campaigns in defense of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The laurel wreath, symbolic of honor and achievement, refers to the decorations awarded to the battalion. Gold denotes excellence.
The coat of arms was authorized on 22 Mar 1993. It was amended to include a crest on 22 July 2002.
8th PSYOP Battalion Challenge Coin
The 8th PSYOP Battalion has a long and honorable history reaching back to the early days of the Vietnam War. Unfortunately, those first days of PSYOP in Vietnam are rather murky. We know in general when units arrived and how they were changed and constantly enlarged. We do not know the exact order of the movement of men from one unit to another. We have many interviews but no official orders. So, in the first part of this report, The Detachments, we draw conclusions from soldiers who were in those units. The history is accurate, but not complete.
The PSYOP Detachments
The 1st PSYOP DETACHMENT (Provisional) was ordered to Vietnam on Temporary Duty Assignment of 90 days on 22 July 1965 and consisted of 7 officers and 17 enlisted personnel from the 14th Battalion (U.S. Army Broadcasting and Visual Activity Pacific).
A loudspeaker Jeep of the 24th PSYOP Detachment
Notice the bullet holes in the window and the door above U. S. Army.
On 18 July 1965, the 24th PSYOP DETACHMENT was formed from personnel of the 1st and 13th PSYOP Battalion assigned to the United States Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center, Fort Bragg, NC. The unit, consisting of six officers and 24 enlisted men, was formed, trained and deployed to Vietnam in just two weeks. They landed in Qui Nhon in September 1965 and were assigned to support the 1st Cavalry Division G5 Section at Anh Khe.
Private First Class John Magine told me:
We dropped some leaflets and did a few forward operations but mostly just secured the area until the Cavalry arrived. The leaflets were standard themes like "What is your girlfriend doing at home while you are here?" or You will die in the mud...a terrible death...give up and we will pay you and give you soap to wash. They were mostly hand illustrated in ink. There were very few photographs at that stage of the war.
I also took part in some C-47 night leaflet drops near Saigon. The leaflet mission near Saigon was before and after a Phantom mission where they dropped napalm. It always seemed strange to me as to why we would throw paper into a burning jungle, but hey...it was Vietnam. We also dropped safe conduct passes and Chieu Hoi leaflets after Arc Light and Tiger Hound missions. Arc Light was B52 bombing and Tiger Hound was Ho Chi Minh Trail Interdiction.
C-47 Aircraft with Loudspeakers in Doorway
Former unit member Second Lieutenant Fred Young first commanded a loudspeaker and leaflet team in An Khe attached to the 1st Cavalry. After about 6 months in Vietnam he made first Lieutenant and commanded the printing team in Nha Trang. He adds:
We began to be written into the combat operations and were soon making regular leaflet drops and conducting loudspeaker operations from C-47s in conjunction with the Chieu Hoi program to try to induce Viet Cong to surrender. This successful use of PSYOP as a combat force multiplier won over early doubters about PSYOP's effectiveness.
In September 1965, 25th PSYOP DETACHMENT was deployed to Vietnam. Commanded by Captain William R. Perry and made up of seven officers and 15 enlisted men it sailed from San Francisco on the USNS Hugh J. Gaffney along with elements of the United States Army 1st Cavalry Division.
First Lieutenant Bob Harvey of the 25th PSYOP Detachment (later Detachment B of the 245th PSYOP Company) reminisces about his Vietnam duty from September 1965 to September 1966:
The introduction of the 25 PSYOP Detachment into the Central Highlands of Vietnam at Pleiku in September 1965 coincided with the buildup of 1st Cavalry (Airmobile) at An Khe just to the East. The mission of the detachment was to collect intelligence regarding enemy weaknesses and vulnerabilities, develop themes and materials to exploit these vulnerabilities, and disseminate appeals and messages via leaflet, loudspeaker and other means. The detachment had highly trained PSYOP officers and enlisted men who had specific expertise in psychological operations, counter insurgency, media development, graphic design, leaflet production, audio production, photography, and other selected skills.
The first major ground operation was a field team comprised of one PSYOP Officer and two support specialists from the 25th Detachment, and one Vietnamese interpreter. This team was attached to the 1st Cavalry during the Ia Drang campaign (November 1965) and was able to ascertain NVA vulnerabilities as the basis for PSYOP efforts in the II Corps border area throughout the remainder of 1965.
Specialist Five John Irwin told me about his assignments in PSYOP during the Vietnam War. One thing his comments show clearly is how you can become a gypsy being moved and assigned to support one combat unit after another. The Number of units he moved through are amazing. I will just mention the 245th PSYOP Company here. Vietnam PSYOP was in its infancy and none of the big units was there yet, just some odd detachments and companies. John said in part:
SP5 Irwin’s USAF 1st Air Commando Wing C-47 [callsign Gabby]
The front door is open, rear door removed for the loudspeaker system
In August of 1966, I was originally assigned as an interpreter to the 19 PSYOP Company, at that time part of the 3rd Special Forces Group. About 4 months later, I was sent to the 6th PSYOP Battalion, being formed at John F. Kennedy Center. The 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment (AKA Alpha 502) of the 101st Airborne Division found itself in deep doodoo at Dak To in II Corps near the border. An ARC LIGHT mission saved them, but horrific casualties on both sides. I was immediately sent to Nha Trang to join the 245th PSYOP Company, then the next morning to a team at Dak To. As the only Psywar interpreter, I guess I was "A" team. The next morning, the Generals airplane, two Captains driving and me and leaflets, went to Dak To. That day, the PSYOP Team went to the Alpha 502 battle site. Hundreds of dead members of the 21st and 88th PAVN regiments, “People's Army of Vietnam” as North Vietnam called their soldiers. The smell of rotting bodies was horrific. The B-52 strike killed hundreds of PAVN. I broadcast most of the night over the surrounding area until I fell asleep. The following morning, several North Vietnamese Army soldiers appeared, surrendered, and led the 502nd troops to their mortar and headquarters positions.
Detachment photographer SP4 Dave Miller adds:
During our tour we primarily supported the American and South Vietnamese troops in the II corps geographical area with our PSYOP capabilities to include leaflet production, Medical Civic Action Program (MEDCAP) field trips, movies and operations in friendly Montagnard villages. Our primary support was to the 1st Cavalry Division.
These small detachments carried the responsibility of American PSYOP until 1966 when it was decided that larger units were needed in each of Vietnams four tactical combat zones. My notes state that The 24th PSYOP Detachment and the 25th PSYOP Detachment merged to form the 245th PSYOP Company.
The PSYOP Companies
245th PSYOP Company HQ in Nha Trang
The 244th PSYOP Company served I Corps initially from Da Nang.
The 245th PSYOP Company served II Corps initially from Nha Trang and Pleiku.
The 246th PSYOP Company served III Corps from Bien Hoa.
The 19th PSYOP Company served IV Corp from Can Tho.
Since the 245th PSYOP Company later became the 8th PSYOP Battalion, we will discuss that unit in more depth.
A very rare 245th PSYOP Company Pocket patch
These were attached to the pocket button of the soldier’s blouse
The Facebook site PSYOPS Reference Material said this about the patch:
A recent sale on eBay of a “Vietnam Made 245th Psychological Operations Co.” pocket patch set in plastic + worn as a pocket hanger! Was sold for US $341.39. The patch was worn by a soldier who worked with the Phoenix Program
One former member of the 245th told me:
When the 24th changed over to the 245th, to my knowledge everyone stayed where they were. More personnel came into the 245th and its headquarters was established in Nha Trang. The operational teams stayed where they were. AA Team (Command) was in Nah Trang. HE-2 Team was with the 1st Cavalry Division, and HE-3 was with the Korean Tiger Division.
Detachment B (Pleiku) of the 245th PSYOP Company in spring 1967
The Detachment poses in front of the Propaganda Support Center in the ARVN Compound
The PSYOP Support Center housed a portable photo shop, an artist's studio, leaflets and printing equipment. From this small building they could produce leaflets, make recordings and prepare other PSYOP material. The building was located on the South Vietnamese Army's side of the compound, while the living quarters were on the U.S. Army's side. Unit members went through a check point every day going to and returning from work.
Another member added:
The 245th PSYOP Co was activated on 10 February 1966. Personnel from the 24th POD (Nha Trang) and the detachment in Pleiku were absorbed into the company, although subsequently, some were transferred out to other units. Also additional personnel were transferred in from Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC) 6th PSYOP Battalion.
Second Lieutenant Winston Groom
Air and Space Smithsonian
Second Lieutenant Winston Groom arrived in Vietnam in July 1966 as a member of the 245th PSYOP Company. He tells about his experiences in an article entitled PSYOP: Weapons of Mass Instruction, in the December 2013 issue of Air and Space Smithsonian. He says in part:
Nobody seemed to be expecting us, nor knew what to do with us. Members of the unit found some tents and told us to set up camp at the edge of a rice paddy near the town dump. If that wasnt bad enough, it turned out this was the area where daily they burned the contents from the officers latrines. I reported in at headquarters and orders had arrived assigning me as the leader of a psychological warfare field team with the 1st Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division, operating from a fire base in Phu Yen province, near the town of Tuy Hoa. My field team was a sergeant and three enlisted men: two of specialist class rank and one private, who was my jeep driver.
Our equipment consisted of a powerful loudspeaker of the kind used in football stadiums, which could be carried on the operators back. Another team member backpacked the 40-pound load of batteries that kept the speaker going. Our gear also included a tape recorder and a number of Vietnamese language tapes that directed the enemy to surrender. The idea was that when one of the U.S. battalions engaged with the VC or North Vietnamese regulars, my team would be helicoptered to the site of the fighting and begin broadcasting surrender demands. In addition, one of the several English-speaking Vietnamese interpreters assigned to the brigade would be made available to us for conveying gentler messages.
In the meanwhile, my job was to see that appropriate propaganda leaflets were dropped at every occasion. We flew missions almost every day that weather permitted, circling low over targeted villages, heaving out leaflets and broadcasting messages in Vietnamese. A lot of leaflet drops were in triple canopy jungle or wooded hillsides where someonemaybe Long Range Patrols or one of our infantry companieshad reason to believe an enemy was present. We also kept boxes of stock leaflets beneath our cots and stacked up to the top of the tent to use if we needed to move fast. We also had, at our disposal, an AC-47 Gabby aircrafta twin-engine Douglas DC-3 in civilian life. We used it to circle above the enemys suspected hiding places and play scary funereal music over the loudspeakers to cause them to run away in terror or at least to keep their troops awake all night.
In 11 November 2013, Winston Groom spoke at a Veterans Day service. His speech was reported by Laura Kinsler of the Tampa Bay Times:
They essentially gave me control of an airplane, a utility plane, so we could drop leaflets and great big loudspeaker, and we had all these tapes where we could to talk to the enemy and try to get them to surrender. The main thing was trying to keep track of all these tapes and make sure you were putting the right one in. Groom designed a leaflet comparing the Viet Cong to nothing but a bunch of no-good chicken thieves.
[Authors Note]: Could this be the chicken thief leaflet that Groom describes?
This leaflet consists of a colorful anti-Chinese cartoon. The front depicts a member of the Vietnamese Communist Party carrying a snake (Red China) into a hen house. This leaflet was one of three leaflets in a group of 6,000,000 dropped by the USAF over North Vietnam on 10 October 1965. The text is:
The Lao Dong Party brings the snake in to kill the peoples chickens.
When Groom learned that his target audience was using his leaflets as toilet paper, he tried to concoct a scheme to see if we could get the leaflets made up with itching powder. At one point, the PSYOPS team used a plane that played spooky music at the enemy or, on cloudy nights, projected a giant dragon onto the night sky. And that was supposed to scare the North Vietnamese. The problem was they would shoot at the plane.
PFC Wesley Melandes, projectionist for the 245th PSYOP Company sets up a movie projector and sound system to show pro-government films to civilians in Phan Thiet in October 1967.
Staff Sergeant Ron Baker was a member of the 245th PSYOP Company located in Pleiku. He had an intelligence MOS and his job title in the 245th was Heliborne Loudspeaker Team Chief. He was attached to the 1st Cavalry and mostly worked as an advisor, usually with the 2nd Brigade. He talks about some of his missions:
On 10 August, I made a Chieu Hoi tape with a North Vietnamese Army prisoner of war. On 12 August, I went on a loudspeaker mission telling NVA soldiers how and where to surrender and also made Chieu Hoi surrender appeals. We took the NVA rallier along to make appeals to NVA soldiers. We used a 1000 watt Western Electric Beachmaster loud speaker in the doorway of a Bell Huey HU1D helicopter. The loudspeaker system was first used in WWII to help bring order to invasion forces on the beaches of the South Pacific. It was then known as the Navy Public Address Set (PAB-1).
On another date we made a broadcast to the NVA 32nd Regiment. The broadcast was as follows:
Attention troops of the 32d Regiment. Your regiment has been badly mauled. Your only hope is to surrender as a Chieu Hoi. You will receive fair treatment, food, clothing and medical attention. Put your weapon over your left shoulder with the muzzle down, in your right hand, wave a Safe Conduct Pass. If you do not have a pass, use a piece of cloth or anything the allied troops can see. Walk slowly toward the American positions. You have a choice. Either you can die unknown or you can start a new life in South Vietnam.
Private Leighton M. "Nick" Nickerson in the 245th PSYOP Company Photo Lab
Private Leighton M. "Nick" Nickerson arrived in Vietnam assigned to the 245th PSYOP Company on 22 July 1966. He was first sent to Nha Trang then detached to Pleiku. He had been trained as a 71R20 Broadcast Specialist, but Pleiku had no need for that MOS and after discovering that his hobby was photography he was assigned to the photo lab. He was also trained as a printing press operator during his tour and awarded a second military occupational specialty of 71W40. He described his activities in Vietnam:
We supported the 1st Cavalry and the 4th Infantry Division with our leaflets. I never kept track of where we went and what we did but I know we did a lot of missions that had us flying over Laos and Cambodia. I know we went as far south Ban Me Thout, North to Kontum, even once to Dalat to support III Corp, and once north to Da Nang. We didn't do many loudspeaker missions from the air while I was there, and most of those were done with just Air Force personnel. We went up if there were leaflets to drop. I remember unloading an entire deuce-and-a-half of leaflets into C47's.
Specialist Fourth Class Charles Kean Jr. Was a member of the 245th PSYOP Company in Vietnam during the years 1966-1967. He was trained as a U.S. Army Illustrator (Military Occupational Specialty 81E2W). During his tour he supported the 1st Cavalry and the 4th Infantry Division. He flew many C47 leaflet missions and received an Air Crew badge for the time he spent aloft. In this photo he stands next to a 1st Cavalry Huey helicopter set up with a loudspeaker array. He told me:
I both dropped leaflets and broadcast messages from the copter. The messages were prerecorded in whatever dialect the people of the area we were covering understood and I took a small reel to reel tape recorder which plugged into the loudspeaker system. Once over the target, I would turn on the speakers. Once the recorder was in operation, I would lie on the floor of the chopper and start to throw out leaflets. We distributed several different types of leaflets. Some came from as far away as the US, while others were done in Japan or Korea.
I thought I would open this section with a joke. This came out of the 245th PSYOP Company, later the 8th PSYOP Battalion. In the distance we see a small aircraft dropping leaflets and broadcasting Chieu Hoi surrender messages. To the left, a Viet Cong sees his battle-buddy running away and asks:
It’s only a small airplane comrade, why are you scared?
His pal, running at full speed answers:
Scared hell. I feel a police call coming on. Dee Dee Moa, fini and all that rot!
The joke requires some knowledge of military and Vietnamese slang. A “police call” is when the entire unit is lined up shoulder to shoulder and told, “All I want to see is asses and elbows.” It means that the VC will be ordered to pick up the thousands of leaflets littering the ground from the aircraft. The misspelled “Didi Mau,” basically means “run away.” The Vietnamese also spoke French so “Fini” means “finished” or “the end.” The last phrase, “all that rot,” sounds British.
Leaflet drop over Vietnam
The earliest numbered leaflets (before they were marked with a unit number) simply showed a numerical and a year. Later on, unit designations were added. Number coded leaflets starting with 245 are 245th PSYOP Company and those starting with 8" are Eighth PSYOP Battalion. The unit number would usually be followed with the actual number of the leaflet and finally the year. In the case of the 245th PSYOP Company we will sometimes see an N in the code for Nha Trang, or a P for Pleiku.
PSYOPS in Vietnam Indications of Effectiveness, JUSPAO Planning Office, Saigon, Vietnam, May, 1967 mentions the 245th PSYOP Company:
From 1 January to 1 October 1966, Air Force planes dropped over one billion leaflets for the 245th PSYOP Company. Men of the 245th designed and printed over 61 million of these leaflets with their own facilities. Five thousand hours of loudspeaker missions were logged in the same period.
More than 6,000 Viet Cong and North Vietnamese regulars defected in areas where the leaflets and loudspeaker missions were employed by the 245th. This was a 300% increase over the same period of the previous year.
The PSYOP companies supported the combat units in Vietnam. William P. Yarborough wrote an article titled Special Forces Psychological Operations in Southeast Asia. I enclose some of his comments (edited for brevity):
Special Forces operations, which frequently led them into remote areas, became a valuable source of intelligence concerning the effectiveness of friendly PSYOP. For months millions of safe-conducts passes and surrender leaflets have been dropped on the Ho Chi Minh Trail to undermine the effectiveness of replacements infiltrating into South Vietnam
A PSYOP project initiated by Special Forces in conjunction with a detachment of the 245th PSYOP Company, JUSPAO, and the Vietnamese Information Service (VIS) had as its objective bringing Vietnamese Government presence back to the area around Duc Co in Pleiku Province. The area had slipped into the "contested" category. Using the Duc Co Special Forces Camp as its base, the PSYOP effort was aimed at all the villages and hamlets within a ten-kilometer radius.
Special Forces medics made sick calls over a four-day period to attract the sympathetic attention of the villagers. Over 800 villagers were treated during this four-day period. Face-to-face contact with village officials allowed the representatives of the Vietnamese Information Service to stress the theme that the Viet Cong were preventing peace while the Government of Vietnam was working for peace.
While the composite team was working, distributing school supplies and free world publications and posters showing ARVN victories, its members were also recording needs of the people which were then transmitted to USAID, CARE, and other organizations.
Valuable information concerning the popular resentment toward Viet Cong methods began to come to light, and the team members were careful not to make any of the same mistakes, particularly regarding pressures exerted to bring villagers to propaganda sessions. At the end of four days the operation was judged to be a distinct success, so much so that wives of eight Viet Cong persuaded their husbands to seek amnesty as Chieu Hoi returnees.
This is one of the earliest leaflets I have seen. The code is wrong with the 245 coming at the end instead of the beginning, but that number 7 could mean it was the seventh leaflet printed in 1966. It is very early and perhaps they had not quite figured out how they wanted to code their leaflets yet. Notice the P for Pleiku. The illustration is even odd. The text mentions Viet Cong and Commissars, but the fellow at the left with only a hand grenade in his hand is almost naked and looks more like one of the Highland native tribes, and the Commissar at the right who is well dressed (except for the sandals) looks more like a North Vietnamese Army soldier. It is an odd picture, but again, very early. The text on the back is:
Viet Cong Guerrillas!
Do you know that you are constantly being used as human shields by your cadres? Have you been given all the weapons you need and have you received adequate combat training? What weapons do you possess that can fight against the destructive power of the aircraft and artillery guns that are hunting you down throughout South Vietnam? You should ask yourselves: Who am I fighting for? What ideology am I fighting for? And what do I have to gain other than a humiliating death?
One of the more attractive leaflets produced by the 245th PSYOP Company depicts a soldier of the Republic of Vietnam riding on horseback carrying the flag of his nation and trampling the communist flag. The picture is very heroic in a traditional military manner. The text on the back of the leaflet is:
Citizens Living in this Area Please Take Notice.
Don't Run, Don't Hide
Don't run and don't hide from the Allied military forces patrolling on the ground or above you in helicopters.
Stay where you are until you receive further instructions. You will be told what to do. If you follow instructions, you will not be harmed.
I love this leaflet because of the design. On the front it depicts a fire-breathing dragon. One Vietnamese friend who is obviously a traditionalist said, “It is a Western-style dragon.” Because it is a dragon, I assumed it would be Vietnamese. I was wrong. It is an American Combat Aviation Battalion and I assume that it specifically requested the leaflet from the 245th PSYOP Company in Pleiku. Beneath the dragon is the text:
52nd Combat Aviation Battalion
The back is all text:
To the officers and soldiers of the North Vietnamese 1st Le Loi Regiment.
Greetings from the Flying Dragons; the 52nd Combat Aviation Battalion.
You have been sent into South Vietnam with empty promises. They have told you the Viet Cong control the Highlands, but still you must hide in the jungle. They have told you the Viet Cong are supported by the population, but still you must steal their food. You must make a choice! You must plan and decide! Take this pass and return to the Government of the Republic of Vietnam and enjoy the benefits of freedom!
Think about yourself and return to a true ideal!
Our planes see you. Our patrols will follow you and our helicopters will destroy you. Avoid such a death by our guns.
Accept the ideas of the returning policy and become a returnee!
This leaflet was printed by the 245th PSYOP Company in Pleiku in 1967. It is for the native Montagnard and since many cannot read it has simple pictures that can be understood without the need for text. On the front a Montagnard farmer sees three Viet Cong entering the forest. He runs to tell the South Vietnamese Army and uses sign language to communicate with them. He takes them to the wooded area and the ARVN hose down the trees with rifle fire. The Viet Cong are all killed and the loyal Montagnard receives a monetary reward.
Leaflet 245N-296-67 produced by the 245th PSYOP Company
Leaflet 245N-296-67 is an example of the type of propaganda leaflet that the 245th PSYOP Company prepared and disseminated on the Vietnamese in support of the Korean Tiger Division. The front depicts a tiger clawing the hand of a Viet Cong trying to steal the food of Vietnamese farmers. 500,000 of the leaflets were prepared to alienate the people from the Viet Cong. Text on the front is:
The fierce Republic of Korea tiger Division stops the Viet Cong from stealing the peoples rice.
The reader might wonder “why all the bother? How much rice could the Viet Cong accumulate?” The answer is quite surprising. In December 1967, the U.S. 9th Infantry division did a sweep just south of the Cambodian border and discovered a Vietnamese tin building in the middle of the jungle with no windows or doors. Wondering what it might contain, the men tore off the roof and found the building filled with 550 cubic feet of rice weighing 140 tons. Further reconnaissance found two more nearby buildings. In all, 440 tons of rice, enough to keep a small village fed for months was discovered. It was hidden in the middle of the jungle by the Viet Cong and used to feed one of their Brigades. The rice was confiscated and given to the Vietnamese people.
The back is all text:
The Viet Cong has circulated false rumors that they will liberate the Republic of Vietnam. It has promised you a happy and pleasant life. But what has the Viet Cong done for you so far?
The Viet Cong has been beaten in the continuing operations here. They are in ruin. Now they make desperate attempts to enlist your support in combat by threatening you and telling you that the Korean Tiger Division kills innocent civilians. The Viet Cong lies to you.
Dear inhabitants, The Republic of Korea Tigers have come to help plant your long cherish hopes for freedom and peace in this country. We are your true friends. We will stay here so that you people of Vietnam can enjoy a secure and prosperous life.
You have seen the Republic of Korea Tigers do many things in your interest. We do not lie. Your future is a full one. It is time for all of us to work together to reconstruct the land.
The 245th PSYOP Company prepared 600,000 copies of leaflet 245N-342-67 in support of the 1st Cavalry Division in Binh Dinh Province. The purpose was to urge the people to cooperate in reporting sabotage and mines on the roads. The front of the leaflet depicts two photographs of dead Vietnamese killed by a Viet Cong mine. The text is:
Innocent civilians killed by a Viet Cong mine near Tra Luong Hamlet north of Phu My
The back of the leaflet is all text:
On Sunday morning, 11 June 1967, sixteen innocent civilians were killed when their Lambrettas ran over a mine placed on a highway by the Viet Cong. To stop these atrocious acts, persons knowing of anyone tampering with the highways should report this information to the Allied forces immediately. Your cooperation in solving these crimes will save your lives and the lives of your family. Help stop Viet Cong atrocities.
Staff Sergeant Don Fieler said about the photograph above showing the remains of the young lady killed by a mine:
I was the one who had to get copies reproduced quickly. I noticed that the letters “US” were printed on the edge of the photographic sheet like everything else we were issued. I brought this to the attention of others and the decision was made to scratch the US off the negative before printing.
The 245th PSYOP Company printed 200,000 copies of leaflet 245N-351-67 to exploit a victory of the Army of South Vietnam over the North Vietnamese Army at Tuy Hoa. The front of the leaflet depicts four photographs of dead guerillas. The back is all text:
North Vietnamese invaders and South Vietnam defenders met squarely in a fierce battle 8 kilometers west of Tuy Hoa in Phu Yen Province on 16 June 1967. Using good tactics, the ARVN 2nd Battalion, 47th Regiment, killed 51 and captured 7 of the NVA 4th Battalion, 95th Regiment, also known as the 11th Regiment. The picture shows the fate of the NVA. This is a fine victory for the government soldiers, and a sad disappointment for the for the NVA leaders who must now explain to their men why they came all the way from the North with heavy loads only to die. The NVA leaders ran, and did not even keep their promise to bury the dead. It is sad that these dead NVA did not join the honorable Chieu Hoi program to escape death and have a safe and happy life.
We can see from the code that this leaflet from the 245th PSYOP Company was printed in Nha Trang. 200,000 copies were requested by the 173rd Airborne Brigade and their symbol is on the back of the leaflet. The picture on the front is a Hoi Chanh named Dong Dot who is appealing to his old Viet Cong comrades to go Chieu Hoi:
This is Dong Dot. He holds the national safe conduct pass. This was his ticket to a new life in the Republic of Vietnam when he rallied to the 173rd Airborne Brigade at Phu Sen. He is now living comfortably in a Chieu Hoi Center. He has plenty of food, new clothes, and a new purpose in life. You can join him. Find a safe conduct pass and begin your new life today. If you cannot find a safe conduct pass, then you can use any leaflet paper if you express your intention by saying “Chieu Hoi.”
The PSYOP Battalions
8th PSYOP Battalion (Nha Trang) Souvenir Bayonet Letter Opener
This beautiful 8-inch chromed and engraved letter opener in the form of a bayonet was produced we believe as a souvenir or gift for members of Company A of the 8th PSYOP Battalion
Map of PSYOP Unit locations
According to the 8th PSYOP Battalion Operations Report for Quarterly Period Ending 31 January 1968, dated 6 February 1968, on 7 November 1967 the 8th PSYOP Battalion was constituted, and on 1 December 1967, the 8th PSYOP battalion was activated to replace the 245th PSYOP Company as the principle military PSYOP agency supporting operations within II Corps. The battalion consisted of 21 Officers and 68 enlisted. The Battalion was based in Nha Trang. In Pleiku, Company B of the new 8th PSYOP Battalion was formed from a small detachment of the 245th Company. Later, in 1968, all of the 8th PSYOP Battalion moved to Pleiku, where it served in close association with the 4th Infantry Division. It operated there until it departed Vietnam on 26 June 1971.
In 1967, the 4th PSYOP Group published a 13-page report titled 4th Psychological Operations Group Republic of Vietnam. The report explained the mission of the Battalions:
The battalion mission in each corps tactical zone is two-fold; first, to provide psychological support to all U.S. combat units. This support includes the use of field teams equipped with powerful ground loudspeakers and audio-visual equipment. Habitually operating with front-line fighting units, loudspeaker teams provide close support to tactical operations and are highly successful in this role. Secondly, the battalions are required to support non-military pacification or internal development programs. For example, they employ audio-visual Jeepsters in support of revolutionary development, civic action and medical aid projects and programs throughout Vietnam. The latter role appears to be an ever-increasing one for the 4th PSYOP Group. Field teams of the Group have been part of every major combat operation in Vietnam since February 1966, including Operations Cedar Falls, Byrd, Hastings and Manhattan. The battalions work closely with the Air Force 14th Special Operations Wing, elements of which are co-located with the PSYOP Battalions. The Special Operations Squadrons fly leaflet and loudspeaker missions which are requested and targeted by the battalions.
A UH-1D “Huey” helicopter drops leaflets prepared by Company B, 8th PSYOP Battalion in October 1970.
The Operational Report of Lessons Learned for the Quarterly Period ending 31 July 1968 of the 8th PSYOP Battalion mentions some achievements for that period:
In May, we were faced with the prospects, the rumors, of the 10 May "Paris Peace Talks." The Saigon offices of JUSPAO devised a leaflet to exploit, nationally, the facts of these talks.
The battalion was to receive ten million, however, problems arose and only six million made their destination. In II Corps the 8th Battalion's Propaganda Development Center (PDC) rose to the task and devised a leaflet basically the same as the JUSPAO leaflet. A total dissemination in support of the talks took place from the 8th of May through the 11th of May: 6,920,000 JUSPAO leaflets and 4,400,000 locally produced leaflets were dropped.
Specialist 5 Stine, Company B, 8th PSYOP Battalion, lays out a leaflet in the print shop. Pleiku, Vietnam.
A 1968 U.S. Army 4th PSYOP Group booklet for newly arriving members says:
The 8th PSYOP Battalion provides PSYOP support for all of II Corps. To provide adequate coverage in Vietnam's largest corps it became necessary to detach one of its companies from its headquarters in Nha Trang and station it permanently in Pleiku. The Nha Trang and Pleiku elements have printing and field team capabilities. The company at Pleiku also maintains a small Product Development Center which is an extension of the Group PDC system.
The PDC systematically analyzes the target audiences and carefully develops message with the proper impact. Another PDC responsibility is the careful critique of all materials requested by outside agencies. All propaganda is carefully checked for compliance with policy guidance and validity of layout and message content. These procedures are often completed within one day of receipt of the materials to be tested. The PDC employs social scientists, area (cultural) experts, writers, artists and illustrators.
In addition to other duties the battalion is charged with operation of the Group's radio station in Pleiku. The mission of the station is to broadcast to audiences in a large area in the northern provinces of South Vietnam. Completely destroyed by Viet Cong sappers in March 1968, it has since been rebuilt.
Specialist 4 Meehan, Company B, 8th PSYOP Battalion, illustrates a leaflet. Pleiku, Vietnam.
Edwin Roberts says in The Psychological War for Vietnam, 1960-1968: University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, 2018:
The 8th PSYOP Battalion operated in an area with 13 Highland dialects and required indigenous people, familiar with the language, customs, taboos, vulnerabilities and susceptibilities to help develop materials.
The Pressroom of Company A, 8th PSYOP Battalion, Nha Trang, Vietnam.
I found an untitled, unsigned, three-page copy of the 8th Battalion history that appears to have been written in 1968. I suspect there will be some repetition with the rest of this 30,000-word article, but I will print a few of the pertinent comments because they might be interesting to the reader:
Headquarters and Companies A and B provide support not only for the battalion field teams, but to 45 other agencies within the II Corps Tactical Zone. Having their assets equally divided to include printing production, air operations and working directly with the 9th Special Operations Squadron, the 8th PSYOP Battalion companies remain the true workhorse of PSYOP. Printing production steadily increased to 8,955,000 leaflets in November 1968. A total of 3,420,594,000 leaflets were airdropped and more than 5000 hours of aerial loudspeaker time were logged. C Flight of the 9th SOS adds two C-47 and five O2B aircraft with the capability of 80 loudspeaker and missions a day. Quick reaction messages have been deployed on air targets in as little as three hours. Health kits, and their instruction in their use, have counted heavily in the Battalions’ Civil Action program. Each kit contains articles such as soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, wash cloth and plastic bowl. The 8th PSYOP Battalion has counted heavily on the psychological successes of the Vietnamese Army, Korean Army, Special Forces and U.S. tactical and advisory teams throughout II Cops Tactical Zone.
The PSYOP-POLWAR Newsletter
The PSYOP Newsletter was first called the Military Assistance Command Psychological Operations Directorate (MACPD) Newsletter about 1966 and printed by the United States Military Assistance Command (Actually what would become the 6th Battalion)to inform commanders, PSYOP personnel, and PSYWAR advisors of psychological operations in Vietnam and to exchange idea and lessons learned. It provided hints and lessons from combat and PSYOP units all over Vietnam about what worked and what did not.
The original explanation of why the publication was printed is:
The purpose of the MACPD Newsletter is to inform PSYOP personnel and POLWAR advisors of the progress of psychological operations and to provide a forum for personnel to exchange ideas and methods which they have found to be successful. Readers are requested to submit items they consider to be of value to our combined counterinsurgency operations.
Later Vietnamese POLWAR personnel were added and the name was changed to the PSYOP-POLWAR Newsletter. Looking through my copy from December 1966 I find the following comment regarding the 245th PSYOP Company:
General Westmoreland visited the 101st Airborne Division on 17 November 1966. The division had two excellent rallier leaflets produced for it in 12 hours by the 245th PSYOP Company. The leaflets contained photographs of the ralliers who had written letters to their comrades with appeals to join the Republic of Vietnam. Skillful loudspeaker operations brought in a score of Hoi Chanh.
The PSYOP-POLWAR Newsletter for October 1968 had this to say about radios in the 8th PSYOP Battalion area of responsibility:
Installation of a PSYOP radio transmitter is nearing completion in Pleiku. The radio will transmit news, music and PSYOP messages to VC and NVA troops, their dependents and sympathizers throughout the Central Highlands of South Vietnam. Broadcast emissions are expected to cover an area of approximately 200 miles radius.
The first of three shipments of mini-radios has arrived in Pleiku. The radios are to be distributed throughout the western portion of II Corps to areas known to harbor VC and NVA troops. Although the receivers are capable of receiving any standard band frequency broadcast, they are designed for peak reception performance on the frequencies used by the Pleiku radio stations. Prisoner of war and Hoi Chanh interrogation reports indicate that the VC and NVA prefer to listen to ARVN and American broadcasts rather than Hanoi Radio. The reason for this is that Hanoi Radio broadcasts so little music. The mini radios will provide one more method of reaching enemy soldiers and their sympathizers with PSYOP messages.
Specialist 4 Robert Boussy of Company B, 8th PSYOP Battalion, prepares the press for a print run.
Combat Operations: Staying the Course: October 1967 to September 1968, Erik B. Villard, Center of Military History United States Army Washington, D.C., 2017, mentions PSYOP campaigns in the area controlled by the 4th Infantry Division. Since the 8th PSYOP Battalion supported this combat unit we know that they were responsible for the PSYOP actions listed:
Wherever 4th Division troops went in Pleiku, Darlac, and Kontum Provinces, they conducted psychological, medical, and civic actions to ameliorate living conditions and to curry favor with the local inhabitants. Between 1 November 1967 and 31 January 1968, U.S. forces in the 4th Divisions tactical area of responsibility delivered 61 million leaflets, 302 hours of airborne and 318 hours of ground loudspeaker broadcasts, and 32 hours of audiovisual presentations.
U-6 Beaver aircraft equipped with loudspeakers
The first commander of the Battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Frank Widrig, was interviewed by Roger Bell of the Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, DailyHerald.Com on 23 November 2017. The article points out that Widrigs time in Psychological Operations went back to 1966, when such operations were relatively new in the Armed Forces. In those days, it was mostly dropping leaflets designed to discourage the Viet Cong, from continuing to fight. Prior to starting the Eighth Battalion, he commanded the 245th PSYOP Company. Widrig said:
When I took over, they were in bad shape because their previous commander had spent his time doing personal things instead of company things. I, of course, did not like mediocrity so I got right to work. I ordered a second printing press for the unit and got busy producing leaflets, then flying out with various units to disperse them. During one of those trips, I witnessed elephants dragging artillery pieces on the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
War is a funny thing. You can go for long periods of time, months even, and it can be just like living at home. Then it can all change at once. I came home and Walter Cronkite was telling everybody wed lost the war. I disagreed so I went right back. I paid close attention to the leaflets the unit dropped, getting involved in design and learning Vietnamese so I could read the content they were delivering. One leaflet depicting a flaming skeleton, which played on the Vietnamese soldiers fear of napalm. They were scared of napalm; Very much so. And there were units dropping that stuff every day. Psychological Operations should be deeply involved in studying the cultures of the areas where fighting is occurring and be prepared to turn around their mission quickly. They should be able to act like a combat company at a moments notice; I learned that during the Tet Offensive.
Shortly after returning, he said, he was tasked with setting up the Eighth Battalion, which was officially flagged on 1 December 1967. Back in those days, he said, only Special Forces really paid attention to Psychological Operations. PSYOP units still work very closely with Special Forces today.
The Propaganda Development Center of the 8th PSYOP Battalion – Nha Trang, Vietnam, 1970.
The 8th PSYOP Battalion supported the following units: I Field Force, Vietnam; CORDS; 4th Infantry Division; 5th Special Forces Group; 173rd Airborne Brigade; 503rd Infantry; Company B, 5th Special Forces group; MACV Advisory Teams; 20th POLWAR Battalion (Vietnam); Task Force South; 9th ROK (White Horse) Division; Capitol ROK (Tiger) Division.
Company A was originally located in Nha Trang and operated with C Flight, 9th Air Commandos Squadron, to provide PSYOP support to coastal provinces. Company B was established in Pleiku to work with B Flight, 9th Air Commandos Squadron, on supporting the highland provinces.
8th PSYOP Battalion 1000-watt loudspeakers manned by Kit Carson Scouts
Chieu Hoi messages to villagers near Landing Zone ENGLISH - 1970
8th Battalion maintained a total of 5 loudspeaker (HB) teams and 5 audio-visual (HE) teams). One HE team was attached to a province advisor team. this arrangement added flexibility which enabled the audio-visual team to support US tactical units, special cordon and search operations and a variety of revolutionary development programs.
Stanley Sandler mentions the battalion loudspeakers in Vietnam in Cease Resistance: Its Good for You, 1989:
In May of 1968 a field team of the 8th Battalion used powerful ground loudspeakers to coax 95 North Vietnamese troops from a shattered village north of Hue. It should be noted that the enemy formation was surrounded and had been hammered by allied firepower.
The 9th Air Commando Squadron flew a total of 884 missions disseminating 450,518,000 leaflets and providing 1,526 hours of loudspeaker broadcasts with 22 night missions flown by AC-47 aircraft.
0-2B Skymaster in Vietnam on its way to drop leaflets
In late 1966, the USAF selected a military variant of the Cessna Model 337 Super Skymaster to supplement the O-1 Bird Dog forward air controller aircraft then operating in Southeast Asia. Designated as the 0-2, the aircraft was distinguished by twin tail booms and tandem-mounted engines. Having twin engines enabled the O-2 to absorb more ground fire and still return safely, endearing it to its crews. Flying in another 0-2B, Photographer Richard N. Levine took enemy fire on this mission.
The 0-2B on the cover of the PSYOP Newsletter dropping leaflets
Specialist 4 Rick Levine told me what it was like to be a photographer in Vietnam:
After basic training at Ft. Ord in California, I was sent to photo school at Ft. Monmouth, New Jersey. The aerial photography training was exciting and challenging especially shooting out of choppers during side rolls, basically photographing sitting on the chopper floor looking straight down to the earth below. After graduation, I was stationed at Ft. Bragg, awaiting orders to Vietnam, and it was here that I was assigned to PSYOP.
I arrived in Vietnam in 1968 after a 17 day cruise on the U.S.N.S General John Pope, a military troop transport. After arriving in Vietnam I began my 8th PSYOP Battalion assignment to photograph and publicize the consequences of the war in order to persuade the population to stop fighting and rejoin the government. My military occupational specialty was 84B20, and my title was Still Photographer. Learning and developing my skills in my newly chosen profession of photography gave me a sense of accomplishment. Mostly I was independent and able to direct my own activities once given an assignment, interacting with my fellow Army buddies and other photographers with a camaraderie that was rewarding.
Since we depict the 02-B aircraft in the above images, perhaps we should add a leaflet here that we know was dropped by that aircraft. Often when an enemy soldier defected or was captured he was asked to write a quick message and sometimes make a loudspeaker tape for his comrades. This is such a case. The code tells us that B Company of the 8th PSYOP Battalion in Nha Trang dropped this leaflet in 1969. Apparently a North Vietnamese soldier named Nguyen Van Dat defected to the south and now asks his former comrades to follow him.
The text on the back is:
Dear North Vietnamese cadres and soldiers. Like you, I have endured many hardships, and I believe that you have endured even more hardships than me because I rallied before you all. I hope that you will rally in order to seek a safer and happier life. You will enjoy more freedom under the Government of the Republic of Vietnam.
Nguyen Van Dat
Notice that some American soldier (possibly from a PSYOP Unit) sent this leaflet home and wrote on the front of it:
This is the type of leaflets the 0-2 drops. This man was a former NVA who returned to the Government of South Vietnam He tells of his better life in the South. I talked to this man myself.
Lieutenant-Colonel William J. Jacobs
Commander 8th PSYOP Battalion from November 1968 to November 1969
I met my Battalion Commander, Lieutenant-Colonel William J. Jacobs, and was told that my duties included travel,mostly by chopper to towns and villages throughout the country. Besides my photographic duties I also assisted in leaflet drops from C-47 aircraft and speaker missions in O-2B. During one particular PSYOP assignment on an O-2B aircraft, mounted with loud speaker blasting a Chieu Hoi message to VC, we encountered ground fire meant to shoot down our aircraft. This unorthodox aircraft fortunately had twin engines that could usually absorb enemy fire and return safely to base. It carried no ordnance. However the mission was not seen as innocuous by the enemy and thus we were really sitting ducks and were actually very much in danger with each flight.
Another mission I was sent to photograph was what was called a Sparrowhawk Mission. This is a category of mission flying in a helicopter at tree top level to draw fire from VC ground troops, and followed up by a helicopter gunship to take them out. I of course was in the lead chopper so that I would be able to photograph the gunship doing its work. What does a 22 year old care about the danger?
Specialist 4 Rick Levine Heads into the Field on a Photographic Mission
Speaking of the 0-2 aircraft, the 4th PSYOP Group Operational Report for Quarterly Period Ending 31 January 1968 adds:
Combined operations are a continual function of the 8th PSYOP Battalion. Excellent support in aerial leaflet/loudspeaker PSYOP missions is received from the 9th Air Commando Squadron whose 0-2B and AC-47 aircraft fly sorties for both Company A and Company B. The initial requests for the aircraft support are made to the 7th Air Force in Saigon. Once the PSYWAR aircraft are allocated, the air operations officers for the companies then place their requirements on this agency for execution of the missions.
It has been arranged through the Operations Section of the 8th PSYOP Battalion, to post in the main office of the 9th Air Commando Squadron the weekly results of Hoi Chanhs received in each province which the USAF supports. This enables the members of the Air Force participating in PSYOP to readily see what their efforts have produced.
As long as we are looking at official reports, the Operational Report - Lessons Learned - Headquarters First Field Force Vietnam, Period Ending 31 October 1969 tells us about how busy the Battalion was:
PSYOP activities during the third quarter CY 69 included the aerial dissemination of over 449,526,000 leaflets and 1,247 loudspeaker hours. ARVN and ROK operations included the hand dissemination of over 6,000,000 leaflets and 14,000 loudspeaker hours. The 8th PSYOP Battalion printed 47,057,000 leaflets, 637,500 newspapers and 1,091,700 posters, booklets, and handbills.
During the month of September the 8th PSYOP Battalion obtained the services of a KOHO interpreter. The addition of the KOHO interpreter has increased the 8th Battalions capability for production of PSYOP media in Montagnard to five dialects; Rhade, Mnong, Jarai, Bahnar and Koho. During the past quarter more than twenty leaflets, twenty tapes and fourteen posters were produced in the five Montagnard dialects. These figures represent a marked increase in Montagnard PSYOP production over the previous reporting period.
The following PSYOP Campaigns have been developed or are presently under development by the 8th PSYOP Battalion: VC Rice Confiscation; the RVNAF image; and the Tet Campaign.
Vietnamese Read 8th PSYOP Battalion Handouts
As long as we are mentioning the 1st Field Force we should mention that their official magazine TYPHOON mentioned the 8th PSYOP Battalion in its issue of June 1969. Specialist 4 Vaughn Whiting wrote an article titled Madison Avenue, Vietnam, in which he said in part:
It's what you say and how you say it that counts at the 8th PSYOP Battalion. Handouts must be designed, written, illustrated, printed, and distributed. The first sign of success comes when the people read the literature, as these coastal villagers are reading a handout giving valuable medical information. The final test is how the people respond to the handout.
A hundred miles from the nearest railroad track, the crashing sound of a steam locomotive shakes the jungle night. Whistles shriek. Bells clang. Steam explodes from open valves in a hissing crescendo that makes men cover their ears. A quiet little valley near the Cambodian border suddenly sounds like the Rock Island Line in the days before diesel engines. But Charlie never sees the train.
The sound comes from loudspeakers aboard a low flying C-47 on a psychological operations mission with only one object: mess Charlie's mind, mess it so badly that he will shoot at· the sound out of pure frustration and give away his position. When that happens, a Spooky gunship, which has been circling just out of sight, glides in with its miniguns blazing and quiets the valley for the night.
Night after night, these C-47 Teams called Gabby-Spooks fly over areas where they think large enemy units are camping and broadcast their repertoire of ear-splitting, raucous sounds. Sooner or later, the harassment t proves too much for the hungry, sleepy, homesick soldiers below. One of them breaks discipline, rushes into a clearing and takes an angry potshot at Gabby. Then it's all over.
The PSYOP battalion also maintains a library of more than 150 tape-recorded messages, each one custom-made for a specific kind of audience, in a particular type of situation. "You have just experienced a barrage of naval gunfire from the U.S.S. New Jersey," says the voice of a native speaker on one such tape." Lay down your arms and follow your comrades who have already rallied. You never know when the next shell will come."
Staff Sergeant Don Fieler
I always like to add some interesting anecdotes to these unit histories. I asked Don Fieler when he got to Vietnam and what he did there and if he remembered any funny stories. He told me:
I was with the 245th PSYOP Company and after the changeover, the 8th PSYOP Battalion from May 1967 to August 1969. I remember the day we became the 8th Battalion well. But it was like most days in Vietnam, Not much fanfare, just a small ceremony.
I was sent overseas as a Private and was sent from Headquarters in Saigon to Nha Trang to print leaflets. I also flew missions in C-47, O-2B, Helicopter Sparrow/Hawk as a crew member (where I earned my flight crew wings) dropping leaflets. My last 6 months or so I oversaw all the print functions. I extended two different times and made the rank of Staff Sergeant in a little over 22 months in the Army. When my enlistment was almost up, I was offered a field commission to 2nd Lieutenant or a commission as a Warrant Officer. I considered it but decided to decline. The detail filling sandbags above is part of my commission story. It was the day I turned down the direct commission. Colonel Widlig was filling the bags and I was tying them closed. When I told him “no” he got angry and said, “that’s what’s wrong with the Army, the people that should stay in get out, and those that stay in, should get out,”
Don told me a story that he finds funny now, but not in 1968:
On 31 January 1968, at about 2200, I was on the latrine sitting on the opening next to the Sergeant in charge of intelligence. I asked him how it looked for the TET cease fire and he said that everyone believed that all was going well, and it would be peaceful during the TET holidays. Three hours later that latrine took a direct mortar hit as the TET offensive started. Since then I have had little faith in intelligence.
About the time we became the 8th PSYOP Battalion Colonel Jacobs wanted the Headquarters Building to have a nice grass yard like back in the USA. For two weeks we went to the riverbank daily and cut and hauled sod back to the headquarters. For the next several weeks we hauled water daily to keep it moist. Two weeks later we had nothing but dead brown grass. He was very disappointed, and we tried to explain to him that grass simply was not going to grow on sandy soil.
The funny part is that all of Florida where I now live is sandy soil or even worse, just silt. Somehow grass does grow there, but there are strains of tropical grasses like Zoysia or St. Augustine and you water them heavily because the grasses are voracious, and the water goes right through the soil and is gone.
Don told me that he visited Nha Trang, Vietnam in 2000, and where the old 8th PSYOP Battalion headquarter building once stood, there was a Russian logistics facility.
Former Sergeant Jerry C. Bowman landed in Vietnam on 3 October 1967 assigned to the 8th PSYOP Battalion. He supported the 173rd Airborne. He learned early that you have to be careful what kind of tapes you play at the enemy.
His first battle was at Dak To in the Central Highlands. It was an area of triple canopy jungle and hills and it was infiltrated by the North Vietnamese army regulars. Discovering that the enemy lines were porous, a commander ordered Bowman and his interpreter to make their way to a village of Montagnards, Vietnams mountain people who were American allies. Bowman said:
We set up our speakers on a hill and started playing tapes to the North Vietnamese. I asked my interpreter what we were saying in Vietnamese, and he told me a mother was telling a North Vietnamese soldier a baby crying on the tape was not his. It was a psychological game. She was basically telling the soldier that she had cheated on him while he was away at war.
The ploy was not successful:
It upset the enemy and they started mortaring the village and shooting rockets at us. It was like the Fourth of July. We had really pissed them off. I had two other tapes with me, one was the Mamas & the Papas and the other was the Four Tops from Motown. I started playing them and it was echoing all over the place. I guess the echoing kind of confused them and they stopped shooting.
Perhaps the North Vietnamese simply enjoyed hearing the latest American hits rather than the annoying sounds of a crying baby.
During the 1968 TET Campaign in II Corps, the 8th PSYOP Battalion was provided with two UH-1D helicopters from the 17th Aviation Group in Nha Trang. In addition, the 173rd Airborne Brigade loaned 2 AEM-ABS-4 1000 watt loudspeaker systems which were then rigged in the helicopters. The helicopter loudspeaker missions began operations on 27 January 1968 rendering quick reaction aerial PSYOP support to Khanh Hoa, Bin Thuan and Phu Yen provinces. A total of 94 leaflet/loudspeaker sorties were flown broadcasting a total of 953 hours and 15 minutes of recordings and dropping 3,494,000 leaflets.
During the war the U.S. printed numerous newspapers for the Vietnamese. According to the 1969 declassified report: Employment of US Army Psychological Operations Units in Vietnam, one newspaper was printed by the 8th PSYOP Battalion:
Khanh Hoa, was issued twice monthly. It was a one page newspaper printed in 15,000 copies per edition. The 8th PSYOP Battalion printed Khanh Hoa for distribution by hand during face-to-face PSYOP missions in Corps Tactical Zone II. Khanh Hoa is the name of the province in which Nha Trang City is located.
PSYOP Radio Station outside Pleiku City
A 1968 Army publication states:
In May 1968, a field team from the 8th PSYOP Battalion, using powerful ground loudspeakers, coaxed 95 North Vietnamese soldiers from a battered village North of Hue. The scope of Group PSYOP support in Vietnam is boundless. In II Corps, an 8th PSYOP Battalion advisory team assists Vietnamese radio broadcasters in programming PSYOP messages to hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese civilians, NVA soldiers and Viet Cong. 8th PSYOP Battalion radio technicians man the Group's 50-thousand watt transmitter from its hilltop site outside Pleiku City. In connection with the operation, PSYOP aircraft have dropped thousands of small transistor radios to Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army troops. All are pretuned to the station's frequency. The 8th PSYOP Battalion provides PSYOP support for all of II Corps. To provide adequate coverage in Vietnam's largest corps it became necessary to detach one of its companies from its headquarters in Nha Trang and station it permanently in Pleiku. The Nha Trang and Pleiku elements have printing and field team capabilities. The company at Pleiku also maintains a small PSYOP Development Center (PDC), which is an extension of the Group PDC system.
Newspaper article of the April 68 VC attack on the 8th PSYOP Battalion Radio Station
In addition to other duties, the battalion was charged with operation of the Groups 50,000 watt AM radio station in Pleiku. The mission of the station was to broadcast to audiences in a large area in the northern provinces of South Vietnam. The radio station had it problems. It was in a very exposed position. It had a guard tower manned by its own staff, barbed wire, and fence posts around it. The station was an outpost, not located within a defensive perimeter of any unit. The station was made up of modular vans that were partially dug into the hilltop and sandbagged. Another problem they had was jamming from Radio Hanoi. The Americans had bought tens of thousands of radio receivers and placed them all over the country so people could listen to the broadcasts. Initially these had fixed frequency reception, but they were easily jammed. They later provided tunable radios, so that listeners could change stations as the Americans attempted to avoid the Communist jamming.
Protection of the radio station. The 55-gallon drums were filled with dirt.
Two rows of drums served as the base with a third row on top to protect
the facility from rocket and mortar fire.
The Viet Cong sent about 20 sappers against the radio station on 24 March 1968. They threw satchel charges into several of the sandbagged modules and destroyed the radio tower. 7th PSYOP Detachment Commander 1LT Michael Merkle was killed in the attack and the Viet Cong lost about a half dozen sappers. Radio Hanoi bragged about the attack the morning afterwards. A new tower was shipped to Vietnam from the 7th PSYOP Group in Okinawa, all modules replaced, and the radio station was back on the air and the system fully functional in exactly ten days.
First Lieutenant Robert Merkel checks the
TRT-22 radio modules
Robert W. Jones also wrote about the attack on the radio station in Veritas, volume 2, number 3, 2006. He says in part:
The radio station was a bare bones PSYOP operation created with modular vans, maintenance vans, and 2 and 1/2 ton trucks. The equipment had been flown in from Okinawa, the home of the 7th PSYOP Group. The Voice of the Army and the People of Vietnam became one of the most powerful radio transmitters in the country. This station could be heard in North Vietnam. The 250-foot radio antenna quickly became a Viet Cong rocket and mortar aiming post.
On 24 March at 0215, Communist sappers came through the wire and a barrage of B-40 rockets hit the compound. First Lieutenant Michael Merkle was knocked out early when a rocket hit the corrugated roof of the unit orderly room and exploded. Soon afterwards there was a major explosion and the antenna came down. The sappers then went after the radio modules. The U.S. Army suffered three wounded. Merkel died shortly afterwards. The 7th PSYOP Group sent replacement radio modules and an antenna and the radio station was back on the air 10 days after the attack. In 2007, the 4th PSYOP Group dedicated their new Media Operations Complex in memory of First Lieutenant Merkel.
All the PSYOP Battalions, the 6th, 7th, 8th, and 10th, were subordinate to the 4th PSYOP Group. The Group was activated in the U.S. Army on 7 November 1967 and activated with headquarters in Saigon on 1 December 1967. The Group published a monthly magazine called Credibilis (“Credible, worthy of belief”) that told of the exploits of the Group and the Battalions. It is a nice way of keeping track of what any battalion was doing at any specific time.
In December 1968, Credibilis looked back on that year in Vietnam and said in part about the 8th Battalion:
The 8th PSYOP Battalion through its two provisional companies provides support to Vietnam’s largest Corps Tactical Zone. The Battalion provides both equipment and personnel to Pleiku’s radio station. In March, Viet Cong sappers attacked the 50,000-watt transmitter. They were successful but not for long. “The Voice of the Army and People of Vietnam” was back on the air almost immediately. Battalion Field Teams were active during the Viet Cong Tet Offensive. In April, at the request of the I Field Force, the product development center developed a kit for the highlands. In May, two battalion members working with the 101st Airborne Division talked 195 members of the enemy to surrender. In July, a Tri-nation PSYOP Coordination Center was opened in Nha Trang. It was designed media production and delivery to six coastal provinces in II Corps. When two Montagnards surrendered, a tape and leaflet was quickly prepared and because of the quick action 118 more Montagnards who were enslaved by the Viet Cong as laborers rallied to the government.
The Monthly Operations Report
The Magazine Credibilis is usually about 20-pages long, highly illustrated, and mostly light news for the Group members. The Monthly Operations Report is a completely different animal. It has no fancy cover. It would be sent back to Ft. Bragg and perhaps the Pentagon and Joint Chiefs of Staff. Its length was decided by how much the Group and Battalions did in a month, it is single-spaced, usually with no illustrations and it mentions everything that was done in each month. It is highly detailed. If a Battalion had 18 loudspeakers teams, it would mention each one of them. I was going to give an example of some of the comments on several such reports, but because they give so much information’s I will just mention a few comments from the December 1969 report. The reader will understand I am ignoring 98% of the text.
President Nixon’s policy statement was exploited through a special leaflet and handbill. A revised series of B-52 leaflets was produced. The 4th Group sent 76,052,000 leaflets to the battalion for dissemination. The number of ralliers in I Corps increased significantly from 3118 in 1968 to 5993 in 1969. Activity was down in December due to the monsoon season, but there were 1,585 leaflet drops and 552 loudspeaker tape missions. The battalion printed 9,228,636 impressions. The number of 3 x 6-inch leaflets printed was 32,300,226. The battalion prepared materials to support the campaign “For the People,” to improve the image of the Republic of Vietnam Army. The Audio/Visual team took part in several MEDCAPs and movies for the people. In one village the VC called from the woods that they would mortar the village if the people watched the movies, The people ignored them. A Combat loudspeaker team took 5 rounds of 75mm recoilless rifle while playing Chieu Hoi appeals and funeral music the Duc Duc District. Detachment commanders have helped the Marines develop their own PSYOP materials. Loudspeaker teams announce some success, especially in the rice denial to the Viet Cong program. People are starting to give information. 02B drops were scheduled for a week-long series of leaflet and broadcasts of a Chieu Hoi nature. Most of the 8th PSYOP Battalion efforts have been devoted to preparation for Tet 1970. A calendar has been prepared along with a message from the Commander, and a series of Tet and Chieu Hoi leaflets.
Combat Intelligence Lessons
Before I start to depict the leaflets, I thought I would add this comment from the 4th PSYOP Group, found in the classified confidential report Combat Intelligence Lessons, printed from about 1968 to 1971 that talks about the need for better coordination:
PSYOP/Intelligence Staff Coordination in staff operations. Psychological operations (PSYOP) personnel in Vietnam have not been integrated adequately into the normal activities of military staffs. The average staff officer does not appreciate fully the importance of PSYOP and occasionally PSYOP staff members have isolated themselves and have failed to utilize the staff resources which are available to them. This lack of staff integration has been especially critical in coordination with G2 and S2 sections. In Vietnam there has been a tendency to isolate so called PSYOP intelligence from the normal intelligence gathering process. The intelligence required for effective PSYOP is an all-encompassing type of intelligence which requires an integration of all factors bearing on the conduct of the war.
The Operation Report Lessons Learned 4th Psychological Operations Group for Period ending 30 April 1970 states that the 8th PSYOP Battalion had printed 32,115,000 six x three-inch propaganda leaflets up to that time.
General Westmoreland Inspects Leaflets being loaded into an M129E1 Leaflet Bomb
The Same M129E1 Leaflet Bomb loaded and ready to be airdropped
This leaflet was made by the 8th PSYOP Battalion in 1968 and is just about indescribable. I see troops coming down the Ho Chi Minh Trail, a skull, Allied helicopters attacking the same group as they continue down the trail, another skull, and then they are apparently at the end of their march into South Vietnam, and they sit sad and lonely and think about their life. There is no text on the leaflet. When Vietnamese POWs and Hoi Chanhs were asked to judge its effectiveness, they rated it very bad, counter effective, and unintelligible. They hated it. The leaflet is not well drawn, it has no explanation, and the meaning is hard to interpret.
This 5 August 1968, 8th PSYOP Battalion leaflet to the native Montagnard tribes of Vietnam depicts the Viet Cong forcing them to work, then an ARVN helicopter coming to their village and giving them food and medical aid. In the last panel the natives return to friendly territory and a big welcome as shown by the Republic of Vietnam flag and the waving soldiers. There is no text so it was not necessary for the natives to be literate.
The other side of the leaflet depicts a Vietnamese Field Combat Policeman (we identify him by the camouflage pattern of his uniform) giving rice to a native woman while others, including children await their turn.
The Original Photograph
This photograph was sent to me by Richard Levine who was a Specialist 4th Grade (SP4) photographer (MOS 84B20), assigned to Company A, in Nha Trang, from March 1968 to December 1969. He shot the picture in the field by a primary school and later placed it on the leaflet. Curiously, the photograph shows the women fully dressed, but the leaflet cartoon has them bare breasted and the men in loincloths.
Richard Levine, Photographer
Richard Levine has sent me so many pictures over the past few years that I want to give him a little section of his own. In other articles I have done this for the illustrators, artists, and photographers. These will not be ones he selected. I am sure that there are many much better than those I have chosen. But each one I picked was for a personal reason.
This picture depicts a C-47 Gunship spraying the Viet Cong below. I selected this one simply because I thought the color was amazing. There have been many different gunships over the years. There have been C-47s, C-119s, and currently C-130s. They have been called Puff the Magic Dragon, Spooky, Shadow, Spectre, and Stinger. The weaponry is always changing but the latest is three side-firing weapons—a 25mm gatling gun, a 40mm Bofors cannon, and a 105mm howitzer.
Photographer in a Mobile Darkroom
This room is inside a truck that can be driven anywhere and produce leaflets while on the move. Looking at the leaflet in the center I believe I see the Chieu Hoi insignia.
The Photographers of the 8th PSYOP Battalion Horsing Around
Boys will be boys. In this photograph the photographers crowd together and have a little fun with an artistic image. That is Richard at the far right. The article is about PSYOP so we must add this one.
An Illustrator at Work
In this photo we see one of the illustrators. He has been given a product to design and perhaps they told them what they want or perhaps they just said show us what you think it should look like. He is hard at work. This keeps us in the theme of PSYOP.
A Loudspeaker Truck
I must admit I did not care for this picture. We expect to see a loudspeaker truck out on the open road surrounded by people listening to the messages. But this one is a little different. It is being prepared for a mission and the Vietnamese workers are hanging posters on the back so that when the people do come to listen to the messages, they can read the Government propaganda. I wonder if they will place posters along the sides too.
We see Nguyen Thieu, president of the Republic of Vietnam attending a ceremony as a U.S. airbase is handed over to the Vietnamese. Vietnamese aircraft overhead use colored smoke to reproduce the flag of Vietnam.
I found this photograph very moving. I assume that perhaps last night there was a firefight and either the local civilians or more likely the Viet Cong were killed and laid out in a row. I see this little girl coming out of her home, perhaps walking a bit, and coming across these bodies. What is she thinking? That is tough stuff for a kid of that age to observe and absorb.
This letter is titled: Spring letter of Colonel Chief of Province Binh Thuan to the population of the province. The Colonel is depicted smiling on the front of the leaflet. The letter is rather long and we shall just translate a few of the nine paragraphs:
The old year has passed and the New Year approaches rapidly. I send to all the provincial people my best wishes of a happy and healthy New Year.
Our country seems to be in thunder and storms as some people cause difficulties for their Fatherland and keep the people from liberty and happiness.
Our plans for next year: Establish democracy, bring peace, and reform our society I bow myself before those who sacrificed themselves for our Vietnamese nation. I have gratitude for those who were wounded for our freedom. I send my best wishes to all military branches and people such as soldiers, local army, police, RD, armed youth, widows and orphans
This leaflet was prepared by the 8th PSYOP Battalion in Nha Trang in 1968. 300,000 leaflets were requested by the PSYOP Adviser in Phu Yen to cause nostalgia, home-sickness and a drop in morale among the NVA and VC. The front of the leaflet looks like a standard Tet greeting card and depicts a young woman near a flowering tree. The text on the front is:
Best wishes for a Happy New Year
There is a long poem on the back and I will just quote a few lines:
You have followed the Viet Cong since that year
Hamlets and villages were forgotten under evening sunshine
You have been gone about 10 years
Previously, my tears soaked through a dream pillow
I feel I am alone and my soul is cold
Return to enjoy life
Come back for a charming and deep love
As anyone else, we need a son to carry in our hands
In 1969 the Advanced Research Projects Agency of the Department of Defense studied the effectiveness of U.S PSYOP leaflets in Vietnam. A sample of 1,757 Vietnamese was used to represent the target audience. They included the inhabitants of Viet Cong controlled areas, Hoi Chanh who had defected, and prisoners of war. The questions asked of the panels was the effectiveness of symbols, appeals both locally and national, and the vulnerability of certain groups. Leaflets were judged on a scale of very good, good, fair, bad, and very bad. One problem was to reduce the number of leaflets to a workable size. In this test, 798 leaflets were judged and the leaflets were reduced to 77. Unfortunately, the report did not explain why certain leaflets were good or bad. Leaflet 8(2)-51-68 was rated FAIR by the panel.
Who wants C-Rats?
In the American Army troops in the field are given a form of ration that in theory will last damn near forever. In the Korean War I was fed K-Rations from WWII. Then for many years I ate C-Rations. They were not admired much, and the ham and lima beans was called "Ham and mother-fu*kers" by the troops. I did like the spaghetti and meatballs though. When I left the military, we were eating Meals Ready to Eat (MREs). None of those dishes would win a Michelin Star.
The 1968 8th PSYOP Battalion leaflet is rather plain all-text and normally I would not use it in an article but apparently it was dropped with C-Rations to Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army troops in the field to get them to surrender. A note on the official translation says, "Dropped with C-Rations," so the implication is that this was an airdrop operation. The leaflet message is:
Member of K-2 Battalion, Regiment 174
We buried 400 of your comrades who were killed in the battle of Dak To at Hill 875 and again on 2 February 1968 we killed another 100 when you were trapped at Thanh Canh. Only you know how many others you lost.
We know you are hungry so eat the food we are delivering, and then think. There is more food for you if you rally now. There is only death if you continue to fight.
Hide your weapons and approach the nearest GVN or US position with your hands raised. A new life awaits you so do not delay.
This leaflet depicts an Army aid station and invites Vietnamese civilians to visit and have any illness treated. There is a long text on the back that says in part:
There is no need for you to suffer. If you are ill or in need of medical care join with the hundreds of Vietnamese civilians of Phu My district who received expert medical attention from the civilian aid station at Landing Zone Uplift If your illness warrants, you will be sent to Phu My Hospital for further treatment. If you can be treated at the 1st Battalion of the 50th Infantry Regiment aid station, we will provide you with medicines .
Your Brothers of the Ichiban Battalion
Note: The 1st Battalion (Mechanized), 50th Infantry Regiment served in Vietnam from 22 September 1967 to 13 December 1970 in II Corps (Central Highlands).
This 1968 leaflet from the 8th PSYOP Battalion depicts a McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom Jet flying Over Vietnam. The Phantom is a large fighter with a top speed of over Mach 2.2. It can carry more than 18,000 pounds of weapons, including air-to-air missiles, air-to-ground missiles, and various bombs. Later models incorporated a Vulcan rotary cannon. During the Vietnam War, the F-4 was used extensively as the principal air superiority fighter for both the Navy and Air Force, and became important in the ground-attack and aerial reconnaissance roles late in the war. The text on the front is:
Do Not Wait Until This Aircraft Returns
The text on the back is:
We warn you that this aircraft will return sowing death and you wont have enough time to choose a way of life.
80,000 of your friends have used the Governments safe conduct pass to return to live in warmth, peace and security. You can emulate them or remain to die a miserable and horrible death.
Those who remain will never know when bombs will be dropped on them. So, be wise and dont hesitate any longer. The Government and people of South Vietnam will welcome you in a spirit of brotherly love. Rally now! A much better life is awaiting you. Dont hesitate any longer! Rally now!
The 8th PSYOP Battalion printed this reward poster in 1969. I like it a lot because it is very clear and even those that could not read well would certainly see the stacks of banknotes near each image and understand that they could get a lot of cash by turning in their weapons. I usually add a translation but this poster is in a native Montagnard language (most likely Rhade), and my Vietnamese translators cannot read it. We see mortars, rockets, automatic weapons and even a pistol.
The Propaganda Development Center of the 8th PSYOP Battalion had difficulty in developing media directed towards the non-Vietnamese speaking target audiences. Their Tactical Zone had over thirteen major Montagnard tribes each with its own language dialect. In order to effectively target these audiences the PDC required indigenous people, familiar with the language, customs, taboos, vulnerabilities and susceptibilities that could develop appropriate material.
There are a great number of leaflets that try to glorify the image of the government of the Republic of Vietnam or the United States. This 1968 8th PSYOP Battalion leaflet depicts a peaceful scene of a rice paddy on one side and a Vietnamese man looking over the countryside on the other. It is meant to glorify the Vietnamese Government. The text is:
I am a citizen, born and living in Vietnam. I love my country. I love green rice fields, buffaloes grazing in the grass, birds singing beyond bamboo trees, thatched roofs with smoke in the sunset. You and we are brothers, born and living in Vietnam in the same native land. Why should we fight each other? Could we not support the same government? The Government of the Republic of Vietnam is the government of Vietnam and our government.
We mentioned earlier that The Effectiveness of U.S PSYOP leaflets in Vietnam found one of the 8th Battalion leaflets just fair. The same report found Leaflet 8N(2)-25-68 to be VERY GOOD.
On 27 June 1971 with the American participation in the Vietnam War coming to an end the 8th PSYOP Battalion was deactivated at Fort Lewis, Washington. There must have been a real need for PSYOP Battalions because 15 months later on 13 September 1972, the 8th PSYOP Battalion was reactivated at Fort Bragg, North Carolina as part of the 4th PSYOP Group.
Operation New Life
Camp Asan on Guam
In April 1975, as the North Vietnamese Army advanced on Saigon, the United States carried out a massive and chaotic evacuation of Americans, nationals of allied countries, and Vietnamese who had worked for or been closely associated with the U.S. during the Vietnam War. To deal with the refugees, President Gerald Ford on 18 April 1975 created the Interagency Task Force for Indochina, a dozen government agencies with the responsibility to transport, process, receive and resettle Indochinese refugees in the United States.
More than 130,000 Vietnamese were evacuated from Vietnam by air and sea during the last few days of April. Most of these refugees were transported to Guam by U.S. and Vietnamese naval ships, commercial vessels and military and commercial aircraft. A total of 111,919 Vietnamese would be housed temporarily and processed for entry into the United States on Guam.
Refugee tent city on Camp Asan
On 23 April 1975, the Pacific Commander requested that a civil affairs/psychological operations team of some forty personnel be provided to assist the 45th Support Group in the areas of civil affairs, displaced persons, loudspeaker operations, printing, and audio-visual activities. FORSCOM provided a team of 43 personnel from the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Center for Military Assistance, Fort Bragg, N.C. - 26 from the 8th Psychological Operations Battalion, 4th Psychological Operations Group; 14 from the 96th Civil Affairs Battalion; and 3 linguists from the Center, itself. The team arrived on Guam on 3 May, where it was designated as Civil Affairs Task Force 2 (CATF 2).
American camp authorities experienced great difficulty in disseminating timely information to such a large number of constantly changing refugee personnel. For instance, while there were 19,323 refugees in camp on the morning of 5 May, 2,815 had processed out of the camp within 24 hours, while an additional 5,348 refugees had arrived, giving a new total of 21,856. In an attempt to cope with this situation, Civil Affairs Task Force 2 established bulletin boards throughout the camp, a Vietnamese language newspaper, and set up a public address system using volunteer refugees to make announcements. Due to the sheer size of the camp, none of the information systems reached all of the camp refugee population. In fact, the camp population eventually grew beyond the capabilities of the available loudspeaker systems.
The Vietnamese on Guam were flown to one of four military bases: Fort Chaffee in Arkansas, Camp Pendleton in California, Fort Indiantown Gap in Pennsylvania, and Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. There, the U.S. military provided them food and temporary housing while the IATF and charitable organizations gave them language and cultural training and sought sponsors and locations for their resettlement. By 20 December 1975 all the Vietnamese had been resettled in every state and in several foreign countries.
In 1981, Panama's head of state, Omar Torrijos, died in a plane crash. There has been conjecture that Manual Noriega murdered him. In 1983, Noriega took over the Presidency and promoted himself to general in that same year. He led Panama from 1983 to 1989. By the fall of 1989, the Noriega regime was barely clinging to power. Tensions increased when election results were voided and some voters were killed or beaten in the streets.
On 20 December 1989, a memorandum to the Secretary of Defense was prepared on White House stationery and signed by George Bush. The memorandum stated:
In the course of carrying out the military operation in Panama which I have directed, I hereby direct and authorize the units and members of the Armed Forces of the United States to apprehend General Manuel Noriega and any other persons in Panama currently under indictment in the United States for drug related offenses?
Opposition candidate Guillermo Ford is beaten by a
pro government Dignity Battalion member during election violence.
The campaign to free Panama of Noriega and his dignity battalions was named Operation Just Cause. The invasion of Panama would take place on 20 December 1989 at 0100 local time.
The U.S. Armys 1st PSYOP Battalion supports the entire Southern Command with an area of responsibility that 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. So, when General Noriega started harassing the American military and their civilian dependents stationed in Panama, it was the 1st Battalion that took on the major PSYOP responsibility. However, the 8th Battalion did play a small part in the eventual victory and arrest of Noriega.
Major Robert W. Caspers, Executive Officer of the 8th Psychological Operations Battalion was interviewed about his part in the campaign by Major Robert P. Cook of the 326th Military History Detachment on 13 April 1990. I have edited his comments for brevity:
We had been given the mission by 4th Psychological Operations Group to be the tasking contingency planning support for the PSYOP group to XVIII Airborne Corps. We side-saddled with the 1st Battalion representatives, who were, of course, the regional experts in the area to help plan the PSYOP support to the corps operation.
We worked almost at this level or within this unit in preparing for what you could call a generic operation. Very restricted information as to actual contingency provided; focused on our loudspeaker assets as the most likely portion of the unit to be utilized during this operation, which turned out for this unit to be precisely true. What we were very effective in this unit was to have both the people and the equipment required (both the man-packed and the vehicular systems) ready to move on a relatively short notice to anywhere. The loading lists and so forth that were prepared and implemented were, in fact, capable of operating in a wide variety of areas. So when it came down to a specific area, there was very little in the way of last minute changes that had to be made. This battalion, in fact, ended up deploying the three loudspeaker-equipped Humvees [M-998-series High Mobility Multi-Wheeled Vehicles] that were actually dropped on the operation. All of which did, in fact, come up on line once recovered from the heavy drop equipment platforms and operated during Just Cause.
The process gave us seventeen people on the assault wave, actually jumping in with man-packed loudspeakers and ready to accompany the vehicular systems with liaison officers for the battalion and brigade from the 82d Airborne Division that were going in. And they all participate in the drop. Our knowledge was fairly accurate from I would say about October. We were given a set of tasks from group on equipment and number of man-packed loudspeaker teams that we had to have available. And in fact, that is, plus or minus one or two people, exactly what we ended up deploying.
Just to set the stage just a little bit, the commander, Operations and Intelligence were the three people that were most knowledgeable. So they knew precisely where we were going. Personnel and Logistics were pretty much responding as directed with little real knowledge at all of the actual content of the operation. They responded very well. It was more one of individual preparation and then monitoring our people as they moved with their supported units and in other cases, to adjust their loads as they went into detailed planning and come up with additional batteries and so forth. We had to have some additional copies of tapes for the loudspeakers made during that time frame. There were a total of I believe 40 personnel that ended up actually on the assault phase, perhaps a little more than that. Don't quote me on the exact number on that.
We were able to put, either from our own assets or from the assets of the supported units, at least one Spanish speaker with pretty good fluency with each team. Now we had to draw some Spanish speakers from the infantry units that we were supporting. Of course, only the 1st PSYOP Battalion is regionally oriented. Each of our units possesses some native Spanish speakers just by the makeup of the units. Once the loudspeakers were on the ground and had shown themselves to be effective at reducing the level of resistance met, nobody wanted to turn loose of them. An asset in hand is always better than one that somebody promises you will come back later. There are numerous stories of various loudspeaker teams, both those from this battalion and those from other areas that played very significant roles in diminishing casualties on both sides. Like capturing and processing information or helping talk people into surrendering. I think the numbers of Panamanians were very light compared to what could have developed. And we certainly can't take all the credit for that, but I do think the individual efforts of the people there on the ground really did contribute to that.
A bilingual booklet was prepared for the loudspeaker teams along with prerecorded tapes of the same messages in Spanish. Some of the very blunt messages were:
Message 1. Phase 1.
Attention, attention, attention. Everyone clear the building. Lay down your weapons. Come out one at a time with your hands on your head and you won't get hurt. The building is surrounded.
Message 1. Phase 2.
Attention, attention, attention. Everyone in the building. You have 5 minutes to lay down your weapons and come out with your hands on your head. We intend to destroy the entire building and kill all of you in it unless you do as you are told. You can't escape. The building is surrounded. Don't die when you don't have to. Your five minutes has started.
As the members of the PSYOP Task Force returned to Fort Bragg they were replaced by members of the 8th Battalion. Goldstein and Findley mention this in Psychological Operations: Principals and Case Studies, Air University Press, 1996:
By the end of February, the PSYOP soldiers had been redeployed to Fort Bragg. They were replaced by 8th PSYOP Battalion soldiers augmented by linguists and area experts from the 1st PSYOP Battalion and by camera and audiovisual technician teams from the 4th PSYOP Groups Strategic Dissemination Company. This group continued operations, employing the full range of dissemination media, until stood down in May 1991. The final PSYOP objectives envisioned for Panama contingency operations had been accomplished. In June 1991, the last 8th PSYOP Battalion members returned to the United States.
A typical Consolidation Leaflet for Panama
This patriotic consolidation leaflet is in the form of a folded card and depicts the flag of Panama in full color on the front. Text on the back of the folded leaflet is:
Support the Democracy you fought for...Respect the Law! Report Criminal acts to Telephone: 87-6453 or 87-5965.
The inside is all text:
On our knees to thank God, on our feet to serve the nation.
LAW. By the people. Of the people. For the people.
Guaranteed by the Constitution. Taxed equally and humanely.
Operation Desert Storm
At about 0200 on 2 August 1990, seven divisions of Iraqi armor, mechanized infantry, helicopter forces, and the elite Republic Guard invaded Kuwait. The invasion force of 120,000 troops and 2,000 tanks quickly overwhelmed Kuwait. Curiously, the buildup had been noted by U. S. satellites and intelligence forces, but nobody in the Pentagon believed that Hussein would attack and occupy a fellow Arab county. Even other Arab leaders refused to believe it, claiming that no Arab country would attack and occupy a brother-Arab country. The military and intelligence leaders believed that it was just the latest in a series of Iraqi bluffs and posturing near the Kuwait border.
On 3 August Kuwait Radio broadcast slogans, appeals and patriotic songs. The last thing they broadcast was the following appeal:
In the name of God, the compassionate, the merciful. This is Kuwait. O Arabs, O brothers, O beloved brothers, O Muslims, your brothers in Kuwait are appealing to you. Hurry to their aid.
American Secretary of Defense Cheney met with King Fahd of Saudi Arabia on 7 August. As a result of that meeting, the 82nd Airborne Division and several U. S. A. F. fighter squadrons were permitted to deploy to Saudi Arabia for the protection of the Kingdom.
On 20 August 1990, President Bush signed National Security Directive 45, the U.S. Policy in Response to the Iraqi Invasion of Kuwait." The U.S. objectives included the immediate, complete, and unconditional withdrawal of all Iraqi forces from Kuwait, and the restoration of Kuwait's legitimate government to replace the puppet regime installed by Iraq.
Jeffrey B. Jones and Jack N. Summe mention the PSYOP campaign in Psychological Operations in Desert Shield, Desert Storm and Urban Freedom, Landpower Essay Series, August 1997. They say in part:
Long before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, soldiers from the 8th Psychological Operations Battalion were on the ground in the Middle East, responsible for providing psychological operations in support to the Commander in Chief, U.S. Central Command. The battalion had initiated an individual and collective training program to enhance their regional, cultural and linguistic skills.
A PSYOP Loudspeaker Team
Within days of the Iraqi invasion, Arabic-speaking tactical PSYOP loudspeaker teams from the battalion were deployed with the initial elements of the 82d Airborne Division. Initial product development began for both operational and tactical PSYOP as well as preparations for the deployment of the regionally-oriented 8th PSYOP Battalion, the purely tactical 9th PSYOP Battalion Supplementing the XVIII Airborne Corps, and all the print, radio, television and communications capabilities of the 4th PSYOP Group.
Upon deployment and establishment of the 8th Psychological Operations Task Force (POTF) in late August, and the arrival of the U.S. Air Force's 193d Special Operations Group's VOLANT SOLO aircraft for aerial dissemination of radio broadcasts, a number of steps were taken to ensure effective PSYOP suppot1 to theater-wide operations. An overall PSYOP campaign plan called "Burning Hawk" was developed by a composite 4th PSYOP Group staff, 8th PSYOP Task Force team, and its initial products were deployed. Tactical, logistical and personnel support relationships were established between the task force and the multiple higher and supported component headquarters.
Initially, product themes were peace not war and Arab brotherhood, then time is running out, the world is allied against aggression, and Saddam has betrayed you. As the United Nations deadline approached, the primary theme became coalition technological superiority and the initiation of hostilities leaflet drops from MC-130 aircraft, the fax, maritime leaflet insertion into Kuwait, and the use of ground conduits into Iraq. In addition, the maritime effort contributed significantly to the Iraqi belief that the U.S. attack on Kuwait would come primarily from the sea.
Martin J. Cervantez
When possible I like to depict the artists that actually produce the leaflets and posters. Retired Master Sergeant Martin J. Cervantez enlisted in the Army Signal Corps in July 1986 as an 81E, Illustrator. During his first enlistment he was assigned to A Company, 6th PSYOP Battalion. He was later detailed to the 9th PSYOP Battalion, which deployed in support of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm while attached to the 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces Regiment. Martin Then found himself attached to the 8th PSYOP Battalion. Martin told me:
Task Force Freedom
The ID Card/bumper sticker is my layout and design. Specialist Hans helped out when I used Corel Draw to do the print ready layout. The ID Card/bumper sticker is post Desert Storm, and was developed in our bombed out warehouse where we setup shop with the Operational Detachment from 8th PSYOP Battalion for a month and a half in Kuwait City. We were strengthening rapport with the Resistance - pretty much all Kuwaitis at that point.
How did I end up in the 8th? When the main ground assault and push to Kuwait City was about to kick off, I was told there was no room for me in any of the vehicles, and since I was voluntarily working with 8th PSYOP Battalion so I at least had a job, I was left with them to continue making PSYOP products for dissemination.It all worked out.
The cardboard ID/paper bumper sticker for an automobile dashboard or bumper was printed in full color, 3.5 x 11.9-inches in size, and featured seven Coalition flags. The back was blank. The text was:
Task Force Freedom
During Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Task Force Freedom was designed to work with representatives of the Kuwaiti government-in-exile to formulate a plan for the restoration and reconstruction of Kuwait. Two hours after the official end of offensive operations, the advanced party was on the ground at the Kuwait International Airport. That same day the forward command post was activated in the Kuwaiti Ministry of Education Supply Compound in Subhan, east of the airport. That became Camp Freedom. At its peak, Task Force Freedom reached strength of over 3,650 personnel and worked closely with the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait. 10,000 of these were printed on 7 March 1991. I also have a paper version of this item which has been identified as a non-stick bumper sticker, which implies it was held on the bumper by tape or string.
EPW Compound Rules
The 8th POTF also provided extensive PSYOP support to the overall theater EPW program. Specific PSYOP elements were deployed in theater to set up and provide EPW pacification and exploitation at both the ARCENT EPW camps. The exploitation program identified and interviewed Iraqi prisoners on a voluntary basis to produce loudspeaker and broadcast appeals to fellow Iraqi soldiers. These appeals contributed significantly to the large number of EPWs taken with little or no hostile fire.
Captain Scott Meehan was assigned to the 8th POB during Operation Desert Storm. He published a book about his experiences titled All I Could Be. He mentions his surprise when he sees how many EPWs are being brought in to the prisoner-of-war camps.
One afternoon the Iraqi prisoners came in a caravan of flatbed cattle trucks with attached flatbed trailers. They were packed together like sheep going to slaughter. The fourth largest army in the world, prior to Desert Storm, looked shattered. I was leaving the EPW camp for the night and heading back to the Marine base camp.
Stop here a minute I instructed my driver, I want to count them. Staff Sergeant Schmidt pulled up to the first truck in line trying to get into Kibrit. Both of us started to count the bewildered, demoralized men. I count sixty I said. Yes sir that is about right. Drive down the road, lets see how many trucks there are. We drove slowly past the trucks leading into the EPW camp and down Tap Line Road leading northwest. I began counting again, this time the number of trucks pulling trailers. My God, there are 60 trucks, all with trailers. That means there are at least thirty-six hundred prisoners.
I have two comments on that observation. Some readers might think it cruel and unusual to pack in troops in such a way. When I was asked to join the American Legion honor Society years ago, the 40&8, they went into great detail to tell all candidates about the American troops sent to the front in WWI French unheated boxcars that were meant to carry ether 40 men or eight mules. Those men were cold and sitting on Mule feces, but they went because they had to get to the front. There are no luxuries in wartime.
As for the numbers of prisoners, in Conduct of the Persian Gulf War Final Report to Congress, April 1992 the Iraqi generals met to discuss the repatriation of prisoners, the Americans were asked how many were currently in confinement. When told over 58,000, the Iraqi vice chief of staff was stunned and asked his own military commanders if that could be true. They said, It is possible. Three days after the war the Iraqi leadership had no idea how many men they had lost or where the front lines were.
General Schwarzkopf mentions the meeting in It Doesnt take a Hero. His comments differ slightly. The Iraqi Lieutenant General brings up the prisoners of war and says that they have 41 Coalition troops. He asks about Iraqi POWs. Schwarzkopf answers:
As of last night, sixty thousand; Or sixty thousand plus, because it is difficult to count them completely. The Iraqis face went completely pale: he had no concept of the magnitude of their defeat.
PSYOP Soldier adjusts loudspeaker
My notes show that the first PSYOP teams deployed to Saudi Arabia on 7 August. On 10 August the PSYOP planning cell was in Central Command Headquarters. On 11 August, CENTCOM set forth the National and PSYOP objectives, themes to be stressed and avoided, military actions, target audiences and PSYOP products. By 17 August a Desert Shield PSYOP Strategic Plan was finalized. The main American proponent of psychological warfare leaflets was the 4th Psychological Operations Group (Airborne). They produced and printed over 29 million leaflets. The Coalition forces packed M129E1 leaflet bombs with up to 54,000 machine-rolled leaflets, which were dropped over Iraqi concentrations by F-16, F/A-18, B-52, and MC-130 aircraft. Other leaflets were delivered by balloons. Before the war started, 12,000 leaflets were floated onto the beaches of Kuwait by bottle. Interrogation of Iraqi prisoners revealed that 98% had seen Coalition leaflets.
General Wayne A. Downing said about the PSYOP campaign:
I especially thank The 4th PSYOP Group and its 6th, 8th, 9th and Dissemination Battalions The cooperative effort by all these people and organizations will be absorbed into military doctrine and strategy for years to come.
This was an all hands on deck operations. The 4th Group brought all available staff. More comments are found in Psychological Operations during Desert Shield / Storm: a Post-operational Analysis, 5 November 1993. Some comments are:
Requirements to augment the Active Armys 8th PSYOP Battalion led to a call up of Army Reserve PSYOP Teams. 110 USAR PSYOP soldiers were deployed with active Army units.
The 8th PSYOP Battalion had been the core of the Psychological Operations task force. With the addition of a second Army Corps and the U.S.M.C., the load became too great and the 4th Group took command of the task force, freeing the 8th Battalion to focus on product development.
A combined Coalition Warfare Cell had been formed in October. The cell was headed by a Saudi Brigadier General, included Colonel Norman and reported to General Schwarzkopf. The cell eventually numbered 100 Americans (from the 8th PSYOP Battalion and Product Development Battalion), British, Egyptian, and Kuwaiti representatives, who were involved in the operation of the Radio Station Voice of the Gulf.
In 2016, on the anniversary of the 1 December 1967 activation of the 8th PSYOP Battalion in Vietnam, a synopsis of their activities in Desert Storm was prepared:
In 1990-1991, the 8th PSYOP Battalion supported U.S. and coalition efforts in Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM to protect Saudi Arabia and expel Iraqi forces from Kuwait. The 8th Battalion earned Campaign Participation Credit for Defense of Saudi Arabia and Liberation and Defense of Kuwait, as well as the Meritorious Unit Commendation (Army) for SOUTHWEST ASIA 1990-1991.
Colonel Jeffrey B. Jones
Colonel Jeffrey B. Jones discusses the Psychological operations in an article entitled Psychological Operations in Desert Shield, Desert Storm and Urban Freedom, Special Warfare, July 1994:
Before the Gulf War, during combat operations, and in the aftermath, approximately 650 soldiers from the 4th Psychological Operations Group and from reserve-component PSYOP units contributed to the coalition efforts. They provided radio and TV support, broadcast tactical loudspeaker messages and produced 29 million leaflets. The leaflets were delivered by everything from balloons to B-52s; some were even smuggled into Baghdad itself!
PSYOP messages persuaded approximately 44 percent of the Iraqi army to desert, more than 17,000 to defect, and more than 87,000 to surrender. Integrating their efforts with those of the U.S. Central Command, 21 PSYOP soldiers, working with their Turkish counterparts in Joint Task Force Proven Force in southern Turkey and using radio broadcasts and leaflets, helped cause the defection, desertion and surrender of some 40,000 Iraqis all without firing a shot.
The 8th PSYOP Task-force provided support to Urban Freedom, the liberation of Kuwait City, and to Task Force Freedom, the consolidation operation in Kuwait, with the mission of re-establishing radio and print activities to support repatriation and settlement of the capital.
Artist Tim Wallace in Riyadh during Operation Desert Storm
Sergeant Tim Wallace was an artist assigned to the 4th PSYOP Group during Operation Desert Storm. Tim was normally in the 1st PSYOP Battalion but was transferred to the 8th for the duration of the war. He told me:
I had orders cut to send me to 8th just for the war. I was sent back to 1st POB afterwards. As the story goes, Col. Dunbar, (4th group commander), was not very pleased with the art work leading up to Dessert Shield/Storm. He was my Battalion Commander several years earlier at 1st POB, and was aware of my skills and achievements both in and outside the unit. He requested me by name to be on the next bird, and met me at the air strip when I arrived in Saudi Arabia.
Colonel Layton G. Dunbar
Colonel Layton G. Dunbar had this to say this about Tim Wallace in the forward of his upcoming graphic novel entitled Dirtdart 357, a personal narrative of Tims 4.3 year enlistment:
I found myself in Saudi Arabia about to take command of the 4th Psychological Operations Group (Airborne) on the eve of the Gulf War. While headquartered in Riyadh with U.S. Central Command we feverishly prepared products and their delivery means. Printing plants were deployed and local Saudi print plants were commandeered. Radio station studios were transported to Saudi Arabia and antennas erected to cover Kuwait and southern Iraq. Leaflet bombs were located in long-forgotten storage depots and sent to Saudi Arabia. Networks were established to transmit radio broadcasts from US Air Force Special Operations aircraft. PSYOP teams and the soldiers on them were attached to Army and Marine infantry units.
The message themes werent all that hard: how to surrender to US forces, abandon your equipment in order to survive, Saddam is leading you to certain death, etc. I remember clearly the first batch of leaflet proposals sent to me. The messages were clear. The execution was second grade. Some reminded me of the stick figures a second-grader would draw. General Schwarzkopf had a reputation that I had observed directly of not suffering fools. I cringed at the thought of presenting these to him for approval. In November and December of 1990 we werent sure if or when the attack to liberate Kuwait would begin but there wasnt much time left to prepare. And we were heading to war with second grade art. I called 4th Group headquarters at Ft. Bragg to ask if that kid Wallace was still in the Group. Yes, they said, but hes about to be discharged. Well, send him now and take care of the paperwork later. Tim Wallace was on his way to the Gulf War.
We estimated that at least five million leaflets were produced; most of them delivered by C-130 Hercules high performance aircraft dropping leaflet bombs. Tim Wallace is probably the most widely published author in Iraqi history. When the Gulf War ended we had millions of prepared, printed, and approved leaflets on hand. A back hoe and fork lift solved that. Millions of unused leaflets were buried in the desert. Tim Wallace is probably the most widely rejected author in Iraqi history.
Something similar happened during the Vietnam War as the Americans pulled out. They were ordered to burn all of the millions of old propaganda leaflets that were in the form of banknotes. They started to do so but it was a slow and tedious process. Eventually, they just used heavy machinery to bury them. Years later there were hundreds or thousands of Vietnam banknote leaflets on the market. Enterprising Vietnamese found the leaflets and dug them up to sell to souvenir seekers.
Tim designed a great many of the leaflets that we show in this article. There were a number of leaflets that either were not disseminated or were changed so as to make a different image. We show some of Tims developmental artwork here:
I love this leaflet. It clearly shows the Iraqi soldier what he is up against. The Iraqi prepares to shoot a small mortar against the enemy, while miles away a U.S. Battleship has sent a gigantic shell directly at him. Tim said in regard to this leaflet:
From what I understood at the time, the Iraqis were defending the coast with mortars. So I went with a simple idea based on a strong design that spelled it all out. I just wanted to show them that the shells we fire from our battleships are about the size of a minivan, and the map makers have to redraw the coastline once the Navy gets done.
Tim was disappointed that often the drawings would be changed or other artists would make revisions which he though weakened the image. He told me:
There was a common practice with many of the leaflets during Desert Storm where someone would take a visually successful leaflet, and they would then rework and add and cut and paste elements with their ideas or another illustrators work.
The Foundations of Saddams Power is crumbling
Tim says below that some pictures of Saddam were hard for his own troops to identify. Here is a developmental leaflet that they found hard to understand. Tim said:
I explained to the individuals in 8th Battalion that this was not a good practice if you want to produce strong visual effects with leaflets. There was an assumption that all illustrators had the same skill levels and therefore this was an acceptable practice in development of any print product. They were operating off the assumption that all artists were interchangeable and so was their work. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Main Supply Route Warning
This leaflet depicts a B-52 dropping bombs on Iraqi troops. Curiously, the image was of a B-52 raid during the Vietnam War. The text on the front is:
Desert Storm is coming to your area...flee immediately!
The text on the back is:
Saddam's army intends using your city as a protective barrier to hide behind. Saddam doesn't care about you or your family. The joint forces do not wish to hurt innocent civilians, so take your belongings and head north to a safe place.
This is the only bomb warning leaflet not addressed to a specific military unit. It was coded "MSR" which implies it was meant to flood Iraqi main supply routes with refugees. 180,000 of the leaflets were disseminated during four missions, on three consecutive days, from 16 to 18 February.
PSYOP leaflets proved to be very persuasive
General Schwarzkopf had served in Vietnam and remembered the effect of the Rolling Thunder" B-52 raids on the enemy. He wanted those B-52s over the Iraqis, and he wanted to use PSYOP to frighten them and cause them to abandon their posts. Schwarzkopf came up with the idea of announcing to a designated Iraqi that they would be bombed on the following day. At first the Air Force was hesitant, but daily attacks on Iraqi radar and anti-aircraft sites and American electronic jamming aircraft had made the high-flying bombers reasonably safe from attack. Schwarzkopf wanted to announce a bombing attack on one day and hit the Iraqis the next. He figured they would have 24 hours of anticipation and worry. He would then drop a second leaflet that said something like "We told you we would bomb you and we did. We are going to bomb you again" As the leaflets were dropped, the Coalition's Voice of the Gulf radio station broadcast the same message. The Iraqi front-line divisions stayed glued to their radio hoping that their unit would not be designated as the next target.
Blu-82 Daisy Cutter leaflet
Colonel Jeff Jones, commanding officer of the Army's 8th Psychological Task Force at Fort Bragg, N.C., who directed U.S. PSYOP in the Gulf, says about the bomb-warning broadcasts:
We would tell them that tomorrow morning we were going to drop on them the biggest bomb we had. Then, exactly as promised we dropped a Daisy Cutter (BLU-82) that looks like a small atom bomb detonating. The next time we said we were going to drop another big one like that, the defections increased dramatically.
An article by Major Robert B. Adolph Jr. entitled PSYOP: Gulf War Force Multiplier in the December 1992 issue of Army says about the campaign:
According to Major Jack Summe, executive officer of the 8th PSYOP Battalion during Operation Desert Storm, the campaign themes concentrated on: the futility of resistance; inevitability of defeat; surrender; desertion and defection; abandonment of equipment; and blaming the war on Saddam Hussein.
I will end this section with three leaflets that I am going to arbitrarily call: the most important; the most effective; and the silliest. There were 29 million leaflets dropped but these three seemed to have brought the most publicity to the PSYOP campaign.
The Most Important Leaflet
This leaflet depicts the face on an angry Marine holding his bloody Kabar knife inside a wave headed for the Kuwaiti beach as Iraqi soldiers run away. In the background are aircraft, helicopters, aircraft carriers and other Navy ships.
This leaflet was part of a deception plan to make the Iraqis believe that the U. S. Marines would invade from the sea. 12,000 of the leaflets were placed in empty plastic water bottles and floated up on the beaches of occupied Kuwait. Allegedly, another 90,000 were dropped by aircraft. This leaflet held the Iraqi Army in place looking toward the sea as General Normal Schwarzkopf performed his notorious left hook, bringing his massive armor forces against the unsuspecting Iraqis from the west. This leaflet was drawn by Tim Wallace. The product name of this leaflet is Tidal Wave, the product number is 2-U, and the Central Command mission number was 60-01-1.
Major Robert B. Adolph adds:
The idea of using bottles was the brainchild of Sergeant First Class Ronald Welch of the 8th PSYOP Battalion. We wanted to get leaflets into Kuwait, but we had to do it in a non-offensive way because of the deadline. At that point they were still using diplomatic channels to prevent war Anything that crossed the border would have been seen as aggressive. But I thought a bottle washing up on the shore would not seem aggressive.
The Shield and the Storm, Jostens Inc., 1991, says:
Twenty U. S. amphibious warships with nearly 8000 Marines and 10,000 sailors were on-station in the Gulf of Oman. Before Desert Storm began, the task force enacted elaborate practice landings on Coalition beaches in the Persian Gulf. Five divisions of Iraqi infantry entrenched in Kuwait, some 80,000 men in all, watched and listened with keen interest as U. S. amphibious forces conducted these highly visible exercises, often accompanied by members of the international press corps. By November 1990, the thirteen ships of Amphibious Group Three arrived from the U.S. west coast ports with the 15,000 Marines of the 5th Marine Expeditionary Force on board.
The back of the leaflet contained a standard surrender message:
Cease resistance - Be safe
To seek refuge safely, the bearer must strictly adhere to the following procedures:
1. Remove the magazine from your weapon.
2. Sling your weapon over your left shoulder, muzzle down.
3. Have both arms raised above your head.
4. Approach the Multi-national forces slowly, with the soldier holding this document above his head.
5. If you do this, you will not die.
The leaflet was so powerful and so well known that it was on the cover of the magazine ARMY, December 1992.
The Most Effective Leaflet
This leaflet shows two enemy soldiers holding hand with the Iraqi and Saudi flags overhead. The text on the back is:
In peace we will always remain united
About 18,000 of these leaflets were printed. It is rumored that many were disseminated by balloon. The Arabs loved them as they showed the solidarity of the soldiers, hand in hand. Most Americans hated them and the concept of two men walking off into the desert together. The code-name for this leaflet was Sunset. The image was very powerful and seemed to work well on the Muslim mentality. There is a rumor that some of these leaflets were ballooned by German PSYOP troops from Al Quysumah Airfield to Southern Kuwait. Colonel Borchini of the 4th Group said:
This leaflet was probably the most effective of the war. It stressed brotherhood among the countries in the region. After the Iraqis surrendered, the captured soldiers were interviewed. We found that this leaflet had a tremendous impact upon the Iraqi soldiers. It had a nice message. There was nothing devious. We all want peace!
The Silliest Leaflet
This leaflet should have never been disseminated. It depicts Saddam Hussein cutting off his own head and the English-language words OOPS and THUD. The text on the back is:
30 February 1991. Saddam's prediction: Be assured that I will solve the problem of Kuwait by the 30th of February...
This leaflet was prepared by Tim Wallace as a cartoon to be sent to the Ft. Bragg newspaper Paraglide. It was never meant to be disseminated in Iraq, but was apparently dropped by accident. There is no 30 February.
Tim Wallace said:
I came up with an image that best represented Saddams sword-rattling and a self-inflicted wound. It was done for a newspaper back in the states, but when I took a break from my desk and returned It was gone. Someone thought that this cartoon would make a good leaflet without talking to me about it first, and it was later disseminated in northern Iraq along the border with Turkey.
Lieutenant Colonel Randal R. Jones of the 4th PSYOP Group said in 1991 in regard to this "error" distribution:
The leaflet was drawn by an artist in the 4th PSYOP Group. It was not distributed to opposing forces but was done as a cartoon within the command. The point of the cartoon is that nothing will occur on 30 February since 30 February doesn't exist. This point would certainly be lost on a Southwest Asian audience given their use of the Arabic calendar.
He is correct that the 4th did not distribute the leaflets from Saudi Arabia. He was surely unaware that the European Command in Turkey did distribute them.
Post Desert Storm Operations in Iraq
With the successful end of Operation Desert Storm, the 8th PSYOP Battalion supported operations Southern Watch, Vigilant Warrior, Desert Thunder and Desert Fox, all of which aimed to monitor and control Iraqi airspace and deter further Iraqi aggression against Kuwait. Chronologically these are out of order with other operations, but I thought it was efficient to place all of the post-Desert Storm operations in one place.
This is an early Southern Watch leaflet dropped in 1992. This leaflet depicts various American and Allied fighters attacking Iraqi fighters and helicopters below the 32nd Parallel. Text on the front is:
To fly past this boundary line will result in death.
The back is all text and says:
An announcement to all Iraqi aircraft. Saddams continual persecution of the Iraqi citizens that live in the South of Iraq is violating the United Nations Resolution 688 and has caused that area south of the 32nd parallel to be protected. Any Iraqi pilots flying in the air over that protected area will be shot down.
One of the later Southern Watch leaflets, dropped on 28 November 2002. Coalition aircraft dropped 360,000 leaflets on a communications site between Al Kut and Al Basrah in southern Iraq. The front depicts three F16s dropping bombs on fiber optic cables. A truck bearing an Iraqi eagle symbol nears the crater to repair the fiber optic cables and is about to be bombed. The text is:
Military fiber optic cables have been targeted for destruction. Repairing them places your life at risk.
The back of the leaflet shows a caricature of Saddam Hussein holding a map of Iraq and the text:
Military fiber optic cables are tools used by Saddam and his regime to suppress the Iraqi people.
Operation Southern Watch began on 27 August 1992 with the stated purpose of ensuring Iraqi compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 688 which demanded that Iraq:
...immediately end this repression and express the hope in the same context that an open dialogue will take place to ensure that the human and political rights of all Iraqi citizens are respected.
Operation Pacific Haven
In August 1996, serious fighting broke out in northern Iraq between the two Kurdish political movements that were backed by the U.S. in northern Iraq. On 31 August the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) leadership invited the Iraqi army to attack the city of Irbil, under control of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). Saddam Hussein was more than happy to punish the Kurds and moved his forces into the "Provide Comfort" zone.
On 2 September, the Combined Task Force (CTF) left northern Iraq and launched Operation DESERT STRIKE against Iraqi military targets in retaliation to the attack on Irbil. Operations QUICK TRANSITS I to III, between September 1996 and December 1996 evacuated 6,493 Kurds.
Kurdish Family fleeing Iraqi Forces rests on Road
Robert W. Jones Jr., mentions this in Veritas, volume 4, number 3, 2008. Jones says in part:
The 8th PSYOP Battalion commander Lieutenant Colonel Michael Matthews ordered Major Henry J. Henry to take a small team of specialists including Henrys detachment, two civilian analysts, two PSYOP soldiers and two soldiers from the PSYOP Dissemination Battalion and deploy to Guam for Operation Pacific Haven. The task-organized unit called a Military Information Support Team (MIST) would support Kurdish refugees fleeing from northern Iraq. The MIST brought computers, two risographs (high speed presses), two loudspeakers, and a 12-foot video screen and projector.
The United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 688, asking member states to provide humanitarian aid and support to the Kurds. The United States was the first to respond, later the British and French joined making it a combined task force.
Garbage Disposal Handbill
The MIST produced information products as fast as they could to reduce culture shock. One page handbills were used to rapidly pass information to the refugees. We are not conducting PSYOP on the Kurds. They are guests and we are simply providing information to make their relocation less stressful. We developed products to help them; things like camp rules, safety issues, how to operate household equipment, etc. A handbill on how to operate an electric stove reduced the number of fire department responses to kitchen fires. The MIST recommended an English as a Second Language class. All the information products were produced using off the shelf computer graphics. We put out a weekly newspaper, household information leaflets, and bulletin board notices.
In fall 2002, the United States of America began preparations for a second war against Iraq with Operation Southern Watch. Part of the strategy was to increase the number of flights over the so-called "no-fly" zones. These zones exist to protect the minority Kurds of the north and the Shiites of the south. The Iraqis were aware of the increased surveillance and met it by targeting Coalition aircraft with radar and occasionally firing anti-aircraft artillery or missiles toward the aircraft. This caused an interesting and escalating chain reaction. As the Iraqis fired on the aircraft, more aircraft dropped warning leaflets against such actions, which led to increased anti-aircraft fire. This led to the bombing of such sites and continued escalation.
Cambodian Mine Awareness and De-mining Operations
A Gummed Label for the 1994 Mine Awareness De-mining Operations
Although there was other activity going on at the same time, in 1994 the 8th PSYOP Battalion was ordered to take part in a humanitarian de-mining campaign in Cambodia. The lead PSYOP team was from B Company of the 8th PSYOP Battalion led by Major Wayne Deneff. The lead Non-commissioned officer was Sergeant Lem Gray with Specialist Jeff Hood and Sergeant Snowden. Bravo Company would send several more members on three-month rotations into the country through Thailand. The gummed label above was drawn by Specialist Jeff Hood who was a Chinese linguist/interrogator and a fine illustrator. Specialist Matthey Reilly was video/photo and trainer on that team and taught graphic design to the Cambodians using the Thai language. Alpha Company of the 8th PSYOP Battalion sent Captain Scott Main, Sergeant Sullivan, and Specialist Elliot to observe for 45 days and report as part of a team that would go to Ethiopia and Eretria in several months to execute a similar mission. The Special Forces Mission lead was 1/1 Operation Detachment Alpha 116 out of Okinawa. Lead for the theater was Special Operations Command Pacific.
A Cloth Bag Prepared to Warn the People of the Danger of Explosives
Supporting the United Nations troops on the ground were Canadian Army engineering officers teaching and designing programs. Information and products were cross referenced from variety of Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) that performed Humanitarian De-mining around the world. This was a United Nations initiative to help restore land for safe use. This was one of the few places were the NGOs worked without reservation with the U.S. Army and regularly shared information. The former dictator Pol Pot who ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979 was attempting to stage a comeback and become a major player in Cambodian politics and was targeting westerners and especially U.S. Soldiers. The Australian Special Air Service would later capture him several months after our departure and turn him over very quietly to the Khmer Government for trial.
President Clinton had decreed that all US service members would go into country unarmed. Because of the unrest, this was a problem. Weapons were a delicate subject. There was a rumor that some friendly Hmong might have offered to help and offered intelligence if needed. They were extremely helpful. The Bulgarians were not so helpful. One person from their Embassy made a concerted effort to contact U.S. Soldiers. He kept inviting them to their Embassy for cocktail parties and to meet young women. Some of the soldiers, although recognizing the threat, still wanted to attend. They were told “no,” and reminded about the Eastern Bloc countries and Soviet Surrogates. The women especially were a dangerous trap. The troops were told to stay with the Canadians and Australians they saw regularly or go to the approved Bar.
Digital maps and seasonal water levels and satellite imagery were all included as part of the workup for a national mine-awareness and removal program. The Forerunner to Grave digger, a satellite imagery program, was used here. Grave digger was a satellite imagery program that portrayed what was on the ground. U.S. national agencies would translate and dumb down to pictures and 10-digit grids (Several ex-members of the battalion wrote this narration and there was some question about the maps). The maps would show objects on the ground as water receded. For Cambodia it was a seasonal tool best used in the dry season. It was quite helpful in locating minefields and UXOs on the ground and then the Cambodian Deminers trained by the Operational Detachments would mark the areas and then, meter by meter clear it of mines. During the several years that followed they had one causality. He lost a foot but was back to work in a week.
Mined sections of land were reported by locals to the government and then annotated and marked on a computer tabletop and prioritized for landmine removal. B Company of the 8th PSYOP Battalion, 4th PSYOP Group, developed a series of Training aids, incorporating existing mine models, marking kits, and information programs for reporting and marking mine positions to the appropriate authorities. They assisted Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha 116 to teach the actual classes and the teaching of local NGOs on how to report, mark and request aid to remove mines. Children’s educational programs were put in place. We observed the kids walking in front of the oxen tilling a field looking for mines. One child was killed by a mine and this was observed by Specialist Elliot.
Operation Vigilant Warrior was a military operation from October 1994 to December 1994 by the United States in response to two divisions of Iraqi Republican Guard troops moving toward the Kuwaiti border. Central Command and staff deployed to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, within days and the Iraqis pulled back their forces.
In the Fall of 1997, Saddam Hussein blocked United Nations weapons inspections, violated the no-fly zone, and threatened to shoot down U-2 reconnaissance aircraft. Central Command responded with a land, sea, and air strike force of more than 35,000 U.S. and coalition forces code-named Operation Desert Thunder I.
In November 1998, Saddam once again interfered with the UN inspectors. The U.S. deployed additional troops to Kuwait, including advance parties from the 3rd Infantry Division, and two Marine Expeditionary Units. Following negotiations, Saddam Hussein agreed to allow resumption of the U.N. weapons inspections. In mid-November 1998, an additional 2,300 personnel deployed to Kuwait in support of the Central Command Joint Task Force Kuwait code-named Operation Desert Thunder II.
Operation Desert Fox
During Operation Desert Fox the American Air Force, Naval, and Marine aircraft, the British RAF, and Tomahawk cruise missiles were launched against military targets in Iraq from 16 to 19 December 1998. The official explanation for this four-day attack was that it was retaliation for Iraq's refusal to allow the inspection of sites as stated in the United Nations Security Council Resolution 687, agreed upon at the end of the Persian Gulf War.
General Tony Zinni
Some background on Operation Desert Fox is mentioned by Tom Clancy in the book Battle Ready, G. P. Putnam's Sons, NY, 2004.
General Zinni, Commander in Chief of the U. S. Army's Central Command says that because of Saddam's constant harassment of the U.N. inspectors, the United States planned to bomb his Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) facilities shortly after the inspectors left Iraq. Saddam would regularly escalate the harassment and as soon as it was clear that the United States was about to act, he would back down. On 11 November 1998 the U.N. inspectors were forced out of Iraq and the U.S. Tomahawks were in the tubes ready to fire 24 hours later as part of Operation Desert Viper. Within 15 minutes of the planned attack Saddam agreed to terms and the missiles were shut down and the fighter-bombers were turned around. The Iraqis would watch for the American build-up of forces and when it was obvious that an attack was near, they would move their WMDs and capitulate to the U.N. demands.
The Coalition attacked in force for three days. They bombed command and control, communications and Republican Guard targets. The U.S. Third Army again deployed forces to defend Kuwait. By late December, the Joint Task Force in Kuwait consisted of approximately 6,000 personnel.
The Coalition dropped five different leaflets during the campaign. When the United States threatened to bomb Iraq earlier, four aerial leaflets were prepared. On 14 November 1998, an attack was just twenty minutes from occurring when a suddenly conciliatory Saddam Hussein promised a "full and unconditional unrestricted cooperation." The bombers returned to base. The leaflets that had been prepared were stored away for future use. The leaflets are identified by their back, which has black Arabic text on a plain white background. When Saddam refused entry to the United Nations arms inspection teams in December 1998, the coalition decided that it was time to take action. Once again, four leaflets were prepared. A faint Iraqi Eagle on the back overprinted with propaganda text identifies these leaflets. When the campaign began, two leaflets were selected from the first printing, and three leaflets from the second.
You are not our target
This leaflet depicted the Iraqi eagle symbol at the left. A red triangle is at the right. The triangle is the symbol of the elite Republican Guard. The Iraqi Army at its peak was at about 1.7 million troops, including reserves and paramilitary. Separate from the regulars was the corps size Republican Guard Forces Command, which constitutes the shock troops of Iraq's military. By 1987, this Force had grown to three armored divisions, one infantry division, and one commando division. The Iraqi Republican Guard (RG) was the core of the Iraqi military. There were between 50,000 and 80.000 troops in the Republican Guard itself, and an additional 15,000 troops in the Special Republican Guard (SRG).
Over the triangle, the propagandists have printed Cross Hairs. The symbolism is clear. The coalition was taking aim at the Republican Guard. The back of the leaflet shows a fainter image of the Iraqi eagle, and the Arabic text:
Our targets are only the forces that back the government in Baghdad. You are not our target, but you are under observation. Do not leave your positions. Do not head south.
This is just the opposite of what the coalition leaflets said during Desert Storm. At the time, the Iraqis were told to leave their positions and walk towards Saudi Arabia to be taken prisoner. This time, the Coalition clearly wanted the regular troops out of harm's way while they pounded Republican Guard positions.
If you try to expand Kuwait again...
Another leaflet shows a number of Iraqi armored vehicles wrecked in the desert. The back does not have the Iraqi eagle. The text is shorter and was meant to read in Arabic:
This battle was the mother of all battles Saddam. If you try to threaten Kuwait again, the coalition forces will destroy you a second time.
The mother of all battles alludes to Saddam's use of that description during Desert Storm, where he promised the American military "another Vietnam." The Arabic is incorrect on this leaflet and actually says something like: If you try to expand Kuwait again...
A PSYOP soldier told me:
I am currently stationed at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, and am in the 8th PSYOP Battalion. I was involved in the PSYOP planning during Desert Fox. You are correct about the error in text. The error was noted by myself and another NCO who was in Saudi Arabia at the time the leaflets arrived. However, the commander in the rear was not convinced that this would be a problem. He seemed to believe the text was correct. The word was supposed to be "threaten" (ThDD), not "expand" (TmDD). A previous version of the leaflet had the correct text, but during a retranslation, they typed it incorrectly in wrong (yes, it was merely a typo that got missed). There was another version of this same leaflet with the correct translation dropped, but we had insufficient quantities for the mission. This required them to print more.
Five American Desert Fox leaflets are on display at Ft. Bragg, NC, in matted frames. The frames have a small brass plaque which reads:
Desert Fox 14-20 DEC 98 - 2.4 million leaflets dropped.
In early spring of 1999, four Soldiers from A Company, 8th PSYOP Battalion, deployed to the Republic of Yemen in support of humanitarian demining operations. Tasked with training a team of Yemeni military officers in developing and conducting mine awareness campaigns and leading the setup of a Yemeni product development center, the PSYOP team relied heavily on their interpreter/translator, Yassin. Highly educated and demonstrating superb fluency in English and Arabic, Yassin worked tirelessly, translating over 80 hours of classes and interpreting day in and day out for the entire PSYOP team inside and outside the classroom. The PSYOP team was able to establish good rapport with the Yemeni officers and conduct effective training. By the end of the deployment, the joint efforts of the PSYOP team and their Yemeni counterparts had produced a national mine awareness campaign and had begun direct support of the regional demining units, traveling to area villages prior to demining operations to educate and inform the local populace. The PSYOP mission was judged to be a military and diplomatic success.
Training and War Games
The 8th PSYOP Battalion at CAPEX Spring 1989
Light print Vehicles in the Background
The Army Special Operations Forces Capability Exercise (Capex) was held 4-9 March 1989. Activities included water infiltration and high altitude low Opening (HALO) displays. Company A of the 8th PSYOP Battalion put on a display of print, audio, and visual graphics and propaganda development capabilities.
Foreign Weapon Training
Sergeant Brian Potts, psychological operations specialist, 8th PSYOP Battalion, fires an AK-47 on 15 January 2015 near Ft. Bragg, N.C. The foreign weapons training is used to familiarize Special Operations Soldiers with weapons they would see and may need to utilize on the battlefield.
(U.S. Army photo by Sergeant Sean Brady)
8th PSYOP Battalion Exercise Robin Sage - Pineland Cartoon
All PSYOP battalions train constantly. One of the best ways to train is to take part in exercises and war games where the unit can actually take part in the real-time production and dissemination of leaflets, loudspeaker and radio operations. One of the exercises the 8th PSYOP Battalion has taken part in is Exercise Robin Sage.
Pineland is a fictitious country located in North Carolina, developed by the United States Army Special Forces Command to train Special Forces, PSYOP and Civil Affairs in unconventional warfare. The basic scenario of Pineland is that the government has been overthrown through a violent coup and US forces are now assisting a guerrilla force that aim to overthrow the de facto government and restore order to the nation. Around eight times a year Special Forces soldier infiltrate into Pineland via parachute, vehicle, helicopter and foot and link up with their guerrilla forces. The guerrilla forces are comprised primarily of Active Duty soldiers and volunteer civilians who participate in the exercise often referred to as Robin Sage.
Above a cartoonist from the 8th PSYOP Battalion has a little fun and draws the battalion in action. Note the jeep and loudspeaker. As a homage to their Vietnam experience, a Viet Cong surrenders holding a Chieu Hoi (Open Arms) safe conduct pass.
A Pineland Banknote
During the exercise leaflets and posters are printed and there are even banknotes in circulation; made to help the Special Forces learn how to pay guerrillas that will try to get paid more than once or even steal money. It is a good practice scenario for everyone involved.
A team of American and Thai PSYOP soldiers uses a portable loudspeaker
to inform a rural village of a medical civic-action program during Cobra Gold 1993
Staff Sergeant SSG Keith Butler mentions the 8th PSYOP Battalion in the Cobra Gold exercise in an article entitled Cobra Gold 1993: Special Operations Force Units Work with Thai Counterparts in Special Warfare, January 1994, Vol 7, No 1:
American soldiers from the 4th PSYOP Group and PSYOP Army Reservists joined their Thai counterparts in spreading the word about medical and engineering civic-action projects being conducted by teams throughout Thailand for Cobra Gold. Two American PSYOP soldiers, Specialists Shawn R. Hugo and David R. Pettijohn, were cast into the spotlight when, teamed with the Royal Thailand Armys PSYOP Battalion, they brought a crowd of more than 500 villagers to their feet with comic skits, singing and dancing routines.
U.S. PSYOP personnel make use of local transport during
Cobra Gold 2003 in Thailand with an elephant mounted loud speaker system
Thai and American PSYOP paratroopers also developed, designed and produced public-service information handouts for distribution to villages throughout the exercise. The PSYOP Task Force created and distributed more than 20,000 copies of a coloring book for children, written in Thai, which reinforced messages about personal hygiene. The PSYOP Task Force also helped inform local populaces of combined-arms, live-fire exercises to help ensure their safety.
In developing an informational product, we first decide the specific message we want to accurately convey to the populace, and then we brainstorm the entire issue, said Specialast Jeffrey A. Hood, a 4th POG illustrator. It starts as a pencil sketch, then its scanned into a computer and later enhanced and colorized. I produce my drafts in standard sketchbook size, then shrink them to the size needed for the specific task assigned. Once approved, sketches are matched with appropriate language and text. This comes easily to members of Company B, 8th Battalion, 4th POG, since about 75 percent of them speak Asian languages. Were another asset in the task forces rucksack, said Maj. Paul J. Mullin, commander of the 8th Battalions 2nd Operational Detachment.
Publicity and Public Relations
Staff Sergeant Tyrone A. Mitchell
Staff Sergeant Tyrone A. Mitchell of the 8th PSYOP Battalion received the Soldiers Medal during a ceremony at the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg, N.C. Lt. Gen. Charles T. Cleveland, the commander of USASOC, presented the award.
Mitchell earned the medal for his actions 20 May 2012, when he saw an overturned vehicle on the side of the road. He pulled off the road and went to assess the situation. He noticed that the driver of the car was unconscious and that there was a haze in the car. He told a passerby to phone in for help and rushed to the car. With no regard for his own life, he broke the rear glass of the car and climbed in and pulled the driver out to safety. By the time he got her out, emergency personal arrived. The driver survived the accident. During the rescue, Mitchell received several lacerations and abrasions.
The Soldiers Medal
The Soldiers Medal was introduced in 1926. The medal is awarded to any person of the armed forces of the United States or of a friendly foreign nation who, while serving in any capacity with the U.S. Army, distinguished himself or herself by heroism not involving actual conflict with an enemy. It is the highest honor a Soldier can receive for an act of valor in a non-combat situation.
A mixed Group of Allied Leaflets to Somalia
A host of local petty warlords and clans ruled Somalia. They fought bitterly to control their small parcels of barren land and starving citizens. This was especially true in the capitol city of Mogadishu. The situation was so bad in that city that it was estimated that 500,000 Somalis would die of starvation in 1992. President Bush found himself under tremendous pressure to send American troops to protect relief workers and the food shipped to the starving nation. He finally authorized the deployment of American troops in an operation called Restore Hope.
PSYOP Loudspeaker teams advised the people not
to block the roads or interfere with the convoys
The first elements of the Unified Task Force (UNITAF) came ashore on the beaches of Mogadishu without opposition on 9 December 1992. The first PSYOP soldiers deployed from Fort Bragg to Mombasa, Kenya, where they joined the U.S. 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit aboard the USS Tripoli. They accompanied the initial Marine landing at Mogadishu. 1,300 marines flew by helicopter directly to Mogadishu airport. Navy Seals landed quietly and stealthily in the dark before dawn and were immediately blinded by the blazing lights of television crews who had been told of their arrival. While conventional forces concentrated on major cities and regions, U.S. Special Operations Forces moved quickly to establish a presence in the rest of the countryside, place liaison cells with allied forces, and conduct civil affairs and psychological operations.
Over the next several weeks, eight tactical PSYOP teams accompanied UNITAF ground forces as they deployed throughout central and southern Somalia to secure relief convoys and to promote stability. On 13 December, United States forces had secured the airfield at Baledogle, and by 16 December, they had seized Baidoa. The number of United States forces would rise to approximately 28,000 personnel, augmented by some 17,000 UNITAF troops from over 20 countries.
Operation Restore Hope originated 9 December 1992. The United Task Force Somalia (UNITAF) disseminated 37 leaflets between 9 December 1992 and 4 May 1993.
Psychological Operations in Support of Operation Restore Hope
The 4th PSYOP Group published a book entitled Psychological Operations in Support of Operation Restore Hope in late 1993. It gives background on the early aspects of the operations:
PSYOP was a key Battlefield Operating System used extensively to support UNITAF operations. In order to maximize the PSYOP impact, we established a Joint PSYOP Task Force (JPOTF) under the supervision of the director of operations, and limited the PSYOP focus to the operational and tactical levels.
UNITAF newspaper RAJO (Hope)
Tactical PSYOP Team member distributes copies of RAJO newspaper
The Joint Psychological Operations Task Force (JPOTF) was comprised of approximately 125 members of the U.S. Armys 4th PSYOP Group, and several of its subordinate battalions, the 8th (command and control), the 9th, (a tactical loudspeaker battalion) - The 9th PSYOP battalion supplied two brigade support elements and eight tactical loudspeaker teams), the PSYOP Dissemination Battalion and one U.S. Navy sailor and a dozen Somali linguists. The most effective PSYOP mediums quickly became face-to-face interaction with the population, radio and loudspeaker broadcasts, posters, leaflets, handbills, and coloring books.
The JPOTF designed, produced and disseminated thirty-seven different leaflets; large numbers of more than a dozen different handbills and posters; issued 116 editions of a Somali language UNITAF newspaper RAJO (Hope) with as many as 25,000 copies printed (The messages applied pressure on Aideed to reduce violence in Mogadishu and aimed to persuade the Somalis to cooperate with UNITAF and its coalition forces) and distributed daily to every town and village where UNITAF forces were deployed; transmitted radio broadcasts twice daily; produced and disseminated more than seven million leaflets over central and southern Somalia; deployed tactical PSYOP teams with the coalition forces; and provided advice to the U.S. special envoy, Ambassador Robert Oakley and his staff.
PSYOP Tactical Loudspeaker Team accompanies a patrol
The United States Army in Somalia, 19921994 says about UNITAF PSYOP:
They also provided tactical loudspeaker teams to U.S. and international forces. In addition, the task force designed, printed, and distributed more than 7 million copies of 49 different leaflets, posters, and handbills.
The leaflets were initially printed at Fort Bragg, NC, on the 4th PSYOP Groups Heidelberg print presses. The leaflets are discussed in detail by Lieutenant Colonel Charles P. Borchini, former 8th PSYOP Battalion Commander in a Special Warfare article entitled PSYOP in Somalia The Voice of Hope. He says:
The initial landing of U.S. forces in Mogadishu on 9 December was preceded by a drop of approximately 220,000 leaflets from a U.S. Marine CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopter. This operation used two kinds of leaflets to announce the arrival of U.S. forces and to alert inhabitants of the need for convoy-security missions. The handshake leaflet communicated the basic message that the intent of the mission was to assist, not harm Somalis; the convoy security leaflet stressed that coalition troops would use force to protect the relief shipments. These three-by-six-inch leaflets had been printed at Fort Bragg by the 4th PSYOP Group.
The very first leaflet clearly shows the intent of the United Nations resolution. It depicts a military food convoy protected by armed high mobility multipurpose-wheeled vehicles (Humvees) and helicopters. Happy Somalis wave at the convoy. There are numerous ways to interpret and translate the Somali language. I will use that translation that seems to best fit the intent of the leaflet. Text on the front is:
We are here to protect relief convoys! Do not block the roads.
The back depicts a UN symbol, an American flag, and the text:
Our forces are here to defend the people helping you Do not get involved in any manner. Do not block the roads! Force will be used to protect the convoys.
The second dropped leaflet received a lot of print and newspaper coverage when some linguists claimed that the text was an insult to the Somalis. The front has no text and is a handsome full-color depiction of an American soldier and a Somali citizen shaking hands. These leaflets were regularly dropped two to three days before UNITAF forces arrived in a Somali town. Once again, armed Humvees and helicopters are in the background. The back depicts the flag of the United Nations and the United States. The official translation of the text is:
The forces of the world (United Nations) are here to assist in the international relief effort for the Somali people. We are prepared to use force to protect the relief operation and our soldiers. We will not allow interference with food distribution or with our activities. We are here to help you.
The San Francisco Chronicle of 12 December 1992 said about this leaflet:
The Marines are here, and they may need a few good men who can translate. A leaflet the U.S. forces are using to win over the Somali people bears an almost incomprehensible message, muddled by at least three misspelled words, one word that does not exist and poor syntax the first word is the most noticeable error. It was supposed to read aduunka or United in the phrase United Nations. The word appears as adoonka, which means Slave.
Colonel Charles P Borchini (USA Ret.)
Lieutenant Colonel Charles P. Borchini, Commander, 8th PSYOP Battalion, remarked:
This error was a result of poor communications and a failure to double check the final product before we printed it. We sent a facsimile of the English message to Norfolk where the sailor (a native-borne Somali who left home at age of twelve) was based; after he translated it into Somali and sent a facsimile of the translation, we then typed the leaflet into our computer. After the Central Command and the Joint Chiefs of Staff changed some of the words, we passed the changes verbally over the telephone to the sailor, and received the changes to his translation back over the telephone. We then produced the leaflets. We should have sent him a facsimile of the final product before we printed it.
In a 2001 televised interview on C-Span, Colonel Borchini said more about the spelling error:
Somali has only been a written language for fifteen years at the time we were in Somalia. When we tried to translate, no two Somalis could agree to the spelling of any one word. We found a Somali native who was in the U.S. Navy who we brought down to Fort Bragg to help us translate this leaflet. We had another Somali who we hired who worked in Washington D.C. for the Justice Department who also vetted it. Translations are difficult. Sending the messages are difficult. Trying not to offend someone calls for the sentences to be grammatically correct and the spelling must be perfect. We went to the Somali people when we realized we misspelled the word. We wanted to ask the Somalis how they felt. They all knew what it meant. Everyone knew what it meant. Everyone realized it had nothing to do with slavery.
Distributing leaflets in Somalia
On 3 March 1993, the Secretary-General submitted to the Security Council his recommendations for effecting the transition from UNITAF to UNOSOM II. He indicated that since the adoption of Council resolution 794 in December 1992, UNITAF had deployed approximately 37,000 troops in southern and central Somalia, covering approximately 40 per cent of the country's territory. The Security Council established UNOSOM II by resolution 814 on 26 March 1993. UNOSOM II took over from UNITAF in May 1993 and ended March 1995. It consisted of approximately 28,000 military and police personnel; there was also a provision for some 2,800 international and locally recruited staff. When UNOSOM II took over for UNITAF, they produced another entire series of leaflets, even more extensive than the UNITAF series.
A Typical UNOSOM Leaflet - CH12
CH12 depicts General Aideed, the Somali warlord. Text to the left of his sketched portrait is:
To any Somali citizen. UNOSOM is offering a reward to any citizen who provides information leading to the arrest and apprehension of Mr. Aideed, former chairman of the USC/SNA. Information should be provided to UNOSOM force headquarters at gate eight, or Mr. Aideed can be delivered to force headquarters.
The identical message is on the back to the left of a second sketch of Mr. Aideed, this one bareheaded.
The UNOSOM decision to reduce PSYOP manning to a mere five personnel (from a high of almost one hundred during UNITAF) virtually eliminated the Forces primary means of communications and influence. After the problems became evident a new Psychological Operations Task Force was established on 15 October 1993 under the command of Joint Task Force-Somalia. The POTF rapidly expanded to forty eight soldiers
UNOSOM II continued the UNITAF policy and produced the newspaper Manta, (sometimes written as "Maanta"), written by Somalis but edited by the United Nations staff. This paper was distributed in Mogadishu.
I spoke to a member of the 8th and 9th PSYOP Battalions from 1989-1994 who worked on both the UNITAF newspaper RAJO and the UN newspaper Maanta. Both were printed on high speed Risograph machines. He still grieves for five Somali civilians who delivered the newspapers throughout Mogadishu. During one of their delivery runs, they were stopped by a group of gunmen who opposed the UN campaign. The five were executed on the spot. He said:
They may not have been soldiers, but they believed in our cause.
A second member of the 8th PSYOP Battalion who served in Mogadishu from January to October 2003 added:
I have my own memory of these men. Two of them in particular stand out in my mind. The leader of our deliverers was a gentleman we referred to as the Colonel. He was older and always carried a walking stick and claimed to have been trained in the United States when there was a legitimate Somali Army.
The second man is the one that still bothers me to this day. I don't recall his name, but he was a young man about 18 or 19. I dip Skoal (a smokeless tobacco), and agreed to buy Skoal for him if he would stop chewing khat (a mild narcotic). When he came to pick up Maanta for the day he would make sure that he had a great big plug of tobacco in his mouth, and I would make sure that he had been laying off the khat. About two weeks later the slaying occurred. I can still picture his face in my mind.
UNOSOM Leaflet CH34
Leaflet CH34 asks the people of Somalia to come together to oust Aideed. It depicts his thugs about to murder three respected elders. The text is:
Once again the criminal Aideed has demonstrated that he has no concern for anything except power. He has now proven that even elders of the Habar Gidir clan who want peace for their people are not safe from his murderous tendencies. The time has come for the people of Somalia to take action and rid themselves of the scourge Aideed.
Victor K. Bolena was a Sergeant (E-5) assigned to the 8th PSYOP Battalion from 1990 to 1994 as a 97E Interrogator and Korean Linguist. He arrived in Somalia April 1993 and departed October 1993. He remembers:
We had a very tight knit group and we worked practically non-stop to keep up with demands of the United Nations staff and managing the couple dozen Somalis working for us. A few of us were awarded a United Nations commendation medal by Lieutenant General Bir prior to our departure. The day that our delivery crew was executed was an extremely sad day for all of us. I think about those men often.
One of my favorite PSYOP products was the Aideed Wanted poster. We were actually just toying around with the Old-West wanted poster motif when one of our senior Somali translators told us that we should use it since Somalis love American Western movies. It took some convincing but the United Nations staff eventually approved the poster and we ran with it.
The Joint PSYOP Task Force Commander Lieutenant Colonel Christopher St. John
A United Shield Warning Handbill
This handbill featured a skull and crossed bones. The handbill was disseminated in both yellow and red color, It was entitled Warning! The short message was:
You are entering a Coalition area. Turn back now. Coalition forces are authorized to use deadly force.
Once the Americans decided to leave Somalia, Lieutenant Colonel St. John, commander of the 8th Psychological Operations Battalion from 1993 to 1995, formed a PSYOP Task Force for Operation United Shield. His task force provided the support for the safe and peaceful withdrawal of the seven nation United Nations peacekeeping troops from Somalia.
The Somalia operation ended on 28 February 1995. There were then six PSYOP tactical teams, each with a Somali linguist. Six loudspeaker systems were in play and one aerial loudspeaker system was on alert.
Operation Enduring Freedom Afghanistan
World Trade Center Leaflet AFD-189
The text on the front and the back of this leaflet is:
20th September, 1380. World Trade Center
The Coalition Forces came to arrest those responsible for the terrorism against America. They also come to arrest anyone that protects them.
More than 3,000 people in the United States of America were murdered in these attacks.
[Note: the date is obviously using the Persian Calendar].
I have written over 44 thousand words on the PSYOP of Operations Enduring Freedom (OEF). I will just mention this campaign very lightly in this article since it is about the unit and not the war.
On 11 September, 2001, terrorists of al-Qaida (the Base), some trained and financed by Saudi Arabian exile-in-hiding Osama bin Laden, attacked the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington DC. On 12 September, the day following the attack, Tactical PSYOP Detachment 940 began target audience analysis of Afghanistan, including the Afghan populace, the Taliban, and al Qaida. On 4 October 2001 a 95-man Joint Psychological Operations Task Force was activated at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and placed under the operational control of the Central Command. The Dissemination battalion deployed to Kuwait that same month to support Operation Enduring Freedom.
FM 3-05.301, Psychological Operations Process Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures, August 2007 adds:
Shortly after 11 September 2001, a PSYOP support element (PSE) composed of a PSYOP planner, the battalion commander of the 8th PSYOP Battalion, and two civilian strategic studies Detachment (SSD) analysts in direct support of the 8th PSYOP Battalion deployed to Central Command Headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. The PSYOP Battalion commander, his designated planner, and the analysts immediately began to engage in the Central Command staffs military decision making process. This PSE developed potential target audiences in the anticipated area of operation within Afghanistan. Furthermore, the PSE developed proposed themes and messages appropriate for various foreign Target Audiences in Afghanistan. These themes and messages supported the initial entry of U.S. forces into Afghanistan. As the methods for delivering these messages were developed by the PSE, the PSE identified the commanders critical information requirements. The resulting information enabled the PSE to fill in the gaps of its knowledge of the human situation on the ground in Afghanistan and enabled the PSE to recommend PSYOP activities that supported the Central Command commanders operational intent. Once these proposed PSYOP activities were approved by the U.S. Government, the PSE was able to coordinate the production of leaflets and radio messages to specific Target Audiences on the ground in Afghanistan in support of the introduction of U.S. forces there.
Weapon of Choice, Combat Studies Institute Press, Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas adds:
The 8th PSYOP Battalion had already had already established a Joint Psychological Operations Task Force for all PSYOP within the Central Command area of operations. But element of the 4th Psychological Operations Group, as well as mobilized Reserve units, provided tactical PSYOP forces to augment Special Operations forces and conventional forces in support of OEF. Within two weeks after 9/11, two PSYOP Liaison officers were sent to the 5th Special Forces Group at Ft. Campbell. They were soon followed by tactical PSYOP elements, a deployable print production center, and a satellite downlink for radio programs. And the 8th PSYOP Battalion established a bare bones Joint Psychological Operations Task Force command element at Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Florida.
Afghans listening to the Coalition broadcasts
Small battery-powered portable radios were dropped to those without radios or electricity. Initially, several thousand KAITO brand portable radios were distributed by hand. The KAITO was a 220-volt AC radio that was battery, solar and crank (dynamo) powered. It was usable for people who lived in central Afghanistan with no electric power.
Under the Taliban, possession of a radio was a crime, and thus few were available. More than 7,500 small battery-powered transistor radios were distributed by airdrop and by tactical PSYOP teams operating with Special Forces detachments.
A member of the 8th PSYOP Battalion, with Afghan music CDs
The 8th Psychological Operations Battalion broadcast Afghan music from the battalion's radio station at Kandahar Airfield. They regularly broadcast the music of Naghma & Mangal, Khaliq Aziz and Ahmed Zahir, some of hottest pop artists and musicians in Afghanistan. Some of the article says:
When the Taliban ruled, radios were forbidden. However, some people hid them in their house and huddled around at night to listen to the BBC or Pakistan programming. Soldiers with the 8th Psychological Operation Battalion operate the mobile 5,000-watt radio station which has a range of about 20 miles from a small group of tents. Ninety-percent of the programming is pure Afghan music, including some dance, contemporary and folk music. None is American. Each hour, the Army broadcasts three informational spots. The messages tell listeners such things as what to do if they come across unexploded ordnance, news about the interim government and assurances that U.S. troops are not an occupying force.
Weapon of Choice adds about programs on Afghan music:
The 8th PSYOP Battalions Product Development Company prepared a 75 minute, 7-part program in both Pashto and Dari. Feedback from overseas was positive, and Central Command wanted more programs.
The United States also explained the reason for the bombings and the American invasion over their propaganda radio. One of the messages was:
A grave crime has been committed against the United States. Four of our planes have been hijacked, several building in our economic centers destroyed and more than 6,000 innocent people, hundreds of which were Muslim were murdered by the hand of Osama bin Laden, Al Qaida, his supporters, and the Taliban. We see these actions as acts of war. We will not sit idly by and do nothing in these times. However, we do not wish to spill the blood of innocent people, as did the cowardly terrorists. We do not blame the Muslims or Afghans for these attacks. We do not hold those who follow true Islam responsible. We will hunt down and punish these terrorists. They will pay with their blood. America is not against the beliefs of Islam, nor is it against Muslims. More than 6 million Muslims live and worship Allah in peace in the United States, a number equal to almost half the population of Afghanistan. In the United States people of all religions live side by side in peace. Muslims living in America have the same rights to worship as any other citizen of any other religion.
The United States produced a full color leaflet that told the people of Afghanistan that there were American Muslims, American mosques, and that true believers had the right to practice their religion and worship their God. The front of the leaflet shows a mosque in the foreground with the Stars and Stripes within a map of the United States. Muslim men and women are depicted worshiping at the right. The text is:
Muslims in the United States worship freely.
The back of the leaflet depicts the inside of the Islamic Center of Long Island mosque at the left, and a crescent moon and text at the right. The text is:
There are more than 7 million Muslims and 1200 mosques in the US.
Eid is a Muslim holiday when the Ramadan fast is broken and you can treat yourself to your favorite foods. The leaflet is meant to show the Afghans that Americans understood and wished them well on this holiday. The text is:
People of Afghanistan - Eid Mabaruk - We wish that God will accept your prayers and fast. People of America.
Dates being prepared for distribution
The translation of Eid Mubarak is Have a blessed holiday. It was reported that California dates had been dropped along with the leaflets. Dates are a fruit that the Muslims traditionally use to break the fast of Ramadan. By including dates in the air drop bundles, the United States showed respect for this significant Muslim holiday.
The use of the religious holiday Eid as part of a psychological campaign is discussed by M. E. Roberts in Villages of the Moon, Psychological Operations in Southern Afghanistan, Publish America, Baltimore, 2005. The author says:
Tonight we did one of the best psychological operations since arriving. About dark, we drove out with a Special Forces A team on a roadblock mission. We had not gone out at dark like this before, and we stopped at, and went places we had never gone before. We passed out Happy Eid cards on the road to provide cover then we drove back through town handing out cards to people we did a few more check points then went home. This sent messages all over town on many levels. The Happy Eid cards showed a sensibility to Islam which undercuts enemy propaganda.
The Battalion printed millions of leaflets attacking Osama bin Laden, the Taliban, and its leader Mullah Omar. There were close to a dozen reward leaflets for bin Laden alone. One of the more interesting leaflets depicted the Taliban leader as a dog on a chain held by Osama bin Laden.
This leaflet is in a vertical format and shows bin Laden playing chess and moving Taliban figures around the board. It should be noted that the Taliban had banned chess in Afghanistan. The text on this leaflet is:
Expel the foreign rulers and live in peace.
The back of this same leaflet shows a figure identified as bin Laden holding a chain to the collar of a "kuchi," a dog of nomads. The dog has the head of Mullah Omar. The text asks:
Who really runs the Taliban?
One Specialist of the 8th PSYOP Battalion Product Development Center at Fort Bragg, NC, told me the designers of the vignette did not know what kind of dog to depict on the leaflet. One of the Fort Bragg PSYOP officers had a dog, so the staff took a photograph of the animal and placed Mullah Omars head on it using a Corel program. The dog's name was Duke. Later, when CNN discovered the leaflet they went into great detail analyzing the meaning of the beast with human head. The PSYOP team found it humorous because it was just a propaganda image and not so great an amount of thought and philosophy had gone into the selection.
Poster AFG032 - Schooling for all Afghans
As part of consolidation and support of the new government this poster promises schooling for all Afghans whether boy or girl. The leaflet depicts a class of Afghan girls at the top and the flag of Afghanistan at the bottom. The text is:
Education provides great opportunities
Education has a vital role in the future of Afghanistan
As Operation Iraqi Freedom was gearing up in January 2003, the 8th PSYOP Battalion, the Central Command Regional PSYOP Battalion, was forced to split its efforts between the war in Afghanistan and the toppling of the Saddam Hussein Regime in Iraq. In order to allow the 8th POB to focus their efforts on Iraq, the 1st POB intervened and functioned as the rear Product Development Detachment for 8th POB. It provided reach-back capabilities for ongoing PSYOP missions in support of OEF. These duties included the following: developing print, radio, audio-visual and novelty item products derived from the Target Audience Analysis Worksheets sent from the Afghan theater. Products were received in English; translated into target language (Urdu, Pashtu etc.); edited; vetted through the appropriate analyst and pre-tested in preparation for their use in OEF. They also provided direct support in the form of articles and editorials for the Peace newspaper disseminated in Afghanistan.
The Peace Newspaper
The PSYOP units printed more than just leaflets and posters. They also published newspapers such as Peace. This newspaper was distributed about monthly and carried news about Afghanistan and various PSYOP themes in Dari, Pashto, and English. PSYOP teams gave it out to schools as a teaching aid since many schools had no reading material. If they had no books, at least they would have the American newspaper to read and discuss. Of course, the stories were nation-building consolidation articles so this played into the peaceful reconstruction of Afghanistan. The newspapers were also distributed to crowds, and sometimes within restaurants and shops. The main problem was the high rate of illiteracy, so we tried to target places where there was a good chance that someone could read.
A young Afghani Boy from the village of Nejhab, Afghanistan, carries a newspaper distributed by the US Armys 8th PSYOP Battalion. The newspapers are used to disseminate information about humanitarian aid packages and related news events.
In the summer of 2005, after nearly three years of supporting both Afghanistan and Iraq, the 8th Psychological Operations Battalion was refocused solely on Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). MIST Afghanistan (MIST-A) began operations in September 2005, relieving the 8th PSYOP Battalion of its responsibilities there.
Operation Iraqi Freedom
We do not find a lot of information that specifically mentions the 8th Psychological Operations Battalion during Desert Storm. Most written histories just mention the 4th Group. We do find a comment in All Roads lead to Baghdad, United States Army Special Operations Command History Office, Ft. Bragg, North Carolina:
Although the Department of Defense and Central Command began revising Plan 1003 in January 2002, the early Special Operation Command Center planning effort was limited at best...Having demonstrated its value in Afghanistan; however, psychological operations planners did get an early start on the Iraq planning. The Joint Psychological Operations Task Force formed around the 8th PSYOP Battalion staff was located near Central Command headquarters. Embedded in the regional command staff shortly after 11 September 2011, the JPOTF enjoyed good access to the intelligence and operations staffs, as well as General Franks. JPOTF Commander Lieutenant General Herzig was able to task an entire company of the 8th PSYOP Battalion to focus on Iraq
The 8th Psychological Operations Battalion commander served as the Joint Psychological Operations Task Force commander for the Central Command. The JPOTF was originally formed to support Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. With the start of 1003 (Iraq) planning in February 2002, its mission was expanded to plan and execute all PSYOP in theater .
My article on PSYOP in Iraq is over 57,000 words long so this introduction to that war will be very brief.
President George W. Bush announced the opening of the second war Gulf War at 2215 on 19 March 2003 just 90 minutes after the deadline for Saddam to exile himself and his sons from Iraq. The initial strikes on Baghdad were a target of opportunity. Intelligence reports placed senior Iraqi military leaders with Saddam at a secret meeting place. The initial salvos against Baghdad consisted of 40 Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from six Navy ships in the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, as well as precision-guided 2,000-pound bombs dropped from two F-117A Nighthawk stealth jets. Three hours after the raids began, a defiant Saddam, wearing military fatigues, appeared on state television calling on Iraqis to defend their country. Iraq retaliated by firing missiles at U.S. troop positions in Kuwait.
8th PSYOP Bn Media Center
PSYOP forces benefited from extensive experience conducting operations against Iraq in support of Operations Southern Watch, Northern Watch, and Desert Fox. In addition, much of the PSYOP support, command, and production capability were already in place as a result of Operation Enduring Freedom. The total PSYOP planning phase for Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) was extensive, lasting 9 to 12 months before the start of major combat operations, and the total number of PSYOP personnel committed to the Joint Psychological Task Force in support of OIF reached as high as 700 personnel.
All Roads lead to Baghdad, USASOC History Office, Ft. Bragg, NC, says about the 8th planning of Operation Iraqi Freedom:
Although the Department of Defense and Central Command began revisiting Plan 1003 [the invasion of Iraq] in January 2002, the early planning was limited at best Having demonstrated its value in Afghanistan however, PSYOP planners did get an early start on the Iraq planning. The Joint Psychological Operations Task Force formed around the 8th PSYOP Battalion staff was located near Central Command headquarters. Embedded in the regional command staff shortly after 11 September 2001, the JPOTF enjoyed good access to the intelligence and operations staffs, as well as to General Franks. JPOTF Commander Lieutenant Colonel Steve Herzig was able to task an entire company of the 8th PSYOP Battalion to focus on Iraq.
The book goes on to say:
The 8th PSYOP Battalion Commander served as the Joint PSYOP Task Force Commander for Central Command [in Iraq].
Daniel A. Castro adds in his 2007 Naval Postgraduate School thesis: Do Psychological Operations Benefit from the use of Host Nation Media:
The start of the PSYOP campaign in Iraq started months prior to the March invasion and it consisted of a campaign of leaflet drops, cell phone text messages, emails and radio broadcasts that targeted the Iraqi leadership. Over 80 million leaflets were dropped in March of 2003. Some leaflets threatened to destroy any military formation that stood and fought, while others encouraged the Iraqi populace and military to ignore the directives of the Baath Party leadership.
The 2016 Rand report: Operation Iraqi Freedom Decisive War, Elusive Peace adds:
The coalition mounted a major PSYOP campaign in Iraq both prior to and during OIF. Some 19 million leaflets were dropped on Iraqi territory between October 2002 and March 20, 2003, when the ground combat began. An additional 31 million leaflets were dropped during the fighting that followed. Thousands of hours of radio broadcasts were also directed at Iraqi audiences from both land stations and Hercules C-130 Commando Solo aircraft. To cue the potential radio listeners, leaflets were dropped instructing the Iraqis about the frequencies over which the coalitions Information Radio could be heard.
During Operation Iraqi Freedom PSYOP loudspeakers were placed on a great variety of Coalition vehicles on the land, sea, and in the air. For instance, they were found on the M102 High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV), the M1A1 Main Battle Tank, the M113 Personnel Carrier, the UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopter, and in one case a captured Iraqi motorcycle. In addition, some were placed on MK-11 Riverine Patrol boats (Bailey Boats) on the Tigris River.
There are hundreds of leaflet used in Iraq and not only by the big units like the battalions. Companies like the 361st and detachments also produced their own, sometimes under contract with civilian printers. We are not always sure who made what, so I will just select a few that I think are particularly interesting to show.
IZD-002a depicts a radio tower in the center and small portable radios to the left and right. The same message appears on both front and back.
The text is:
Information Radio 1800-2300 daily. 756 KHZ AM, 693 KHZ AM, 9715 KHZ SW, 11292 KHZ SW, 100.4 MHZ FM.
Wherever the U.S. Army goes, these radio leaflets appear. PSYOP will always take over a local station, put one up themselves, or use the Air Force to broadcast surrender messages and instructions. Radio leaflets are a theme themselves and very popular.
From the start of the campaign EC-130E Commando Solo aircraft from the 193rd Special Operations Wing broadcast to the Iraqis by commercial AM, FM and short wave radio as well as by television. By April 2003 the aircraft was broadcasting a television show called Towards Freedom TV. It also broadcast a message from President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Since one of the reasons given for the invasion of Iraq was Saddams chemical weapons, this leaflet discusses that threat. The leaflet shows a group of Iraqi soldiers standing in line wearing gasmasks and full protective gear. A mushroom shaped fireball is in the background. The symbol for biological hazard is at the lower left. Text is:
Do not use weapons of mass destruction.
The back is all text:
Any unit that chooses to use weapons of mass destruction will face swift and severe retribution by Coalition forces. Unit commanders will be held accountable if weapons of mass destruction are used.
General Tommy Franks mentions this leaflet in his autobiography American Soldier, Harper-Collins Books, NY, 2004:
One of our main concerns was that the Iraqis might try to preempt our attack by launching weapons of mass destruction (WMD) strikes against our massing troops, and I wanted our PSYOP effort to dissuade the Iraqis from exercising the WMD options I believed they had. Renuart [Gene Renuart, J3 - Operations, U. S. Army Central Command] and his team had taken on the task of creating these leaflets, which combined sophisticated images with clear and concise Arabic text. And, for the past 24 hours, Coalition plane flying Operation Southern Watch tracks in the no-fly zone had been dumping hundreds of thousands of them on Iraqi positions.
This image of an Iraqi family was used on several leaflets. Although most of the leaflets depict the family in a much-reduced photograph in the upper right or lower left corner, IZD023 features the family in close-up over the entire leaflet in full color. The picture is very clear and the father could certainly be identified from this photograph. It is easy to see why he is unhappy. The Text on the front is:
Stay safely at home with your families.
The Text on the back of the leaflet is:
People of Iraq, please remain in the safety of your home. Do not travel to work or drive at night. Coalition aircraft may mistake your car for a military vehicle. Please do not attempt to interfere with Coalition operations or you will become a target. Do not allow your children to play outside. You will be given specific instructions when Coalition Forces begin to distribute humanitarian aid.
These leaflets are supposed to be a bit scarcer because after a short period of dissemination they were removed from stock and destroyed. I heard this story at Ft. Bragg and from Air Force sources, so it could be true. An explanation for the destruction of the leaflets was told to me by a USAF Technical Sergeant who said:
While attending the Joint Psychological Operations Course at the Joint Special Operations University at Hurlburt Field, Florida, the class was informed that the leaflet was destroyed for copyright violation. The family was actually living in the U.S., possibly not even of Arab descent. The father figure pictured was a semi-professional photographer, who had posted the image on the World Wide Web. Use of the image without permission of the owner was a violation of copyright. While discussion of the cost of reproduction did occur in the class, it was not made clear whether the photographer had actually asked for the money, or had simply asked that the image not be used.
Current Army policy is not to show dead bodies on leaflets because has the appearance of gloating and generally tends to aggravate the enemy and make him fight harder. This is one of the few Iraqi Freedom leaflets that depict a dead body. The front depicts Iraqi soldiers left and right with a dead Iraqi at the center. The text is:
Do not risk your lives and the lives of your comrades!
The back depicts the soldier in civilian garb surrounded by his family and the text:
Leave now and go home
Watch your children learn, grow and prosper.
This leaflet pictures an oil refinery with a father and child at the upper left. Saddam had set fire to all the oil wells in Kuwait as he retreated and the Coalition feared he might do the same thing in Iraq under some uncontrollable rage. The text is:
The oil industry is your livelihood! Your family depends on your livelihood.
The back of the leaflet depicts and Iraqi family looking at a burning oil refinery. The text is:
If the oil industry is destroyed, your livelihood will be RUINED! Help to prevent the sabotage of the Iraqi oil industry! Your family depends on it!
Americans always tells the enemy that we are not fighting the people or the religion, but just the leaders, political party or people in power. This leaflet depicts Saddam Hussein on the front. The text is:
Our fight is against Saddam and his regime - not the Iraqi people. We wish only to liberate the people of Iraq from Saddams tyranny.
The back depicts a happy Iraqi family walking together and the text:
For your safety, return to your homes and live in peace.
This handbill depicts Saddam Hussein behind bars. The text is:
Saddam Hussein has been captured
The capture of Saddam Hussein is the decisive moment for the new Iraq.
Now he will face the justice that millions were denied.
Iraq need no longer be afraid of Saddam ruling again
I will end this Iraqi Freedom portion with a leaflet-handbill showing Saddam Hussein in jail. This was not printed to gloat; but to encourage the Iraqis. Many lived in fear or were afraid to cooperate with the Coalition thinking that Saddam might return and seek revenge on collaborators. Here, the Coalition tells all the Iraqis that Saddam is done, once and for all.
Billboards are a cheap and efficient way to show your messages to thousands of people a day. In this section you see some photographs of billboards that the 8th PSYOP Battalion produced and put up on the infamous Route Irish in Baghdad. All the images at one point started out as handbills. It was common to replicate messaging across multiple products. This billboard image was taken directly from handbill IZG-918. It asks the Iraqi people to choose. An Iraqi in silhouette looks at his country. He sees terrorists, a burning car and death at the left and at the right he sees happy children, valuable oil depots and a prosperous Iraq. The message is:
The Iraqi people have two options
Either choose the way to peace and prosperity
Or the way to violence and fear
The second billboard depicts heroic Iraqi soldiers ready to defend their country against all enemies. The text is:
Let us stop the violence and fear. Report criminals to Iraqi Security Forces.
Take a stand and inform on them!!
The third billboard depicts a map of Iraq with a golden border. Eight photographs depict the life of the happy citizens now members of a democratic government under the protection of loyal and faithful military dedicated to their welfare. The text is:
Together we can build a secure and prosperous Iraq
Most of the billboard feature happy Iraqis going about their business. They are upbeat and motivating. Some of the billboards. Like number 4 above, is just the opposite. It is more threatening and depicts terrorists, wounded Iraqi adults and children, and even a bombed vehicle. The text is:
This billboard also features terrorists. At the left we see a peaceful Iraqi with citizens going about their daily business, free of worry. On the right we see a scene of terror where the citizens have been the victims of a terrorist bomb and lay dead on the street. The text is:
It is a simple question: What do you believe in?
Your country, your choice, stopping the violence.
Please report criminals to the nearest local authorities, or call:
From within Baghdad: 778-4076
From outside Baghdad: 01-778-4076
From outside Iraq: 0964-1-778-4076
Or email: TIPS@ORHA.CENTCOM.MIL
This image was a real bombing site that originally had several Humvees and soldiers strewn about. When producing the image, the Military occupational specialist 25M (Multimedia illustrator) digitally removed them to give the illusion that the local authorities were handling the scene to legitimize the local police as a capable institution.
In June 2009, Michelle Butzgy wrote an article in Paraglide entitled Fort Bragg Soldiers work at winning hearts and minds around the world. She said about the 8th Battalion:
Pakistan, part of the Central Command region, works with members of the 8th PSYOP Basttalion. Nigar Nazar, the first Pakistani female cartoonist, wrote story books with messages about suicide bombing, female education and extreme Islam for the battalion who in turn place them in backpacks for school children. Sgt. Laura Blakeslee aid:
Early on, they're reading about that stuff and knowing that suicide bombing is bad, and female education is good. Not many females are being educated because their schools are being destroyed.
The battalion also helps the radio station Meshal at Peshawar University spread a message of hope. The students write the copy and bring it to the battalion where they edit it and approve it for broadcast. We're trying to unite the country ... this is having them work together and spread the word that they'll really believe in.
8th PSYOP Battalion Invitation to 50th Anniversary
In 2017, the 8th PSYOP Battalion celebrated its 50th anniversary since it was first authorized during the Vietnam War. Above we depict the official invitation.
1LT Michael Alvin Merkel
First Lieutenant Michael Alvin Merkel served as the executive officer assigned to the 8th Psychological Operations Battalion (Airborne) when he was killed in the Plieku region of Vietnam on 24 March 1968.
On 9 April 2007, the Special Operation Forces Media Operations Complex was dedicated to 1st Lt. Michael Alvin Merkel at Ft. Bragg, NC. Construction for the 51,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art Media Operations Complex was completed in 2003 to centrally house equipment and personnel and to enhance PSYOP support to the regional and tactical PSYOP battalions.
The facility provides for more than 300 military and civilian personnel and consolidates five functions under one roof enabling PSYOP units to produce large quantities of multi-color products from four Direct Image Digital Presses and other state-of-the-art equipment.
SSG Mark Alan Stets, Jr.
Staff Sergeant Mark Alan Stets, Jr., 8th Psychological Operations Battalion (Airborne) died on 3 February 2010 of wounds suffered from an improvised explosive device in the Lower Dir District of Pakistans Northwest Frontier Province. He deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in November 2009.
8th PSYOP Battalion Awards and Decorations
The Meritorious Unit Commendation (Army) for Vietnam 1967-1968
Meritorious Unit Commendation (Army) for SOUTHWEST ASIA 1990-1991
The Republic of Vietnam Civil Action Honor Medal, First Class for Vietnam 1967-1971.
The 8th PSYOP Bn also received Campaign Participation Credit for:
The Counteroffensive, Phase III; Tet Counteroffensive; Counteroffensive, Phase IV; Counteroffensive, Phase V; Counteroffensive, Phase VI; Tet 69/Counteroffensive; Summer-Fall 1969; Winter-Spring 1970; Sanctuary Counteroffensive; Counteroffensive, Phase VII.
Southwest Asia: Defense of Saudi Arabia; Liberation and Defense of Kuwait
Global War on Terrorism Campaign for units deployed abroad in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
This ends our very short look at the history of the United States Armys 8th PSYOP Battalion, a unit that has deployed to numerous nations to support legal governments and fight anti-government guerrillas and armed enemies of the United States for over 50 years. Readers who wish to comment or send further information are encouraged to write the author at Sgmbert@hotmail.com.