SGM Herb Friedman (Ret.)

Note: This article was featured in the Journal of the Psychological Operations Association quarterly newsletter “PERSPECTIVES.”

My buddy retired Major Ed Rouse wrote to me the other day and said we should write something about the 20 best leaflets since WWI. I told him that was impossible because we would have to define “best.” Do we pick the one with the best image or the best text? Do we pick the one that was most impressive in changing the minds of the enemy or the one we think was the best written and most informative? And, how do we know we will find 20? And if we find one that we really like but a group of experts studied it and found it to be incorrect and inappropriate, then what? So, I told Ed that we should start by talking about the ones we liked the best, even if they were not universally liked. I also said that we should not pick an arbitrary number. We should just keep going until we find that there are not any more that really impressed us. I don’t know if we should start by wars or by theme. I think I will mix them just a bit. I will try to stay within wars, but if there is a theme we might add a sub-classification. This is all very arbitrary; there are leaflets that I found to be just OK but the experts at headquarters loved. There are others that I thought were really impressive that critical boards said were inappropriate, maybe because they asked the people to do something they clearly could not do, or broke some cultural norm. So, I have no idea how long this article will be or what it will look like. I intend to just tell the readers about leaflets that I really liked and we will see where it goes. We will all be surprised.

World War I

Leaflet A.P. 74.

World War I started with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austria- Hungarian throne, in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914 by a member of the Black Hand, a Serbian nationalist secret society. Things moved quickly thereafter. Austria-Hungary, unsatisfied with Serbia's response to her ultimatum declared war on Serbia on 28 July 1914. Russia, bound by treaty to Serbia, mobilized its vast army. Germany, allied to Austria-Hungary by treaty, viewed the Russian mobilization as an act of war against Austria-Hungary, and declared war on Russia on 1 August. France, bound by treaty to Russia, responded by announcing war against Germany and Austria-Hungary on 3 August. Germany promptly responded on 4 August by invading neutral Belgium to open a quick path to Paris. Britain, allied to Belgium declared war against Germany on 4 August. In just a little over a month all of Europe was at war. Japan, honoring a treaty with Britain, declared war on Germany on 23 August 1914. Italy was allied to both Germany and Austria-Hungary. She was first neutral, but in May 1915, she joined the British and French against her two former allies. The United States declared a policy of absolute neutrality on the same day Britain declared war, 4 August.

The U.S. would remain neutral until 1917 when Germany's policy of unrestricted submarine warfare and the British interception of the Zimmermann telegram to Mexico forced President Wilson to declare war on 6 April 1917. The German foreign minister, Arthur Zimmermann, had sent a Telegram to the German ambassador in Washington to approach the Mexican government with an offer: if it was to join any war against America, it would be rewarded with the territories of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. The British had intercepted the letter, broken the code, and informed the United States.

My favorite British leaflet of WWI is A.P.74. The words BY BALLOON - Durch Luftballon are at the top. Notice the small hole at the top where the leaflets were held in place by a string from a propaganda balloon. The leaflet depicts a long line of American Dough Boys stretching from the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor to France. As George M. Cohan said in his song OVER THERE in 1917, The Yanks are Coming! The title at the bottom of the leaflet is:


So, why do I like this leaflet? The war had gone on for almost three years with an amazing number of injuries and death by machinegun, artillery, aircraft and poison gas. Both sides were exhausted. They had pretty much fought to a draw. And then, the world learns that the Americans are coming by the millions. Some have said this was enough to force the Central powers to quit but there is no way to prove that. What we do know is that shortly afterwards the war was over and it is possible that this constant reminder that the Americans were on the way might have played with the enemies psyche.

The British first disseminated the leaflets in August 1918. The number produced is unknown. The British regularly updated these "Americans are coming" leaflets. For instance, A.P.84 produced in September 1918 gives the latest numbers. "American troops arriving in Europe: 117,212 in April, 224,345 in May, 276,372 in June."

Leaflet 1016 printed in October 1918 gives the total number of American troops in Europe; 100,000 in 1917, 1,750,000 in 1918, and a prospective 3,500,000 in 1919. Later in the same month leaflet 1025 raised the 1919 number to 5,000,000 American troops. It is no wonder that the German soldier became disheartened. It is my belief that these leaflets might have shortened the war considerably. It is a remarkable leaflet.

World War II

The Passierschein (The Official Allied Safe Conduct Pass for Germany)

By the time the United States entered World War II in December 1941, the British, French and Russians had already printed and dropped a host of surrender leaflets on the German Army. The leaflets were of different sizes, colors, texts, and even the surrender instructions were different. There was no overall guidance, and certainly no uniformity. This all changed with the arrival of American troops in the United Kingdom and the strong alliance between the U.S. and British psychological operators. For the first time the two allied nations worked together to prepare a standardized safe conduct leaflet that would be exactly the same wherever used. The final version of the "passierschein" has been called the most effective single leaflet of the war. It was considered so powerful that in 1944 the Allied Supreme Headquarters issued a directive forbidding reproduction of the safe conduct pass on other leaflets. They wanted to protect the authenticity of the document.

The story of the "passierschein" ("safe conduct pass") for Germany is interesting because of the alleged belief on the part of the Allies that the German officer or soldier would react in a positive way to an official looking document. Therefore, the Americans and British collaborated to produce a fancy official document bearing national seals of the United States and Great Britain and the signature of American General Dwight D. Eisenhower that would rival a stock certificate or college diploma. They produced the leaflets late in the war in various formats with different code numbers.

Paul M.A. Linebarger mentions the theory in Psychological Warfare, Infantry Journal Press, Washington D.C., 1948. He says:

Germans liked things done in an official and formal manner, even in the midst of chaos, catastrophe and defeat. The Allied obliged, and gave the Germans various forms of very official looking ‘surrender passes.’ One is printed in red and has banknote-type engraving which makes it resemble a soap-premium coupon.

Daniel Lerner says in Sykewar, George E. Stewart, NYC, 1949:

This safe conduct pass was generally regarded as the most successful leaflet produced by the Psychological Warfare Branch of Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF)…everything about the leaflet was designed to appear authoritative: the format handsomely engraved on good paper in a rich color, has been described as "looking like a college diploma.

Although the passes had minor changes in color; they were printed on cream-colored, red and green paper, the front was basically always the same. The back could differ depending on the target and desired message. They all had the same message in German and English on the front:


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.

Dwight D. Eisenhower,
Supreme Commander,
Allied Expeditionary Force

Some of the leaflets added a French propaganda message and the seal of France. Some of the leaflets were tactical like ZG49, which is entitled:

To the Survivors, soldiers and officers of the 7th Army

Others, like ZG21 depict Chapter 2; article II, of the Geneva Convention rules on treatment of prisoners of war. This was to tell the Germans how well they would be treated. These leaflets were dropped in massive numbers. For instance, just one leaflet, ZG61, had 65,750,000 copies dropped on the enemy. Some, like ZG61A were printed in a smaller size to be fired in artillery shells. The Allies did not only think in terms of individual soldiers. They also produced a larger leaflet of the same general type with all the seals and signatures, but this one to be used by an entire unit to surrender. On the left side of the document is printed: HAND IMMEDIATELY TO THE COMPANY COMMANDER. On the right side: SUBSTITUTE FOR A SURRENDER DOCUMENT.

A German Parody of the Allied Passierschein

The German High Command hated this leaflet. This is one of the few cases where they retaliated in kind. They actually produced a reproduction with a slight change in wording to say that any soldier surrendering would be in captivity for the next 10 years and very probably never see his parents, wife and children again.

There is a discussion of the effectiveness of the U.S. Psychological Warfare Leaflets in an article entitled "The Voices of Freedom," in Army Talk's, Vol. IV, No. 18, dated 16 September 1945:

Within a very few months after the landings In Normandy, American and British PW Interrogators were able to gather plenty of evidence to show that SHAEF appeals, by voice and leaflet, were getting results. In October 1944, it was officially reported that 77% of prisoners taken by the Allies had read one or more of the leaflets…About 80% of the prisoners taken on the Brest peninsula had leaflets in their Possession. On one occasion, three Germans surrendering had only one leaflet for the trio. They gave themselves up, each with one hand held high and the other clutching a corner of the precious document…Another German gave himself up with the statement that he had "a document bearing General Eisenhower's personal signature." In one day 44 men of the 256th Volksgrenadier division deserted to a Third Army unit and nearly all carried the Safe Conduct surrender pass.

Leaflet T/93 - Ei ssorrender

Sometimes less is more. I taught the U.S. Army Writing System and it used very short sentences and few three syllable words trying to make the sentences short, concise, and easily understandable. This leaflet is a prime example of that. It is just opposite of the leaflet above with the fancy text, signatures, and symbols. I see some leaflets, especially by the Russians and the Germans that go on and on endlessly. I think the average finder of such a leaflet would throw it away halfway through the text. And then we come to this beauty. It could hardly be shorter. It tells the German finder how to pronounce the words “I surrender,” spelling them in such a way that the German will have no problem saying the magic words. The same message is on the back but written diagonally instead of horizontally.

The leaflet was designed and disseminated by the Psychological Warfare Branch of the British 8th Army fighting in North Africa and later Italy against German troops. The leaflet says on the front and back:

This is the sound of the English and American words "I surrender." Make use of this if the opportunity arises.


A D-Day Ruse on a Leaflet? - Allied Leaflet ZG.4

Allied psychological warfare specialists were warned never to lie on their propaganda leaflets. If caught, the originator of the leaflet lost all credibility. However, in a special case where the stakes are high, the rule could be broken. Was this such a case?

This leaflet image was dropped twice, starting on D-Day and again shortly afterwards. It was first dropped on D-Day with the code “ZG.2” and the title “Four-Front War.” Six-hundred thousand copies of leaflet ZG.2 were dropped on the Germans from 6 June to 15 June 1944. The front of the large leaflet shows the invasion force labelled “Western Front,” the “Southern Front” in Italy, the “Eastern front” as the Russians advance, and bombs are depicted dropping on Germany labelled “Home Front.” The back has a long message telling the German forces of their nation’s peril due to the Eastern Front, Home Front, and Southern Front:

Catastrophe on the East Front, catastrophe on the Home Front, catastrophe on the South Front, and now the Allied landing in the west, the fourth front is opened.

A second version was coded “ZG.4’ with the title “Why?” 2,000,000 copies of this leaflet were dropped from 11 June to 15 June 1944. The leaflet said in part:

The Allied Expeditionary Army was landed on the British coast without the German air force intervening. Why? Many thousands of Allied ships were docked in the British ports without the German air force intervening. Why? The Allied Expeditionary Army reached the coast of France, without the German air force intervening. Why?

Rommel said: “Above all German fortifications, air superiority will make the difference, regardless of what the opponent chooses to do.”

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this leaflet is that the arrow showing the invasion route from the British Isles depicts the invasion landing at Calais. Since the leaflet was dropped starting June 6, the Allies were still hoping to convince the Germans that the Normandy landings were only a ploy and the real invasion would land further east. Intense use of the “double cross” counter-spy network by the Allies had convinced the German general Staff and Hitler that the Allies would take the shortest route and invade France at Calais. Instead, they landed further west at Normandy, over 150 miles from where they were expected. And Hitler believing the Normandy landing was a ruse held his panzers back for far too long. So, was this a simple mistake with the leaflet designer simply wanting to show the British landing on France, or was it a devious plot to make the Germans think that the British had made a terrible security blunder and accidently depicted the true point of invasion at Calais?

Who Erased a City?

I really like this American bomb-warning leaflet. In fact, I like the whole series of three, or four if you count the one with the erased city. All three of the leaflets were given the code 2106 by the Office of War Information although the code does not appear on the leaflet. They were originally designed on Guam by the U.S. Navy that did not code leaflets, and then forwarded to Saipan for printing and dissemination. Saipan gave them the numerical code but did not print it on the leaflet.

On the night of 9/10 March 1945, 334 B-29 bombers dropped 1,600 tons of cluster incendiary bombs on Tokyo. The raid cut Tokyo’s industrial output in half overnight, and the human cost was terrible. Postwar Japanese and American estimates put the total number of civilian casualties at over 200,000, with 100,000 killed outright, and the rest later from their burns, and over 1,000,000 homeless, making the March 9th raid the deadliest bombing raid in human history.

Air Force General Curtis LeMay was pleased with the effectiveness but appalled at the civilian losses and ordered that warning leaflets be prepared in the future. The very first leaflet had twelve cities listed, but the last-minute deletion of Tokyo left just eleven cities. From left to right the cities named on this 11-city leaflet are: Ujiyamada, Tsu, Kooriyama, Hakodate, Nagaoka, Uwajima, Kurume, Ichinomiya, Oogaki, Nishinomiya, and Aomori. The night after the leaflet was dropped, Tsu, Ichinomiya, Aomori, Oogaki, and Uwajima were bombed and left in ashes. This leaflet was dropped on the night of 27 July 1945.

The Original Leaflet with Tokyo Named as a target

Because there was no longer a need to bomb Tokyo, its name was deleted from many of the 886,000 leaflets that were dropped. As a result, many of those leaflets are found with a white circle indicating that a 12th city had been printed and then erased from the leaflet. This may be the only American leaflet dropped during WWII where a big ugly erasure appears on the front. I would image they preferred to reprint the leaflet, but the mission was ready to go so they just made an emergency erasure and dropped what they had.

“I Cease Resistance” (The Official Allied Safe Conduct Pass for Japan)

According to numerous sources, the Japanese did not have a word for "surrender" in their vocabulary. Worse, under their rules of Bushido, if they did surrender they were disgraced and lost from their family and ancestors forever. Regardless, the United States did produce early leaflets that said “I Surrender.” The Japanese apparently did have several words for “surrender” including “kosan” and “kofuku.” Whatever the word, the leaflet failed miserably. Japanese surrenders were rare.

In December 1944, the OWI discussed this very subject in the classified confidential Psychological Warfare, Part One, a handbook for its own agents that discussed the psychological and technical aspects of propaganda. Some of the comments are:

It must be emphasized again that the words surrender (kosan or kofuku) and prisoner of war (horyo or furyo) never be employed in propaganda. This is in conformance with the general concept that everything must be done to help the Japanese “save face.” If pictures of captured Japanese are used in leaflets, it is imperative that their features be obscured. The Japanese, it must be remembered, would rather die than have it be known that they surrendered. Even the most voluble prisoners, although perfectly willing to give intimate details concerning their army and navy, plaintively request that absolutely no word of their capture be relayed either to their family or to their government. Thus, only if the Japanese is made to feel that his surrender will be regarded as a personal matter and will not be publicized will he give serious attention to laying down his arms.

The early leaflets have no photographs on front, just text in English and Japanese. The text is:

I Surrender

Attention American soldiers

This leaflet guarantees humane treatment to any Japanese desiring to surrender. Take him to your nearest Commissioned Officer.

By order C.G. U.S. Forces

The first “I Cease Resistance” leaflet was coded 17-J-1 and depicted above. It is a large leaflet, 7 and 5/8 x 10 and 5/8 inches. It is brightly colored in red, white and blue. The text is in English and Japanese. There are six vertical lines of Japanese text. The English-language text is:



This leaflet guarantees humane treatment to any Japanese desiring to cease resistance. Take him immediately to your nearest Commissioned Officer.

By Direction of the Commander in Chief

There were dozens of such leaflets used by General MacArthur during his invasion of the Philippines. They proved to be very successful. Once the American psychological Warfare experts got busy working on the minds of the Japanese soldiers, things started to change. This was first noticed on Okinawa. The first large-scale use of PSYOP in the Pacific was the Okinawa campaign. The Office of War Information (OWI) working with the Navy on Saipan printed more than six million leaflets to be dropped on Japanese troops and Okinawan civilians. While in earlier battles the Japanese fought to the death or committed suicide rather than be taken prisoner, on Okinawa no less than 11,000 gave themselves up. With the proper message and wording the Japanese would surrender. I suspect that even the Americans were amazed at their own success.

The Office of War Information’s Leaflet 1006

One of the most attractive U.S. Navy leaflets is coded 1006. It was the first in a series of leaflets to be dropped over Japanese troops stranded on bypassed islands. The text is black brushwork on slick paper. The front depicts a beautiful plate of mixed sushi and other Japanese delicacies in full color. To see this leaflet is to salivate. The text is:

Your island has been isolated and cut off from all aid and supplies. You have almost no food and are slowly starving to death. You are as human as we are, and the thought of your hunger is far from pleasant.

If you are hungry and wish to have good food, indicate that fact by displaying a large visible cross along the southeast intersection of the airfield runway. We will then be able to help you.

How hungry were the Japanese? A Master Sergeant Blair quotes enemy soldiers in A Japanese Guadalcanal Dairy. An entry of 31 December 1942 states:

Since the 28th, not a single grain of rice has been distributed, and during this time, 3 pieces of hardtack were issued. Today there were 3 cigarettes and only a bit of the nutrition ration.

On 1 January 1943 an unknown soldier stated:

During the 3 days of the New Year on Guadalcanal Island, we have lived on one piece of hardtack, and this morning finally got one “GO” of rice. In the evening, one compressed ration was divided between two soldiers. Now we are eating rice gruel twice a day, and sleeping in the trenches as we are unable to walk. New Year's to us was just in name, for the day was spent suffering from bombardment and hunger.

Another comment is:

The contents of ant nests are good to eat when one is starving.

On 10 January 1943 we read:

Enemy bombardment becomes increasingly intense. We can hold out for one more week. My body is in such condition that I can barely walk. Food is 5 shaku [one-half go] of rice and some compressed rations. This makes 1 month that we have been eating just rice gruel.

Former Marine Private First-Class Fred Griffith recalls his unit, Marine Observation Squadron (VMO) 155 dropping this leaflet during WWII. He adds:

Our Marine fighter squadron was based on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands during the last year of the war. The squadron was originally supposed to be an observation squadron but was changed to a fighter squadron a few months after it was formed. The men were anxious to get into the battle, but instead, the squadron was used to train pilots before they were sent to the front to join a fighting unit. As part of their training the pilots flew missions against the many islands in the chain that were still occupied by the Japanese. Isolated Japanese forces held out on Wotje, Maloelap, Mili and Jaluit. These stragglers were supplied by an occasional enemy submarine. It was during these training missions right at the end of the war that the pilots strafed, bombed, and dropped the leaflets. The leaflets were placed in wooden boxes and attached to the bomb hooks on the F4U Corsairs and dropped on these runs. The fighters received some anti-aircraft fire on these missions but none of the aircraft were ever hit. Some of our dive bombers were hit and had minor damage during their training missions over the isolated islands.

The exact same image of a plate of sushi was used earlier on OWI leaflet 522. The text avoids any resistance to surrender by taking it for granted and by suggesting face-saving devices which permit the soldier to surrender with honor. It provides excuses that can be stored in the soldier’s subconscious mind and allow him to “fall into enemy hands” at some later date. Some of the text is:

Soldiers may, during wartime, fall into enemy hands. Through no fault of their own; but due to wounds, sickness, and lack of food he may fall into a semi-conscious state. He may be cut off from his comrades, or perhaps the enemy has won the battle…

If you come to the American camp, you will be treated well. You will certainly receive food and tobacco. If you work, you will be paid for it. Then after the war, you will be able to help rebuild your country.

Think about the study that went into this leaflet. I can imagine a group of experts sitting around a table and debating what food should go onto that plate to tempt the emaciated Japanese troops. What I like about this one is that the Japanese made a similar leaflet for the Americans but apparently no thought went into it at all.

A Dish of Salad for Hungry American Troops?

This leaflet depicts trapped American soldiers seeing their fleet destroyed in the distance by Japanese aircraft. They are starving and think of a luscious plate of…salad? Just as the American attempted to induce the Japanese to surrender with promises of fresh, inviting food, the Japanese retaliated with a very similar leaflet. What is interesting is that while the American leaflet shows a Japanese delicacy, the Japanese leaflet does not depict an American delicacy. If they had a better understanding of the American diet, they would have depicted a big steak, a ham, or a turkey. Instead they depict a salad, not exactly something a starving GI would relish. I believe that because of the choice of food this must be considered a “failed leaflet.” I doubt many Americans would throw down their arms and surrender for some apple slices, a tomato and God only know what that protein is. Notice also that the Japanese do not use the word “surrender.” They ask for a “Change of mind.” The text is:

Iron-rationed stranded.
Nothing but dog-biscuits.
Day after day, positively
How about a dish of salad like this?
For a change of diet...Just a change of mind.

Office of War Information Leaflet 411 for Japan

It may be too strong a word to say this is a favorite leaflet. It is dull and blah, but I admire it for what it is not, not what it is. It shows a Japanese woman with one breast exposed on the front. At first you would think it to be of a sexual nature, perhaps light pornography. But it is not. It is nostalgic, informative, and meant to lower the morale of the Japanese soldier. The back contains text in violet ink on a primrose paper, 5 x 8 inches in size. The text reads:

While you continue your futile resistance against our overwhelming might, your wives, sisters, and daughters back home are daily being reduced to prostitution. These are hard times for your farmers, and badly needed money is easily obtained by selling women to brothels. Factory workers, who now have money, are always eager to pay a few extra yen for a night's fun with women. When peace comes soon, times at home will be even worse. This will be true in all countries. Unless you are at home to care for your families, many of your dearest women will be forced to become prostitutes. Can you think without emotion of your wives, daughters, and sisters submitting to the lustful embraces of jeering workers? Don't throw away your lives in vain. Your families need you!

So, why is this leaflet special? Both the Germans and the Japanese prepared leaflets against the United States but they were highly sexual and based on their belief that Americans were weak and thought constantly of sex and therefore were vulnerable. The Japanese produced dozens of such leaflets, one showing an American soldier having sex with an Australian soldier’s wife, while the Aussie was depicted chasing a native woman through the jungle with his pants halfway to his ankles.

The Germans did the same sort of thing, showing an American soldier with a British trooper’s nearly naked wife and the text “Indeed an amusing war - for the Americans.”

It must have been very tempting for the American propagandists to produce the same sexual leaflets, but they were able to keep the official “white” leaflets clean and without any perverse leaflets. I must admit that the American Office of Strategic Services was creating horrible “black” leaflets for Germany which featured all sort of perversions, child molestation, bestiality, and the like. But that was all secret black operations and had nothing to do with the U.S. military. U.S. leaflets always had a certain morality.

Office of War Information Leaflet 2048

Frances Blakemore was an American artist who worked for the OWI in Honolulu. Her biography was titled An American Artist in Tokyo. She was a painter and print maker who travelled to Japan in 1935 to teach art and English. Sensing the coming war, she escaped to Honolulu in 1940 and avoided Japanese internment. Her first government job was in the Office of Censorship, but in June 1944, she was transferred to the Office of War

The Scream

Frances prepared about 50 leaflets, all very beautiful and colorful, many with sentimental themes for the Japanese. Leaflet 2048 is very different, printed just in blood red, and the Japanese civilians depicted are almost caricatures, like the character in the Edvard Munch 1893 painting, Skrik (“Shriek”), which Americans know as “The Scream.”

This 5 x 8-inch leaflet does not show the results of an American bombing. Frances cleverly moved the story to the earthquake of 1923 to remind the people of the horror and death that earthquake caused. Then she points out that an American B-29 bomb raid produces similar results, horror and bloodshed and death. The leaflet depicts fear-maddened masses fleeing the toppling flame-ridden buildings. Tokyo is falling and burning in the background. There is no text on the front. The text on the back says in part:

Do you remember the great damage done to your country by the earthquake of 1923? America can produce earthquakes that will cause damage a thousand times greater.

Such earthquakes will be brought in bundles from 2 1/2 to 4 tons. The bundles can destroy in 2 or 3 seconds the results of several years of struggle and hardship.

Note carefully the American style of Earthquake; feel the trembling of the earth when they are let loose. Your homes will be destroyed, factories will vanish, and your family will be killed.

Note carefully the American style of Earthquake; you will know the time it will occur. You will be experiencing it!


Germany’s Polish Corridor Propaganda Cards

At the end of WWI Great Britain and France punished Germany by giving Poland a path to the sea, thus dividing Germany into pieces. It was called the Polish Corridor and led to the Germans asking the West, “Would you die for Danzig?” The Germans believed that the Polish Corridor attacked their national pride and was cause enough to attack Poland. To make their excuses in advance to the Western nations they produced several postcards to show them what it would feel like to have a foreign corridor splitting their homeland. Postcards were produced for the United States, Great Britain, France, and Italy. This was prior to World War II, so Germany had not yet signed a pact with Italy.

The cards open to show two maps: one part depicts a map of the Polish Corridor through Germany. the other part depicts a map of a similar corridor dividing another country. The cards were first produced about October 1932. There is evidence that in 1939 some cards were mailed through regular postal channels, and some cards for England were air-dropped. The card for each country appears in two varieties, one with the boxed text typeset, the other with the boxed text having the appearance of being “hand-lettered.”

The “New England Corridor” double card for the USA shows a corridor across the Northeastern United States. The text is in English and the cards were first mailed to the United States beginning in 1932. The “English Corridor” double card shows a corridor dividing England across its narrow center. The “French Corridor” double card shows a corridor isolating southeast France. Finally, the “Italian Corridor” double card shows a corridor across northern Italy.

The above card asks the Americans:

What would you say if the United States of America were to be treated in this way and made to look like Germany does as shown on the accompanying map? Would the United States be willing to agree to such frontiers?

The British Postwar Blockade of Germany

Never Again

Most readers know that at the end of WWI, Great Britain and France treated Germany badly, charging them for the full cost of the war, taking away some territories and colonies, placing occupation troops on parts of their nation and placing a Polish corridor right through Germany to give Poland the city of Danzig and a port on the Baltic Sea. What is not generally known is that Britain also blockaded and starved Germany after the war from November 1918 until June 1919 even though peace had been declared. The German Board of Public Health claimed that 763,000 German civilians died from starvation and disease caused by the blockade through December 1918. In 1928, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace put the death toll at 424,000. The blockade was to force Germany to sign the Treaty of Versailles in June 1919.

During the so-called phony war (mid-1939 to spring 1940), when German and Allied forces faced each other with very little actual firing of weapons, the German psychological warfare organizations sent mail to people throughout the world telling of what the British had done. Germany printed an 8-page folded leaflet that mailed to the United States and Great Britain (and possibly Australia and Canada) blaming everyone else for the war. It depicted a skeleton-like German child starving on one page, a healthy child on a second page, three babies on a third page and 3 children at play on a fourth. The other side of the card depicted five photographs of both healthy and sick children. This was excellent propaganda and appeared to give Hitler a reason to build a German military force so that the children could never be illegally starved again. Some of the captions of the various pictures are:

A six-year-old boy wasted to a skeleton – a victim of the blockade in the Great War. This photo was taken in 1919. Who can call such methods of warfare humane?

The day is coming when the civilized world will utterly condemn the men who consider the starvation of a whole people a legitimate means of waging war. May the curse of innocent women and children light upon their heads, those despicable war-mongers, who stop short at nothing which can further their ends!

This is how they suffered, how they died of starvation in the Great War. But it shall never happen again!

Well fed, healthy and happy are the children in Germany today. Are they to be the victims of another blockade?

This 14-year-old scrofulous girl died of starvation in 1919. What had she done to harm Britain?

Not this time, Mr. Churchill!

Other propaganda letters accused the Poles of using poison gas against Germany, forcing the Germans to act; accused Great Britain and France of talking the Poles out of accepting the Hitler’s generous offer of peace; and claimed that Great Britain had planned to attack Germany as early as 1936.

The German Dunkirk Leaflet

This leaflet is so interesting because it could have led to the fall of Great Britain which would have meant American forces could not later mass there for the invasion of Europe, and Germany would have had free reign to fight a one-front war against the Soviet Union which it would have likely won.

Most people know that in the early days of WWII in May 1940, the British and French were fooled into moving forward and found themselves surrounded by German forces that had made an "impossible"” advance through the Ardennes Forest. The French believed that the Germans would need between 5 and 9 days to pass through the Ardennes and then at least 2 more weeks to cross the Meuse River. German armor reached the Meuse after 2.5 days, and one day later launched an attack to cross the Meuse. The British and French were trapped in the port city of Dunkirk. If the Germans had advanced, the entire British force would have been lost. Instead, Air Marshall Hermann Goring convinced Adolf Hitler that his Luftwaffe could destroy the forces. He was wrong. By a miracle, the British were able to send a fleet of ships and even small fishing boats and luxury yachts to save their army. by the time the evacuations ended, some 198,000 British and 140,000 French troops would manage to get off the beaches at Dunkirk—a total of some 338,000 men. They had little equipment, one researcher found that one machinegun was left in Britain the fight a German landing. All the other equipment stayed on the beaches. Early in the encirclement, the German confidently dropped this leaflet telling the British that they were surrounded, and their only hope was to surrender. This mistake is one of many that Hitler made that cost him the war. He was an untrained former low ranking enlisted man with none of the training and years of experience his generals possessed, but he always thought he was smarter than they were.

Korean War


Chinese-Language Leaflet 5502

This is a favorite leaflet of mine though to be honest it was a complete and total failure. I will explain at the end.

The previously classified report Guerrilla Operations 1952, published by the Headquarters, Guerrilla Division, Far East Command, Liaison Detachment, 8240th Army Unit, mentions the American desire for a MiG-15:

A complete MiG-15 is one of the highest priorities establish by the Air Force. The Air Force and Navy will offer support for any feasible project that will acquire a MiG-15. The MiG-15 technical orders are highly desirable. These are sometimes carried in the cockpit.

The United States entered the Korean War with mostly propeller-driven aircraft like the WWII P-51 Mustang and the Navy Corsair. They fought well but the Russian MiG-15, flown by North Korean, Chinese and even Russian pilots outclassed them. The F-80 Shooting Star and F-84 Thunder Jets were sent by the USAF to help, and although jets, were not quite up to the MiG. In December 1950, the swept-wing F-86 Sabre-jet finally arrived. It was the equal of the MiG-15. But, the Americans still wanted a MiG to test and find its weak spots.

There are several stories about how the leaflet came to pass but Edward Hymoff, Bureau Chief of the International News Service in Korea during the late stages of the war told me that during fall of 1952 he and General Clark were aboard a U.S.A.F. Constellation flying to Tokyo. They talked during the long flight and Hymoff mentioned his concept of offering $100,000 for a combat-ready MiG-15. The newsman recommended that the UN broadcast the offer in several languages. He also thought that the U.S. should offer asylum in the United States. Hymoff said “He (the defector) wouldn't have any worries the rest of his life, plus, he would be a rich man, tax free.”

The actual Leaflet depicted a MiG-15 on the front and was printed in blue or tan. There are slight variations in the wording of the leaflets, depending on which of the opposing forces is the target. The code number of the Russian-language leaflet is 5701 or 5703, The Chinese leaflet 5502, and the Korean leaflet 2508 or 2510. This probably means that there is a Chinese-language tan leaflet coded 5504. All the leaflets have the same general appearance. They are on a blue or tan-tinted paper and are about 8 x 10 inches in size.

The message on the front varies slightly but this is the general translation.

20 April 1953

To:   Brave Pilots of Jet Aircraft
Subject: A Road to Freedom

Pilots! The Far East Command offers its help to all brave pilots who wish to free themselves from the vicious whip of the Communist regime and start a new and better life, with proper honor in the Free World.

The Far East Command offers you refuge, protection, human care and attention. You are given full guarantee that your names will remain secret if you so desire. Pilots! Your brave move will bring you to freedom and will give you opportunity to live in the future without fear for your well-being. Besides that, your heroism and decision will help others by pointing to them the road to freedom.

The Far East Command will reward $50,000 United States dollars to any pilot who delivers a modern, operational, combat-type jet aircraft in flyable condition to South Korea. The first pilot who delivers such a jet aircraft to the Free World will receive a bonus of an additional 50,000 US dollars for his bravery.

Following is a list of instructions to all pilots who desire to free themselves from the Communist yoke. Escapee pilots will fly to Paengyong-do Island, fifty (50) kilometers south of Chodo Island. From Paengyong-do escapee pilots will proceed to Kimpo Air Base at 6100 meters altitude, descend over Kimpo Air Base, and proceed to make an immediate landing. UN Aircraft will accompany escapee remaining always above and behind, unless low clouds or visibility prevent escapee from locating Kimpo Airbase. If escapee is unable to make a visual let-down, he will proceed to the Seoul area at 6100 meters and circle with his gear down. A United States aircraft will then fly close abreast and lead the way to the landing field. Upon initial contact with UN Aircraft, or if at any time UN Aircraft attempts attack, escapee will immediately lower landing gear and rock wings violently.

The Free World shall welcome you as an old friend as well as a hero.

Mark W. Clark
General, United States Army Commander-in-Chief
Far East Command

Two USAF B-29 Super-Fortresses dropped more than one million of the reward leaflets along the Yalu River on the night of 26 April 1953. The Air Force dropped another half-million leaflets over Sinuiju and Uiju airfields on the nights of 10 and 18 May. At the same time, The United Nations beamed a concentrated radio attack at the Communists all along the "Bamboo Curtain." Fourteen radio stations in Japan and Korea stated in Korean, Russian, Mandarin and Cantonese Chinese that the United Nations would pay $50,000 dollars for a MiG and guarantee protection for the pilot.

I said at the start of this section that the leaflet was a complete failure. It was. Not a single MiG crossed the lines to collect the money. Worse, after the end of the war when a Christian North Korean flyer brought his MiG to South Korea to defect, he had never heard of the offer. He told me that the money was meaningless. Even if he had heard, he was from a society where everything was given to the pilot. He would have no idea what to do with the money or how to spend it.

So, why is this leaflet a favorite of mine? In my first tour I was a member of the USAF assigned to the 51st Fighter Wing, the Checker-tailed “MiG Killers.” After the leaflets were dropped the Reds grounded their air force for eight days. It might have been weather, or it might have been time needed to weed out the pilots who were liable to defect. Whatever the reason for the halt, there is no doubt that with the return of the MiGs, a new breed of pilot was behind the stick. The United States Air Force in Korea 1950-1953 says:

They were willing to engage in combat, but they had far more enthusiasm than ability.

They were the most aggressive, and by their record, the worst flyers of the entire war. In the ninety days following the Moolah (slang for "Money") broadcasts, The Allied air forces destroyed 165 MiGs at a cost of just three friendly aircraft. Young politically correct pilots flying MiG-15s attacked repeatedly only to fall in flames before the thundering guns of American F-86 Sabre Jets. This is a fantastic ratio of 55:1 in favor of the Fighter aircraft of the United States. The Air Force has compared these aerial battles to the "Marianas Turkey Shoot" of World War Two fame where the back of Japanese naval air-power was broken. Although we shall probably never know for sure, there can be little doubt that during those brief ninety days our enemy were young Communist Party members with more political reliability than flying ability.

Vietnam War


The Allied Five Flag Safe Conduct Pass of the Vietnam War – SP-893

The United States and its allies dropped over 50 billion leaflets on Vietnam. Many of them were safe conduct passes. Retired Lieutenant Colonel Dave Underhill told me about this “official safe conduct pass:”

During one trip to Vietnam, I discussed the safe conduct pass problem with our Vietnam PSYOP Detachment Commander. I suggested that he have his people draft a National Safe Conduct Pass to be used throughout the nation. He took a proposed leaflet layout to JUSPAO. They immediately took the project over and assigned it leaflet number SP-893. The leaflet was eventually produced at the rate of one hundred million leaflets per month and dropped throughout the country. It was a highly successful leaflet used by tens of thousands of Viet Cong and North Vietnamese soldiers to surrender

In War of Ideas: The U.S. Propaganda Campaign in Vietnam, author Robert W. Chandler says:

A standard certification was used. It was slightly altered in 1967 to include the flags of Thailand and the Philippines as new allies. The serial number on the old version was dropped in favor of President Thieu's signature and photograph as evidence of the official sanction for the safe conduct invitation. Both Viet Cong and North Vietnamese defectors and prisoners gave Saigon's safe conduct pass high credibility. Many cited it as an influential element in their decision to lay down their arms.

As Chandler says, there were many changes in the leaflet and although there is no code number on the leaflets they were filed as 893A to 893F. All the flag safe conduct passes show a large flag of the Republic of Vietnam at center on the front and, in the earlier versions, smaller flags of allied nations participating in the war. There were regular changes. Some Korean text in script or block letters, some codes for the 4 Combat Zones, some serial numbers in vertical or horizontal format, and different photos and signatures like Nguyen Cao Ky or Nguyen Van Thieu depending on who was in power at the time.

The first was the five-flag pass, showing flags of the United States, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand in addition to the flag of Vietnam. This leaflet and its variants were produced before 1967.

The Allied Seven Flag Safe Conduct Pass of the Vietnam War

In 1967, a seven-flag version was introduced, showing the additional flags of Thailand and the Philippines. This symbol of growing force was meant to lower the morale of the North Vietnamese sending troops down the Ho Chi Minh Trail to "Liberate" South Vietnam.

The Allied One Flag Safe Conduct Pass of the Vietnam War

Finally, in 1972, when Vietnamization became the focus of propaganda, all flags except that of Vietnam were removed. Several different forms of propaganda were used on the back side. President Richard M. Nixon explained that plan in a 3 November 1969 speech. He said:

The Vietnamization plan was launched following Secretary Laird's visit to Vietnam in March. Under the plan, I ordered first a substantial increase in the training and equipment of South Vietnamese forces. In July, on my visit to Vietnam, I changed General Abrams' orders so that they were consistent with the objectives of our new policies. Under the new orders, the primary mission of our troops is to enable the South Vietnamese forces to assume the full responsibility for the security of South Vietnam.

We do know from a 6th PSYOP Battalion Facts on Battalion Operations, that 50 million copies of leaflet SP-893 was ordered in December 1967. A second document makes this order more clear. To show the popularity of this leaflet, in the one month of November 1967 alone the 6th PSYOP Battalion in Vietnam requested that the 7th PSYOP Battalion in Okinawa print 300 million copies in six different batches of 50 million each, to be delivered on 20 January, 20 February, 20 March, 20 April, 20 May and 20 June of 1958.


Chieu Hoi - The Winning Ticket

The image of the flag safe conduct pass is so stirring that it was used repeatedly on U.S. official documents and publications. The seven-flag pass is featured on the cover of the Booklet Chieu Hoi - The Winning Ticket issued to servicemen in Vietnam. This booklet explained the importance of taking prisoners using the pass and pointed out that lives on both side were saved.

This is clearly the most colorful and attractive leaflet prepared for Vietnam and produced in uncounted numbers. It is no wonder that it is a favorite of mine. 

A Poem to Mother – SP-2263

I must be honest and say this is not a leaflet I would have picked for a favorite. It is simply a poem written by a North Vietnamese soldier killed on his way down the Ho Chi Minh Trail. There is nothing special about it except it is apparently a very good poem.

The tradition of poetry is long and respected in Vietnam and a poem is the perfect way to send a propaganda message to the enemy. Leaflet SP-2263 is depicted in the Joint U.S. Public Affairs Office November 1968 publication Communicating with Vietnamese thru Leaflets that says:

This leaflet uses poetry as a medium of communication. In fact, some of the best leaflets ever used in Vietnam have consisted of emotion-provoking poems, with suitable illustrations related to the thematic content of the poem. Poems frequently express nostalgia, sorrow and longing more effectively than is possible in prose. But the poetry must be good, or it will be scorned.

The leaflet shows a sobbing mother at top left and her son in the South below. On the back the son is shown dead and alone in the jungle. It was prepared in November 1967. Some of the long poem is:


A North Vietnamese Youth Spills out his Heart

From the day I left you, mother,
to follow my companions on the trip to
Central Vietnam through Laos,
I have endured the hardships of
climbing up the green mountains
And marching through rain and shine,

Although with my young age
life should blossom like a flower.
For the sake of peace I don’t mind
Enduring hardships and danger.

For several months I marched during
the day and rested at night.
My shoes’ heels have worn out
And my jacket's shoulders
Were rubbed thin through which the cold slips in…

The poem ends with a denouncement of the Party and the invasion:

But why did they order me to burn
The villages, destroy the bridges,
Explode the mines and sow death around?
Often my hand trembled
When I had to lay a mine

Only to later witness people being blown up
And blood sprayed around
Whose blood was it?
It was the blood of people like you, mother, and myself.
That night, my eyes were filled with tears…

A small box at the lower left in the back of the leaflet contains the text:

The above letter in poetry form was found on the body of a dead soldier of the Hanoi regime killed in the battle of Duc Co.

Text on other leaflets says that writer of the leaflet was a lonely soldier identified as the son of Mrs. Tran Thi Phan of Hai Duong, writing a poem to his mother who lives on their farm in the north.

This poem has been considered one of the best produced for Vietnam. What is interesting about this poem is that it was memorized by a Vietnamese officer heading south. This was verified in a debriefing of Second Lieutenant Nguyen Van Thong, a soldier in the 320th Regiment, 1st People’s Army of Vietnam Division, who fought in Kontum Province in March-April 1968. The poem was so moving that many North Vietnamese soldiers remembered it. The lieutenant said:

The Americans should let the Vietnamese write them as they know how to put the story or what you want said into poetry; the Vietnamese are a very poetic people…The best way to tell of good will is with a poem. All of the men in my unit knew the lines of a poem used in South Vietnam and we thought of it often. The poem that we remember is for our mother.

Lieutenant Colonel David Underhill of the 7th PSYOP Group told me about his experience preparing and having that leaflet printed:

When I visited Laos during the war, the CIA wanted to know who published it. My group did. The CIA said every North Vietnamese body they found carried the leaflet. If they captured a solder, he could recite the poem. My unit mass-shipped a load to IV Corps and I was able to initiate action to ship them to the CIA in Laos


Leaflet 78 Dropped over North Vietnam

The leaflet appears in many variations with slightly different scenes, though the mother is always shown crying, and in various sizes such as 3 x 6-inches, and 5 x 7-inches. It is found as a Joint United States Public Affairs Office leaflet coded SP-2141 and SP-2263. It was dropped on the Ho Chi Minh trail in bright red and blue and coded 78T. It was dropped on North Vietnam coded 29 (720,000 copies of this leaflet on a tan paper were dropped on 26 September 1965) and 78 (the front red and the back blue). I am sure there were other leaflets with the “Poem to Mother” but those are the one in front of me as I write this. So, although it was not one of my personal favorites if the Intelligence people and the PSYOP specialists and the CIA all say that it was so powerful that enemy soldiers memorized it, I cannot help but add it to my favorites.

The Nguyen Van Be Campaign


JUSPAO Poster SP-1775

Nguyen Van Be holding the Hanoi Tien Phong Newspaper
that depicts him in almost the same pose. The text is:

The 'Late Hero' Nguyen Van Be reads about his own death

In this case, this is really my favorite leaflet campaign, not so much individual leaflet. This is a wonderful story where the United States has found the golden ticket, caught the Communists in a major lie that should cause them to lose all credibility because they have lied to everyone. But, the Communists struck back and called the Americans liars. It is like two kids on the street, both saying “you stink” to each other. Then the U.S. escalates and says “We will prove it to the world!” and makes a major mistake that embarrasses everyone and causes our PSYOP experts to look like fools and liars. What an amazing campaign!

The story begins with a firefight when a young 25 year old Viet Cong soldier named Nguyen Van Be found himself and his squad trapped on a sampan and under heavy fire on 30 May 1966. The overloaded sampan packed with explosives overturned into the water. The Viet Cong squad jumped out of the sampan and fled to shore. Be also leaped into the water and was trying to hide himself under the surface when a South Vietnamese soldier grabbed him by the hair and pulled him out. He was the only one taken captive—and he had never got to fire a single shot. He is sent off to a prisoner-of-war camp and all was peaceful and quiet.

Thinking he is dead, the Communists decide to make a national hero and martyr out of the young man. For six months, the Lao Dong (Communist) Party told of his heroics in prose and song. Young men were urged to emulate the fallen hero. Be had been a model guerrilla. He had joined the People’s Youth League at an early age and later became a volunteer in the Liberation Army. There were newspaper articles, biographies, dozens of poems, booklets, books, a postage stamp, plays and radio broadcasts telling of Be’s death and sacrifice. The communists in the North even wrote an opera for Be. In addition, two statues were erected in his honor. The Viet Cong awarded him the posthumous title of "Indomitable Loyalty and Magnificent Bravery." The Party claimed that when the wounded Be was captured after the battle, the American and Vietnamese troops demanded that he instruct them on the workings of an unknown 10 kilogram tank mine. Be did so. He picked up the mine high over his head, and shouted:

Long live the National Front for Liberation! Down with American Imperialists!

He then smashed the mine against an armored vehicle, killing himself and 69 American and Vietnamese officers and soldiers. A true hero! On 21 May 1967, the Hanoi newspaper Tien Phong (Vanguard) mentioned Nguyen Be Again:

The Vietnamese Central Group Secretariat for all youth organizations has instructed its members to conduct major theme study meetings on Nguyen Van Be to boost the offensive revolutionary morale, and carry out with resolution the Uncle’s instructions. From 30 May to 19 August 1967, a series of concentrated study meetings on Nguyen Van Be are to be conducted and action campaigns bearing the name of Nguyen Van Be are to be launched with the offensive revolutionary morale and the resolution to crush the American aggressors….

The Truth about Nguyen Van Be Song Sheet - Leaflet SP-1964

All this exploded in their face in February 1967. Nguyen Van Be was found alive and well in a Vietnamese prison camp. Be agreed to cooperate with the Republic of Vietnam. The opportunity to show that the enemy has brazenly lied seldom occurs in psychological operations. The Government of Vietnam and the Joint United States Public Affairs Office (JUSPAO) took full opportunity of the chance to strike at the communists, embarrass them, and destroy their credibility. According to Robert W. Chandler, War of Ideas – The U.S. Propaganda Campaign in Vietnam:

By July 1967 JUSPAO had publicized the Be affair for Southern audiences through the production of more than thirty million leaflets, seven million cartoon leaflets, 465,000 posters, a special newspaper in 175,000 copies, 167,000 photographs, 10,000 song sheets, several motion pictures, and numerous radio and television programs featuring Be, his family, and his Hoi Chanh (Viet Cong who had returned to the Government of Vietnam) friends.

It seemed that the United States had caught Hanoi with its pants down. But no! When you catch a liar he can attack or retreat. Hanoi decided to attack and just escalated the amount and volume of lies. JUSPAO published a PSYOP Policy number 42 on 27 July 1967 entitled: Further Exploitation of the Nguyen Van Be Case. It said in part:

To counter the impact of Nguyen Van Be's reappearance, Hanoi and the VC began a two-part program: denunciation of the Government of Vietnam and United States for “a clumsy and stupid swindle” and step-up of the Be emulation campaign to such an extent that the dubious would be overwhelmed. The Hanoi daily Nhan Dan followed on March 21st with the charge that the U.S. had created an imposter by resorting to “the Hollywood technique of selecting actors and the medical art of changing facial traits as applied in Hong Kong and Japan.”

The Family of Nguyen Van Be
His father looks very unhappy.
Is he scanning the crowd for possible Viet Cong assassins?

Hanoi also threatened to kill any Vietnamese person who stated that Be was alive. There were some reports that people had been killed by Viet Cong assassins for doubting their story. I have seen the Viet Cong death warrant issued for his cousin Nguyen Van Anh. It mentions several alleged crimes, but I suspect the main one was “acknowledging that Nguyen Van Be is still alive.” Don Rochlen of the Field Development Division (Joint United States Public Affairs Office) found Be’s family and invited them to move to a safer area away from Viet Cong agents. We show the family above. Do they seem confident about their safety?

Finally, the Americans made the worst mistake of all. They decided to bring Be home so that all his friends would see him and know he was alive. This would be the culmination of the American PSYOP campaign. However, when they paraded Be out to shake hands with the people, nobody knew him. As impossible as it seems, they threw the “Coming Home” party in the wrong village. John R. Campbell, a civilian psychological warfare advisor in Vietnam from 1965 to 1967 says in Are we Winning? Are they Winning: A Civilian Advisor’s Reflections on Wartime Vietnam:

A day-long operation was mounted including plenty of military security and helicopters to descend unannounced into his home village, in a VC-dominated area, to present him as a living lie to his fellow villagers while we fed them, entertained them, and gave them medical attention. To our chagrin, it turned out not to be his home village, though the peasants there recognized his name and fame. Next day we went back to our files to find out where we had gone wrong. The files concerning him, including posters, printed songs, maps, stories, etc., which were kept in an office just a few steps from mine, were completely cleaned out.

When I asked Campbell exactly what he meant by that statement, he said:

My statement was meant to emphasize that someone in our own organization was a Viet Cong operative that cleaned out all our documentation on Nguyen Van Be.

This ends my brief look at one of the worst PSYOP campaigns in history. The U.S. said the enemy lied; the enemy said the U.S. lied; the U.S. said "we will take him home and show the world"; and then went to the wrong village. It doesn’t get any worse than that.

A Bathing Beauty – Leaflet 4-133-68

There is an old PSYOP adage that you must know your target audience. The Vietnamese are a very modest people. I had one tell me one time that the Chinese women were sluts because when they had to cross a stream while carrying baggage down the Ho Chi Minh Trail, they would take off their clothes in front of the men to keep them dry. Viet Cong women, I was informed with great smugness, will cross the stream fully dressed and get their clothes soaked.

Propagandists will often use nostalgia as a weapon in their leaflets. They will depict a mother, a sweetheart, or wife and children to make the enemy soldier homesick and lower his morale. In 1968, the 4th PSYOP Group in Vietnam decided to do something like that by depicting a beautiful young Vietnamese woman in a bathing suit. I am sure the thought was that the picture will get the enemy's attention and they will read the propaganda message. The girl wore a bathing suit that was not particularly risque and no “naughty bits” were showing. In the United States the picture would have been completely acceptable. The text on the front of the leaflet was:


The back was all text:

Right now your only satisfaction is that you hope you are able to stay alive through the terrible Army of Vietnam attacks. Don’t deny yourself the right to be a man. Return to a life of happiness and personal freedom. Rally to the open arms of the Government of Viet Nam.

Robert W. Chandler mentioned this leaflet in War of Ideas: The U.S. Propaganda Campaign in Vietnam. He mentions the United States Information Agency (USIA) in Saigon warning that:

Sex-appeal propaganda be used sparingly and limited to young girls in traditional dress. Cheesecake photographs might be acceptable to Western standards but would likely offend native canons of good taste.

He quotes another unnamed writer:

The Americans often distributed their propaganda messages with pictures of voluptuous scantily clad women. The Americans assumed the pictures would turn the thoughts of enemy troops toward home. But to most Vietnamese, there is nothing captivating about over-endowed women. Pinups just don't have the same appeal here, said an American psywarrior, a little sadly.

Chandler is correct. This leaflet was a failure. The Vietnamese people are very staid and traditional and the sight of a young girl in a bathing suit was insulting to them. They would assume that she was a prostitute or bar girl. Chandler adds:

While these gaffes in themselves had no devastating effects on the psychological operations campaign, they illustrate a point that without immersing themselves in Vietnamese culture and values, Americans were engaging in dangerous and possibly counterproductive activities by participating directly in the Vietnamese battle for Vietnamese minds

Lieutenant Colonel David G. Underhill who was with the 7th PSYOP Group on Okinawa during the Vietnam War agrees. He said about this leaflet:

The 4th PSYOP Group prepared a very tame “white” leaflet that depicted a Vietnamese woman in a bathing suit that brought a strong adverse reaction in post-testing. The girl in the picture, the enemy claimed, was a prostitute for the American soldiers. Do you think any soldier would be induced to defect by a prostitute?

Midshipman Jason Thomas Chaput mentions this leaflet in his 2000 U.S. Naval Academy Department of History honors thesis. He says:

Other messages such as those of the sex appeal leaflets acted to turn the reader off to entertaining the idea of the Chieu Hoi program because they were anchored in American values and not those of the Vietnamese. The sex appeal propaganda which depicted bikini-clad, over-endowed Vietnamese women stated that the soldier could find true happiness and the satisfactions of life which every man was entitled if he chose to rally to one of the program’s centers. The individuals drafting the propaganda mistakenly believed that Vietnamese soldiers saw the world through the same masculine goggles as did American GI’s. The U.S. advisors failed to understand that the Confucian ideals held by a majority of the Vietnamese directed them to be in harmony with their environment by adopting a middle path in all areas of conduct. The effect of the sex appeal leaflets was to turn off the Vietnamese by solidifying their views that the corrupt outside Western influence present in their country had to be defeated.

Leaflet 4-132-68

Curiously, at the same time the 4th Group produced the inappropriate leaflet showing a female in a bathing suit, they produced a second leaflet showing a Vietnamese woman in traditional garb that was completely appropriate and certainly a better medium for a propaganda message. Text over the primly dressed beauty is:


The back is all text:



The animal-like existence that the Army of Vietnam forces you to lead brings no happiness, only denial, without hope, love or offspring. You have nothing to look forward to changing this hopeless situation. Rally now to the open arms of the Republic of Viet Nam.

I should point out that during WWII the Germans and Japanese used sex very often in their propaganda. Even the Americans prepared one leaflet that depicted the exposed breast of a Japanese wife forced to sell herself into prostitution because of the war. These old ideas carried over and were very difficult to control when facing a culture that was very prim and proper and found sexual images insulting. In this case the Americans depicted a lovely girl in a bathing suit and the enemy used the image to attack all Americans as perverted and uncultured people. The bathing suit leaflet was a valuable "lessons learned" for the U.S. Army psychological operators in Vietnam.  

Dead in the dirt – Killed by the B-52 – Leaflet 6-344-68

Certain leaflets were used repeatedly. One of those depicts a dead Viet Cong or North Vietnamese Army soldier dead on the ground. It is very simple, sometimes almost cartoonish. Sometimes there is text, sometimes not. The concept was to tell the enemy that nobody lives after a massive B-52 raid. Everybody dies. There are about a half dozen varieties of this one. I will depict a few. The text on the front of this leaflet is:

Your efforts are Useless

Leaflet SP-766

Joint U.S. Public Affairs Office leaflet SP-766 had no text, just pictures of VC in the rubble on both sides. Perhaps it needed no text.

Leaflet 246-21-67

Many of the early 246th PSYOP Company leaflets are quite plain, just pen and ink drawings. Here is one version of a dead Viet Cong fighter in the rubble after a bombing. His eyes are open but unseeing. 50,000 copies of the leaflets were dropped immediately after an air strike. Notice this one mentions the Australian forces in Vietnam. The text on the back says in part:


You have witnessed on a small part of the death and destruction that awaits you soon. The mighty airpower of the Government of Vietnam and the Australian Forces will destroy you and all you represent…There can be no doubt in your mind as to the desolation that our air strikes bring, and they will continue with greater force each time until you are destroyed.

Leaflet 246-152-67

With all the tools and technology, the Americans had at their disposal, this simple leaflet almost looks to be a fake. But it is not. The leaflet above has no text on the front, just the enemy soldier half buried from the bombing. The text on the back is:


You have witnessed on a small part of the death and destruction that awaits you soon. The mighty airpower of the Government of Vietnam and the Allied Forces will destroy you and all you represent…There can be no doubt in your mind as to the desolation that our air strikes bring, and they will continue with greater force each time until you are destroyed.

The Allies also produced radio and loudspeaker messages using the same theme. Tape 104 is a 24-second message in a male voice in both Vietnamese and Cambodian:

You will soon be bombed by airplanes. Your fortifications and trenches will be smashed by the power of their explosives. There is no safe place to hide. Surrender now and you will escape a terrible and useless death. Soon you will be bombed by airplanes. Surrender now. Avoid a flaming death.

Leaflet 1517

Isn’t it time to return to your family?
Which of the above scenes do you prefer?

I have always admired this vignette. It is found on several American leaflets, sometimes in color, sometimes in black and white. It shows so much. We see a lonely Viet Cong fighter sitting by himself and thinking of two paths he can take in the future. One portrays death and destruction if he continues to fight with dead bodies, blood, and a destroyed bridge and building. The back has a poem called “Remember you:”


I sadly remember you day and night,
you are alone with blanket and pillow, because of whom?
In the jungle I led a gloomy life,
facing rain, sun, and racking hunger.
The more I think of it the more I hate,
who spread the smoke and fire to interrupt the melody?
When can we meet again,
with you lying on my arm to reward the days of nostalgia?
And we get drunk with the wine of love,
to see happiness come true in our loving arms.

The Viet Cong Cadre who wrote these verses was killed on10 October 1966 at Chu Lai.

Leaflet 1534 

The identical Leaflet with the image on front with the color at the top was also printed as leaflet SP-1534. The text on the front is:

Isn't it now the time to return to your family?
Which of the above scenes do you prefer?

The back is mostly text, but there is a photograph at the lower left which depicts some Vietnamese and American airborne soldiers. The text is:


In 1966, more than 2,000 of your comrades received health care and food in the Tuy Hoa Return Camp. No longer did they have to worry about death or injury in a war that they had no hope to win. What are you waiting for?


All returnees are provided with attentive health care.

Looking through some old leaflet catalogs I see this leaflet was also used by the 244th Leaflet company, probably between early 1966 and late 1967. This leaflet is uncoded. The text on the back is:

How can you live with hardships, hide in the jungle with poisoned water and constantly worry about airstrikes, far from your family and loved ones?

You have many hardships, but what rewards have you received? While you inhumane and war-mongering leaders who live in North Vietnam only fight with their mouths! Wherever you unit went it only brought death and destruction, the people had to leave their villages and hide from you. And you claim you fight for the right cause?

You must think and choose. A warm house or a shallow grave in the jungle or mountains? A loving wife and children or a place where everyone questions you, are suspicious, and kills each other? A beautiful future or a dark way where death is waiting for you? All this is your choice.

Leaflet 1233B

Another variation of the lonesome Viet Cong leaflet is all in red and instead of the two choices over his head we see a bubble showing what he is thinking. The leaflet is coded 1233B, which means there was an original leaflet, a variation A, and this would be the third leaflet with this image. The text on the front is:

What is the Government of the Republic of Vietnam's Chieu Hoi policy?
How will I be treated if I become a Chieu Hoi rallier?
What will the Chieu Hoi policy do for me?
What do I need to do to return to the nation's just cause?

The text on the back is:

1.- The Chieu Hoi policy is a program that provides amnesty and a way that Viet Cong can return to the nation's just cause.

2.- If you become a rallier you will receive good treatment and your life will be protected in a spirit of love for the nation and the Fatherland.

2a.- If you so desire, you will be given training in a suitable profession. But in any case, the Government will help you to become a good citizen living in a free and democratic society.

2b- You will be given priority for receiving food and money, and everyone in your family will be well-treated.

2c.- You will be rewarded appropriately for information or weapons - from $800 for a pistol to $20,000 for a 75mm recoilless rifle.

3.- You will be given the means to be reunited with your family if your home is in a secure area, or you can live in another area if that is what you desire.

4.- Remember to hide this leaflet carefully while you wait for an opportunity to turn yourself in to the Army of the Republic of Vietnam or to local governmental officials or to Allied forces. You should turn yourself in during daylight hours and hold your arms above your head. If you have a governmental identification card, you should bring it with you. You may hide your weapon or bring it with you when you turn yourself in.

This image also exists in black and white varieties.

Leaflet 10-588-68

There are many variations of this leaflet. Here is an interesting one. Instead of red it is green. It is a Chieu Hoi leaflet, but I add it here just to show the reader a variation of the basic vignette. This is a case of the image, now green and not quite so perfect, being used in 1968 by the 10th PSYOP Battalion. I find it crude, but the 10th was not a big PSYOP Group with multiple presses and multiple artists and printers. They were in the field and the leaflet would often be cruder than those turned out by the 7th PSYOP Group on Okinawa.



You have yourself witnessed the death of your countless brothers-in-arms. You have miraculously escaped the rain of bombs and gunship helicopter strikes. However, the allied forces will keep attacking until your unit has been destroyed. Why not take this opportunity and return to your family through the return policy?

The Masthead of the Falling Leaf

I always thought this leaflet was nearly perfect. In fact, I used in on the masthead of a newsletter called THE AERIAL LEAFLET that I wrote in the 1960s. I liked it then, I like it now.

Leaflet 4455 – The Year of the Rat

I love this leaflet. Every time I look at it, I smile. It shows the difference between Americans and Vietnamese, and perhaps all Asian cultures.

TET, (New Year’s), is a major holiday for the Vietnamese people. The Americans knew it and each year they would produce millions of leaflets, posters, and even songs and ads on the radio featuring Tet and reminding the enemy that they should go home for the holidays. For Tet 1972, the United States 7th PSYOP Group printed leaflet 4455 for the Joint U.S. Public Relations Office to honor the Year of the Rat. It says simply on the back:


In the United States, the rat is a horrible and dirty creature. People would scream if they saw one. It was used in propaganda by the Allies in WWII with Hitler and Tojo often drawn as rats, and the NAZIs used the image of rats to attack the Jews, showing them scurrying along the walls and then depicting Jews in the Ghetto. Rats carried the plague and almost wiped out Europe at one time, and even today if a Health Inspector should see rat droppings in a restaurant, that restaurant will be closed until it is thoroughly cleaned, and exterminators have visited.

However, one of the years of the Asian calendar is the Year of the Rat. As a result, American PSYOP specialists prepared this full-color leaflet showing a handsome rat on a celebratory table decorated for TET. In the USA, the man of the house would be reaching for a bat to beat the creature to death. In Vietnam, it is admired and respected.

Be Careful What You Wish For…

The leaflet above should be the first in this Vietnam section because it was used before the United States became involved in that country and it was French, not American. It is just so interesting and such a bad idea that I felt I had to add it. But first, some American history…

Gary Warren Hart was an American politician, diplomat, and lawyer. He was the front-runner for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination until he dropped out amid revelations of extramarital affairs. Word of the affair was filtering through the press for a while and Hart finally had enough and dared the press to print something if they had proof. The press took that as a challenge. On one occasion the Miami Herald followed a woman named Donna Rice on a flight from Miami to Washington, D.C., then staked out Hart's townhouse and observed the young woman and Hart together. Hart claimed that he was not involved in any relationship and alleged that he had been set up. He added, "Follow me around. I do not care. I am serious. If anybody wants to put a tail on me, go ahead. They'll be very bored.” Later, the National Enquirer, and then hundreds of newspapers worldwide, ran a photograph showing Donna Rice sitting in Hart’s lap, with Hart in a Monkey Business T-shirt. His presidential run was over.

Back to Vietnam. Vo Quoc Tuan, an independent researcher on the Battle of Dien Bien Phu sent me this leaflet which was allegedly written by the French Commander in Dien Bien Phu to the Viet Minh General at the end of January 1954 after they learned the Viet Minh had delayed a planned attack. 150,000 copies of this leaflet coded 25/PTNV/G.P. were printed. The “G.P.” part in the leaflet code seems to indicate "PSYWAR,” in French, GUERRE PSYCHOLOGIQUE. The leaflets were airdropped over the enemy troops.

The French Dare the Vietnamese to attack Dien Bien Phu





General, to contend with a few battalions of mine in DIEN BIEN PHU, you have gathered your four most elite divisions along with formidable weapons that you have recently received. Yet as of today you have still not sent them into battle.

General, you have promised to your troops and your population that they would celebrate Tet in DIEN BIEN PHU. Tet is almost here!

General, what are you still waiting for?

You consider this battle to be the one determining the fate of the war between our two sides.

General, do you not firmly believe in victory?

General, are you no longer confident of the merit of your generals and the morale of your troops?

You have promised, you should keep your word. You have appealed to your troops to have faith in you, so do not disappoint them.

General, you should not be afraid of losing face to your troops.

General, your troops, speaking from my military standpoint, display a bravery that I must admire.

General, you are invited to come, I am waiting for you!

My first thought after reading this leaflet was “Be careful with what you wish for.” The French wanted a fight and they got one. The Battle of Dien Bien Phu was the climactic battle of the First Indochina War that took place from March to 7 May 1954. It ended in total victory of the Viet Minh communist revolutionaries and led to France’s ouster from Vietnam and America’s eventual entrance. The gauntlet was thrown down and the duel lost. On the other hand, General De Castries said after the battle that he was not the author of the challenge. He said it was written and forwarded from Saigon.

Libya – 2011

Anti-Gaddafi Libyan Leaflet

There were two movies that featured Arab heroes that I admired. In the first, The Wind and the Lion, Sean Connery played a desert Sheik fighting for his nation’s independence from western colonizers. In the second, Libyan fighter Omar Mukhtar is featured fighting Italy to save Libya’s independence in the Lion of the Desert.

The Lion of the Desert

Colonel Gaddafi first used Mukhtar for his own propaganda when he financed the 1981 motion picture starring Anthony Quinn and Oliver Reed. The movie takes place during the reign of Mussolini who wants to restore the Roman Empire in Africa. The Italians commit atrocities: the indiscriminate use of bombers and tanks to kill civilians, killing prisoners of war, destruction of crops, and placing whole populations behind barbed wire. Even so, Mukhtar fight them to a draw for 20 years.

Omar Mukhtar

In the end, Mukhtar is captured and tried as a rebel and the film ends with Mukhtar being executed by hanging. The movie as excellent piece of Libyan propaganda and I must admit I bought a copy for my own library.

In February 2011, the Libyan people revolted against Colonel Gaddafi and they led to a civil war. Gaddafi's forces rallied, pushed eastwards, and re-took several coastal cities before attacking Benghazi. After constant requests and pleas from help from the rebel forces the U.N. authorized member states to establish and enforce a no-fly zone over Libya. Gaddafi’s forces were able to push the rebels back at first, but continued calls for help to the United States and other NATO countries eventually caused the great powers to take part in the civil war on the part of the revolutionaries.

The United States and NATO got involved and with that came the usual aerial propaganda leaflets. One of them features Mukhtar. The leaflet depicted the legendary Libyan freedom-fighter Omar Mukhtar and Colonel Gaddafi on the front with rebel and government fighters below holding rocket propelled grenades and rifles. NATO symbols are at the top right and left. The text on the front is:

Why do you allow our Libyan brothers to fight and kill each other instead of living in peace? You dishonor our country with crimes against humanity.

The message on the back is:

Officers and soldiers of the Libyan army: The International Criminal Court has accused Gaddafi of committing crimes against humanity in Libya. Officers and soldiers of the Libyan army are advised not to follow the orders of Gaddafi and take military operations against the Libyan people. If an officer or a soldier has committed crimes against humanity, they have violated international laws. Many Libyan officers and soldiers have chosen to stand against Gaddafi’s orders and to refrain from killing innocent civilians. Join these men for a prosperous and peaceful future in Libya.

So, now you can see why I like this leaflet the picture of Mukhtar on the front is like seeing an old friend that I so greatly admired from the Libyan propaganda movie. How strange that NATO would use the same symbol of freedom against Gaddafi.

Gulf War - Operation Desert Storm


“The Wave” Leaflet

At about 0200 on 2 August 1990, seven divisions of Iraqi armor, mechanized infantry, helicopter forces, and the elite Republic Guard invaded Kuwait. The invasion force of 120,000 troops and 2,000 tanks quickly overwhelmed Kuwait. Iraq declared the annexation of Kuwait. The Kuwaiti government-in-exile fled to Saudi Arabia where it was recognized as the legitimate voice of Kuwait. President George Bush immediately froze all Iraqi and Kuwaiti assets in the United States and called on Saddam Hussein to withdraw his troops. American Secretary of Defense Cheney met with King Fahd of Saudi Arabia on 7 August. As a result of that meeting, the 82nd Airborne Division and several USAF fighter squadrons were permitted to deploy to Saudi Arabia for the protection of the Kingdom. President George Bush authorized the first call-up of 40,000 Selected Reservists for 90 days active duty on 22 August 1990. It is hard to remember that in those days the National Guard or Reserves was hardly ever called up. If they were, the time was always very limited, and rarely exceeded 180 days. By November Bush upped the active duty time to 180 days with the option of a 180-day extension. On 18 January 1991, Bush signed an order authorizing 220,000 Reservists to be called up for 12 months. Saddam had a deadline of 15 January to be out of Kuwait. He had no intention of leaving. It was clear that the United States and its Coalition was going to war.

It was believed that the Iraqi army was a powerful foe. They had fought with Iran for almost a decade and were battle hardened and dug in. The anti-war crowd and critics pointed out that the American Army was untested and going to war with unproven weapons like the Abrams tank and the Apache helicopter, both of which might be disabled by the desert sand. Allegedly, 20,000 body bags had been sent to Saudi Arabia for all the expected American deaths in the war. The predictions were dark.


General H. Norman Schwarzkopf

General Schwarzkopf needed a plan. In fact he needed a deception. He came up with a plan to hold the Iraqi Army in place while he moved the great majority of his forces around their left flank and hit them with all his might from the side and behind. It would be called “The Hail Mary,” named after an American football play where a team risks all and throws the football as far as it can deep into enemy territory hoping for a miracle catch that will win the game. But, how do you keep the Iraqis locked into their defensive positions?

Artist Tim Wallace in Riyadh during Operation Desert Storm

Sergeant Tim Wallace was an artist assigned to the 4th PSYOP Group during
Operation Desert Storm. He designed the deception leaflet that we call “The Wave.”

Tim Wallace was asked to make a deception leaflet. He told me:

There was a whole series of waves both on the beach and storm waves that I drew in the initial months. I could take an idea that they would want as a leaflet and present that same idea 10 different ways to find the best possible image.

His final draft showed a giant wave with the face of an angry Marine holding a Kabar knife in front of U.S. aircraft and ships attacking the beach as Iraqi defenders run away. It worked. Along with U.S. Navy SEALs exploring the beaches and some ships firing on the beaches the Iraqis bought the whole story. Five divisions of Iraqi infantry entrenched in Kuwait, some 80,000 men in all, awaited the attack from the sea. Just before the mock invasion the Iowa Class battleships Wisconsin and Missouri both opened fire on Iraqi forces. This must be the invasion!

The Iraqi Command plots the Sea-borne Invasion

The Iraqi III Corps commander's 20 x 30-foot intelligence map of Kuwait found in Kuwait City depicted virtually every Coalition avenue of approach from the sea. To the very end, Iraqi troops nervously watched the Persian Gulf for any sign of the dreaded U. S. Marines and their landing craft. They waited in vain.

12,000 of the leaflets were placed in empty plastic water bottles and floated up on the beaches of occupied Kuwait. Another 90,000 were droped by aircraft. There is also a black and white version of this leaflet; 88,000 copies of this leaflet were dropped on 15 January. These leaflets are rarer than the color version.

One American general looking at the static Iraqi Army dug in all along the border with Saudi Arabia said:

My God, they are like golf balls in the sand waiting to be struck

Honorable Mention


Three additional Deception Leaflets

Although not as impressive as The Wave, these three leaflets also were part of the deception plan. They all used the official surrender pass of the Coalition but also bore the emblems of units facing the Iraqis. They were used to make the Iraqis believe that the units were still directly in front of them.

900,000 leaflets with the Dragon symbol of the XVIII Airborne Corps were printed and disseminated; another 270,000 leaflets were printed with the symbol of the VII Corps. It was believed that Iraqi intelligence told their troops that they were facing Israeli forces because the symbol was similar to the six-pointed Star of David. As a result, the symbol was quickly changed to a Jayhawk. 270,000 of the Jayhawk leaflets were printed.


This is a strange little leaflet and by some coincidence it is also a Tim Wallace product. It is rather plain, kind of like a little political cartoon you might see in a newspaper. There is a reason for that. But first there are some major problems with this leaflet. It depicts Saddam Hussein swinging a big sword and ineptly cutting off his own head. It is aimed at Iraqis that speak Arabic, but the two words “Oops” and “thud” are in English. It is signed “Wallace,” but who signs their leaflets in wartime? Finally, the Arabic text on the back gives a date that does not exist:

30 February 1991. Saddam's prediction:
Be assured that I will solve the problem of Kuwait by the 30th of February..

Of course, there is no 30 February.What is going on here? As it turns out, the leaflet was in fact a cartoon to be sent to the Ft. Bragg newspaper Paraglide. It was never meant to be disseminated, but was apparently sent to the printers, printed and airdropped by accident.

Lieutenant Colonel Randal R. Jones of the 4th PSYOP Group said in 1991 in regard to this "error" distribution:

The leaflet was drawn by an artist in the 4th PSYOP Group. It was not distributed to opposing forces but was done as a cartoon within the command. The point of the cartoon is that nothing will occur on 30 February since 30 February doesn't exist. This point would certainly be lost on a Southwest Asian audience given their use of the Arabic calendar.

He is correct that the 4th PSYOP Group did not distribute the leaflets from Saudi Arabia. He was surely unaware that European Command in Turkey did distribute them.

I spoke to artist Tim Wallace about this leaflet in 2009. He said:

I had been sending the various political cartoons back stateside to the Ft. Bragg newspaper “Paraglide” and someone mistook it for a PSYOP product when they saw it in my work-area. It was mass produced without my knowledge, and dropped somewhere North around the Turkish border.

Later a reporter from U.S. News and World Report found the leaflet on the ground and had it published in their news magazine of 16 March 1992. Back in those days one of my goals was to have my work published in national magazine like U.S. News and World Report, and I guess I did reach that goal, just not the way that I imagined.

So why is this leaflet a favorite? It was not a leaflet; it was partially in the wrong language with a wrong date and was printed and dropped completely by accident. That is a lot of errors for one small piece of paper.


This quite handsome leaflet was produced in Saudi Arabia to show that Iraqis could live in peace with the other Arab nations. It depicts two Arabs holding hands, the flags of Iraq and Saudi Arabia, and some lovely shaded sand dunes. The text on the back is:

In Peace we will Always Remain United

About 18,000 of these leaflets were printed. It is rumored that many were disseminated by balloon from Al Quysumah Airfield to Southern Kuwait. That was secret at the time since the troops that were the balloon experts were not supposed to be in any wars according to their laws. That of course, is another story.

I was told that the Arabs loved them as they showed the solidarity of the soldiers, hand-in-hand. Men walking hand-in-hand is not considered abnormal in much of the world, and even Russian men are sometimes known to walk that way. The problem is that it is not an American custom.

I was also told that many Americans hated the leaflet and the concept of two men walking off into the desert together. The code-name for this leaflet was “Sunset.” The image was very powerful and seemed to work well on the Muslim mentality, but allegedly the leaflet was considered part of the “Fag” series by some military personnel who thought the symbolism was inappropriate.

Colonel Borchini of the 4th PSYOP Group said:

This leaflet was probably the most effective of the war. It stressed brotherhood among the countries in the region. After the Iraqis surrendered, the captured soldiers were interviewed. We found that this leaflet had a tremendous impact upon the Iraqi soldiers. It had a nice message. There was nothing devious. We all want peace!

When I asked another Colonel about the balloon operations he practiced operational security (OPSEC):

Part of the Battalion deployed north to support some classified leaflet balloon efforts. No more to say on that.

So, why is it a favorite? It is considered one of the most powerful and meaningful leaflets of the war but some of the people producing it did not care for it because of its sexual connotations in American society, and it was secretly disseminated in part by people who were not there. That is a pretty good story.  

Operation Enduring Freedom / Operation Iraqi Freedom

EYES – Mullah Mohammed Omar is Targeted

Like the Nguyen Van Be story, this is not a case where I like a particular leaflet. Instead, I like the theme, something as simple as a pair of eyes. The terrorist, or “patriot” or “liberator” as they might call themselves cannot fight in the open against a modern mechanical Army. He does not have the firepower so must fight from the shadows at a time and place of his showing. He needs to move about invisible and unseen. We saw that in Vietnam where the enemy hid under triple canopy forests, or in Afghanistan where they hid in mountainous terrain and caves. One of the jobs of the PSYOP specialist was to make that individual feel unsure of his safety, not invisible, and constantly under surveillance. They had to play with their minds. These are some interesting examples of how that was done, simply placing eyes on leaflets.

On 2 November 2001, the Pentagon announced that they had dropped a leaflet depicting three photographs of the face of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar targeted by the cross-hairs of a gun scope at the far right. The Mullah had earlier forbidden any photographs of himself. To the left of the photographs were three photographs of the license plate of one of Omar's vehicles, again covered by the cross-hairs. This photo was taken during an earlier operation when an American Predator unmanned surveillance aircraft fitted with two "Hellfire" anti-tank missiles had targeted the car but allegedly was not allowed to fire due to a rules of engagement dispute. General Tommy Franks later stated that he had full authority to fire but was unable to get the car in a clear field of fire where there would be no collateral damage. To the left of the leaflet are three pairs of eyes alternated with the text:


The leaflet is identical on both sides except for the text, which is in Pashto or Dari. The Pentagon announced that 16 million leaflets had been printed.

Perhaps the most important thing we learned from this leaflet was that the military had lawyers arguing with combat commanders about when they could fire. This permission to fire at enemy leaders was discussed in an 18 November 2001 Washington Post article by Thomas E. Ricks titled “Target Approval Delays Cost Air Force Key Hits.” Ricks claimed that:

As many as 10 times over the last six weeks, the Air Force believed it had top Taliban and al Qaida members in its cross hairs in Afghanistan but was unable to receive clearance to fire in time to hit them, according to senior Air Force officialsAir Force Lt. Gen. Charles F. Wald, who until earlier this month commanded the air campaign, has complained about the clearance problems directly to Franks more than a dozen times since the war began on 7 October, officials said. They said he never received a response. “CENTCOM was a black hole on this,” one officer said, referring to the Central Command…U.S. Special Forces troops are now being forced to go into Afghanistan on the ground to pursue members of the al Qaida terrorist network and Taliban leaders who could have been killed from the air earlier in the campaign.

The same general image was used in another leaflet coded EF3C14L1 except that there was one set of eyes and one photograph of the alleged Omar. This might have given the Taliban leader a laugh because it was later discovered that the photograph may not have been of Omar. It is possible that the Coalition had the wrong man on the leaflet. Whoops! Doubt was first raised in the 14 October 2002 issue of Newsweek. In an article entitled "Trouble: Mistaken for the Mullah" author Sami Yousafzai says:

Mulvi Hafizullah is hiding in the remote Afghan countryside in fear of his life. ... Mullah Omar was rarely photographed during his time in power, and in a case of mistaken identity, Hafizullah says it’s his picture - not Omar's - on the hundreds of thousands of leaflets that have been dropped all over Afghanistan offering $25 million for the capture of Omar and Osama bin Laden. Hafizullah fears that thousands of Afghan soldiers and villagers - not to mention U.S. troops - are looking for him. "I'm afraid to leave my house," he told Newsweek.


Leaflet IZG-7527

Meanwhile, In Iraq, Task Force 20 was out hunting for terrorist and prepared leaflet IZG-7527. The handout simply shows a pair of eyes looking at the viewer. On 28 March 2003 U.S. Marines distributed the same leaflets in Fallujah The text is:

No matter where you run, no matter where you hide, Coalition Special Operations Forces will find you and bring you to justice.

In the late consolidation stage of Operation Iraqi Freedom the use of the eyes as a PSYOP theme became very popular. I have seen 7 such leaflets all in a rather stark red and black, many with different short messages on the front and various vignettes on the back such as the photograph of a wanted Iraqi terrorist, cartoon depicting skeletons, and a group of 10 terrorists along with the reward for each.

These almost identical leaflets have different messages on the front and back. One leaflet depicts Abu Musab al-Zarqawi on the back. The text on the front is:

We will chase you and show you no mercy

Another version has the text:

Takferi there is no place to hide

“Takferi” indicates a person who believes that he is always correct and will go to Heaven while everyone else will rot in Hell.

A third version has the text:

He speaks on your behalf

The Coalition is saying that when you passively accept the actions of the terrorists it is as if you have accepted their leadership and allowed them to speak for you.

Do these eyes on leaflets imply the “Evil Eye?” Lennea Mueller mentions the evil eye in her 2012 Institute of World Politics paper: Integrating Cultural Geography with Psychological Operations: Islamic Superstitions.

The presence of the evil eye can found in the Qur’an: “The influence of an evil eye is a fact, if anything would precede the destiny it would be the influence of the evil eye.” The evil eye can be source of bad luck, disease, envy, and jealously. Many Muslims believe if it is used against them they must seek protection.

Leaflet 4-123-69

I mentioned at the start of this section that we find the eye leaflets as far back as Vietnam. Most of these Vietnamese “Evil Eye” leaflets use red to terrify the finder. This one is green and perhaps not quite as scary, though if you are going to imply that the jungle has eyes, perhaps they should be green. The text on the front is:


The text on the back is:


While hiding in the deep jungle you are being watched every second!

Sooner or later the path to your hiding place will be discovered. The deep jungle has true eyes to observe you regardless of when and where.

The deep jungle is no longer your safe hiding place. Your life is as fragile as a thin needle hanging a bell. You cannot escape danger and hopelessness.

Don't let yourself die in the deep jungle. Abandon your ranks in the night while you still have time and still can!

Leaflet 4-124-69

This leaflet was aimed at the North Vietnamese Army troops coming down the Ho Chi Minh Trail to fight the armed forces of the Republic of Vietnam. This leaflet is coded from the 4th PSYOP Group but we know it was actually printed for them by the 7th PSYOP Group on Okinawa. The text on the front is:


The text on the back is:


To friends in the rank and file of the North Vietnamese troops.

In the dark thick jungle, the jungle eyes are watching you. You were watched since your first steps down your infiltration path. Your prayers became hopeless. No place is so impenetrable that you can hide in it. The green jungle eyes are watching you.

Heaven's net casts wide. Though its meshes are coarse, nothing slips through. There will be more bombs and artillery rounds coming to you.

Go back! Return to the North while you still can!

Leaflet 246-87-68

An earlier leaflet from the 246th PSYOP Company uses the same theme, but instead of just eyes it also shows the face of the enemy soldier realizing that the eyes are behind him. 100,000 of these leaflets were prepared at the request of the 25th Infantry Division to be used about 6 May 1968. The leaflet was called “We are watching you.” The text on the back is:

To the men in the Viet Cong ranks:

I the dark and hidden depths of the jungle you have watched, waited, and listened. You have fought at night and only when the odds were in your favor. You were clever and patient and only when the time came, you struck fast and deadly. We have learned from our mistakes and from your tactics. Now we fight as you do, lurking in the bushes, laying in ambush along the trails, and striking in the night! No longer are you the master of the jungle. Now you lay hidden, watching and listening in terror. Look behind you, are you alone? Are you sure you are not being watched? Can you be sure who the man next to you is? Be careful! We are watching you!

Leaflet 7-315-71

This 1971 7th PSYOP Battalion leaflet depicts two eyes staring out from heavy jungle growth. The leaflet was requested by the 101st Airborne Division. The text on the front is:

You will be killed by Gunships and Artillery

The text on the back is:

Members of the North Vietnamese Army,

Gunships and artillery will hit your positions. Death is unavoidable if you refuse to leave this area. There is nothing you can do to stop gunships and our artillery.

The darkness of the jungle will no longer hide you. Our electronic devices will detect your positions at any time, day, or night.

The Republic of Vietnam Army and allied forces have combined efforts to target your units. Gunships, artillery, and air strikes will continually hit your positions if you choose to remain in this area. You must know that this area is not a safe hiding place for you.

I should mention that other leaflets using the same general theme depicted Allied forces using binoculars, aircraft, and even satellites to follow their movements. The concept was that the terrorist should never rest easy. He should always believe that he was being watched.

Sexual Leaflets

That Goes Double

The Japanese designed a graphic leaflet and dropped them over the Australian troops fighting in the jungles of New Guinea. In this leaflet, an American appears in civilian dress with slicked-downed hair and a moustache. The caricature is right out of a Grade B Movie. He is making love to a beautiful Australian girl. The text is:

That goes double. The slick Yank (In Melbourne): Take your sweet time at the front Aussie-- I got my hands full right now-- with your sweet toots at home.

Below the picture of the happy couple the Australian soldier runs through the jungle with his pants down, chasing a leaf-covered native girl through the jungle.

In concluding this article, I feel I should mention some of the sexual leaflets that I like a lot. Not for the sex, but because they are so bad, so nasty and immoral, that you must be fascinated by them. A friend mentioned those leaflets to me recently and it occurred to me that I never mentioned any of them because they were filthy and might be insulting to some. But they are clever. The Germans and Japanese made dozens of these leaflets because they thought the Americans and Allies were weak and immoral. One I find funny depicts an Australian soldier with his pants down trying to chase a half-naked native woman through the jungle of New Guinea. It is so ridiculous that you must smile at it.

The British made one leaflet for Germany that showed a swarthy foreign worker having sex with a beautiful blond German soldier’s wife. It parodied the song “Watch on the Rhein" with a caption that said, “Firmly and true the foreign worker sticks it in,”

The American OSS made a set of six horrible leaflets that showed very perverted sex with children and animals. I asked the artist how he could do such filth and he replied:

The 6 pictures were not just idle pornography. The "fun" part served, as you rightly observed, to achieve wide and rapid dissemination of the material, which was not designed simply to stimulate raging hormones. Its purpose was to stimulate second thoughts -- a nagging suspicion and discomfort as to the possibility of actual events, even though depicted in pornographic caricature. Could it be that my young son is being corrupted and violated by his Hitler Youth fuehrer? Is my wife's yearning for sexual fulfillment satisfied by a surrogate, perhaps a neighbor's dog? In other words, it's not the porn part of the picture that we wanted to work for us, but the message part (as subliminal as it may seem).

He was saying that the pictures meant nothing to him. that was just to get the Nazi swine to pick them up. The text was the purpose, just to make the men think about what might be going on at home. I still thought it was a bad idea, but maybe he was right.

So, this is an admission that I found some of the sexual leaflets interesting, but maybe not quite interesting enough to make this article.

Readers who wish to comment or send further information are encouraged to write the author at Sgmbert@hotmail.com.