SGM Herbert A. Friedman (Ret.)
It is sometimes strange how a story like this gets to be written. A friend who knows of my expertise in psychological operations send me the image of Donald Duck below and asked if I recognized the leaflet. I told him it was not a leaflet. It was a publication written by the military to try and convince soldiers to cooperate with the psychological warfare experts and disseminate their leaflets and take prisoners for interrogation and intelligence. I said I had many such booklets in my library. He said, “You should do a story on them.” That did not seem like a great idea at first, but then as I thought more about it, I realized it would be a chance to show the readers all the literature the United States published every time it went to war, having to reteach what psychological operations were to troops that had no idea of what it was, and often thought it was some kind of magic where people with strange talents could convince other people through some kind of magical mind tricks to do things they did not want to do. “Man, they can psych you out!” So, here it is.
German soldiers hand over a surrender leaflet to an American soldier
One of the dirty little secrets of WWII was that most American troops wanted nothing to do with propaganda. They knew nothing about it, and those that did know about it believed it was an amoral thing where you regularly lied. They had heard rumors that during WWI Great Britain had lied with stories of German barbarism and convinced America to enter the war. Air Force bomber commanders wanted to drop high-explosive bombs on the enemy, not paper leaflets. Artillery men firing at the enemy wanted to blow them apart and kill them, not send them reading material and toilet paper. Infantrymen on the front lines did not want to see American loudspeakers broadcasting messages to the enemy that were sure to bring an artillery strike on their position. In some cases, they were known to have disabled American loudspeakers to live another night in peace and quiet. Marines fighting the Japanese on far off islands had no interest in taking any prisoners. They were there to kill the enemy, not to become his pal. There were cases where Marine commanders were forced to offer two cases of beer for a Japanese prisoner. For instance, Barak Kushner says in The Thought War – Japanese Imperial Propaganda, University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, 2006:
One reason behind the small numbers of Japanese soldiers captured by U.S. forces may have been the fact that U.S. soldiers slaughtered wounded or surrendering Japanese soldiers...Rampant rage failed to be extinguished even by orders from above. In a desperate effort to obtain prisoners for intelligence purposes, one American division had to encourage soldiers with the award of a case of beer or a bottle of whiskey for each Japanese captured alive. In the southwest Pacific, internal military memos reveal that the ante had to be upped to “three days leave and some ice cream” to coax soldiers to bring in the Japanese prisoners.
The US Navy Japanese/Oriental Language School Archival Project, THE INTERPRETER adds:
To be honest, the darker side of American actions must be set forth. One of our tasks shortly after our arrival was to prepare Japanese-language leaflets urging the Japanese troops to surrender. These leaflets were being dropped over battle areas by plane. One day I came across a young American soldier who had been fighting near the caves where we had recently dropped leaflets. Eagerly, I asked him, “Did those leaflets have any effect?” His response was, “Oh yeah, several soldiers came out waving those leaflets. But you don’t think we took them prisoner, do you?”
John Dower mentions William Manchester’s 1980 memoir in War Without mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War, Pantheon Books, NYC, 1986. He tells of a young American soldier who mowed down a line of surrendering Japanese soldiers on Okinawa in 1945.
This was not just American barbarism or cruelty. John W. Dower adds:
The Japanese themselves bore no little responsibility for the reluctance of Allied soldiers to take prisoners for early in the war they used fake surrenders to ambush their unwary foes. It would have been a rare Marine who did not know the enemy through the story of the Guadalcanal “Goettge patrol” of 12 August 1942. Twenty Marines responded to what appeared to be a Japanese attempt to surrender, and were ambushed, shot, and bayoneted to death. “Kill or be killed” ruled the battlefield thereafter…The Marine battle cry on Tarawa was, “Kill the Jap bastards! Take no prisoners.” The 41st Division under MacArthur was nicknamed “the Butchers” by Tokyo Rose. They bragged that “The 41st didn’t take prisoners.”
Sometimes the Japanese forced the civilians to act against the Americans, or possibly, some acted on their own volition out of some strange loyalty to an Emperor who always treated them as second-class citizens. One example is found in the diary of an American Army engineer. He says that on 26 July 1945, two women emerged from a Japanese cave stark naked and beckoned to one of the patrols. The soldiers were seasoned fighters who had seen numerous ambushes and traps and immediately opened fire killing both women. As they fell to the ground both had hand grenades hidden beneath their armpits.
Sergeant John Basilone said in I’m Staying with my Boys that a captured Japanese letter described the Marines as:
The Americans on this island [Guadalcanal] are not ordinary recruits, but Marines, a force recruited from jails and insane asylums for bloodlust. There is no honorable death for prisoners, their arms are cut off, they are staked on the airfield, and run over by steamrollers.
Psychological Warfare had been used in World War I but was soon forgotten once peace came. In World War II it had to be reinvented and the hard lessons learned once again. The commanders of the PSYWAR units had to find a way to convince their own soldiers of the importance of the Leaflets, loudspeakers, and taking prisoners. The way they did this was to produce propaganda for the American troops. They printed many brochures that explained to the men the importance of PSYWAR. In theory, Americans do not use propaganda on their own people, but this was a special case. We could convince the enemy of the worthlessness of his cause and cause him to suffer lower morale and surrender. A prisoner could give away the enemy’s position, plans, manpower, and weapons. It was important that the American soldiers buy into the PSYWAR concept to shorten the war and lower injuries and death among American troops. In this short article we will depict a few of the publications that were designed to convince American soldiers to support the dissemination of propaganda.
President Roosevelt established the United States Office of War Information (OWI) by his Executive Order 9182 of 13 June 1942. The OWI was charged with conveying information to the world and empowered to conduct propaganda to foreign nations to contribute to an Allied victory. Propaganda in areas of war was subject to the approval of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). At lower levels, the Theater commander had the power of approval. Elmer Davis, OWI’s first Director said that it was, “A war agency, which owes its existence solely to the war, and was established to serve as one of the instruments by which the war will be won.” The OWI would do WHITE propaganda, leaflets and radio broadcasts that were clearly defined as coming from the United States or their allies. The OSS would do BLACK propaganda, leaflets and radio broadcasts disguised as coming from inside enemy countries or from groups opposed to the enemy governments.
Notice that the 4-page brochure Words are Weapons was restricted. That is a low security classification but indicates it was for soldiers and not to be shown to civilians. At the top of the cover, we see a B-24 heavy bomber and a B-25 light bomber. The publication was printed by the OWI in APO 465, which we know from military records was Rangoon, Burma. Its purpose is to explain the use of leaflets in warfare to our troops. It starts off by saying that a piece of paper can become a potent weapon. Page 2 tells the reader How Paper Warfare Works, and how important it is to tell the enemy the truth. How to Win Friends tells how the leaflet can strengthen the will of the people in occupied countries to resist the enemy. It mentions dropping small gifts. During WWII, such gifts as coffee, tea, vegetable seeds and sewing kits were popular gifts. During the Berlin airlift, candy was dropped to the children of East Berlin. Do Leaflets pay Off claims that Japanese soldiers have surrendered using leaflets, and in Japan citizens are forbidden to pick them up and read them.
This is the last page with actual text and the reason it is restricted may be because it mentions various leaflet codes used in Burma and tells a little bit about each one. What is interesting is that a note on the page says that the censor has ruled that leaflets of this type cannot be sent home. All mail from the front was censored in WWII for reasons of security and perhaps to shield the civilians from pictures and comments about loss of life or enemy slaughter of civilians.
OWI Leaflet CBA-31
This appeal leaflet depicts two American B-25 Mitchell medium bombers flying over the landscape of Burma. The Shan version of the leaflet was disseminated by fighters, depicted a P-47 Thunderbolt and was coded XBSha-30. The text on the front is:
DANGER! BOMBS FOR THE JAPANESE
These are American planes flying over your land. From this great height people down below look like small ants. That is why pilots cannot always tell friends from foe. To be safe, stay away from the Japanese.
The back has a longer propaganda message that says in part:
A Message from the Pilot of the Plane Flying Overhead
I am flying over your land to kill Japanese and to destroy their supplies. I have no other purpose here.
Before the Japanese attacked my country I lived peacefully at home. I had no desire for war. But Japan attacked the United States just as it attacked Burma. Now my comrades and I attack the Japanese wherever they are found. We shall not stop until the Japanese have been completely beaten…
Stay away from roads used by the Japanese. Stay away from the railroad. Stay away from Japanese military places. Do not needlessly endanger your lives...
Stay away from Japanese military places.
Luckily for the reader I have written about American propaganda in Burma and as a result can show you what they could not see in WWII.
This small booklet was published by the Office of War Information in London in cooperation with the U.S. Army. It states that it is classified “Restricted” because the propaganda is result of constant conferences between the President Roosevelt and his people and American military leaders. The book says that the information in the booklet would be of great interest to Hitler and Goebbels. The 20-page booklet is highly illustrated with Allied and enemy leaflets, and a letter about why enemy troops had surrendered stamped “secret” at the time. The booklet opens with Japanese, Italian and German troops surrendering due to leaflets. It says that an Italian tank battalion surrender without firing a shot after reading a leaflet. It points out that the Americans dropped leaflets on French North Africa before landing there with Eisenhower’s signature. The landings took place with little opposition. It adds that in Germany where they were confiscating radios, the leaflet became one of the few sources that told the occupied peoples of United Nation’s victories.
Japanese Surrender Leaflet
Near the end of the booklet German and Japanese leaflets are mentioned. The Germans weakened the morale of France by telling the French soldiers that the English will fight until the last Frenchman. The Japanese used nudity and pornography in their surrender leaflets thinking that Americans were weak and womanizers with no fighting spirit. The leaflet above was dropped on Guadalcanal and provided a lot of laughs for the Marines there. In occupied Europe, the leaflets have become valuable, priced in France as high as 150 francs per leaflet. By coincidence, when I was a member of the Psywar Society it was mostly made up of Europeans that had collected the leaflets off their streets in WWII and were intrigued by them.
Officers’ Call – Army Psychological Warfare
This booklet contains a 10-page article on Army Psychological Warfare to teach officers about a new mode of warfare, “psychological warfare, something in which the Army engages only in time of war, and even then, directs primarily at the military forces of the enemy.” It tells of a leaflet and loudspeaker operation where a 350-man German garrison gave up without resistance. That chapter ends with the commander of the 84th Infantry Division saying, “Paper is cheaper than blood.” The article discusses how the infantryman should learn what the PSYWAR soldier can do and interact with him. It then talks about PSYWAR and says the term is new, but the concept is as old as warfare.
How Troops and PSYWAR Work Together for Victory
The article than goes into the use of PSYWAR in military history, mentioning the Greek wars, Mongols, Bunker Hill, WWI, and finally WWII. It explains that despite the mental conditioning which our enemies received, some Japanese soldiers, and many German soldiers did surrender. The article then goes on to explain how intelligence is gathered and how the leaflets are prepared. He then needs to select the propaganda vehicle, the means with which the propaganda will be delivered. Artillery and aircraft are most used. Radio is also an option. The article ends with a look at how efficient PSYWAR is. MacArthur is quoted, "One cannot wage war under present conditions without the support of public opinion, which is tremendously molded by the press and other forms of propaganda.” Eisenhower adds, “In this war, which was total in every sense of the word, we have seen many great changes in military science. It seems to me that not the least of these was the development of psychological warfare as a specific and effective weapon."
Fighting Facts is for U.S. military personnel only. It is not to be republished in whole or in part, without the consent of the War department. It is prepared weekly by the Special Publications Branch. The cover of the 16-page, 5 March 1945 issue, depicts an artillery round (Leaflet shell) surrounded by American propaganda leaflets. The main article in this issue is The Invisible War, a 12-page story on the history of psychological warfare. The second article is Our Propaganda to Japan by Bradford Smith who ran the Office of War Information. Some of the comments from the first article are:
Wars haven't changed much through the centuries. Weapons are different, sure, tanks instead of elephants, BARs instead of javelins, planes instead of chariots. Battles are fought faster. More people get killed. More civilians suffer. But the strategy of war is still pretty much the same: an army's job is still to overpower the enemy-to destroy his will to fight. This is the way Lieutenant General Ira C. Eaker puts it (and it could just as well have been said by Hannibal): "There are 2 ways of winning the war. Breaking the enemy's will to fight and removing his means. If you succeed in doing either, you win the war. If you work on both, you do it all the better."
Hitler is a propagandist. His bill of goods is fascism, and it stinks. Thomas Jefferson was also a propagandist. His bill of goods was democracy, and it still smells fine, thank you. In the last war, psychological warfare had a lot to do with the final German collapse. The job was done chiefly by pamphlets dropped from the rattletraps they called planes in those days. After the war, both Hindenburg and Ludendorff admitted that the collapse of the German Army had been helped along by Allied leaflets. And Hitler said in Mein Kampf: "In the summer of 1915, the first enemy leaflets were dropped on our trenches. This persistent propaganda began to have a real influence on our soldiers in 1915. The feeling against Prussia grew noticeable amongst the Bavarian troops. In this direction the enemy propaganda began to achieve undoubted success from 1916 onwards."
Hitler had it all written down in Mein Kampf, spelled out for those who would bother to read it. This is what he said: "The place of the artillery barrage as preparation for an infantry attack will in future be taken by Revolutionary Propaganda. Its task is to break up the enemy psychologically before the armies begin to operate at all."
We don't often tell the enemy, "Surrender, you Sons of Heaven!" Instead, we use psychology of a kind that we are ready to back up with facts. We tell them about the life of ease as a PW, after the hardships of a tough battle. We tell them about hot food, or a shower. We make sure they understand we have no intention of cutting their testicles off or beating the hell out of them. (Our good treatment of PWs isn't only a matter of being kind-hearted, and of observing the Geneva Convention. It's also a part of our propaganda.)
This 32-page official U.S. Army magazine dated 16 September 1945 depicts a speaker at a microphone and leaflets falling on Europe on the front. The entire magazine is on the theme of propaganda and has articles titled, “Words are Weapons,” “Leaflets,” “Radio,” “The Voice that failed” (Goebbels), etc. It is heavily illustrated and beside the PSYWAR history, has dozens of photographs of Allied and enemy propaganda. One article titled “RAF Carries the Ball” says that just hours after Britain declared war on Germany British bombers dropped six million leaflets on Germany. It is illustrated with a leaflet showing Air Marshall Goering smiling as the Germans bombed Warsaw, Rotterdam, and Belgrade, but becoming increasingly shocked and angry as the Allies bombed Lubeck, Rostock, and Cologne.
Propaganda Minister Goebbels
The magazine covers Allied and German leafleting and strategy and then writes about Propaganda Minister Goebbels, “The Voice that Failed.” It points out than when one German policeman was asked if he believed Goebbels was dead, said, “That man is such a liar, he has probably lied about his own death.”
It was not just the Army that needed to explain what PSYWAR was, the OWI was producing leaflets in Honolulu and Saipan in conjunction with the Navy. The Navy was in the process of putting printing presses on their aircraft carriers so they could print leaflets deigned by the OWI and drop them over Japanese controlled islands. Admiral Nimitz had a leaflet unit at his headquarters in Guam. This 44-page Confidential booklet was printed to tell Navy personnel what was going on and what it meant. It is written in two sections, the first containing chapters on the Japanese character, general propaganda, assault propaganda, propaganda for bypassed garrisons, themes for Japan proper, and samples of American and Japanese propaganda.
Section two was Technical Aspects. It covers ways to drop leaflets, propaganda leaflet shells, the propaganda leaflet bomb, and loudspeaker aircraft.
What is Propaganda
David A. Bossert tells us about What Is Propaganda? in an article titled “Walt Disney Classified.” He says in part that the booklet was produced in 1944 by the War Department and written by Ralph D. Casey for The American Historical Association as part of a program of publications called the G.I. Roundtable Series. These were generally 40-to-50-page softbound booklets on various topics. The pamphlets were created towards the end of the war and distributed to help in the transition to a postwar world. Of all the booklets published, What Is Propaganda? is the only one that uses Donald Duck as a spokesman for asking the question of what exactly propaganda is. Almost every page has a small Disney cartoon on some phase of propaganda.
Germany - The Friend of France
The booklet contains several chapters. The first is Defining Propaganda and says that there are different kinds that can run from selfish, deceitful, and subversive, to honest and aboveboard promotion of things that are good. The next chapter is What is Propaganda and mentions how the Germans used divisive propaganda against the French in 1940 and at the same time they were acting very friendly toward the United States with claims that Germany is no threat to British or American democracy. Chapter 3 is Enemy Propaganda. It starts by calling Hitler an arch-propagandist. It mentions all the way the Nazi Party used propaganda to gain and hold power. The next chapter is Democratic vs. Enemy Propaganda. It tells how Hitler told the world how he would use propaganda in Mein Kampf and how the Allied nations used truth instead of lies. Chapter 5 is War Propaganda. It mentions military power, how propaganda was used by the enemy and the democracies and points out that although propaganda has been used for centuries, it has never been used to the extent it was in WWII. The next Chapter is The Story of Propaganda. This chapter explains the long history of propaganda starting with ancient times right up to the present. What are the Tools of Propaganda talks about the various forms of propaganda. Some are suggestion, stimulation, insinuations, slogans, and symbols. Examples of each are discussed. The next chapter is Some Limitations of Propaganda. This chapter points out that propaganda is not infallible, there must be a fertile field to nourish the propagandist’s seed. The propaganda must be in harmony with the individual and his desires. Next is News and Propaganda. This chapter mostly discusses the importance of a free press. Defining Propaganda is a long chapter reviewing the different ways propaganda is thought of by different people and such things as slogans, catchwords, and other devices used by the propagandist. The chapter How to Size up propaganda tells the reader not to be afraid of it. It mentions several ways to determine if some comment is propaganda, true or a lie. The reader is asked, what is the source of the propaganda? What is its authority? What purposes prompted it? Whom will it benefit? What does it really say? The last chapter is To the Leader. It tells the reader how to share and use the publication. It asks them to try and define propaganda, work with a group to determine if something is propaganda, discuss the difference between the propaganda of the democracies and the enemy, consider safeguards against propaganda, and become an expert on the subject.
PWB Combat Team
Before I leave World War II I should point out that training the actual PSYWAR troops was not very well regulated. These days they go to school, get to learn their skills by working on loudspeakers, radios, printing presses and all the equipment they will use in battle, and have wonderful, detailed field manuals explaining every phase of their job including the legal matters, tactics, and lessons learned. In WWII they were making it up as they went. Above you see a hand-made booklet put together by the Psychological Warfare Branch in WWII. This one was issued to an old friend named Paul Lowenthal. The little 9.5 x 6.5-inch 155-page booklet is packed with everything they could think of that he might need to know in battle.
There are 23 chapters, some of them are: “Rules of propaganda;” “PWB Taboos;” “German Propaganda;” “The Frontpost” (A newspaper the US printed for the Germans); “Leaflet;” “Posters;” and “Loudspeakers.” Notice that at some point the classification of this booklet was changed from Confidential to restricted, and Lowenthal has made the change by hand on the cover.
Richard S.R. Hubert
The OWI Training Course for Personnel attached to the Navy
Although U.S. Army General Douglas MacArthur preferred to use his own people and Australians for his Psychological Warfare Branch, the U.S. Navy with offices in Honolulu and Guam and an outpost in Saipan preferred personnel from the Office of War Information with some attached Navy staff. This is the training material that the OWI Commander, Richard S.R. Hubert used in classes he took before deploying to Saipan. Hubert apparently had some previous classes at the University of California on history, regional geography, and racial customs. He did not even get a booklet at this preparation to deploy course. He was issued a one-inch-thick stack of paper held together by a fastener. Some of the lessons include: “Functions of the Overseas OWI Branch;” “Radio Programming from Script to Microphone:” “Policing the Product;” “The Principals of PSYWAR;” “PSYWAR Media and Target Areas,” “How PWB Combat Teams Work;” etc. Looking through the lesson plan I found an interesting line that just about says it all:
I think we should say in opening, the best way to conduct a quick indoctrination course like this would be to have men back from outpost, men who had been around and have a background in the field. But there is a contradiction in that, because if we had enough men back from outpost, we wouldn’t be training you fellows.
Another interesting line that jumped out at me:
General Eisenhower determined to coordinate our various efforts and appointed a man by the name of Colonel Hazelton to see what he could do. He was a calvary officer, didn’t know a thing about propaganda and admitted it. But he said, “I know the Army, you do the propaganda, and I will set up the organization.”
This seems the way they did things in World War II. Find an officer from any branch and just assign him to a PSYWAR unit and hope for the best.
A Letter from Lieutenant General Mark W. Clark
In this letter Clark tells the members of his 5th U.S. Army and others that he has studied the result of this new weapon of war, psychological warfare, and he likes it! Propaganda helps to shorten the war and to save Allied lives. The 5th Army will continue to use it.
The Clark Banknote Leaflet
General Clark apparently liked the PSYWAR concept so much that eight years later he allowed his name to be used on a safe conduct pass in the form of a North Korean 100 Won banknote after being appointed Commander-In-Chief of United Nations Forces.
The Korean War
C-47 dropping leaflets over Korea
It is hard to believe but after the end of WWII in 1945, psychological warfare seemed to just disappear. There was little interest in it except for a few people who tried to keep it alive realizing how important it was in the last war. And then in 1950 the North Koreans decided to invade and occupy the entire Korean Peninsula.
Following Japan’s surrender in World War II, Korea was arbitrarily divided into zones of Soviet and American occupation, north and south of the 38th north parallel. By 1948, it was clear that reunification of the two countries was hopeless, in May 1948, the Republic of Korea (ROK) was created in the south, with Dr. Syngman Rhee as president, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) was formed in the north. In April of 1948, President Harry S. Truman had stated, "The United States should not become so irrevocably involved in the Korean situation that an action taken by any faction in Korea, or by any other power in Korea could be considered a cause for war for the United States." Kim Il Sung, the dictator of the DPRK, listened closely. He was finely attuned to the intricacies of political rhetoric and interpreted the President’s comment to mean that the United States would not become involved in any military action on the Korean peninsula. The U.S. withdrew its occupation forces in June 1949.
Possibly, because of this perceived "green light," 93,000 North Korean troops with approximately 100 Russian-made tanks attacked southward early on Sunday morning, 25 June 1950 to force reunification. The forces of South Korea were almost pushed into the sea, and communist forces occupied the capital Seoul and much of South Korea.
Captain Jeremy S. Mushtare wrote his Naval Postgraduate school thesis entitled PSYOP in Stabilization and Reconstruction Operations: Preparing for Korean Reunification in 2005. He very succinctly mentions our unpreparedness:
Despite the prevalence of psychological warfare in both World War I and World War II, such units no longer existed in the U.S. Army inventory at the outbreak of the Korean War. By the beginning of the Korean War on 25 June 1950, the Tactical Information Detachment of Aggressor Force at Fort Riley, Kansas was the only PSYWAR unit that remained in the entire United States Army that dealt with PSYWAR. Comprised of approximately twenty personnel, it focused mainly on simulating loudspeaker and leaflet operations against U.S. troops during training exercises.
Once again America goes to war unprepared. In the fall of 1950, the Army’s small Technical Information Detachment (TID) of four officers and twenty enlisted was notified that it was to be changed to a Loudspeaker and leaflet Company on 1 September 1950. It was put on alert for Korea and sent from Ft. Riley, Kansas, to Seattle, and then on to Korea, arriving on 4 November 1950. The 1st L&L Company became operational April 1951 when it found much of its original equipment lost in Japan, got them shipped to Korea, and collected critical TO&E (Table of Organization and Equipment) equipment to become combat effective. Nine loudspeaker teams were dispatched to divisions in the field. The First L&L Company prepared leaflets in the field throughout the Korean War, serving until 21 February 1955.
So once again the military was forced to prepare publications for its own fighting men to explain the concept of psychological warfare and to convince them to take part in psychological operations to demoralize the enemy and save both American and Korean lives. I think this might be a good time to show my readers an example of the problems between the PSYWAR troops and the frontline troops:
Mark R. Jacobson says in his PhD dissertation Minds then hearts: U.S. Political and Psychological Warfare during the Korean War, the Ohio State University, 2005:
Perhaps the most incredulous commentary on the contempt American soldiers had for PSYWAR operations comes from the letters of Corporal Jerry Rose, a Korean War veteran and member of one of the loudspeaker platoons of the 1st L&L. Writing about 40 years after the end of the war, Rose described the conventional units’ feelings toward the 1st Loudspeaker and Leaflet Company:
“Never in the recorded history of warfare, including that of the United States Army, has there ever been a unit that was HATED by BOTH sides.” The loudspeaker platoon’s engendered great feelings among both friend and foe:
“It performed missions at night, and incredibly, in daylight as well, on an almost daily basis – sometimes two in a 24-hour period and it invariably drew fire...most of them a lot of fire. This did not sit well with our troops who were counting points and hoping that a ‘live and let live’ period would result in a rotation home or a cease-fire. When we appeared, everyone headed for the bunkers after giving us a heartfelt finger or drawing it across their throats.”
On at least one mission, the Chinese machine gun and mortar fire traced Rose’s loudspeaker team back to friendly lines, resulting in seven casualties among the infantry unit entrenched nearby. As a result, in Rose’s words, “a sergeant pulled a .45 on us and meant to kill us then and there. He meant it but there were too many witnesses.”
Conversely, the Communists loathed the PSYWAR teams, probably due to their effectiveness; it was lost on the conventional U.S. soldiers that the Chinese offered a $10,000 bounty for any captured PSYWAR personnel and threatened to hang them as war criminals if caught.
An Introduction to Psychological Warfare
Since the United States had not kept up with the concept of psychological warfare since the end of WWII, this small booklet was issued to the troops about 1950 to explain the background of the specialty, the types and duties of units, and the concept of themes such as symbols, emotive words, sociological information, negative propaganda, and dozens more.
Armed Forces Talk
This is an odd publication. on the cover, U.S. troops look at graffiti left on the wall by the Chinese People’s Volunteer Force. Usually each service prints magazines for its own people. In this case, the Office of the Armed Forces Information and Education of the Department of Defense magazine is clearly for the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard. The 24 October 1952 fifteen-page bulletin, number 424, is subtitled, “Your defense against enemy propaganda.” It is much like the WWII magazines. It is illustrated and starts by telling the reader that, “your defense against propaganda is knowledge.” It explains what propaganda is and adds, “Propaganda is a weapon that an enemy can use against us whether at war or not. With it he can attack the minds of our people at home while he attacks us directly.” The publication goes on to mention types of propaganda and depicts famous propagandists like Tokyo Rose and Axis Sally from WWII.
Aimed at the cold and weary fighting man, the leaflet carries several appeals.
The main purpose is to get the serviceman to quit.
It then discusses Soviet propaganda and its agitators (trained propagandists). It explains how enemy propaganda works and shows several North Korean and Chinese propaganda leaflets that I show in my various articles on this subject. It mentions the use of radio, loudspeakers, and rumors. There are anecdotes like how after studying the communist use of bugles in attacks, the American copied the sound and played different bugle calls to confuse and harass the enemy. It quotes Stalin who said, “agitation and propaganda can breed conflict among free countries.” It concludes, with, “you must know what enemy propaganda is about, Where and when enemy propagandists aim their weapons at you, who the enemy propagandists are, how they work, and why the enemy talks to you.
PSYWAR – A Major Weapon
This 15-page information bulletin number 11 is an official publication of the United States Army Europe. It is dated 30 December 1952. The cover depicts a group of Communists in a bullseye as what might be an American B-25 bomber flies over them dropping leaflets. We also see radio towers and loudspeakers. As usual, the bulletin starts by saying, “PSYWAR is not a new weapon, it is as old as war itself.” The bulletin is meant to be used as a guide to the troops and the instructor is told to limit the lecture to 15 minutes. Apparently visual aids were issues with the bulletin. The guide starts with the history of PSYWAR in the American Revolution. It points out that, “psychological warfare does not win wars. Infantry must still seize ground and take prisoners. PSYWAR just makes the job easier.” General Eisenhower is quoted, “Without doubt, psychological warfare had proved its right to a place of dignity in our military arsenal.” It explains what PSYWAR is, the history of PSYWAR, and PSYWAR in World War II. It talks about Hitler and Nazi and Japanese methods. It then talks about the American units in the Korean War, the Radio and Broadcasting Leaflet Group and the Loudspeaker and Leaflet companies.
One third of prisoners at Koje P.O.W Camp admit being influenced by surrender leaflets like the one above.
In the first 125 days of Korean Conflict, the UN distributed 100 million leaflets.
The bulletin then discusses ideological PSYWAR and mentions the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, and the Crusade for Freedom. It concludes, “Because of its successes in World War II, PSYWAR is getting a lot of attention in current military planning and operations. PSYWAR does not win wars. It does shorten them and reduce the costs, in lives and materiel, of fighting them.”
After World War I and World War II the United States dissolved their PSYWAR units and much of the expertise they had learned was lost or forgotten. The military does learn from its mistakes, and after the Korean War, data was saved, and the concept of psychological operations would be made an official part of the new Army. A school was authorized at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, and the officers and men that were assigned to PSYOP were given their own military occupational specialty. In the past, many had simply mentioned they could type or speak a foreign language and were “Shanghaied” into PSYOP units. When you read early reports you find constant complaints of lack of training and when you see documents signed by PSYOP commanders their signature always has “Infantry” or “Artillery.” Now they are trained PSYOP troops with their own specialty. In Vietnam. there were first detachments, then four companies, then four Battalions and finally a full PSYOP Group. Since that time additional groups and battalions have been authorized. The U.S. Army will never be caught without PSYOP, “a force multiplier,” again.
This article is just a short look at publications printed to get troops quickly oriented to PSYWAR and telling them what it can accomplish. Readers are encouraged to write to the author with comments or personal anecdotes at Sgmbert@hotmail.com.