SGM Herbert A. Friedman (Ret.)
A psychological operations specialist mans a M249 SAW machine
gun mounted atop a HMMWV, fitted with a loud speaker system
I am no expert on electronics, machinery, volume or sound. My expertise is really in Propaganda leaflets. However, over the past 40 years I have written well over a hundred articles on psychological warfare and I mention loudspeakers in many of them. The human voice is very powerful and personal, and if a well-written and culturally-correct message is spoken by a person with the proper diction, pronunciation and accent, it can be very powerful. In this article we will not go into any great detail on loud speaker specifications, although we could. The PSYOP manuals are full of illustrations and wiring diagrams. Instead, we will tell the reader about the many wars and operations that the loudspeakers took part in. We will mention the more exciting ones and point out where they did well and where they failed. I have a hundred stories to choose from. I shall endeavor to select the most interesting ones.
Special Forces Recruiting Poster
Psychological Operations Soldiers use a variety of media such as traditional print, unmanned aerial broadcasts, social media posts, and television to disseminate messages to foreign populations and enemy forces. Their careful analysis of the media environment determines the best platform to deliver precision messages designed to change behavior of the target audience. PSYOP Soldiers often use loudspeakers in tactical environments to provide immediate messaging in support of Special Forces elements.
The Army field Manual Loudspeaker Operations, FM 3-05.302 dated October 2005 discusses the uses of loudspeakers in depth. It says in part:
Loudspeaker operations are an extension of face-to-face communication and can have an immediate impact on a Target Audience (TA). During combat operations, loudspeakers are the most effective PSYOP medium in high-intensity conflict or civil disorder environments. They can provide immediate and direct contact with a TA. As a result, tactical PSYOP rely heavily upon loudspeaker operations in high-intensity conflict or civil disorder environments.
Loudspeakers can move rapidly transmit speeches, music, or sound effects to the audience. Tapes, minidisks, and CDs are preferred when conducting loudspeaker operations, because of their superior audio quality. Loudspeakers are commonly mounted on wheeled vehicles or carried in a rucksack; however, they may also be placed on other vehicles such as armored personnel carriers (APCs), watercraft, or rotary-wing aircraft. Loudspeakers can broadcast to enemy forces that have been cut off, urging them to surrender or to cease resistance. Loudspeakers are often used to issue instructions to persons in fortified positions and locations. They are also used for deception operations to broadcast sounds of vehicles or other equipment.
The advantages of employing loudspeakers should be considered during mission planning, such as flexibility, mobility, the exploitation of target, the range of transmission, the effectiveness with an illiterate audience, the ability to pinpoint targets, and immediate feedback to the broadcaster.
Climatic conditions and enemy forces are the most common limiting factors to consider when planning loudspeaker operations. Other limitations include vulnerability to hostile fire, the loss or distortion of messages over time, and environmental conditions such as wind, hills, high humidity and moisture, vegetation and structures.
Close coordination by the loudspeaker team with personnel of the supported unit and other supporting elements is essential. Commanders within audible range of the broadcasts must be informed about loudspeaker operations being conducted in their Area of operation. Commanders must make sure troops are briefed on the opponents possible reaction to the broadcast, which may include enemy soldiers attempting to surrender.
To achieve maximum effect in the loudspeaker broadcast, PSYOP personnel should observe certain rules governing speech delivery. They should make sure that their translators: speak loudly, but do not shout; speak deliberately and take time for message delivery: maintain constant voice volume with an even rate of delivery; never slur or drop words; avoid a sing song delivery; sound out every syllable of each word; sound the final consonant of each word; think if each word as it is spoken; and most important, speak into the microphone.
The United States entered World War I on 6 April 1917. American propaganda relied heavily on the American press, considered second only to the British at the time. Although most of the combatants among the Allies and the enemy "Central Powers" practiced propaganda of one type or another, the main protagonists were the British, the United States, France and Germany. The moving-coil principle commonly used today in loudspeakers was patented in 1924 by Chester W. Rice and Edward W. Kellogg. Earlier loudspeakers existed but they were mostly ineffective.
Field Manual 33-1, Psychological Operations, July, 1987, give a brief overview of the American campaign and points out that loudspeakers were a minor part of the propaganda campaign:
American military PSYOP centered on leaflet production, since radio did not exist as a means of mass communication and loudspeakers were still primitive.
Since the U.S. apparently did not use loudspeakers much in WWI we will start this article with WWII. Jonathan B. Keiser and Mark C. Engen wrote a 2006 thesis entitled Adapting the Vehicle Mounted Tactical Loudspeaker System to Todays Operational Environment for the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California. The introduce loudspeakers in WWII:
During World War II, loudspeakers were initially mounted on Army wheeled vehicles. However, wheeled vehicles lacked the cross-country capability required for evolving armored warfare, so loudspeakers were adapted to be mounted on half-tracks to enable the speaker teams to keep up with the fast pace of tanks during battle. As loudspeaker operations became more effective against the enemy, PSYOP vehicles soon became magnets for enemy direct and indirect fire. The loudspeakers were once again adapted to be mounted on light tanks, providing the speaker teams the armor protection required for the operational environment of armored battle.
Loudspeakers were often mounted on jeeps
British soldier uses loudspeaker to broadcast surrender appeal in Burma
Some Indian troops who escaped the Japanese were formed by British Force 136 in late 1943 into five platoons called the Indian Field Broadcasting Units (IFBU). They were assigned the task of propaganda patrols and raising the morale of civilians while attacking the Japanese with loudspeakers and small 2-inch by 3-inch leaflets fired from 2-inch mortars.
The loudspeakers played Japanese music and gave reports of Japanese defeats, laced with exhortations to desert. Force 136 was the cover name for the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) and operated in South-East Asia from 1941 to 1945. Curiously, the current British 15 (UK) PSYOP Group has adopted as an insignia the stag's head first worn by the IFBU. According to their website:
The deer's antlers symbolize both the combat support function of PSYOPS and the antennae associated with a major means of dissemination of psychological warfare messages.
A Psychological Warfare Division soldier holds a loudspeaker
in the window of a factory to broadcast a surrender appeal
British researcher Lee Richards reported on the British use of loudspeakers at Cassino by political/psychological warfare field units of the British Army. He said in part:
At the beginning of 1944 several more field units were created including the 815th Political Warfare Forward Units. The 815th was an entirely self-contained, wholly military mobile unit. Its sub-units were designed to be capable of independent action for a limited period. It was composed of 17 officers, some of which were parachute trained, and 54 other ranks. It was organized with a mobile headquarters and three Reconnaissance (or forward) Sections. It had its own radio communications and motorcycle dispatch riders for maintaining contact between the mobile headquarters and the Reconnaissance sections.
The recce sections, which could advance up 30 or 40 miles, were intended for the interrogation of captured German troops and could operate loudspeaker equipment for broadcasting purposes. The HQ Wing included typesetting facilities and printing presses for the production of leaflets. The 815th was sent to taly but the personnel and its equipment were soon dispersed amongst other psychological warfare units being operated by the pre-existing Psychological Warfare Branch.
This halftrack, with huge speaker, was driven into French forests near the frontline from where it broadcast pre-recorded audio to give the impression that a massive army was gathering in the area
One officer of the 815th did take part in a loudspeaker broadcast during the last battle of Cassino in mid-May 1944. The Public Address truck was parked up in the Cassino cemetery between two houses for cover. Ten loudspeakers were then installed over one mile away in a ruined house in Cassino town. The preparation took several days and the four sets of cables running to the loudspeakers were being continually cut by enemy shell fire. On the evening of 17 May, the officer in command was instructed to broadcast the message If you wish to give up you most come over to us immediately, as long as it is light, if you wait till dark we will not be able to tell if you are surrendering or trying to break out, and will have to shoot at you. The next day a longer message was repeatedly broadcast and 9 German parachutists, who had already been cut off, did surrender to the PA truck.
A U.S. Army sergeant urges German troops to surrender from a sound truck of the Psychological Warfare Division of the Allied Expeditionary Force behind a farmhouse near Balue in the St. Malo area of Brittany. Thousands of German soldiers surrendered to Allied forces on all fronts after listening to these broadcasts.
Discussing the U.S Navys propaganda outpost on Saipan, Lieutenant Robert Morris, the Navy officer on Admiral Nimitzs staff in charge of the entire project said in part:
The OWI was all over the place. It had a large office in Honolulu printing presses, great supplies of precious paper, loudspeakers, public address systems and various other field devices In the first days of 1945, I devoted my energies toward setting up a working unit on Saipan. We had two language officers, a yeoman striker and three gunners mates. The OWI at the time had about six technicians operating its Saipan radio transmitter. With the establishment of our advanced unit, the staff was more than doubled, including a printer and three assistants.
The OWI PV-1 "Polly" Aircraft
A PV-1 aircraft with a special loud speaker system providing audible speech from 6,000 feet altitude was available for day or night harassment of Japanese troops if atmospheric condition were right. The loudspeakers were located just aft of the rear exit.
Four PV-1s were built, but only one was sent to the Pacific. It had a Navy crew of three officers; a pilot, co-pilot and a propaganda officer to handle the sound gear. In early embarrassing tests the loudspeakers failed from 2,000 feet and later blew a fuse. The aircraft was finally sent to the Marshall Islands. On 15 February 1945, Polly made its initial 15-minute broadcast over Wotje Atoll at an altitude of 4,500 feet. The aircraft played My Blue Heaven and Red River Valley and broadcast a hopelessness message that had been recorded in Hawaii by a Japanese prisoner-of-war. It took heavy fire and lost an engine. About the middle of April, Polly left the Marshall Islands and deployed to Okinawa. Immediately after the Okinawa campaign Polly was replaced by four PB4Y2s Privateers, the Navy version of the Army B-24 Liberator
A few days after the Japanese surrender the new loudspeaker aircraft flew over Tokyo and played the song, I Surrender Dear.
During the battle for Okinawa, The U.S. Propaganda newspaper, The U.S. Army Campaigns of WWII Ryukyus said in part:
The fighting had been devastating, but it might have been worse had it not been for the work of the Tenth Army's psychological warfare units before and during the invasion. Between 25 March and 17 April carrier planes from the supporting Fifth Fleet dropped some five million leaflets on the islands, as well as copies of the psychological warfare office's newspaper, the Ryukyu Shuho, which attracted considerable attention among enemy soldiers and civilians alike. Other propaganda tools-such as tank-mounted amplifiers, aircraft with loudspeakers, and remotely controlled radios parachuted behind enemy lines-contributed to the psychological operations effort by underlining the harsh conditions the defenders were enduring, disparaging Japanese chances for success, and promising humane treatment for those who offered no resistance to the approaching Americans.
Loudspeaker equipped tank in Germany
Arthur T. Hadley talks about the first use of American loudspeaker tanks in an article entitled Firing Potent Words from a Tank, The New York Times, 25 September 2006. He says in part:
We soon discovered that reminding Germans that they would be treated according to the Geneva Conventions was one of the most effective ways to persuade them to surrender. We would first outline the German position; then describe the weight of artillery and air power that was about to fall on them; then end with assurances that those troops who surrendered would be well treated under the Geneva Conventions.
After the Battle of the Bulge, we mounted a loudspeaker on a light tank of the Second Armored Division. The jury-rigged tank worked remarkably well. The loudspeaker itself was mounted on the forward slope of the turret and partly covered by a metal casing that resisted light machine-gun fire. Some of the ammunition racks inside the tank were removed and the amplifiers for the loudspeaker fastened to the steel insides. The broadcasters were in the turret, the tank driver was forward in the drivers compartment and the electrician who maintained the loudspeaker and electronic equipment occupied the assistant drivers seat. In three weeks fighting beyond the Rhine in 1945, the Second Armored Division credited the talking tank for the surrender of 5,000 prisoners.
In WWII, M5A1 or M4A3 tanks were used for PSYWAR operations and they were nicknamed Talking Tanks, Baloney Wagons, Bullshit Wagons, or Big Boy Talkers. A loudspeaker was mounted on the front of the turret above the gun, a power unit was located in an armored box at the back of the turret and two amplifiers were located in the wet stowage ammo bins or inside the turret on either side of the gun. The co-driver (or commander in a M5A1) was replaced by an announcer who spoke German, the loader was replaced by a PSYWAR technician.
Loudspeaker Jeep on the road to Hunxe
The Twelfth United States Army Group European Theater of Operations book Publicity and Psychological Warfare 1943-1945 has an entire section on Combat Loudspeakers. Some pertinent comments are:
The first loudspeaker systems were of low power, their military objectives were limited and the method of commitment often brought them to the scene of action too late to be of use. For these reasons, the loudspeakers were not in great demand during the Normandy campaign and the Battle of France. By the time the West Wall was reached the situation had changed. High-powered loudspeaker systems mounted on tanks traveled with the armored spearhead ready at the psychological moment of breakthrough to assist in and exploit the disintegration of the enemy. The combat loudspeakers were responsible for the capture of thousands of prisoners, the surrender of strong points and enemy rear guards, and the capitulation of many towns without a shot being fired by their garrisons.
Daniel Lerner talks about loudspeakers in Sykewar, George W. Stewart, NYC, NY, 1949. He says that the Americans sometimes called the use of the loudspeakers on tanks to bring in Germans Hog Calling. They would first use the loudspeaker to tell their own forces what they were going to broadcast:
Attention. Attention. All American soldiers. You will now hear a broadcast in the German language addressed to the enemy asking them to surrender. They will be given detailed instructions in how to surrender. When they do; do not shoot at them. Let them come over. But, be on guard for any tricks.
Loudspeaker equipped halftracks
The loudspeakers would then be turned on the Germans. The message is very long so I will just quote a few lines:
This is not a propaganda broadcast because we realize you are indoctrinated with propaganda, day in and day out. This broadcast is meant to tell you facts, nothing but bare facts. Some of them you might already know, some of them might be new to you Your Division Commander had a nervous breakdown Do you know that Konigsberg was captured by the Russians? Do you know that The Allies are just a few kilometers away from Koln? All these statements are bare facts, but you might not know these facts
He also lists the chief uses of loudspeakers in Western Europe near the end of the war.
To liquidate pockets of enemy troops.
To address surrender appeals to points of resistance.
To deliver surrender ultimatums to towns holding up the advance of tanks.
To do consolidation work in towns the Allies controlled.
To conduct white flag mission prior to attack.
To aid in static situations where there was evidence of low morale.
To obtain prisoners without the use of patrols.
To control civilians, displaced persons and prisoners of war.
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.
Enemy use: Author Leo J. Margolin says in Paper Bullets (Frozen Press, New York, 1946):
In the briskness of the winter air on 1939-1940, the French soldiers will to fight evaporated like his breath. The Germans asked, "Where are the British troops?" German loudspeakers constantly repeated that message that The British troops were not in the Maginot Line and that they were instead back in Paris with French women.
Loudspeaker Jeep in Korea
Keiser and Engen say about Korea:
In the fall of 1950, the 1st Loudspeaker and Leaflet Company arrived in theater and served as the 8th Armys tactical psychological warfare unit until the end of the war in 1952. This unit relied on vehicle and aircraft mounted loudspeakers to get its verbal messages across. Loudspeakers were used to complement the leaflet campaign which was the major medium of dissemination during the conflict.
My notes show that the Armys small Technical Information Detachment (TID) of four officers and twenty enlisted was notified that it was to be changed to a Loudspeaker and leaflet Company on 1 September 1950. It was put on alert for Korea and sent from Ft. Riley, Kansas, to Seattle, and then on to Korea, arriving on 4 November 1950. The unit was reorganized in January 1951 as the First Loudspeaker and Leaflet (L&L) Company with a complement of 8 officers, ninety-nine enlisted men, 3 printing presses, 12 loudspeakers, and 27 vehicles, and assigned to a newly created Psychological Warfare Division (PWD) operating within G-3 of the Eighth Army in Korea. The 1st L&L Company became operational April 1951 and 9 loudspeaker teams were dispatched to divisions in the field.
Company Loudspeaker Team broadcasting surrender appeals during the Korean War
The Company loudspeaker teams made 14,756 broadcasts to the enemy. They claim 3,688 prisoners came over as a direct result of their broadcasts.
The Loudspeaker Platoon of the 1st L&L Company was organized on 8 January 1951. Four days after the first three teams were organized they were ready for action. The first team was taken to I Corps Headquarters on 12 January 1951. It was found that very few officers had any knowledge of the use of loudspeakers; consequently the platoon leader recommended that the first team be used for controlling refugees and for familiarization to all divisions in the corps. United Nations advances presented vast targets for Psychological Warfare and the divisions who had the teams at the time of these advances immediately claimed the teams. By 7 April 1951, nine teams were in the field consisting of four officers and 27 enlisted men. Forty-eight combat missions were performed in May 1951. That month, 2,943 enemy soldiers surrendered as a direct result of loud-speaker broadcasts. By June, 11 teams were in action. Two Republic of Korea loudspeaker teams were prepared for duty against guerrillas in South Korea.
The Command Report of the 2nd Infantry Division from 1 September 1951 to 30 September 1951 adds:
During the first week in September, a loudspeaker team assigned to the 9th Infantry Regiment broadcast surrender appeals to the 15th Regiment, 6th North Korean Army Division. On 4 September, a broadcast was made which influenced nine enemy troops to surrender to the UN Forces.
C47 equipped with loudspeaker
The C47 Dakota equipped with a loudspeaker was first tested during the Korean War at 8,000 and 10,000 feet. It was discovered that at those heights it was impossible to hear the message on the ground. The best results were at about 1,500 feet but that put the crew at risk. A compromise was reached and the missions were generally flown from 2,000 to 4,400 feet.
Airman First Class Glenn L. Bloesch tells us in detail what it was like to work a PSYOP mission during the Korean War in 1952:
If the mission was to drop leaflets there would be two extra Koreans assigned to the aircraft; if a loudspeaker mission, then three Koreans were assigned (one to man the audio transmitter while the others spoke in different dialects).
Retired USAF Lieutenant Colonel Robert D. Childre flew leaflet drops and loudspeaker missions out of airbase K-16, (Seoul City), from January 1952 to Late May 1952.
The voice missions were usually made at night and lasted for up to four hours. The loudspeaker aircraft was rigged with belly mounted speakers and operated by Korean females. It required that he orbit low and slow in a race track pattern with 2-minute legs at reduced power to complete the messages. He would complete two orbits and then move to the next site if the speakers were still operating. It was one of his least desirable missions since it always drew lots of ground fire. He says that his electronics were usually shot out before the full mission could be completed.
A Loudspeaker team broadcasts surrender appeals to North Korean and Chinese soldiers
The Eighth U.S. Army Korea, Combat Propaganda Operations adds about loudspeaker operations:
Plan Heartache, launched in the middle of 1952, sought to lower morale and combat effectiveness by increasing the Chinese soldiers 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.
Korean War Loudspeaker
Plan Harvest Moon was designed to work on the nostalgia of the enemy troops. It ran from 5 October 1952 to 16 October 1952. During this period over seven hundred loudspeaker broadcasts were made totaling over 200 hours.
Stephen E. Pease mentions in the use of loudspeakers 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 didnt 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 mentioned enemy loudspeakers I never heard the bugles, but I remember hearing loudspeakers playing music. I think the song was When the Moon comes over the Mountain.
Chinese Peoples Volunteer" bunker played funeral dirges to dishearten the American and South Korean troops
Enemy use: During the Korean War, the Chinese Peoples Volunteers often 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.
Stanley Sandler discusses the Communist loudspeakers in Cease Resistance: Its Good for You: A History of U.S. Army Combat Psychological Operations. He says:
The enemy's leaflets ranged from the professional to the pathetic, although they were usually superior to their loudspeaker messages.
Sandler mentions the North Korean use of loudspeakers and their unsophisticated messages:
You have expended all your left-over equipment from World War II. It will start costing you to continue. You should play it safe and stay inside. You are merely tools for capitalist gain.
In one case the Communists even used a sexy female voice that said:
Come on over and surrender. I will give you a good time.
Loudspeaker jeep in Korea
Mark R. Jacobson mentions a Chinese loudspeaker message in his PhD thesis, Minds then Hearts: U.S. Political and Psychological Warfare during the Korean War, 2005, Ohio State University.
Hello my G.I. friends. Good morning. This is your regular morning broadcast courtesy of the Chinese Peoples Volunteer Army. G.I. friends, this is the dawn of the ten-hundredth and twentieth day of the forgotten war; what your politician chose to call a police action, a minor affair, which has already caused you more casualties than your war of independence. G.I. friends, you want peace. We want peace. We too are young; we too have to leave our homes to fight on foreign soil. Why? Show your stubborn generals haggling at Panmunjom that you will no longer fight for a line on the map. Show them that you want peace just as we want peace. Lay down your arms and we will lay down ours.
Now we can achieve peace even though we are firing at each other. Now is the time to lay down your arms. Your big man, General Clark, and our big man should get together. How can we have peace when your planes and our planes bomb each other? The Chase National Bank had $2,700,000,000 and now has $5,400,000,000. This is an increase of 3 billion dollars. It is a shame to travel 5,000 miles to fight a war, which is not yours. We are spending money; the bigwigs are making it. There should be no more war. Then everyone could go to school and grow up to be an intelligent person.
A Loudspeaker equipped tank in Korea
Problems: The propagandist has to be very careful that his methods only influence the enemy, and not terrify friendly forces. During the Korean War one enterprising PSYOP specialist assigned to the 25th Infantry Division went to the Seoul Zoo where he recorded growling lions and tigers at feeding time. One evening when he was feeling bored, he played the tape at full volume. Not only did the Communist troops directly in front of the loudspeakers start to run toward their rear, but the South Korean troops along the friendly line took off running too. The innovative specialist soon found himself carrying a rifle and attached to the 45th Infantry Division.
South Korean interpreter broadcasts a surrender appeal.
The PSYOP specialist also has to be sure that he has the confidence of his own soldiers. Sometimes they may feel that he is not working in their best interests. In the last stages of the Korean War the Chinese put a bounty of ten thousand dollars in gold for captured loudspeaker personnel and threatened to hang them if captured. The loudspeaker teams also drew artillery fire and were attacked with small arms fire by Communist scouts about one-third of the time that they were out in front of friendly troops. The American infantry was sometimes unhappy about all the fireworks caused by the loudspeakers and cut the wires from the generators to the loudspeakers or filled the loudspeakers with snow. The American loudspeaker teams did have a secret weapon to get them out of a jam when their broadcasts stirred up a hornets nest. Charles H. Briscoe tells us about the weapon in Volunteering for Combat: Loudspeaker Psywar in Korea, Veritas, volume 1, number 1.
For some reason, the Americans and Chinese loved listening to Doris Day. When our efforts had really stirred them up, resulting in artillery and mortar barrages and machine gun fire being directed at us, and in turn from the American lines, we quickly switched to Doris to quiet things down Only Doris Day worked.
During the Korean War, a 1952 campaign called Operation Heartache was designed to lower morale and combat effectiveness by increasing the Chinese soldiers anxiety over loved ones at home. The early programs built up a listening audience by playing news and music. Once the audience was captured, the broadcasts became very emotional with alleged letters from home and offers of good treatment and a safe return after the end of the war for those who surrendered. It is unknown how the messages affected the Chinese, but the sad messages worked on the South Korean soldiers who heard them. Allegedly, some broke down in tears over the loudspeaker broadcasts designed to induce nostalgia, thoughts of home, and worry about conditions at home. The lesson learned is to warn your own people when you are going to broadcast very emotional messages or get them out of hearing range.
Vietnam loudspeaker team
Mervyn Roberts talks about the first use of aerial loudspeakers in Vietnam in his treatise United States Psychological Operations in Support of Counterinsurgency: Vietnam, 1960 to 1965, the University of North Texas:
During the summer and fall of 1963, U.S. PSYOP advisors and U.S. Air Force Air Commando aircraft increasingly supported ARVN operations. The major themes continued to be the Chieu Hoi program and surrender appeals. The first operational use of the aerial loudspeaker took place in June 1963. In an effort to remove noncombatants from the battlefield, Montagnard tribesmen in contested areas surrounding the Kon Brai outpost in Kontum Province were informed that after a certain date anyone found in the area would be killed. Tapes were made by tribe members and repeatedly broadcast over the area. Within five days, 2,400 Montagnards had come to the outpost for aid and protection. Soldiers found through testing that aerial loudspeakers were most effective at night, which also added a safety factor for the crews.
By 1965 the Americans were making innovative use of aerial loudspeakers. They were used to assist stranded refugees, assist in humanitarian actions, encourage surrender, spread national level messages, and harass the enemy.
The use of loudspeakers began early on in the Vietnam War
Roberts also mentions the enemy defense against American and South Vietnamese loudspeakers:
Viet Cong propaganda teams typically consisted of four to five armed men who arrived in a hamlet between seven and nine in the evening. ..Typically, they distributed handbills and leaflets urging villagers to stop supporting the South Vietnamese government and the strategic hamlet program using threats and persuasion. The Viet Cong also attempted to jam loudspeaker broadcasts by requiring villagers to beat on pots and pans in order to make the broadcast unintelligible One can look at indirect indicators such as villagers behavior and enemy reactions to the messaging over time to make an estimate. By this measure, the attempts to jam loudspeakers by banging pots indicate a fear the villagers would hear and believe the messages.
Keiser and Engen say about Vietnam:
There was little need for tank-mounted loudspeakers in Vietnam. The unconventional nature of the conflict along with technological advances to loudspeakers and microphones, making them lighter and more powerful, enabled PSYOP personnel to broadcast their message to the enemy without having to come within small arms range. Dismounted loudspeakers were used extensively as well as boat-mounted loudspeakers along the waterways, probably one of the earliest uses of waterborne PSYOP in U.S. military history.
A loudspeaker equipped C47 aircraft in Vietnam
Robert Chandler says in War of Ideas, The US Propaganda Campaign in Vietnam, Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1981:
One technique developed in 1967 [For the use of airborne loudspeakers], used 2,100-watt loudspeakers that could be heard in a two mile radius from altitudes of 3,000 to 4,500 feet. This was important because early in the conflict airborne broadcasts from equipment developed during the Korean War were generally inaudible on the ground. The new system permitted thousands of hours of taped messages to be aired during the remainder of the war. Particular was the use of them at night against Communist troops in the jungle to try to wear down morale and persuade them to give up the fight.
Sergeant Jack O'Neil with Armed Propaganda Team
In Volume I of the Department of Defense contracted the Final Report Psychological Operations Studies Vietnam, Human Sciences Research Inc., 1971, Drs. Ernest F. and Edith M. Bairdain mention the value of loudspeakers during the Vietnam War.
In regard to the best means for disseminating the Allied message among the Viet Cong, members who rallied to the government stated that 99% saw propaganda leaflets, 100% heard airborne loudspeakers, 98% saw radio sets, 34% saw newspapers, 13% saw magazines, 9% heard ground loudspeakers, 7% read posters, 4% saw television sets and just 1% saw PSYOP novelty items. Of the enemy who saw the leaflets, 81% of the VC and 97% of the NVA actually read them. Of the enemy who heard the airborne loudspeakers, 89% of the VC and 98% of the NVA actually listened to the message. The authors point out that this demonstrates that leaflets, airborne loudspeakers, and radio are the best methods to reach Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army personnel.
Second Lieutenant Fred Young first commanded a loudspeaker and leaflet team in An Khe attached to the 1st Cavalry. He told me:
When my team arrived in An Khe, the Cavalry promptly assigned my team to the G5 (Civil Affairs). There was some tension when the G-5 personnel insisted that we use our loudspeakers to make announcements to local Vietnamese civilian workers who were helping to prepare the An Khe base and get it ready for the Cavalry personnel who had not yet arrived. My team was soon re-assigned to the G-3 and we began to be written into the combat operations and were soon making regular leaflet drops and conducting loudspeaker operations from C-47s in conjunction with the Chieu Hoi program to try to induce Viet Cong to surrender.
Loudspeaker in the doorway of a Bell Huey HU1D helicopter.
Staff Sergeant Ron Baker was a member of the 245th PSYOP Battalion located in Pleiku. He talks about some of his missions:
I departed Pleiku for the 2d Brigade on 9 August 1966. On 10 August, I made a Chieu Hoi tape with a North Vietnamese Army prisoner of war. On 12 August, I went on a loudspeaker mission telling NVA soldiers how and where to surrender and also made Chieu Hoi surrender appeals. We took the NVA rallier along to make appeals to NVA soldiers. We used a 1000 watt Western Electric Beachmaster loud speaker in the doorway of a Bell Huey HU1D helicopter. The loudspeaker system was first used in WWII to help bring order to invasion forces on the beaches of the South Pacific. It was then known as the Navy Public Address Set (PAB-1).
Stanley Sandler mentions loudspeakers in Vietnam in Cease Resistance: Its Good for You! Some of his comments in part are:
Operation Falling Leaves concentrated on the use of local assets and personnel including two Armed Propaganda teams composed 100% of surrendered Viet Cong soldiers. Loudspeaker teams penetrated deeply into the forest, while other forayed through its waterways using gigantic, boat mounted loudspeakers. The clearing operations in the U-Minh forest garnered no less than 1150 ralliers. In the six weeks before and two weeks afterwards only 211 defectors were taken.
PSYOPS in Vietnam: Indications of Effectiveness, JUSPAO Planning Office, Saigon, Vietnam, May, 1967, mentions that from 1 Jan 1966 to 1 October the 245th PSYOP Company designed and printed 61 million leaflets with their own facilities. Five thousand hours of loudspeaker missions were logged in the same period. The result was that 6,000 Viet Cong and North Vietnamese regulars defected. That was a 300% increase over the same period in the previous year.
Sergeant Richard Hosier, Marine Sergeant Bob Conticelli and Hoi Chahns by helicopter with Loudspeakers
The PSYOP troops often played tapes over loudspeakers from low-flying aircraft and patrol boats. There are dozens of such messages recorded; I will mention just a few here:
Tape 100 26 seconds:
The Government of Vietnam welcomes you back. Your leaders have lied to you and led you down a road of suffering and despair. Return to the Government of Vietnam. You will receive good treatment and a chance to build a new life.
Tape 101 22 seconds:
The government forces are winning. Their firepower is overwhelming. Their resources are inexhaustible. Death comes closer to you every day. Accept the Government of Vietnam offer of Open Arms. Come back friends! Come back before it is too late.
Tape 103 25 seconds:
You are surrounded by forces of vastly superior firepower. Your leaders who misled you have abandoned you. There is only one way to escape a violent and useless death. Surrender now and you will be well treated by the Government of Vietnam. Choose life, not death. Choose life, not death.
It was not only the Americans that used loudspeakers. The South Vietnamese used them too, and in fact had Armed Propaganda Teams (APTs) that went into the field to entertain and educate the people. The Joint U.S. Public Affairs Office honored an entire marching company of Vietnamese APTs, each with a loudspeaker under his right arm. To the right of the photograph are a Chieu Hoi symbol and the text:
Return to alleviate the suffering of the people.
The back is all text:
The Chieu Hoi Cadres of Long An Province.
Deeply encouraged by the success of the Chieu Hoi program, the armed propaganda teams of Long An welcomes the prime Minister and Vietnamese government officials to long An. The event was the opening ceremony of the spring for the fatherland campaign. The aim of the Chieu hoi program is to urge those still on the other side to return to their families and alleviate the sorrows of separation.
L-19/O-1 Bird Dog aircraft equipped with loudspeakers
The 1969 document Employment of U.S. Army Psychological Operation Units in Vietnam says about Operation Tintinnabulation:
Operation Tintinnabulation was a new Propaganda technique being tested by the 10th PSYOP Battalion, in cooperation with the 5th Special Operations Squadron, was recently employed against two VC battalions. Tintinnabulation (which literally means the ringing of bells) involves two C-47 aircraft, one "Spooky" (minigun-equipped) and the other a "Gabby" (loudspeaker-equipped). During the initial phase, the Gabby employs a frequency pulsating noisemaker designed to harass and confuse the enemy forces during night hours, while the Spooky provides air cover. During the second phase, the harassing noisemaker continues, however, emphasis is given to use of Chieu Hoi tapes. During a recent operation in Vinh Long Province, a total of 24 missions were flown with over-the-target time of approximately 2 hours per aircraft. The number of Hoi Chanhs in the province more than tripled (122 in September to 379 in December), and ralliers stated that the effects of the night missions caused them to rally.
South Vietnamese Loudspeaker Truck
Loudspeakers were used to sell Agent Orange to the people too: We read in the August 1969 working paper; A Review of the Herbicide Program in South Vietnam:
The herbicide PSYWAR effort which is an important part of the overall program has been accelerated in 1967. Both aerial loudspeakers and leaflets are used to explain necessity of the program to the people, to emphasize the non-toxicity of chemical defoliants to humans and animals, and to gain understanding and support from the civilian population. Procedures to reimburse civilians for inadvertent losses are also provided.
Loudspeaker tapes were prepared that said in part:
The Viet Cong takes advantage of dense and lush terrain and its thick growth to place mortars and bombs to kill honest people and infiltrate provincial capitals to conduct barbarous actions against innocent people.
The Government of Vietnam sees that it is necessary to spray chemicals to make the leaves fall and so destroy the jungle and thick leaves to prevent the enemy from using them as hiding places. Set your mind at ease. These chemicals do not harm your health or lives.
PSYOP Officer discusses script with interpreter before loudspeaker mission.
Note the leaflets stacked to be dropped with the broadcasts
During the Vietnam War the Snoopy helicopters had two large air scoops that led to a console with a visor over it so that an operator could stick his head in there and read what was being smelled even in bright light. Since the choppers had to fly low and slow to sniff, it was a very dangerous mission. This operation was mentioned in the formerly secret United States Military Assistant Command Vietnam Command History Volume II 1967. In a section entitled Novel Ideas and Innovations we find the following comments:
In November the 9th Infantry Division developed a hard-hitting PSYOP plan to be used with the People Sniffer, a human detection device mounted on a helicopter. Once the enemy elements are located by the people sniffer, leaflets were dropped and loudspeakers were used to warn the enemy that an air or artillery attack was eminent. Following the offensive action, the enemy was reminded again by leaflets and loudspeakers of the destruction that could be brought upon them, and urged to rally to the Government of Viet Nam. Maximum psychological impact could be gained by locating the enemy in an area he thought was safe, by warning him of the destruction that was going to be brought to bear, and by following up with an appeal to him to rally to avoid future attacks.
Jimmie Hurley, in 1965, standing in front of the loudspeakers on a U10 Courier aircraft at Bien Hoa Air Base, Vietnam. His mission was to fly over known enemy territory, broadcasting messages and dropping leaflets
Loudspeaker equipped U-10s
South Vietnam Air Force Loudspeaker equipped U6 "Beaver"
Loudspeaker Team Leader SP5 Mario Villamarzo
Specialist Fifth Class Mario Villamarzo told me about his leaflet operations in Vietnam as part of the 245th PSYOP Company in 1966-1967:
I also flew in U-10s on loudspeaker and leaflet missions. The aircraft would come from Nha Trang where the 5th Air commando Squadron was stationed and I would wait for it the airfield in Pleiku. I would load the U-10 with my leaflets and put my recorded tape in my cassette player and hook it up to the speaker on the aircraft. Once I got us to the target area we would fly in a circle around the target dropping leaflets and playing the loudspeakers.
The Americans also produced radio and loudspeaker messages on the theme of the danger of Allied bombing. For instance, tape 104 is a 24-second message in a male voice in both Vietnamese and Cambodian that warns:
You will soon be bombed by airplanes. Your fortifications and trenches will be smashed by the power of their explosives. There is no safe place to hide. Surrender now and you will escape a terrible and useless death. Soon you will be bombed by airplanes. Surrender now. Avoid a flaming death.
A Hoi Chanh broadcasts to his former Comrades
AP Wirephoto by George Esper
There were some phrases that combat troops in Vietnam had to learn. One was Chieu Hoi. If an enemy called out that phrase it meant he wanted to surrender and come over to the National Cause. The prisoner, if he was deemed to be faithful and dependable might become a Hoi Chanh. That meant he volunteered to work with the South Vietnamese and American forces as a scout and guide. Some were called Kit Carson scouts after the early American frontiersman. In the picture above, a North Vietnamese prisoner captured by the 101st Airborne Division west of Hue appeals to his comrades to surrender over a loud speaker. Some 352 NVA soldiers were reported killed in the area in the first week of May, 1968, and 97 surrendered.
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 an 18 March 1966 dairy entry Osborne said:
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.
An HH-46A Sea Knight helicopter with a 1400-watt AEM-SYS-2 sound
system and related loudspeaker, visible here on the helicopter's left front.
Close up of Sea Knight's 1400-watt loudspeaker.
A PSYOP officer uses a loudspeaker to encourage the Viet Cong to surrender
Staying the Course
Eric B. Villard mentions loudspeakers in his book: Staying the Course, Center of Military History, United States Army, Washington, D.C., 2017:
Between 1 November 1967 and 31 January 1968, U.S. forces in the 4th Divisions tactical area of responsibility delivered 61 million leaflets, 302 hours of airborne and 318 hours of ground loudspeaker broadcasts, and 32 hours of audiovisual presentations.
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.
Enemy use: During the Route 9-Tri Thien campaign, the department provided staff advice for the General Political Departments effort to produce and ship hundreds of thousands of leaflets, consisting of 16 different types of leaflets targeted on puppet army troops and four different types of leaflets targeted against American troops and to ship to the front lines 560 leaflet rockets, 7,200 leaflet mortar rounds, 238 megaphones, and 19 loudspeakers.
Government of Vietnam Armed Propaganda Team
Problems: Second Lieutenant Winston Groom of the 245th PSYOP Company in Vietnam talks about the problems that sometimes occurred when using local interpreters and translators:
One curious situation arose when I received word from Nha Trang not to use the standard surrender tapes they had made for us in Saigon and which we played over the bullhorn or over the loudspeaker system in the U-10 aircraft if the enemy were encountered. Somebody had discovered that the Vietnamese who translated the tapes was apparently Viet Cong, because he told the guerrillas not to surrender but to fight on. After that, we made our own tapes on a small and unreliable recorder using our own interpreters, who hopefully were not Viet Cong. I believe that after a month or so, they sent us new vetted tapes out of Saigon. It should not have taken that long. It should have taken only a few days.
When you talk to numerous PSYOP veterans, certain stories seem to be heard over and over again. One is their reaction to receiving fire while flying overhead and dropping leaflets or broadcasting messages. I have been told by several PSYOP troops that after receiving ground fire they began following their leaflet or loudspeaker aircraft with a blacked-out gunship. This is all very good as far as killing the enemy goes, but if we were trying to gain their trust and have them read our propaganda, this firing on the readers and listeners was counter-productive. No Viet Cong guerrilla is coming out of the woods to pick up a Chieu Hoi leaflet and possibly defect if he fears being shot to pieces by a blacked out gunship hiding just out of sight.
This use of PSYOP to kill the enemy was practiced often in Viet Nam. In 1966, under an operation known as Quick Speak, the USAF 5th Air Commando Squadron flew C-47 aircraft equipped with 3000 watt loudspeakers over the enemy. They would fly over a target at 3,500 feet broadcasting a propaganda message. When the enemy fired at the aircraft, an AC-47 Spooky gunship flying escort behind and below the loudspeaker aircraft would open fire with three 7.62 mm mini-guns that loosed 16,000 rounds a minute.
An Army PSYOP Lieutenant recalls:
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.
One also has to be careful about who hears the broadcasts. Kenneth Conboy says in Shadow War The CIAs Secret War in Laos about an operation to convince the Pathet Lao that one of their dead generals was talking to them:
Ghost music and recordings allegedly in the generals voice were played from airborne loudspeakers; on one of these flights, the broadcasting aircraft passed too close to a Royal Laos Army garrison, causing the spooked Royalist troops to desert en masse.
LAOS: The 16 September 1968 declassified secret USAF report: Psychological Operations by the United States Air Force and the Vietnamese Air Force in South Vietnam says about the PSYOP war in Laos:
The USAF has supported Psychological Operations in South Vietnam and Laos with leaflet drops and loudspeaker broadcasts starting in 1965 This Trail campaign is a program against NVA infiltrators. It was initiated in January 1966, and has gradually increased in intensity since that time. It consists principally of leaflet and loudspeaker operations directed at way stations, staging and supply areas, and the routes and trails leading to these areas, which are located in North Vietnam, the Laotian Panhandle, the Laos-Republic of Vietnam Border areas and the Cambodian- Republic of Vietnam Border areas. Thematic content is designed to create fear, anxiety, and insecurity in the North Vietnamese Army soldiers on their way to South Vietnam, in order to cause defection, desertion and a loss of effectiveness in the units.
The U.S. Army 7th PSYOP Group wrote a PSYOP Intelligence Special Report in February 1972. It says in part:
To carry out these goals the Government uses posters, leaflets, motion pictures, still pictures, cartoons, travelling theatre groups, PSYOP teams, loudspeaker programs, radio broadcasts and printed media. The Government has five radio stations which transmit to an estimated 70,000 radio receivers in the country. The Government publishes Khao Phap Pacham Sapda, a weekly news and photo sheet with a circulation of 20,000.The value of leaflets were shown when large numbers of the enemy defected and stated that leaflets and loudspeaker programs were influential in their decision to desert.
The threat of not being buried near your ancestral home and having your spirit wander forever is found in dozens of propaganda leaflets. The allies used just such a campaign 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 and a message allegedly in the voice of the dead general.
1st PSYWAR Battalion Loudspeaker Jeep in the Dominican Republic
Lieutenant Lawrence Karlock in the front right passenger seat
After 4 May 1965, the 82nd Aviation Battalion provided support for units of the division in the form of extensive aerial reconnaissance, medical evacuation, loudspeaker and leaflet drop missions, airlift or personnel and cargo, command control missions, classified missions into the interior for the U. S. Embassy and Special Forces, and provision of airlift for a platoon quick reaction force.
LTC Wallace J. Moulis, Commanding Office of the 1st PSYWAR Battalion wrote about Dominican Republic psychological operations in an article entitled "Key to a Crisis," Military Review, February 1966. He said:
Almost before the roar of their aircraft had left their ears, the radio teams with Ray Aylor, Voice of America radio engineer, were rehabilitating a 1000-watt transmitter to begin relaying Voice of America transmission from Greenville, North Carolina. Production of leaflets by mimeograph began even before the arrival of light, mobile presses. Loudspeakers took positions along the Ozama River to bring the voice of the United States to the people.
The 1st PSYWAR Battalions radio station, "The Voice of the Security Zone" went on the air on 5 May. It had a 5000-watt signal capable of reaching a good portion of the nation. Later, two additional transmitters were added to the network. The Army conducted 600 hours of loudspeaker operations, and broadcast over 900 hours of in-country programs. In addition, they relayed the Voice of America broadcasts for 35 days.
Hewson A. Ryan, Associate Director USIA (Policy and Plans) was assigned the task of coordinating all PSYOP in the Dominican Republic. He had been involved in the Cuban missile crisis and as a result was aware of the need for air delivery of leaflets, radio and loudspeaker broadcasts. Cooper says that to assist him, the Army sent the entire 1st PSYWAR Battalion to Santo Domingo from Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, in early May. A temporary base of operations was set up in the home of the Public Affairs Officer near the American Embassy. The Battalion soon moved into a nearby school building. The Army supplied radio transmitters, mobile presses, multilith machines, loudspeaker trucks, and aircraft for leaflet and loudspeaker operations.
Captain Blaine Revis who commanded the 19th PSYOP Company from June 1964 to August 1965 told me about deploying his troops to the Dominican Republic during Operation Power pack.
We sent two loudspeaker teams augmented with two Spanish speaking linguists and a print section (a 3/4-ton truck with pod). They flew into San Isidro on D+1 on a C47 Skytrain and a C119 Flying Boxcar. Our assigned sector was rather agrarian and soon quiet and compliant. I attribute that to some extent to the rice and beans and odd C-rations that we gave out to the people, along with Latin music that we played on the loudspeakers.
This article mostly mentions U.S. PSYOP units but thousands of miles away on the Island of Taiwan we support our old WWII ally, Nationalist China. Their tradition of psychological warfare goes back decades to when they fought the Communist for control of mainland China. They lost that battle but continued to fight on using propaganda and sometimes artillery as their weapons. When the Vietnam War heated up, the Nationalist Chinese acted as mentors to the South Vietnamese and many of their political warfare techniques were Chinese in origin. Today, the Republic of China still exists, and still hopes someday to return to the mainland.
The Chinese sometimes prepared gift envelopes of leaflets to present to visiting dignitaries. We show one here because along with the images of leaflets, balloons and artillery leaflet shells at the right, they have included a loudspeaker.
Irving R. Fang, in an article entitled The Chinese-Chinese Psywar, said in 1979 in that both sides send out their propaganda by radio, balloons, artillery shells, sea floats and loudspeakers. Small gifts were sent too; he mentioned underwear, toys and cooking oil.
Chinese loudspeaker vehicle
The Chinese still drill daily since any moment the Communist Chinese might decide to take the Island of Taiwan. Here we see Nationalist PSYOP troops training, supported by a loudspeaker vehicle.
The 1980 Cuban Mariel Boat Lift
A Printing and Graphics Section Poster quoting President Carter
The United States will accept with open arms and an open heart the thousands of Cuban
Refugees who are arriving aboard the Freedom Flotilla -President Jimmy Carter
Welcome to the United States of America
On 4 April 1980, the Cuban government suddenly allowed its citizens to leave for the United States. Hundreds of small boats made the trip to Cuba and brought back family members and friends. At the same time, it was rumored that Castro had emptied his jails and forced the small boats to also take the prisoners to the United States. This operation was called the Mariel Boat Lift and resulted in a mass exodus of more than 130,000 refugees to the United States. On 7 May 1980, Operational Detachment II, 1st Psychological Operations Battalion, was alerted for deployment to Ft. Chaffee, Arkansas.
PSYOP soldiers used a jeep-mounted loudspeaker system during the 1980s.
The detachment contained an Audio-Visual section. It initially consisted of one non-commissioned officer in charge and 6 enlisted men. The audio-visual section had three distinct missions: loudspeaker operations, movie projection and recording. Loudspeaker broadcasts comprised 90% of total missions conducted. Vehicular mounted loudspeakers proved especially effective for crowd control. Missions varied from routine announcements to crowd control during crises. A typical message like the one below was broadcast after some injuries and assaults in the camps:
Attention, attention. Silence, please, silence. Pay attention to the following instructions: If you do not live on 26 St. "The Boulevard" immediately move towards 3rd Ave. All 26 Street residents return immediately to your respective barracks. This is an inspection for your own health and well-being. It's not done with the intention of arresting someone. We are interested in obtaining and confiscating any illegal or contraband objects in the area. Starting now there will be 10 minutes of amnesty during which you will have the opportunity to get rid of any illegal object in your possession exempting you from any guilt. If you have anything illegal in your possession, drop it on the ground. If you have anything illegal inside the barracks throw it out the window. If you obey these simple instructions no actions will be taken against you.
In regard to PSYOP in Grenada, Stanley Sandler says in Cease Resistance: It's Good for You: A history of U.S. Army Combat Psychological Operations, 1999:
4th PSYOP Group loudspeaker teams attached to the 82nd Airborne Division, in addition to persuading significant numbers of frightened Peoples Revolutionary Army (PRA) troops to turn themselves in, confirmed the enemy's low morale as well as the desire of even some of the Cuban "Construction Battalions" to remain on the island with their Grenadian wives and families.
U.S. PSYOP soldier reads off a prepared script in Grenada
Retired Colonel Alfred H. Paddock, writing in an article entitled PSYOP: A Historical Perspective, for Perspectives, Volume 22, Number 5 & 6, 2012:
There was a very successful PSYOP amnesty program. It used radio, loudspeaker, and face-to-face media to announce the governor generals three-day amnesty program. During this period, more than 1,000 members of the Peoples Revolutionary Army over half of the main force turned themselves in. This successful program offered rewards for weapons, ammunition, or information leading to the capture of Cubans. Conducted over an eight-week period, this campaign employed face-to-face communication, radio, loudspeakers, posters, handbills and leaflets dropped by helicopters. By mid-January 1984 more than 196 weapons, 400 grenades, 13,500 rounds of ammo, and a Soviet BTR-60 armored personnel carrier were turned in.
Loudspeaker equipped helicopter in Haiti
Loudspeakers are mentionerd 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.
The general story is told in The Concise History of the U.S. Army in Operation Uphold Democracy, the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College Press, Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, 1998. It says in part:
From December 13-17, roughly seven million leaflets were released over Port au Prince, Cap Haitien, and Les Cayes the Air Force dropped roughly 10,000 radios across parts of Haiti Both Joint Task Force 180 and 190 incorporated Tactical PSYOP Teams (TPTs) with loudspeakers.
Each team normally consisted of four persons, although some split into two-person teams in support of remote Special Forces operations. Those TPTs that would have supported a forced entry were armed with taped messages in Creole demanding immediate surrender.
The 4th PSYOP Group booklet PSYOP Support to Operation UPHOLD DEMOCRACY adds:
Tactical PSYOP Teams would eventually conduct over 760 ground PSYOP missions covering an area from the northern tip of Haiti near Port-de-Paix to the southwestern city of Jeremie. Aerial loudspeaker teams flew 67 missions in support of ground operations, facilitating PSYOP dissemination in the rugged and mountainous regions bordering the Gulf of Gonave and in other denied areas.
Tactical PSYOP Loudspeaker Teams in Haiti
Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Arata adds in an article entitled Psychological Operations in Haiti, Small Wars Journal, April 2005:
PSYOP teams would use their loudspeakers and linguists to communicate the consequences of certain actions. Finally, they would give directions for subsequent actions or movement. Tactical PSYOP teams also helped with the seeking out and capture of several known members of the FRAPH who were wanted by the joint task force headquarters for questioning. In early October, one task force planned a series of raids on suspected locations of members of an activist political organization and other hostile individuals known as attaches. The tactical commander decided to use a graduated response tactic that began with TPTs broadcasting surrender messages, followed by a countdown sequence. Approximately 80% of the individuals at each objective surrendered and the rest offered no resistance when the assault team entered the building. Not a shot was fired during the entire operation. Again, a well-planned and well executed PSYOP campaign, in direct support of the tactical commanders mission and intent, was invaluable to the successful and safe accomplishment of the mission.
U.S. PSYOP Loudspeaker Team in Haiti
In the Special Operations History magazine Veritas, Volume 11, No. 1, 2015, Dr. Jared Tracy wrote about Haiti in an article entitled A True Force Multiplier Psychological Operations in Operation Uphold Democracy, 1994-1995. Some of the loudspeaker messages mentioned by Tracy are:
Encouraged pro-Cedras militants to lay down their arms; Neighborhood crime watch; preventing Haitian-on-Haitian crime violence; political reconciliation; No to violence, no to vengeance, yes to reconciliation; Support Aristide; Turn in you weapons for cash.
The 2nd Group deployed 67 reservists to Haiti, assigned from Cap Hatien in the north to Jeremy Jagmel in the south. They put 18 loudspeaker teams in the field.
PSYOP Loudspeaker Humvee with Patrol
On 3 December 1992, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 794. The Council authorized the United States offer to help create a secure environment for the delivery of humanitarian aid in Somalia and authorized, under Chapter VII of the Charter, the use of "all necessary means" to do so. United States President George Bush responded to Security Council resolution 794 with a decision on 4 December to initiate Operation Restore Hope, under which the United States would assume the unified command.
The first elements of the Unified Task Force came ashore on the beaches of Mogadishu without opposition on 9 December 1992. The first PSYOP soldiers deployed from Fort Bragg to Mombasa, Kenya, where they joined the U.S. 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit aboard the USS Tripoli. They accompanied the initial Marine landing at Mogadishu. As most people know, a mission creep eventually occurred, leading to major battles, Blackhawk down and the United States pulling out of Somalia. We will just mention the loudspeaker operations. Many of the comments are from Lieutenant Colonel Charles P. Borchini Commander of the 8th PSYOP Battalion.
One of the civilians working for LTC Borchini was a Somali named Abdi Hirad. He served in Somalia from December 1992 to May 1993 along with over 100 other translators and linguists working with the operation. The civilians were sent to Somalia in military aircraft, wore U.S. battledress uniforms, and were fed and billeted by their supported units. He told me:
For the first operation in Somalia (Operation Restore Hope), my main tasks were: Consultant augmenting the US Army's Joint Psychological Operation Task Force; I managed a radio station that broadcast daily programs, supervised and trained local employees; edited a daily newsletter, translated leaflets, handbills, posters, and handbooks; and produced mine awareness literature and recorded loudspeaker messages.
PSYOP Loudspeaker teams advised the people not
to block the roads or interfere with the covoys
The 4th PSYOP Group mentions the use of loudspeaker teams in Somalia:
From the initial landing on the beach at Mogadishu to the transition to UNOSOM II, the eight loudspeaker teams participating in Operation Restore Hope faced many different challenges. The loudspeaker teams broadcast numerous messages, including surrender appeals, instructions during weapons sweeps and at roadblocks and announcements to organize crowds at feeding sites.
In a 2001 televised interview on C-Span, then full Colonel Charles P. Borchini added:
PSYOP saves lives. Some argue that it is a combat multiplier it can help magnify the impact of overall military operations. It's also a diplomatic multiplier to help magnify what our diplomats are trying to accomplish. It can reduce the incidence of combat and also save the lives of American soldiers and the lives of our allies and coalition partners and friends as well as the lives of the civilians that are caught in the middle of a battle.
When we were in Somalia, the Marines rolled into Mogadishu and then later they entered the other outlying towns in the different sections. We helped prepare the battlefield for the arrival of the Marines for several days before they arrived. We would drop leaflets out of the helicopters or planes that would say: U.S. forces are coming to provide security for humanitarian relief operations. Don't interfere with them. When the Marines arrived, we dropped more leaflets and also sent loudspeaker teams in to the town to help keep the peace.
Sometimes the Marines would approach the small walled compounds where the enemy kept the Technicals, armed pickup trucks with machine-guns and other weapons. The Marines would surround these compounds with their tanks and their Humvees, and men with their machine guns and M-16s. We would have one soldier who could speak the language get on a loudspeaker and say: Put your weapons down and your hands up and walk out slowly. You will be allowed to leave peacefully. Every time that they did that in the early days in Somalia, it worked. It saved the lives of the Marines and the Somalis.
Ft. Amador after the 508th Assault
On 20 December 1989, the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division conducted their first combat jump since World War II onto Torrijos International Airport on Panama. The 1st Battalion of the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment had the mission of securing Ft. Amador, an installation shared by the American and Panamanian Defense Forces. PSYOP loudspeaker teams were a key asset. The battalion sealed off the Panamanian Defense Forces portion of Ft. Amador and ensured that all noncombatants were safe. After daylight, the task force set about systematically securing the area. When initial appeals failed to persuade the Panamanians to surrender, the American commander modified the broadcasts. The holdouts were warned that resistance was hopeless in the face of overwhelming firepower and a series of demonstrations took place, escalating from small arms to 50 caliber machinegun and 105mm howitzer rounds. A scout who took part in the operation told me that after the 105s were fired directly into the buildings at Amador, the Americans asked the Panamanian Defense Force survivors why they didn't surrender when the PSYOP loudspeaker kept calling for them to come out and not be harmed. They replied:
After that first 105 round hit, we couldn't hear anything!
Operations Just Cause Lessons Learned - Soldiers and Leadership, 90-9, Volume 1, October 1990, says:
The 1st Battalion of the 4th PSYOP Group provided loudspeaker teams to maneuver battalions during D-Day operations. Its mission was to assist maneuver units in convincing the PDF elements to surrender by announcing the conditions of surrender after a show of force by the maneuver unit. Its efforts to convince the PDF to surrender saved American and Panamanian lives. Additionally, PSYOP elements were critical during stability operations by assisting in refugee control, disseminating information, and participating in programs such as money for weapons.
When the 75th Rangers jumped into Panama on the first night, eight loudspeaker teams accompanied them. When the 82nd Airborne Division jumped shortly afterwards, 12 more teams accompanied them.
The tactical loudspeaker teams were issued bilingual booklets entitled Loudspeaker Message Handbook prepared by the 1st PSYOP Battalion and prerecorded tapes. Some of the prerecorded messages are:
Message 1. Phase 1.
Attention, attention, attention. Everyone clear the building. Lay down your weapons. Come out one at a time with your hands on your head and you won't get hurt. The building is surrounded.
Message 1. Phase 2.
Attention, attention, attention. Everyone in the building. You have 5 minutes to lay down your weapons and come out with your hands on your head. We intend to destroy the entire building and kill all of you in it unless you do as you are told. You can't escape. The building is surrounded. Don't die when you don't have to. Your five minutes has started.
President Manuel Noriega 1988
Perhaps the most famous loudspeaker operation of all time occurred when Noriega took sanctuary in a Vatican building A report written at the time of the Noriega surrender stated:
Loudspeaker teams took action after Noriega sought sanctuary in the Vatican Embassy
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 adds:
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.
U.S. PSYOP soldiers discuss an upcoming loudspeaker mission
during Operation Just Cause. (Photo by Kirk Wyckoff)
It is interesting to read all these comments about special music played to drive Noriega out into the open. However, 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.
Some Loudspeaker Humor
When old soldiers get together they tend to tell war stories about the crazy stuff they did. My personal best regards a cobra and a whore house, but that is for another article. Talking about loudspeakers, Specialist (E4) William Yaworsky of the 1st PSYOP Battalion told me about some of his stunts:
Bored to death by routine guard duty, PSYOP soldiers find the attraction of broadcasting unauthorized messages over the loudspeakers irresistible. During the 8 months in 1988-1989 in which I served on a loudspeaker team in Panama, unauthorized messages were not uncommon. In the summer of 1988, two of us were providing loudspeaker support to a Marine unit guarding fuel supplies at the Arraijan Tank Farm, located on the Pacific side of Panama. My teammate got the bright idea to shout Chestys a leg over the microphone, almost precipitating a small war with the Marines. Now for you civilians, Chesty Puller is a legendary Marine hero and a leg is an insult used by airborne troops to demean the infantry that walks to battle. Them are fightin words! Another time we were bored and one PSYOP soldier broadcast Whats the word? over the 450-watt loudspeaker system. To our astonishment a Marine gave the correct response: Thunderbird. This was directly from an ad for Thunderbird, a cheap whiskey you drank when you were broke.
One time my pals got back at me. Back at the Tank Farm, I was talking to an old friend from the 1/508th Parachute Infantry Regiment. He was filling me in with updates when all of a sudden he stopped and said, Hey, theres somebody calling you. Listening to the broadcast being made by another PSYOP team deployed nearby, I heard the following message playing in Spanish: Yaworsky Yaworsky! This is a warning for you. We will use deadly force against you
One day a Marine tried his hand at PSYOP. Presumably both bored and frustrated, the Marine waited for our PSYOP broadcast to finish. After our message to stay away ceased blaring, the Marine yelled out towards the jungle: Alright, motherfuckers! If you dont hit the wire tonight, youre all a bunch of fucking pussies! No human wave of Panamanian terrorists assaulted the perimeter that night, and the one authentic attempt at communication that I witnessed between the US Marine Corps and their presumed opponents ended in failure.
Sometime the best loudspeaker stories are the ones that never happened. An old retired PSYOP officer told me a story that made me laugh. Ghosts are always interesting and during my career I was involved in two such ghost gags. Here is his story:
A group of PSYOP officers at the Ft. Bragg Officers Club during the Friday night happy hour were talking about a TV news story that said the ghost of a Cavalry officer was wandering up and down the halls of West Point. This was maybe a week before the annual Army-Navy Football game. One officer said: Wouldnt it be something if the West Point Ghost was haunting the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis. The magic of happy hour then took over.
One officer stated he could probably get a mannequin and Cavalry uniform from the Base Training Aids Office. Or, we could dress someone in the uniform and have them hang below a helicopter in a harness. Another officer who was an Army pilot said he could get a Huey as he needed to fly this month to keep his certification current. We had PSYOP loudspeakers that could be rigged to work on the helicopter and one officer knew some parachute rigger friends who could equip the helicopter with a STABO (Stable Body) harness that we could dangle the mannequin or live volunteer dressed in the old Calvary uniform.What should our ghost say from the loudspeaker-equipped Huey? We decided some eerie creepy Halloween type noises transitioning into sounds of war. Scary music had worked in Vietnam on the Viet Cong. Maybe start with rifle shots gradually increasing in volume to the roar of cannon fire.
Finally, we would turn a spotlight on the flying ghost and have a ghostly sounding voice shout GO ARMY, BEAT NAVY! We even discussed dropping Go Army, Beat Navy Leaflets from the same helicopter. With our plans written out on bar napkins we agreed to start the ball rolling on Monday morning.
Monday morning came and we were ordered to report to the 4th PSYOP Group Commanders Office early that Morning. On reporting, we were surprised to see our Battalion Commander already there. The Group Commander informed us that he received a strange call from a friend in the Inspector Generals Office who happened to be visiting the Officers Club during happy hour on Friday. The IG reported that he had overheard an interesting conversation at the table next to him. Apparently some clearly insane officers were planning a ghostly PSYOP air assault on the U.S. Naval Academy.
The Group Commander stated that although he personally thought the idea was brilliant, the backlash on answering and justifying the military resources to the press was not worth the hassle. He admitted with a smile that it would have been an innovative PSYOP training mission.
Members of the 245th PSYOP Company during Operation Desert Storm
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 Greenwoods 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 Browns I feel good.
Task Force Troy loudspeaker equipped M113
There were numerous deception operations using loudspeakers during Operation Desert Storm. In one, the American tried to convince the Iraqis that they were facing entrenched American troops while those same troops had moved far to the west in what has been called the Hail Mary maneuver. General Tommy Franks says in his autobiography American Soldier, Harper-Collins Books, NY, 2004:
Every night, psychological operation units drove trucks fitted with gigantic loudspeakers slowly back and forth along the border, playing recordings of clanking tanks and Bradley armored personnel carriers. And this ruse complimented another of our PSYOP efforts, which broadcast bogus radio transmissions mimicking several heavy divisions moving forward to their final pre-attack tactical assembly areas.
The deception campaign was known as Task Force Troy. A 460 man ghost unit was created made up of 5 tanks, several wheeled vehicles and elements from the US Marines, British Army and the 4th Psychological Operations Group. Task Force Troy was given responsibility for an area of the Kuwaiti front which would normally have been covered by a full division. In order to deceive the enemy the unit relied on the use of deceptive decoys, armored vehicles, artillery pieces and helicopters, as well as a series of loudspeakers and dummy emplacements to complete the illusion. The unit played various PSYOP tapes, ranging from the sounds of tanks and trucks to helicopters landing and taking off. Those members of the Iraqi listening posts foolish enough to investigate were promptly engaged by awaiting Apache gunships or by A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft that were on standby to support the deception. The Iraqis soon lost interest in investigating the sounds and believed that they were faced with a military force of at least division strength.
The allied coalition effectively isolated a large element of Iraqi forces on Failaka Island. Rather than reduce the island by direct assault, a tactical PSYOP team from the Marine forces, aboard a UH-1N helicopter, flew aerial loudspeaker missions around the island with cobra gunships providing escort.
The message told the Iraqis below that should anyone wish to do so, they had until the next day to demonstrate their intention to surrender by relocating away from their defensive positions to the large radio tower on the island. The next day, to everyone's surprise, 1,405 Iraqis, including a general officer, waited in formation at the radio tower to surrender to the Marine forces without a single shot having been fired.
Staff Sergeant Bernard (left) Staff Sergeant Wright (center) with loudspeaker equipped Marine UH-1N
Loudspeaker UH1N returning from 1st Scarface mission
Staff Sergeant Larry Wright, NCOIC of the Marine Task Forces 1st Marine Division Detachment, had this to say about the mission:
The 2700 watt loudspeaker system was the accountable property of LTC Kelliher, Commander, PSYOP Dissemination Battalion (PDB). It was an original component of the system used in Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada, and had been partially cannibalized when PDB technicians reconfigured it for airborne deployment. Effective range based on ground tests was up to 5.5 miles depending on wind direction.
The two UH-1N helicopters were Marine Commanding General Boomers personal birds. When airborne, the loud speaker effectively broadcasted just over 3 miles. The Marine codename for our missions was Scarface and we were the only game in town for the Huey pilots (GEN Boomer was holding them in reserve) so we had an abundance of enthused pilots. The pilots always wanted us to play Flight of the Valkyries as they buzzed the compound at lift off.
The Failaka Island loudspeaker mission is mentioned in depth on Special Operations Forces: Roles and Missions in the Aftermath of the Cold War, DIANE Publishing, 1995:
Radio and tactical loudspeaker appeals from 66 teams helped encourage tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers deployed in Kuwait to desert and defect. In one instance, almost 500 Iraqis surrendered en masse to the 101st Airborne Division just before the ground assault was launched. In another case, over 1,400 enemy troops, including a general officer, were standing in formation, ready to surrender when the Marines came ashore on Failaka Island PSYOP appeals ultimately helped persuade over 86,743 Iraqis to surrender in the Kuwaiti theater. Additionally, as part of Joint Task Force Proven Force in Turkey, 21 PSYOP soldiers were credited with the surrender of 40,000 Iraqi soldiers in Northern Iraq, without firing a shot.
Iraqi bunker complex
Another interesting operation occurred when an Iraqi bunker complex was discovered right in the middle of General Schwarzkopfs Hail Mary. How to quietly remove the enemy? In order not to reveal the Coalition plans, the western theater of operation, where the left hook offensive was about to be launched, was spared the brunt of the air attacks. On 20 February 1991, just a few days before the ground assault was to begin, an Iraqi bunker complex was discovered at Thaqb Al Hajj which was right smack in the middle of the road that the 101st Airborne Division wanted to use for its main supply route. As the enemy's size and strength was unknown, this posed a real threat to the 101st Airborne Division's assault plans.
Man packed loudspeaker system
The 101st Airborne Division's PSYOP Liaison team formed an impromptu 3-man loudspeaker team. When the team arrived at the site some 60 miles north of the division's position, they found not one, but a network of thirteen bunkers within the enemy complex. The team first tried dropping leaflets but the enemy below showed no response to the leaflets. The team then attempted to use the man packed loudspeaker system by having a member hang out the helicopter holding the speaker in his hands while another read from a script that was flapping in the wind. Add to this scenario the accompanying backwash of the helicopter rotor blades and the effort appeared fruitless.
The team then asked the pilot to put them on the ground. They carried the loudspeaker to a hill about 500 meters from the Iraqis where they again started broadcasting. Slowly, Iraqi soldiers began coming out of the bunker complex. The team counted about 20 enemy soldiers when they received a radio call from their Blackhawk pilot informing them that they had to go as he was running low on fuel. When they arrived back at the base the team and the pilot started receiving congratulations from everyone on the ground. They discovered that their decision to broadcast on the ground had resulted in the entire complex, some 435 enemy soldiers of the 45th Division, choosing to surrender.
In the 13th Psychological Operations Battalion (EPW) during mobilization, Desert Shield / Desert Storm and Demobilization, 1993, Colonel James P. Noll mentions the use of loudspeakers in the prisoner of war camps:
Numerous disturbances within the EPW camps were defused by direct intervention of 13th Battalion PSYOP camp teams with back-pack loudspeakers Over our loudspeaker systems, the teams played music and rebroadcasted recordings from the Voice of the Gulf, the U.S. PSYOP radio station. But during prayer time, we would stop and play a recorded Moslem Call to Prayer. In this manner, we were able to deliver our PSYOP messages to the Iraqi EPW with maximum effectiveness.
The 13th PSYOP Battalion Also used prisoners in the field against the enemy:
The 48th Iraqi Infantry Division was targeted with concentrated leaflet drops and broadcasted surrender appeals. This culminated in the mass surrender of an entire battalion, to include the commander. A three-man tactical PSYOP loudspeaker team was airlifted into the Iraqi battalion position and used to organize the prisoner extraction by CH-47 helicopter. The broadcasted surrender appeal used on the Iraqi battalion which surrendered enmasse was produced by a prisoner from the 48th Division.
Tactical PSYOP Teams provided loudspeaker
support during some tense attempted border crossings
In 1989, a new nationalist leader by the name of Slobodan Milosevic took power in the Serbian Republic. He had previously served as the leader of Belgrade Communist Party and the Serbian Communist Party. He wanted to dominate all of the old Yugoslavia, but when it became clear that he could not, he decided upon the ethnic cleansing of his country and the creation of a Greater Serbia. He abolished Kosovo's autonomy. Croats and Slovenes feared that they were next in line. There were daily news reports of murders, rapes, mass killings and other atrocities carried out by the Serbs as Milosevic drove the minorities from their lands and homes, "purifying" his Greater Serbia. The problem of course, was that several portions of this new Greater Serbia were to consist of lands that had never been part of the old Serbia or populated by Serbians. This was a policy of naked aggression.
Milosevics actions forced the United Nations to deploy peacekeeping forces and begin humanitarian relief operations. Operation Provide Promise began on 2 July 1992. Twenty-one nations formed a coalition to resupply war-torn Sarajevo with food and medicine.
First Sergeant Jorge Altamirano
First Sergeant Jorge Altamirano of A Company, 9th PSYOP Battalion shared some of his memories of deployment to Kosovo. He pointed out that the 9th PSYOP Battalion was there before the resolution was approved. They were on the front line ready to go forward if Milosevic did not withdraw his troops. Fortunately, Milosevic did withdraw. He said:
We had to put KFOR on our vehicles before we were allowed to convoy to Camp Bondsteel. Since we were not prepared for the KFOR branding, we used paint brushes and white paint. On one vehicle, we had to use masking tape. As you can see, we also had to wear flack vest, and the Fritz helmet. Our Sergeant Major used to call it The dome of Obedience.
PSYOP Loudspeaker Teams in Kosovo
A Bosnian woman tries to stop a PSYOP broadcast by striking the loudspeaker
U.S. Army Reserve Major Thomas Bergman is a member of the 18th PSYOP Company, 10th PSYOP Battalion, 7th PSYOP Group. He was activated in December of 1995 for a tour in
. He had three Tactical PSYOP Teams, two in support of the two Military Police battalions supporting Tuzla and Lukavac and one attached to the NORDPOL Brigade (the Nordic countries, the Baltics, Poland and the United States) in Doboj. His unit provided the first Bosnia U.S.Army Reserve PSYOP soldiers in reporting to the 4th POG. In regard to how PSYOP performed in 1995 he says: Bosnia
One of my teams was temporarily attached to the Russian Brigade in the Republika of Serpska to provide loudspeaker support during some tense attempted border crossings by displaced civilians wishing to return to visit their homes, cemeteries, etc. My team was housed and fed by the Russians for almost a week and that may have been the first time that a
PSYOP element directly supported a Russian unit. U.S.
The entire Bosnia operation was studied in depth in Lessons from Kosovo: The KFOR Experience, Larry Wentz, The Command and Control Research Program (CCRP), 2002. In regards to Tactical PSYOP Teams interaction with the maneuver brigades he said:
One of the other big challenges was timely and accurate translation into Albanian and Serbian. TPTs were also used to support special events, such as the 1-year anniversary of the liberation of Kosovo. They also supported cordon and search missions where weapons were confiscated. In these cases, the TPTs deployed with loudspeakers in order to help the maneuver battalion with crowd control should a disturbance occur.
Man packed loudspeaker system
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 insurgents 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.
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.
Loudspeaker equipped patrol boat
Keiser and Engen say about Fallujah:
In March of 2004, during the siege of Fallujah, Iraq, Tactical PSYOP Teams (TPT) surrounding the city utilized the directional capability of their loudspeaker systems to broadcast rock music into the city to interrupt the sleep patterns of the insurgents. One TPT used its loudspeaker to broadcast armored vehicle sounds to draw insurgents into an ambush; in this instance, the insurgents themselves were setting up an ambush to destroy the tanks with rocket propelled grenades.
SGT Joe Diraddo uses the unmounted manpack loudspeaker in the
al Sarai neighborhood in Tall'Afar, Nineveh Province, Iraq.
SSG Jack Lewis broadcasts using the Long Range Acoustical
Device from Tall'Afar Castle in Iraq
The Long Range Acoustical Device (LRAD) was originally built for the U.S. Navy, intended to warn boaters out of the 500-meter exclusion zone around their warships. Its a big, black disc, maybe three feet across and about six inches thick, and it will reach out and touch someone at over 1,000 meters. It is ideal for PSYOP applications. The LRAD becomes increasingly directional as distances to targets increase.
Tests proved that a broadcast could be heard clearly by a dismounted unit in a cemetery over 1,400 meters distant from the LRADs position. During distance tests at 100 meters, the sound was painful to listeners, even with hands held over the ears and ear plugs in. At 300 meters, they could understand every word, still with his hands over plugged ears. At 800 meters, they could hear every syllable through ear plugs. The U.S. Navy has about 60 of the devices in Iraq and other regions. Several U.S. law enforcement agencies also use the device.
TPT members meet with some of the locals to conduct face-to-face communication
We should point out that loudspeakers were also used for deception. FM 3-05.302, Tactical Psychological Operations Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures says in part:
Loudspeaker broadcasts to replicate the sounds of weapons systems, vehicles, and aircraft are very successful at masking movement. Sonic deception to deceive the enemy into believing there are multiple pickup zones or landing zones in a certain area and loudspeaker broadcasts off rotary-wing aircraft can be very effective. A Tactical PSYOP Company supporting a division in a major city in Iraq used sonic deception to suppress the use of mortars against friendly units. Two brigades used PSYOP loudspeakers to broadcast Apache helicopter noises at night to discourage enemy mortar teams from setting up. A pattern of aggressive patrolling by Apaches had conditioned the mortar crews to displace immediately when hearing helicopters in the area. Movement of the mounted loudspeakers gave the perception of helicopter movement. Loudspeaker broadcasts were only used at night to mirror night Apache patrols. Daytime Apache patrols were used to suppress daylight mortar attacks.
Loudspeaker equipped motorcycle
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. Byrnes 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 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 Iraqs 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.
TPT taking a break.
OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM
Loudspeaker Team accompanies a patrol
On 11 September 2001, terrorists of al-Qaida (the Base), some trained and financed by Saudi Arabian exile-in-hiding Osama bin Laden, attacked the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington DC. On 12 September, the day following the attack, Tactical PSYOP Detachment 940 began target audience analysis of Afghanistan, including the Afghan populace, the Taliban, and al-Qaida. On 4 October 2001 a 95-man Joint Psychological Operations Task Force was activated at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and placed under the operational control of the Central Command. The 9th PSYOP Battalion (sometimes called the Dissemination battalion at that time) deployed to Kuwait that same month to support Operation Enduring Freedom.
U.S. Army Spc. Josh Brimm, assigned to the 307th Psychological Operations company, 10th PSYOP Battalion, 7th PSYOP Group, plays a counter improvised explosive device message on a loud speaker during a mission with U.S. soldiers assigned to Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, to patrol the villages around Malajat, Afghanistan.
US Army Specialist (SPC) sets up a loudspeaker system in order to broadcast non-civilian interference messages to the local people in Afghanistan, during Operation Mountain Sweep, part of ongoing operations in Afghanistan conducted in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM.
South Korean Military Loudspeakers at the DMZ
Retired Major Ed Rouse told me about peacetime Korea:
We would sometimes play loud rock and roll music over our loudspeakers on the Korean DMZ to counter (drown out) the North Korean propaganda broadcasts.
In 1995 Pyongyang broadcast over thirty propaganda programs over loudspeakers at the DMZ, repeating them anywhere from two to ten times for ten or eleven hours per day.
After years of relative quiet along the border between North and South Korea, conflict returned in March 2010 when North Korea torpedoed the South Korean warship Cheonan killing 46 sailors. South Korea resumed propaganda broadcasts airing Western music, news and comparisons between the South and North Korean political and economic situations. South Korea also threatened to install dozens of propaganda loudspeakers and towering electronic billboards along the heavily armed border between the two Koreas to send messages enticing communist soldiers to defect to the South. North Koreas military warned that it would fire at any propaganda facilities installed in the Demilitarized Zone.
South Korea soldiers reinstall psychological warfare loudspeakers at the border
In October 2010, after six years of quiet along the border, South Korea reinstalled 11 sets of psychological warfare loudspeakers along its border with North Korea. In addition, Minister Kim Tae-young said that the south had switched its transmitters to the easier-to-receive AM band and was ready to send thousands of AM radios and propaganda leaflets across the border using helium balloons. Mr. Kim also said the ministry had readied plans to add more loudspeakers and install huge video screens along the border.
In 2015, North and South Korea almost came to war after a North Korean provocation when two South Korean soldiers were severely injured by a hidden land mine placed in the demilitarized zone. South Korea placed portable loudspeakers along the border that were capable of broadcasting more than 20 kilometers at night. The two Koreas blasted propaganda at each other until 24 August 2015 when North and South Korea reached an agreement to resolve the showdown, with Pyongyang expressing regret for recent provocations. In return, Seoul agreed to turn off the loudspeakers that had angered Pyongyang so much that it had entered a quasi state of war. The South had also played a number of modern South Korean pop songs (sometimes called K-Pop) like Tell me your wish by Girls Generation.
Alexandre Dor wrote about the power of the broadcasts from the South in an article entitled North Korea's Achilles Heel: Propaganda Broadcasts published in The Diplomat, 12 September 2015. He said in part:
Spread from Gyodong Island in the west to Goseong in the east, South Korea has 11 loudspeaker locations along the DMZ. Playing between two and three times a day in three to five hour intervals, the broadcasts can be heard for a distance of roughly 15 miles at night and six miles during the day. The decibels output of these 30 foot tall speakers is about 147. For perspective, at 141 decibels you incur long-term hearing damage and feel physically nauseous within minutes. At 145 decibels your vision blurs due to eyeball vibration.
The genius of the broadcasts is that they non-violently undermine the stability of Kims kingdom by becoming reliable, trusted source of knowledge at the expense of North Korean propaganda. It starts with banal topics such as weather reports, defectors talking about how to deal with hot weather or giving warnings about coming showers and advising people take their laundry in.
North Korea apparently inaugurated a novel way to disrupt the messages broadcast from South Korean loudspeakers. North Korea has placed giant loudspeaker banks along their border with the south and pointed them north toward their own population. It is believed that this may be for a sound-masking effect to dilute the content coming from South Korean loudspeakers. The effect is to counter the sound wave by projecting another sound.
Infrared Image of Hurricane Andrew
In 2017, the United States was hit by 4 hurricanes by October. They were Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate. I thought it might be interesting to look at the use of PSYOP loudspeakers used in the support of the victims of Hurricane Andrew in in 1992.
Loudspeaker Teams broadcasted public service messages
A United States Army Southern Command document dated 1 July 1998 justifies the use of psychological operations in cases like Hurricane Andrew.
Psychological Operations (PSYOP) are prohibited by law from targeting U.S. audiences. The National Command Authority has granted exceptions for specific disaster situations, such as Hurricane Andrew. PSYOP is used for the preparation and dissemination of Command Information essential to each phase of the operation. The PSYOP product approval chain may include one or more Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials. PSYOP commanders and personnel must remind civilian agencies and populations continuously that they are only in a supporting role and solely for purposes of communication and information dissemination. At the same time, PSYOP personnel and the US Southern Command staff need to convey the special capabilities PSYOP offers FEMA and other agencies in support of disaster relief.
We note that because of the worry about the term PSYOP, and perhaps political correctness, the psychological operations task force (POTF) was called the Humanitarian Assistance Information Element and the PSYOP troops were referred to as humanitarian information support teams.
Hurricane Andrew was one of the most destructive storms in US history in terms of property losses with 25,000 homes destroyed and an additional 37,000 homes left uninhabitable. Overwhelmed county emergency medical services, limited access to hospital patient care, and difficulty in procuring supplies exacerbated the already complicated situation resulting from the storm.
Copy of loudspeaker announcement written on notebook paper showing that it should take exactly 20 seconds.
Army PSYOP specialists steered victims of Hurricane Andrew to relief centers throughout southern Dade County with a three-week blitz of public service information - via print products, radio and loudspeakers. The POTF comprised of active-duty soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 4th PSYOP Group, and Army Reservists from the 5th PSYOP Group.
While PDC soldiers worked at their headquarters, eight loudspeaker teams hit the streets as a sort of electric town crier, broadcasting public-service news similar to the radio and print teams, but reaching people whose radios and television were destroyed. The loudspeaker teams used the LSS-40, a 3-by-2-foot box like contraption which can be mounted on a soldier's back with a battery pack or mounted on a Humvee roof.
U.S. PSYOP personnel make use of local transport during
Cobra Gold '03 in Thailand with an elephant mounted loud speaker system
THE PHILIPPINE ISLANDS
The Philippines - Joint Task Group Tabang, Joint Task Force Marawi
On 23 May 2017, Maute terrorists attacked Marawi City. The Maute group, also known as the Islamic State of Lanao, was a radical Islamist group composed of former Moro Islamic Liberation Front guerrillas and foreign fighters led by Abdullah Maute, the alleged founder of a Dawlah Islamiya, or Islamic State, based in Mindanao, the Philippines. The terrorist group conducted a protection racket in the remote settlements of Butig, Lanao del Sur. It clashed on several occasions with Armed Forces of the Philippines troops.
In Marawi City, hundreds of houses were destroyed, thousands were left homeless and hostages were held by the terrorists. The Philippine Army Civil-Military Operations Regiment immediately deployed Loudspeaker teams to Marawi to support the front-line troops. Loudspeaker operations were primarily used during the liberation of Marawi City to guide the trapped civilians to safe areas, uplift the morale of the assault troops and induce the surrender of the terrorists.
Philippine Army loudspeaker team sets up their loudspeaker
The Philippine Army loudspeaker team is made up of a team leader who coordinates with the supported units, a broadcaster that can speak the local dialects, a technician that can operate and repair the equipment and an assistant technician. The loudspeakers are hand-held, mounted on poles or carried on tanks.
One civilian said: Through the gunfire you can hear loudspeakers broadcasting constantly, urging the rebels to surrender. Another civilian said: It was a very good announcement. It was very loud and clear, especially at night.
The motto of the Civil-Military Operations Regiment is: Winning hearts, winning minds.
Patricia Ann Cantero and Lydia Caviar of the Philippine Star talk about the loudspeaker system MLX4 in a 2016 article entitled The MLX4: Voice of Success.
At the height of the crisis, one loudspeaker team, under Major Omar B. Hagada, left headquarters to support the governments ground forces. There we were, a seven-man team, equipped with the MLX-4, recalls Cpl. Loygen Pelio, about to make history as the first-ever actual loudspeaker operation amidst a protracted firefight. The broadcast went on through the night. The next morning, the first batch of surrenderees emerged from their hideouts, following the surrender instructions aired by the MLX4 to the letter. They were followed soon after by other groups of surrenderees.
One of the seven CMO Loudspeaker Operations Team members, Corporal Loygen Pelio,
puts his life at risk to play recorded surrender messages through his MLX4
On Sept. 25, the Iner Misuari (a nephew of rebel leader Nur Misuari) group, composed of 36 rebels, yielded to government forces following surrender procedures from the loudspeaker broadcasts. The next day, a group of 40 rebels surrendered, followed by another group of 42, and so on as many more came out from their hideouts.
This has been a short look at the use of loudspeakers in war told by stories and anecdotes. Any reader that has an interesting loudspeaker story or comment is encouraged to write the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.