Herbert A. Friedman

This article is used with permission by the British Joint Services Command and Staff College (JSCSC) as reference material to provide high quality command and staff training to selected officers of Britain’s armed forces. In addition, it is used by the Military Information Support Team (MIST) Kenya as a reference source for continuity and information on U.S. PSYOP in Somalia. In 2014, permission was given for images from this article to be used by the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in their "Design and Violence" project. In 2015, images from this article were used with permission by ZMAN magazine.

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I have hesitated in writing about the Psychological operations (PSYOP) planned and carried out during the United Nations intervention in Somalia simply because there are so many items to describe and so much data already written about that brief African adventure. The leaflets alone number close to 100, and if we add in the handbills, posters and other items, there are well over 100. I did write a short report entitled "A Brief Look at Propaganda over Somalia, for the winter 1994 issue of Perspectives, the Journal of the Psychological Operations Association. In that report, I illustrated and translated four UNITAF leaflets, including the first two that we show further down in this article. This time we will study the operation in much greater depth. Because of the number of PSYOP products involved, we will select and show only those that are particularly interesting.

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American newspapers seem to get excited about wars and famines in foreign countries in cycles. At one time, they would write headlines and print numerous articles and editorials about the Guerrilla wars in Peru, Bolivia, Guatemala, and a host of other Central and South American nations. For a few weeks the headlines would be full of pictures and stories about the death and destruction, and then their interest would wane and they would go on to another hot topic. The wars still go on, and people are still dying, but the newspapers have lost interest.

We have seen the very same sort of cyclic activity when it comes to mass starvation, drought and famine in Africa. The newspapers will depict photographs of starving children with bloated bellies, weeping mothers, and bone-dry fields where nothing grows. It might be Ethiopia, the Congo, Somalia, or more recently, Liberia. After a few weeks, the journalists move on, no longer interested in the starving children. They still die, but the publishers have sold their papers and it is time to find another disaster to publicize and exploit.

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In some ways, this is how the United States became involved in Somalia. For weeks, the newspapers told of the suffering people and the warlords who kept them starving and in poverty. The United Nations clamored for a military force to protect food shipments, the newspapers demanded that the United States be part of that force, and slowly and gradually, the American military found itself unwillingly sucked into the vortex that is Africa.

A host of local petty warlords and clans ruled Somalia. They fought bitterly to control their small parcels of barren land and starving citizens. This was especially true in the capitol city of Mogadishu. The situation was so bad in that city that it was estimated that 500,000 Somalis would die of starvation in 1992. President Bush found himself under tremendous pressure to send American troops to protect relief workers and the food shipped to the starving nation. He finally authorized the deployment of American troops in an operation called Restore Hope.

The Army Times of 14 December 1992 lists the major warlords and their organizations:

Somali National Movement – Abdul Rahman Tur.
Somali Salvation Democratic Front – Colonel Tusuf.
United Somali Congress (Aideed faction) General Mohammed Farah Aideed.
United Somali Congress (Ali Mahdi faction) Ali Mahdi Muhammed.
Somali National Front – General Mohamed Said Hersi Morgan.
Somali Patriotic Movement – Colonel Omar Jess.

First, a history of the United Nations political and military activity in Somalia. This information is courtesy of the United Nations Department of Public Information.

The United Nations in Somalia, United Nations Department of Public Information, April 1993, says:

The downfall of President Siad Barre on 27 January 1991 resulted in a power struggle and clan clashes in many parts of Somalia. In November, the most intense fighting since January broke out in the capital Mogadishu, between two factions - one supporting interim President Ali Mahdi Mohamed and the other supporting the Chairman of the United Somali Congress, General Mohamed Farah Aided. Since then, fighting persisted in Mogadishu and spread throughout Somalia, with heavily armed elements controlling various parts of the country. Some declared alliance with one or the other of the two factions, while others have not. Numerous marauding groups of bandits added to the problem.

An article entitled  “Crisis in Somalia,” published in the booklet Blue Helmets - A Review of United Nations Peacekeeping adds in part: 

The United Nations Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM I) was set up to facilitate humanitarian aid to people trapped by civil war and famine. The mission developed into a broad attempt to help stop the conflict and reconstitute the basic institutions of a viable State.

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General Mohamed Farah Aideed

From November 1991, there was heavy fighting in the Somali capital of Mogadishu between armed elements allied to General Mohamed Farah Aideed, or to Mr. Ali Mohamed Mahdi, the appointed "interim President," and yet other factions. In addition to Mogadishu, there was conflict in Kismayo, and in the northwest, local leaders were pushing to create an independent "Somaliland". The country as a whole was without any form of central government. Banditry was rife.

The fighting that followed, with clans and sub-clans constituted in loose alliances without central control, took place at a time of serious drought. That combination proved disastrous for the population at large. By 1992, almost 4.5 million people, more than half the total number in the country, faced starvation, severe malnutrition and related diseases. The magnitude of suffering was immense. Overall, an estimated 300,000 people, including many children, died. Some 2 million people, violently displaced from their home areas, fled either to neighboring countries or elsewhere within Somalia. All institutions of governance and at least 60 per cent of the country's basic infrastructure disintegrated.

An October 2018 article by Staff Sergeant Dillon Heyliger titled “U.S. involvement in Mogadishu before the Battle of Mogadishu” on the U. S. Army Website added:

In September 1991, intense fighting reignited in Mogadishu. The conflict spread again throughout the country, wreaking havoc on the nation's agriculture and leading to mass starvation. The United Nations stepped in and attempted to distribute food supplies to starving citizens. However, an estimated 80 percent of the supplies were hijacked by warring militias, who exchanged them for weapons and munitions with other corrupt nations.

Meanwhile, conditions within Somalia continued to deteriorate for the great majority of its people. In resolution 767(1992) of 27 July 1992, the Security Council approved the proposal to establish four operational zones - Berbera, Bossasso, Mogadishu and Kismayo - and strongly endorsed sending a technical team to Somalia.

Heyliger adds:

In July 1992, after a ceasefire between the opposing factions, the U.N. sent 50 military observers to watch the foods distribution. Operation Provide Relief began in August 1992, when the U.S. announced that U.S. military transports would support the multinational U.N. relief effort in Somalia. Within six months, the U.S. moved 48,000 tons of food and medical supplies to international humanitarian organizations in an attempt to help Somalia's more than three million starving citizens.

On 24 August 1992, the Secretary-General requested an increase in the authorized strength of UNOSOM to create the four operational zones. For each zone, UNOSOM would receive a military unit of 750 personnel. The total strength of United Nations security personnel envisaged for Somalia thus rose to 3,500. On 28 August, the Security Council, by resolution 775 (1992), authorized the increase. On 8 September, it agreed to a further addition of three logistical units, raising the total authorized strength of UNOSOM to 4,219 troops and 50 military observers. The first group of security personnel arrived in Mogadishu on 14 September 1992.    

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Somali “technicals” armed vehicles

This parody Toyota poster was created by an unknown artist who noted the
popularity of Toyota Hilux trucks as the vehicle of choice for use as "technicals"

Implementing the program proved difficult. Continuing disagreements among Somali factions on the United Nations role made the countrywide and more effective deployment of UNOSOM impossible. On 28 October, General Mohamed Farah Aideed declared that the Pakistani UNOSOM battalion must leave Mogadishu. He also ordered the expulsion within 48 hours of the UNOSOM Coordinator for Humanitarian Assistance. Subsequently, General Mohamed Farah Aideed's forces shelled and shot at UNOSOM forces controlling the airport, and Mr. Ali Mohamed Mahdi's forces shelled ships carrying food as they attempted to enter Mogadishu port. General Aideed objected to United Nations control of the airport; Mr. Ali Mohamed Mahdi wanted UNOSOM to take full control of the port. On 13 November, after coming under machine-gun, rifle and mortar fire, the Pakistani troops controlling the airport returned fire. In the absence of a government capable of maintaining law and order, relief organizations experienced increased hijacking of vehicles, looting of convoys and warehouses, and detention of expatriate staff.

Heyliger concludes about the start of the operation:

In December 1992, recognizing greater efforts were needed to stop the still rising death-toll and displacement of civilians, the U.S. stood up the Unified Task Force to enact an even greater push for humanitarian aid and security assistance under Operation Restore Hope. This undertaking deployed 37,000 multi-national personnel to the war-ravaged nation.

The N.Y. Times of 2 January 1993 discusses the warlords:

General Aideed controls most of southern Somalia, including a large part of Mogadishu, while Mr. Ali Mahdi presides over northern Mogadishu…other key figures include General Mohammed Said Hersi Morgan who controls the town of Bardera, and Colonel Omar Jess, who controls Kismayu.

On 3 December 1992, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 794. The Council welcomed 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.

We should point out that before the actual start of military operations in Somalia the United States had tried to quietly feed the people using civilian agencies. This is discussed in the booklet, U.S. Army in Somalia 1992-1994. It says:

In response to the worsening famine, the United States decided to assist the relief efforts by airlifting food from nearby Kenya to remote airfields in the interior of Somalia for distribution, thus bypassing congested ports and reducing the need to send out easily looted convoys. For this purpose, the United States launched Operation PROVIDE RELIEF on 15 August 1992. The actual ground distribution continued to be accomplished by the international relief organizations already established in the country. PROVIDE RELIEF was thus a limited attempt to use U.S. expertise in logistics to help the relief effort without engaging American military forces on the ground.

Problems of distribution within the country continued to hamper the relief effort. In the countryside, lawless gangs seized relief supplies and used them to buy local loyalties while letting thousands starve. In the cities, the warring political factions, supported by their private armies, amassed food stockpiles as bargaining chips and signs of their power. These rival entities, often barely controlled by their clan leaders, terrorized the international organizations, stealing food and killing whoever did not pay protection money.

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U.S. Troops Arrive in Mogadishu

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

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

The United States Forces, Somalia After Action Report and Historical Overview The United States Army in Somalia, 1992–1994 Discusses the Somalia operation:

Psychological operations were also used extensively to support operations in Somalia. UNITAF established a Joint PSYOP Task Force made up primarily of elements of the 4th Psychological Operations Group (Airborne) from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to ensure that information operations were effectively integrated into all plans and operations in theater. PSYOP troops ran a local newspaper (called Rajo—the Truth) and set up a radio broadcasting system. They also provided tactical loudspeaker teams to U.S. and international forces. In addition, the task force designed, printed, and distributed more than 7 million copies of 49 different leaflets, posters, and handbills.

We should take a moment here to see what it was like to prepare to deploy to Somalia as written by Suzanne Walker on 22 December 1992:

The soldiers will join a psychological operations task force in Somalia to help communications between the Somalis and the commander of Operation Restore Hope. About 20 Fort Bragg soldiers celebrated Christmas on Monday after receiving word that they would be deploying to Somalia before the night was over. But the soldiers from the 4th Psychological Operations Command said their mission is much more important than being home for the holidays. "It's a bummer, but it's got to be done", Sergeant James Nieto said. Sgt. Nieto, 28, celebrated Christmas on Monday morning with his wife, Amy, and 2-1/2-year-old son, Jacob. A few hours later, he was preparing to go to Africa, where he will be for the next few months. Jacob seemed oblivious to the situation as he munched on corn chips and sat on his father's lap. Sergeant Nieto said one of the hardest parts about leaving is explaining to his son why he must go. "You can tell him, but he is young, and he really does not understand. In a couple of days, he will realize I am gone and that I will not be back for a while." Mrs. Nieto, 25, said they tried to make up for the missed holiday by opening presents at 4:45 a.m. She plans to take Jacob to Pennsylvania to spend Christmas with her family.

Specialist Varunee Price is leaving her husband, Keith, and 11-month-old daughter, Katie, behind to do her job on a continent thousands of miles away, but she believes going to Somalia is the right thing to do. "Like I always say, you just got to do what you must do. I think it is worth missing Christmas to help people. Isn't that what Christmas is all about?"

Sergeant 1st Class Joel Krall agrees. "It is always worth missing Christmas when you're helping someone because that's the whole purpose of Christmas." The 33-year-old has spent four of the past five Christmases away from home. "It is sort of, after a while, you become immune to it. It is nice when you get to spend the holidays at home, but you know when you get back you get to make it up." He said his wife, Renee, is understanding about his job's requirements. The two planned to spend Christmas in Texas with family, but Mrs. Krall will have to make the trip by herself.

Sergeant Perry Bartram said he is also getting used to being away from home during Christmas. He has spent at least three Christmases away in the past four years. "I think it makes time here at home more appreciated." His wife, Leah, is expecting a baby in February. Sergeant Bartram does not expect to be back by then. "I would hope I would be home, but I am not planning on it. When we planned on having the baby, we planned on me not being here when it was due. We kind of get used to making plans at the last minute, not setting anything in concrete." He said deploying is just part of his job. "We get to go places where we really help people. To me, the holidays are not even a factor with something like this. The rewards of going over there far outweigh being home during Christmas."

On 3 March 1993, the Secretary-General submitted to the Security Council his recommendations for effecting the transition from UNITAF to UNOSOM II. He indicated that since the adoption of Council resolution 794 in December 1992, UNITAF had deployed approximately 37,000 troops in southern and central Somalia, covering approximately 40 per cent of the country's territory. The presence and operations of UNITAF had a positive impact on the security situation in Somalia and on the effective delivery of humanitarian assistance. However, despite the improvement, incidents of violence continued. There was still no effective functioning government in the country, no organized civilian police and no disciplined national army.

The Security Council established UNOSOM II by resolution 814 on 26 March 1993. UNOSOM II took over from UNITAF in May 1993 and ended March 1995. It consisted of approximately 28,000 military and police personnel; there was also a provision for some 2,800 international and locally recruited staff. UNOSOM II was to complete, through disarmament and reconciliation, the task begun by UNITAF for the restoration of peace, stability, law and order. UNOSOM II was also entrusted with assisting the Somali people in rebuilding their economy and social and political life, re-establishing the country's institutional structure, achieving national political reconciliation, recreating a Somali State based on democratic governance and rehabilitating the country's economy and infrastructure. In February 1994, after several violent incidents and attacks on United Nations soldiers, the Security Council revised UNOSOM II's mandate to exclude the use of coercive methods.

The Army AAR report said about UNOSOM II:

The PSYOP media utilized during UNOSOM II operations were leaflets. From the beginning of UNOSOM II leaflets were the primary agents for influencing the Somali people because the radio and newspaper were not part of the PSYOP effort. Aircraft disseminated over four million leaflets during the period from May through November. The leaflets were effective in getting an immediate response, but they were the lone media available and dropping a leaflet on someone’s head can be perceived as a hostile act. Leaflets were the only choice of media from May through August because it was thought that the Information Strategy Group might gel and a comprehensive PSYOP effort utilizing all media might emerge.

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PSYOP in Somalia

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A mixed Group of Allied Leaflets to Somalia

Looking at my own notes from 1992-1993, I see under “General Information” the following comments:

“UNOSOM was established 24 April 1992 to monitor the cease-fire, provide security, and escort humanitarian supplies to distribution centers. There were about 3,500 UN troops originally assigned. An additional 3,500 troops joined the force in August 1992 to protect convoys and distribution centers.

The United Nations authorized UNITAF on 3 December 1992. The United States led it with about 28,000 troops. Operation Restore Hope originated 9 December 1992. Another 20 nations would send troops for a total force of about 37,000 peacekeepers. The mission was to ‘use all force necessary to establish a secure environment.’

The United Nations authorized UNOSOM II on 3 March 1993. It was the first peacekeeping operation authorized to use force. The mission was to effect a political reconciliation and transfer of power to a civilian institution. The first force commander was Lieutenant General Cevik Bir of Turkey. The manpower was about 20,000 combat troops, 8,000 logistical troops, and 2,800 civilians.

A soldier from the 9th Psychological Operations Battalion (Airborne) hands leaflets to several Somalis on the streets of Kismayo.

The United Task Force Somalia (UNITAF) disseminated 37 leaflets between 9 December 1992 and 4 May 1993.

U.S. Army in Somalia 1992-1994 adds:

Turkish Lieutenant General Cevik Bir was appointed commander of the UNOSOM II force, with U.S. Army Major General Thomas M. Montgomery as his deputy. General Montgomery also retained his position as commander of U.S. Forces in Somalia Thus the U.S. forces retained their own national chain of command while inserting themselves into the UN structure. By October 1993 UNOSOM II consisted of over 16,000 peacekeepers from 21 nations. This number would jump to 29,732 soldiers from 29 nations by mid-November with the arrival of over 17,000 additional U.S. personnel as part of a U.S. joint task force.

Heyliger says:

The PSYOP mission in Somalia began with Operation Restore Hope. Operation Provide Relief was considered too "low-profile" for PSYOP teams to engage in the effort. A Joint PSYOP Task Force consisting of 125 members was formed with the 8th PSYOP battalion providing command and control and directing the PSYOP Development Center and Dissemination Battalion assets. The 9th PSYOP battalion supplied two brigade support elements and eight tactical loudspeaker teams. The JPOTF would carry out its promises and could meet force with force if required, and would treat all groups equally during humanitarian operations. The most effective PSYOP mediums quickly became face-to-face interaction with the population, radio and loudspeaker broadcasts, posters, leaflets, handbills, and coloring books.

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The 4th PSYOP Group published a book entitled Psychological Operations in Support of Operation Restore Hope in late 1993. It gives background on the early aspects of the operations:

PSYOP was a key Battlefield Operating System used extensively to support UNITAF operations. In order to maximize the PSYOP impact, we established a Joint PSYOP Task Force (JPOTF) under the supervision of the director of operations, and limited the PSYOP focus to the operational and tactical levels.

The JPOTF was comprised of approximately 125 members of the U.S. Army’s 4th PSYOP Group, and several of its subordinate battalions, the 8th (command and control), the 9th, (a tactical loudspeaker battalion), The 9th PSYOP battalion supplied two brigade support elements and eight tactical loudspeaker teams), the PSYOP Dissemination Battalion and one U.S. Navy sailor and a dozen Somali linguists. The most effective PSYOP mediums quickly became face-to-face interaction with the population, radio and loudspeaker broadcasts, posters, leaflets, handbills, and coloring books.

The JPOTF worked with coalition forces, senior U.S. and U.N. civilians, and nongovernmental and private volunteer organizations. The JPOTF designed, produced and disseminated thirty-seven different leaflets; large numbers of more than a dozen different handbills and posters; issued 116 editions of a Somali language UNITAF newspaper RAJO (Hope) with as many as 25,000 copies printed (The messages applied pressure on Aideed to reduce violence in Mogadishu and aimed to persuade the Somalis to cooperate with UNITAF and its coalition forces) and distributed daily to every town and village where UNITAF forces were deployed; transmitted radio broadcasts twice daily; produced and disseminated more than seven million leaflets over central and southern Somalia; deployed tactical PSYOP teams with the coalition forces; and provided advice to the U.S. special envoy, Ambassador Robert Oakley and his staff.

The Joint PSYOP Task Force mission was to present a benevolent image of the U.S. and U.N. humanitarian presence, capable and willing to use force to protect the relief effort. The JPOTF would assure all factions of their impartiality in the conduct of the relief operations, and its neutrality in the civil war, to dissuade the factions from impeding the relief operations. The JPOTF used face-to-face communications, radio and loudspeaker broadcasts, leaflets, posters, coloring books, and other printed products to disseminate its messages to the local populace.

Restoring Hope in Somalia with the Unified Task Force 1992-1993 adds:

To ensure this valuable [PSYOP] support was planned and integrated into the UNITAF operation, a joint psychological operation task force was organized under the supervision of the director of operations, Brigadier General Anthony C. Zinni. This specialized task force, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Charles Borchini, USA, was formed from elements of the Army's 4th Psychological Operations Group (Airborne). The nucleus of the task force came from the 8th Psychological Operations Battalion and the Product Dissemination Battalion. The 9th Psychological Operations Battalion (Tactical) provided two brigade psychological operations support elements and eight loudspeaker teams. These last units were attached to the 7th Marines, and the Army's 10th Mountain Division.

The task force accomplished its information dissemination mission through a variety of products. Leaflets were easily produced and widely distributed. These small sheets usually had a colorful picture on one side and a related message in Somali on the other. Themes ranged from an explanation of the purposes of the coalition forces to information about the dangers of mines and unexploded ordnance. These were distributed to target areas by aircraft. Throughout the operation several types of aircraft were used: Marine Corps CFI-53 helicopters; USAF and Canadian C-130 Hercules airplanes; Army IJH-60 and UH-1 helicopters; Navy 5-3 Viking airplanes; and New Zealand C-748 Andover airplanes.

Another printed product was a Somali-language newspaper named Rajo, the Somali word for hope. The staff of the paper included soldiers from the 4th Psychological Operations Group, civilian area experts, and Somali linguists. They produced articles about military operations in Mogadishu and the other relief sectors, relief operations, redevelopment, and analyses of the peace and reconciliation talks. g. The first copy of this paper was published on 20 December 1992, and it soon had a daily run of 15,000 to 28,000 copies, depending on the availability of paper. It was distributed to every town and village in which UNITAF soldiers were deployed.

In cooperation with the newspaper, UNITAF established a Somali-language radio station, also named Rajo. Radio Rajo offered the Somali people a choice from the faction-controlled radio stations as a source of information. Twice a day, the station broadcast a 45-minute program consisting of news stories from the Rajo newspaper, world events, readings from the Quran, readings of Somali stories and poetry, and Somali music.

Psychological operations teams supported every UNITAF action from the very start of the operation. On 9 December, loudspeaker teams accompanied the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit during the initial landings. A Marine CH-53 carded a team for the first leaflet drop over the city of Mogadishu. After that, loudspeakers and leaflet drops were a part of each movement of coalition forces into the relief sectors. Two to three days before the arrival of UNITAF soldiers into a town, the teams dropped special handshake leaflets that depicted a Somali and a coalition soldier shaking hands and explained the mission of the coalition to assist the relief operations. While emphasizing the peaceful intent of the coalition, these leaflets also clearly stated that UNITAF was prepared to take any necessary action: "We are prepared to use force to protect the relief operation and our soldiers. We will not allow interference with food distribution or with our activities." After UNITAF forces moved into a sector, other leaflets were dropped over the cities and villages and along the routes leading to it. These showed Somali people waving to a guarded convoy of relief trucks and explained: "We are here to protect relief convoys." They also warned: "Do not block roadways! Force will be used to protect the convoys."

A detachment of the 9th PSYOP Battalion was attached to the 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division. The arrangement is described by Captain James C. Boisselle in an article entitled "Detachment B910 in Operation Restore Hope: Operations and Lesson Learned," in Perspectives - the Journal of the Psychological Operations Association, spring 1994. Some of CPT Boisselle's comments are:

The mission was to plan, coordinate, and execute PSYOP in support of the 2nd Brigade of the United Task Force campaign plan. The Brigade's initial focus was combat operations such as reaction to ambush, raid cordon and search...initially the role of tactical PSYOP in support of these operations was straight forward; induce surrender, deter resistance, and prevent civilian interference.

A day or two before the arrival of forces, the PSYOP plan was executed. This usually consisted of a leaflet drop explaining certain 'rules' and face-to-face messages conveying the US forces' operations. Once an area had been stabilized and relief supplies were again moving, Detachment B910 conducted follow-up assessments and developed programs to help achieve PSYOP objectives.

The United States Army in Somalia, 1992–1994 says about UNITAF PSYOP:

Psychological operations were also used extensively to support operations in Somalia. UNITAF established a Joint PSYOP Task Force made up primarily of elements of the 4th Psychological Operations Group (Airborne) from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to ensure that information operations were effectively integrated into all plans and operations in theater. PSYOP troops ran a local newspaper (called Rajo—the truth) and set up a radio broadcasting system. They also provided tactical loudspeaker teams to U.S. and international forces. In addition, the task force designed, printed, and distributed more than 7 million copies of 49 different leaflets, posters, and handbills.

I should point out that the story does not end with the UNITAF leaflets. When UNOSOM II took over for UNITAF, they produced another entire series of leaflets, even more extensive than the UNITAF series.  

The PSYWAR Society Catalogue

The PSYWAR Society published a booklet in April 1995 entitled Illustrated Catalogue of UNITAF Aerial Leaflets used in Support of Operation Restore Hope, Somalia, 9 December 1992 – 4 May 1993. As I gathered the leaflets, I numbered them 1 through 37. The booklet numbered them with the prefix PSN followed by S1, S2, etc. I will use their codes simply because it is easier for the reader to follow a published reference. Unfortunately, the leaflets are uncoded so any numbering system is completely arbitrary.

United States Marines CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters dropped the first two leaflets (S1 and S2) over Mogadishu on 9 December. Because of small arms fire, the initial drops were from 1,000-5,000 feet. Later drops were from 500-1,000 feet. United States Air Force C-130 Hercules also dropped leaflets on Somalia. The leaflets were initially printed at Fort Bragg, NC, on the 4th PSYOP Group’s Heidelberg print presses. The leaflets are discussed in detail by LTC Charles P. Borchini in a Special Warfare article entitled “PSYOP in Somalia – The Voice of Hope.” He says:

The initial landing of U.S. forces in Mogadishu on 9 December was preceded by a drop of approximately 220,000 leaflets from a U.S. Marine CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopter. This operation used two kinds of leaflets to announce the arrival of U.S. forces and to alert inhabitants of the need for convoy-security missions. The “handshake” leaflet communicated the basic message that the intent of the mission was to assist, not harm Somalis; the convoy security leaflet stressed that coalition troops would use force to protect the relief shipments. These three-by-six-inch leaflets had been printed at Fort Bragg by the 4th PSYOP Group.

Throughout the operation, PSYOP teams, using U.S. C-130s, U.S. Marine CH-53s, U.S. Army UH-60s and UH-1s, and a Canadian C-130, continued to drop the two leaflets along major supply routes. The handshake leaflets were dropped two or three days prior to the arrival of UNITAF forces in each town; the convoy leaflets were dropped two or three days afterward. During one operation, PSYOP teams used U.S. Navy S-3 Viking fixed-wing aircraft to jettison 60 canisters, each carrying 2,500 leaflets, over the target area. With the gradual redeployment of U.S. C-130s, leaflet missions were also conducted from New Zealand "Andovers," a smaller version of the DC-3.

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Convoy Leaflet

The very first leaflet clearly shows the intent of the United Nations resolution. It depicts a military food convoy protected by armed high mobility multipurpose-wheeled vehicles (Humvees) and helicopters. Happy Somalis wave at the convoy. There are numerous ways to interpret and translate the Somali language. I will use that translation that seems to best fit the intent of the leaflet. Text on the front is:

We are here to protect relief convoys! Do not block the roads.

The back depicts a UN symbol, an American flag, and the text:

Our forces are here to defend the people helping you Do not get involved in any manner. Do not block the roads! Force will be used to protect the convoys.

At the same time, loudspeaker messages warned the people:


United Nations forces are here to assist in the international relief effort for the Somali people. We are prepared to use force to protect the relief operation and our Soldiers. We will not allow interference with food distribution or with our activities. We are here to help you.

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A young Somali boy holding the handshake leaflet.

The military booklet: BUILDING BRIDGES: Commander’s Guide to Face to Face Communication mentions targets with poor reading skills and uses this leaflet as an example. It says in part:

Do not exclude the use of printed materials. Photo-novels, comic books, and wall posters using graphics and very few words can convey a message. Posters for non-literate and partially literate audience should have as little written text as possible and should consider the visual literacy of the target audience. Before large quantities of any printed visual communication materials are produced, graphics and artwork should be pretested-on a sample audience and changes incorporated into the final products. It is not unusual to find that an audience’s perception of the ideas being presented is entirely different, even opposite, from what was intended. Visual communication materials for rural audiences should incorporate images that reflect the local culture and landscape.

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Handshake Leaflet

The second dropped leaflet received a lot of print and newspaper coverage when some linguists claimed that the text was an insult to the Somalis. The front has no text and is a handsome full-color depiction of an American soldier and a Somali citizen shaking hands. These leaflets were regularly dropped two to three days before UNITAF forces arrived in a Somali town. Once again, armed humvees and helicopters are in the background. The back depicts the flag of the United Nations and the United States. The official translation of the text is:

The forces of the world (United Nations) are here to assist in the international relief effort for the Somali people. We are prepared to use force to protect the relief operation and our soldiers. We will not allow interference with food distribution or with our activities. We are here to help you.

This leaflet is found in three variations. In the first, two United Nations flags are on the back. In the second, a US flag is barely visible beneath the text.

The San Francisco Chronicle of 12 December 1992 said about this leaflet:

The Marines are here, and they may need a few good men who can translate. A leaflet the U.S. forces are using to win over the Somali people bears an almost incomprehensible message, muddled by at least three misspelled words, one word that does not exist and poor syntax…the first word is the most noticeable error. It was supposed to read ‘aduunka’ or ‘world’ in the phrase ‘world forces.’ The word appears as ‘adoonka,’ which means ‘slave.’

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Lieutenant Colonel Charles P. Borchini, Commander, 8th PSYOP Battalion, remarked:

This error was a result of poor communications and a failure to double check the final product before we printed it. We sent a facsimile of the English message to Norfolk where the sailor (a native-borne Somali who left home at age of twelve) was based; after he translated it into Somali and sent a facsimile of the translation, we then typed the leaflet into our computer. After the Central Command and the Joint Chiefs of Staff changed some of the words, we passed the changes verbally over the telephone to the sailor, and received the changes to his translation back over the telephone. We then produced the leaflets. We should have sent him a facsimile of the final product before we printed it.

In a 2001 televised interview on C-Span, Colonel Borchini said more about the spelling error:

Somali has only been a written language for fifteen years at the time we were in Somalia. When we tried to translate, no two Somalis could agree to the spelling of any one word. We found a Somali native who was in the U.S. Navy who we brought down to Fort Bragg to help us translate this leaflet. We had another Somali who we hired who worked in Washington D.C. for the Justice Department who also vetted it. Translations are difficult. Sending the messages are difficult. Trying not to offend someone calls for the sentences to be grammatically correct and the spelling must be perfect. We went to the Somali people when we realized we misspelled the word. We wanted to ask the Somalis how they felt. They all knew what it meant. Everyone knew what it meant. Everyone realized it had nothing to do with slavery.

Eventually a contractor was found who was able to hire Somalis working in New York City as cab drivers and they acted as translators for the military in Somalia.

The 1998 Rand Report, Information-Related Operations in Smaller-Scale Contingencies, mentioned translators, although those using loudspeakers, not writing leaflets. The problem seems to be the same though:

To be maximally effective, PSYOP units should be provided with linguists from the outset. In both Somalia and Bosnia interventions, the PSYOP units that were deployed had no linguists for a period of several weeks and had to rely on prerecorded messages for their loudspeaker teams. Such prerecorded messages proved of limited utility. In Somalia, only three or four of the numerous prerecorded messages that were prepared prior to deployment could be used in the situation the PSYOP teams encountered. As one report put it: "There is no substitute for live broadcasts. Messages must be exact, down to inflection and emphasis."

Colonel 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.

Christopher J. Lamb agrees in Review of Psychological Operations Lessons Learned from Recent Operational Experience, National Defense University Press Washington, D.C. September 2005:

General Charles Wilhelm, commander of the Marine division during Operation Restore Hope in Somalia, believed “PSYOP loudspeaker teams were a combat reducer. . . . They reduced the incidents of combat, and saved the lives of my Marines and the lives of the Somalis as well.” Less direct substantiation on the effectiveness of PSYOP also comes in the form of expert opinion verified by the absence of PSYOP. When the 200-plus PSYOP personnel supporting the Marines in Somalia were replaced with a UN force of less than 10 public affairs personnel, some experts predicted that General Mohamed Farah Aideed would quickly prevail in the “information war,” and they felt vindicated by ensuing events.

Information-Related Operations in Smaller-Scale Contingencies, also commented on loudspeakers:

When consistent with prevailing cultural, political, and military realities, U.S. psychological operations were effective. Commanders particularly valued the PSYOP loudspeaker teams that promoted the peaceful surrender of enemy units and helped quiet indigenous-on- indigenous violence and other civil disturbances. However, military attacks and accompanying PSYOP appeals aimed at producing beneficial results proved counterproductive when the assumptions underlying U.S. military operations failed to reflect adequately the existing cultural, political, and military realities. Such was the case in Mogadishu with the U.S. helicopter and AC-130 gunship attacks and the U.S. and UN ground operations against Aideeds weapons caches, radio station, and headquarters sites during June and July of 1993. While mutually effective in reducing Aideeds immediate weapons inventories and neutralizing his radio, the cumulative effects of these attacks were politically and psychologically counterproductive. Designed to destroy Aideeds power base, the attacks instead increased Somalian support for Aideed and intensified Somalian opposition to U.S. and UN forces.

The Army AAR for Somalia adds:

Psychological Operations Lessons Learned. Operations require a PSYOP capability. Recent experience in Somalia demonstrates that PSYOP can play a vital role in peace enforcement operations. PSYOP in Somalia focused primarily on tactical operations. Leaflet drops and loudspeaker teams were effectively used to limit casualties among non-combatants (warnings); to enhance the security and image of military forces during operations; to inform Somalis about humanitarian assistance operations ongoing; and to a limited extent, to tell the UNOSOM story. Unfortunately, a complete PSYOP campaign was not developed for UNOSOM II. Shortage of PSYOP planners and resources, as well as a lack of experience with PSYOP among the UN civilian staff, significantly contributed to this shortcoming. Loudspeakers and a leaflet production capability were the most significant PSYOP resources.

Although the UN operated a radio station and small newspaper in Mogadishu, they were used as information media as opposed to PSYOP. The aversion to the use of PSYOP within the UN civilian community may have contributed to this situation. In future operations, where PSYOP is necessary, we may need to find a new name for it. U.S. PSYOP, public affairs, and civil affairs forces should procure contingency radio stocks to enhance radio reception for future peace operations.

The official After-Action Report mentions the type of propaganda used by the warlords:

The Warlords developed simple, but effective themes and retained them during their entire campaign. These themes were:

Somalia would not accept colonization by foreign powers; the UN must not interfere with internal Somali affairs; the UN should limit itself to Humanitarian Relief; the UN is trying to divide the Somali people; the UN injustices against the Somali people; and the UN illegally holds detainees. At the same time, factional leaders portrayed themselves as allied to United Nations forces and in control of areas despite United Nations presence; or, the factional leader would attempt to portray the presence of United Nations forces as a precursor for the return of foreign domination in Somalia.

Of the 37 leaflets prepared during the UNITAF phase of the Somalia intervention, many featured standard PSYOP themes. Some of these themes are the number of Allied forces in the coalition occupying a nation, the rebuilding (consolidation) of the nation, the prohibition against weapons, warning against touching mines and bombs, the prohibition against looting, and a general call for law and order among the populace. Some of the standard leaflet themes that we do not find are rewards for individuals or weapons and safe conduct passes. In general, the leaflets are crude with most in printed in just one or two colors.

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An example of the number of allied forces of the coalition is leaflet S3. The leaflet depicts an Allied soldier (probably an Australian from the cut of his uniform and his "boonie" hat) shaking hands with a Somali on the front, and the flags of the 21 nations above and below the vignette. The Australians namesd this campaign Operation Solace. They sent about 1,200 men, 1 Royal Australian Regiment Battalion Group, an Australian HQ and the HMAS Tobruk.

The leaflet is found with two different texts on the back. Both mention prohibited weapons. The text is:

UNITAF – SOMALIA. These weapons are prohibited in Baidhabo. Light and heavy machine guns and mortars. Armored cars with weapons on them (technicals). A person cannot carry weapons (of any type) without permission. If one of these weapons is seen, it will be confiscated immediately. Killing and looting of the humanitarian aid will not be tolerated. UNITAF have orders to use force if they think they are being threatened.

Notice the use of the term "technical." The Technical is the most significant symbol of power in southern Somalia. It is a small truck with large tripod machine guns mounted on the back. A warlord's power is measured by how many of these vehicles he has.

Glenn M. Harned explains the use of leaflets like the one above in Stability Operations in Somalia, 1992-1993: a Case Study, United States Army War College Press, Carlisle Barracks, PA, 2016:

UNITAF used a series of joint and combined operations to secure the major relief distribution centers in central and southern Somalia, using the coalition forces that had volunteered to assume responsibility for the respective humanitarian relief sectors (HRS) whenever possible. U.S. forces were under the tactical control of coalition commanders for the initial operation and then withdrew after the coalition unit assumed responsibility for the HRS. Ambassador Oakley, the U.S. Special Envoy, played a key role during this phase. Before the start of each operation, he travelled to the city and met with tribal elders and leaders to explain in detail what was about to happen, assure them of the peaceful intentions and humanitarian purpose of the operation, and warn them not to oppose the UNITAF forces.

The next day, aircraft would drop leaflets to repeat this message directly to the local population. The approach worked; there was no opposition to any of these UNITAF operations. UNITAF relied heavily on psychological operations to explain its actions to the local Somali leaders and population, and the overwhelming strength and speed of coalition forces presented the warlords with an unacceptable risk if they provoked UNITAF.

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There were numerous mine warning leaflets. S15 shows a Somali about to touch a mine. There are 23 coalition flags above and below him. Drawings of different kinds of explosives are all around the boy. Text on the front is:

Do not touch mines or explosive things. Tell someone about them.

The back depicts the boy telling two soldiers about the mines with the text:

Meaningless death. Parents please tell your children to keep away from mines and other explosive things. Tell the peace-keeping force about mines and other explosive things.

This leaflet appears in several variations with different colors. It was printed with fronts and backs in blue, red or green.

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Somali's asked for United Nations help against looters

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Leaflet S13 features and anti-looting theme and depicts Somalis trying to steal grain bags from an armed UNITAF convoy. Text on the back is:

Looting, stealing and throwing stones is not Somali. It is criminal. Pointing guns, (even playing or the play one) threatens everybody. The forces of UNITAF have the right to use deadly force if they feel they are threatened or if they feel they are in danger. Help us stop this behavior before someone else is wounded.

This leaflet was printed in red and green.

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Leaflet S28 has a nation-building theme. The front depicts Somalis and Americans working together to clean up the streets. The American drives a bulldozer. The text is:

Operation Clean Streets. The program of cleaning the streets begins 28 December 1992 from 9:00 p.m. until 4:00 a.m.

The back is all text:

Operation clean streets will clean the streets and remove any items that are blocking them, such as abandoned cars, dirt, stones and other rubbish. Please remove your kiosks, your cars and any other possessions from the sides of the streets. We can rebuild Somalia together." A bulldozer was shown again on S30, this time telling the Somalis, "The UNITAF engineers who are working to help the Somali people mend the roads. Help us so that we may help you. Report mines!

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Leaflet S20 depicts a bulldozer and an engineer with a theodolite on the front in bright red. The back is all text in green. The text is:


The UNITAF engineers are mending the main roads between the towns and the humanitarian distribution centers. This will make it possible for the aid convoys and Somali transport owners to move their loads easily. UNITAF is not able on its own to carry out this project so we need cooperation.

Please stay away from the workers and their equipment.
Do not allow your children to play by the work sites.
Stay away from all places in which there are “danger” flags.



Another leaflet depicting a bulldozer and the flags of the nation helping Somalia has the following text on the front:

The UNITAF engineers are working to help the Somali people to repair the roads. Help us so that we may help you. Report mines!

The back is all text:

The UNITAF engineers are in Somalia to repair the roads. When the roads are repaired the aid agencies will be able to take the humanitarian aid cargoes easily from the port to the far-off places in the whole of the country. We need your help and your cooperation to help bring this work to fruition.

Please do not do anything that will endanger you or the engineers working in the streets and on the bridges. Keep away and at a far distance from the equipment doing the work and the site where the work is taking place.

Please mark and report all placed that mines are buried. Never touch mines because they are very dangerous. Report the people you see burying mines in and around the woods.

Help us so that we may help you

The 4th PSYOP Group booklet says about these engineer leaflets:

Leaflets, posters and handbills supported several engineer projects. In December 1992 and again in March 1993, engineers cleared the streets of Mogadishu of abandoned and destroyed vehicles, downed telephone poles, and other objects that blocked the flow of traffic along major road areas. Engineers also removed sand and tons of debris that had narrowed streets. Later in the operation, Army engineers and Navy Seabees repaired or constructed over 1,200 miles of roads, drilled fourteen wells, and erected a Bailey Bridge across the Juba River near the town of Jilib. PSYOP complimented these efforts by informing the Somali people of the programs and asking them to cooperate by staying clear of the hazardous engineer equipment.

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Leaflet S4 features a nation-building theme and depicts Somalis farming, receiving food and building a home. The back is all text:

UNITAF's mission is to provide a secure environment for humanitarian relief efforts throughout Somalia. Initial emphasis was on securing key cities; now the focus is on expanding the security to smaller towns and villages. As they are secured, relief agencies are beginning to distribute dry food, seeds and farm utensils to help displaced families return to their farms, rebuild their homes and plant their fields. Now it is harvest time for many crops. Preparations need to be made for the next planting.

The 4th PSYOP Group booklet adds:

PSYOP supported several operations conducted by Non-Governmental Organizations or NGOs. A major problem facing Somalia is the large number of displaced persons and refugees who were forced to leave their homes during the civil war. With no reliable source of food or medical care, these groups have been very dependent on relief provided by the NGOs. The "Pastoral Scene" leaflet (S4) supported programs to encourage displaced persons and refugees to move back to their homes - when it was safe to do so - in order to harvest crops and begin planting for the next growing season. The goal of this leaflet describing specific NGO resettlement programs was to help break the cycle of dependency and encourage self sufficiency.

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Leaflet S25 depicts the flags of 23 nations at the top and bottom and the text:


All forces and weapons must be moved out of the lower Juba Valley to locations north of Dobley by midnight 25 February, or risk destruction. These locations must be designated and provided to UNITAF officials on 25 February. Any forces found outside of these locations thereafter will be engaged by UNITAF forces and any weapons located will be destroyed.

Text on the back is:

The UNITAF forces are more than powerful enough to settle the military situation in the area of Kismaayo and they are prepared to do that if the Somalis cannot do it or they do not choose peace and agreement over fighting. There is no benefit in continued war between Somalis, nothing but mounting difficulties for the Somali people. The time has come for the people living in Kismaayo and the surround region to reject the path leading to war and to turn to honesty and agreement, peace and prosperity.

LTC Borchini mentions this leaflet in his article "PSYOP in Somalia: The Voice of Hope"

PSYOP also responded quickly to the repeated crisis in Kismayo. After Hersi Morgan took Kismayo in late February, Johnston and Ambassador Oakley issued an ultimatum for him to withdraw his forces to a town on the Kenyan border. The JPOTF produced and dropped leaflets informing Morgan's supporters, as well as the people of Kismayo and other major towns in the lower Juba valley, of the situation.

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The last leaflet we will mention is S8. This leaflet listed the prohibited weapons and aircraft dropped a version of it in all of the larger cities that UNITAF occupied. Almost identical leaflets were prepared for Beledweyn, Mogadishu, Baraawe, Jilib, Kismaayo, Marka, and Afgooye. The leaflets are generally the same. They show a technical vehicle at the left, armed Somalis in the center, and a roadblock at the right. Text on the front is:

These weapons are prohibited from Kismaayo. Technical vehicles (armored cars). Pointing weapons. Weapons (such as light or heavy machineguns or mortars).

The back is all text:

UNITAF – SOMALIA. The rules for Kismaayo. Light and heavy machine guns will not be tolerated. Armored cars, cars with weapons in them (technicals) will not be tolerated. Weapons clearly carried (of all types) will not be tolerated. If one of these is seen, it will be confiscated immediately. Kismaayo roadblocks will not be tolerated. Killing and looting of the humanitarian air will not be tolerated. UNITAF have orders to use force if they feel they are being threatened.

The Forbidden Weapons Series

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Wanleweeyn Warning – No flags

This leaflet appears in two versions and many variations. It lists weapons forbidden (or “prohibited;” the word has been translated both ways) in those areas of Somalia that were occupied by Allied forces. Aircraft dropped one or both versions in all of the larger cities that UNITAF and the Combined Task Force (I should note that the Army translation is “Combined Task Force,” but the Psywar Society translation for the same leaflet is “Restore Hope Allied Forces.” In this article I will use the former because I think it is more likely correct) occupied. Almost identical leaflets were prepared for Muqdishu (Mogadishu), Beled Weyne (Beledweyn), Baraawa (Brava), Baidhabo (Baidoa), Jilib, Kismaayo, Marka (Merka), Wanleweeyn (Wanlaweyn), Afgooye and possibly other towns. The leaflets are slightly different. The Psywar Society booklet lists ten different leaflets from this series. On the front those produced by the Combined Task Force show from left to right; a “Technical” armed civilian vehicle, an armed Somali fighter, a machine gunner, and a military armored car. The leaflets prepared by UNITAF are almost identical on the front except that the text is generally smaller and the last image depicts an armed Somali manning a road block. In addition, the flags of the Coalition forces are at the bottom of the leaflet. Both versions have “prohibited” symbols at the right and left. Having said all this, there is a great mix of the leaflets and images so although we can talk about what is on the front or the back, we can never be sure who about the exact wording on a leaflet and if things like the flags will appear. Sometimes they will, sometimes they won’t. There is great variation. I will show the front of a leaflet with flags and one without flags.

The back of the leaflets are slightly different. The text is very similar but the Combined Task Force leaflet has an American flag and a U.N. symbol. The back of the UNITAF leaflet has the U.N. symbol and a Somali star.

Although the texts can differ slighter, in general the text on the front is of the Combined Task Force or “no flags” version is:

These are forbidden in Wanleweeyn…Technical type vehicles, armored vehicles, pointing or aiming weapons at the Combined Task Force, crew-served weapons, machine guns, mortars and recoilless rifles.

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Mogadishu Warning – With flags

The text on the front of the UNITAF or “flags” version is:

These are forbidden in Mogadishu…Armored and technical type vehicles, blocking roads, openly carrying weapons of any type (rifles, hand guns, grenades), crew served weapons, machine guns, mortars and recoilless rifles.

The back of the Combined Task Force leaflet is:


Machine guns, recoilless rifles, mortars and other crew served weapons will not be tolerated. Armored vehicles, infantry fighting vehicles, or vehicles equipped with weapons mounts (Technicals) will not be tolerated. If any of these items are seen they are subject to immediate confiscation. Killing or looting of relief supplies will not be tolerated. Anyone aiming or pointing a weapon at CTF forces will be shot. CTF forces are authorized to use force if they are threatened or perceive they are threatened.

The back of the UNITAF version is:


Machine guns, recoilless rifles, mortars and other crew served weapons will not be tolerated. Armored vehicles, infantry fighting vehicles, or vehicles equipped with weapons mounts (Technicals) will not be tolerated. Carrying any type of weapon openly will not be tolerated (rifles, hand guns, grenades). If any of these items are seen, they are subject to immediate confiscation. Blocking road into Mogadishu will not be tolerated. Killing or looting of relief supplies will not be tolerated. UNITAF forces are authorized to use force if they are threatened or perceive they are threatened.

Army Times of 30 December 1992 adds:

In Mogadishu, military planes dropped 100,000 leaflets on all parts of the city warning clansmen and marauding gunmen that looting and killing would not be tolerated and that weapons and combat vehicles would be confiscated on sight.

Robert Bauman seems to be talking about these leaflets in My Clan against the World: U.S. and Coalition Forces in Somalia 1992-1994 when he says that Major General Arnold wrote a directive about the “4 Nos.” They were: no bandits; no checkpoints (erected by armed Somalis for the purpose of extortion); no technical vehicles and no visible weapons:

In the General’s opinion, these rules would be simple to remember and translate well, lent themselves easily to a PSYOP campaign and could actually be enforced.

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Announcement Kismaayo!

We mention “Technicals” above and the Museum of Modern Art was interested in images of Technicals for a project they were working on. As a direct result, I decided to add this one, a rather bland leaflet in black and white, but with a nice image of an armed Technical civilian vehicle. The other side depicts an armed Somali. The text on the front is:

Announcement Kismaayo!

Technicals and machine guns must be turned in to the former police station by at least five o’clock in the afternoon, 31 December 1992. Come with the weapon turned to the back with the mouth of the gun turned down.

After five o’clock in the afternoon, 31 December 1992, any weapon which is found in the town will be taken by UNITAF forces.

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Mine Warning Poster

Besides the 37 leaflets airdropped leaflets, there were also a number of other leaflets that are larger than the standard 3 x 6 inches. Some of these were handed to the Somali people; others were in poster form and attached to poles or buildings. One poster that needs no translation is bright red, shows a skull and crossed bones, and pictures various mines and explosive all around the border.

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A Mixed Group of Mine Warning Posters

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Pointee-talkie leaflet

The Americans also produced a "pointee-talkie" card for use by servicemen who might fall into the hands of the Somalis. The card is printed in black and white and laminated. The front depicts the flags of Somalia and the United States. Some of the 13 phrases in English and Somali are, "My friend, I am hungry. Please provide me with food," and "My friend, if enemy troops come, please conceal me."

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The Gift Card

The UNITAF authority desired to reward certain Somalis who had been helpful to the United Nations forces. They printed a bright yellow cardboard "gift certificate" depicting the 21 flags of the coalition nations and English text on one side, and the flags of the United Nations and Somalia with the same message in both English and Somali text on the other side. The all-English text is, "The holder of this note is entitled to a bag of wheat, to be issued at the stadium complex. This Somali citizen has made a contribution to the Coalition forces by providing useful information. The information assisted Task Force Mogadishu with locating criminal elements, weapons cache sites, the surrendering of a personal weapon or crew served weapons. Treat this Somali citizen with respect and dignity. Authorized signature." The duplicate text on the mixed side of the card is, "Thank you for helping us make your city more peaceful. Please take this note to the Marines at the gate of Mogadishu stadium. You will receive wheat as a token of our gratitude. Consider us your friends. Together, with your assistance, we can make Mogadishu a peaceful city for the future of your children."

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MEDCAP Booklet

Booklets and leaflets were also produced in support of MEDCAP. The booklets were printed in both English and Somali and addressed various health concerns, such as malaria, food sanitation, and hand washing. The booklet depicted above is an example of such a MEDCAP publication, designed by the Product Development Center, B Company, 9th Psychological Operations Battalion (Airborne) in support of Operation NATURAL FIRE, a joint operation between the U.S., Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania circa 1998 in East Africa. 

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Among the oversized (5 1/2 x 8 1/2 inch) leaflets, one depicts a hospital on the front. The text in English is "UNOSOM II MEDCAP." People gather in front of the hospital protected by armed humvees. The back is all text and shows the flags of Somalia and the United Nations.

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Another oversized leaflet is identical on front and back and depicts a doctor at the left and Somali text at the right

UNITAF Newspaper RAJO (Hope)

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The 4th PSYOP Group booklet says about the UNITAF newspaper RAJO:

The daily Somali language newspaper RAJO was first published on 20 December 1992. Printed on both Sides of 8 1/2 by 14 inch paper, RAJO was distributed to every town and village where UNITAF forces were deployed. At the beginning of operations, the RAJO publishing and editorial staff included 4th PSYOP Group soldiers and civilian area specialists - as well as Somali linguists from the US who translated articles from English to Somali for the final product.

RAJO articles generally focused on the following areas: military operations to secure Mogadishu and each of the major towns in the eight Humanitarian Relief Sectors; humanitarian relief provided to the famine areas; redevelopment efforts; hope for the future; and analyses of the reconciliation and national unity process. Regular features Included interviews with relief agency staff; public health information on treating common childhood diseases; the status of Humanitarian Relief Sector security; reports on rebuilding the educational system and judicial Institutions; and forming local police forces and security councils. The Joint Psychological Operations Task Force published up to 28,000 copies of RAJO daily; however, average daily publication quantities often did not exceed 15,000 copies because the supply of paper was limited and it was necessary to reduce wear and tear on the print presses.

In an effort to encourage national unity and revitalize Somali traditional culture, RAJO sponsored a poetry contest and published the six winning entries in a special edition of the paper.

Commenting on the importance of RAJO to the success of the operation, the US Special Envoy to Somalia, Ambassador Robert Oakley said, "We are using RAJO to get the correct information into the hands of the Somali population and to correct distortions...The newspaper and the radio are in the Somali language, an extremely difficult language. The work you all have done to put this into Somali is extremely important. It has made a big difference. The faction leaders, I know, read it very, very carefully. Every once in a while Aideed or Ali Mahdi or one of the other faction leaders draws to my attention something that appeared in the newspaper. So, they're very, very sensitive to it and they know its power."

UNITAF Somalia PSYOP Themes that were incorporated into RAJO included:

Explain that the UNITAF rules of engagement are applied fairly regardless of faction or position. Highlight that UNITAF does not support or favor any faction.

Reinforce that Somalia's problems can only be resolved by Somalis, that UNITAF and relief agencies can only assist the process. Highlight the roles and capabilities of the 22 nations participating in UNITAF, particularly those from Africa and the Islamic world. Highlight the seamless transition from UNITAF to United Nations Operations in Somalia; emphasizing that there will be no change in the rules of engagement or troop performance. Encourage displaced persons to return to their homes to harvest crops and plant fields. Highlight the redevelopment and re-establishment of Somalia's infrastructure. Highlight the agreements made by faction leaders and the consequences for violating those agreements. Focus on the disarmament, keeping everyone apprised of the progress in each Humanitarian Relief Sector.

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PSYOP Soldier passes outcopies of RAJO on the streets of Kisymo, Somalia.

LTC Borchini comments:

Four days after the arrival of the main contingent of forces in Mogadishu, the JPOTF began publishing a daily newspaper and broadcasting a daily radio program — both called “Rajo,” which is Somali for “hope.” At the beginning of operations, the Rajo publishing and editorial staff included 4th PSYOP Group soldiers and civilian specialists as well as Somali linguists from the U.S. Rajo articles covered a number of relevant issues but generally focused on military operations to secure Mogadishu and each of the major towns, humanitarian relief provided to the famine areas, redevelopment efforts, hope for the future and analyses of the reconciliation and national-unity process.

Regular features included interviews with relief-agency staff, public-health information on treating common childhood diseases, the status of security in each humanitarian-relief sector, reports on rebuilding the educational system and judicial institutions, and forming local police forces and security councils. As a complement to the newspaper, the JPOTF established Radio Rajo, a 45-minute, Somali-language program transmitted twice daily on AM/medium wave, FM and shortwave. The program included readings from the Koran, Rajo newspaper articles, selections of Somali poetry and short stories, news about Africa, significant events throughout the world and Somali music. The programs broadcast over shortwave eventually reached every city and town in Somalia where UNITAF forces were located.

One of the most popular features of the newspaper was a cartoon devoted to the comments and the observations of a Somali man named Celmi (after the U.S. Navy sailor who was born in Somalia and served as a linguist for the JPOTF) and his wise friend, the camel Mandeeq. The dialogue between these two characters reinforced various PSYOP themes and described specific aspects of the UNITAF mission.

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Abdi Hirad

It was not only the military performing PSYOP. 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.

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

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

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Certificate of Participation
Readers who want to know more about the withdrawal from Somalia under Operation United Shield click here.

His site manager wrote a glowing recommendation for Mr. Hirad and said in part:

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

LTC Borchini adds:

My unit was responsible for developing over 50 different leaflets, handbills and posters…Hirad was the linchpin to my entire operation. Without him, it would have been extremely difficult, if not impossible to accomplish the mission…He was our very best Somali translator, and was as good as my very best military writers…

Barton Gellmann discussed the newspaper RAJO in an article entitled "GIs Edit Daily to Tranquilize Mogadishu" in The Washington Post, 24 December 1992. He says in part:

Specialist Jeffrey Hood, a cartoonist, draws a daily strip featuring a young man named Celmi and his camel Maandeeq. ‘Originally I was going to use a donkey but it turns out that certain clans are associated with donkeys, and others aren't, and we don't want to get into that.’ ‘Hey, what is that?’ the camel asks in the first cartoon of the series. ‘It is a leaflet. It says that the combined task force is here to protect supplies for the Somali people,’ Celmi replies. ‘Oh, that is good. There has been enough suffering already’." The author points out that some Somali gunmen were not impressed. "Look here," says one, outraged, "Here is the camel and here is the man. They are talking. They are saying that we are like animals."

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A soldier from the U.S. Joint PSYOP Task Force produces material for broadcast over Radio Rajo

The 4th PSYOP booklet mentions the use of radio as a PSYOP medium.

As a compliment to the RAJO newspaper, the JPOTF established a radio station on the US Embassy compound. Radio RAJO conducted a 45-minute Somali language broadcast twice daily on AM, FM, and short wave. The program included a reading from the Koran, a reading of the RAJO newspaper articles, selections of Somali poetry and short stories, news about Africa, significant events throughout the world, and Somali music. After extensive antenna adjustments, the radio programs broadcasted over short wave eventually reached every city and town in Somalia where UNITAF forces were deployed. Guided by a broadcast journalist from the 4th PSYOP Group's PSYOP Dissemination Battalion (PDB), Somali staff members, PSYOP specialists and civilian analysts worked together to develop articles. For example, to encourage Somali clans to put aside their differences and rebuild their country, JPOTF staff members traveled to Marka where they interviewed President Abdullah Usmaan, Somalia's first head of state and an important symbol of national unity. Excerpts from his interview were published in the RAJO newspaper and broadcast over the radio.

The quality of the PSYOP radio improved with the arrival of Abdullah Omar Mohammed. He was a naturalized citizen who was born in Mogadishu, and a contract interpreter for the State Department. He told the Americans not to broadcast a weather report. Weather comes from Allah, and it would be presumptuous for the Americans to attempt to guess what God might do next. He also insisted that the broadcasts start with a passage from the Koran. The station then played a Somali song and the local news. After that, the station played upbeat American music, which was a favorite of many Somalis.

Radio Rajo began broadcasting with 600 watts. It was first heard on 1480 kHz but in January 1993 was heard on the short-wave frequency 9540 kHz.  The humanitarian mission was multinational so the station later identified itself as the "Voice of the United Task Force." When UNOSOM II took over the station it became Radio Manta (Today) broadcasting on both the old frequency of 9540 kHz as well as 6170 kHz. Italian psychological operations troops also broadcast Radio Ibis on 89.7 MHZ FM.

In the book Battle Ready, by Tom Clancy, with General Tony Zinni (Ret) and Tony Koltz, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, NY, 2004, General Tony Zinni (Ret.), Director of Operations, Somalia Task Force, 1992-1993 and Commander of the Combined Task Force protecting the withdrawal of UN Forces from Somalia in 1993 wrote:

One of my responsibilities was to coordinate our psychological and tactical operations.

Though there were plenty of sources of "information," the Somalis had little access to accurate news accounts. Most Somali news sources -- notably, Aideed's--,were nothing but propaganda ... much of it inflammatory. We published leaflets and a newspaper, and set up a radio station, to counter the lies. The paper and radio station, which were called "Rajo"--"hope" in Somali--made Aideed very unhappy; and he counterattacked through his own radio station. A period of "radio wars" ensued.

When he summoned me to his compound to complain about our broadcasts, I told him we’d tone down our broadcasts when he toned down his own inflammatory rhetoric. He agreed.

Another victory for nonviolent engagement.

According to Dr. Robert Cialdini of Arizona State University, Aideed had an understanding of PSYOP:

Somali warlord Mohammed Aideed … distributed toy rifles to Somali children, hoping that some would be mistaken for real rifles by UN troops, prompting them to fire on Somali children, which would make great propaganda against UN troops. The UN recognized this danger and ran influence campaigns, which were unsuccessful in convincing Somali parents to turn in the toy guns. It was only when the head of the Somali Women’s Organization, who was trusted in the community, urged their surrender that the toy guns were turned in.

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The Italian PSYOP Contingent


The Italian military contingent in Somalia produced PSYOP leaflets, newspapers and radio broadcasts. Lieutenant Colonel Charles P. Borchini said more about the Italian PSYOP campaign in his personal monograph "Psychological Operations Support for Operation Restore Hope." He says:

The Italian forces came to Somalia confident in their ability to deal with the Somali people. Based on their historical relations, many Somalis spoke Italian, and the Italians believed that they would have a special relationship with the Somalis. This probably was true to some extent.

I paid the Italian force headquarters a visit. I met their Civil Affairs and PSYOP officer...He showed me several leaflets they had designed, translated into Somali and printed in Italy. They were color, high quality products, that used the phrase "help us to help you" that we adopted and used. One of the leaflets pictured an Italian doctor and nurse treating a baby; however, the baby they were treating was white. We discussed the issue that all PSYOP products must be approved through the J3 (Operations) to insure a singularly focused, well coordinated PSYOP effort, and how we could produce any PSYOP product they needed.

Borchini adds that the Italians also produced a bi-weekly newspaper for distribution in Mogadishu. The Italians had their own radio station, and although once again the Americans worried that they were producing independent PSYOP that might go against the JTF scheme, it turned out that, the station only broadcast music and messages from Italy for the Italian armed forces. The few messages that they did send to the Somali people were concerning medical treatment and vaccinations.

About the Italian operation Borchini concludes:

Although my initial feelings were that only the JTF should produce leaflets or a newspaper, or run a radio station, the intent of the Italians was pure. They wanted only to foster good relationships and promote peace, security and development in Somalia. Through close coordination, we were able to harness their efforts along with ours to maximize the overall PSYOP impact.

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The German PSYOP Contingent

This German operation is discussed in an interesting 1999 British Joint Services Command and Staff Defense Research Paper by Chef de Bataillon, M. E. Limon. He says in part:

The German PSYOP organization is Das Fernmeldebataillon 950 Operative Information (FmBtl 950-OpInfo). This battalion, based in Andernach, consists of 709 regular personnel. The Battalion consists of a Headquarters Company; Company Two produces radio and television programs (live or video); Company Three provides all printing capabilities; and Company Four provides loudspeaker teams. A 93-man “Quick Reaction Force” is kept on alert. The Germans normally deploy a small number of personnel to the theater of war, while all the PSYOP products are planned and designed in the Germany-based Headquarters Company. Their mission was to explain the role and objectives of the German forces to the local population, to explain the objectives of the UNOSOM II forces, and to maintain morale of the German troops.  

The German element deployed to Somalia was composed of 20 personnel in three teams; a functional Headquarters (4 personnel), a printed products team (12 personnel), and a loudspeaker team (4 personnel and four loudspeaker trucks).

The OpInfo Battalion printed 16,000 copies a week of the newspaper IRRIDA NABADA (“The Gates of Peace”). In addition, they printed 87,000 leaflets and 4,500 posters, many on the subject of landmine awareness. They regularly took part in loudspeaker broadcasts and produced a weekly 45 minute radio program. The personnel remaining in Germany produced leaflets and pocket guides for the German soldiers and 118 hours of radio programs to maintain the morale of their personnel.

The German PSYOP unit explains its Somalia responsibilities thusly:

UNOSOM was the first UN deployment for the PSYOPS forces: From 19 to 29 May 1993 the first two soldiers of Signal Battalion 950 were on duty as a reconnaissance and advance party of the German support unit in Somalia.

On the basis of the reconnaissance results the battalion was assigned the following mission:

1. Distribute information on the mission of the German UN forces among the Somali population.

2. Support non-violent resolution of conflicts.

3. Support troops by providing field postcards and special postmarks and broadcasts by “Radio Andernach” from Andernach, Germany.

4. Produce target audience radio programs for the Somali population to support and explain the UNOSOM II mission.

Originally, this mission was to be carried out by 19 soldiers. As it was impossible to support non-violent resolution of conflicts without the use of loudspeakers, a loudspeaker team of 4 was added.

Other PSYOP loudspeaker actions included warning civilians before an attack. For instance, the After-Action says:

On 13 and 14 June 1993, AC–130 gunships attacked known illegal arms and ammunition caches in the Aideed Enclave. Once again, detailed planning and thorough target analysis were conducted to limit collateral damage and to achieve the military objective. Following an appropriate loudspeaker warning for civilians to exit the area, the targets were struck with precision munitions. The attack on the Aideed Enclave (17 June 1993) was preceded by PSYOP loudspeaker teams issuing 15 minute warnings and spotlighted each target prior to the strikes so that non-combatants could clear the target area.

Somalis were informed what actions would cause UNOSOM II to react violently... At the infantry battalion level the Tactical PSYOP Teams were used on numerous cordon and search operations. They were extremely effective in conducting surrender appeals. The Tactical PSYOP Teams were utilized in all means of employment: man-packed, vehicular mounted, and aerial dissemination platform. Although by doctrine only one Tactical PSYOP Teams is allocated to one battalion, the success of the loudspeaker operations were such that each infantry company clamored for this support.

In the course of the deployment, numerous products were produced by the PSYOPS forces, including flyers, posters and newspapers such as “Gateway to Peace” for the Somali population.

The first UN deployment in the history of Signal Battalion 950 ended on 23 March 1994 with the final parade and deactivation ceremony for the support unit in Kain-Wahn.

It is probably worth noting that this is the first legal recognized use of German troops in a war zone since the end of WWII. It is common knowledge that the Germans clandestinely took part in Operation Desert Shield and Storm in 1990 and sent propaganda leaflet balloons over the Iraqis, but in this case, they were out in the open and everyone knew they were there.

Deployment of Information Operations in Somalia

About 20-odd years after I wrote this article, retired Colonel Larry Dietz allowed me to study his personal papers. Among the publications he had accumulated was Deployment of Information Operations in Somalia from 3 August 1993 to 23 March 1994. This book describes the German PSYOP campaign in Somalia. Among the illustrations are about 42 propaganda leaflets and 21 propaganda postcards that the unit printed. I dont want to double the size of this article which in 2023 was already 24,000 words long, but I will add a few of the leaflets and postcards just to show the quality of the German artists and printers. The book says is part:

The information Operations signal unit has undergone a remarkable transformation in recent years. Whereas it used to be located in the rearmost corner of the territorial army - constantly being reduced in size and threatened with dissolution - since the summer of 1992 it has belonged to the crisis reaction forces of the transitional phase, i.e. to the forces that are kept present and ready for action.

Our branch of service has experienced its high point as part of the German Support operation in SOMALIA. We have been able to prove that information Operations was indispensable as a support task for communication with the Somali population. With joy and a certain pride, we can state that not only we, but also those responsible for the operation see it that way.


5,500 copies of this brochure, Humanitarian action in Somalia were developed in three printings. The content of the brochure was developed by the Information Center of the 950 Telecommunications Battalion.

With the success of the UN operation "RESTORE HOPE, Communications battalion 950 received was asked to prepare an information document on the subject of HUMANITARIAN AID IN SOMALIA.

On March 19, 1993, Lieutenant Colonel Horst SCHALLENBERG took over the leadership of the battalion. The first quarter of 1993 was characterized by requests/urgent requests and their partial realization to improve the material equipment of the battalion.

A "SOMALIA planning exercise" took place from May 10-14, 1993, in BELET HUEN. The battalion received up deployment for the areas. The battalion received:

- Information center several data processing devices for information processing
- Hbrradio editors
- DV devices (laptop)
- Answering machine and STA for greetings
- Reporting devices
- Extension of the copying line for the care cassettes
- Speaker
- 4 Rustsatztrager trucks with cabin to accommodate the loudspeaker system 400 Watts with accessories.
- Printing
- DTP plant
- VHF transmitter depot repaired.

The training in the special training areas was intensified to the extent that training opportunities in the civilian sector were used more, for example the Rotaprint company for the soldiers in the printing sector.

Order No. 2 of the III. Corps for the Somalia Mission made it clear that information operations were an integral part of the German Support Association. The personnel and material requirements in the Bundeswehr's only association for information operations only allow limited use of forces and resources in the operational area. With the assignment of the 950th operational information battalion to the crisis reaction forces (U) and the associated requirement to be able to support several operations in different operational areas through operational information measures, a concept was developed that would meet these requirements.

German Flag Sticker

This German flag was made as a sticker to be placed wherever needed. 4,000 copies were produced sized DIN A4, a standard paper size (8.27 x 11.60-inches) by the DrUg 951 at the request of III Corps. Flag symbols are important because they tell other people who you are, and it is good for the morale of your own troops. When a commander wants something patriotic and colorful printed, he needs to find artists and printing presses. Where do you find them? At the local PSYOP unit who has both. 

German Fighting Vehicle and Barbed Wire

The German leaflets are uncoded. The backs usually show the flags of Germany and Somalia side-by-side. The text on the front is:

We will strengthen our security to protect against intrusion attempts!

The back is all text:

Greetings, brothers and sisters,

The German support association SOMALIA points out that attempts to break into the German camp will no longer be tolerated, that there is a great danger to people who try to break into the camp, that the risk of injury is considerable, that humanitarian aid will be severely restricted must to ensure the security of the camp. 

Therefore: Parents and leaders, warn your children and all your people that there is great danger in entering the camp.

Do not climb a tree from which others have fallen (Somali Proverb)

Protect your children.

This leaflet depicts a group of happy Somali children. The text is:

Protect your Children.

Again, and again, children suffer terrible injuries because they touch ammunition and explosives and play with them. Teach your children about the following:

Touching ammunition and explosives means danger to your life!

If your children have discovered ammunition, have them describe the location and report the location to the District Council, the German, or the Italian United Nation soldiers. The United Nations soldiers are making sure that the danger is eliminated.

Help keep your children healthy



Calendars are wonderful propaganda products and have been printed since the days of the Vietnam War. Back in the 1960s the 7th PSYOP Group on Okinawa printed beautiful art and historical calendars for Vietnam, Thailand, Korea, and other nearby countries. At the same time, the enemy printed small pocket calendars with sentimental scenes of a sad American wife at home waiting for her husbands return, and similar themes. Why calendars? Because once the target places it on the wall he sees your propaganda every day for a year as he checks the days date. It is the PSYOP product that goes on giving. The calendar depicts the German forces helping the Somalis in many ways and has text in both German and Somali. The text is:

We take care of the sick
We build schools.
We drill wells.
We build bridges.
We can only do this with your support.


We read above that one of the responsibilities of the German PSYOP unit was to support troops by providing field postcards and special postmarks. That is odd. PSYOP units are often asked to produce cards or certificates for special occasions because they have artists and printing presses. I have never seen them tasked with postcards before. During Desert Storm when every American was asked to write to the troops there were perhaps as many as 100 different patriotic cards produced by organizations, cities, states, and various commercial enterprises. Cards by the French contingent in Kuwait were very attractive. I said above that there were over 20 official postcards created by the German unit. I will show some here.

Postcard 4

Although the number of the postcard is not depicted on the front side, the Germans did number each card and this one was number 4. The card was titled "Africa," and 10,000 were printed.

Postcard 12

Christmas postcards are often prepared by PSYOP units for their supported combat units. In this case, the German unit printed them as a responsibility. In all, three were produced. This one is titled "Nicolas." 30,000 copies of this card were printed.

Postcard 18

The later cards all show the Germans at work helping the Somalis to live a better life. This one is simply called "Water Supply." A German soldier fills a Somali water point with fresh, clean water.

Postcard 20

Many safe conduct leaflets mention the medical facilities that are open to those who come back to the government. This last postcard depicts a Somali father holding twins with a German doctor and nurse standing by. It depicts the Germans as peaceful people willing to help the Somalis.

The Germans also used loudspeakers in their propaganda. Some of their comments on the subject are:

The length of a call should not exceed 60 seconds. Messages should be short and concise, with a simply structured sentence.

On 2 September 1993, The Germans used the medium of loudspeakers for the first time. The following priorities were set. The basic positive attitude of the Somali population towards the German soldiers had to be maintained and strengthened. The announcement of humanitarian measures should be as specific as possible, without making promises that cannot be fulfilled. Help for self-help should always be mentioned. By using local proverbs, it was possible to achieve a special closeness to the target group.

The specialist literature on the Somali language that had been procured before the start of the deployment made it clear that it was characterized by flowery idioms. The consequence of this was that the principles conveyed in the course about writing loudspeaker announcements in the country of assignment were not applicable and required the loudspeaker personnel to rethink their thinking.

Composing the German loudspeaker text, considering the limited knowledge of the Somali language, showed that the content had to be divided into a total of 4 messages in order not to exceed the 60-second limit. The resulting breaks should be bridged by Somali music.

At the start of the operation, the Germans assigned an English-Somali translator to the teams on an hourly basis.

The first thing to do as a preliminary to the translator's work was to translate the adapted, rather excessive German texts into English. However, to transmit these texts and phrases, considerable language skills were required, which the speaker personnel did not have. This task fell to the information center cell, which had a suitably qualified editorial soldier. In addition to translating the loudspeaker texts into the Somali language, the Somali interpreter also helped select the music.

The following guidelines for the use of loudspeakers have been established: The live transmission of a Somali text was excluded; The loudspeaker texts were to be recorded and translated back into English by another uninvolved interpreter; And if possible, the uninvolved translator should belong to a different clan than the speaker.

German text of the loudspeaker message to Matabaan on 2 September 1993:


We German soldiers greet the Somali brothers of MATABAAN.
You have never seen a visitor who stays less than a day and pays less than one person.
As friends we are here for the 4th time to help.
We want to help lay the foundation so that you can rebuild your country.
May today be another successful day.

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Soldiers from the 9th PSYOP Battalion along with a security escort provided bythe 10th Mountain Division, operate HMMWV Loudspeakers as part of U.S. humanitarian aid relief efforts in Kismayo. Somalia.    (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army)

The 4th PSYOP booklet also 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 broadcasted numerous messages, including surrender appeals, instructions during weapons sweeps and at roadblocks and announcements to organize crowds at feeding sites. Loudspeaker teams also distributed the UNITAF newspaper RAJO in many of the major towns and villages in each humanitarian relief sector.

As loudspeaker teams were attached to Army and Marine forces in each of the humanitarian service sectors, they were given the responsibility and authority to request specific leaflets based on the situation confronting each maneuver commander

The heliborne PSYOP personnel also disseminated leaflets informing the people of Mogadishu that the objective of the operation was to improve security in the city. It was earlier noted that children liked to chase the leaflets, which also provided a simple and effective way to draw them out of the way of the potentially dangerous areas being searched.

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Specialist 4 Jamie Santos eating Ramen noodles for breakfast
from a canteen cup while waiting for the chopper - 3 October 1993
Photographed by Matt Reilly - Etching by Scott Sullen

Sergeant Joe Zimmerman and Specialist 4 Jamie Santos of the 9th PSYOP Battalion used a loudspeaker Humvee while deployed to Somalia. They operated out of Bardera and used their 700 watt loudspeaker to convince the Somalis to cooperate rather than to fight. The team traveled from the Somali capital of Mogadishu along 300 miles of pitted, dusty roads to the lawless towns of Baidoa and Bardera, helping the 7th Marine Battalion expand the security umbrella over much of the country.

The Blackhawk Helicopter in Somalia

PSYOP specialists are often called names like BS bombers, litterbugs, and Speaker Monkeys. A group of them talked to me and it was clear that they were far more than just propagandists. They could go anywhere and do damn near anything. A case in point: Sergeant First Class Joel Krall told me that Members of both A and B Company of the 9th PSYOP Battalion took part in the Somalia operations. He remembers taking that UH60 Blackhawk to Somalia. It was used all through the operation and the leadup to the battle of Mogadishu. He told me:

The loudspeaker array was a last-minute purchase from Anodyne Electronics Manufacturing Corporation and there was no hardware for us to install it. So, MSG Danny Eller and I took the parts to the Mobile Maintenance Depot and literally did an emergency fabrication from speaker wings to a mounting plate. The plate was a problem and had to go over to the Army Airfield to mark mounting holes for the UH60. The 2100/2700 Loudspeaker system did not have a dedicated airframe. Which is why we fabricated it so it could go from UH 60 to UH 60. This was the newest system of its type and the only one used in Somalia to my knowledge. Another problem was determining where to get the electric power to charge the loudspeakers. There was an auxiliary power place for an auxiliary power unit, and we had to get one of those too. The 9th PSYOP Battalion S4 (Logistics) opened most of the doors for us, but then came the mounting of the amplifiers in a fabricated box. That took approximately 36 hours as I recall, and then into my trailer on my hummer and onto the chopper. We did not have time to test it before deployment, but we did some tests at Baledogle before taking it to Kismayo. I did manage to fly a couple of missions with it after the battle of Mogadishu. During the Blackhawk Down phase of the operation, the chopper took part in the Durant hostage crisis when Chief Warrant Officer Mike Durant was almost killed by an angry Somali mob while in the downed helicopter but was taken prisoner instead. After 12 days in a violent captivity, he was set free.

Years after I wrote this article, the website We are the Mighty added more about the mission in an article titled POW in Mogadishu, by Blake Stillwell. He said in part:

This makes for an agonizing scene, with Durant suffering from a broken cheekbone, eye socket, back, femur, and nose as the sun goes down over Mogadishu. He thought he was going to die. And the Somalis did try to kill him three times. But the Army did not just remind one of their soldiers that he would not be left behind, his friends in the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment wanted him to know they were actively looking for him and they would not stop until they found him. When youre in captivity, if you hear an aircraft, it obviously gets your attention because the first thing youre trying to determine is, do they know where I am?

Durant heard a telltale BONG of his favorite song, and then the opening lines of AC/DCs Hells Bells. It was an incredible moment, Durant recalled. They had loudspeakers attached to this Black Hawk, flying around the city, broadcasting this music. Thats when the voice bellowed the words echoed in the movie: Mike, we wont leave here without you.

On the subject of Blackhawk Down, Operation Gothic Serpent, led by U. S. Special Operations Forces during the Somali Civil War took place in Mogadishu from August to October 1993. On the afternoon of Oct. 3, armed militants shot down two MH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, after which U.S. ground forces converged on the two downed aircraft to recover the personnel. The ensuing intense firefight resulted in the loss of 18 American Soldiers. 28 years later, in 2021, the U.S. Army approved the upgrade of 60 Army special operators’ awards for their heroic actions during the Battle of Mogadishu. Fifty-eight awards were upgraded to Silver Stars and two were upgraded to Distinguished Flying Crosses.The upgrades are a result of the October 2020 directive from former Secretary of the Army, Ryan McCarthy, who directed the Senior Army Decorations Board to re-evaluate previously approved awards for valor.


Propaganda loudspeakers in the door of a Blackhawk helicopter

Staff Sergeant Anthony Hardie of B Co, 9th PSYOP Battalion, sent me a picture of his 2700-Watt loudspeaker in Somalia. The loudspeakers sit in the door of a Blackhawk helicopter. On his inaugural flight in Somalia from Kismayu he imitated APOCALYPSE NOW and played the Flight of the Valkyries. He flew many missions with this chopper and loudspeakers during the early phase of Operation Restore Hope in southern Somalia. SSG Hardie told me:

My teams and I did a few missions with the Blackhawk during Operation Restore Hope in early 1993. The Blackhawk was based at the Kismayo airport (we were based at the Port of Kismayo). We did various broadcast missions, including curfews and other public service-type announcements, and at least one consolidation mission. We also did various leaflet drops. On one Blackhawk mission over a village out beyond Kismayo, our messaging was not well received, and I will never forget the sound of bullets pinging off the Blackhawk as the pilot rushed us upwards out of range. That mission was a leaflet drop, but while my memory is fading, I believe it was also simultaneously a loudspeaker mission. It was especially challenging that our Somali-American translator had a severe fear of heights, and flying with the door open caused special challenges for him, including the time he vomited out the open door and the rotor wash blew it back in on him.

There were also issues with sound quality and altitude, too low and the broadcast was overpowered by the noise of the Blackhawk; too high and it was lost entirely. As we learned during our combat deployments, we had to improvise, adapt, overcome, and relearn a lot of key knowledge that was almost certainly gained during Vietnam, and then lost. It was during this deployment that we perfected (rediscovered?) the use of the cheap-trash-bag method of helicopter leaflet delivery rather than the unwieldy, ineffective BOX method we had been taught at the Special Warfare Center and School. The trash bag method used a thin, poor-quality trash bag, filled with leaflets. We shook the leaflets in the bag to get a good mix (like laundry in a washing machine) so they were not stuck together in big stacks that were heavy and would fall too far, too fast. We used a tie-down ratcheting cable tied tightly around the top of the bag. For leaflet deployment, toss the bag out into the rotor wash, attached to the inside of the helicopter of course. The rotor wash forced the bag to stretch, and because it was poor quality, break open, spreading the leaflets in a cloud over the target. Then encourage the pilot to zoom up to high altitude for occasions when they were not received well, and the locals sent some rounds back at us.

This was our first deployment to Somalia as part of Operation Restore Hope. Most everyone in the 9th PSYOP Battalion redeployed home in February/March 1993. I stayed on, dropping down to Tactical PSYOP Team leader with the Quick Reaction Force, and was joined by Eric Christopher, and then later augmented by Hans Marc Hurd and a translator. During those couple months, March-April 1993, we were entirely on the ground (Hummer, with a 900-watt loudspeaker I believe). Elements of the 9th PSYOP Battalion were tasked out across the Somalia theatre of operations and were all doing different things, dependent on location and type of unit supported (Conventional of the 10th Mountain Division, Rangers, USMC, Special Forces, etc.). The missions were widely disparate. In early 1993, Mogadishu got quieter while Kismayo heated up and at times was augmented with additional resources.

I also note that in those days (early 1990s, perhaps beyond), those of us with foreign language skills got pulled for taskings and missions on that basis, seemingly without regard for our unit of assignment. For example, I got the same kinds of taskings and missions in and related to Sub-Saharan Africa, attached to 5th/3rd Special Forces Group A-detachments, when I was assigned to the strategic 6th PSYOP Battalion and the tactical 9th PSYOP Battalion. I was also pulled for the 1992 Guantanamo Haitian boat people relief/refugee camp operations, I was there with a lot of people from 1st PSYOP Battalion, and beyond. So, we never know exactly where we will be when a situation arises.

Danny Elder added:

We normally used the AEM 900-watts system, but we did fabricate a helicopter floor mount for a 2700-watt system using three 900s in a series. I used a vehicle AEM 450 system rigged to the floor in a Blackhawk during the capture of Talill Air Base in 91 during Desert Storm. The door gunner literally kept us from getting shot down.

A lot of people WRONGLY say that the messages cannot be heard when these are used from aircraft. They are WRONG. By using messages 30 seconds or less and repeated three times while in a low fast circle of the target audience, they can not only hear it but understand it well. I have personally witnessed enemy soldiers following our directions exactly as we were giving them. Of course, the Cobra running as our wingman helped a great deal in convincing them.

We also jury-rigged an LSS350 to an OH-58 Kiowa helicopter in the Arraijan Tank Farm and nearby Howard AFB, Panama, while playing games with the dignity battalions in 1988-1989. That caused a ruckus. I almost fell out of the thing trying to manage a huge spotlight, the loudspeaker remote while pointing my M16 out the door. Had a near disaster with the spotlight going off in the cabin as the dang thing had a hair-trigger while we were flying using night vision goggles.

The Marines were happy to have the Army PSYOP specialists attached to their unit and used them several times to save both American and Somali lives. Colonel Greg Newbold, Commander of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (15th MEU) said about the PSYOP broadcasts:

They didn’t have to sell us. We were very interested in the technique. It is absolutely the right way to maximize the ability to save lives.

In the town of Baidoa, Intelligence sources located a warehouse that contained Armed Somali fighters and vehicles equipped with heavy weapons known as “Technicals.” The Marines surrounded the building. Colonel Newbold did want the Somalis to feel trapped and decide to fight their way out of the warehouse. He called the PSYOP team. The team played a tape that said in part:

Lay down your weapons and walk away.

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A Rocket Propelled Grenada (RPG)

The Somali fighters realized they were surrounded and that any attempt to resist would result in a firefight and probably their deaths. They took about six minutes to consider their options and then walked out, lifting their shirts to show they were unarmed. The Marines entered the empty building and found five Technicals, a rocket propelled grenade, rockets, machine-guns and food stolen from the local civilians.

The Somalis were sent home unmolested. The Marines believed that they would tell their story and the people would understand that they did not have to fight to the death.

The loudspeakers often used prerecorded tapes. Santos told me that the military had searched their records for Somali speakers and found only a very few. In one case a Naval Petty Officer was found in Norfolk News, VA. Over two days he recorded 20 propaganda messages to cover a great number of scenarios like armed convoys and food convoys. Many of the tapes were used during the PSYOP campaign. These tapes were used during the PSYOP campaign.

The February 2018 issue of Myrtle Beach’s Dunes Living said about Santos:

Jamie was also active in securing the perimeter of Mogadishu Airport, clearing hangers of shoulder-fired Stinger missiles like those ones that took the UH-60 helicopters out action. Attached to Task Force Mountain, he was instrumental in the pursuit and elimination of Somali War Lords who had effectively caused over 300,000 Somali citizens to starve by denying the distribution of food donations from around the world.


UNITAF was a moderate success. Most Somalis were being fed and there was a reasonable amount of law and order within the country. The United Nations was not satisfied. Besides the earlier ongoing missions, UNOSOM II was also entrusted with assisting the Somali people in rebuilding their economy and social and political life, re-establishing the country's institutional structure, achieving national political reconciliation, recreating a Somali State based on democratic governance and rehabilitating the country's economy and infrastructure. Force was authorized. The mission that started with feeding the Somali people and protecting food convoys had become one of building a new society. This is sometimes called "mission creep." That required the neutralization of the warlords, and would lead directly to the American military disaster popularly depicted in the book and movie "Blackhawk Down."

The U.S. military takes no responsibility for this mission creep. They point out that on 14 August 1992, the U.N. voted to deliver humanitarian aid by airlift. The Americans performed this mission. On 6 June 1993, the U.N. voted to take all necessary means to bring those responsible for the problem to justice. This took the American military from a peaceful to a wartime mission and yet there was no heavy armor or weaponry to do the job properly.

The shift caught all entirely by surprise, and those involved resisted the mission. Army Major General Waldo Freeman, deputy commander of U.S. Central Command during Operation Restore Hope said:

CentCom was very much against the intervention, Even after we developed our plans, we went to the Joint Staff with the position that we don't think this is a very good idea.

Since Somalia, American military leaders have been extremely careful to watch their mission orders and be sure that there is no “creep,” no sudden movement of one desired result to another without adequate planning and preparation.

Some of the basic PSYOP problems are mentioned in Special Operations Forces: Roles and Missions in the Aftermath of the Cold War. The author points out that the PSYOP role was taken away from the American contingent and given to a U.N. contingent. The American military staff of 100 personnel was cut to a U.N. military staff of eight personal. The radio and newspaper was taken from the military and given to unprepared civilian personnel. The Somalis are an oral culture and it was important to communicate with them by radio, but that ability was lost. The authors conclude:

It is critical to win the internal information battle. The UNOSOM decision to reduce PSYOP manning to a mere five personnel (from a high of almost one hundred during UNITAF) virtually eliminated the Forces’ primary means of communications and influence.

Historical Overview: The United States Army in Somalia, 1992–1994 says about UNOSOM II PSYOP:

The absence of “combat multipliers” limited UNOSOM II’s operational capability in Somalia. Combat multipliers such as PSYOP, civil affairs, aviation, and electronic warfare (jamming assets), engineers and logistics units were visibly absent from the force structure of UNOSOM II.

U.S. PSYOP personnel provided continuous support to UNOSOM II from 4 May 1993 until 31 March 1994. The eighty soldier PSYOP Task Force (POTF) which had supported UNITAF returned to Ft. Bragg, N.C. and was replaced by a far smaller PSYOP support element. This support element consisted of one officer seconded to UNOSOM II, four soldiers assisting the radio and newspaper and four additional soldiers supporting the U.S. Quick Reaction Force with Tactical PSYOP (loudspeaker) operations. The POTF was reestablished on October 15, 1993 under the command of JTF-Somalia. The POTF rapidly expanded from nine to forty eight soldiers and a civilian analyst from the 4 POG (A) Strategic Studies Division.

Upon the transition to UNOSOM II, the PSYOP effort would focus primarily on leaflets. This focus would lead to the belief that leaflets were virtually the only tool available and that newspaper and radio were a civilian information asset and not PSYOP tools. Aircraft disseminated over four million leaflets during the period from May through November.

We should mention a lesser known loss of a Blackhawk helicopter that led directly to a PSYOP leaflet being prepared and dropped over Mogadishu

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Somali Militiamen on wreckage of “Courage 53”

At 0200 on 25 September 1993, during a night reconnaissance mission over Mogadishu, a 101st Airborne Division UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter with the call sign "Courage 53" was hit by a rocket propelled grenade. The explosion ignited the fuel and brought down the aircraft. As the helicopter fell from the sky in flames, the pilot tried to steer it toward friendly forces occupying the seaport. Instead, the helicopter hit the top of a building and then fell to the ground and skidded over a hundred yards before it came to rest against an embankment.

PFC Matthew K. Anderson, SGT Ferdinan C. Richardson, and SGT Eugene Williams were killed in the fiery crash. Chief Warrant Officer Dale Shrader the pilot, and Chief Warrant Officer Perry Alliman the co-pilot, survived the crash.

Shrader's arm was broken and Alliman was badly burned and blinded. Somali militiamen rushed to the scene and opened fire on the two Americans with AK-47s and hand grenades. Shrader fought them off and killed at least one attacker. In the midst of the firefight a friendly Somali approached the two Americans waving a flashlight and yelling “American boys!” They had no choice but to trust him. He led Alliman and Shrader to a nearby United Arab Emirates unit that was securing the seaport. That Somali saved their lives.

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“Thank you Mogadishu” leaflet

After the attack, in an attempt to foster friendship with the Somali people, UNOSOM printed a leaflet thanking the good citizens of Mogadishu for their help in rescuing the two Americans. The front of the leaflet depicts the downed helicopter, the two injured pilots, the Somali that guided them and others who point the way to safety. Text on the back is:

Thank you Mogadishu. Three UNOSOM soldiers died during the attack on a helicopter last Saturday. But other UNOSOM soldiers were saved by the actions of the brave Somali rescuers. These rescuers are heroes, and UNOSOM salutes them. Their actions bring great honor on themselves and Somalia. 

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Graffiti of a U.S. Helicopter drawn on a Somali Wall
The artist tried to spell “Cobra” on the Chopper

Michael Clauss who served in Somalia from July 1993 to March 1994 as a sergeant (E5) with the 10th Aviation Brigade (10th Mountain Division) in the Quick Reaction Force S-2 (intelligence section) adds:

We eventually found the Somali who helped the crew and offered him a reward. He asked for a job instead.

In May 1993, all the parties involved in the civil war agreed to a disarmament conference proposed by Mohammed Farah Aideed, the leading Somali warlord. However, on 5 June, 24 Pakistani troops in the UN forces were killed in an ambush in an area of Mogadishu controlled by Aideed. On 8 August his forces detonated a mine under a passing U.S. Military Police vehicle on Jialle-Siaad Street in Mogadishu killing four U.S. MPs. The UN passed resolution 837 calling for the arrest of all involved. On 22 August Task Force Ranger deployed to Somalia under the name Operation Gothic Serpent. The Task Force was made up of U. S. Army Rangers from the 75th Ranger Regiment, 130 members of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment (Delta Force), and 16 helicopters from the 160th Special Operations Regiment (Night Stalkers). During August and September 1993, the task force conducted six missions into Mogadishu, all of which were tactical successes, although in one instance the task force members mistakenly raided an unlisted UN facility and temporarily restrained some UN employees.

On the afternoon of 3 October 1993, the task force received intelligence that foreign minister Omar Salad and top political advisor Mohamed Hassan Awale, two of Aideed's Habr Gidr clan leaders, were in central Mogadishu. The task force sent 19 aircraft, 12 vehicles, and 160 men to arrest them under Operation Irene. The two leaders were quickly arrested along with a number of other suspects. During the action, two MH-60 Blackhawk helicopters were struck by rocket propelled grenades and crashed. The end result was a 15-hour pitched battle that resulted in 18 American combat deaths and 73 wounded in action. The Somalis desecrated the bodies of the American soldiers and television stations around the world broadcast the scenes. The soldiers could not be rescued by tanks or heavy armored vehicles because Clinton Defense Secretary Les Aspin had personally turned down repeated requests for heavier armor, believing that the sight of such weapons would make the Americans appear to be on a mission of conquest rather than peacekeeping. One American, Chief Warrant Officer Mike Durant was taken hostage, but was returned to American forces on 14 October 1993. Operation Gothic Serpent ended on 13 October 1993. Following these events, the United States reinforced its Quick Reaction Force with a joint task force consisting of air, naval and ground forces equipped with M1A1 tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles. At the same time, United States President William Clinton announced the intention of the United States to withdraw its forces from Somalia by 31 March 1994. Secretary Aspin resigned under fire at the end of 1993.

Each year, all over the United States, races are run called the “Mogadishu Mile” in honor of the route taken by American Rangers and Delta Force soldiers from the helicopter crash site to an appointed rally point held by the 10th Mountain Division during the battle of Mogadishu. This is a typical American commemoration of the night when the soldiers fought their way, many on foot, out of Mogadishu while under fire from hundreds of the enemy.

Curiously, the same thing happened after the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. New York City firefighter Stephen Siller was on his way home when his scanner told of the first plane hitting the Twin Towers. Stephen drove his truck to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel only to find that it was closed to traffic. With sixty pounds of gear strapped to his back, he ran through the Tunnel, hoping to meet up with his own company, Squad 1. He was killed in the collapse of the Twin Towers, but each year his dedication is commemorated by a number of races called “Tunnels to Towers.”


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PSYOP Loudspeaker teams advised the people not
to block the roads or interfere with the covoys

The PSYOP transition from UNITAF to UNOSOM II was not a smooth one. Lieutenant Colonel Charles P. Borchini, the Commander of the 8th PSYOP Battalion and the PSYOP Task Force hired and trained local Somali reporters and journalists, translators, artists, broadcasters, radio producers, and printers so that after the U.S. Army personnel from the 4th PSYOP Group returned to Ft. Bragg and the UN took over, the transition would be seamless. The UN seemed to agree. In February 1993, two UN officials recommended that the operation use the Somali civilian staff with the addition of some UN employees as supervisors.

In March, the UNOSOM II staff surprised everyone by requesting that there be no change in the PSYOP staffing, and that the U.S. Army personnel remain.

In April, the Central Command still planned to have the 4th PSYOP Group redeploy back to the Continental United States. Meanwhile the State Department approved the United Nations request. LTC Borchini reduced the military manpower to the absolute minimum and shipped all non-essential equipment home. At the same time, the UN assigned a single US Army officer to supervise the PSYOP organization.

The Special Representative of the UN Secretary General, Admiral Jonathan Howe visited the PSYOP Task Force on 3 May 1993, the night before the change from UNITAF to UNOSOM II was to take place. After seeing the complexity of the operation, he requested more UN personnel that same evening. Meanwhile, LTC Borchini left four noncommissioned officers to supervise the operation until the UN was ready to take full control.

UNOSOM II Leaflets

The official code numbers for the UNOSOM II leaflets are partially known. All start with the letters CH followed by a number. The highest number that I am aware of is 40, but I have at least six with unknown numbers, so there could be more than 40 standard airdropped leaflets. Like the UNITAF leaflets most are fairly crude pen and ink drawings. Some are in color, some not. Some of the more interesting leaflets are:

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Leaflet CH3 depicts a white dove of peace being crushed by a fist labeled "USC/SNA" ("United Somali Congress / Somali National Alliance"). Text on the back is:

The people of Somalia are striving for peace, but USC/SNA is bringing armed conflict back to serve their own greedy purposes. Only the Somali people can break the grasp and return peace to the country. Embrace peace and bring Somalia back to prosperity and security.

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Leaflet CH5 depicts a Somali woman showing her children where to hide as armed gunmen pass by on the other side of the street. Text on the back is:

Citizens of Somalia. To insure the safety and well-being of all Somali citizens, UNOSOM II asks that if at any time violence or military actions commence in your area, you immediately leave the area or seek the nearest available shelter.

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Leaflet CH6 depicts a street with happy civilians walking and shopping in peace. Some citizens enter a building where one of the civilian charity agencies that donate food to the Somali people is located. The text on the back is:

Along with UNOSOM II came the non-governmental organizations (NGOs), bringing food and aid for the people of Somalia. Do not allow this beneficial relationship to be destroyed. When stability returns to Mogadishu so will the NGOs. Cooperate with the UN and continue the progress that has been made toward improving the lives of all the Somali people.

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Leaflet CH31 depicts a Somali walking along a road toward a beautiful city with a signpost that says "progress." He pulls a camel that bears the Somali star. Text on the back is:

The answer to Somalia's problems lies within you. The world community will continue to donate its vast resources to the restoration of Somalia, but relief efforts are being hampered by a few individuals. We must work together to end the violence and create a safe secure environment for the relief and restoration of Somalia.

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Leaflet CH10 depicts General Aideed at the left and a woman holding her dead husband at the right. Text on the back is:

On 19 June at 1240 a.m., four gunshots were fired by Aideed bandits VIC of K-4. The Aideed bandits were In a white car that shot bullets into a group of innocent Somali people who were in the streets by the Saudi Relief Agency compound. A number of innocent Somali casualties occurred due to this ruthless action by the Aideed bandits. This proves to the Somali people that Aideed is an enemy to the Somali people and the entire world.

UNOSOM asks the assistance of the Somali people to catch the bandit Aideed so that he may be tried by an international court so that the whole world will know of the criminal acts that he has committed against the Somali people.

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CH12 also depicts the Somali warlord. Text to the left of his sketched portrait is:

To any Somali citizen. UNOSOM is offering a reward to any citizen who provides information leading to the arrest and apprehension of Mr. Aideed, former chairman of the USC/SNA. Information should be provided to UNOSOM force headquarters at gate eight, or Mr. Aideed can be delivered to force headquarters.

The identical message is on the back to the left of a second sketch of Mr. Aideed, this one bareheaded.

The N.Y. Times of 11 June 1993 stated that the United nations is offering $25,000 for the arrest of General Aideed. It says that 500 posters and 60,000 leaflets have been prepared and disseminated.

CNN reported that helicopters dropped "wanted" leaflets showing a drawing of Mohammed Aideed from 22 to 24 June 1993. The English word "wanted" and the Somali words "Raadin Abaal Marin" were on the front of the leaflet. The back had a message offering an unnamed reward for Aideed's capture.

The NY Times of 24 June 1993 mentions the United Nations military campaign against Mogadishu warlord and clan leader Mohammed Farah Aideed:

American gunships bombed the clan leader’s weapon depots and Radio Mogadishu, the site used for General Aideed’s broadcasts, and then ground forces were deployed on 17 June to attack his headquarters. Today the United nations dropped tens of thousands of leaflets over Mogadishu that offered a reward of an undisclosed amount to any Somali who turned General Aideed in or provided information leading to his arrest. Bold letters across the top of the bright yellow posters bearing a sketch of General Aideed proclaim him to be ‘wanted.’ Some Mogadishu residents are collecting the posters as souvenirs.

General Zinni noted in Battle Ready that bombing Aideed's radio station wasn't necessarily a good idea:

The months to follow would show that the UN failed to learn this lesson. Instead of countering Aideed’s hostile media blasts in kind, they tried to close down his radio station. Freedom of the press has to work both ways; we don’t shut down the radio stations just because we don’t like what is broadcast. The resulting confrontation was the opening of the violent war between the UN and Aideed.

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Leaflet CH18 depicts an armed helicopter taking aim at a pile of munitions. The text on the back is:

UNOSOM II has taken and will continue to take decisive steps towards reestablishing stability in Somalia. These actions are not directed against any clan or group, but against those who continue to use violence. This destruction of unauthorized weapons and the facilities that contain them will help move Somalia forward intro a new era of stability and peace.

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Leaflet CH19 depicts a UN helicopter firing rockets and destroying a Somali armed "Technical" vehicle. Text on the back is:

UNOSOM II will not tolerate any actions which threaten the safety and security of the Somali people or UN personnel. Response to these attacks will be stern and direct. UNOSOM II is determined to end the violence and ensure the restoration and rehabilitation of Somalia.

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Leaflet CH21 shows a mother and two children looking at a young man holding a grenade. The text is:

Some of Aideed's supporters are using innocent children to attack UNOSOM troops. These selfish criminals do not care about the Somali people or their safety. They care only for themselves. Parents protect your children! Do not allow them to be used by others to commit violent acts. Children are the future of Somalia. Assist in the capture of these criminals before any children are injured or killed as a result of these ruthless acts.

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Leaflet CH33 has a nation building theme. It depicts citizens walking happily down a peaceful street where shops are open and children play. Text at the top is, "Tomorrow's future will be prosperous if..." and at the bottom, "We work together!" The text on the back is:

The world community will continue to donate its vast resources for the restoration of Somalia. We must work together to end the violence and create a safe environment for all the people of Somalia. The answer to Somalia's problems lies within you!

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Leaflet CH34 asks the people of Somalia to come together to oust Aideed. It depicts his thugs about to murder three respected elders. The text is:

Once again the criminal Aideed has demonstrated that he has no concern for anything except power. He has now proven that even elders of the Habar Gidir clan who want peace for their people are not safe from his murderous tendencies. The time has come for the people of Somalia to take action and rid themselves of the scourge Aideed.

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Leaflet CH39 depicts an armed Somali standing in front of Digfer Hospital in Mogadishu. The text on the back is:


Digfer Hospital is being used to store weapons and launch attacks against UNOSOM forces. This places the doctors and patients in great danger. If you continue to allow attacks against UNOSOM forces from the hospital, the hospital will lose its protected status. You must immediately stop all military activity in Digfer Hospital.

In 1993, French soldiers at Digfer Hospital came under fire when gunmen using patients as shields started shooting…French and Italian forces believed General Aideed was hiding in the hospital with members of his militia. As Coalition forces came under sniper fire a decision was made to use artillery to clear the hospital.


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Leaflet CH40 depicts a Somali "technical" armed vehicle firing a rocket. Text on the back is,

Citizens of Mogadishu! Recently the criminal elements of the SNA and its illegal leadership have launched indiscriminate rocket attacks of the citizens of Mogadishu. These attacks have resulted in numerous casualties among innocent citizens. This must be stopped. UNOSOM forces will take direct measures to destroy these rockets and the personnel firing them. We seek your assistance. Report these criminals to the Somali police force or UNOSOM II forces.

Reuters reported on 9 September 1993 that UN helicopters dropped leaflets over Mogadishu warning of eminent military activities. Women and children were warned to stay indoors after dark.

UN Chronicle,June 1993 lists the four phases of UNOSOM II. Military support of relief activity and the disarming of factions would continue. Operations would be extended into Northern Somalia. Once all of Somalia was under control, the military presence would be scaled down and some civilian government supported. In phase four, the military forces would be reduced. UNITAF already occupied 40% of Somalia with 37,000 troops. The UNOSOM II force of 20,000 troops was considered sufficient to control the rest of the country.

The September 1993 issue of UN Chronicle reports on the death of Pakistani peace-keepers:

Twelve of the soldiers were helping to unload food at a feeding station when they were foully attacked by cowards who placed women and children in front of the armed men. On 17 June, UNOSOM raided the headquarters and weapons stores of the SNA/USC faction to deprive General Aideed of weapons and tools needed to intimidate the Somali people.

In the June 1944 UN Chronicle, the headline is "Mandate for UNOSOM II revised. Coercive methods not to be used." The Council on 18 November 1993 in its resolution 886 had asked the Secretary-General to provide a future strategy for UNOSOM II. In the wake of five months of violent confrontations between international peace-keepers and as armed Somali faction, including a 5 June ambush of a Pakistani contingent which resulted in 24 deaths and street fighting in October during which 18 American soldiers lost their lives."

Dr. Daniel L. Haulman seems to feel that Somalia was not a victory for PSYOP. He says in the 2003 report: USAF PSYCHOLOGICAL OPERATIONS, 1990-2003:

Psychological operations largely failed in Somalia during Operations RESTORE HOPE and CONTINUE HOPE in 1992-1994. The United States dropped almost three million leaflets, mostly from C-130s, but they failed to prevent violence against United Nations forces or thefts of delivered food by armed bands under warlord control. Although AC-130s at times targeted hostile radio facilities, EC-130s did not deploy to Somalia to broadcast alternative radio messages from the air.

Like UNITAF, UNOSOM II broadcast on the radio and published a newspaper with the same name. Instead of Radio RAJO (Radio Hope), UNOSOM used the name Radio MANTA (Radio Today). The radio station was operated on shortwave by the United Nations staff in Mogadishu. Radio Manta began broadcasting on 4 May 1993 following the handover of the international operation in Somalia from the US-led Unified Task Force (UNITAF) to the United Nations Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM). It broadcast news, inquiries about missing persons, songs, plays and poems. The station transmitted in the Somali language from two 600-watt shortwave transmitters. Their schedule was as follows: 0415-0500, 1000-1045, 1100-1145 and 1300-1345 on 9540 kHz. The station also broadcast at 1600-1645, 1700-1745 and 1900-1945 on 6170 kHz. The radio signal was not strong enough to reach all over Somalia.

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Maanta Newspaper

UNOSOM II continued the UNITAF policy and produced the newspaper Manta, (sometimes written as "Maanta"), written by Somalis but edited by the United Nations staff. This paper was distributed in Mogadishu. Lieutenant Colonel Borchini discussed the newspaper delivery problems:

When we first started producing the daily newspaper, we used our own soldiers to deliver the paper throughout Mogadishu. We quickly learned that like everything else in Somalia, this too was a difficult task.

First, after a long discussion concerning whether we should charge something for the paper. I decided that we should give it away free and say so on the paper. I did not want to get involved with collecting money for the paper, and all the administrative requirements money would create. I also wanted the Somalis to have free access to what we were publishing.

Secondly, when we started delivering the paper, crowds would surround our vehicles, grabbing wildly for the paper, and anything else they could get ahold of. After one of my NCOs had his M16 rifle stolen while he was handling out newspapers and others lost their wrist watches and sunglasses, I was determined to find a better, safer way to deliver the paper. The simple solution to this problem was that we hired Somalis to deliver the paper. They proved to be highly effective in getting the paper delivered throughout the city.  They divided themselves into teams with vehicles, posted delivery men in different locations, and dropped off packets in shops. They also packaged newspapers for each of the cities and towns where UNITAF forces were based and delivered these packages to the different Coalition nations responsible for those sectors, and airport officials for delivery to these remote locations.

I spoke to a Special Forces trooper who served in the 8th and 9th PSYOP Battalions from 1989-1994 and worked on both the UNITAF newspaper RAJO and the UN newspaper Maanta. Both were printed on high speed Risograph machines. He still grieves for five Somali civilians who delivered the newspapers throughout Mogadishu. During one of their delivery runs, they were stopped by a group of gunmen who opposed the UN campaign. The five were executed on the spot. He said:

They may not have been soldiers, but they believed in our cause.

A second member of the 8th PSYOP Battalion who served in Mogadishu from January to October 2003 added:

I have my own memory of these men. Two of them in particular stand out in my mind. The leader of our deliverers was a gentleman we referred to as “the Colonel.” He was older and always carried a walking stick and claimed to have been trained in the United States when there was a legitimate Somali Army.

The second man is the one that still bothers me to this day. I don't recall his name, but he was a young man about 18 or 19. I dip Skoal (a smokeless tobacco), and agreed to buy Skoal for him if he would stop chewing khat (a mild narcotic). When he came to pick up Maanta for the day he would make sure that he had a great big plug of tobacco in his mouth, and I would make sure that he had been laying off the khat. About two weeks later the slaying occurred. I can still picture his face in my mind.

Victor K. Bolena was a Sergeant (E-5) assigned to the 8th PSYOP Battalion from 1990 to 1994 as a 97E Interrogator and Korean Linguist. He arrived in Somalia April 1993 and departed October 1993. He remembers:

We had a very tight knit group and we worked practically non-stop to keep up with demands of the United Nations staff and managing the couple dozen Somalis working for us. A few of us were awarded a United Nations commendation medal by Lieutenant General Bir prior to our departure. The day that our delivery crew was executed was an extremely sad day for all of us.  I think about those men often.  Everything you wrote was correct to the best of my recollection except that I remember that our lead deliveryman was referred to as “the Major” and not “the Colonel.”

One of my favorite PSYOP products was the Aideed “Wanted” poster.  We were actually just toying around with the Old-West wanted poster motif when one of our senior Somali translators told us that we should use it since Somalis love American Western movies.  It took some convincing but the United Nations staff eventually approved the poster and we ran with it. 

This may be the poster mentioned by William J. Durch in UN Peacekeeping, American Politics, and the Uncivil Wars of the 1990s, Macmillan, 1996. Durch says:

Admiral Howe printed and distributed a wanted poster that offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to the apprehension of General Aideed.

Thomas K. Adams adds in US Special Operations Forces in Action, Taylor & Francis, 1998:

The initial response was a counteroffer by Aideed of one million for Admiral Howe’s head.

If nothing else, Aideed apparently had a sense of humor.

Radio Rajo, the voice of the Unified Task Force, was changed to Radio Maanta (Radio Today) with the handover of command from the US-led Operation Restore Hope to UNOSOM-2 (UN Operation in Somalia Phase 2) on 4 May 1993. It broadcast only in Somali and has two short-wave transmitters which with a power of 600 Watts. Their schedule is as follows: 0415-0500, 1000-1045, 1100-1145 and 1300-1345 on 9540 kHz, 1600-1645, 1700-1745 and 1900-1945 on 6170 kHz.

Phil Taylors Papers (University of Leeds), mentions a report titled Radio and Military PSYOPS by N. Grace:

"Operation Restore Hope" was launched in December 1992 as part of a UN multilateral peacekeeping force, UNOSOM. And as soon as the military arrived, a radio station operated by Army PSYOPS began broadcasting with 600 watts. Called Radio Rajo (Radio Hope), it was first heard at 1480 kHz but then in January 1993 was heard on the shortwave frequency 9540 kHz. The humanitarian intervention was multinational, therefore, the station identified itself as the "Voice of the United Task Force." Radio Rajo was handed over to the United Nations when Phase 2 of the intervention commenced (UNOSOM-2) and became Radio Manta (Radio Today), broadcasting on both the old frequency of 9540 kHz as well as new 6170 kHz. Italian psychological operations troops also broadcast Radio Ibis on 89.7 MHZ FM. Both humanitarian stations signed off when the UN coalition troops returned to their home bases.

The operation ended on 28 February 1995. There were then six PSYOP tactical teams, each with a Somali linguist. Six loudspeaker systems were in play and one aerial loudspeaker system was on alert.

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Certificate of Appreciation – Restore Hope

This was the standard Certificate of Appreciation awarded to members that took part in the Somalia operation. I add this because it actually is a PSYOP product. It sometimes seemed that PSYOP units did more printing for American military units than for the enemy. Fancy full-color certificates are a great motivator and build pride in a unit or individual. I once told an audience that I could borrow a jeep or get a thousand rounds of ammo simply by offering a First Sergeant some notepads with his name and an image of his stripes at the top. Americans love paper. A half-dozen notepads might get you a set of wheels for three or four days, or a GP Medium tent. Everything is up for trade.

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Certificate of Appreciation – Continue Hope

Operation Continue Hope provided support of UNOSOM II to establish a secure environment for humanitarian relief operations by providing personnel, logistical, communications, intelligence support, a quick reaction force, and other elements as required.


Major General S. L. Arnold talks about the U.N. Accomplishments in an article entitled "Somalia: An Operation Other Than War," Military Review, December 1993. He says:

The cycle of starvation in Somalia has been broken. Except for some isolated incidents, the food emergency is over. Factions have turned in many of their crew-served weapons, and disarmament talks are being conducted. Marketplaces have opened and are thriving, while many displaced persons and refugees are moving back to their homes, villages and farms…We have come very close to establishing the right environment to enable the Somalis to arrive at a ‘Somali solution.’ The last obstacle is the warlords. They must join together, combining their power for the collective good of all, or individually, they must lose power. Only then will Somalia be on the road to full recovery.

LTC Borchini adds:

Operation Restore Hope focused international attention on the challenges faced by military forces as they applied their combat talents and training to support different humanitarian objectives. The soldiers of the 4th Psychological Operations Group (ABN) readily adapted to the demanding requirements of the challenge. Based on their experiences in Somalia, they are better prepared to face new opportunities to use their unique skills in operations around the globe. The devastation and loss of life in Somalia humbled our soldiers, but having witnessed how PSYOP directly contributed to that country’s first tentative steps toward peace and reconstruction has also strengthened their readiness to participate in future peacekeeping operations.

The United States Army in Somalia says:

The United States entered Somalia in December 1992 to stop the imminent starvation of hundreds of thousands of people. Although it succeeded in this mission, the chaotic political situation of that unhappy land bogged down U.S. and allied forces in what became, in effect, a poorly organized United Nations nation-building operation. In a country where the United States, perhaps naively, expected some measure of gratitude for its help, its forces received increasing hostility as they became more deeply embroiled into trying to establish a stable government. The military and diplomatic effort to bring together all the clans and political entities was doomed to failure as each sub-element continued to attempt to out-jockey the others for supreme power. The Somali people were the main victims of their own leaders, but forty-two Americans died and dozens more were wounded before the United States and the United Nations capitulated to events and withdrew.

The New York Times was less optimistic in their Donatella Lorch column of 20 March 1944 entitled: “Last of the U.S. Troops Leave Somalia; What Began as a Mission of Mercy Closes with Little Ceremony.” The author said in part:

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

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

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

"It is easy to criticize the Americans, " said Mohammed Jirdeh, a prominent Somali businessman. "But you have to look at the desperate situation here before they came. They did a lot of good and they gave it a good try. But the Americans should have known better. They set deadlines. In our society we have no deadlines. The Americans kept on shifting their commitments. They never incorporated the Somalis in their decisions. There was a misperception of cultures."

The author seems to be saying that this was a no-win situation. Perhaps she is right.

On 17 January 2020, The U.S. military says its troop withdrawal from Somalia is complete, in one of the last actions of President Donald Trump’s presidency. Some experts have warned that the withdrawal of an estimated 700 U.S. military personnel comes at the worst possible time for Somalia, as the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab extremist group improves its bomb-making skills and continues to attack military and civilian targets even in the capital, Mogadishu. The withdrawal comes less than a month before Somalia is set to hold a national election.

The U.S. personnel trained and supported Somali forces, including its elite special forces, in counter-terror operations. They are being moved to other African countries such as neighboring Kenya and Djibouti, home of the only permanent U.S. military base in Africa, but U.S. Africa Command spokesman Col. Chris Karns would not say how many are going or where they are going.

Al-Shabab wants to cut you off…

This is an anti- al-Shabab leaflet. On the front it depicts various electronic devices, a satellite antenna, a computer, and a cell phone. The text is:

Al-Shabab want to cut you off from your family and friends.

Like cults and some terrorist organizations, the leadership often tries to cut the followers off from any communication with family or friends so they cannot be tempted to desert. I found one news story where ISIS cut off the hands of three women for unknown reasons, however, it was assumed the punishment was in violation of a cell phone ban.

The back of the leaflet depicts the flag of Somalia with its white star on a blue field and the text:

Support the government to stop al-Shabab from taking away your freedom and destroying your community.

Report al-Shabab and call: 699395128.

With and without Al Shabab

This is an English-language file copy of the leaflet that would be printed in Arabic. English copies are used for filing purposes and sometimes to show the pilots what they are dropping. It has two pictures. At the left it shows what happens when the terrorists are present. He sits by a smoking bomb crater and barbed wire with his AK-47 and a destroyed radio and soccer ball. At the right we see life without terrorists. A happy farmer seems to be milking a camel, A lamb is nearby, and he has a perfectly good radio and soccer ball. The destroyed radio seems to fit in well with the leaflet above that shows all forms of communication with a "banned" symbol.

Note: After I put this picture online there was a lot of gossip about what that Somali was doing to the Camel. I had said "milking" in the story and one veteran added: He is milking the camel for those asking. It was actually suggested during the pretests.

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

Note: In September of 2008, I received a request from Cedoca, the Documentation and Research Centre Office of the Commissioner General for Refugees and Stateless Persons of the Belgian agency that is responsible for the processing of applications for asylum. They asked me if I had any information that would be helpful in the case of the asylum applicant General Morgan. What role did General Morgan did he play in the peace talks? Where is he at present? Is his militia based in Southern Ogaden (Ethiopia) and is his family living in the United States? I explained that I simply wrote about the military aspects of the war and have no special knowledge of the current whereabouts of the players. The request would indicate that Morgan is attempting to find amnesty in Belgium.


The NCO Journal of August 2013 stated:

In October 2013, the Army will mark the 20th anniversary of the Battle of Mogadishu...As part of the commemoration of the 20th anniversary, the Airborne and Special Operations Museum at Fayetteville, N.C., is in the process of developing an in-depth temporary exhibit dedicated to telling the story of the battle. The exhibit will incorporate video interviews with veterans of the battle, as well as testimonies from Family members and artifacts from the battle.

Fort Benning will also play a role in the exhibit, as Fort Benning TV is helping conduct interviews with subjects who live nearby.

One veteran, former Ranger Sgt. John Belman, visited Fort Benning recently to share the story of his role in the battle. Belman was a member of a combat search and rescue team sent into the streets of Mogadishu after a Black Hawk helicopter was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade on Oct. 3, 1993.

Once the CSAR team arrived at the crash site, Belman said it began to take heavy fire from the Somali militia. As casualties mounted and more and more Soldiers were wounded, Belman said he found himself thinking he probably would not survive the battle. “Very early on, I assumed I was going to die,” he said. “The thought just occurred to me that the odds of us making it out alive were very slim given the amount of fire we were taking, the number of wounded and what we had left to help get us out.”

The CSAR team held its position for 15 hours into the early morning of Oct. 4, when an armored United Nations convoy and elements of the 10th Mountain Division were able to extract it and the survivors of the Black Hawk crash.

A Reward Leaflet for a Terrorist in Somalia in 2020

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Reward Leaflet for a Terrorist

On 15 February 2020, aircraft dropped reward leaflets on several locations in Somalia offering 5 million dollars and resettlement in another country for the arrest of Jehad Serwan Mostafa, an American who was a high member and head of the “explosives Department” of the Al-Shabaab terrorist organization. Al-Shabaab has been linked to Al Qaida in the past. Mostafa is believed to be the highest ranking American citizen fighting for a terrorist group. He is thought to be hiding in the Middle Juba region which is controlled by the Al-Shabaab militants. This move came after the Somali national army supported by the U.S AFRICOM and AMISOM launched an operation in southwest Somalia. In February, General Stephen Townsend, the U.S. AFRICOM Commander spent two weeks in East Africa to ensure Al-Shabaab militants will be blocked from escaping into any other countries. The US announced the resumption of aid to the Somali National Army on 12 February noting the support will be focused on fighting terrorism in Somalia.

If a hyena becomes the judge, goats will not get justice.

Nick Turse told us more about this very clandestine operation in The Intercept. Unfortunately, he just depicted one leaflet, but he did manage to find quite a bit about a program that was never advertised in the U.S. I quote a smart part of the article, edited for brevity. He describes some of the American leaflets:

One leaflet depicts an airstrike in progress, with militants scattering as a missile streaks toward the ground. In the foreground, a fighter in a military uniform, holding an assault rifle, tries to flee. He looks terrified. The caption, printed in Somali, reads: "Life is a gift." On the other side, the same man is shown sans weapon and wearing civilian clothes, smiling at a grinning child and a woman with outstretched arms. "Don't play with this gift," reads the text.

Another leaflet depicts a fierce-looking hyena menacing a goat above the text: "If a hyena becomes the judge, goats will not get justice." The other side reads, "Be part of eliminating injustice by reporting al-Shabab movements."

A third flyer shows five women and a girl standing together in front of the Somali flag. "Our security is our responsibility," reads the front side. The back asks for information about al-Shabab, a Somali militant group.

The three leaflets, obtained by The Intercept via the Freedom of Information Act, were part of a previously unreported and wildly successful U.S. military program designed to gather intelligence from Somali civilians. The propaganda campaign aimed at weakening al-Shabab was so effective and produced so many defectors, according to U.S. Africa Command spokesperson John Manley, that it overwhelmed Somali authorities and had to be suspended. Manley did not provide the exact dates of the leaflet program prior to publication, but records show that it took place sometime between 2017 and 2020.

The complexity of AFRICOM's online civilian casualty reporting process stands in stark contrast to the simpler mechanism used to turn Somalis into government boosters and informants. In recent years, Special Operations Command Africa, or SOCAFRICA, began producing propaganda leaflets meant to induce members of al-Shabab to defect and encourage Somalis to provide information about militants. All are written in Somali and include local telephone numbers to contact authorities.

SOCAFRICA produced four to five versions of eight different leaflets, each microtargeted to specific locales and providing local phone numbers for authorities in the cities of Bosaso, Galkayo, Kismayo, Mogadishu, or Wanlaweyn. Some leaflets even provide a second number for people to call or text for "assistance.""

Assessments by AFRICOM and SOCAFRICA found that the flyers "were very effective, but there were too many people defecting, leading to overcrowding at the defection centers, according to Manley. "The program was eventually placed on hold by the Government of Somalia until the defection centers were able to manage the large number of defectors."