Civilian Leaflets Dropped as a Political Gesture

SGM Herbert A. Friedman (Ret.) 


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Aerial Salute to U.S.O.

This leaflet, dated 2 June 1941 was dropped over New York City and publicized the United Service Organization, dedicated to serving and raising the morale of military personnel. It both seeks to raise over 10 million dollars in funding and seeks volunteer to help run the 360 service clubs. The text on the back of the bomb said in part:

No…This isn’t a BOMB

It was dropped not to destroy but to build. Dropped by one of your defenders from one of the planes that guard our nation’s skyways. Dropped to tell you that you can help your defenders. How? The U.S.O. has been formed as a nationwide citizen effort to show our soldiers, sailors and Marines how much we appreciate what they are doing for us.

It plans to operate 360 service clubs for soldiers, sailors and other youth serving our nation’s defense. The U.S.O. will be GHQ for men on leave. It will operate where it is needed – in little town near the big camps. Tomorrow U.S.O. launches a nationwide campaign to raise $10,765,000 to operate its program. Join the Army behind the Army. Get back of our soldiers, sailors and defense workers with the U.S.O.

When we talk about leaflets, we are generally speaking about wartime leaflets dropped on an enemy in an attempt to change his mind, lower his morale, cause his surrender, or lead him to support a new and better government.

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Radio Recovery for Hurricane Andrew Humanitarian Action

This large poster (17 x 11-inches) tells the Hurricane victims the Radio Recovery station number in English, Spanish and Creole. Although there were a tremendous number of leaflets and posters prepared for Andrew, as far as I know, none were airdropped.

Leaflets can be dropped in peacetime when natural disasters strike, telling the people where to find food, water or medical help.

Sergeant Rick Schumacher, Product Development Detachment (PDD), 345th Tactical PSYOP Company, told me about his difficulties in later hurricanes:

While Hurricane Katrina was flooding Louisiana, Active PSYOP assets were deployed from 9th PSYOP Battalion to do civilian communications in New Orleans, Louisiana. Apparently, there was a difficulty in getting them ramped up and working within the Incident Command System. From what I understand, when Texas Military Forces (TXNG) saw this issue, they decided to stand up an IO cell in case they had to coordinate with active PSYOP. As a former 9th Battalion guy and current Reservist with the 345th TPC out of Dallas, I was spun up to be the liaison between National Guard/State EOC and PSYOP, if needed. Otherwise, I was working to identify and access lines of communication to affected communities on the Texas coast.

When we were transitioning from Katrina to Rita, there where thousands of people without any communications; cell phones were down, FM and AM transmitters were down, pretty much everything was down. One thought I had was to develop LEAFLETS and do airborne leaflet drops into cut-off communities. I was developing messaging while concurrently trying to determine feasibility of the plan. I had developed messaging in two themes, shelter-in-place and evacuation. Shelter-in-place communications included things like “don't wade in the flood waters” (and dangers of doing so), “how to triage injuries,” and “how to signal for help.” Evacuation messaging included locations of fuel points, where to shelter, and what to do if you break down. All messaging included themes of safety and security. Since traditional lines of communication were so few and far between and the instructions on some of the messaging needed to be retained, I figured the best method was to print and airdrop leaflets.

In the end, getting authority from the government to drop leaflets was apparently too difficult. I was an NCO so the decision tree for implementation was way above me. However, I came up with a long term plan to quickly stand up processes for this type of communication in future catastrophic events. Unfortunately, I demobilized and don't know if anything ever came of it or if I was just yelling into the void.

In some cases, the government might drop leaflets on a civilian population in an attempt to raise money for such things as war bonds or the government and its agencies might drop leaflets in an attempt to see how they are found and used and how the information in those leaflets has been spread by the finders.

For instance, on 17 August 1951, Howland Sargeant, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public affairs (and future Radio Liberty President), sent a memorandum to James Webb, Under Secretary of State advising him of the balloon project:

For several months the Department has been following with interest certain privately sponsored plans to use balloons as vehicles for the delivery of propaganda. The Department felt that such projects had sufficient merit to warrant experimentation on a test basis, and consequently encouraged the private interests involved to proceed.

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Leaflet used in Early Dissemination Testing

This test leaflet was folded three times to make four pages. When opened up fully it is 25 x 8.25-inches. What might be considered the cover page has the message:




The two center pages to the left have a text that says in part:

THIS LEAFLET is one of thousands dropped over this area from small balloons launches at Sioux Falls in an experiment conducted by the balloon division of RAVEN INDUSTRIES, Inc., for FREE EUROPE PRESS, an association supported by THE CRUSADE FOR FREEDOM. Free Europe Press sends 12 million leaflets over the Iron Curtain every month. They are miniature newspapers having the same format as this folder with news and pictures from the Free World…

At the far left is a stamped “business reply card” addressed to Raven Industries, New York, N.Y. Clearly the form is meant to be filled out, folded and then stapled or taped into a small card that can be carried by the postal service.

Project Revere

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At the height of the Cold War, Project Revere was established to test the distribution and effects of airborne messages and to discover formulas that would guarantee a high probability of maximum diffusion and compliance with leaflet instructions in future conflicts and wars. The name for the project was meant to remind the public of Revere's historic ride and the spreading of his message in a time of national emergency. More than 1,000,000 leaflets were dropped on 30 cities and towns in Washington and other metropolitan centers as far away as Birmingham, Alabama.

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One Visit Leaflet

This leaflet mentions an enemy bomber and asks how many people a homeowner could shelter in an emergency.

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Blood Bank Leaflet

“Operation Blood Bank,” explored the possibility of changing attitudes toward donating blood. 28 different messages were dropped on Monroe, Washington, a community of 1,556 people. The leaflet has a message on the back explaining that the King County Blood Bank both collects blood for the armed forces and banks blood for civilian use.

And then, there are the very rare cases where a civilian is simply motivated by government actions and spends his own money to print leaflets, hire an aircraft and then drop them over some heavily populated site to make a point. These are very rare cases, often considered illegal because the aircraft is too low or over areas that are protected, and very risky for the person who planned and perpetrated the leaflet drop.

In 1948, an anti-propaganda law was passed which made it illegal for the government to use propaganda or psychological operations on US citizens. The law, entitled US Information and Educational Exchange Act has also been known as the Smith-Mundt Act or the Anti-Propaganda Act. This would not apply to civilians operating on their own, but it did prevent the government from using psychological operations on Americans. The law was repealed in 2013, so in theory the U.S. Government can now use propaganda on its own citizens if it so desires.

In this very short article we will discuss and feature several leaflets that were dropped by private citizens as a political gesture.

The Ground Observer Corps

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A Cold War Recruiting Leaflet

In this interesting leaflet, Mount Shasta, California is looking for Ground Observers to join its Air Defense System. They apparently issue winds and prominently use the United States Air Force to catch the reader’s attention. The leaflet uses a plane somewhat similar to the U.S. B-29 bomber on the front and warns that:

The plane that dropped this leaflet was friendly…the next one may not be.

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A WWII Ground Observer Corps Enlistment Poster

The first Ground Observer Corps was a World War II Civil Defense program of the United States Army Air Forces to protect United States territory against air attack. The 1.5 million civilian observers at 14,000 coastal observation posts performed naked eye and binocular searches to detect German or Japanese aircraft. The program ended in 1944.

The second Ground Observer Corps, similar to the first, was organized in early 1950, during the Cold War. By 1951, the GOC had 210,000 volunteers across 8,000 observation posts. Operating as an arm of the United States Air Force Civil Defense service, it supplemented the Lashup Radar Network and the Permanent System radar stations. The second program ended in 1958. Since the leaflet above depicts a nuclear explosion I assume it is from the second GOC Program. In addition, the pin is a 1950s pin.

Civilian Leaflet Drop – Orlando and Lakeland, Florida

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David Koresh

Back in the early 1990, I was in regular correspondence with a U.S. Army veteran I will call Protester. He was very disturbed by the FBI actions in Waco, Texas, against religious fundamentalist David Koresh and his followers. At the time the operation was covered by newspapers and television, as the FBI played loud music day and night and regularly described the Davidian movement as fanatics, cultists and child molesters. The FBI claimed that they were heavily armed and that turned out to be true as the Davidians fought the FBI with heavy weapons such as machine guns.

In 1993, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) attempted to serve an arrest and search warrant as part of an investigation into illegal possession of firearms and explosives. Koresh was also alleged to be involved in unproven multiple incidents of child abuse and sexual abuse. Four ATF agents and six Davidians were killed during the initial two-hour firefight, both sides claiming the other side fired first. The subsequent siege by the FBI of almost two months ended when the FBI moved in and during its advance on the compound, the church building caught fire in circumstances that are still disputed. Those that were pro-Koresh believe that the fire started when the government fired three pyrotechnic tear gas rounds, while the FBI insists that listening devices indicate that the fires were set by Branch Davidians. Barricaded inside the building, 79 Branch Davidians perished in the ensuing blaze; 22 of these victims were children under the age of 17. I don’t find enough evidence to blame either side for the fire and deaths, but Protester had no doubt who was to blame.

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What will history say of you?

Notice that this leaflet does not actually attack the FBI. It reminds them on the front that NAZIs were known for their brutality and basically says “Do you want to be like them?”

On the back is asks that they act in a more formal manner and not use illegal tactics and use the old NAZI excuse “I was just following orders.”

He decided to take political action and set upon a campaign to produce propaganda leaflets to be used to attack those that he believed had usurped the law. He told me about how he had gone about the operation:

This was supposed to be a drop of 120,000 of each of the two leaflets I designed. It cost me $300 per 60,000 leaflets at a local printer in Lakeland, Florida, for a total of $1,200. The leaflets were printed on 11 x 17-inch sheets, about 10,000 sheets in all.

I worked until Friday afternoon on 18 March 1994. That afternoon I met with a pilot whom I had contacted at a local gun show after trying to find a willing pilot for several weeks. I originally wanted to target a three mile stretch of Highway I-4 in Orlando. The pilot did not want the liability of a possible rush-hour disaster. So, instead we targeted a 1.5 square mile area of Lakeland’s business mall district instead. The drop took place about 1730 EST. I recently counted the leaflets still in my possession and estimate that we dropped about 110,000 copies of each leaflet.

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A Call to Arms

This second leaflet is a bit more radical. There is a call for the militia to step forward. It uses the Second amendment argument and warns of the government confiscation of weapons. It implies that the government burned the Davidians and could burn you next.

There were eight boxes of leaflets dropped, each rigged with surplus static lines I bought at an Orlando Army-Navy store a week earlier. There were four variants of the “Call to arms” and two variants of the “What will history think?” leaflets.

I monitored the news that evening, the next day, and heard nothing. The next time I do such a drop I will pick a well-publicized event, like a stadium game or a political event. As far as I can tell, my $1,200 was wasted.

The conclusion to all this would seem to be that a single expensive and possibly illegal aerial propaganda action does not work without a major publicity campaign and perhaps other media such as radio. It was a nice try, rather brave in fact considering it might have led to jail time, but it was ineffective and apparently nobody was aware that it ever occurred. We have fixed that. That very quiet and unknown 1994 leaflet operation is now "in the literature."

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The Red ‘X’ Society

On 26 November 2017, a man was cited with misdemeanor charges and released for flying a leaflet drone over Levi’s Stadium as the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks played. The drone released leaflet criticizing television news media, but most of the papers blew out of the stadium due to the wind. A second leaflet drop occurred over Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, where the Raiders hosted the Denver Broncos. The leaflets claimed that prostitutes and felons had infiltrated the news and acted as reporters, anchors and in political positions. He blamed the CIA, FBI, DEA and Secret Service for basically disrupting the free press in the United States.

The perpetrator told San Francisco’s ABC affiliate KGO-TV that he dropped the leaflets in an attempt to disseminate his political beliefs, which he did not discuss in the brief interview.

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A Second Political Leaflet Drop by the Same Individual

Apparently the same person struck again on 3 May 2019 when Drones dropped leaflets emblazoned with swastikas and messages calling the press the enemy on multiple California events near Sacramento. On Friday one drone flew over “Bites on the Bridge,” a Sacramento State University event and an Ariana Grande concert. The drone dropped leaflets calling the press “the enemy” and calling to “stop the TV whore takeover!” The person who had the leaflets dropped was identified by the Sacramento Bee as Tracy Mapes, who has been identified as a Sacramento resident who has been arrested before for dropping similar leaflets at sporting events.

The flyers also promoted a Facebook page which features further anti-media sentiment and videos of other similar stunts, including dropping leaflets on the State Capitol.

In 2019, after the second leaflet drop, Tracy Mapes of Sacramento was charged with violating National Defense Airspace for doing a drone drop over Bay Area football games in 2017. He was arrested for flying a drone over Levi Stadium and dropping anti-media leaflets. Because of fears of a terrorist attack, the U.S. Government enforces temporary flight restrictions that prohibit all aircraft, including drones, from operating within three nautical miles of any stadium seating 30,000 or more people during major events, like the NFL, college football and Major League Baseball games. The restrictions are in effect from one hour before to one hour after the end of the event.

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Kennedy Campaign Air-dropped Leaflet

This interesting 1960 presidential election Leaflet for John F. Kennedy claims that Republican "bungling" has made the United States vulnerable to Russian and Chinese aerial bombing. This is not far from the propaganda used by Lyndon B. Johnson who in the following election would show a Little American girl picking a flower when suddenly and atomic bomb explodes behind her. Notice that leaflet mentions MiGs in Cuba and the newly elected President Kennedy will soon support the invasion of Cuba by Cuban exiles.

Fly Navy - Beat Army

Piper PA-28 Cherokee Warrior

On December 5, 2022, U.S. Naval Academy midshipmen flew three crews on Piper PA-28 Cherokee Warrior airplanes to drop Beat Army, Fly Navy leaflets and colored Ping-Pong balls on the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. (U.S. Naval Academy)

Although not a military or political leaflet campaign, on 7 December 2022, The U.S. Naval Academy Midshipmen took to the skies in an early assault on their Army brethren dubbed "Operation Black Knight Falling," with a psychological operations mission that would make many an intelligence officer proud.

The Leaflets and Ping Pong Balls

In an official statement released Tuesday, the Naval Academy confirmed that on Monday midshipmen took to the skies and bombarded their cadet rivals at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point with "Beat Army" and "Fly Navy" leaflets...along with some marked ping pong balls.



The Hitler Elections in Germany

The German Government often used the airship Hindenburg to drop leaflets for publicity, souvenirs, and sometimes political statements. The Nazis had helped pay for the zeppelin and were very much aware of the symbolic value of the huge and impressive airship, and frequently called on Hindenburg for propaganda flights, often in company with the Graf Zeppelin. In one case the Hindenburg and Graf Zeppelin broadcasting music and pro-Hitler announcements from specially installed loudspeakers, and dropped swastikas attached to tiny parachutes and propaganda leaflets encouraging Germans to vote “Yes!” for the Fuhrer in the Rhineland referendum.

Here, Chancellor Adolf Hitler uses the zeppelin to drop leaflets asking that the German people support him in the 1936 elections. Shortly afterwards, on 6 May 1937, the Hindenburg exploded over Lakehurst, New Jersey. It turned to ashes in less than a minute. Some passengers and crewmembers jumped dozens of feet to safety while others burned. Of the 97 people aboard, 62 survived. The text on the leaflet is:

German Worker,

You all know that the report of the 19th session of the International Workers Conference of 1935 determined that of the 19 million workers having a claim for a paid vacation, 12 million are in Germany! And Strength through Joy and Beauty of Labor, only exist here in the entire world. The Fuhrer created these, thank him on 29 March 1936 and give him your vote.

North Korea

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The Fighters for Free North Korea

North Korea and South Korea have been at each other’s throats since the end of WWII. Usually it is the North or the South blasting loudspeaker propaganda at each other or sending propaganda by balloon. It was always official government and military propaganda in the past. Somewhere along the line North Korean civilians who had defected to the south started sending their own balloons north to the irritation of the South Korean government that was trying to come to some sort of an accommodation with the North.

For instance, on 12 August 2015, The Fighters for Free North Korea, an organization of defectors from the North, announced that they had sent some 20 balloons containing more than 500,000 leaflets to the North.

On 20 September 2015, South Korean activist Park Sang-hak launched 10 giant balloons from the South Korean border city of Paju. The balloons carried 200,000 anti-Kim Jong-un leaflets and included videos of South Korean President Park Geun-hye attending China's Victory Day parade on 3 September. Other information included denunciations of North Korea's long-range missile and nuclear weapons programs. The balloons also carried 1,000 one dollar bills, and the videos were loaded on to 500 flash drives and 500 DVDs.

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$50,000,000 Reward

On 6 August 2016, The Association of North Korean Defector Organizations ballooned 100,000 leaflets across the border, putting the North Korean leader on a wanted list and offering a 50-million dollar reward for his arrest. The leaflets called Kim Jong Un a “murderer and oppressor of the people.” The leaflets included color photograph of Kim Jong Un and strong denouncements of his rule. The actual text on the front is:


Reward: 50,000,000 USD

For: Murder and oppressing the people

This bastard needs to die for the people to live better!

The second page called the young Kim Jong Un a “Pig” and claimed that he is not truly a descendent of “Baekdu” as the North Korean “Royal” families like to call themselves. It also claims that he is a crazy dog who is so insane that he had his own uncle killed. The leaflet claims to be from the "Northern Chosen Liberation Front."

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South Korea activists launch helium balloons on 15 September 2016

On 15 September, South Korean activists launched 150,000 leaflets across the border into North Korea from the border city of Paju denouncing its fifth and largest-ever nuclear test a week earlier and defying threats of retaliation. The leaflets criticized leader Kim Jong-Un for putting nuclear weapons before the well-being of his people.

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Lee Min-bok

The N.Y. Times Asia Pacific section of 14 October 2016 featured Lee Min-bok, a North Korean defector who, on days when the wind blows to the north, ventures out with his five-ton truck, hauling a large hydrogen tank to the border with North Korea, an hour’s drive away. There, he fills dozens of 23-foot and 39-foot barrel-shaped balloons with the gas and lets them drift away.

The balloons carry special payloads: radio sets, one-dollar bills, computer memory sticks and, above all, tens of thousands of leaflets bearing messages that Mr. Lee says will debunk the personality cult surrounding Kim Jong-un, the youthful leader of North Korea. He now launches between 700 and 1,500 balloons a year, each carrying 30,000 to 60,000 leaflets. In South Korea, there are 50 “balloon warriors,” many of them defectors from the North like Mr. Lee, who seek to breach the wall with leaflets.

I could go on and on but the reader should understand that there are many defectors from North Korea that will use any opportunity when the wind blows northward to launch propaganda balloons against the Communist dictatorship. Now, on to Vietnam.


Unfortunately we do not have any leaflets to depict in this section. The civilian missions took place over the Communist countries of North Vietnam and Cuba and apparently the leaflets were found and destroyed. I want to write this story though, and my hope is that somewhere out there a person has one of the leaflets and will send it to us to depict.

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Ly Tong
He holds his book O Den
The Title was his old South Vietnamese Air Force Unit, The Black Eagles

On a September day in 1992, Former South Vietnamese fighter pilot Ly Tong hijacked an Airbus A310 on a charter flight for Vietnam Airlines, and flew over Ho Chi Minh City where he directed the pilot to fly low. Quickly, he released sacks with 50,000 fliers out of the cockpit window over Ho Chi Minh City. The leaflets told the Vietnamese:

The collapse of the Soviet Union and communist Eastern Europe has sounded the death knell for Hanoi’s leaders. Only the Vietnamese communists, while in their last breath, are still stubbornly trying, with a government clique, old and out of date, to go against the tide of the progress of humankind.

Demonstrate, hold strikes, occupy radio and television stations and persuade soldiers to defect. Coordinate between the overseas and the internal forces in a general uprising to overthrow the cruel, inhuman Hanoi regime and to build an independent, free and prosperous Vietnam.

Commander of the Uprising Forces

After the rain of leaflets, he jumped from the aircraft, parachuting into a swamp. The Vietnamese government arrested him two hours later. His sentence of 20 years in prison was cut short after the U.S. and Vietnam normalized relations. Tong was granted amnesty in 1998.

On 1 January 2000, Tong rented a Cessna, flying from Florida to Havana, Cuba, to distribute leaflets urging citizens to revolt against the government of Fidel Castro. As punishment, he lost his pilot’s license. He was hailed a hero by some Cuban-Americans and there was a return parade in his honor for his flight over Cuba.

He dropped nearly 50,000 pink, orange and yellow leaflets on the streets below that were written in Spanish and English. One leaflet lists seven action points. Among them:

Demand your right to be the master of your own freedom and liberty. Insist on redressing every Cuban social and cultural issue associated with your inalienable human rights!

Coordinate Cuba's internal resistance forces with her global partners in quest for liberty, including all freedom fighters of Vietnam, China, Korea and everywhere else in the Universe, to overthrow Havana's tyrannical legacy of the Twentieth Century.

Get rid of Fidel Castro and the cruelty of his Twentieth Century regime…

On 17 November 2000, he and a copilot flew to Thailand, from where he flew to drop 50,000 leaflets over Ho Chi Minh City calling for armed demonstrations against the communist government of Vietnam.

The leaflets had a Republic of Vietnam flag at the top and the text:

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The leaders of the Office of the High Commissioner for Tonkin [the term used for the French colonial government of Northern Vietnam that the author uses for the Communist Government in Hanoi - implying that the Communist Government of Vietnam is a puppet of China and the international communists] are paper tigers. They live uncaring lives feasting on the bodies of their victims [literally “sitting around a table feasting on skulls”]. If we bow our heads to them, the Communists will sit on our necks. If we rise up, the Communists will collapse.”

The other side says:

My Beloved Compatriots in Vietnam,

The moment has arrived! The President of the United States and the Pope has said that they have the right to intervene militarily in a country for the cause of human rights. Follow the examples of Indonesia and Yugoslavia by rising up to overthrow the inhuman Viet Cong regime. Fidel Castro and the paper tigers of the Office of the High Commissioner for Tonkin were humiliated by 50 thousand leaflets that were dropped onto the streets of Havana on the 41st Anniversary of the triumph of the communists in Cuba. When you find this leaflet, you should immediately tell all of our compatriots throughout the country to hold a DEMONSTRATION DEMANDING FREEDOM on 17 November 2000 during the visit by the U.S. President to Vietnam. Every family should take to the streets; every person should take to the streets. Be ready to crush every reactionary effort against you. The DEMONSTRATION DEMANDING FREEDOM must be continued until total victory is attained. Overseas Vietnamese living abroad, NATO, the United Nations, and all free major countries are prepared to help the people of Vietnam when they carry out a General Uprisings. Follow the example of the spirit of Thien An Minh Square to build a historic Gate to greet the arrival of Lady Liberty [the Vietnamese name for the U.S.’s Statue of Liberty].

World Anti-Communist Uprising Alliance

(signed) Ly Tong

Police took him into custody when he returned to Thailand, where he was convicted and imprisoned. Tong was released and came back to California in 2006.

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Ly Tong Released from Jail in Thailand in 2006

On 26 August 2008, Ly Tong rented a plane & pilot for travel. But a short time after taking off, Tong told the pilot to fly the airplane over North Korea so that he could spread anti-communist leaflets to the North Koreans. The pilot told him that due to the lack of fuel they had to return to Seoul to refill, whilst sending an emergency hijacking signal to the airport authorities. Upon landing, Tong was arrested and briefly detained by the airport authorities.

Tong now lives in San Diego. When asked why he put himself at risk, he answered:

If I push the people to overthrow the government, I need to be with them. Why would I run? I would never run. I am not afraid — even if I die.

A friend of mine who is a former intelligence officer told me:

I know this guy. When Ly Tong first crossed the border from Cambodia into Thailand back in 1982 the Thai arrested the guy on suspicion of being a Vietnamese spy. After interrogating him (using "enhanced interrogation techniques") and getting nowhere, the Thai asked for help in determining whether or not he was a spy or a real refugee. After I talked to him for a couple of days and got his background from my headquarters (he was a former A-37 pilot who was shot down and captured in early-mid April 1975), I told the Thai that the guy was not a spy, but that he was definitely not quite right. I believe that Ly Tong's action during subsequent years has supported my assessment of him. After being resettled in the U.S., Ly Tong was working in a liquor store in Louisiana (a liquor store owned by Nguyen Cao Ky) when he shot and killed a 14 year-old black kid he said was trying to rob the store.

A few years later he got access to a private plane (don't know if he rented it or if the plane was arranged for him by anti-communist Cubans) and overflew Havana dropping anti-communist leaflets. Circa 1992 he hijacked a Vietnamese airliner flying from Bangkok to Ho Chi Minh City, forced the pilot to let him drop anti-communist leaflets over the city, and then parachuted from the airliner into a rice paddy to lead the resistance - he was promptly arrested.

He was imprisoned for a couple of years before the Vietnamese Government released him (as the result of pressure from the U.S. Government) and sent him back to the U.S. In 2000 he hijacked a small twin-engine Thai aircraft he had hired for a supposed "tourism flight" and ordered the pilot to fly over Vietnam to again drop leaflets (I don't recall if the pilot actually made it to Vietnamese airspace before returning to Thailand). The Thai tried him for hijacking and he was imprisoned for a while before he was again released and deported to the US.

After getting back to the US he made a "victory" tour around the Vietnamese overseas community, appearing at meetings where people showered him with money - I ran into him at a Chinese restaurant in my area after one of the meetings - he had wads of money sticking out of his coat and pants pockets.

The news was not all had. My friend told me that he had been quite brave and a genuine war hero. That little bit of madness he showed was actually valuable in wartime. The following is the report of another A-37 pilot, Nguyen Thanh Phuong, who at one time was a co-pilot for Ly Tong. He mentions a terrifying attack by Tong:

Ly Tong violated the flight security order that we bomb from high altitude. He took our aircraft down low, saying to me in a joking voice, “This is the only way we can guarantee we will kill a few of those Viet Cong Sons of Bitches.”

When we reached low altitude the anti-aircraft fire became truly intense. After making our second pass and turning away, suddenly a 37 mm round exploded right next to the wing on my side of the aircraft. Even though the shell fragments didn’t hit the aircraft, the force of the explosion caused us to lose control of the aircraft for a second. The plane shivered and shook like a leaf in a windstorm, and no matter what we did with the stick, it had no effect.

When we landed back at the airfield, Tong took me with him to crawl under the aircraft, and we both counted holes. Afterward, Tong was chewed out by for a serious violation of flight regulations by flying so low. He threatened to ground Tong is he did it again. When he walked out of the office, he shrugged his shoulders, just like an American, and told me, “Hell, we’re fighting the enemy! It doesn’t matter how you attack; as long as you kill the enemy, you’ll be rewarded!”

At the age of 74 Ly Tong died of lung disease in San Diego on 6 April 2019.


Information Leaflets during the great Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020

As the Philippine government geared up its effort and strategies in addressing various issues and concerns brought about by health crisis, Joint Task Force Diamond of the Eastern Mindanao Command conducted leaflet airdrop in the communities in Caraga Region on 29 April 2020.

Using helicopters from Tactical Operations Group 10, based in Cagayan De Oro City, units of 4th Infantry Division airdropped 15,000 COVID-19 leaflets to support the Government effort of informing the communities of the current health situation and how to prevent the spread of the pandemic; and the government efforts to mitigate the social impact.

Any readers that recall any of these events or were there when the leaflets were dropped are encouraged to write the author at

12 December 2018