SGM HERBERT A. FRIEDMAN (Ret.)
Authors note: When my good friend retired Major Ed Rouse asked me to write an article on psychological operations many years ago it seemed like a simple project. I was an expert on the field of propaganda and could choose any of Americas wars, starting with WWI and going all the way to Korea, Vietnam or the smaller conflicts like Grenada and Panama. Then it became more complicated. My British friends said, What about us, so I wrote about their operations in Malaya, Kenya, and Aden among others. Then other old friends in Rhodesia and India said What about us? Then American units that did not see combat and individuals who wanted to tell their story said What about us? Over 120 articles later I received a note from a Marine who served on the ground in Korea. He did not drop leaflets; he picked them up during his advances and retreats. I thought his story was interesting enough to write a short article illustrated with many of the leaflets he found and saved during his combat tour.
United States Marine Sergeant George W. King served in Korea for thirteen months during 1951 and 1952. During his return on the troopship USS General Nelson W. Walker in March 1952, he wrote this record of his time in that war-torn country. Like all the young patriotic men who eagerly joined the service to help protect their country, he returned a much more mature adult; one who had seen the horrors of war and was changed forever. He had seen many of his friends die and seen entire units decimated. He mourns the 4,004 members of the first Marine Division that were killed in Korea as well as the thousands of young American men from other units.
George King, Weapons Company, First Marine Regiment
King was fascinated by the aerial propaganda leaflets dropped during the war. During his deployment in Korea he picked the leaflets up off the ground whenever he ran across them. This article will depict some of the leaflets that he found and saved.
Private First Class George King aboard the Aiken Victory
In 1951, Marine Private George King found himself on the 1944 United States Military Transportation ship Aiken Victory on his way to the Land of the Morning Calm. The trip had been long and boring, the ship losing a rudder shaft bearing and carrying 1,800 men instead of the 800 it was designed for. In fact, they had run out of food before sighting land, but Marines were used to such privations. Those old WWII ships were always having problems. I recall on my own cruise with 4,000 troops on board, oil somehow got into the water supply and it became undrinkable for about a week. We basically survived on apples and oranges.
In preparation for landing all of the Marines were issued eight clips of ammunition for their M-1 rifles. As dawn broke, the men standing on the decks saw the port city of Pusan for the first time. They were not impressed. The Japanese had done little to modernize the city during their occupation.
The Marines debarked and were placed in Army trucks for the drive north. They soon found themselves in an Army airfield. They spent the night there and were surprised to find that the men serving their meals were North Korean prisoners of war. The following day King watched Marine Corsair fighters taking off and landing after missions against the enemy up north. The Marines were formed in groups of 40 and flew on Army transports to Wonju, about 25 miles from the actual fighting front.
King on Perimeter Duty
They were immediately trucked northward to Hongchan where the First Marine Regiment in reserve was based. King was assigned to a machinegun platoon for perimeter security. His weapon was the 30 caliber light machine gun. King served under Colonel Chesty Puller, the most highly decorated Marine in history. Puller was a colorful character who became famous in WWII and carried that reputation into the Korean War. During the Chinese spring offensive in 1951, Puller contacted the Headquarters of the disintegrating Republic of Korea outfit on the left flank of the Marine division, seeking to determine the strength of the attacking enemy. A Korean answered, Oh, many, many, many! Puller spoke to another Korean officer and got the same answer. Finally, he got through to a young Marine officer acting as a liaison to the ROK unit. The lieutenant blurted out, A whole damn pot full, Sir. Puller was finally satisfied. Well, Im glad someone up there can count.
During the next few weeks King wandered through the defensive lines investigation strange sights and smells. He found an old trench that was full of dead Chinese soldiers. Nobody had ever bothered to bury them. On a later mission where he acted as a runner between two squads he came across four dead American Army soldiers in a hole in the side of a hill. He told his chain of command about the bodies but was shocked to find little interest. He said that even Graves Registration, the unit tasked with finding and properly making note of where Americans were killed and buried had little interest. He still wonders how many of the missing-in-action Americans are in holes and crevices in the Korean landscape because nobody cared to go bring in the bodies.
The Marines Move North
On 20 April 1951 the regiment moved 12 miles further north to Chunchen on the banks of the Han River. The Americans ran into tough resistance in that area sometimes called the Iron triangle. The 10-mile front was held by the Marines, a Turkish Brigade, a Republic of Korea (ROK) unit and elements of the Second Army Division. King says that during a furious Chinese attack the ROKs broke and ran. The Marines and Army units made a strategic withdrawal, closely followed by the Chinese Communists. As the Marines passed through Chunchen, Kings squad was ordered to burn anything that might be useful to the enemy. He was deeply moved at having to destroy buildings by flame throwers and phosphorous grenades. He was heartbroken to see many old women watch as he burned what was left of the war-savaged homes. As King retreated from Chunchen he could see about 2,000 Chinese crossing the Han River to enter the town. This was their long awaited Spring Offensive. The Marines were given a Presidential Citation for their actions during the retreat. That still amazes King.
King Catches some Rays in the Hwachon Reservoir
That summer the Regiment then went to the Yanggu-Inje front. They took the town and set up a defensive position. The Hwachon Reservoir was nearby so many of the men went swimming and washed their clothes there. King left his weapons company on 28 June 1951 and reported to Easy Company on the line.
North Korean Soldier ID Card
On one occasion a surrendering North Korean teenager gave King his identification papers. The papers belonged to Joon Young Lee of a machinegun company of the 2nd Regiment of the 32nd Division. He had been drafted into the Army in 1950 from his home city of Inchon.
During earlier patrols King had helped bring in groups of Chinese soldiers who were tired of the war. One time his patrol had found 23 enemy soldiers in a farmhouse and another 17 more in a cave. King thought that the U.N. surrender leaflets dropped each day at nightfall was having an effect. While on these patrols, he picked up about 100 of the leaflets and sent them home.
By July, the Marines were testing the enemy lines, sending out patrols to draw fire. King called these suicide missions. They followed the same pathway at the same time every day. They got the same results enemy fire. By this time King was carrying the Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) and had three men carrying extra ammo for him.
The Marines now settled into kind of a routine while the peace talks were being debated. Sometimes an American unit would fire rockets from Kings area or set up searchlights and that always led to Chinese artillery retaliation. The Chinese regularly bombarded the Marines each day from 6:15 to 6:30 a.m., 1:10 to 1:20 p.m. and 6:40 to 7:00 p.m. After a while the men knew when it was safe to walk around the area, but every now and then the Chinese would be a little early or a little late and that caused problems. One time King was forced to dive for a trench because some Chinese officer had not set his alarm clock. He almost broke his shoulder.
The Marine Regiment was relieved by the U.S. Army Second Division on 11 July. They returned to Hongchon just in time for the seasonal rains. Everything was wet and there was mud everywhere. King was looking for some high ground and he found a Sergeant Major from his home town and managed to get transferred to Weapons Company as part of an 81mm mortar team. He now had a tent and a cot and was promoted to Corporal.
On 4 September the unit was sent back to the Inge front to relieve the 7th Marines. King says:
In just one day they had been decimated. The survivors were dirty, tired, and had that Thousand yard look. We set up the mortars at the base of a hill and dug in as best we could. After two hours of digging my foxhole, I crawled into it and pulled a piece of supply parachute over me. No sooner had I stretched out than the word came down to move out. As we moved up the peak I could hear the shells going by. The Chinese had blasted our former position.
King finally dug in at the top of the hill and the rest of the night members of the 7th Marines passed by his position heading south. He called them the walking wounded.
The Morning After A Marine Among Dead Chinese
On 13 September, King took part in what he calls The first helicopter operation in history. The Second Battalion of the First Marines was stalemated in Hill 749. 228 Marines boarded 10 Sikorsky helicopters in 28 separate flights and flew over and behind the Chinese. He says that was the toughest fighting in Korea, with about 90 Marines killed and 714 wounded on Hill 749. The Marines killed 771 Chinese and estimate that the actual losses were double that number. In addition, they captured 81 Chinese soldiers. For the next few days King carried machine gun ammunition and mortar shells up the hill and the dead and wounded down off the hill.
On 16 October the Marines moved up Hill 812. They spent a month there in relative quiet. It started snowing 25 October and did not stop until spring. By 10 December it was so cold that King says you almost wished for death rather than face that minus 20 degree temperature. There was simply no way to warm yourself.
The 81mm mortar unit was sent to the front again but this time had a good position with a log-reinforced bunker, cots, lanterns and stoves. King was relatively happy.
By 16 February 1952 King was back at Camp Tripoli and ready to return home. He was now 20 years old. By 16 March he was onboard the General Walker writing his personal history of the war.
He ends them thusly:
I dont want to forget the action in Korea, its ugliness and its bitterness. It can and will happen again. I want to do my part to keep it from happening again. I pray to God that He will give us a common understanding with our fellow men and brothers. That we will be spared the foolish, ignorant method of settling our disputes.
Take us under Thy Hand of Kindness, protectiveness and love. Teach us the Golden Rule and the righteous way of life as You intended for us to have.
Most leaflets collected by Sergeant George King were produced by the Allies. In theory they are all United Nations, although to be more accurate, they were all produced by United States psychological operations (PSYOP) troops under the United Nations Flag. That is why you will generally see a United Nations Flag on Allied leaflets instead of that of the United States. King told me about collecting the leaflets:
The leaflets were dropped by low-flying DC-3 aircraft over the Korean/Chinese front lines each evening at dusk.
When the enemy came into our lines displaying any of the surrender leaflets, we were to allow them free passage. Sometime this was a ruse, and we were subject to hidden weapons fire. We were very wary of accepting prisoners in this manner, but we did allow safe passage in most cases.
The leaflets were primarily for discouraging the commitment to war in the enemy ranks. The aircraft which dropped the leaflets also had loudspeakers attached to the undersides of their wings which broadcast a Korean or Chinese woman pleading for immediate surrender.
Author’s note: King uses the DC-3 civilian identification for the aircraft. The military version was known as the C-47 or Goony Bird. He talks about the threat of taking prisoners. In WWII, so many Marines were killed by Japanese soldiers who would surrender with grenades or weapons strapped to their backs that at one point The Marine commander had to offer two cases of beer for a live prisoner. The officers constantly told the men in WWII that a live Japanese soldier was a wealth of information. A dead one was worthless.
The first leaflet we depict is an enemy product produced by the North Korean Army and left in the barbed wire in front of Kings foxhole on 15 July 1951. The leaflet is rather handsome in a crude way and depicts doves at peace at the left and right and the red Communist star at the center. Some of the English-language text on the front and Korean-language text on the back is:
English text on front:
The General Headquarters of the Korean Peoples Army
Officers and men of the U.S., British & other foreign Forces! What are your thoughts today?
Over a year of bitter warfare How much longer this useless, futile fight Death for me, or crippled for life Let the warmongers do their own dirty underhanded work
SAFE CONDUCT PASS
Show this pass to the Korean Peoples Army or the Chinese volunteers & they will guarantee for you:
Safe conduct in a P.O.W camp.
Full ration of food and tobacco.
Clothing and necessities.
LAY DOWN YOUR ARMS, LIVE TO SEE YOUR HOMELAND AGAIN.
The Korean Text is mostly the same as the front, but with some interesting twists. Of course, Kings leaflets were translated by Koreans so the text might be expected to be different from the official American translations. Some of the Korean text on back is:
The Headquarters of the Peoples Army of Chosen
SAFE CONDUCT PASS
To the puppet soldiers of Syngman Rhee
Do not throw away your precious lives and die for the deceiving Americans and Syngman Rhees gangs!
SAFE CONDUCT PASS
This pass will guarantee you the following; therefore it is a very precious document.
We will absolutely secure your life.
We guarantee you enough food and housing.
We offer proper medical treatment, clothes, and will provide the daily necessities and guarantee you the use of entertainment facilities.
As for the reunification and peace of the fatherland you should drop your weapon and come over to the peoples Army or the Chinese volunteer army.
To those who bring this pass we protect their lives and treat them well.
The most amazing thing about this particular leaflet is that it was also produced by the United States with almost identical wording. I am not sure which side used this format first, but John Martin Campbell depicts the American version in Slinging the Bull in Korea, University of New Mexico Press, 2010. The Communist and American leaflets are the same except that the text has been changed in such a way that it now asks the Communists to surrender. Some of the U.S. text is:
Eighth United States Army Korea
Officers and men of the C.C.F., NKPA, & other foreign forces! What are your thoughts today?
Lay down your arms, live to see your friends again.
The only other case I can think of where both sides used virtually the same safe conduct pass was during WWII when the United States produced a pass for Germany signed by Eisenhower, and the Germans retaliated with the same pass but with slightly changed text. In that case the original text was:
The German soldier who carries this safe conduct is using it as a sign of his genuine wish to give himself up. He is to be disarmed, to be well looked after, to receive food and medical attention as required and to be removed from the danger zone as soon as possible. (Signed) Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force.
And the German retaliatory text was:
The German soldier who carries this safe conduct is using it as a sign of his genuine wish to go into captivity for the next ten years, to betray his fatherland, to return home a broken old man and very probably never see his parents, wife and children again. (Signed) Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Force.
The Allied leaflets we will depict below were mostly dropped by USAF C-47 light cargo aircraft (Officially named The Dakota but fondly remembered as the Gooney Bird by the troops) over the enemy each evening at dusk. The aircraft were also equipped with loudspeakers and often made surrender appeals while flying over the enemy. Any enemy North Korean or Chinese soldier approaching the Allied lines with a surrender pass was allowed free passage to the rear. In some cases the enemy employed ruses to get close to the Americans so the Marines were always on high alert when one or more showed up with the leaflets in hand.
I should also point out that many of these leaflets appear in two versions with different code numbers. That is because they were printed in either Chinese or Korean and the message might slightly change according to the target.
Safe Conduct Pass MacArthur
Probably the leaflets dropped over the enemy in the greatest numbers were the various safe conduct passes. There were Dozens and perhaps hundreds of different types. Some were signed by generals in an attempt to make them more authoritative. The pass above is one of dozens signed by General Douglas MacArthur. These passes are found in both Korean and Chinese. This particular one exists in several varieties including a longer version with added propaganda text below the safe conduct pass. Prior to the Korean conflict, General Douglas MacArthur had been Commander in Chief, Far East Command, headquartered in Tokyo. Following United Nations approval of the intervention, MacArthur assumed the additional role of Commander in Chief, United Nations Command. On 11 April 1951, General MacArthur was relieved of his Korean command by President Harry S. Truman. Lt. Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway replaced MacArthur as U.N. commander.
The text on this standard leaflet is:
SAFE CONDUCT PASS.
Soldiers of the UN forces: This certificate guarantees good treatment to any enemy soldier desiring to cease fighting. Take this man to your nearest officer and treat him as an honorable prisoner of war. (Signed) Douglas MacArthur, General of the Army, Commander-in-Chief.
Notice the choice of words. As in MacArthurs WWII safe conduct passes to the Japanese, nowhere does this leaflet mention the word surrender. The communists do not surrender, they simply cease fighting. This wording allows the soldier surrendering to save face.
Safe Conduct Pass 6008 Ridgway
Like General MacArthur, there seems to be dozens of safe conduct passes signed by General Ridgway. The one above is similar to the MacArthur leaflet and has the same message in English Chinese and Korean. The text is:
SAFE CONDUCT PASS.
Soldiers of the UN forces: This certificate guarantees good treatment to any enemy soldier desiring to cease fighting. Take this man to your nearest officer and treat him as an honorable prisoner of war.
Matthew B. Ridgway
General, U.S. Army
Commander-in-Chief, United Nations Command.
This leaflet has an odd message because it is not aimed at soldiers on the front lines; it is aimed at those soldiers coming to relieve or replace them. The front depicts a soldier walking over the body of his comrades to get to the front. There is also a Chinese-language companion leaflet coded 7048. The text on the front is:
Do you know that death is waiting for you?
Warning – North Korean second line soldiers –
The back is all text:
NEWS FOR REPLACEMENT UNITS
WHAT WAITS IN FRONT OF ME?
There is a war in front of me – the most severe war in the history of Korea. There are powerful U.N. forces waiting to destroy the Communist aggressors. They have dreadful weapons: flame throwers; tanks, and artillery weapons against your rifles.
WHY DID I COME HERE?
Those thousands of Communist troops who came before me are all dead. So, I am here to replace them.
WHAT SHOULD I DO?
The wise North Korean soldiers secretly escaped to the United Nations side and they are well-treated and enjoying their new life. This is the only way for me to survive.
DEATH? OR LIFE?
The front of this leaflet depicts a starving North Korean soldier, the center shows North Korean soldiers being killed by rifles, tanks, and F-80 fighters, and at the right a soldier is walking dejectedly. The official data sheet for this leaflet states that the title is “Three Choices.” It is aimed at the North Korean Army and depicts starvation, shell fire and exhaustion. The text is:
There are just three things the Communists can give to the soldiers of North Korea:
Starvation - Bombardment - Tiredness
At the bottom there is a skull and the word:
The back of the leaflet depicts a Ridgway safe conduct pass along with a vignette of Communist soldiers walking toward a U.N. Tent that is shown to be well stocked with medical goods. The text on the back is:
But the U.N. soldiers offer you another way!
Life – Good food – Security – Good treatment
Follow the thousands of your comrades who came to the
U.N. side for an honorable surrender!
So far, I have just depicted the front of signed Ridgway leaflets. Leaflet 1126 depicts the standard safe conduct pass signed by General Ridgway and a long propaganda text in the Korean language. The same leaflet was written in the Chinese language and coded 7104. Some of the Korean text on the front of the safe conduct pass is:
OFFICERS AND MEN OF THE PEOPLE’S ARMY
The longer you continue to fight for the Communists, the more certain you are of facing death. Perhaps you fight to become a hero; but heroism in death is a useless thing.
The real Korean heroes are those who have gone over to the United Nations lines. They prefer life to death because they know that dead men cannot reconstruct the Fatherland. Do not be deceived by the Communists, judge yourself and decide which is a heroic act and which is a barbaric act. Follow your comrades who came over to the United Nations side after they read the back of this leaflet, they are the real heroes.
The back of this leaflet depicts a four-panel cartoon on how to surrender: A safe conduct pass is found by two North Korean soldiers; They crawl to the U.N. lines; they are welcomed; in the last panel they sit around in a warm room and smoke. The text is:
After you read the U.N. leaflets tell your friends about the contents
Make your escape during nighttime
U.N. soldiers will warmly welcome you
After you safely cross to the U.N. side you will be given food, treated well, and proper medical treatment
This leaflet is another safe conduct pass, this one signed by general James van Fleet. The brunt of the U.N. action was borne by the U.S. Eighth Army. Lieutenant General James A. Van Fleet took command of the Eight Army on 14 April 1951 when Ridgeway became Commander in Chief of U.N. Forces. Although this leaflet claims that Van Fleet was Commanding General of UN Forces in Korea, as far as I know he only commanded the U.S. Eighth Army. My favorite quote by the general was when he was asked by a newsman, “How will we know when we have won the war?” Van Fleet shook his head and said, “I don’t know, somebody higher up will have to tell me.” The back of this leaflet depicts Communist Chinese troops surrendering in daylight or crawling away from their lines at night and then sitting around, their wounds bandaged, eating and smoking.
The back of the Van Fleet safe conduct pass consists of three cartoon panels which show North Korean troops being bombed, living miserably in their foxholes, and finally in a United Nations camp feasting on fresh food. The text on the back is:
Supply roads are totally destroyed.
Due to the many days of starvation, we do not have the strength to stand up.
The way to freedom and happiness is to surrender to the United Nations!
Some of the Allied leaflets simply tried to frighten the enemy. The above leaflet was printed in two versions. In both Death beats a drum while a blindfolded Communist soldier follows. In the Chinese-language version (7043) a dying man is on the ground at the right. In the Korean-language version (1058) a crying infant is shown on the ground at the lower right. The official data sheet for this leaflet states that its title is Impending Death. It is an anti-morale leaflet and depicts a North Korean soldier blindly following an imaginative personification of death, his back turned to a weeping Korean child. Some of the text is:
Why should I walk on the road of death in this attack?
Why did our officers deceive us about the dreadful power of the U.N. air planes, tank and artillery?
Why did they beat the drums of battle so loud to block my ears from hearing the crying of my wife and children?
Why cant I be allowed to survive to see my loving family?
Elliot Harris mentions a problem with Chinese perception in The Un-American Weapon, Psychological Warfare, which might indicate that this leaflet would not work well on the Chinese. He says:
The Chinese did not appear to identify symbols in the way U.N. leaflets had intended. Skeletons were not identified as such.
This leaflet was entitled Character of the United Nations Forces. It was designed to show the nature and character of the international United Nations troops fighting in Korea. Communism is represented by the figure of Death, while the United Nations forces are depicted in the composite figure of a giant soldier. The text is:
Australia, Ethiopia, Columbia, Canada, France, Greece, Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, Thailand, Turkey South Africa, England and the United Stated of America.
We are the United Nations soldiers. We march to meet you. We are from all over the world, both big and small countries. We are united to destroy aggression. We have no personal grudge against the North Korean soldier. We welcomed those thousands of North Korean soldiers who have come over to our side.
With tears in our eyes we killed those thousands of obstinate North Korean soldiers who wished to carry on the war against their brothers. We will follow the old saying
A friend to a friend.
An enemy to an enemy.
This leaflet depicts the overwhelming might of the United Nations forces arrayed against North Korea. It shows a lone Communist soldier facing a solid wall of artillery, each cannon with the name of one of the United Nations countries. Curiously, the nations are named in English, something that the Korean soldier clearly could not read. Notice that the code has a prefix R. This means that the leaflet was considered so effective that an additional order was sent for a reprinting. Some of the text on the back is:
The 54 Free World countries are firmly united to defeat Red China which has tried to make North Korea into a country of slaves. There is no soldier so foolish as to fight alone against 54 soldiers. But Red China is fighting against 54 countries using Korea as a battleground and wasting Korean resources and Korean blood.
Soldier: stop fighting for the Communist war of slavery and come over to the United Nations and follow all those who are already enjoying safe lives there.
A North Korean officer looks down at dead and wounded soldiers to his right, and soldiers being treated by a medic at his left. This leaflet was also printed in Chinese coded 7058. The text is:
North Korean soldiers to the hopeless pit of war?
North Korean soldiers to the safe United Nations side?
The back of the leaflet depicts North Korean surrendering holding safe conduct passes. The text says in part:
The good officer’s first responsibility is to his men.
The real commanders know that if the war is difficult for them and there are great dangers for their soldiers the wisest thing for them to do is surrender. Continuing this war for the Communists only brings death to you and your subordinates. The wisest North Korean commanders are continuously coming over to the United Nations side with their units. The U.N. forces guarantee equal treatment to all North Korean soldiers. Your subordinates are waiting for you wise leadership.
This all-green leaflet depicts ships from the various nations allied to The Republic of Korea bringing needed supplies. The back depicts an American soldier on guard. The text on the front is:
Many of the Nations of the world are united in the fight for Freedom
Some of the long text message on the back is:
Why did the U.N. Soldiers come to Korea?
The United Nations was born after the end of WWII with 50 large and small countries gathered from all over the world to achieve world peace and guarantee freedom for each nation. Shortly afterwards 10 more nations joined the U.N. The major purpose of the U.N. is to maintain peace and counter aggression.
When Communist North Korea attacked the Republic of Korea, their Government asked the ZU.N. to help them drive out the aggressor. To carry out that responsibility, the U.N. sent soldiers, aircraft, ships, and tanks to Korea. The U.N. has not only the responsibility to drive out aggressors, but also to establish a permanent peace in the Republic of Korea and reestablish its economy…
Map of Korea depicting a Communist hand trying to cut it into two pieces. United Nations ships and bombers are in the North and tanks are crossing the 38th Parallel. There is a Chinese version of this leaflet coded 7075. The leaflet is called “Demilitarized zone,” and points out that the Communists want to make the 38th parallel the border again although UN forces are 20 to 30 miles north of that line. The text on the front is:
The Communists claim that the 38th parallel is the border while prolonging the war
The current front line is 20 to 30 miles deeper into the north well over the 38th parallel
Text in the back says in part:
The battleground is about 20 to 30 miles north of the 38th parallel. The Air and naval fronts are up to the Yellow River. United Nations soldiers are trying to establish a buffer zone along the current frontline to finish the war. The Communist leaders want to extend their front line to the 38th parallel which was the symbol of Korean division for the past 5 years. What reason can there be to continue the suffering and the bleeding for a few more miles of ground? Demand a ceasefire to this useless war…
This leaflet is entitled Republic of Korean Reunion and Reunification. It targets Korean soldiers serving with the Communists and attempts to exploit them through good treatment and unification themes. Both 1102 and 1103 depict soldiers with historic Korean personages. The front depicts Dangun, legendary founder of Korea, a Republic of Korea flag and ex-ROK soldiers who went over to the Communists and are now returning. Some of the text is:
This is the letter from a Communist soldier who wants to come over to the United Nations side. Even without writing a letter like this you are welcome to the United Nations side.
Dear Republic of Korea Soldier,
North Korean soldiers have forcibly entered the Republic of Korea. I wish for the United Nations victory every hour of the day. This terrible war of brother against brother is caused by the Communists. I am so sorry that we have been forced to point guns at you who just want to be left alone in South Korea. I think of suicide, but I want to like to see a united Korea and live a happy life there. I wait now and hope to soon see a United Nations victory.
North and South Korean soldiers shake hands under Dangun, the legendary founder of Korea. The leaflet mentions reunion and unification. The text on the front is:
One Father – One blood – One race!
There is a long message on the back that says in part.
One Father – One blood – One race!
To those South Korean soldiers who unavoidably joined the Communist forces.
No Korean will ever forget the first lesson when they learned the history of their Fatherland. That is, they were united with the blood of the Dangun founding father and should live together in love and friendship. Today the Korean people must be united more than any other time in Korean history. It is the fervent desire of all faithful Koreans. Several thousand former South Korean soldiers who unavoidably joined the Communists have left their ranks and returned to the Republic of Korea in the past few weeks. Your former comrades and the United Nations soldiers want you to promptly return to the Republic
Author’s note: Dangun is traditionally credited with creating the entire Korean race and ruling over the kingdom of Gojoseon, ancient Korea's first proper state, which was founded in 2333 BCE. He is said to be the "grandson of heaven" and the "son of a bear." As the North Korean Army moved up and down the peninsula, many south Koreans were coerced to join the Communists, and some might have been convinced they would win and be the wave of the future. In this leaflet, those soldiers are invited to return to the Republic of Korea side. Notice that there is no bad feeling and no loss of face or betrayal. Their joining the enemy was simply “unavoidable.”
In this nostalgic leaflet, a lone North Korean soldier stares at harvest moon and sees his home and family. The autumn festival occurs on August 15 of the lunar calendar. This leaflet was designed by the 1st Radio Broadcasting and Leaflet Group. The short message on the back is:
While the autumn festival is near, home is far away
This leaflet depicts a North Korean woman with her two crying children. She is kneeling down before an empty food bowl. The cold winter winds blow all around them. Th text on the front is:
THE NIGHTS GROW COOL NOW
The text on the back is:
The nights grow cool now. Soon tey will be gray with snow and you will need food to warm your bodies.
Do you have enough food to last the winter, or have the Chinese Communists stolen your rice and left you only the stalks to chew?
A Freezing North Korean soldier visualizes food, heat, and medical care. This leaflet was printed by the 1st Radio Broadcasting and Leaflet Group on 27 September 1951. This is the Korean version; a Chinese version is coded 7000. The text on the front is:
Will help come?
The text on the back says in part:
If you are wounded in action or grow seriously ill this winter, what will happen to you?
Must we fight again this winter? Communist soldiers must fight once again in the severe cold of winter because their leaders are delaying the armistice talks. Therefore, thousands of Communist soldiers will die by air raids, the bombardments of the United Nations, and the lack of food. Who is the cause all this? Is this for Korea? No, this is for the Soviet Union’s selfish political ambition. Soldiers, you are fighting for this reason.
A Korean woman and baby look up from the rubble at an uncaring Chinese soldier. The theme is “the Chinese colonization of Korea.” This leaflet was printed by the 1st Radio Broadcasting and Leaflet group on 30 October 1951. The text on the front is:
Korea: A Chinese Colony or a Free Nation?
The text on the back is:
To make Korea a Chinese colony – Is this the present aim of the Chinese Communists, just as it has been China’s aim for a great many years?
Ask yourself these questions: Since Red China has interfered in the Korean War, why does she insist on holding this dominant position in the military operations? Since the Chinese Communist Army has come to Korea, why does she insist upon secretly controlling the Korean Communist government? And why does Red China insist on secretly directing the peace talks instead of allowing Korea to decide its own future? The attacks to these questions point to only one conclusion: The Communist are preparing Korea to become China’s slave state – an age-old dream.
UNIFICATION AND FULL SOVEREIGNTY WILL COME TO KOREA ONLY WHEN THE COMMUNIST INVADERS ARE EXPELLED
American veterans of the Korean War constantly talk about how cold it was. This leaflet uses that cold as a theme. The front features three images of Korean soldiers; cold, hungry, and wounded. The same leaflet was made in Chinese and coded 7097. The title of the leaflet is, “Escape. Save your life.” The leaflet was dropped on 18 October 1951. The text on the front is:
The U.N. welcomes you to come over…
Before freezing to death
Before your wounds kill you
Before you starve to death
Hurry and escape!
The back is all text and says in part:
Soldiers! How long have you been fighting?
Soldiers! Did you know that about 1.3 million people are dead or wounded?
Soldiers! Did you know that more than 166,765 intelligent people safely came over to the UN side?
Soldiers! How long do you think you can survive before you are hit and fall?
You will not survive. Follow those intelligent comrades. Survive! Escape quickly!
This leaflet is entitled Nostalgic and is designed to show how the war is affecting civilians. It depicts a woman praying amid destruction. Some of the text is:
There are so many North Koreans without food, no place to go and hopeless, wandering in fear and emptiness.
Perhaps this woman could be your mother, loving wife or your sister whom even in your dreams you cannot forget. The Communists took without mercy her house, food, and even her family members. They will even take away her prayers which are her last possession.
Peace! Peace will come only after all the Communists who brought on this war have been driven out. Soldiers! You should cooperate to drive out the Communist aggressors in order to return to your loving family with honor.
This Korean-language leaflet depicts a peaceful scene of women and children in the market place before the war. The title of the leaflet is:
The United Nations and its aims in Korea
Some of the long text on the back is:
Once there was a peaceful time in Korea. The children ran and played in the villages where apricot flowers bloomed. Men gathered together smoking a long bamboo pipe and talked long hours telling old stories. Women busily shopped. Young men got married and had a happy life.
But one day the Communists started a terrible and miserable war. Peaceful villages were destroyed and people now live in fear. Not too long from now all the villages will be peaceful again when the United Nations brings back peace.
Once again Korea will be tranquil and, in the villages, we will hear the joyful voices of children. There will be an independent Korea with a free spirit. Faithfully cooperate with the United Nations to bring this peace to Korea.
This leaflet depicts unified Koreans marching through Seoul’s Independence Gate. It was printed by the 1st Radio Broadcasting and Leaflet Group on 4 December 1951. The text on the front is:
The gateway to free and unified and independent Korea.
The text on the back says in part:
Free elections or Communist elections?
Most of the Korean people want to build a democratic Korea. To do this, they need to democratically elect their leaders. In the Republic of Korea, you can vote freely for the candidate you favor among many candidates. In fact, the people can elect whoever they want.
In North Korea, you can only vote yes or no for the one candidate who was appointed by the Communists. In fact, a few communists elect themselves. This kind of communist election system leads to suffering, an authoritarian dictatorship and war. Free elections bring freedom, peace, and true democracy. The free elections in the Republic of Korea are one of the points favored by the United Nations.
The communist can only bring dictatorship and authoritarianism to Korea. Through democracy, Korea can be built as an independent, free, and unified nation!
Leaflet R-1133 A
This leaflet depicts North Korean prisoners getting an issue of new clothing, warming themselves by a fire and getting fed warm food. The back depicts a United Nations emblem at the top and additional text. Some of the text on the front of the leaflet is:
The day when North Korean soldiers drop their rifles and knives and cease to fight, the United Nations will give you clothes, warm shelters and food. We will treat you well according to the Geneva Convention.
Some of the text on the back of the leaflet is:
We will treat you well according to the Geneva Convention!
A great number of your comrades are now treated well according to the Geneva Convention and happily living behind the United Nations lines.
While the Communist leaders stall the armistice hearings your lives are in danger just as is a candle flame in the wind.
We will treat you well according to the Geneva Convention!
This leaflet is called “Three Cities” and targets the North Korean Army and North Korean civilians. The leaflet is designed to illustrate Korea's betrayal to its foreign enemies. It was printed by the 1st Radio Broadcasting & Leaflet Group. On the front is a giant Soviet soldier snaring the three North Korean cities of Chongjin, Najin, and Unggi. The text on the front is:
The Sins of the Communists
The back says in part:
Dear Korean people:
The Communists always talk of Korea’s independence and unification. But deceitful Kim Il-sung sold the control of those three important harbor cities to the Russian Communists. Chongjin, Najin, and Unggi. As long as the Russian Communists control our cities how can we expect unification of the Fatherland?
Note: The American translation uses the cities above. A Korean translator said instead: Chung jin, Ra jin, and Oong gi. Take your pick.
Leaflet 7040 depicts North Korean soldiers trying to walk against the violent waters coming over a dam. The title is:
Can human bodies dam the flow of a river?
Some of the text on the back is:
Officers and Men of the North Korean Army!
You are very busy now because the Communist bosses are preparing for you to die in the foolish belief that the powerful United Nation forces can be defeated. Once again you will be ordered to attack.
We are waiting for you.
We do not wish to kill soldiers forced to fight. Can human flesh resist white-hot searing flame? A rain of steel from airplanes and high explosives that blanket the land?
Can human bodies dam the river or stop the ocean tides? Hundreds of thousands of North Korean soldiers have died needlessly and lie in lost graves because their Communist masters ordered them to attack against certain death.
More than 144,000 North Korean and Chinese soldiers now live in security and comfort provided by the United Nations. They found the way to stop fighting. They are the wise ones .
This leaflet depicts a North Korean soldier holding a flag which symbolizes a unified Korea. It also bears the code 209 which implies that the Republic of Korea also printed this leaflet for dissemination among its own people. The text on the front is:
Who is a true patriot among you?
The message on back says in part:
To the Comrades in the People’s Army
Dear Comrades, who carry the holy blood of Admiral Yi Sunsin and General Eulji Mundeok! Tell your comrades that all the Korean people share the same blood.
When the Fatherland was invaded you fought courageously against the aggressors demanding freedom for the Fatherland. It was very patriotic actions by those who carried the blood of Admiral Yi Sunsin and General Eulji Mundeok. Oh, lovers of the Fatherland! Think if you are the sons and daughters of our noble race or not. Think well. Do you know? Freedom will come shortly.
Authors Note: This leaflet uses heroes from Korea’s past to try and motivate Communist troops to act in a more noble and patriotic way. Admiral Yi Sunsin was famed for his victories against the Japanese navy during the Imjin war in the Joseon Dynasty. Yi has since been celebrated as a national hero in Korea. General Eulji Mundeok was a military leader of early 7th century Goguryeo, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, who successfully defended Goguryeo against Sui China. He is often numbered among the greatest heroes in the military history of Korea.
This small leaflet is all text. I normally do not add all text leaflets, but the messages are interesting in that they hit on the same thing over and over. Everything bad is caused by the Communists. This leaflet was also printed by the Republic of South Korea and bears their code 210. The text is:
If you cannot return to your homes, BLAME THE COMMUNISTS
If you cannot start your own family, BLAME THE COMMUNISTS
If you cannot visit and see your parents, BLAME THE COMMUNISTS
If you cannot continue your studies, BLAME THE COMMUNISTS
If you cannot see your wife and children, BLAME THE COMMUNISTS
If you cannot do what you want to do, BLAME THE COMMUNISTS
If you cannot leave the army, BLAME THE COMMUNISTS
Do not be disappointed! Freedom is coming soon.
This leaflet depicts two North Korean soldiers at the left freezing in the long cold Korean winter. At the right, the same two North Korean soldiers warm themselves near a stove in a United Nations prisoner of war camp. The text on the front is:
Hunger, cold and inevitable death
Safety, warmth, and good treatment.
The back is a long text message which says in part:
TO THE SOLDIERS, SERGEANTS, AND OFFICERS OF THE PEOPLE’S ARMY
Cold weather is coming. Not long from now there will be freezing winter and snowstorms. The day is coming when you will be shivering from the cold and hunger. Why are you suffering from the cold when you do not have to? Why should you give up your precious life for the imperialistic Soviet Union? Change your mind. Do not die foolishly. Freeze to death or come over to the U.N. side and enjoy warmth and happiness? Pick one of these two choices.
This small leaflet (6 x 2.5-inches) has the number “13933” on the front. Several such leaflets were prepared as the Communist dead and wounded toll climbed higher. The text on the front of the leaflet is:
What is this number?
The short text on the back is:
13933 of your comrades are dead or wounded in the last six days from the 6th to the 10th.
Did you know that?
Your turn will be next!
This leaflet depicts a diving U.S. fighter (it looks like the old F-80 Shooting Star), but the nose of the aircraft has been changed to that of an attacking hawk. It chases a terrified Communist chicken. The leaflet was printed by the Psychological Warfare Division of EUSAK and coded 8202. It was designed to destroy Communist troop morale by pointing out their lack of air support and that the United Nations Forces ruled the skies. This is very similar to WWII propaganda when the Americans asked the Germans, Where is the Luftwaffe? A secondary benefit of such propaganda is that an embarrassed Communist Air Force might take to the skies allowing the Allies to shoot down and destroy more of the enemy. Some of the Korean Language text is:
WHERE IS THE COMMUNIST AIR FORCE?
Day and night United Nations aircraft sweep the skies of North Korea. They search in vain for the Communist Air Force, but find the skies as empty as the promises of your leaders. The few Communist aircraft that dare to raise their wings flee from the UN challenge as a chicken before a hawk
You are deceived! Your leaders promised air support to the front line ground forces,
but you have been left alone and isolated .
The UN Air Force shall continue to dominate the skies, unafraid, challenging, and eager for an opponent.
Curiously, this same leaflet appeared in the April 1952 issue of Air Force Magazine in the Letters to the Editor section. A U. S. Air Force Colonel writes in regard to an earlier article in the February issue of Air Force Magazine and says in part:
Recently Eighth Army in Korea produced the only leaflet to date exploiting the psychological impact of air power. This leaflet tells the Reds that despite their leaders promise of air support at the front, U. N. aircraft sweep North Korean skies in vain, searching for the Communist Air Force.
This leaflet depicts a Shooting Star because that was one of the most modern American fighters early in the Korean War. In fact, the USAF entered the war with WWII prop-driven P-51 Mustangs and Navy F-4U Corsairs. The Communists introduced the MiG-15 Fagot and it was the finest fighter of the war until the introduction of the American F-86 Sabre-Jet. This leaflet was issued again later in the war with an almost an identical image and Chinese text coded 8623.
This is a large 8 x 10-inch leaflet that depicts a North Korean prisoner-of-war writing letters home from camp. This leaflet was tactical and targeted the 27th North Korean Division. It was the first of four leaflets showing actual letters. The text on the front is:
This letter was sent to the 2nd Battalion, 14th Regiment of the 27th Division.
It says that when you survive you live to reconstruct the Fatherland.
This is a photocopy of a soldier’s letter who was in the 2nd Battalion, 14th Regiment of the 27th Division.
For the safety of the men who come over to the U.N. side and for the safety of their family, the names of the People’s Army Comrades were erased. Follow these comrades of the People’s Army! The decided to reconstruct their beloved Fatherland after the Red Chinese left their country.
The back of the leaflet is a long message with 10 promises to North Koreans who come over to the Republic’s side. I will just translate five:
All POWs will be transferred from the battlefield and taken to an air raid shelter.
You will be fed as much food as you need, and it will vary according to your tastes.
We will treat you equally despite differences of race, nationality, religion, or creed.
We will only ask for your name, rank, birth date, and serial number.
We will provide all the warn clothes you need.
On the front of this leaflet is a smiling Korean officer Captain Ro Too-soo, a political security officer of the 8th Division of the North Korean People’s Army who surrendered along with 31 of his men. The back of this oversized (5 x 9.25-inches) leaflet is blank. The text says in part:
A REAL PATRIOT
Captain Ro Too-soo, political security officer of the 8th Division of the North Korea’s People’s Army is a real patriot of the Republic of Korea. When he realized that the Koreans were being used like dogs by the Russian aggressors, he organized an anti-Communist group with his 31 subordinates and came over to the United Nation’s side. Now Captain Ro is enjoying a safe life and working toward the peaceful reunification and revival of the Fatherland. Koreans should give their loyalty to the Fatherland, not to Russia. For his former comrades to know that, this patriot voluntarily provided his picture and statement. Captain Ro Too-soo is a real patriot of the Republic of Korea.
I had no intention of adding this last Eighth U.S. Army propaganda leaflet for the Chinese, but when I looked at it I immediately said I know this leaflet. It is a perfect example of how a good idea lives on forever, and a good image may return in later wars. This leaflet depicts a female crying over the body of a dead Communist soldier. Steven E. Pease says about it in PSYWAR Psychological Warfare in Korea 1950-1953, Stackpole Books, Harrisburg, PA 1992
The message of this U.N. leaflet is that the Chinese soldiers wife or mother will weep when he dies on the battlefield.
The official data sheet calls this leaflet Surrender Appeal and says that survey results indicate that the mute cartoon characters employed in this leaflet convey the intended message to both literate and illiterate audiences in an effective manner.
A mother is at home missing her child, when are you coming home?
The wounded child is on the battlefield crying: Mom, I'm finished.
Some of the text is:
The United Nations soldiers are trying to establish a buffer zone along the front battle lines to end the war. But the Communist leaders want to extend the battle lines back to the 38th Parallel which was the symbol of divided Korea for the last five years. Why should there be continuous suffering and blood-letting in order to just claim a few more miles of ground? Demand a ceasefire of this useless war
Vietnam Special Project Leaflet SP-2141
Over a decade later, another American PSYOP specialist used almost the same vignette on a leaflet aimed at the Communist Vietnamese troops. Leaflet SP-2141 depicts a mother crying over the image of her dead son, killed while fighting. The leaflet is designed to encourage enemy soldiers to rally to the government side before being killed in battle. PSYOP records indicate that 15 million copies of this leaflet were prepared in December 1967 and forwarded to Da Nang, Nha Trang, Pleiku, Bien Hoa, and Can Tho. The text on the front of the leaflet is:
We cry for the dead
We are bitter because of the Communists
have destroyed our families.
When will mothers and children be reunited?
There are a number of Korean War Chinese-language map leaflets coded from 8600. They all seem to show the Chinese routes to the south that they can use to surrender.
This Eighth U.S. Army Korea (EUSAK) leaflet is in red and depicts a map on the front with four arrows leading south. The vignette on the back shows a Smiling United Nations soldier smoking and holding a pack of cigarettes. A Chinese soldier is seen coming out of the woods with a surrender leaflet in his hand. He has apparently been seduced by the offer of the cigarettes. I have also seen a version of this same leaflet in brown on an 8 x 10-inch sheet with the UN symbol. The text on the front of this leaflet is:
This is our lifesaving gift to you.
(1) Select a well-covered hiding place where you will not be discovered, in front of your positions near the UN force.
(2) Sneak away from your unit at night and hide in this place.r
(3) Remain hidden and wait for daylight. r
(4) Throw away your weapons, at daylight come over to the UN forces and bring your wounded comrades.
(5) When approaching UN positions raise your hands.
The back has a tactical message to specific named Chinese regiments:
Officers and men of the 349th, 350th and 351st Regiments of the 117th division: This is the good news you have been waiting so long to hear! You must be fed up with the inhuman treatment given to you by the Communist party, no one could put up with it! Accept our good will offer and escape using the routes and instructions shown on the back and you won't have to suffer as a victim anymore!
This full sized 8 x 10-inch Eighth U.S. Army Korea sheet is printed in red-brown and depicts three arrows pointing southward toward safety. The title at the top of the map is:
Here is a way out!
The term way out as written can also mean livelihood or career change or literally a life road or living road. It is an excellent use of the Chinese terminology. The surrender message beneath the map is identical to that of 8620 above.
The Free World Daily Digest
Before we end this article, I thought we should point out that it was not only leaflets that were dropped by United Nations aircraft. The U.N. also prepared several newspapers that were dropped on enemy troops to keep them updated on the state of the war and the political situation around the world, and in particular the facts concerning the armistice talks. This newspaper that King found on the ground is a regular issue of the Free World Daily Digest produced weekly by the First Radio Broadcasting and Leaflet Group, Psychological Warfare Section, General Headquarters of the Far East Command. This was a weekly news sheet that contained text, cartoons and photographs and was aimed at North Korean soldiers and civilians. The above is issue 40 dated 30 November 1951 and coded 2061.
This issue discusses the armistice talks, gives the latest war news, talks about an anti-Communist rally against the Peoples Republic of China and has several special reports. Some of the stories on the front page are: Armistice meeting; War News; Weekly news from the U.N. Headquarters; Solving the military border line; and anti-communist demonstrations against China.
Odd Paper Souvenirs
There are certain paper objects that almost all military personnel deployed overseas save. Almost any veteran of a foreign war will save his unit Christmas card or a menu of their Christmas dinner. The military will move Heaven and Earth to get every member a holiday dinner for Thanksgiving or Christmas. Often, since the PSYOP units have the printing presses, they will produce these cards and menus. We do not know if this card was printed by the PSYOP units or the Marines, but it is worth Noting. In this case, it serves a double purpose. It is both a card and a menu. Even though the fighting was all around the Marines, on this special day in 1951 the cooks somehow delivered turkey, gravy, cranberry sauce, stuffing, peas, corn, potatoes, hot coffee, and rolls. When you are young and far from home, that one real meal among all your C-Rations is very special.
Communist Chinese Banknote
Most military save banknotes from every country they visit. In fact, there is a tradition of taping the notes together in what is called a “Short-snorter” and having your buddies sign them. These can sometimes get 6 or 8 feet long with banknotes from dozens of countries. Here Charlie saved a Communist Chinese banknote that he took from a prisoner.
King also confiscated this 100 won banknote of North Korea. He has a genuine one. He did not know that the United States was producing parodies of the notes with safe conduct messages and signatures by General Matthew B. Ridgway, General Mark W. Clark, and General James A. Van Fleet on the back. All three were printed in both Korean and Chinese.
Military Payment Currency - MPC
He also had some North Korean currency and several pieces of U.S. Military Payment Currency, the cash issued to troops in time of warfare so their U.S. banknotes could not be confiscated and used by the enemy. Notice he has two different “dimes.” The MPC is changed quite often so the enemy cannot accumulate large amounts of it. When the change comes it is always a secret and within 24 hours all the old currency is declared worthless.
Although not a propaganda leaflet, this souvenir saved by George King is worth adding. It is a memorial ceremony of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Division held on 19 November 1951. It commemorated the lives of 12 brave Marines killed between 22 September and 11 November 1951.
George brought back one poster. It is quite attractive with crossed Republic of Korea flags at the top and directly below it the words of their National Anthem, Aegukga. Below the lyrics is a picture of President Syngman Rhee the first President of South Korea from 1948 to 1960, and the Central Government building, also known as the Government-General Building, sometimes referred to as the "Seoul Capitol". The lyrics of their anthem, adopted in 1948, the year the country was founded are:
Until that day when the waters of the East Sea run dry and Mount Baekdusan is worn away, God protect and preserve our nation, Hurray to Korea.
As the pine atop the near mountain stands firm, unchanged through wind and frost, as if wrapped in armor, so shall our resilient spirit.
The autumn sky is void and vast, high, and cloudless; the bright moon is our heart, undivided and true.
With this spirit and this mind, give all loyalty, in suffering or in joy, to the love of country.
Three thousand ri of splendid rivers and mountains covered with mugunghwa blossoms. Great Korean people, stay true to the Great Korean way!
George King - 2015
In 2020, George Waller King, formally with Easy Company, First Marine Regiment in Korea (1951-52) wrote to me again. He said:
You honor me with this true caption of my life of 13 months of combat in Korea, I lost most of my squad - 13 of us went up the HILL 749 on September 15-16. Three were killed, 6 were “walking wounded” and returned to the United States, and that left four of my men, mostly18-year-olds. I was declared combat ready and was transferred to an 81mm Mortar squad for a month of recovery, then back to the front with Easy Company. I truly am thankful for the combat readiness of my squad. One, was a Private Eddie Gomez (promoted to Corporal after his death) and Awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for giving his life by falling on a grenade.
I returned to civilian life, graduated College, married, and founded a Chemical Manufacturing Company in Memphis, Tennessee. I sold it after 36 years and retired to the “good life.” I have no regrets.
As always, the author hopes that this article will shed some light on wartime psychological operations. Readers who wish to comment on any aspect of this story are encouraged to e-mail the author.