SGM Herbert A. Friedman (Ret.)


United Shield Symbol

Let me start with a brief introduction to the UN presence in Somalia. The first elements of the Unified Task Force (UNITAF) came ashore on the beaches of Mogadishu without opposition on 9 December 1992. The first PSYOP soldiers deployed from Fort Bragg to Mombasa, Kenya, where they joined the U.S. 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit aboard the USS Tripoli. They accompanied the initial Marine landing at Mogadishu. 1,300 marines flew by helicopter directly to Mogadishu airport. Navy Seals landed quietly and stealthily in the dark before dawn and were immediately blinded by the blazing lights of television crews who had been told of their arrival. The U.S. Army component of UNITAF was Task Force Mountain. TF Mountain was built around the 2d Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, and at its peak consisted of approximately 10,000 soldiers including two infantry battalions, an aviation brigade, and division artillery and support assets. While conventional forces concentrated on major cities and regions, U.S. Special Operations Forces moved quickly to establish a presence in the rest of the countryside, place liaison cells with allied forces, and conduct civil affairs and psychological operations.


Over the next several weeks, eight tactical PSYOP teams accompanied UNITAF ground forces as they deployed throughout central and southern Somalia to secure relief convoys and to promote stability. On 13 December, United States forces had secured the airfield at Baledogle, and by 16 December, they had seized Baidoa. The number of United States forces would rise to approximately 28,000 personnel, augmented by some 17,000 UNITAF troops from over 20 countries.

Things went well for a time but there was constant fighting between the people interested in feeding the starving Somalis and the various warlords who wanted that food for themselves. The New York Times Donatella Lorch column wrote about the problems leading to the UN withdrawal on 20 March 1944. The author said in part:

There was no official flag-lowering today, just a brief handshake between an American Marine officer and an Egyptian captain at the airport. Then, shortly before noon, after a dozen Marine helicopters lifted off in a blizzard of sand, the remaining amphibious vehicles were driven single file into the ocean to waiting ships, and the American expedition in Somalia ended. With the 1,100 marines went the frustrations and contradictions of a mission that the Government called Operation Restore Hope, which for a time lived up to its name.

Ultimately, what might have become a blueprint for future missions evolved into an unsuccessful manhunt for a Somali faction leader, Gen. Mohammed Farah Aidid, with heavy casualties for both sides. Yet there were successes acknowledged by both the Somalis and relief officials. The famine has ended, and in much of the countryside life is returning to normal. Hundreds of thousands of children were vaccinated, wells were dug, roads were built, and farmers returned to their fields under military protection. After repeated delays, all 15 warring Somali factions represented by General Aidid and his chief rival, Mohammed Ali Mahdi, signed a reconciliation pact in Nairobi that calls for a cease-fire, repudiates violence and sets a date for a future reconciliation conference.

Of the 100,000 Americans who served here since December 1992, 30 were killed and 175 wounded: many of them in the search for General Aidid. The United Nations contingent suffered at times from a lack of internal cooperation. Units from its multinational force often waited for orders from their own country, an arrangement that fueled instability in Mogadishu. In June, after General Aidid's militias ambushed and killed 24 Pakistani peacekeeping forces, the United Nations, led by American forces, attacked him in turn, bombing his strong points. There were serious miscalculations. United Nations officials now say that General Aidid's military strength and his willingness to fight were significantly underestimated and that the intelligence network set up by the United Nations and the United States was not only inefficient but rife with double agents.

Operation United Shield Begins

When one Army retreats it is usually considered a bad thing, but sometimes it is called a victory. In WWII, the Russians retreated before the advancing German Army, burning everything, and eventually leaving the Germans with no buildings and no food. The Russian called that a win. In Stalingrad, Hitler refused to let the Germans retreat and that ended in the destruction of an entire German army, more than 220,000 soldiers, and about 91,000 soldiers captured. That was clearly a loss. The British were trapped at Dunkirk but using small boats managed to withdraw with about 198,000 British and 140,000 French and Belgian troops. Many of those troops later took part in the invasion of the European continent and helped win WWII.

When Mao’s Communist Army was being defeated, he ordered “the Long March” northward. He saved his army and later became the leader of Communist China. In Korea, the U.S. Marines were attacked by 120,000 Chinese troops at the Chosin Reservoir. They fought their way southward and escaped capture. The Marine General in charge said, “Retreat, hell! We're not retreating, we're just advancing in a different direction.” The Marines consider that one of their greatest victories.


Somali “technicals” armed vehicles

We now come to Somalia. Thousands of United Nations troops from different countries have decided to leave that war-torn nation, but there are Warlords and their well-armed fighters all around. The United Nations forces want to leave unscathed; so, they make this very involved plan to use psychological warfare to keep the Somalis at bay through warning of what will happen if there is interference. What I found most amusing is that you never see the word “retreat” used. The favorite word seems to be “retrograde” although I doubt any Somali would know what that word meant.

Operation United Shield was the codename of the multinational military operation that was conducted 9 January 1995 to 3 March 1995. Commanded by the United States, the Combined Task Force comprising the navies of Pakistan, Italy and the United States were tasked to ensure the safe evacuation of all United Nations Peacekeeping troops, combining the armies of the United Kingdom, Pakistan, France, Malaysia, and the United States including the U.S. Marines, from Somalia. Six United States Navy combatant vessels assisted by two Italian and two Pakistan Navy combatant vessels successfully evacuated the UN forces from Somalia and successfully executed the operation. In all, over 4,000 US CENTCOM personnel participated in Operation United Shield to support the withdrawal of U.N. forces from Somalia.

There were numerous reasons for the U.N. to leave. One declassified document mentions them and says in part:

The withdrawal of U.N. troops will not take place under the same political conditions or in the same psychological environment as the withdrawal of U.S. troops did earlier this year…The Somali perception was that the U.S. forces had the means and the willingness to respond with deadly force if provoked. Attacking American troops would not have much sense to Aideed. He knew that little provocation would be necessary for the AC-130 gunships to flatten south Mogadishu.

The parameters for withdrawal are no longer the same. Over the past five months over 20 UNOSOM soldiers have been killed. Somalis have learned over time that UN troops will not retaliate, that UNOSOM troops are a soft target, and that some UNOSOM troops are corruptible…For some Somalis, mainly in Mogadishu, UNOSOM represents a goldmine to be exploited. For other Somalis, UNOSOM has become a scapegoat for their inability to reconcile.

Readers that want a more in-depth study of the entire PSYOP campaign should read my article on Somalia.

USN Lieutenant Commander David D. Clement Jr., said about Operation United Shield in his paper: Is the U.S. Navy Prepared to Conduct Peace Operations in Support of the National Security Strategy, The Virginia Military Institute, Lexington, Virginia, 1989:

This operation was the first amphibious withdrawal since the evacuation of Inchon during the Korean War. The Task Force conducting the operation was comprised of units from all U.S. forces as well as personnel from Great Britain, Pakistan, Italy, France, Bangladesh, and Malaysia. Over 14,000 individuals on twenty-three warships participated…Operation United Shield was successfully completed during a seventy-two-hour period, from 28 February to 3 March. Later, Secretary of Defense William Perry would remark, “We live in an imperfect world. And we can never make it perfect. But we can attain moments of perfection. Operation United Shield was such a moment.”

The USS Belleau Wood

The U.S. Navy ships assigned to this operation were the USS Essex, USS Ogden, USS Fort Fisher, USS Belleau Wood, USS Lake Erie, and the USS Kiska.

AC-130 Gun Ship

Coalition aircraft kept over-watch as needed. When trouble seemed about to erupt a USAF AC-130 Spectre gunship would orbit overhead. Several reports mention that the Somalis knew the Spectre and were terrified of it. They learned to recognize the sound of the engines and could tell the difference between the gunship and a regular cargo plane. When Spectre was overhead, all was quiet below. Checking my notes, I see that the CNN reported on 12 June 1993 that U.S. helicopters dropped the above leaflet before a night attack by AC-130 Spectre gunships. The back of the leaflet explained to the Somalis that the attack was aimed only at the local warlord Mohammad Aideed, and not at the citizens of Mogadishu.

The United States Forces Somalia After-Action Reports explains:

It quickly became apparent that Aideed had little respect for the UN…On 5 June 1993, his Somalia National Alliance forces ambushed and killed 24 Pakistani soldiers assigned to UNOSOM II. On 6 June, General Hoar asked the Joint Staff to send four Air Force AC–130 gunships to carry out air strikes against the Somalis. The gunships deployed on 7 June and remained until 14 July, flying a total of thirty-two interdiction, reconnaissance, and PSYOP missions in support of UNOSOM II. Eight of those missions were combat sorties flown over the streets of Mogadishu between 11 and 17 June. As part of the initial strike against Aideed, three gunships flew over Mogadishu on 11–12 June and used their 105-mm. and 40-mm. cannons to demolish two weapons storage facilities and cripple Radio Mogadishu, Aideed’s propaganda station, by destroying its transmission capability.

Lieutenant General Anthony Zinni

Lieutenant General Anthony Zinni was given command of the operation, which was to ensure the safe execution of an amphibious withdrawal. General Zinni, who served as Director for Operations for UNITAF during Operation Restore Hope in 1992-1993, knew most of the top Somali leaders at the time of Operation United Shield.

Joint PSYOP Task Force United Shield – Psychological Operations Campaign.

This is the cover of an unclassified booklet that depicted many of the PSYOP products in full color and was gifted to various foreign leaders. In all, about 50 copies of the booklet were printed.

A declassified document mentions the kinds of leaflets that should be used. It says in part:

Leaflets should be developed for disseminations under varying security conditions and for different phases of the withdrawal. Leaflets with confrontational written messages and graphics should be held in reserve for non-permissive conditions when UNOSOM troops may be forced to fight their way out of Mogadishu. General threats to use deadly force against Somalis who interfere with the UNOSOM withdrawal can be counterproductive. All public information effort, including leaflet operations, should make every effort to diffuse tension, not ignite it. Leaflets should be developed encouraging cooperation during the withdrawal. If it becomes necessary to use deadly force leaflets, the messages will be more effective if they give a reason for the force. In other words, place the blame directly on Somali shoulders.

Although the PSYOP leaflets and posters did not show a code, there was an internal code used for filing and dissemination. The numbering system had seven possible digits. The first three characters were “RET” for retrograde. Digits four and five denote which product it is within a series starting with 01 and ending at 99. The sixth digit explains what type of program the product belongs to: “P” is preparation, “N” is for noninterference, “I” is for information, and “W” is a warning. The last digit, if used, is a letter designator from A-Z which means the product is a variant of an existing product.

The last of the UNOSOM and Coalition troops finally left Somalia in February of 1995. The operation was called “United Shield. The purpose of the PSYOP operation was to minimize hostile contact between Somalis and Combined Task Force personnel, and to minimize both UNOSOM and Somali casualties. The campaign was designed by 4th PSYOP Group troops aboard the USS Belleau Wood. Much of the PSYOP story is told in the booklet printed by the Joint PSYOP Task Force United Shield on the USS Belleau Wood while at sea in the Indian Ocean: Joint PSYOP Task Force United Shield – Psychological Operations Campaign. Active-duty PSYOP personnel deployed to Haiti were withdrawn so that they could deploy with Operation United Shield. Reservists then took over the responsibilities in Haiti.

The Joint PSYOP Task Force Commander Lieutenant Colonel Christopher St. John

Lieutenant Colonel St. John, commander of the 8th Psychological Operations Battalion from 1993 to 1995, formed a PSYOP Task Force for Operation United Shield. His task force provided the support for the safe and peaceful withdrawal of the seven nation United Nations peacekeeping troops from Somalia.

On 20 November 1994 he approved PSYOP products in support of the Operation in a letter to Lieutenant General Zinni. He said in part:

I have reviewed and approved all the PSYOP products and submit them for your final approval. Upon approval, these draft products will be taken to Fort Bragg, NC, where they will be translated by native Somali linguists. After translations are finalized and verified as accurate, they will be printed at Ft. Bragg and deployed into theater with the Joint Psychological Operations Task Force. Time permitting, all products will be printed in color as shown in the drafts.

The products approved by LTG Zinni were: 6 Introduction to US Forces leaflets, 10 Convoy operation leaflets, 2 Post strike leaflets, 5 Warning leaflets and handbills, 3 Loudspeaker scripts and 3 Press release drafts.

The retrograde plan had five phases: In Phase 1 civilians would be withdrawn except for those considered crucial for the mission. In phase 2, military forces would be concentrated in Mogadishu and Kismayo. Then the forces in Kismayo would be withdrawn. In phase 3, all the outlying forces would be withdrawn, and headquarters will be relocated to Mogadishu Airport. In Phase 4, forces are withdrawn from Mogadishu except for a Pakistani rearguard. In Phase 5, the Pakistani rearguard make an amphibious withdrawal.

I am going to depict some of the preparation products here. These will all be black and white drafts. When we get into the actual leaflets and posters, we will see more color. There were five early leaflets showing forces of the US Army, Navy, Airforce, and Marines. These were designed to prepare and calm the Somalis when they saw the fleet coming to take away the UN forces. It was important that they understand this was not an invasion. I have selected two that had interesting vignettes. Since these leaflets were being dropped over Somalis that were close there was no need for high altitude air drops by C-130s, these leaflets were all designed to be dropped from low altitude by helicopter.

Leaflet RET01P

This leaflet informs the target audience of the U.S. forces. It shows U.S. and U.N. vehicles approaching a docked ship. The U.S. and U.N. flags are above graphic. This leaflet was dropped by helicopter. The text on the back is:

U.S. forces are here only to relocate U.N. personnel. They will not interfere with any peaceful Somali activities.

Leaflet RET03P

This leaflet targets the Warlords, Clan leaders, and resident of Mogadishu. I do not find it attractive, and the scene of the helicopters coming in from the sea is reminiscent of the helicopter attack in Apocalypse Now. The leaflet depicts 3 helicopters, 2 naval vessels, and 1 aircraft approaching a coastline with a Somali flag. The back features 2 U.S. flags and the text:

Do not be alarmed

U.S. forces are in the area to assist in the retrograde of U.N. personnel.

They will not interfere with interclan affairs.

Leaflet RET07P

Two of the leaflets feature the Marines. This one depicts a map of Somalia with its map inside, three Marine light armored vehicles and the Marine symbol on the front. The back shows the same map, two LAVs, two Cobra gunships and one UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter. Text on the back is:

U.S. Military forces are here only to relocate U.N. Personnel

The Marines had many duties during the retrograde movement. The 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit was deployed to protect the U.S. force in Mogadishu and Kismayo, help in the rear-guard actions and ultimately relieve the Pakistanis.

A second group of draft printed products had to do with non-interference with the U.N. actions. These leaflets also depicted the strength of the U.N. forces and pointed out that they would shoot to kill if forced to defend themselves. Once again, we see all the weapons systems of the U.N. forces and the Marines.

Leaflet RET02N

Several leaflets use this same image an angry crowd of Somalis blocks the gate of a U.N. guarded gate. Inside the gate is a Humvee, a truck, three Blackhawks and a naval vessel. The crowd is crossed out and the meaning is clear. Interfere with the U.N. troops and you will be erased. Each version of the leaflet has a slightly different message. The text on the back of this leaflet is:


U.N. forces are conducting as retrograde operation of U.N. personnel. Do not obstruct this operation! Any attempt to harm, interfere, or delay the operation will not be tolerated! Hostile actions or interference will be met with overwhelming force.


Leaflet RET03N

This leaflet depicts the overwhelming use of force mentioned above. A small group of three Somalis has tried to interfere with the U.N. movement, and they are attacked by two armored personnel carriers, a truck, and a AC-130 Hercules gunship fires on them from above. The text is short and to the point:

Do not obstruct the Pakistani conveys. Any attempt to interfere will be met with overwhelming force.

Since we know the Pakistanis were to be the rear guard until relieved by the Marines, this was probably to be used at the end of the retrograde movement.

There also seven tapes prepared to be broadcast to the Somalis. Some of the scripts are as follows:

Attention! Attention! The United States military is peacefully relocating U.N. personnel. Any attempt to harm them or interfere with the operation will be considered a hostile act. All hostile acts will be met with force.

Attention! Attention! Interference with this operation will not be tolerated. The United States has overwhelming power and will use whatever force necessary to protect against threats to the operation. Leave this area immediately or you may be injured or killed.

Attention all U.N. Personnel. Attention all U.N. Personnel. This is the United States military. We are conducting retrograde operations in this area. This area has been secured by American forces. Do not delay. Proceed to the sound of this broadcast.

The next category of leaflets is called Information. There are four draft leaflets in this category. Two are radio leaflets and two are dire warnings about what might happen to Somalis that take any offensive action against the U.N. troops. one depicts an AC-130 gunship destroying a Somali boat too near the Mogadishu beach, the second which we depict has building and vehicles exploding with the message that the people had interfered with the U.N. troops.

Leaflet RET02I

This leaflet depicts a portable radio and a microphone. The flags of Somalia and the United States represent cooperation in the radio programs. The text has the name of the radio and the frequency (to be added later), and:

News, Music, Stories, Poems

1000-1200 – 1900-2100.

At the time the leaflets were prepared there was no name for the new radio station. Later, the station was given a name. The station announced itself as Radio Gargaar. The name means “Aid,” assistance and support. Aiding or helping people in need. It symbolizes the U.S. mission of aiding the U.N. and the Somalis, that the U.S. is there to act as a buffer between the withdrawing U.N. and the Somali people. It also has connotations of protecting the U.N. from looters and other people with ill intentions. It is a term widely used and liked by the Somalis. This was the recommendation of the Somali linguists.

Radio leaflets are quite popular in PSYOP campaign in every war going back to WWII leaflets have been printed telling the enemy of friendly radio stations that will give them the latest news on the war. In fact, often U.S. PSYOP forces will give gift radios to neutral or enemy forces just so they can listen to our stations. PSYOP does not work if the target cannot hear or see our message.

Leaflet RET05I

I mentioned above that the Somalis were deathly afraid of the AC-130 Spectre gunship. Just in case they had forgot its firepower, a demonstration was planned. The leaflet depicts the AC-130 firing into the water just off the shore of Mogadishu with the flags of the United States and the United Nations overhead. The text is:

There will be a firepower demonstration of the U.S. AC-130 off the shore of Mogadishu tonight. We only want to assist in the U.N. retrograde, not hurt any innocent Somalis.

Leaflet RET06I

The target audience is residents in an area the U.S. has destroyed. It explains the reason they were attacked. Burning building and vehicles are shown along with the text on the back:

The destruction that was levelled on this area yesterday was caused by the Somalis from this area trying to disrupt the retrograde of the U.N. personnel. U.N. forces will use overwhelming force when threatened or interfered with.

Along with the leaflet there were also three radio messages or newspaper articles coded RET08I, RET09I, and RET10I. The first announces the return of the U.S. Marines to Somalia to help in the retrograde movement. It informs the people that the Navy will have ships offshore to remove the people. The second announces the withdrawal of the Indian contingent from Somalia. The third announces the return of U.S. Lieutenant General Zinni as the officer in command of the retrograde operation.

The next series of leaflets were called Warning/Restricted Areas. There were six handbills showing various UN warning posters and explaining what they meant, and two leaflets warning about pointing anti-aircraft weapons at UN aircraft. These were meant to inform the Somalis about the meaning of warning posters and prevent their entering secured areas.

Handbill RET04I

This warming handbill depicts two skull and crossed bones posters which were later used and are depicted below. They were printed in yellow and red to point out the increasing danger of moving forward. The text on the front over the two warning examples is:


The back of the handbill depicts a four-block chart showing corresponding colors and meanings of the posters. The text is:

These signs will be in U.N. areas. For your own safety, obey the signs. At night these will be lighted by light sticks.

I like the concept. They have printed a handbill that tells the Somalis what the posters mean, when their meaning should be rather clear. I assume a skull and crossed bones means danger and death in about every culture.

Leaflet RET07WA

This leaflet is designed to keep Somalis from aiming weapons at U.N. aircraft. On the front is a Rocket propelled grenade (RPG-7) and a SA-7 (Grail) missile launcher. Both have been crossed out by a large “X.” The text around the weapon is:

Danger – Warning

Aim this weapon at any aircraft and die!!

Danger – Warning

The back has a Somali and an artillery pieces aiming at a helicopter and the text:

Anyone aiming a weapon or firing at any aircraft will be considered hostile and immediately fired upon. There will be no other warning!!

Newly printed PSYOP products are inspected up on the USS Belleau Wood

Products were first mounted on cardboard, then wired to the concertina barrier on the outer perimeter

Member of the Joint Psychological Operations Task Force erect one of the many signs along the barrier at Mogadishu Airport

Leaflet on concertina barrier

From 20 to 23 February, UNOSOM, Somali Port Authorities and Police distributed 12,000 notices, 1,750 posters and 12,000 handbills. Some of the printed product were backed with cardboard and then wired to the concertina barbed wire along the outer perimeter.

From 24 to 26 February, PSYOP teams made loudspeaker broadcasts in the seaport and airport areas explaining why the port of Mogadishu was closed. 25,000 handbills were distributed.

From 27 to 28 February, UNOSOM marked the concertina wire with 4 posters and billboards. The Bangladesh Battalion placed 3 posters and handbills in the port area. UNOSOM placed four different handbills in the airfield areas.

On 28 February, the operation was completed. 6 Tactical PSYOP teams were attached to the 13th Marine Expeditionary Units with a Somali linguist attached to each team. 2 Vehicle mounted. 1 stationary and 3 man-pack loudspeakers were available if needed. One aerial loudspeaker team was on alert. 2 leaflets were ready to be disseminated if needed.

The United States Marine Corps

The United States Marine Corps 


The operation was led by a United States Marine Corps Lieutenant General and there was a large Army force in Somalia, we should mention the Marines having an important part of this operation. There is a full-page Marine Forces Central Command (MARCENT) schedule that includes:

13 January - 8 February – 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit deployed.
8 February – 4 March – Protect U.S. forces in Mogadishu and Kismayo.
4 March – 11 March – Rear guard. MEU relieves Pakistan forces.
11 March – MEU Withdraws.

Because of the multiple missions assigned to the Marines, they appear on numerous leaflets. Sometime on the front, sometimes on the back with text. An example in this article is Leaflet RET07P.

UNOSOM PSYOP was ready to support the operation with press releases to the newspapers and radio, handbills, posters, Port Authority notices, Ground and aerial loudspeakers as needed, and leaflets if necessary.

A memorandum from General Zinni dated 21 February 1995 said in part:

1. The seven following loudspeaker messages/themes are approved for dissemination:

US/Coalition forces are ashore only to support UNOSOM II withdrawal.

US/Coalition forces are ashore only for s short period of time.

Work in cooperation with Somali leaders.

US and Coalition are partners and will not interfere with internal Somali affairs.

UNITED SHIELD is a Coalition effort (seven countries).

Every country is playing an important part in the operation.

The Coalition is comprised of personnel of many different religions, a significant number of which are Muslim…

2. The approved theme for print products are:

For your own safety, please depart the area.

For your own safety, do not enter.

For your own safety, do not cross or attempt to cross a barbed wire barricade

For your own safety, return to your homes

3. Themes to avoid.

Appearance of weakness or indecisiveness by the Combined Task Force

Ridicule or degradation of the Somalis or their culture.

Ultimatums, unless they can be immediately reinforced.

Any statements or slogans which may incite Somali on Somali violence.

Abdi Hirad

It was not only the military performing PSYOP. One of the civilians working was a Somali named Abdi Hirad. He served in Somalia from December 1992 to May 1993 along with over 100 other translators and linguists working with the operation. The civilians were sent to Somalia in military aircraft, wore U.S. battledress uniforms, and were fed and billeted by their supported units. He told me:

For the first operation in Somalia (Operation Restore Hope), my main tasks were: Consultant augmenting the US Army's Joint Psychological Operation Task Force; I managed a radio station that broadcast daily programs, supervised, and trained local employees; edited a daily newsletter, translated leaflets, handbills, posters, and handbooks; and produced mine awareness literature and recorded loudspeaker messages.

For the second operation (Operation United Shield), I was in Fort Bragg from November to December 1994, and then deployed off the coast of Mogadishu aboard the USS Belleau Wood to March 1995. My main duties included: Service as a civilian linguist with the Joint Psychological Operation Task Force; deployed with the PSYOP Group and monitored and translated daily radio broadcasting of local languages; and summarized local newspapers to gauge the sentiments of the population.

The USS Belleau Wood (LHA-3) was a new Tarawa-class general-purpose amphibious assault ship that served off the coast of Somalia as the command platform for Operation United Shield. The ship was named in honor of a WWI United States Marine battle against German forces in June, 1917. The Belleau Wood arrived off the coast of Mogadishu, Somalia on 8 February 1995 and participated in the landing of Marines ashore in Mogadishu for the evacuation of U.N. forces from the country. The withdrawal marked the end of two years of U.N. support for Somalia.

Certificate of Participation

His site manager requested citizenship for Mr. Hirad and said in part:

He has repeatedly gone among the residents of Somalia to broadcast messages urging them to turn in arms and expose hidden weapons caches. He has been the very foundation for the publication of the Joint Task Force Somalia newspaper. He spent endless hours developing psychological operations leaflets, writing, and editing articles and broadcast tapes encouraging a more peaceful way of life. He was the team leader for the publication of all psychological documents…

United Shield Posters

To Port Employees, Vendors, and Citizens of Mogadishu

Among the many products that were printed are some that are mostly text such as: “To Port Employees, Vendors, and Citizens of Mogadishu.” This leaflet says in part:

The port of Mogadishu will be closed for commercial traffic from 26 February 1995 to 6 March 1995…Only UNOSOM personnel will be at the port…After the last vessel transporting UNOSOM equipment and all UNOSOM and Coalition personnel depart the port area, the port will then reopen to commercial traffic, employees and vendors. If this occurs before 6 March, the port will reopen at that time.


Another all-text handbill was entitled “Attention.” The text was printed on a blue Somali flag. It had a similar message and says in part:

The port will be closed from 26 February to 6 March 1995 to all civilians, port employees and commercial shipping. UNOSOM will be using the port for a short period of time to withdraw their forces and equipment…

Mogadishu New Port Temporarily Closed…

A third handbill depicts a dove of peace and the flags of the United Nations and Somalia at the top. It is entitled “Mogadishu New Port Temporarily Closed to all Port Workers, Pedestrians and Vendors.” Some of the text is:

Effective 27 February 1995, the UNOSOM identification cards will no longer be valid. During this period, only authorized personnel with identification issued by Coalition forces will be allowed to enter…

New Port temporarily closed

This leaflet has a text very similar to that above. Once again it warns of a port closing and says:

During UNOSOM’s withdrawal, heavy equipment will be moving through the port, causing a great risk of injury. For your own safety, stay away from the port area until UNOSOM departs. Both piers will be used to expedite UNOSOM’s port operations, quickly reopening the port to normal business. Thank you for your cooperation.

New Port Temporarily Closed

A fourth handbill depicts a ship with a “prohibited” symbol at the top. The title of this item is “New Port Temporarily Closed.” Some of the text is:

The port of Mogadishu will be closed for commercial traffic from 26 February 1995 to 6 March 1995…During this period, no regular workers will be required, and no new workers will be hired. As soon as the withdrawal is complete, the port will reopen.


A fifth handbill was in the form of a warning leaflet. The title was “Warning!” and this was printed on all four sides of the leaflet. The leaflet depicted five acts that could get a Somali injured or killed. In one the Somali tried to climb over a wall and in another he attempted to crawl through barbed wire. The final three images show Somalis on foot or in vehicles with weapons. The leaflet said in part:

You are approaching a Coalition military area. For your own safety, leave this area immediately or you will be in danger of possible injury or death…Coalition forces are authorized to use deadly force.



A sixth handbill featured a skull and crossed bones. The handbill was disseminated in both yellow and red color. It was also entitled “Warning!” The short message was:

You are entering a Coalition area. Turn back now.

Coalition forces are authorized to use deadly force.


A seventh handbill depicted a map of the airport and new seaport. Its title was “Danger!” A map identified the airport at left and the seaport at right. They were both covered with a skull and crossed bones. Some of the text is:

For your own safety, do not cross Coalition forces barbed wire barricades. Anyone entering this zone will be considered a bandit…

This leaflet was printed in two formats. In one the front was the map and the message was on the back. In the second format both the map and the message is found on the front.

Do not cross Runway

An eighth handbill was directed to the area around the airport. It depicted Somalis near the barbed wire. The leaflet title was “Do Not Cross the Runway!” The text is:

For your own safety do not cross the airport runway or Coalition wire barricades. Anyone entering this zone will be considered a bandit and may be seen as a threat to Coalition forces which are authorized to use deadly force to protect themselves.


A ninth handbill depicted a white bird of peace in front of the flags of Somalia and the United Nations. The text is:


UNOSOM and Coalition forces are working in cooperation with Somali leaders.

Coalition forces are here only to assist the UNOSOM withdrawal from Mogadishu.

The Coalition will not interfere with inter-Somali affairs.

All Coalition forces will leave as soon as the UNOSOM withdrawal is complete.

UNOSOM and Coalition forces are working…

There is a second version of the above leaflet. It shows the dove of peace with the Somali flag but the symbol of Operation United Shield in place of the U.N. Flag.. It does not bear the title “Peace,” But the rest of the text is exactly the same.

UNOSOM and Coalition forces are working in cooperation with Somali leaders.

Coalition forces are here only to assist the UNOSOM withdrawal from Mogadishu.

The Coalition will not interfere with inter-Somali affairs.

All Coalition forces will leave as soon as the UNOSOM withdrawal is complete.

This is the back page of the United Shield Booklet
It depicts all the major players in the Joint PSYOP Task Force

Rick Atkinson mentioned the final minutes of the operation in an article titled “Marines close curtain on U.N. in Somalia,” in the Washington Post, March 3, 1995. He said in part:

When the end finally came early this morning, it was in a crackle of gunfire with red tracers stitching the night sky and the muffled boom of explosions rocking the beach. Then the last amphibious vehicle carrying the last U.S. Marines plunged into the sea, and the United Nations' grand experiment in peacemaking in Somalia was history.

There, within a cramped beachhead under a brilliant bowl of stars, the American troops made a brief last stand to muster men and equipment. Mortars pumped out red, green, and white illumination flares; sporadic small-arms fire from Somali snipers was answered with the harsh tattoo of Marine machine guns and the deeper roar of 25mm cannons. Helicopter gunships orbited overhead; the sound of their rotor blades occasionally eclipsed by the drone of an AC-130 Specter gunship cruising unseen over the capital.

At precisely 1 a.m. this morning, the final wave of amphibious assault vehicles -- including one carrying Marine Lieutenant General Anthony C. Zinni, commander of the withdrawal force -- headed for the fleet steaming four miles offshore.

Left behind for looters was a coastal encampment of sandbag fortifications and a prefabricated command post, abandoned with generator-powered lights burning and air conditioners humming. Chairs, cots, cases of Meals Ready to Eat, even some of the detailed wall maps used in planning the evacuation were left as mementos of the U.S. presence.

In retrospect, it is evident that the international community arrived in Somalia with a great deal of goodwill but very little understanding of this complex tribal society. The nexus of interlocking clans, the fickle shifting of allegiances and fierce Somali resistance to meddling from the outside world all conspired to confuse and frustrate those attempting to impose order on Somalia’s chaos.

The author encourages interested readers who may have additional information or personal experience with Somalia and Operation Restore Hope to write to him at sgmbert@hotmail.com