THE USE OF MUSIC
IN PSYCHOLOGICAL OPERATIONS 

SGM Herbert A. Friedman (Ret.)

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The Hebrews blowing trumpets at the battle of Jericho. 

The use of music in warfare goes back to Biblical times. Joshua won the battle of Jericho using trumpets. George Washington apparently thought so much of martial music that he demanded his own fife and drum corps practice regularly and get better with the threat of demotion and loss of pay if they failed. American General Andrew Jackson’s troops advanced to drum roles written by Beethoven. In 1836, when General Santa Anna wanted to frighten the defenders of the Alamo into either fleeing or surrendering, he played El Degüello, a song that appealed to the enemy to surrender or die by the sword. It signified that no quarter would be given. According to various English-Spanish dictionaries, El Degüello means no mercy. The literal translation is "slit-throat." During the Korean War, the Chinese “People’s Volunteers” often attacked the UN forces in mass blowing bugles or played funeral dirges from their loudspeakers at night hoping to dishearten the American and South Korean troops. In one instance the Chinese played a particularly eerie version of the Hank Williams song, “Your Cheatin’ Heart” that fit well into the fog shrouded night-time battlefield. 

Everyone has seen the charge of the Air Cavalry in Apocalypse Now where Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore’s helicopters played “The Ride of the Valkyries” as they approached a Viet Cong controlled hamlet. Remember Kilgore’s orders?

Put on PSYWAR Ops…make it loud…Shall we dance?

Strangely, there may be some truth to that scene since it has been reported that near the end of WWII, the Germans sometimes played that song to their soldiers to motivate them to continue the fight.

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Loudspeaker tank

The American public was introduced to music in battle in a more comical manner in the 1970 war comedy movie Kelly’s Heroes when Sergeant Oddball (played by Donald Sutherland) showed Kelly (Clint Eastwood) the loudspeakers on his Sherman tank. Oddball the “Hippy” says:

We got our own ammunition, it's filled with paint. When we fire it, it makes... pretty pictures. Scares the hell outta people! We have a loudspeaker here, and when we go into battle we play music, very loud. It kind of... calms us down.

In 1986, Paramount Pictures offered Top Gun with Tom Cruise. It has been called the greatest enlistment movie ever made. In this movie, the hot-shot young naval fighter pilot goes to war playing loud “rock and roll” music through his headphones. The idea seemed ridiculous at the time, but today many soldiers going into battle listen to hard-rock music, so the movie was a harbinger of things to come. Perhaps the best music in the movie was the Kenny Loggin’s song “Danger Zone.” To show the power of music, enlistment for naval aviators jumped 500 percent after the film's release and it was reported that 16,000 young people enlisted in the United States Navy in the year after the release of "Top Gun." Lots of kids believed they could go to war listening to loud music.

The U.S. Army teaches it troops about the history of martial music in lessons on Army heritage and traditions. Some of the comments are:

Military music dates back to early Romans, when it was used to control the military formation. The Romans found out that soldiers moved with a little more spirit and efficiency when they marched to a cadence, even outside of battle formation. At first, only drums were used to keep the marching cadence. Over time, however, armies learned to march to much more elaborate music. Even when large armies (and their music) disappeared from Europe, Asian civilizations and their armies continued to move to music.

A good example of music that is uniquely military is the bugle call.   Bugle calls have been used for hundreds of years to alert troops on the march. Using military calls to direct soldier movement has been done since ancient times. Cadence calls, better known as “Jody Calls,” are a hallmark of the American soldier…Most of them will bring good memories of teamwork, comrades, and esprit de corps.

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A German Public Television Documentary Crew

This three-man German television team flew in to interview me about music as an instrument of psychological operations during conflict situations at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. Because of “War on Terror” restrictions, the German nationals were not allowed to enter the military base. They got their interview for a documentary with the working title Songs of War, but in a civilian setting. From left to right the three A&O Buero Filmproduktion Germany artists are: Bernhard Wagner, Director of Photography; Max Kielhauser, Sound Engineer and Tristan Chytroschek, Director. I was shocked that I could not get the three friendly foreign nationals onto Ft. Bragg, but later was told by a PSYOP Colonel that he was unable to get another friend of mine, Indian Arunkumar Bhatt, author of Psychological Warfare and India onto the base. Apparently the War on Terror is taken seriously at Bragg. Director Tristan Chytroschek wrote to me in October of 2012 to tell me that the documentary film had been nominated for an International “Emmy.”

The documentary Songs of War was nominated for an International “Emmy” in 2012 and presented with the award on 19 November 2012 at the International Emmy Awards Gala in New York City.

What I find interesting is the number of academics that are fascinated by music in warfare. Besides the TV crew mentioned above, in a period of several weeks I was approached by a British University professor who wanted a lecture on music in interrogation and crowd control, a Texas University professor who wanted me to lecture on music in military operations, and an American TV production company that wanted me to talk about "heavy metal" music in warfare. Years later, In 2014, I was approached by Radio Television Suisse for a program about music and its effects on human behavior. The Director told me:

This is a scientific program called “Specimen.” We will discuss many aspects of music, its effects and uses, and why it affects us the way it does. The majority of our program deals with the beneficial nature of music, and there is also a brief chapter dealing with the negative effects of music, and notably the use of music in psychological warfare (Vietnam) and the use of music as an instrument of torture. Our commentary deals with what was done, and why (to instill fear, disorientate), we do not discuss the resulting psychological effects.

The BBC also called on 9 March, 2014 after it was reported that Ukrainian military forces were countering Russian propaganda loudspeaker messages with songs by the American artist Cher.

I’m from the BBC in London – the Today program, which is the UK’s leading, and most influential news and current affairs program broadcasting to over seven million listeners weekly. I’ve just been reading your work on music and war, it’s incredibly interesting and insightful. We were hoping to find someone we could interview about the issue, drawing on recent examples of how music is used in war and which songs were used.

The same day I was called and was also interviewed by the BBC world news show Newsday. They said:

I was hoping we could discuss - in a light hearted way – the relative value of propaganda and Cher as tools in these circumstances, as well as the more serious question of what blasting music at someone can hope to achieve.

The following day I was called a third time by the BBC:

I heard your lovely interview on the Today program this morning and we were wondering if you might be available for a BBC World Service radio interview with our program Newshour this morning to talk over the same/similar issues?

On 12 March I was called by a producer at in the news department of Czech TV Barrandov, and asked to comment further on the Ukrainian situation. This concept of music in war really seems to stir up the news people.

They all seem to think that the use of music is a major theme, and yet it is quite rare. In fact, looking through dozens of military manuals I found hardly any comments on the subject. I did find one minor comment about tactical PSYOP that said in part:

PSYOP teams can broadcast music and messages that create nostalgia in the adversary soldier’s mind. The use of female voices may increase these effects.

A United States Army Special Forces trooper told me that he arrived in Panama in July 1962 assigned to the 7th Special Forces, and then the 8th Special Forces in 1963 at Fort Gulick, Canal Zone. He said:

Our Special Forces “A” Teams had to go through a Prisoner of War and an Escape and Evasion Course. That training really prepared me for my two tours in Vietnam. Once we were captured, and placed in a dungeon at Fort Sherman, Canal Zone, all our clothing and foot gear were taken away from us. They would hose us down with cold water all night so that we could not sleep, and then blasted loud speakers, with different types of American music.

So, although this might seem like a major propaganda theme to those who study music, it is rarely used as PSYOP (compared to other themes like “surrender” or “hand in your weapons”), and often the music originates from a combat soldier or line unit rather than a PSYOP unit.

During WWII both the Axis and the Allies used propaganda radio stations as a form of psychological warfare as they played popular music to build audience among the enemy. On the Axis side Tokyo Rose and Axis Sally played American jazz between their messages of the hopelessness of the Allied cause and calls to surrender. Some of the songs on the German broadcast were Bye Bye Blackbird parodied as Bye Bye Empire, The Sheik of Araby parodied as I’m Afraid of Germany, and I can’t give you anything but love parodied as I can’t go on building ships and ships, Winnie.

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Marlene Dietrich

The Americans and British did exactly the same thing using both white and black radio stations. Perhaps the most famous song to come out of the war was Lili Marlene. Marlene Dietrich became famous the world over when she recorded this song for the American Office of Strategic Services. It was a favorite of both German and Allied troops. It is a strange that a sentimental song that speaks of such pure love can be written about a woman that seems to be a prostitute leaning against a lamp pole.

Underneath the lantern,
By the barrack gate
Darling I remember
The way you used to wait
T'was there that you whispered tenderly,
That you loved me,
You'd always be,
My Lilli of the Lamplight,
My own Lilli Marlene

Author Richard J. Evans Mentions Lili Marleen in The Third Reich at War, Penguin Press, N.Y., 2009:

The song encapsulated the personal anxieties as well as the lingering hopes of the men far away from their loved ones. Further piquancy was added by the fact that, while the words were those of a man, they were sung by an attractive woman. Yet Goebbels disliked its pessimistic and nostalgic tone. At the end of September 1942, he had Andersen arrested for undermining the troops morale…Goebbels had her banned from making further public appearances. Eventually, from the middle of 1943 onwards, she was allowed to sing again in public, provided she did not put “Lili Marleen” on the program. At her first concert after the ban was lifted, the audience yelled for her to sing the song, and when it became clear that she was not going to, they sang it themselves. In August 1944 it was finally banned altogether. Long before this, British and American troops had started listening to the song as it was broadcast from the powerful German forces' radio transmitter in Belgrade. The Allied military authorities had it translated into English. “My Lili of the Lamplight” was sung by Marlene Dietrich, Vera Lynn and (in French) Edith Piaf, and toward the end of the war the British forces radio broadcast the German version across the enemy lines to the German troops trying to depress them, thus perhaps inadvertently confirming Goebbels' belief that it was damaging to morale.

The WWII classified magazine Outpost News; U.S. Office of War Information Outpost Service Bureau mentions music in a number of its issues. Some of the comments are;

September 1943: The Axis prisoners’ song of WWII probably will be “You’d be so Nice to Come Home To,” if OWI Algiers has its way. A cable just received here requested a new recording of this song with Dinah Shore singing lyrics rewritten in German, to be used as a signoff on broadcasts to German prisoners.

On Friday, 23 July, we gave our first Mobile Unit musical recording…it was composed mostly of Arabs…They enjoyed our records in English, French and Arabic.

April 1944: Scheduled for early production are Fighting Songs and Folk Songs of the United Nations by the American Soldiers’ Chorus and the navy Band…

May 1944: A new half hour French music show is relayed by OWI Algiers in addition to Hungarian; Rumanian and Bulgarian programs…All announcements are set to music.

Special shipments of recorded music were made to Algiers, Leopold, Teheran and London.

Clayton D. Laurie mentions another OWI campaign in The Propaganda Warriors, University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, 1996:

The output of the Voice of America was supplemented by broadcasts of the new OWI American Broadcasting Station in Europe, which opened five weeks before D-Day. ABSIE operated twelve transmitters in England eight hours daily. The station followed OWI central and regional directives and devoted one-third of its air time to German air time that included news and musical features such as “Music for the Wehrmacht” featuring Bing Crosby and Doris Day.

The reader will find Doris Day mentioned again later in this article. She was also a favorite of the North Koreans.

At the siege of Stalingrad in 1942, it is reported that the besieged Soviets rolled giant loudspeakers to their front lines and played Argentinean tangos to their German attackers to keep them on edge through the long winter nights.

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Leaflet 19-F-6
Image courtesy of www.war-images.com

When the U.S. Army hit the beaches of the Philippines Islands to drive out the Japanese occupiers, an entire series of “F” leaflets were prepared and disseminated. The U.S. Army leaflet is clearly marked and therefore “white.” There is no doubt that it is from the United States government. The first number in the code indicates the number of a particular series, the “F” indicates “Filipino,” and the final number indicates the army, in this case the 6th U.S. Army. This leaflet bears the lyrics of the song “Heaven Watch the Philippines,” written by Irving Berlin and dedicated to General Douglas MacArthur. The general in accepting the dedication said:

The Commander in Chief appreciates greatly the distinction of the dedication of a song by such a distinguished author and producer as Mr. Irving Berlin. He is deeply grateful to him not only for that, but for the magnificent aid he is rendering the Allied cause.

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Mabuhay

When the United States returned to the Philippine Islands the Psychological Warfare Branch published a full-color magazine called Free Philippines. The issue of 1 January 1945 depicts General MacArthur coming ashore and the words “I have returned.” Inside the magazine the PWB have printed a song sheet for “Mabuhay.” This is the “Filamerican” version, originally chosen as the theme song for the propaganda radio broadcast “Philippine Hour” from San Francisco and Australia and later taken over by military bands that played it in a “bright march tempo.” Some of the stirring lyrics are:

Under the blue sky we raise a cheer
High greeting in friendship
Comrades united
We raise our voice and sing Mabuhay!

While reading Report on Psychological Warfare in the Southwest Pacific Area 1944-1945 I found a mention of the above song. There is a description of the American propaganda radio broadcast to the Philippines on 24 September 1944. I will just mention a few of the features:

Music:              Mabuhay (to end)

Intro:                This is the United States of America calling the people of the Philippines…

Music:              Philippine National Anthem.

Announcer:    This is the Philippine hour…from the Headquarters of General MacArthur…We present the regular Sunday program of music, news and commentary…

According to a military report entitled Combat Propaganda against the Japanese in the Central Pacific by William H. Vatcher, music was also collected for use against the Japanese in Okinawa: 

Japanese music intended to create nostalgia, other types of music known to be favorites among the Japanese forces, and weird sounds at night to harass the enemy were included in the materials to be made available at Okinawa

Of course, music was not just an offensive weapon. It could be used as a defensive weapon to help save lives. This daily newspaper Target was published on Saipan by the Information and Education Section of the Western Pacific Base Command. The 1 May 1945 issue is of interest because it mentions music being used to bring injured B-29s safely home to Saipan. Some of the text is:

RETURNING SUPERFORTS WING IN TO SWING

To crews of B-29s returning from attacks on Japan, staying “on the beam” means being “right in the groove.”

The OWI transmitter stationed in the Marianas, set up to release American propaganda to Japan, has been carrying musical programs for the listening pleasure of the B-29 crews as they make the long journey home to the Marianas. That the radio beam could also be used as an emergency beam to save crippled planes was discovered when a Superfortress, hopelessly lost, its homing equipment smashed, used the OWI beam to reach its base. The high point of this round-the-clock broadcasting to bombers was realized when four B-29s were saved in one week by following the beam.

The flyers now wing homeward to Bing Crosby crooning “When you’re a long, long way from home,” Dinah Shore coaxing “Come to Mama, come to Mama, do…” and the King Cole trio reminding them to “Straighten up and fly right.”

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Harvest Dance

Of course, the Japanese retaliated. Tosio Okazaki and Sinpei Nakayama wrote a propaganda song for the Philippines entitled Harvest Dance. The song mentions the idyllic life of a farmer. Some of the text is:

Rice sprouts…
Hands that hold them and feet that stump beside the plants.
All have gathered along with the country folk –
And all minds united as one –
For the harvest dance.

The rice…
It is the treasure of the country and my brother is its proud shield.
The path was filled with people and flags waving when he went away to the front…

This song appears in the July 1943 Japanese propaganda magazine Shin Seiki Bagong Araw (New Era) published in the Philippines by Manila Sinbun-Sya. Other propaganda articles include: The Flame Thrower, Bringing the Army to the people, Music Concurs and Filipino Delegation to Japan.

Other propaganda songs sheets printed by the Japanese and disseminated to the Filipinos were:

Pambansang Awit ng Pilipinas (Beloved Country).
Martsa ng Bagong (The New Philippines March).
Awit sa Paglinka ng Bagong Pilipinas (Hymn of the Birth of the New Philippines).

The Propaganda Corps of the Imperial Japanese Army also printed some of their own songs for Japanese troops and collaborators in the Philippines, Indonesia and elsewhere. Examples are:

Kimigajo (The Japanese National Anthem).
Jaesjio (In Honor of Great Asia).

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Song of the Decisive Battle of the Greater Pacific War

Like the Germans, during WWII the Japanese printed a great number of military postcards that featured patriotic songs. These were internal propaganda meant to stiffen the morale and will to fight of the civilian population. The card above depicts an American battleship being sunk by Japanese aircraft. Unfortunately for the Japanese there were some decisive battles of the Pacific war; the Battle of Midway and the Battle of the Philippine Sea (AKA the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot) come to mind, but the Japanese lost them all. So, this card would seem to celebrate an event that never occurred. The cards were sold in envelopes that bore the printed text: “Use to send to Imperial Army.”

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The New Germany March
Image courtesy Lee Richards, PsyWar.Org

This leaflet is a “black” Office of Strategic Services leaflet. It is not coded, shows no sign of being from the Americans, and purports to be from an anti-Nazi German organization on the Continent. The title was also used for a black newspaper that was published and disseminated behind German lines. The leaflet was most likely printed by the OSS in Rome and disseminated in Northern Italy.

The New Germany
Marching Song

New life is growing from ruins,
New life will rise again!
We all will serve the New Germany;
The Third Reich will then be destroyed!
No class struggle!

No racial hatred!
No Führer, no monarch!
Serving Germany as free individuals;
The New Germany will remain forever!

Clayton D Laurie mentions more about O.S.S. Morale Operations in the Propaganda warriors:

The most popular gray propaganda station of the war, Soldatensender Calais, was a joint U.S. Morale Operations – British Political Warfare Executive venture that began in 1943 and for which the OSS provided twelve writers and six musicians…The program broadcast, news, music, nostalgic stories and anti-Nazi propaganda to enemy troops and civilians, many of whom suspected the broadcasts were of Allied origin but whose suspicions were never confirmed.

By April 1944…MO agreed to produce entertainment in an operation code-named the Muzac Project. [Author: now we know where all that elevator music got its name]. MO recruited Hollywood writers, an eight-piece orchestra, and big name talent such as Marlene Dietrich. The branch opened a music department in New York City…and wrote and recorded black lyrics for 312 German and American songs as well as specially written pieces…Even Josef Goebbels recognized its potentially negative effects, acknowledging that its clever job of propaganda was a cause for worry.

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How Much Longer…?!

This black OSS song written to attack the followers of Hitler and to hint that the end has almost come was written by Rome-based Austrian-born OSS agent Eddie Linder. Here are the lyrics in his own hand-writing.

It was on a day years ago
that you promised me great happiness.
I believed in you and followed you;
But now I am deeply regretting that step.

The world is so large and you are so small;
You cannot be omnipotent over everything!
The game is now over, the dream is gone –
In a short time I will be free again!

Chorus

Why didn´t I understand – that you were lying to me?
And didn´t suspect, – that you were cheating on me?
I don´t want to wait any longer to renounce you,
I don´t want to bear this fate any longer!
How much longer?! How much longer?!

The Morale Operations Section of the OSS produced a series of sixteen leaflets entitled Wie lange noch? (How much longer?). The plan was to convince the populace that there was a strong anti-Nazi underground movement within Germany. Besides the leaflets, posters and gummed labels using a large "W" as a symbol were placed on German vehicles, on walls, on doors and windows, in books and other appropriate places, by agents operating behind enemy lines. Some of the satirical leaflets asked questions like: “How much longer will our soldiers be forced to fight side by side with the dregs of Europe?”, “How much longer will they deny that that the Eastern Front is a common grave?”, and “How much longer will we be left behind while the Party bosses flee the bombs?”

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Eddie Linder (Eddie Zinder)

Declassified documents show that Edmund Friedrich Linder was an Austrian born in Vienna 11 May 1908. His father was an American citizen working for Republic Steel in Cleveland, Ohio. After the Germans entered Austria, Linder first went to Switzerland and later Belgium while awaiting papers to allow him to enter the United States. He eventually joined the American OSS assigned to the Algiers MO section 1 August 1943. An October 1944 letter to the Chief of Morale Operations describes Linder using his code name and says in part:

Eddie Zinder, Austrian, is now applying for American citizenship...Eddie is a remarkably versatile young man, having written many leaflets, the song “Wie Lange Noch,” acted as a doctor at various times and is the supreme master of briefing, preparation of documents and preparing prisoners of war for infiltration.

Curiously, after discovering that Linder wrote the Wie lange noch Song, I went back and read my old correspondence with him. In a letter dated 18 September 1996 he mentioned writing the song Das Neue Deutschland Marschlied. So, almost by accident we find that Linder wrote the last two songs that we depict above.

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Freedom is Calling

The United States Office of Strategic Services printed a 5-stanza anti-Nazi song called Die Freiheit Ruft, (Freedom Calls) during WWII and disseminated it in Germany and wherever German troops were stationed. The song was to be sung to the tune of the patriotic “Horst Wessel Song.” Some of the lyrics are:

Freedom is calling

After the Horst Wessel song

Freedom is calling, the hour has come
for the revenge that we have awaited so long.
Finally the bigwigs are in for it
and Hitler prepares for his last walk.

A free Germany has to be created now
the dark tyranny is broken.
We don’t want to see the Nazis again
Goering, Goebbels and Ley will be hanged.

And Himmler, this most dreadful hangman
will soon experience first hand
what he did in the land of the poets and philosophers
… we will do the murderer in now…!

The OSS Rome Final report of Production and Distribution from 15 July 1944 to 15 May 1945 lists two musical propaganda items. We do not know which one is the song sheet above. 152,500 copies of “Music” were prepared and forwarded to Algeri, Bari, Brindisi, North Italy, France and used in “Special” campaigns. At the same time, another 21,000 products labeled as “songs” were sent to Brindisi and used in special campaigns. One of the “New German March” sheets was found behind the German lines in Italy, believed to have been carried by collaborating German POWs working with the Allies as part of Operation Sauerkraut. Perhaps this operation is what the OSS called “special.”

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When the golden evening sun

The British Political Warfare Executive (PWE) prepared black propaganda leaflets, letters, posters and even song sheets to be used against the Germans. British forger Ellic Howe produced hundreds of types of subversive literature including the song sheet above coded H.83 in the form of a postcard. This implies that it was the 83rd product produced by Howe. The song is a parody of a SA fighting song entitled “When the golden evening sun” written by Karl Muschalla describing the funeral of a soldier who had died for Hitler. The parody claims that the Nazis are hiding the true casualty numbers from the German public. 10,000 copies of H.83 were delivered to the Special Operations Executive on 7 May 1942. The original song was made up of six verses and some of the lyrics are:

When the golden evening sun
sent out its latest light,
a regiment of Hitler
arrived in a little city.

Their songs sounded sadly
through the quiet small city
Because they just buried
a Hitler’s comrade.

When the golden morning sun
sent out its first light,
a regiment of Hitler
proceeded further into the fight

The title of the British parody is “When the golden morning sun,” and the lyrics of the five stanzas of the propaganda song are:

When the golden morning sun
sent out its first light,
a telegram from Russia
arrived in the little city…

Lieutenant Schulze wrote:
‘Your son was hit by a bullet today’
He was the twelfth in the vicinity
the newspaper reported only three.

When the golden evening sun
sent out its latest light,
a hundred British bomber aircraft
flew into the German homeland.

And they dropped many bombs,
smashed our city to rubble.
A hundred people had to die
but the radio reported only three.

Yes, since 1933
they keep on lying all the day;
for if we knew the truth
we would kick out Hitler!

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Songs of the BBC
Image courtesy Lee Richards, PsyWar.Org

During WWII, the British produced a 48-page propaganda song book for the French and dropped it over occupied France from March to August 1944. The cover of the book depicts a “Free French” sailor standing near a soldier playing an accordion, the French flag in the background, the code F.177 and the text:

Songs of the BBC

“BBC” of course stands for British Broadcasting Corporation. The back of the booklet depicts Winston Churchill in a British aircraft making the “V for Victory” sign. The text is:

The songs that you heard on the radio

Brought by your friends in the RAF

“RAF” is the British Royal Air Force. One of the patriotic and anti-Fascist songs in the booklet is “The song of V” with a drawing of a young French boy placing the “V for Victory” sign on the wall and also the Morse code version “dot, dot, dot, dash.” Another page depicts the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini running for his life and the title, “It has fallen, Benito.” The song tells of the loss of Sicily by the “imbecile” Mussolini to the Allies.

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A Black British “Song” Postcard

During WWII the Germans produced dozens of postcards that displayed patriotic pictures and the lyrics of songs. Examples are “The Horst Wessel song,” “The song of the lord of lies,” “England will fall,” and “We’re sailing on England.” The British retaliated with a black propaganda leaflet made to look like a German postcard. 80,000 copies of the postcard were delivered on 15 March 1945.

The British propaganda card pictures German war dead on a snowy field in the Bastogne area during the Battle of the Bulge. The title below the picture is, “The Song of the 9th People's Grenadier Division.” Directly beneath the title of the song is a note that reads:

The commander, Colonel Party-Comrade Werner Kolb, found the following lyrics written on the pages of a military pay book of one of his Grenadiers.

The postcard attacks the German leadership for being enthralled with medals and awards, and for having little regard for the welfare of their troops. The propaganda message is in the form of a song. The first and last stanzas are:

People's Grenadiers attack! Attack!
We must close with the enemy!
Don't hesitate! Rise up! March, March!
Otherwise the Lieutenant will kick you in the ass!
- And the Colonel will get the swords!

People's Grenadiers jump up! Jump up!
The entire Division is wiped out.
When the bullet hits you be proud!
You get a wooden cross of fir!
- The Colonel gets his swords!
 

The reference “swords” is to one of the high military decorations, such as the German Order mit Schwertern (with swords) or the Knights Cross with swords. The official PWE translation actually says, “The Colonel wants his medal!”

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Fighting Songs of the R.W.A.

This card is one of three black British sabotage postcards featuring pictures of marines or sailors accompanied by the text of a song. Each card has a different song but all are headed “Kampflied der R.W.A. / Text H. Nackers, Musik Prof Walther Brandt.” The RWA was the Reichsamt für Wirtschaftsausbau, an authority that supported research & development of chemical technology in Germany. In 1938, the RWA strongly recommended the use of poison gas in a coming war. 700 copies of each card were delivered on 9 April 1942 for dissemination to the enemy. The text is:  

Fighting Song of the R.W.A.

Text: H. Nackers
Music: Prof. Walther Brandt

Put sand or water into the lubricating oil.
Mix oil or sea water into the batteries.
Put sand, lubricating oil or steel chips
into the high compressed air equipment.
Put bolts or pieces of metal in the main engines
And forget to fasten the screws.

Refrain:

Save the U-boat comrades from certain death!!
Make sure that no submarine will be able to put out to sea,
Or, if this is not possible, force its quick return!
Put needles into the main engines
And make sure that the splint pins get lost
Throw cotton waste into oil tanks and pipes
And spread sand into them.
Mix the colors in a way that they will not quickly dry
But block up the safety valves.

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The Genuine “Song of the Lying Lords” Postcard

The Russians did a similar propaganda parody of a legitimate German song postcard. The genuine German card was called “The Song of the Lying Lords” and depicted Winston Churchill, Anthony Eden, Lord Halifax, and Duff Cooper. The Russians replied with a card entitled “The Song of the Lying Pack” with portraits of Joseph Goebbels, Joachim von Rib­bentrop, Hermann Göring, and Adolf Hitler. 300,000 cards were printed on 30 September 1941. The Russian version of the propaganda song was also printed with nine other rewritten German songs in a brochure entitled The New Soldier’s Song Book. The last verse of the Russian parody card mentions Hitler and says in part:

And who is leading this gang? It is Hitler the charlatan.
He is Europe’s evil ghost and is as false as bold.
Just naked fear and cowardice is speaking from his dull face.
He knows very well that the time will come when the glory has to end…

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The Song of the Louse

The Russians also prepared another song postcard that attacked Adolf Hitler. The card was entitled “The Song of the Louse.” Two versions were printed, one showing a small bust of Hitler on a large louse. The second has a large face of Hitler almost covering the back of a large louse, with red blood at lower left. Each has a four stanza song on the address side.Some of the lyrics are:

Soldier, where is your hiding place?
In ice and snow, in dirt and mud
With curse of people heavy laden
You travel alone so far from home
You travel alone with your comrade
The poisonous fat louse…

Who drives you into death and frost?
What fans the war in the East?
In blind greed, in wantonness
Hitler through your death and agony
Is growing fat on your blood
The big thick brown louse

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The New Lili Marlene
Photo courtesy www.war-images.com

The Russians also produced a propaganda parody postcard of the German Lili Marlene song. This was one of the most famous songs of WWII and we mention the lyrics earlier in this article. The Russian postcard depicts Lili standing by her faithful lamp pole while her German lover lies dying on the battle field. The Russian made a mistake in the title which should be “Die neue Lili Marleen” rather than “Das neue Lili Marleen.” Such mistakes can sometimes be fatal in propaganda since the writer immediately loses all credibility. Some of lyrics are:

The new Lili Marleen
Words: A soldier at the front in the East.
Music: Norbert Schulze.

...We are almost buried, we soon suffocate
It was the Führer’s wish, he blows the tattoo (bugle call) today,
God knows what will happen to us, we will perish here.
Good bye, Lili Marleen, good bye, Lili Marleen.

We all wish, each for his own reasons,
That the brown dog (the Führer) will hang from the street lamp.
He will twist while he dies and everyone will see it,
You too, Lili Marleen, you too, Lili Marleen.”

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Comrades in Song

In October 1941 the USSR disseminated a folded leaflet entitled “Comrades in Song” that depicted three happy German soldiers on the cover in a green meadow and a cold German sentry looking at a skull in the snow on the back. A raven representing death cries at the sentry.

The two inside pages have the printed text of a song called “Winter Campaign” at the left and the same song in a music sheet format at the right. This claims to be the 13th issue of this leaflet series and was allegedly published by the “Military High Command” for the soldiers. At the bottom of the inside left page there are safe conduct passes in both German and Russian. The German text is: “This leaflet is intended for surrendering to the Red Army.” Text on the inside tells the soldiers to “Read and share!” Some of the lyrics of the five stanzas are:

Winter campaign

Hitler leads us to Russia,
Where will his evil end?
Alas, in the snow,
in Russia's deep snow.

Why were we sent here?
We hunger in the hard winter.
Alas, in the snow,
in Russia's deep snow.

If we do not turn our guns around,
we will all perish

Alas, in the snow,
in Russia's deep snow.

The Korean War

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Leaflet 7516

I added this 8 July 1952 leaflet because in it the Americans parody a pro-Communist song with their own anti-Communist words. The satire was recommended by friendly Chinese prisoners of war. The front of the leaflet shows a Russian wolf devouring the Chinese people. To the Chinese the wolf was a creature regarded as ruthless and deadly. The text on the front is:

ARE YOU WILLING TO LET THE FIERCE RUSSIAN WOLF DEVOUR CHINA?

C.A.S. Williams says about the wolf in the classic edition of Outlines of Chinese Symbolism and Art Motives:

The wolf is regarded as the emblem of cupidity and rapaciousness. The wolf might be compared to an official who exacts money unfairly from the people in the shape of unauthorized taxation.

The original Red Chinese song was entitled “Resist America – Help Korea.” Some of the parody song lyrics that appear on the back of this Allied leaflet are:

The bloody red flag is playing havoc everywhere since China has fallen into the hands of the Communists.

Since the Soviet wolf staged his revolution a hated wolf has seized our Port Arthur and Dairen.

March forward! March forward! You Anti-Communist and “Resist Russia” patriots.

To fight Communism we have to fight Chou and Mao. To protect our family we have to wipe out the Russian wolf…

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Leaflet 8319

Patriotic music leaflets were used by the United States Psychological Warfare Division of the Eight U.S. Army during the Korean War. Leaflet 8319 dated 8 August 1952 targeted South Koreans living in occupied areas. Its purpose was to commemorate Liberation Day, 15 August. It depicted a liberty bell on one side and the Song of Liberation Day on the other. The first stanza of the lyrics is:

Let’s touch the soil of our Fatherland once more.
Even the sea foams on this glorious occasion.
Our ancestors and patriots longed to see this day.
But alas, they are gone!
For this day we have fought with blood for forty years.
Let’s preserve this precious day forever!
Let’s preserve this precious day forever!

Other US music propaganda leaflets prepared for Korea are 8408 (Korean Love Call); 8410 (Bouquet of Songs) and 8206 (no translation - drawing of a doctor and patient on one side and a song sheet on the other side).

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Leaflet 8408

Leaflet 8408 depicts a Korean woman by an open window looking into a mirror. It was prepared 6 March 1953 for North Korean troops facing the Eighth U.S. Army.  The back of the leaflet was left blank because it was believed that the North Korean soldiers were short of writing paper. It later wars the United States would darken the back of leaflets so they could not be used by the enemy for propaganda retorts. The song lyrics are:

Listen, I call to thee,
my heart is burning.
I am sad and melancholy,
for I cannot live without you.

If the moon, my only friend,
would wish to leave me
I could not let her go
As I cannot let you go either.

My clothes will be torn from me sooner
then I could be forced to leave your side.

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Leaflet 8410

Leaflet 8410 depicts a Korean woman in a dancing costume. It was prepared 6 March 1953 for North Korean troops facing the Eighth U.S. Army. Like 8408 above, it is meant to stimulate a longing for female companionship and to foster disillusionment against his government which denies him furloughs. The back of the leaflet is blank. The text is: 

Bouquet of Song

Ah me!
On the streets of Chonan
you may see the weeping willow
braches hanging gracefully
in full swing.
My heart is breaking.
Ah me!

Note: Chonan (or Cheonan) is a city in South Chungcheong province, Western South Korea. It is a railroad hub and a mining and agricultural center.

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Leaflet EUSAK 8194

Eight U.S. Army (Korea) leaflet 8194 depicts a happy woman and child looking at a Korean guerrilla who is returning home to live in peace. The leaflet was produced at the requests of the Republic of Korea Army Psywar Section. The text is:

Friends: The guerrillas who have troubled us for a long time are returning to their homes. Is there anyone from our village who has gone off into the mountains? If there is, let’s invite him to return and help in rehabilitating our lovely hometown.

Of course, it is the back that interests us since it depicts two verses and two refrains of a patriotic Korean song. Some of the lyrics are:

Song of June 25th

Ah, how can we forget that day?
The day that the enemy trampled our fatherland,
and the day we defended our fatherland,
against the enemy with our empty hands and red blood,
and the day that we trembled with indignation.

We can have revenge now!
We must chase and chase the enemy,
until we eliminate the last one
and glorify our nation and our race.

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Leaflet 8206

We do not have an official data sheet for leaflet 8206. One side depicts a doctor working on a patient with a nurse in the background. You can actually see the image on the other side since the paper is thin and the ink has bled through. The back contains a text message and the lyrics of a song. The song is entitled “My Fatherland,” and glorifies Mt. Baekdu , a “sacred mountain” and the birthplace of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. One North Korean writer says about the glorious leader:

General Kim Jong Il is a rare great man of Baekdu type who was born at Mt. Baekdu, the sacred mountain of our nation…

The mountain lies along the border of China and North Korea and has been the site of some legendary battles between Korea and China, and ownership is still debated today. I assume that the finder of the leaflet would recognize that the reference to the mountain also implies that China is a historical enemy. Some of the lyrics are:

This is My Fatherland
Play softly, beautifully

Wonderful Mount Baekdu range, morning glory peninsula
Beautifully spread as rightfully so – historically 3,000,000 to withstand the enemy
Unforgettable this our homeland – brightly shining 3,000,000 rhee
Beautiful mountain ranges live long and prosper…

At the bottom the leaflet says:

Produced by Army 773rd Mobile Education Unit

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The U.S. Army 1st Leaflet and Loudspeaker Company printed two song leaflets in February 1953 as the Korean War neared its end. Both leaflets were requested by the Republic of Korea forces. One actually has a Korean code number, CZ-7. Both leaflets show South Korean soldiers in heroic poses. In one leaflet a soldier prepares to throw a grenade; in the other a soldier takes aim with his rifle. They were found in a 1st Leaflet and Loudspeaker Company Monthly Report without translation. 30,000 copies of CZ-7 and CZ-8 were printed on 20 February 1953. The lyrics of the first song are:

The Unification March

We are liberated from oppression and grief
We founded our country after fighting and fighting
Attacked by the communist beast
Attacked by the communist beast
We, the free people, are bleeding.

Whether dead or alive we are the people of the nation
The soldiers who fought and fell are the people of the nation
People in the north want the suffering country
People in the north want the suffering country
We have to fight and take back our national unification and independence

(Refrain)

Let our country’s people wake up for our country
Hand in hand let's fly our national flag on the Baekdu-san Mountain

Located on the border between North Korea and China, Baekdu-san is the highest mountain on the Korean Peninsula. A dormant volcano, the mountain has been considered sacred ever since the legendary first Kingdom of Korea. The Korean name Baekdu-san means “White-Head Mountain,” because the summit area is never without some snow-ice-cover and the treeless crags there are grey-white. White is the most sacred color to Koreans and the mountain is sometimes referred to as the holy sacred White Head Mountain of North Korea. The lyrics of the second song are:

Victory Song

Defeat the barbarian no matter how many millions
In front of the Koreans they are only straw

Defeat the communists no matter how many millions
They will be defeated in front of Korean soldiers

United Nations soldiers are brave fighting with us
They are dashing to the enemy trenches like brave tigers.

(Refrain)

Forward, Forward on the path to victory
Forward, Forward on the path to victory

The Communist Chinese used music against American troops on several occasions during the Korean War. Soldiers from the U.S. Army 2nd Infantry Division recalled that when the enemy played Joni James’ rendition of Hank Williams “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” on dark and foggy nights it gave soldiers some reason to pause and think of home. Other soldiers recalled that the Chinese playing of “taps” during combat engagements gave some soldiers “the creeps.” One squad leader reported that when the Chinese played American music to his men late at night he ordered machine gun squad to fire in the direction of the speakers. He claimed success; no more records were played!

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Doris Day

The Americans had their own secret weapon. Dr. Charles H. Briscoe says in an article entitled “Volunteering for Combat – Loudspeaker PSYWAR in Korea,” Veritas Volume 6, No, 1, 2010:

When caught in a crossfire Rose’s team played its ace in the hole – Doris Day.

"For some reason, the Americans and Chinese loved listening to Doris Day. So, when our efforts had really stirred them up, resulting in artillery and mortar and barrages and machinegun fire being directed at us, and in turn from the American lines, we quickly switched to Doris Day to quiet things down. We once tried the Chaplain’s church music, but “Onward Christian Soldiers” didn’t have much impact on the Chinese or the American GIs. Only Doris Day worked.”

Briscoe also mentions one of the missions of a loudspeaker team in the same article:

The loudspeaker team mission was to:

2. Beam broadcasts, musical, and feature programs by means of the platoon’s primary psychological warfare medium to enemy front line troops in static tactical situations.

Stephen E. Pease mentions in the use of music in his book Psywar - Psychological Warfare in Korea 1950-1953, Stackpole Books, Harrisburg, PA, 1992:

Operation Slowdown was a leaflet-loudspeaker effort…involved a series of eleven tapes of nostalgic music with Korean narration broadcast from voice aircraft and from jeeps, combined with special leaflets. Something similar had been tried earlier in an exercise called Operation Harvest Moon. Its purpose was to make enemy soldiers homesick and lonely. The soldiers were encouraged to slow down and listen to the pleasant music…

The Chinese didn’t use their loudspeakers until the front lines stagnated in 1952. Then they broadcast music and long lectures about how this war was not a U.S. war. Some of the music was nostalgic, making the soldier think about home…

Edward Hanrahan…I never heard the bugles, but I remember hearing loudspeakers playing music. I think the song was “When the Moon comes over the Mountain.”

The Command Report – 1st Loudspeaker and Leaflet Company also mentions the Communist use of music in Korea and how it came across clearly while the enemy loudspeaker message was often garbled. A May 1953 entry tells of 31 broadcasts. The messages were generally unintelligible, but the music could be heard. In June 1953, fourteen enemy broadcasts were heard. One attacked Syngman Rhee; another invited the Korean soldiers to cross the lines to talk. The remainder was unintelligible except for the music selections.

EUSAK Combat Propaganda Operations adds:

Operation Heartache, launched in the middle of 1952, sought to lower morale and combat effectiveness by increasing the Chinese soldier’s anxiety over loved ones at home. Loudspeaker broadcasts featured “letters from mom” and music from home. The approach was systematic. First programs sought to build up a listening audience by playing news and music. Once the nostalgia had settled in the “good treatment” and “surrender so you can live for your families” themes were woven into the broadcasts.

The 7th PSYOP Group Unit History of 1967 mentions another song for Korea:

The most surprising success in a new development came when a song, written and produced by two members of the 15th PSYOP Detachment…became an overnight success in Korea. The song, “The Ballad of Kim,” was broadcast in July 1967 over the Voice of the United Nations Command radio station. Immediately, inquires and requests for tapes and recording copies of the song were flowing in from all over Korea. Copies of the tape were supplied to many local broadcasting stations in Korea and it became even more popular.

One might get the mistaken impression that music was a major part of the American PSYOP campaign against the North. Actually, the use of music was a minor component of that plan. Hundreds and possibly thousands of different leaflets were prepared and disseminated and those that used music are probably less than a dozen. Looking through the formerly classified secret Operations Research Office report Strategic Radio PSYWAR in Far East Command31 January 1951, I searched for music in the Allied broadcasts to the Communists. The vast amount of radio propaganda was news broadcasts and commentary in Korean, Mandarin and Cantonese. The U.N. radios transmitted from 6 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. and the total amount of music mixed in with all the news and commentaries was exactly one hour. It was broken up into three segments with the recommendation:

Music. Spice this with propaganda comment.

Of course, I must point out that this report was written early in the war and the amount of music broadcast might have changed later. We also know from this report that the Communists were using musical troupes to raise morale and foster loyalty among their people. This would be copied by the Vietnamese later when they sent Armed Propaganda Teams into the populace. The report says:

Considerable emphasis is placed on the role of travelling theatrical troupes in consolidating  the opinion of the masses of the people around “the government of the Republic.” Since the troupes are to perform this function in areas in which modern transportation is scarce, mobility is stressed as well as simplicity and variety of material…Every performance is to contain some political discussion, but the players are cautioned against developing political content to the point where entertainment suffers….

I like that last line. The Communist bosses are telling their players to add a bit of propaganda to the show, but not so much that people get bored of being lectured and walk away. That shows some unexpected flexibility on their part.

THE COLD WAR

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Hail to our Genuine Homeland...

Kim Il-sung (Become the Sun) was the Communist leader and dictator of the People’s Democratic Republic of (North) Korea from 1948 until his death on 8 July 1994. Like many dictators before him such as Stalin, Mao, and Hitler, the “Great Leader” and “Eternal President” developed a cult of Personality and used North Korea’s mass media to create a heroic public image through unquestioning flattery and praise. Leaflets would always depict him in a heroic pose as the defender of the Korean people and enemy of the hated capitalists. During his reign, millions of leaflets were sent into the Republic of (South) Korea in an attempt to undermine that government. Since he is called “Premier” in the song below, it was probably disseminated prior to 1972 when he became President. The North Korean Communist propaganda leaflet above depicts the Democratic Republic of Korea flag on the front and the text:

Hail to our genuine homeland, the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea!

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The back of the leaflet bear the lyrics of a propaganda song of the type we would expect from a dictatorship with a cult of personality. The lyrics are:

ALL HAIL PREMIER KIM IL SUNG BELOVED BY 4 MILLION KOREAN PEOPLE

Branching, branching Changbai Mountain; winding, winding Yalu River
Even today peace and prosperity grows stronger and stronger
The power is provided by our beloved General
Our brilliant General Kim Il sung…

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Song of Camaraderie

This North Korean Cold War propaganda leaflet coded 0-0583 depicts five individuals looking toward a beautiful sky. Curiously, this song was apparently popular enough that it was placed on YouTube entitled “DPRK Music 03.” The text is:

Song of Camaraderie

Not fast, solemnly - Romantically and ardently
Words by Lee Chongsoon - Composed by Sung Dongchoon

The road to our destination may be rocky but we shall overcome it.
Even if wind of fire blows we will live and die together
Our camaraderie is priceless. Let's not change our oath. I see our star.

Let's not change our oath. Follow our star.
Like our patriotic forefathers, put together our ambition for independent unification
Unite the whole nation! Bring the dawn of unification closer.

Flowers grown on the rocks are from His devotion
Life after death is from His love, to achieve our revolution through rain and snow
Let's not change our oath. I see our star.

The North Koreans were glorifying their supreme leader Kim Jong Il when they spoke of “Our Star.”

The various American broadcast services used music as a form of friendly persuasion all through the Cold War. Cedric Larson mentions this in an article entitled “Music: America’s Global Ambassador of Good Will,” in a 1952 issue of Etude. He mentions the Voice of America and their many musical series such as American composers, show tunes, symphonic, semi-classical and popular music.

The experience of the past five years has shown again and again that the planned and extensive use of music in our international programs has demonstrated that music is the universal language, which is above politics and international strains, and has a healing power for a disturbed world…What kind of musical fare does the Voice of America provide for its overseas listeners? The Music Section has found over the years from practical experience is that the best bet is to give its overseas audience a balanced diet.

His most interesting anecdote tells of two Russians who had escaped from slave-labor camps that the Soviets claimed did not exist:

They recorded songs song by the slave laborers and by their very nature listeners knew these songs were genuine. They mentioned names and places, and the songs had a sad lyricism of music and text that could not have been “hoked up.”The music was recorded as it was heard from their lips. Then the leader of a choral group of Russian refugees was called in and the songs were recorded – there were six of the slave labor camp songs. They were then broadcast in every language, telling to the peoples of the world the sad story of the slave labor camps. The effect was tremendous.

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Czechoslovakian Calendar for 1955

The Crusade for Europe was a CIA sponsored group that broadcast and sent leaflets by balloons into Eastern Europe during the 1950s. The radio campaign was run by Radio Free Europe and the leaflet campaign was run by Free Europe Press. Most of the leaflets were just long political text in the European tradition. However, on rare occasions the FEP did something different and in 1955 they produced a calendar for Czechoslovakia that contained comments for every month of the year. Many were satirical, for instance we find under January:

The People’s Democracy is a state where people have to stand in line for everything, and sit in jail for nothing.

In several cases we find political songs. Here is one from February:

New fighters will come – they did.
Ministerial seats – they got.
One could not continue to live in the old way.
Lucrative business started in February.
However – they did not have enough;
They ate from each other’s troughs.

I cannot guess the meaning of that song but suspect that the Czechs would have recognized corrupt new Communist politicians taking office, making money and they stealing from each other.

There is another political ballad in March that seems to mention Stalin’s death and perhaps the brutal Soviet actions in Poland after the Poznan uprisings:

Too soft is the earth of Letna’s plain to hold a monument.
Someone got under Stalin’s skin…
Miraculous things take place at midnight.
As if Kamenev had motioned to Bukharin.
They set up new dossiers – what’s in them?
Bearers of the Red Star on the cemetery.
The heavy stone boot – a new habit.
A skull looks down on Prague.

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The First Cavalry attacks in Apocalypse Now 

VIETNAM

The American public was probably introduced to the use of music in psychological operations in the movie Apocalypse Now, when Colonel Kilgore ordered his pilot to “Put on PSYWAR Ops, make it loud…Shall we dance?” and for the first time we heard the stirring notes of Richard Wagner’s “The Ride of the Valkyries” as the American First Cavalry attacked a Viet Cong occupied village with machinegun fire and rockets.  

I am sure that many viewers of this movie believed that the scene was fictional and music was never used in such a way. In fact, it has often been used to draw the attention of, intimidate or terrify the enemy. It has also been used to draw the fire of the enemy and identify his location, not unlike the old military concept of “reconnaissance by fire.”  

The Tactical PSYOP Smart Book says:

Loud music or other sound effects can distract or annoy the enemy. Harassment broadcasts deny the enemy the ability to communicate between units within a defensive position and can be used to deny the enemy sleep or rest.

Monta L. Osborne was the Chief of Field Development Division in the Joint United States Public Affairs Office (JUSPAO) in Saigon in charge of the Chieu Hoi (Open Arms) program during the Vietnam War.

In a March 18, 1966 dairy entry Osborne said:

We are putting together a Chieu Hoi Songbook for use in the Chieu Hoi Centers. When the Viet Cong come in, they know only the VC words to old Vietnamese songs. So we are providing good, democratic, nationalistic lyrics to the old folk tunes and our staff is producing new songs.

In 1968 he was asked to explain his program to the top officers of the United Nations Command and the top officials of the Government of the Republic of Korea. During his talk he mentioned the use of music.

Vietnamese songs are often used as PSYOP media. They are composed by the most competent and best known composers in South Vietnam. Many of these songs are, in effect, appeals from Vietnamese young ladies to their erring husbands and lovers who are with the Viet Cong to come back home and resume their marital responsibilities. Songs are printed as sheet music and they are tape recorded by the foremost singers of Vietnam for broadcast by radio stations and loudspeakers, both aerial and ground. They are produced as films featuring attractive young female singers for television showings and are released as 35 mm. films for the theaters and 16 mm. films for showing in rural areas. In fact, songs are one of the most effective mediums. In the case of the 1968 TET (Lunar New Year) Nguyen Song, the South Vietnamese Army Staff advised against playing it where it could be heard by GVN troops, since it might make them so homesick they would desert.

There are numerous cases during the Vietnam War where the music was meant to frighten or demoralize the guerrillas. In some case it worked to an extent, and in fact was considered so dangerous that some tapes were specifically not to be played near friendly Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) troops because there was fear that they might be so frightened that they would leave the battlefield. In other cases, when the enemy fired on the aircraft playing the music, a trap was set where they would be attacked as soon as their location was identified. Some examples of Vietnam War operations involving music are as follows. 

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Vietnamese Funeral Procession 

When it was desired to frighten the enemy, the music chosen was usually funeral music or sounds that invited thoughts of death or those who had passed on. One example of such an operation appeared in the 29 October 1965 overseas edition of Time: 

Tucked away in their hammocks beneath the dripping rain-infested canopy, the Viet Cong guerrillas could hardly believe their ears. Out of the night sky came an ominous, warbling whine, like bagpipes punctuated with cymbals. It was Buddhist funeral music - a dissonant dirge cascading from the darkness. Then a snatch of dialogue between a mother and child: “Mother, where is daddy?” “Don't ask me questions. I am very worried about him.” “But I miss Daddy very much. Why is he gone so long?” Then the music and voices faded slowly into the distance and the platoon settled back to a restless sleep. 

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Vietnam War Helicopter with loudspeakers

This dirge and others like it came from the fertile imaginations of officers like Captain Blaine Revis, Commander of the 24th PSYOP Detachment. He told me that when queried by the Commanding General of the 1st Cavalry Division about what PSYOP could do to help win battles he answered: 

One idea that I presented was to mount loudspeakers on some helicopters and to play tapes of the Vietnamese funerary dirges. (Really strange sounds but very effective in producing a mood of finality and defeat in the Viet Cong) The idea was represented in the movie “Apocalypse Now,” but in the movie instead of the funeral dirge they played the “Ride of the Valkyries.” I suppose the director thought it was more identifiable to a western audience. The dirge is played on a small instrument that looks and sounds like a miniature clarinet. From my past assignment in Vietnam I had noted that when a funeral procession went by and the dirge was played, even people who did not know the deceased became agitated and would sometimes cry openly. When I asked why, they would explain that even if they were young, it soon it would be their turn. I had recommended the use of the dirge to Major General Harry W. B. Kinnard along with painting some of the helicopters to look like the beast that carries people to heaven or Hell from this life. I do not know if he acted on the recommendation. 

First Lieutenant William Tyner told me about playing music in 1968 in the Mekong Delta. He was assigned to the “Litter Bugs” of the 10th PSYOP Battalion in Can Tho. He flew in the small U-10 Helio Courier single engine aircraft called “Speak.” He said:

We held the Sony cassette player on our lap. When we had a dual role mission the pilot had to operate the cassette while maintaining an orbit somewhere near the target area. As the leaflets were drifting in, we would drop down as low as 1500 ft (over safe targets) and play the propaganda tape. “Rock and Roll” recorded off of AFVN was my favorite and seemed to attract the most ground fire. “Fire” by Robert Brown was the clear winner. Mostly though, the tapes were professionally made discordant funeral music, wailing women and rude comments meant to ruin morale, comments like: “You didn’t see that B-52 coming did you?”

There are some strange stories about music PSYOP missions in Vietnam that may be true or may be just a rumor. One of the best was told to me by a former Specialist Five of the 8th PSYOP Battalion. He flew loudspeaker missions and recalled a mission he had heard about that did not quite go exactly as planned:

There was also an incident that as I recall was reported in “Stars & Stripes” where a field team in IV Corps; I think they were from the 10th Battalion, headed out for an aerial night loudspeaker mission. Once airborne, they discovered they had grabbed their personal tapes rather than the propaganda tapes. So, they performed the mission playing Iron Butterfly's In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida. Apparently, that song terrified the Viet Cong enough that three of them walked out of the boonies and surrendered the next morning. It might have been reported in Credibilis [The 4th PSYOP Group official publication] too. It would have been in 1969 or 1970, I think; in any event it would have been during my time in the Republic of Vietnam.

The Vietnamese believed that those who died far from home and were not buried with their ancestors would roam the Earth forever. This theme was used in many Allied propaganda leaflets. After the mysterious death of Pathet Lao general Phomma Douangmala in 1970, the C.I.A. claimed that the North Vietnamese had murdered the general and then left his body unburied. In addition, loudspeaker aircraft flew over Pathet Lao sites playing ghost music (dirges) and a message allegedly in the voice of the dead general.  

Robert J. Kodosky attacks these campaigns in Psychological Operations American Style – the Joint United States Public Affairs Office, Vietnam and Beyond: Lexington Books, Lanham, MD, 2007. He feels that they were misguided and indicate a belief by the American government that the Vietnamese people were backward and superstitious. He says in part:

Americans generated products devised according to the stereotypes they harbored about the Vietnamese as a primitive people motivated primarily by their primitive belief systems. The bombarded their enemies in the field with “weird, electronic cacophonies” that aimed to “raise terrifying images of forest demons” among combatants they perceived as “superstitious terrorists.”

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Chieu Hoi Symbol 

Songs were also used in major campaigns like the Chieu Hoi (Open Arms) program. In an attempt to get the Viet Cong guerrillas to return to the National Government a Chieu Hoi theme song was written and played to the Viet Cong. It started with the lyrics, “Bird, fly home to your warm nest.” The dove was used as an invitation to the Viet Cong to come back home with loved ones. The Vietnamese believed that the birds always returned to their nest. Hence, the campaign added a symbol of the white dove (a universal symbol of peace) flying toward the fire, which to the Vietnamese represents the warmth of family, homecoming and reunion. 

The Government of Vietnam also supported Cultural Drama Teams. They went out into the general population and acted and sang to the people in an attempt to build their loyalty toward the Republic. Thomas C. Sorensen tells us more about the special JUSPAO teams in The Word War, Harper & Row, N.Y., 1968:  

JUSPAO helped train six-man Van Tac Vu (Cultural Drama Service) troupes and assisted in the production of their material. The entertainers - among them, attractive actresses unaccustomed to hardship - traveled in black pajamas commonly worn by peasants, and lived with the villagers as they moved around the countryside, performing twenty or more shows a month. The troupes sang patriotic songs ("Vietnam, Vietnam" and "Our House"), amused and indoctrinated the peasantry with primitive dramas about villainous Viet Cong and heroic South Vietnamese soldiers and officials, and off stage distributed medicines, seed, food, and pamphlets, and helped at chores ranging from repairing damaged buildings to bathing infants. 

The Department of the Army Contact Team in Vietnam Study entitled Employment of US Army Psychological Operations Units in Vietnam, dated 7 June 1969 says: 

Cultural Drama shows were extremely effective mediums for dissemination of PSYOP messages to rural target audiences in the Republic of Vietnam according to PSYOP leaders. There were 36 Cultural Drama Teams conducting operations within the provinces providing entertainment in the form of songs, dramas, dances and magic shows to audiences in the villages and hamlets. The objectives of the Cultural Drama Teams were to achieve a spiritual identification with the rural masses, to win their favor and to establish a channel of communication between the masses and the GVN.

The teams used PSYOP as part of their cultural drama shows to support various government programs and activities. The teams accomplished this task by providing entertainment. Each performance lasted approximately one and a half hours and included modern and traditional songs, magic shows, dances stories and skits. PSYOP themes of virtually all the material was politically oriented, e.g., “Chieu Hoi,” nation building, the anti-communist effort, social reforms and elections.

John R, Campbell, a civilian psychological warfare advisor in Vietnam in 1965 was the Director of Cultural Drama Teams from 1966-1967. He says about this program in Are we Winning? Are they Winning?- A Civilian Advisor’s Reflections on Wartime Vietnam, Author House, 2004:

I ran 15 teams (and they literally had to run every 24 hours to stay ahead of the Viet Cong) of Vietnamese entertainers throughout the whole of South Vietnam’s countryside. We taught children pro-government songs and they in turn innocently serenaded us with their well-rehearsed pro-Viet Cong songs…We were told repeatedly that they liked our show much better than the similar roving VC propaganda teams because theirs were obligatory and filled with dull and serious rote ideology.

Monta Osborne of JUSPAO also mentioned the teams:

One day the Vietnamese lad who heads up our Cultural Drama program came to me and said, in effect: “Mr. Osborne, you are the real head of the Van Tac Vu teams, but you have never gone with any of the teams on their trips. The teams think that you should make at least one trip out to a village with them. Otherwise, their morale will suffer and the program will suffer.”

Shortly thereafter I went with one of our teams to a location about fifty miles from Saigon. At a certain point we moved from jeeps to small boats and rowed for some miles up a river to a remote village. During the afternoon the team erected an improvised stage for the evening performance. The young men of the team helped clean up the village, dug an irrigation ditch and built a small bridge across a creek. The young women of the team called on the women of the village, identified the ailing, instructed the women on how they could obtain medical attention, and delivered some medical supplies. At about dark the entertainment started, with the singing of Vietnamese folk songs, dancing and skits. The skits all had anti–Viet Cong overtones.

I was, of course, the only American in the village; in fact, there probably were no other Americans within fifty miles. But nothing untoward occurred. We slept all night in the village, and next morning returned to our boats and paddled back down the little river. Later I repeated this experience a couple of times.

The PSYOP Guide also mentions Culture Drama teams: 

This group, made up of all types of entertainers, provides culture drama shows for Vietnamese military primarily in the Capital Military District. Organic to each POLWAR Battalion in the four Corps is a culture Platoon which provides entertainment throughout the Corps area in the form of songs, dramas, dances and similar activities. In the remote areas, these platoons may provide the only source of entertainment for the people. 

Kodosky says about the teams:

…to rally Vietnamese to support the RVN, they dispatched “rural spirit” drama troupes to villages that set about “maligning Red China and Ho Chi Minh” by interspersing “propaganda skits” with classical Vietnamese ballads and “boogie woogie.”

In regard to other JUSPAO campaigns he adds:

JUSPAO put in motion and old fashioned bread and circus routine that included a specially constructed showboat that operated on canals and rivers…In one or two night holdovers at stops along the water near villages, the drama teams gave a long performance consisting of traditional and anti-Viet Cong songs, together with movies and loudspeaker broadcasts of certain programs taped from Radio Saigon broadcasts.

J Ellen Gainer says in Imperialism and Theatre, Routledge, 1995:

During the Vietnam War the National Liberation front and the Viet Cong were able to draw on the long history of Vietnamese theatre to develop extensive culture-drama programs, which had itinerate groups of performers travel from one hamlet or village to the next, educating the people, spreading the word on communism, and calling for resistance against the South Vietnamese and United States armies.

JUSPAO was so concerned about the impact of North Vietnamese and Viet Cong theatre troupes that it began to imitate them, promoting several theatrical performing groups siding with the South Vietnamese and the Americans. Among these, the Van Tac Vu cultural drama teams engaged in "cultural seed planting" and served as a uniquely credible means of communications between the government and the people in a rural society where word of mouth and face-to-face discussion remain the major means of communication.

JUSPAO Field Memorandum 57 dated 5 August 1968 is entitled, Organization and Operation of U.S. Supported Culture-Drama Teams. The American memorandum does give the Communists credit. Some of the comments are in part:

Culture-drama entertainment in rural hamlets is a traditional expression of culture in Vietnam. Roaming culture-drama teams began to operate in the days of the Chinese domination and the tradition has continued through modern times. Because of the widespread familiarity of the peasant with culture-drama teams and the wide acceptance of this traditional culture form, the communists seized upon the concept and developed it into a PSYOP weapon.

During recent years the government of Vietnam with support from U.S. organizations has employed culture-drama teams to assist in accomplishments of its objectives. The most successful has been the Van Tac Vu program, which over the past two years has operated from 13 to 20 teams.

A culture-drama team is a group of young and talented artists, organized to conduct PSYOP programs through the use of entertainment.

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Van Tac Vu Magazine #11

In order to keep the program going, JUSPAO printed a monthly Van Tac Vu magazine filled with material such as songs, poems, plays and skits. In addition, they trained and supported a national demonstration team available for performances or training upon request. They taught the teams to perform a show lasting about an hour or more and containing songs, a magic show, skits, plays and humorous tales. Much of the PSYOP was aimed at children and was called "cultural seed planting." In order to identify with the people, the teams were also expected to take part in some manual labor in each hamlet, sweep out market places, repair fences, wash babies, etc. The teams were given "Spiritual Guidelines:"

When you come, make the people happy.
When you leave, make the people miss you.
When you stay make the people love you.

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Nguyen Van Be 

Numerous patriotic, political and emotional songs were written by the Allies to bolster their propaganda campaigns. In one case, a Viet Cong member named Nguyen Van Be was taken by the Americans. The enemy, believing he was dead built a major campaign around his brave death, stating that he had killed numerous Americans before falling. In an attempt to destroy the credibility of the Communists the Americans built a campaign around the fact that Nguyen Be was alive and had returned to the National Government. According to Robert W. Chandler, War of Ideas – The U.S. Propaganda Campaign in Vietnam, A Westview Special Study, Boulder, CO, 1981: 

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 GVN) friends. 

Thomas William Hoffer mentioned Nguyen Van Be in an article entitled “Nguyen Van Be as Propaganda Hero of the North and South Vietnamese Governments,” published in The Southern Speech Communication Journal, Volume 40, 1974. He says: 

A tabloid newspaper with the hero's name was produced and distributed nationwide. Culture-drama teams, groups of Vietnamese singers and dramatists touring the villages, carried with them 10,000 song sheets espousing “The truth about Nguyen Van Be.” Numerous radio programs featuring Be, his family, and three other defectors were broadcast over VTVN, the Vietnamese government owned and operated network. Plans were laid for a weekly five-minute radio report by Be, reporting his experiences, along with commentary on Vietnamese developments and reactions from the presses of other countries not directly involved in the conflict. 

Another PSYOP campaign was called “the Sacred Sword of the Patriots League.” This was an attempt by the Allies to make North Vietnamese citizens believe that there was an enclave of pro-South Vietnam patriots on their own soil. The alleged patriots had their own radio station and broadcast to the North. An Army Major who was assigned as to PSYOP from March 1971 to spring 1972 said: 

Well, the radio programs, the music, the messages continued constantly. We continued to do leaflet drops in various places. They were a portion of the mail operation although not any­thing dramatic and of course the radio insertions kept on going until we ran out of radios.  

It is interesting to note that although the war and civil strife have been over for almost four decades, the Vietnamese Communists are still carefully watching music in their country. In 2012, two Vietnamese musicians were jailed for their protest songs. The N.Y. Times said in part on 3 November 2012:

A court in Vietnam has sentenced two musicians to prison for writing and distributing protest songs, The Associated Press reported. The musicians, Vo Minh Tri and Tran Vu Anh Binh, were convicted on Tuesday of spreading propaganda against the state after a half-day trial in Ho Chi Minh City. Mr. Tri received four years in prison, Mr. Binh six. Both were accused of posting songs on a Web site of Patriotic Youth, an opposition group based overseas. Mr. Tri, 34, who uses the stage name Viet Khang, has criticized the government in his songs for not taking a harder line against China in territorial disputes. Mr. Binh, 37, recorded the song “Courage in the Prison” in support of an imprisoned blogger, Nguyen Van Hai. The song urges people to mount nonviolent protests.

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The Tet Tree 

The Tet New Year’s celebration was a major holiday in Vietnam. The Allies produced leaflets and songs in an attempt to build loyalty to the South among its own citizens, and to cause homesickness among the enemy. An example of the importance of the annual Tet psychological operation campaign is clearly stated in the 18 July 1969 JUSPAO report on U.S. preparations. Some of the comments are: 

The Tet Chieu Hoi campaign has become the largest single annual psychological operation in Vietnam…Preparations for the 1969 campaign began in September 1968 and culminated in the delivery in early 1969 of 72 media products…Ranging from leaflets and posters to cartoon booklets and magazines. Later, fifteen additional items, including eight tapes for radio and loudspeaker broadcast were added to the JUSPAO load.  

At the same time, JUSPAO’s Cultural Drama Team Office recorded two original popular songs and one classical piece for Tet use. Song sheets were made up for Tet distribution and the recordings were reproduced as audio tapes…The JUSPAO plant in Saigon, 7th PSYOP Group in Okinawa, Regional Service Center (RSC) Manila…began to deliver the growing mass of materials. One shipment alone, arriving by sea from the RSC. Manila in late December contained 72 tons of printed material.  

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The Spring Letter

The 8-page song booklet depicts a Vietnamese woman mailing her husband a letter during the 1969 Tet holiday. The booklet was printed November 1968 and coded 2952. It targeted friends and relatives of the Viet Cong as well as the guerrillas themselves, using radio and loud speaker broadcasts. It was designed to be handed out by Armed Propaganda teams, and other U.S. and Vietnamese organizations. A mass printing of this booklet for airdrop was to be prepared by the 7th PSYOP Group. The letter is depicted inside and says in part:

Do you remember the day we met? Our country was peaceful without the ravage of warfare. We married and hoped to enjoy our eternal dreams. You abandoned our native village and broke our conjugal bond. O my man, where are you now? You have been deprived of family warmth and the happiness of spring for so long. Come back here to rebuild our love of the former wonderful days. The country is awaiting you.

There is a song inside the booklet entitled “Come Home” (Anh hay ve) that tells of a wife pleading with her husband to come home by rallying in the Chieu Hoi program so that their family can be together again.

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The Waiting Spring

The song sheet has a full-color cover depicting a Viet Cong soldier returning home to his loving daughter and mother. Notice that the bushes are all in bloom reminiscent of the Tet tree. It was combined with “the spring letter” above and produced by the 7th PSYOP Group in November 1968 coded 2951. The song is in the form of a tango and some of the lyrics are:

Spring is coming with all it beautiful color and hues.
But the shadow of the man who departed years ago is nowhere in sight.
He abandoned his village for the cause of struggle, and has strayed into a gloomy world.
He lives in agonies and sorrows.
O men who came to liberate last spring, you have sown hatred and illness among the people.
The marks of destruction from the last spring are still there, how can you not awake?
Come back here for the spring will bring you love.
O misled ones, come back to reconstruct the South.

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Leaflet 4621 

This leaflet was developed on 20 January 1973 to inform the North Vietnamese troops of the imminent ceasefire. It bears an intricate Tet design on the front. The back is a song sheet with the title LETTER TO THE FRONT. Some of the lyrics are:

The late night wind is conveying sorrow
Sitting here in our home so far away from you my dear husband,
Because of the war you left the North for the Southern battlefield.
Year after year you longed for home and missed your loved ones.
Peace is coming. Please come back my dear
We will be side-by side at our birthplace…at our home.
Come back to me my dead husband…peace has come.

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Song Sheet 1685 - Let us build up the New Hamlets 

This Marching song is designed to inspire the Rural Development Cadre to develop the hamlets as a means of serving the people and help in transforming the nation. Printed by the Joint U.S. Public Affairs Office (JUSPAO) 

In 1961, the Government of South Vietnam along with several U.S. advisors began the Strategic Hamlet Program, later revitalized as the New Life Hamlet Program, and finally revised into the Secure Hamlet Program. The new plan called for smaller communities (less than a thousand residents) erected on both existing and newly developed settlements. The GVN wanted to create a new infrastructure with the intention that the Vietnamese peasants would come to identify Diem and his regime as the legitimate government. In order to popularize the new Hamlets, songs such as the one depicted above were written and distributed among the people. 

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Song Sheet 1827 

Another special PSYOP theme was song sheets. The Vietnamese must have loved to sing because there were dozens of different leaflets prepared and disseminated that gave the words and music to pro-Government patriotic songs. This 8 x 10-inch leaflet was developed in April 1967 and distributed to the people to motivate them to support their Government. Some of the text is: 

VIETNAM 

Viet Nam, Viet Nam
Heard since our cradle
“Viet-Nam” two words
Formed on our lips;
Viet Nam, our motherland;

Viet Nam, Viet Nam
A people’s name;
“Viet-Nam” the two words
Two final words of a dying man…

Other propaganda song sheets that were prepared by the Joint United States Public Affairs Office (JUSPAO) and regularly distributed to the citizens by air or hand had titles such as:

Leaflet 1685 dated January 1967 is the Marching Song of the Revolutionary Development Cadre and is designed to inspire the Revolutionary Cadre to develop the hamlets and help in transforming the nation. Leaflet 1686 dated January 1967 is entitled It is Better to Sing Often than Well, a Revolutionary Development Cadre song designed to inspire them to work with and for the people and to develop the nation. Leaflet 1687 dated January 1967 is entitled Let us put on the Black Coats and is a patriotic song for the Revolutionary Development Cadre. Leaflet 1688 dated January 1967 is entitled Bowl of rice, bowl of sweat, bowl of blood and is a Revolutionary Development Cadre song to inspire respect for the farmers and a sense of duty to the nation by calling attention to the significance of rice to the people. Leaflet 1913 dated July 1967 is entitled A Cadre’s Love and is an inspirational song for the Revolutionary Development Cadre telling them of their love and devotion for the Vietnamese people, the Vietnamese soldiers, and their country. Leaflet 1914 dated July 1967 is Patriotic Folksong, a song designed to stimulate the patriotic feeling of Vietnamese citizens. Leaflet 1915 dated July 1967 features the song Self Defense Militia. Leaflet 2352 dated December 1967 is entitled Countryside Upheaval, a song developed in support of Revolutionary Development program advising the people that it is time to rid themselves of the Viet Cong, the cause of their suffering.

Leaflet 2363 dated January 1968 is entitled Months and months of waiting and is a song sheet with an attractive 4-color cover designed to stimulate the homesickness of the Viet Cong and inspire them to return to the Government of Vietnam. Leaflet 2364 dated January 1968 is entitled Spring without you and is an attractive song sheet designed to stimulate the desire to return home on the part of the Viet Cong. A double song sheet printed in January 1969 and coded 3023 features the Vietnamese National Anthem on one side and Vietnam-Vietnam on the other side.

There are many more propaganda songs we could mention, but this gives a good idea of how popular they were as PSYOP themes during the Vietnam War.

Some of the wartime records indicate the vast number of song sheets prepared and disseminated as propaganda.   For instance, the Field Development Division of the Joint U.S. Public Affairs Office reports that between 1 December and 15 December 1968 they produced 3 different song sheets with a total of 600,500 pieces.

We mentioned the use of music to draw fire. There are numerous comments regarding this ploy. During Operation Lam Son 19 (the Multidivisional incursion into the Laotian Panhandle) the Allies utilized such tactics:  

Flying in Army helicopters they played taped music…over enemy territory. The purpose…was to draw enemy fire in order to pinpoint the location of the Viet Cong on the ground. Orbiting gunships would then swoop down for the kill…The heavy metal rock music selection by Iron Butterfly was the most effective noise for drawing enemy fire.   

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Vietnam War C47 with Loudspeakers

A PSYOP Lieutenant recalls other such missions: 

I remember when the PSYOP squadron I worked for got shot up particularly bad one night while playing Robert Brown's "Fire" to the Viet Cong over the big University 1000-Watt speaker. The next night they went up again but “Spooky” flew with them. Our speaker plane flew a wide orbit playing "Fire" again, and Spooky flew opposing orbit. It was night and the speaker plane was lit up like a Christmas tree to draw attention. Spooky was blacked out. The enemy opened fire with everything they had. Spooky opened up with all three miniguns on at high cyclic rate and mysteriously all of the ground fire suddenly ceased.

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Viet Cong Song Sheet “Liberation”

The Viet Cong issued small patriotic song sheets to many of their members to raise their morale and motivate them to fight on. This small song sheet, about 2.5 x 4 inches when folded, depicted marching troops on the cover and three pages of lyrics. The song “Liberation” talks of the hate of the people for their oppressors and how the debt must be paid in blood. The people are like a tide from the west sea and must come together to fight the Americans under their majestically waving flag which will lead to a victory which will last forever.

Of course, it was not only the Allies that used music in Vietnam. The Communist use of music is discussed in the 7th PSYOP Group publication Communist Propaganda Trends, Issue No.608. The publication states that two song books were issued in 1966 in Hanoi. The first, “Liberating the South,” featured songs used by the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam; the second, “Vietnamese Songs,” are familiar tunes from North Vietnam.

Some of the titles of the songs in the first book are; “Ready to Struggle,” “Strike them accurately,” “O South, we are ready,” and “Ready! Fire!” As might be expected, much of the lyrics are intensely patriotic and militaristic. Examples are:

Our sea is not their pond…don’t let them soil our air…shoot them down…annihilate them...let us smash their aggressive scheme…we will force them to pay…let’s rise up and defend our bright sky…All will meet again in one home, the day of great victory.

The North Vietnamese songbook consists of 20 songs, not a single one dedicated to peace:

The songs are bulging with Communist ideas of self-reliance; dependence on Party leadership; the glorious joys of construction, whether in town or on a farm; and the intrepid qualities of Communist guerrillas.

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On the Spring-Winter Firing Line

Here is an example of Viet Cong song found by U.S. Troops and turned in to U.S. Intelligence. The lyrics are long and violent and I shall just quote some of the more interesting lines:

Wave upon wave, our armed forces are marching forward.
Guerrillas, youths, civilian workers, combatants; on the bright firing line.
We foil Johnson’s deceptive plots and shatter them.
The more the U.S. aggressors are brought in, the more they are we annihilated.
We repeatedly strike the U.S – puppet troops everywhere.
Wiping out cruel enemies, we resolutely win back our sovereignty…

Was music really important as a form of propaganda? The Vietnamese Communists thought so. Vietnam researcher and University of California (Berkeley) Library Assistant Steve Denney points out that numerous communist authorities and newspapers constantly criticized the old music of South Vietnam:

On the first day of South Vietnam's “liberation,” May 1, 1975, the Military Management Committee issued a communiqué ordering the temporary suspension of all kinds of books, newspapers, magazines and other printed material owned during the period…The music was criticized by authorities because it was said to be non-political, expressing ambivalence, a sense of art for art's sake. The music is generally described as sad, singing songs of lost love, and therefore encouraging listeners to look at life through melancholy eyes, rather than the positive view of the Party. Such music serves to create an antagonism between the individual and the collective that gradually leads to attitudes of pessimism and dissatisfaction and eventually to opposition against the collective…the music creates within the listener a feeling of beauty, a carefree feeling not bound by any political ties; in substance it hypnotizes listeners and draws them from the orb of the national and class struggles.

Provoking sexual desires is a characteristic of all of these old types of songs. Yes, even religious music: Some songs deal with male and female physiology, rather explicitly and describe pleasurable feelings and appealing features of women. Others are more discreet and sometimes even mention the Lord, God, reincarnation and so forth, but their lyrics and the manner in which they are presented bring sexual desires to mind... They entice listeners to shirk obligations, detach themselves from reality, turn their backs on our people's life of labor and combat, regret the past and idolize imperialism.

Speaking at a May Day meeting in Ho Chi Minh City, Vo Van Kiet, a high-ranking Communist official, complained of youth songs, which “through spontaneous development, have been made by a number of elements to resemble the youth music of the puppet regime and cater to the extremely egotistic tastes of remnants of the old society who are trying to rear their heads. They entice listeners to shirk obligations, detach themselves from reality, turn their backs on our people's life of labor and combat, regret the past and idolize imperialism.”

GRENADA

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Blackhawk Helicopters

On 13 March 1979, Maurice Bishop overthrew the legitimate government of Grenada and established a communist society. Grenada began construction of a 10,000 foot international airport with the help of Cuba. There was speculation that this airfield could be used to land MiG fighters, threatening South America and the southern United States. In addition, there were about 600 American medical students studying in Grenada. President Reagan called the leaders of the new government “a brutal group of leftist thugs.” On 25 October 1983, American troops landed on the beaches of Grenada assisted in part by members of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States. They were opposed by Grenadian and Cuban military units and military advisors from the Soviet Union, North Korea, East Germany, Bulgaria, and Libya.

Sergeant Jim Peterson, who served with A Company, 2nd Battalion of the 504 Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, vividly remembers returning to Salinas Airport with his unit when a UH-60 Blackhawk slowly flew overhead playing Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries from what appeared to be a loudspeaker above the wheels.  

This was one aircraft loudspeaker broadcast that, contrary to what some may have thought, was not a sanctioned PSYOP broadcast, but rather the actions of an individual UH-60 Blackhawk pilot.  The unknown pilot was apparently motivated by the classic scene from the Vietnam War movie Apocalypse Now.  

I can't say what effect, if any, that selection of music had on the Cuban soldiers, but according to Jim Peterson the musical display was well received by the US Army and Air Force personnel in the area, and boosted their spirits.

PANAMA

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PSYOP Loudspeaker team

In the fall of 1989, Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega was barely clinging to power. Tensions increased when election results were voided and some voters were killed or beaten in the streets. Noriega's Dignity Battalions (irregular paramilitary units) also made a point of physically beating opposition leaders. According to the authors of Operation Just Cause, Lexington Books, NY, 1991, The U.S. Army Southern Command had logged more than one thousand incidents of harassment by the Panamanian forces since 1988. Among them, the wife of a Marine corporal was wounded when a PDF member fired a shotgun through her window. In another incident, two school buses full of American dependent children were detained by the PDF. On 16 December 1989, Panamanian soldiers killed United States Marine First Lieutenant Robert Paz. Paz and three other Southern Command officers, traveling in a private automobile off duty in civilian clothes and unarmed, were stopped by a PDF roadblock near the Comandancia (the PDF's central headquarters complex) after getting lost on the way to a downtown restaurant. The same night the PDF detained and assaulted a Navy Lieutenant and his wife. 

The campaign to free Panama of Noriega and his dignity battalions was named Operation Just Cause. The invasion took place on 20 December 1989. The six major mission tasks were to Protect U.S. lives and key sites and facilities, Capture and deliver Noriega to competent authority, Neutralize PDF forces, Neutralize PDF command and control, Support establishment of a U.S.-recognized government in Panama, and Restructure the PDF.  

As resistance crumbled, President Bush offered a one million dollar reward for the capture of Noriega. On Christmas Eve, the general entered a Toyota sedan flying the papal flag and fled to the Vatican nunciature (embassy) where he requested refuge and sanctuary. One of the most famous episodes of the campaign happened during the period that Noriega hid in the Vatican embassy. The United States PSYOP troops surrounded the embassy and played loud music. The newspapers and magazines all believed that this was some kind of subtle sonic torture. They had a field day. The Associated Press said: 

These guys are the fingernails on the blackboard…broadcast U.S. propaganda from bullhorns and blast rock music at the Vatican Embassy where Manuel Noriega was taking refuge, hoping to unnerve him. 

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The Washington Post News Service said: 

With U.S. troops at the Vatican embassy continuing to wage psychological warfare against Noriega by blaring rock music over loudspeakers and greeting him with a hearty "Gooood Morning Panama," the general's small circle of supporters shrank further…. 

Newsday critic Marvin Kitman said: 

During the following days, what is surely the most ridiculous psychological operation in U.S. history took place outside the embassy. High-power loudspeakers blasted rock music at the building. 

What has amazed me over the years is the number of authors and researchers that have written and asked for the music played during the siege. I receive about two such requests a year. I have no idea why that is so interesting, but must point out that there was no special selection of particularly awful mind-numbing music selected by the psywarriors to quickly drive Noriega into the open. In fact, just regular popular music of the times was played; whatever the troops had in their personal possession or whatever was requested or played by the local radio stations. 

The military radio station has stated that prior to the 26th they had played various requests from the troops; the Marines asked for “Welcome to the Jungle,” the canine handlers requested Billy Idol’s “Flesh for Fantasy,” and the Special Forces wanted the Door’s “Strange Days.” Other calls were for patriotic songs like Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.” and hard rock songs like “We’re Not Gonna Take It” by Twisted Sister.  

On the 25th the station played Christmas music. 

On the 27th with Noriega now located the station received a call from an individual identifying himself as a PSYOP trooper from Ft. Bragg. It is not clear if that PSYOP team member requested specific songs or simply informed the station that their music was being blared over loudspeakers outside the Papal building. The end result was that for the next day or two the station played a lot of rock and roll. The requested play list is at least 95 songs long and contains such favorites as; “Born to run,” “Bring down the hammer,” “Dancing in the Streets,” “Hang ‘Em High,” “I Fought the Law and the Law Won,” “Judgment Day,” “Nowhere to Run,” “Run Like Hell,” “The Party’s Over,” “They’re Coming to Take Me Away,” “Wanted Dead or Alive” and “Your Time is Gonna Come.” 

By the 29th the station had ceased playing requests and returned to playing the “Top Forty” From Billboard’s “Top 100.” 

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PSYOP Teams outside of Vatican Embassy

A report written at the time of the Noriega surrender stated: 

SCN (Southern Command Network) Radio, which had been broadcasting for the Army Broadcasting Service since 1941, increased its FM schedule at the start of the invasion on December 20, 1989. It was primarily on the air to support troop morale by taking requests and playing Armed Forces Radio, CNN, and ABC programming, but on December 27 after Noriega took refuge in the Vatican Embassy, PSYOPS began blaring it through mobile loudspeakers outside of the embassy compound. Noriega was known to love opera and hated rock music with a passion, so U.S. soldiers began making requesting songs that had a “musical message” for (him)... either by the words or the song title. Songs broadcast included such titles as "I Fought the Law and the Law Won," "If I Had a Rocket Launcher," "You're Messin' with a SOB," "Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down," and "Nowhere to Run."  

The Operation Just Cause After-Action Report says: 

When Noriega found his way into the Papal Nunciature, the song requests were almost totally aimed in his direction. Christmas Day, only Christmas music was played, but people still called in asking for musical requests with a message. The following day, the “requests” were played and the phones were constantly ringing with some very imaginative requests…Realizing the network was not really serving its audience well, it went back to a mixed music format and remained so. As a result of the attention SCN received over the music programming, the station received requests for interviews from about 45 radio and television stations, magazines and newspapers. During each of these interviews DJs repeatedly stressed that PSYOP is not a part of the AFRTS charter.

So, although it is interesting to read all these comments about special music played to drive Noriega out into the open, we know that the loud music had nothing to do with harassing or chasing Noriega out of the Embassy. The noise was simply to allow delicate negotiations to continue inside without being overheard by the press, waiting outside by the hundreds with their parabolic microphones and dishes aimed at the embassy windows. In fact, General Marc Cisneros (Commander of the U.S. Army South) and the highest-ranking Latino in the Army played a major role in the negotiations and was the man who talked General Manuel Noriega out of the embassy. 

Noriega surrendered to U.S. authorities on 3 January 1990. He was transported to Miami, Florida, where he was tried in 1992 and convicted of drug trafficking, money laundering, and eight counts of racketeering. He received a 40-year prison sentence and is presently in a federal prison in Miami.  

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David Koresh

Before we leave the discussion of music to bring forth the surrender of a suspected criminal we should briefly mention David Koresh, the Prophet of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. In 1993, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms raided the compound in an attempt to arrest Koresh and free the members of his cult who were believed to be prisoners. Four agents and six Davidians were killed. A 51-day standoff ensued, during which it has been reported that the authorities placed bright lights outside the compound at night to make it difficult for those inside to sleep and played loud music that included Tibetan Buddhist chants, bagpipes, and songs by Alice Cooper and Nancy Sinatra. They apparently played Sinatra’s “These Boots are made for Walking” over and over again in an attempt to force the cultists to surrender.

You keep playing where you shouldn't be playing.
You keep saying that you'll never get burned, ha!
I've just found me a brand-new box of matches -- yeah.
And what he knows, you ain't had time to learn.
These shoes are made for walkin'.
And that is what they'll do.
And one of these days these shoes are gonna walk all over you.

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The Branch Davidian Compound Burns

The music did not work and when the FBI Hostage Rescue Team finally lost patience and attacked the compound on 19 April 1993 the building caught fire killing 76 of the cult members, 23 of them children under the age of 17.

OPERATION DESERT STORM

In 1990 the United Nations passed a resolution that allowed military force to be used against Saddam Hussein to drive his occupying troops out of Kuwait. A Coalition was formed that was able to free Kuwait after several months of aerial warfare and 100 hours of ground warfare. Once again we find young American troops using music as they went into battle.

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Desert Storm Humvee with Loudspeaker

There are at least three cases where PSYOP troops used music during Desert Shield/Desert Storm. During the initial ground attack across the Saudi-Iraqi border, the American armor advanced north through the sand berms to PSYOP loudspeaker broadcasts of “The Ride of the Valkyries,” reminiscent of the movie “Apocalypse Now.” The PSYOP loudspeaker unit was attached to broadcast surrender messages, but the armor commander thought it was better used as a morale booster on the initial breakthrough. A day later the United States Marines crossed the Saudi-Kuwait barrier as PSYOP loudspeakers played “The Marine Hymn.” At the end of the brief war, a PSYOP team searched for a suitable victory song to play as the guns fell silent. Perhaps the signature song of Operation Desert Storm was Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.” but it was unavailable. As a result, the final song of the war played by PSYOP loudspeakers was James Brown’s ‘I feel good.”

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Leaflet C02

Early in the deployment four different Coalition propaganda leaflets were prepared on cardboard. The leaflets are very handsome and sturdy, but it was found that they did not disseminate well when air-dropped. The leaflets show all the flags of the coalition nations on one side in full color. The first airdrop of 113,000 leaflets was on the night of 12 January 1991. One of the four Coalition propaganda leaflets used music as part of its theme. The card depicts an Iraqi soldier carrying Saddam Hussein on his back. A sign reads, “Shatt al Arab.” A black crow on the card is an evil omen. The text is a parody of popular Iraqi song telling of a man's difficulties with his love:

I crossed the Shatt al Arab as you wished, and I obeyed your orders. I feel death at the door, and I feel I am at my last breath, and I sigh deeply.

When I first showed this leaflet to my Arab interpreter he began humming the tune. He recognized it immediately.

In early October and November of 1990 the Coalition broadcast to the Iraqis utilizing vehicular mounted transmitters. The 4th PSYOP broadcast initiative  consisted of Voice of the Gulf transmissions, which broadcast 18 hours per day on AM and FM frequencies.  The  station's format consisted primarily of regional  Arabic  music. The abundance of music was designed to hold Iraqi and Kuwaiti target audiences' attention, with only periodic interruption with selected script read by a native Kuwaiti broadcaster. 

I am a lifetime member of the veterans of Foreign Wars and in the March 2012 issue of VFW there is an article entitled “Iraq and Afghanistan: The iPOD Wars” by Kelly von Lunen. In the article Master Sergeant C.J. Grisham states that he wore out a Megadeath tape during Operation Desert Storm. He wished that iPODs had been available in that war. He did have one during Iraqi Freedom and played it every time he went into battle.

 

HAITI

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Colorful Reggae T-shirt

In December 1990, the people of Haiti elected former priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide as President with 67% of the vote. He took office in February 1991, but the military overthrew him in September of the same year. In June 1993, the United Nations passed Resolution 970 which imposed an oil and arms embargo aimed at forcing the Haitian military to the negotiating table. As a direct result of the embargo, over 21,000 Haitians left the poverty-stricken country, many attempting to illegally enter the United States.

Plans were made for either a U.S. military invasion or a peaceful entry into Haiti. The campaign was named Operation Uphold Democracy. Almost 4000 American paratroopers were on their way to invade Haiti on 19 September 1994 when the Haitian military lost its nerve and agreed to a peaceful transition of government.

The major American forces involved in the peaceful occupation were from the XVIII Airborne Corps and the 10th Mountain Division. The PSYOP units were part of a Joint Psychological Operations Task Force. They included parts of the 4th PSYOP Group, 2nd United States Army Reserve PSYOP Group, 1st PSYOP Battalion, and the 9th PSYOP Battalion. One of the more interesting aspects of the PSYOP campaign is mentioned in the United States Army Special Operations Command Historical Monograph: Operation Uphold/Restore/Maintain Democracy: the role of Army Special Operations, November 1991-June 1995. It says in part:

Loudspeaker teams flew 67 missions in support of ground operations. Using Blackhawk helicopters from the 10th Mountain Division as their support platform, the messages broadcast varied from surrender appeals during the seizure of weapons caches to the very popular reggae tune “Up with Peace.” The song itself proved especially effective in conveying the message that Aristide's arrival meant a return to peace and tranquility. The Joint Psychological Operations Task Force had contracted for the writing and production of both the lyrics and the music for song. In village after village where PSYOP helicopters announced their arrival with the playing of “Up With Peace,” crowds gathered to listen.

OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM

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Afghan listening to radio broadcast

After the American attack on Afghanistan in 2001 in retaliation for the al-Qaida terrorist action against the World Trade Center, it was discovered that the Taliban had forbidden music and dancing. The Coalition immediately made the decision to play music from the various PSYOP aerial and ground radio stations in an attempt to win the trust and gratitude of the Afghan people. The campaign is discussed by Peter J. Smyczek in “Regulating the battlefield of the future: the legal limitations on the conduct of psychological operations under public international law,” Air Force Law Review, winter 2005:

American soldiers often employ creative tactics such as using loud and aggressive American pop-culture at the tactical level to frighten or intimidate enemy fighters. During the first ground campaign in Afghanistan, American soldiers played the heavy metal song "Let the Bodies Hit the Floor" by the heavy metal band Drowning Pool as they were being deployed via helicopter.

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The EC-130 Command Solo

Interim President Karzai had told the Americans very early that their broadcasts needed to be better. ARSOF in Afghanistan notes:

The Pashtun leader knew that radio broadcasts in various dialects would have a greater effect than leaflets. He had listened to the programs broadcast by the Air Force EC- 130 Commando Solo aircraft and told MAJ Barstow that the music was very effective, but the BBC and VOA had better-quality programs. Karzai urged Barstow [Major, C Company, 9th Psychological Operations Battalion] to make the messages more forceful.

The radio specialists among the American psychological operations teams kept working on the problem and trying to make their product better and more palatable to the Afghans. A number of articles in the Newspaper Stars and Stripes seem to indicate that their dedication to excellence has paid off. The issue of 10 April 2002 discusses the initial PSYOP radio station:

Beginning in November 2001, a modified C-130 aircraft dubbed Commando Solo began blasting U.S. messages and local music on airwaves across Afghanistan.

U.S. planes also dropped tons of leaflets to market the informational radio programming to the Afghans. Tactical PSYOPS teams and nongovernmental organizations distributed nearly 5,000 radios to civilians across the country. On March 8, PSYOPS soldiers in Bagram and Kandahar went on the air. The eight-man team now broadcasts round the clock. 

Using hour long formats like commercial stations, news and information is broken up by blocks of Afghan music. And of course, the news is all good. What locals really like is the music, and they tell the team how the Taliban kept most music on the forbidden list. From Bagram, PSYOPS radio extends about 30 miles, and begins breaking up at the outskirts of Kabul. The short wave broadcast can reach the entire country depending on weather conditions.

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A member of the 8th Psychological Operations Battalion,
shows some of the Afghan music CDs that
the battalion's radio station from Kandahar Airfield.

The Stars and Stripes issue of 31 July 2002 points out that the 8th Psychological Operations Battalion is broadcasting Afghan music from the battalion's radio station at Kandahar Airfield. They regularly broadcast the music of Naghma & Mangal, Khaliq Aziz and Ahmed Zahir, some of hottest pop artists and musicians in Afghanistan. Some of the article says:

When the Taliban ruled, radios were forbidden. However, some people hid them in their house and huddled around at night to listen to the BBC or Pakistan programming. Soldiers with the 8th Psychological Operation Battalion operate the mobile 5,000-watt radio station — which has a range of about 20 miles — from a small group of tents. Ninety-percent of the programming is pure Afghan music, including some dance, contemporary and folk music.

Toby Keith wrote and sang a song called “The Taliban.” One American officer stated that he led an attack on an Afghanistan village playing the song from a loudspeaker on his humvee. Some of the lyrics are:

Now they attacked New York City cause they thought they could win
Said they would, stand and fight until the very bloody end
Mr. Bush got on the phone with Iraq and Iran and said "Now, you
sons-of-bitches you better not be doing any business with the Taliban"

So we prayed to Allah with all of our might
Until those big U.S. jets came flying one night
They dropped little bombs all over their holy land
And man you should have seen them run like rabbits, they ran…the Taliban

Preparing music that is emotionally and psychologically satisfying to a target audience is not as simple as it might seem. A review of some Army documents indicates that the United States PSYOP radio stations in Afghanistan constantly looked for feedback to improve its product. Early reports indicated that the speakers on the radio broadcasts sounded like “old men with bad Afghan accents.” Just as an attractive young lady might be added to a radio show in the USA as a “disk jockey,” PSYOP planners changed the Afghan radio line-up and added a young female.

The listeners also complained that the PSYOP music was too modern. I suppose it was like trying to capture the attention of older Americans with hard rock and rap music. The PSYOP planners went on a buying trip throughout Afghanistan and purchased more traditional folk music. This music had not been played on Afghan radio since before the Soviet invasion. The music brought the Afghans back to a happier time prior to the rule of the Taliban. The U.S. military discovered that the music helped the Afghan people to believe that better times were coming. This growing hope and faith in the future of Afghanistan was vital to later PSYOP efforts.

General Tommy Franks mentions hearing music in Afghanistan after the Coalition victory in his autobiography American Soldier, Harper-Collins Books, NY, 2004:

A young entrepreneur in a baseball cap stood at his packing crate kiosk peddling music cassettes. From the speakers of his boom box, a woman singer was belting out a soulful Pastun love song, accompanied by tabla drums and double-reed flutes.

The Taliban had banned music as a blasphemy. Now, they and their al Qaida allies were on the run, dead, or sitting in prison camps – and music had returned to the streets of Kabul.

“Sounds like freedom to me” I said.

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Afghan Poster

The importance of music to the Afghans can be seen in this poster produced by the 344th MISO Team (Military Information Support Operations – formerly PSYOP) in Kandahar. A happy Afghan is seen listening to the music broadcast over the Coalition radio station

Google News reported on 5 April 2010 that US troops were fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan with heavy metal and rock music. Karim Talbi stated that when insurgents fired on Coalition forces in Marjah, Helmand Province, an armored vehicle with powerful speakers blasted out country, heavy metal and rock music so loud it can be heard one mile away. Some of bands named in the news story were The Offspring, Metallica and Thin Lizzy.

A PSYOP Sergeant was quoted as saying: “The Taliban hate that music. Some locals complain but it's a way to force them to choose sides. It motivates the Marines as well.” Lieutenant Colonel Brian Christmas, the Commander of the US Marines in northern Marjah said he was unaware of the musical PSYOP. He thought it was inappropriate and vowed to put a stop to it.

The Taliban retaliate by handing out hand-written leaflets threatening to chop off residents' heads if they cooperate with foreign forces.

In 2010, the Associated Press reported that the Canadians were broadcasting from five small local radio stations in Kandahar Province called the Voice of Panjwaii. The station has been on air since June, broadcasting news, government announcements, weather and other programs throughout the district southwest of Kandahar city where Canadians have been concentrating their efforts in Afghanistan. About 80 per cent of Panjwaii residents have radios. Canadian soldiers have handed out an estimated 30,000 units over the past two year in the province. The article adds:

“Recently we started doing music requests” said Lt. Aaron Lesarge, “We do have a few people who call in every day to ask for the same songs. Local elders and mullahs come to the station to speak, as well as the district governor. There are quiz shows and the station has its own most-requested list of traditional Afghan songs, but by far the most popular program is the call-in show.”

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In 2011, more than 20 radio DJs in Paktika Province, and dozens more across the country, engaged in what the U.S. military considers a crucial operation, convincing residents in an area dominated by insurgents to embrace Afghan and NATO forces. They play hit Pashto ballads but never tell their listeners that they are broadcasting from studio on U.S. Army bases. Their job is to pause between Pakistani love songs and passages from the Koran to read about the heroism of Afghan and American forces, as well as the destruction wreaked by insurgents. In a region with one of the lowest literacy rates in the world, where the vast majority of families are unable to afford a television, 92 percent of Paktika residents listen to the radio every day.

OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM

The use of music as part of a PSYOP campaign was used again In Iraq. It is discussed by Peter J. Smyczek in “Regulating the battlefield of the future: the legal limitations on the conduct of psychological operations under public international law,” Air Force Law Review, winter 2005:

During the November 2004 battle of Fallujah, Marine Humvees with loudspeakers blasted the song “Back in Black,” by the heavy metal band AC/DC, during the fighting. There were also reports that the Americans “played the cavalry charge and loud sonar pings, along with the sounds of maniacal laughter and babies wailing.” Another tactic employed in the battle for Fallujah was disrupting the insurgent’s ability to rally their troops by playing high-pitched whines from loudspeakers whenever the insurgents issued their calls to arms over their own loudspeakers. These often ad hoc tactics are meant to frighten and disrupt the minds of the enemy and may be especially effective among certain cultures. For example, during interrogations of Iraqi fighters, American interrogators played the song "Enter Sandman" by the heavy metal group Metallica. The interrogators reported that this was an especially effective interrogation tool.

Speaking of Fallujah, Jonathan Pieslak quotes United States Army Master Sergeant C. J. Grisham in “The Music of War,” Army, February 2010:

That Eminem song “Go to Sleep” when we got to Fallujah was kind of our anthem, and before every mission we would blare that and we’d all scream the lyrics out. Crossing the border from Kuwait to Iraq, Metallica was the big push, and generally on the patrols, Metallica was a big patrol one…initially “Seek and Destroy,” “The Four Horsemen,” “One,” which is a great song and “Sanitarium,” because we all felt a little crazy. It seemed like there was a Metallica song for every mood.

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U.S. Army CPL Joseph Yurisich of the 9th PSYOP Battalion
mans a machine gun at a checkpoint outside Fallujah, 20 April 2004.

When the Marines were unable to advance farther into Fallujah, an Army psychological operations team attached to the Marine battalion played messages from a loudspeaker mounted on a Humvee along with selections from Jimi Hendrix. When the firing stopped, they played sound effects of babies crying, men screaming, a symphony of cats and barking dogs and piercing screeches.

In Sound Targets: American Soldiers and Music in the Iraq War, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, IN, 2009, author Jonathan Pieslak adds:

…large speakers were bolted on Humvees’ gun turrets to play hard rock/metal music as soldiers surrounded the city. The Army does not have an official play list and the choice of music is left to the soldiers, but the genre selection seems limited to hard rock/metal or rap…These harassment missions work especially well in urban settings like Fallujah. The sound just keeps reverberating off the walls.

According to Bing West in No True Glory: A Frontline Account of the Battle for Fallujah, Bantam Dell, New York, 2005:

Before jumping off to the attack, Marine Lieutenant Colonel Brian P. McCoy had the habit of gathering his troops and playing at full blast “Let the Bodies Hit the Floor.” …Marines attacked under the blare of hard rock music composed by Eminem.

Each battalion had its idiosyncrasies. Byrne’s Battalion 2/1 – more partial to blasting Jimi Hendrix at 110 decibels…Platoons in 1/5 competed to dream up the filthiest insults for translators to scream over the loudspeakers. When enraged Iraqis rushed from a mosque blindly firing their AKs, the Marines shot them down.

The hard rock/metal and rap music like “Welcome to the Jungle” and “Hell’s Bells” was played so relentlessly that the Marines started calling Fallujah “LallaFallujah,” a parody of the rock concert series entitled “Lollapalooza.”

West says that the insurgents returned the favor and used their own loudspeakers to play Arabic music, patriotic slogans and prayers:

The Mullahs responded with loud speakers hooked to generators trying to drown out Eminem with prayers, chants of “Allah Akbar,” and Arabic music. Every night discordant sound washed over the lines.

The same message was broadcast from most minarets: America is bringing in Jews from Israel and stealing Iraq’s oil. Women, take your children into the streets to aid the holy warriors. Bring them food water and weapons. Do not fear death. It is your duty to protect Islam.

On another occasion, the Associated Press reported that U.S. troops were blasting AC/DC’s "Hell's Bells" and other rock music full volume from a huge speaker, hoping to grate on the nerves of enemy gunmen.

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PSYOP Loudspeaker Team in Iraq

PSYOP units supporting light infantry in urban assaults played motivational rock music during the assault, to provide a distraction to the enemy, cover any noises made by the infantry, and provide inspiration for the assaulting troops.

Pieslak mentions one case where troops in Iraq copied the attack music from Apocalypse Now. On one "Thunder Run" into Baghdad the unit broadcast “The Ride of the Valkyries.” It apparently served two purposes. It pumped up the Americans who knew the scene from the movie, and since Saddam Hussein was thought to be a fan of old American movies, it was believed that he and his troops would be psychologically intimidated.

Mark Hadsell is an Army Reservist with the 361st Psychological Operations Unit. He led a mobile, three-man PSYOP team in Iraq from February 2003 until April 2004. Music was a valuable tool in his team’s arsenal:

Going out on missions, it’s a good attention-getter. If we were going into a hostile situation, room-clearing or house-entering, we’d play, say, [Drowning Pool’s] ‘Bodies’ or [Dope’s] ‘Die Motherfucker Die.’ Once we had the house surrounded, we’d start cranking the music outside. You had to pump up the people you were with and instill fear into the enemy.

Hadsell and his team made a special mix CD for such missions that he titled “OIF Hate Music.” Other tracks included Deicide’s “Fuck Your God,” Saliva’s “Click Click Boom,” Pantera’s “Avoid The Light,” Tool’s “Sober,” and Godsmack’s “Voodoo."

Music is a valuable tool used by PSYOP Teams in Iraq according to Russell Snyder, Hearts and Mines – A Memoir of Psychological Warfare in Iraq, iUniverse, Bloomington IN, 2011. Russell was a member of a three-man Tactical Psychological Operations Team (TPT) of the 9th PSYOP Battalion attached to the U.S. Marines during the spring of 2005. While in Barwanah, knowing the enemy was just across the Euphrates River in Haqlaniyah and trying to get the enemy to show themselves, the PSYOP team played the sounds of babies crying and later the sounds of cats in heat all night. The following day the enemy did attack and as the Marines returned fire and probably killed about 31 terrorists (from the fresh-dug graves), the TPT turned up the volume and broadcast Drowning Pool’s 2001 song "Let the Bodies Hit the Floor" at High volume.

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Doonesbury comic strip

The Garry Trudeau comic strip “Doonesbury” had an entire storyline that featured the use of rock music in modern warfare. A character named “Toggle” loaded the IPOD’s of his infantry company with music according to the mission. In one strip he explains:

If we’re headed for bandit country, I need ear-bleed music like Slipknot to get pumped.

But if the mission’s mellow, like today, I like bar bands. Right now, I’m crankin’ up with Mr. Charles Daniels.

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In another panel he mentions the tastes of the "Officers and Gentlemen" (by act of Congress):

Captains and Majors its classic rock. For the Colonel, audio books.

IPods are mentioned in a Nathan Hodge article entitled “Army Wages iPod Warfare in Baghdad,” Wired, 16 December 2008. Hodges says:

During a humanitarian aid distribution in Baghdad’s Sadr City, Staff Sergeant Kent Crandall brought along a nifty iPod accessory: an Army psychological operations loudspeaker. Crandall had loaded the iPod with Iraqi pop music, which he cranked during the halal food handout in this war-torn neighborhood.

This is only one of the tools in the psychological operations arsenal here. Major Byron Sarchet, a PSYOP officer with 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, told me about a second set-up that uses his favorite method: micro-broadcasting.

Radio geeks would be familiar with the tools: a 100 Watt Harris AM/FM "radio in a box" transmitter coupled with a Marantz rack-mountable portable CD/cassette player. The PSYOP team loaded up a laptop with contemporary Iraqi and Arabic pop music and started broadcasting on a local frequency, 93.9 FM.

Sarchet wanted to broadcast a pro-coalition message during heavy fighting in the city. So he liberated the radio transmitter from a State Department embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team, put the radio on the roof of a building, and started broadcasting. The programming is mostly pop music, interlaced with coalition messages and numbers for an anonymous tips line.

According to Pieslak, other songs that the troops used to rile themselves up for battle were the themes from the movies “Rocky” and “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” He says that while crossing from Kuwait into Iraq Metallica was a favorite, with “Seek and Destroy,” “The Four Horsemen,” “One,” and “Sanitarium” particularly effective. Another favorite was Drowning Pool’s “ Let the Bodies hit the Floor.”

Pieslak points out in his Army article that the Israelis also liked hard rock when preparing for a mission. He interviewed Israeli Defense Force Sergeant Ziv Shalev:

Sergeant Shalev recalled that listening to metal music when preparing for combat was a common practice among certain Israeli soldiers. In fact, he said his team would listen to Metallica and hard rock metal songs before ambushes or missions, and identified Metallica’s “One” as a popular song in pre-mission planning…Sergeant Shalev’s description pointed to certain similarities between the listening practices of American and Israeli soldiers, particularly with regard to metal music.

One of my favorite stories about the use of music in Iraq was told me by a PSYOP non-commissioned officer:

 

During my last deployment in Operation Iraqi Freedom one of the men in my detachment reported that the Iraqis just loved Michael Jackson. That does not seem all that interesting, but he found that he was able to gauge the safety of operating in an urban neighborhood by comparing the target audience’s response to the music. Under normal circumstances the Iraqis came out to listen and dance when the music was played. When they did not it was a sure sign that something was afoot and the troops knew that combat action was soon to follow.

The Enemy’s Music

Of course, the enemy also had its music. My old friend Dr. Arunkumar Bhatt wrote about these songs in an article entitled “Jihadi PSYOP Songs” in Perspectives, Volume 19, Number 1, 2008. He said in part:

The jihadi terrorist organizations are making full use of this medium to conduct their PSYOP across the Muslim world—to make neutral Muslims into sympathizers, to turn the sympathizers into passive supporters and then push them to be active followers. It is not difficult to lure the latter to become direct participants or executioners of terrorist acts. Like other forms of Guerrilla Warfare, terrorism is also PSYOP driven for it has to constantly capitalize on its appeals to hold on to present supporters and to enlist prospective ones. Songs are very useful means to reinforce jihad and its justifications and urgency in the minds of the participants and to raise their commitment, motivation and morale, especially in training camps during the twilight period of the last leg of the training…

Before a young soul can be convinced to put on an explosive suicide vest and blow himself up for the cause, he needs to be indoctrinated with religious prayers, patriotic speeches and songs. Since most young men love their homes and parents, the songs often attempt to show the parents as early fighters for their God, or as being extremely proud of their children’s death in Jihad (Holy War). These songs were mostly used by Muslins fighting in the Kashmir, but certainly they have spread from Jihad to Jihad. The first song is entitled “The Anthem of Islamic Revolution.” It is quite long so we just translate a small part:

We will always raise the slogan of
Allah-o-Akbar (God is Great)
Our date with death is now predetermined
and we are going to get our heads chopped off

When our ardor is working so well
then why be self-conscious?
And when martyrdom is our heart’s passion
why fear the gallows?

They (the United States) are very proud of their weapons
but my unarmed hand
will cut many a sword
and we will show these liars the strength of the devout.

Another song entitled “The Moon in the Valley” has a father singing the praises of his martyred son.

I have witnessed the loyalty to Allah that you had from birth.
That was the blessings from Allah and not me, an ordinary man.
Oh Vaseem, you were the honor of your father.
This tale was written in your fate.

Do await us in the spring of heaven, my Vaseem.
In the company of heavenly beauties and amidst everybody’s attention.
Oh Vaseem, do you also call me to heaven?
I will come with all our family members just for you.

MUSIC INTERROGATION AND INTIMIDATION

My only interest in music in warfare is the legitimate military use of sound as a weapon against an armed enemy. However, since the start of the “War on Terror” there have been hundreds, if not thousands of allegations of music used as a form of “touchless torture” during interrogations. Some of the stories might be true, others are patently false. However, I think we should take a quick look at some of the comments that have been said or written about this practice.

I think I should take just a moment to point out that the military mind is quite different from the civilian mind. For instance, when it became public knowledge that graduates of the U.S. Army Airborne School were sometimes given blood wings, the parachute badge driven into a chest by a fist, civilians were horrified. The new airborne troopers considered it their proudest moment.

When water-boarding of terrorists became common knowledge, civilians were aghast, and yet soldiers that had attended the SERE course, (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape), all told me that they were water-boarded during the course.

In the same way, the use of music for interrogation after 2001 was considered a horrible torture by many, and yet the military has used the same technique on their own members in training as early as 1958. Sergeant Major Joe E. Garner mentions this method in Code Name Copperhead, Simon and Shuster, NY, 1994:

We put a guy in a dumpster and shoved a loudspeaker right against the thing full volume, blaring “Lollipop, lollipop…oh, lolli, lolli…” all day long. The guy came out almost a vegetable.

So, although this in no way is meant to excuse any excesses, the fact is that most American Special Forces have gone through all of these coercive methods in their own training already and probably did not see them in the same way the average civilian does.

By 2008 there was talk about the American treatment of terrorists and the use of music to disorientate them. The website Motherjones.com stated:

Music has been used in American military prisons and on bases to induce sleep deprivation, "prolong capture shock," and to disorient detainees during interrogations. Based on a leaked interrogation log, news reports, and the accounts of soldiers and detainees, here are some of the songs that guards and interrogators chose.  

  1. White America – Eminem.
  2. Barney theme song.
  3. Enter Sandman – Mettalica.

  4. Hells Bells – AC/DC.
  5. Stayin Alive – Bee Gees.
  6. Dirrty – Christina Aguilera.
  7. America – Neil Diamond.
  8. Bulls on Parade – Rage Against the Machine.
  9. American Pie – Don McLean.
10. Bodies – Drowning pool.

I don’t want to go into any great detail because author David Peisner discussed this subject in some depth in an article entitled “War is Loud,” Spin Magazine, December 2006. I spoke to David in 2006 and gave him some background data on the use of music in wartime, and he wrote about its use in Operation Iraqi Freedom for interrogation purposes. With his permission I am going to liberally quote or paraphrase some of his article.

Shafiq Rasul was captured around October of 2001 in Afghanistan by a Northern Alliance militia, and then transferred to U.S. custody. Sometime in 2003, the Americans found a videotape apparently showing Rasul sitting in on an August 2000 meeting with Osama bin Laden and 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta.

Shortly afterwards he was led from his cell at the Camp Delta detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to a small, drab interrogation booth. An interrogator walked into the booth, pressed play on a nearby stereo and walked out. Rasul immediately recognized the sound coming from the speakers: It was Eminem’s “Kim.” The next day he was brought into the room it was pitch dark except for the irregular flashes of a strobe light. Eminem had been replaced by extremely loud, menacing rock music. He was left there for hours. After three weeks the interrogation was successful. He confessed to everything he was accused of. However, Rasul couldn’t have been with bin Laden because he was attending university at the time of the meeting. In early 2004, he was released from Guantanamo without charges. It is clear that the use of sound will break a prisoner, but it seems that it might cause him to confess to crimes that he did not commit.

To give both sides of the story, we should mention a former operative named “Tom” who cautions against taking ex-detainees at their word concerning their treatment in U.S. custody, noting that they’ve learned to “exploit the media.” In particular, he calls Shafiq Rasul, whom he interrogated in Guantanamo, “a lying sack of shit.”  

Tom said that at Guantanamo Bay, some PSYOP soldiers convinced the guards to play Neil Diamond’s “Coming to America” over the loudspeakers in an attempt to keep the prisoners agitated and from talking to one another:

The results were an unmitigated disaster. It just about caused an all-out riot. Strict interpreters of Islam are forbidden from listening to music. The whole place basically erupted.

Tom continued:

The hardest cases to break are those guys that sit there and smugly smile because they know we’re not going to beat them up or rip their fingernails out. So we use music to keep them disoriented, from knowing what time it is, from communicating with other people or hearing sounds that would help orient them.

Over the last five years, music has quietly become a valued tool in the War on Terror. The list of artists reportedly drafted to help break down prisoners for interrogation includes Metallica, Drowning Pool, Marilyn Manson, Rage Against The Machine and rap artists such as Tupac Shakur, Eminem, and Dr. Dre, but also sprinkled with pop stars such as Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears, classic rock bands like Aerosmith and Meatloaf and some head-scratching oddities like the Stanley Brothers and Barney The Dinosaur.

If the military had its own version of the People’s Choice Awards, Drowning Pool would bring home hardware every year. Nearly every interrogator and soldier mentioned the band’s 2001 hit “Bodies” with its wild-eyed chorus, “Let the bodies hit the floor!” as a favorite for both psyching up American soldiers and psyching out enemies and captives. Some might view this as a rather dubious mark of distinction, but Drowning Pool bassist Stevie Benton isn’t among them:

People assume we should be offended that somebody in the military thinks our song is annoying enough that played over and over it can psychologically break someone down, I take it as an honor to think that perhaps our song could be used to quell another 9/11 attack or something like that.

THE MUSCIANS STRIKE BACK

In 2008, there was a report of a movement called Zero dB (Against Music Torture) sponsored by Reprieve, a human rights charity that provides legal representation for inmates at Guantanamo bay. This group attempts to gain the support of musicians whose songs are used in interrogation techniques by US forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay. They hope that the campaign will attract the attention of high-profile musicians who are willing to speak out against the psychological interrogation.

The bands have been slow to react. One of the bands, Rage Against the Machine has been against President Bush for several years so they were quick to join the ban against the use of their music. Since their reunion in 2007, the band has taken to the stage dressed in the infamous bright orange jumpsuits and black hoods associated with Guantanamo bay prisoners.

The Musicians' Union is allegedly urging its 30,000 members to condemn the use of their music for interrogation. Reprieve says they are continuing to lobby musicians such as Metallica, AC/DC, Britney Spears, and Aerosmith whose songs are “blasted” at detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay. Bob Singleton, who wrote the theme tune to the US children's TV show Barney and Friends, was outraged to discover it was being used to interrogate prisoners at Guantanamo.

Binyam Mohamed, who was detained in Pakistan on suspicion of terrorism and later transported to Guantanamo Bay, says that he was forced to listen to Eminem's Slim Shady and Dr. Dre for 20 days.

When I first read this news story I noticed that a member of the U.S. Special Forces had commented on it. He said:

Stop writing crappy music and you won't have to worry about it being used for torture.

In October 2009, the Washington Post reported that a high-profile coalition of artists, including the members of Pearl Jam, R.E.M. and the Roots demanded that the government release the names of all the songs that were used by the U.S. military since 2002 against terrorist suspects to coerce information or as a method of punishment. Dozens of musicians endorsed a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the National Security Archive, a Washington-based independent research institute, seeking the declassification of all records related to the use of music in interrogation practices.

The U.S. Government released a list of 35 artists whose music had been used in interrogations of detainees at U.S. military detention centers, including the one at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The artists listed are:

AC/DC; Aerosmith; Barney theme song (By Bob Singleton); The Bee Gees, Britney Spears; Bruce Springsteen; Christina Aguilera; David Gray; Deicide; Don McClean; Dope; Dr. Dre; Drowning Pool; Eminem; Hed P.E.; James Taylor; Limp Bizkit; Marilyn Manson; Matchbox Twenty; Meatloaf; Meow mix jingle; Metallica; Neil Diamond; Nine Inch Nails Pink; Prince; Queen; Rage against the Machine; Red Hot Chili Peppers; Redman; Saliva; Sesame street theme music (By Christopher Cerf); Stanley Brothers; The Star Spangled Banner; Tupac Shakur.

A White House spokesman said music is no longer used as an instrument of torture. The Government is in the process of forming an interagency group, called High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, to examine the techniques used during questioning. Joint Task Force Guantanamo spokeswoman Major Diana Haynie says that loud music has not been used at the detention centre since 2003.

Suzanne G. Cusick, a music professor at New York University interviewed a number of former detainees about their experiences and says the music they most often described hearing was heavy metal, rap and country. Specific songs mentioned include Queen’s “We Are the Champions” and “March of the Pigs” by Nine Inch Nails. Cusick adds:

Sound at a certain level creates sensory overload and breaks down subjectivity and can [bring about] a regression to infantile behavior. Its effectiveness depends on the constancy of the sound, not the qualities of the music. It simply prevents people from thinking.

Jayne Huckerby, research director at the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at the NYU School of Law points out:

The prolonged use of loud music to control or coerce prisoners is a violation of the U.N. Convention against Torture and constitutes both torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. The use of loud music was pretty much a widespread tool of the U.S. government and a standard condition of CIA prisons.

I read the entire UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. A/RES/39/46, dated 10 December 1984. I found no mention of “music,” “sound” or “noise.” Apparently the legal protests apply to Article One which mentions mental suffering and says in part:

For the purposes of this Convention, the term “torture” means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.

The Central Intelligence Agency Office of the Inspector General prepared a classified Special Review on Counterterrorism Detention and Interrogation Activities: September 2001 - October 2003. It discussed the use of sound and said in part:

The use of the following techniques and of comparable, approved techniques does not violate any Federal statute or other law, where the CIA interrogators do not specifically intend to cause the detainee to undergo severe physical or mental pain or suffering (i.e., they act with the good faith belief that their conduct will not cause such pain: isolation, reduced caloric intake (so long as the amount is calculated to maintain the general health of the detainees), deprivation of reading material, loud music or white noise (at a decibel level calculated to avoid damage to the detainees' hearing)…As a practical guide, there is no permanent hearing risk for continuous, 24-hours-a-day exposures to sound at 82 dB or lower; at 84 dB for up to 18 hours a day; 90 dB for up to 8 hours, 95 dB for 4 hours, and 100 dB for 2 hours. If necessary, instruments can be provided to measure the ambient sound levels.

[Author’s note: 84 decibels is about the sound of cars on a highway; 90 dB is about the sound of a motorcycle engine revving; 95 dB is about the sound of a truck engine revving; and 100 dB is about the sound of a jackhammer.]

Jennifer Senior talked about the use of music in interrogation in a New York article entitled “PsyOps Rock!” She reports that:

Suspect Ruhal Ahmed reportedly was subjected to Britney Spears’s “… Baby One More Time”; Binyam Mohamed, tortured at one of the CIA’s dark sites, claimed he was forced to listen to Eminem for twenty days straight. Queen’s “We Are the Champions,” Nine Inch Nails’s “March of the Pigs,” and, of course, Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” have come up in reports. Mohammed al Qahtani, the so-called twentieth hijacker, said that whenever he fell asleep, the guards would crank up Christina Aguilera…

Senior quotes Daniel Levitin, a psychology professor at McGill and author of: This Is Your Brain on Music.

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Our brains automatically process music and try to figure out what comes next. Any Western music would have done the trick. These were tonal structures the detainees’ brains can’t figure out. They kept trying, and they kept failing. Just as if I made you listen to Chinese opera, it’d probably drive you crazy.

Senior also quotes Richard Friedman, a professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College:

One thing that makes music so powerful is that it activates circuits in the brain that are not under conscious control. It has the power to augment all human drives, including aggression. Whether it’s a soundtrack for a battle or one for torture, both work. In each instance, you can use music to facilitate the process.

CONCLUSION

Will music continue to be used in psychological operations of the future? There is no doubt of it. NATO Psychological Operations Doctrine says:

The first task of a loudspeaker message is to gain and hold the attention of the target audience. Means of achieving this include the use of jingles, local music…

[In radio operations] A wide range of program formats are available to the broadcaster, including drama, music, news, talks and discussions. Careful target analysis will make it possible to identify and exploit those types of program which are most favored by the intended audience.

I really never thought much about the use of music in warfare but over the past few years I have received a dozen or more letters from various individuals, many of which were PhD candidates or other intellectuals, all asking about music as a force multiplier. I finally decided that there was enough interest in this strange subject to write a short story about it. I am sure there are many military personnel out there that have stories of using music on the attack, the keep the enemy awake and demoralized, or to disorientate him. I ask those people to write and tell me their story. The author can be reached at Sgmbert@hotmail.com.