SGM Herbert A. Friedman (Ret.)
Note: In 2014, the author worked with this unit on imagery and historical data for its "Honors and Lineage Celebration." In recognition for his efforts the author was presented with a Certificate of Achievement.
One never knows where a new story will come from. I have written about Psychological Operations units that went to war and others that never heard a shot fired in anger. In both cases the units had very specific functions to perform and they performed their responsibilities according to Army standards and achieved all of their objectives.
In this article we will look at the Fifth Loudspeaker and Leaflet Company (5th L&L Co) and study what they did in Germany during the Korean War while the First Loudspeaker and leaflet Company was deployed to the Korean peninsula.
In July 2012, I heard from former Private First Class Leonard Mather who said:
I was assigned to the 5th Loudspeaker and leaflet Company in 1954 because of an undergraduate degree in Psychology. Captain Fred C. Wilmott was our Commander and second in command was Lieutenant St. Marie. We operated out of Field Marshall Irwin Rommel's old WWII quarters on the Panzer Kaserne located in Boeblingen, Germany, part of the Stuttgart community. We did a lot of PSYOP, and dealt with a lot of displaced persons from Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Greece and other nations where the Communists were either in power or trying to gain power. My nations of interest were Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. My languages were French and Polish.
After the end of the Korean War the 5th L&L did change radically from what they had done from 1951 to 1953. We had PSYOP teams. My Military Occupational Specialty was 1620. I was an Intelligence-Analyst-Linguist; a jeep driver; a writer (for pamphlets); and a photographer/printer who designed the pamphlet. The writer and I would come up with the text. The mobile unit would make the leaflet. These could be air dropped or broadcast. All this occurred during maneuvers and war games. I was often tasked with greeting the NATO officers from France. After leaving the army I pursued my Masters and Doctorate in psychology.
5th Loudspeaker and Leaflet Company 1951-1953 Booklet
I have mentioned the 5th L&L in past articles briefly and have a copy of the unit booklet 5th Loudspeaker and Leaflet Company 1951-1953 in my bookcase. My initial thought was to give a brief history of what the unit had done during the war years and then fill in with what Mather had done starting about 1954. It should be interesting to see if the mission really changed radically.
The book is in two sections. The first is The job of an L&L Company. This section explains the platoons and sections of an L&L Company. The second is The company history.
This war game leaflet is designed to frighten the enemy by telling them of the deadly Kreuzotter snake. The adder (Vipera berus) is a medium-sized poisonous snake from the family of vipers. This same theme was also used by propaganda troops at Ft. Bragg who prepared leaflets warning the enemy of North Carolinas deadly snakes.
What are the duties of a Loudspeaker and Leaflet Company? The Korean War era Booklet says:
The L & L Company is a combat support weapon. It does its job with loudspeakers, set up close to the front line, hurling out messages to the enemy, and with leaflets thrown out by the thousands over enemy troops from airplanes or artillery shells.
An L & L Company is also an American propaganda agency. It is the voice of the United States Army addressing the enemy. Its words are as official as the commanding generals signature. Thus, each broadcast and each written message must be carefully prepared, must be accurate, and must conform to established policy. In a sense, the L & L men are simply the transmitters of messages from a whole people.
The men in L&L companies are carefully picked and trained for their jobs. The loudspeaker announcers must be experts in the enemy language; the leaflet writers must be skilled in the art of propaganda. But it takes many more men than these to run a Psywar company artists to design the leaflets; pressmen and lithographers to print them; intelligence specialist; mechanics; administrative and mess personnel.
5th Loudspeaker & Leaflet Members Study a Leaflet they just Printed
An L&L Company is made up of the following subordinate units:
Publication Platoon: Headquarters; intelligence; propaganda; camera and plat; press and processing.
Loudspeaker Platoon: Headquarters and three sections.
Company Headquarters Platoon: Headquarters; administration; motor; mess; supply and operations.
What was the history of the 5th Loudspeaker and Leaflet Company? I have edited the booklet and some of the pertinent comments are:
The 5th Loudspeaker and Leaflet Company was born on 19 March 1951, when Fifth Army Headquarters activated the unit and assigned it to duty at Fort Riley, Kansas. After extensive training, picking up active duty soldiers to replace most Reservists and passing a number of inspections with a superior rating, the body of the company left Fort Riley by rail on the afternoon of 19 August, and checked into Camp Kilmer two days later. The 5th was at Kilmer exactly one week. On 28 August, the 5th L & L left Camp Kilmer, went to Brooklyn by train, and boarded the transport USNS General C. H. Muir. That afternoon, the Muir steamed out of New York harbor. The Muir arrived at Bremerhaven, Germany on 9 September.
Seventh Army Patch
The company debarked and by 10 September arrived at its new home, Boeblingen Military Sub-Post. Their first major operation was a war game called Exercise Combine. The company was divided, into several sections for its part in the maneuver. The largest section went to Heidelberg to print leaflets at the Seventh Army Reproduction Plant. This group, composed of 23 members of the Publication Platoon, left for Heidelberg 27 September and stayed there throughout the maneuver. The group printed 120,000 copies of 12 leaflets, and, in addition, mimeographed a faked divisional daily bulletin.
Meet Combine Connie
This is a war game radio leaflet and lists five different propaganda stations on the back where you can hear Connies seditious messages. Combine Connie was Dorothea Kovelas who broadcast on American Forces Network Europe. She asked the men to visit Connies Inn, because she hated maneuvers but loved soldiers.
Exercise Combine was held a number of times after WWII. It was an aggressive maneuver where in 1951 most of the American troops in Germany, about 160,000 strong, took part. The Seventh Army tested the defense of the dangerous 85-mile front where the border of the Soviet zone swings west toward Frankfurt. In the early morning, armored combat teams of the crack American Constabulary thrust westward in a surprise attack. Paratroops dropped near Frankenthal to secure a Rhine bridgehead and partisan guerrillas closed in near Kaiserlautern and "destroyed" a supply dump.
The booklet continues: All through the winter months, the Loudspeaker Platoon had its teams in the field. The men had two jobs; learning to operate the loudspeaker equipment and practicing making appeals. They had to get so familiar with their equipment and so expert in its use that they could move into a position, make an appeal, and get out again without wasting a minute of time. The loudspeaker men learned their jobs, got acquainted with their equipment, and found out how best to use it.
Intelligence Specialist Monitors a Foreign Language Radio Broadcast
In January 1952, the company instituted a program of monitoring radio broadcasts to train unit linguists. The Propaganda Section was designing and writing leaflets for Seventh Army maneuvers. A variety of leaflets was finished by 1 March, ready for production in quantity for stockpiling. Several others were produced later for divisional maneuvers. The company newspaper, The Leaflet, furnished training for both Propaganda and mechanical section personnel.
The presses came overseas with the company; but no spare parts came with them. Therefore, keeping the machinery going was a constant struggle. The pressmen had to use makeshifts and substitutes. As soon as the platoon vans arrived, in September, the men started installing their equipment, and shelves, platforms and cupboards. In spite of all the mechanical difficulties, the platoon produced in excess of 200,000 pieces of printed matter from September to April. Major jobs besides maneuver leaflets included five leaflets for a Psywar display at Headquarters and a brochure designed to assist 5th officers explain psychological warfare to other units.
Counting the days?
Most leaflets did not mention maneuvers because the propagandists wanted to pretend that they were fighting an actual war. A few leaflets do mention maneuvers, and this is one of them. On the back the leaflet tells the soldier to protect his health, get plenty of sleep and if he suspects illness, to go on sick call. The soldier is told to exaggerate symptoms on sick call to get more time off. If he doesnt want to go to all that trouble, the soldier can simply surrender to the enemy where he can stay in a warm barracks.
So, it is clear that during 1951-1952 while the 5th L&L was in Germany it mostly produced leaflets for war games and printed some newspapers, magazines and practiced loudspeaker skills. We will now discuss the mission of the company in 1954. Mather says:
In 1954, the 5th L & L was a unit of experts: linguists, artists and writers who learned how best to exploit basic emotions and hardships of soldiers. Many of them were trained at the Psychological Warfare Center, Fort Bragg, NC where the company's commanding officer, Capt. Fred W. Wilmot spent two years as an instructor.
Captain Wilmot was a firm believer in the usefulness of Psywar in battle. He served for eight months as Propaganda Officer, G-3 (Operations) Eighth Army in Korea in addition to his two years at Fort Bragg Psywar Center. He believed it was not just propaganda or force of arms that motivated a war weary soldier to surrender with a leaflet in his hands. He believed it was a smoothly coordinated campaign of both Psywar and military force that broke the enemys morale and his will to fight.
I remember decades later we watched television and saw thousands of Saddam Husseins soldiers surrendering with a leaflet that guaranteed they would be eating supper with their family soon after leaving their post with their rifle butt aimed upward. The other side of this leaflet depicted Coalition firepower destroying those who did not surrender. I think it proved the Captains theory.
The company maintained four platoons: Headquarters, Operations, Publications and Loudspeakers. Approximately 90% mobile, the unit's mission was to support tactical troops with psychological warfare in the field. During wartime, the company would be constantly on the lookout for reports of bad food, poor readership, weak supply lines, inferior weapons and physical hardships. These morale and supply problems offer PSYOP opportunity to demoralize the enemy.
The Linguist section of the operations platoon helped develop the propaganda. White is all truth and is clearly identified; Gray is truth mixed with lies and usually is not identified; and Black propaganda is mostly lies and rumors. Of course, we never did black propaganda. That is reserved for clandestine intelligence services. To get the absolute trust of the enemy who reads our leaflets they must be 100% truthful. In addition, linguists are trained to interrogate prisoners to ascertain enemy weak spots. Other sources such as enemy documents, aerial photos and observance of enemy activities are also used. Some of the linguists like Maurice Kamhi, a native of Yugoslavia, fought with anti-Nazi guerrilla forces during WWII. He was an expert with the foil, and later on his son competed in the Olympics with the foil. Two of the men were products of the Army Language School in Monterey, CA.
Mather told me that there were a number of members in the unit who had formerly been displaced persons from various European nations. Apparently, they were interviewed by Army intelligence while in Displaced Person camps, and those that were found to have languages that were in demand and other skills useful to the Army were offered a deal. After being vetted as a genuine displaced person and not a Communist plant, they were offered five years in the United States Army after which they would be citizens. He mentions some of their names; Fedor Koribanic; Zygumunt Musiol; Jan Kolencik, and Joe Varory. All apparently entered the 5th because of their knowledge and skills. What I found surprising, is that like the in French Foreign Legion, Mather says the European recruits were allowed to select a new name if they so desired.
Private Len Matublewski on Loudspeaker
Private Matublewski of the 5th L&L reads a script into a loudspeaker placed far enough away from his position not to draw enemy file on himself.
Nine to twelve loudspeaker teams were maintained for field maneuvers. Like leaflets, loudspeaker messages could also be white, gray or black
The leaflets could be on any subject as long as they lowered the morale of the enemy. One typical 5th Loudspeaker and Leaflet printed product used in a war game sympathetically patted the soldier on the back like an old friend and said:
Don't worry about it, Pal...The old timers say that time passes quickly in the field. If that's true, you'll be out of the Army before you know it, because there is a good chance you'll be spending a great deal more time in the field.
The leaflets were planned, written and illustrated in a completely equipped air-conditioned mobile van. The van contained photography equipment and a varitype machine with the codes for various languages. Besides the two men to run the equipment, there were also writers and illustrators and men to repair equipment that failed. In general, six men were assigned to a van. From there, copy and drawings were forwarded to a mobile offset lithography press, housed in a similar van. Mather adds:
The mobile press could print in any language that has an alphabet. The pressmen were in charge of this operation. The capacity of the machine was 42,000 leaflets an hour printed on both sides or 84,000 leaflets printed on one side, and it could print in color. The standard size leaflet was five by eight inches (this was the product of a very complicated mathematical formula that determined where a leaflet of a certain size, dropped from a certain height would land) and could be dropped from aircraft, disseminated from a 105 Howitzer shell or left by guerrillas where the enemy concentrates or passes by. The operation was geared for speed. After the pressman received the copy and art work, the product could be finished in as little as two hours. The type is set on a Varitype machine. By following code numbers, the operator can set copy in a foreign language, even though he has no personal understanding of the language.
This machine had over 300 different type styles available and could write in 55 languages. It could adjust the space between characters, and even produce right-justified copy.
I developed the concept and the information for a leaflet entitled Remember that was a direct result of my undercover visits to local Gasthauses to mingle with those military that I believed would be the enemy in the next war game. I was quite the spy. I gathered specific names of the men and the names of their girlfriends during conversation and jokes over fine German beer and sausage. I learned about their unit and where they might be positioned during the maneuver. Our Loudspeaker teams then used their names and their girlfriends names. Meanwhile, we littered their area with leaflets that had the same general information. It must have driven them crazy trying to figure out how the enemy knew so much about them. Remember the old saying, Loose lips sink ships. The actual writer of the leaflet was Corporal Russell F. Newbold. The photographer was Private William Coons and Private Smoczynski was the offset pressman on that leaflet.
Note A Gasthaus is a German inn or tavern with a bar, a restaurant, banquet facilities and hotel rooms for rent.
I am worried about you
The units in Germany sometimes made German-language training leaflets. This one shows a lovely woman thinking of her sweetheart and the text:
I am worried about you.
Please, be careful!
Don´t be a stupid hero!
Stupid heroes die young.
I want to have you healthy and alive.
Please, be careful, when they send you in the battle
During one war game, I was captured along with Sgt. Fedor Koribanic (born in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia) after we successfully infiltrated the enemy Seventh Army (Patch Barracks) headquarters tent. We were dressed as German Civilians on bicycles, acting lost. The Umpires took a dim view of it; we were incarcerated, interrogated and my 6 mm Mölln [watch that umlach it might screw up the text] pistol was found secreted under my left arm in a shoulder holster. Captain Wilmot was delighted at our ingenuity for infiltration. The Seventh Army Command took a dim view of our undercover operation and ordered an Article 15 that Captain Wilmot delivered with a wink and a nod while assuring me that what we did was exactly correct, but that the rules were the rules and he would have to comply with his orders. Surprisingly, he gave us no company punishment for our escapade. Normally you would get some distasteful duty for 14 days after such a charge.
Later on, Captain Wilmot wrote a glowing recommendation to the graduate schools to which I had applied to pursue my MS and PhD in psychology.
120,000 Dead Women and Children
This German-language training was written by US PSYOP troops in conjunction with their German partners. It depicts children on the front and a handwritten letter from a German youth on the back. The message is odd and seems to imply to the Germans that if the Soviets attack it will be with massive amounts of poison gas. The Russian vehicles were fairly air-tight and could operate in a gaseous environment, but I always thought that their basic tactic would be speed; to take Germany before it could be reinforced from the United States. Text on the front is:
120,000 dead women and children due to Soviet gas attacks.
The text on the back is:
Dear Uncle Gerhard!
It's been a long time since we visited you in Leipzig. All because of the war. Yesterday we had to suddenly go into a bomb shelter. It was cold and dark. Mommy said the Russians attacked us with poison gas. I hope I can go outside again soon and play. I have to stop (writing) now.
The 5th L&L also took part in various training seminars and exercises with NATO officers. In one case they took part in a NATO psychological warfare conference sponsored by Seventh Army. A report says:
Sixteen officers from Greece, Turkey, Italy, Denmark and Norway will make up the special class Highlighting the meeting will be demonstrations under combat conditions with a back-drop of battle noises, including firing. An enemy Guerilla force will be attacked by psychological weapons, a leaflet drop, and loudspeaker assaults from jeeps, tanks and airplanes. They will also see artillery shells with leaflets for firing against the enemy. After the demonstration, a tour of all vans and special equipment of the company will be made.
A Russian-language War Game leaflet
This training leaflet depicts a sad young Russian girl talking to her soldier on the telephone. He is away at war and she is alone. The text on the front is:
Natasha is calling in vain
The back is all text:
How often do you hear from your family?
Are you sure that everything is in order with your family and with your friends?
Do you see them?
Do you trust your leaders?
It seems odd that all with all we have learned about the 5th Loudspeaker and Leaflet Company, we never hear of them doing any actual propaganda. That is, Cold War broadcasts to the USSR and Soviet-bloc nations. That would seem to be a primary mission. An individual conversant with the question told me:
One of the things I found in researching the Psywar units in Germany is that The United States European Command (EUCOM), United States Army Europe (USAREUR) and the U.S. Seventh Army were very reluctant to actually use these companies in any real operational sense. Information services were handled by the State Department, covert and strategic propaganda was handled by Central Intelligence Agency, and the Army got the proverbial scraps. I guess, with good reason, senior policymakers and top Army brass didn't want a Private First Class or a Second Lieutenant broadcasting some message that ran counter to national security objectives. So, these units trained for the prospect of actual combat operations, but were not allowed to actually conduct missions.
He could be correct. There are historical records of military conflicts breaking out from the incorrect interpretation of what certain words meant. One can make a case that both the Korean War and the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq occurred after the leaders of the invading nations believed that the United States had no interest in the coveted nations.
The Hungarian Revolution was a spontaneous nationwide revolt against the Communist government of the Peoples Republic of Hungary, lasting from 23 October until 10 November 1956. The U.S. propaganda campaign (mostly the Radio Free Europe broadcasts) have often been accused of encouraging the people to revolt against their Communist masters, and worse, leading them to believe that U.S. military aid was on the way. This became such a sensitive point that there were numerous official inquires dedicated to determining exactly what was said to the Hungarians and when it was said.
This Russian-language Cold War training leaflet was made by U.S. troops in conjunction with the German 800th PSV (Psychological Defense) Battalion. The front depicts two Russian soldiers with the girlfriends and the text:
On the back of the leaflet the two Russian soldiers have disappeared and only the girls remain. The text is:
Today, tomorrow, and then how long?
This ends our brief review of the 5th Loudspeaker and leaflet Company from 1951 to 1955. We often write of the wartime exploits of propaganda units in the front lines. Every now and then it is good to look at the units that were not sent to a war zone but were trained and ready to deploy when called upon.
The author would like to hear from other members of the 5th Loudspeaker & Leaflet Company and members of other units that are seldom mentioned in psychological warfare articles. Kindly contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.