Return to the Clandestine Radio Intel
Investigative Report:
Radio and U.S. Military Psypos
By Nick Grace C., February 11, 1998
[ Vietnam War ]    [ Grenada ]    [ Panama ]    [ Gulf War ]    [ Somalia ]    [ Haiti ]    [ Bosnia ]    [ Iraq ]
[ Army Field Manual on Radio PSYOPS ]
PSYOPS Troops using loudspeakers to blare warning messages for Haitian citizens in 1994.
PSYOPS troops airdropping leaflets.
Clandestine radio is an extremely effective form of propaganda that oftentimes supports military operations.  Along with other tactics, including the dropping of leaflets and the use of loudspeakers, radio can "win the hearts and minds" of the target audience and has, in the past, won compliance from hostile leaders.  Although clandestine radio broadcasts are generally associated with intelligence agencies and guerilla groups, the U.S. Army has long used it for PSYPOS - Psychological Operations.
PSYOPS, according to Chuck Payne, is "the dissemination of truthful information to foreign audiences in support of U.S. policy and national objectives."  As a form of nonviolent force, it relies on "logic, fear, desire or other mental factors to promote specific emotions, attitudes or behaviors" through persuasion.  And these attitudes and behaviors that are promoted "can range from gaining support for U.S. operations to preparing the battlefield for combat" (Payne).  The U.S. military considers successful PSYOPS to be a "force multiplier," that is, the maximum non-violent resource capability to fulfill force protection during operations.
"Psywarrior," a U.S. Army veteran, has posted a superb webpage that covers all of the aspects of PSYOPS.  For more information, his site is highly suggested:
The Army's Armed Forces Radio Service began as mobile clandestine radio stations during the Korean War.
These clandestine stations became the American Forces Network Korea (AFKN) that continues to broadcast on AM, FM and TV.
Radio and psychological war developed from the success of propaganda during World War II.  The U.S. Army Far East Command quickly seized upon the idea and broadcast programs to South Korea in 1950 following the North Korea's cross of the 38th Parallel (Psywarrior, "History").  A radio station was set up in the destroyed American embassy in Seoul on October 4, 1950 that began with General Douglas MacArthur's demand that Kim Il-Sung, the chief of the North Korean troops, surrender.  As battle lines changed and the Korean War developed, the station broadcast from mobile trucks and had many names: Radio Kilroy, Radio Vagabond, Radio Comet and Radio Mercury (AFKN Webpage).  AFKN finally found its home in the building pictured above and has been broadcasting to U.S. troops stationed in South Korea as part of the Army Broadcasting Service since the conclusion of hostilities.  Following the success of radio during war, the Army produced a Field Manual entitled "Psychological Warfare Operations (FM 33-5)" in 1955 that discussed the importance of radio broadcasts to support U.S. military operations.
Vietnam War
The 1960's and the Vietnam War are considered to be when radio and Psyops truly converged.  President Kennedy was a believer in "unconventional war," that is guerilla war, and as such he increased CIA funding to target Vietnam and Cuba as well as founded the Green Berets.  According to historians, the U.S. spent US$ 1.5 million to start a seven-station radio network in South Vietnam.  When these transmitters were not being used to broadcast overt messages to the North, they were used to broadcast "black" clandestine stations that claimed to be from the Communists.  A declassified interdepartmental task-force memo in 1961 argued for an increase in these broadcasts in order to "harass the Communists and to maintain (the anti-Communist) morale of the North Vietnamese population" (Soley, p.267).  During the American military buildup, an elite arm of the Army that was so secret even its existence was denied by the U.S. government came into existence.  The U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam "Studies and Observation Group" (SOG) supported the South Vietnamese with "full funding, training, and 'political guidance'" (ibid).  With an estimated 1967 budget of US$3.7 million and over 150 employees (including Vietnamese and CIA officers), SOG broadcast a black clandestine called Radio Hanoi to deceive its listeners into believing that they were listening to the North Vietnamese Radio Hanoi.  Radio Hanoi actually came from a Navy EC-121 aircraft flying off the coast of Vietnam, which not only made it impossible for the communists to track down the station's location but also allowed its signal to be so strong that it overwhelmed local stations.  Another arm of SOG built and disseminated special radios that would receive static on every frequency but that of the black clandestine.  In 1967, C-130 Blackbirds had airdropped nearly 8,000 of these special radios (Psywarrior, "SOG OPS-33").  SOG also broadcast a gray clandestine radio station that claimed to operate from inside North Vietnam as part of "Project Jenny."  This station used drama to keep its listeners tuned to its programs.  For instance, one day the announcers would frantically yell that communists troops were about to capture the station, and then after a few days of silence the station would return with stories of how close the capture had been (ibid).

Another target of SOG was the Communists' Radio Liberation.  The SOG-run imposter not only used the real station's sign-on music but also "utilized actual Radio Liberation programming but substituted its own news and commentary to emphasize psychwar themes such as the cruelty and lack of integrity of the Communists, and the inevitability of a South Vietnamese and U.S. victory" (Soley, p.267).
In coordination with the CIA and the USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development), SOG tried "unsuccessfully to train local operators, (and) virtually ran the psychwar operations, including radio, singlehandedly" (ibid, p.268).  After U.S. troops withdrew in 1972, clandestine broadcasts continued from the CIA station in Saigon, but that is a topic for another study.

Grenada 1983
The next major military intervention following the Vietnam War was "Operation Urgent Fury" on October 25, 1983.  The Reagan Administration had received conclusive evidence from CIA reconnasiance photos that the Cuban military was constructing an airbase on the tiny island of Grenada in the Caribbean.  Human intelligence sources were lacking since it had been difficult for the CIA to recruit agents after the Grenadan government fell into the Soviet sphere in 1979, therefore, the only information U.S. policymakers had to go by were reports from radio stations in the Caribbean and a Grenadan ham radio operator (Cole GRENADA, p.15).  Upon complaints from neighboring islands about this potential communist threat, American Rangers landed on the island under the cover of darkness and headed straight to the capitol to capture the government-run radio station.  The 193rd Special Operations Wing of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard of Pennsylvania was deployed during the invasion with a EC-130E PSYOPS broadcast aircraft above Grenada to broadcast information to American citizens about the impending war and with evacuation contingencies on FM.  The EC-130E, pictured above, is one of a kind.  It is the world's only arial broadcast facility and has the capability of transmitting on AM, FM, Shortwave, and even with television programs.  Although it has a live microphone inside its studio, it generally broadcasts recorded shows produced elsewhere by Army specialists.
Radio Free Grenada also began to materialize on October 28 when a Navy admiral developed messages and strategies for psychological operations.  "He considered such operations essential to the speedy conclusion of military operations and the successful launching of a new government" (ibid).  Maj. Gen. George Crist then organized a group of local radio announcers to operate the station before the pro-US interim government had been put together (ibid).  Resistance was moderate and security was ensured on the island, opening the doors for a multilateral peacekeeping force with American and Caribbean troops to rebuild peace and stability on Grenada.
Panama 1988-90
Five years later the Army would find more uses of radio in supporting intervention operations.  Panama is a strategic nation for the United States because it hosts the Panama Canal, linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.  In 1988, Gen. Manuel Noriega staged an election that resulted in his defeat, but he refused to step down.  His support for CIA operations during the wars in Nicaragua and El Salvador had been helpful, but the U.S. government could not ignore his drug smuggling activities.  After he voided the elections, Noriega sent troops loyal to his regime (the Panamanian Defense Force - PDF) into the streets to attack anyone who didn't support his government.  American media was awash with images of the democratically-elected politicians being beaten with sticks and iron bars by the PDF.  Action became a necessity, and the CIA was already active in preparing the Panamanian people and Noriega's psyche for the operation.  Radio Impacto, which was located in Costa Rica and had originally broadcast subversive programs into Nicaragua, set its sights on Panama with CIA support.  By some accounts, the U.S. government spent US$60,000 a month to operate the station and allowed it to have studios in Miami (Garvin, p.195).  One of the regular guests on the station's programming was Lt. Col. Eduardo Herrera Hassan, a 20-year veteran of Panamanian defense forces and the CIA's "man on the scene," so to speak (Time).  Together with the CIA, the Army broadcast the Radio Liberacion on mediumwave from the U.S. Panama Canal base.  According to some sources, this station was part of a US$10 million plan to oust Noriega and was partly funded by American businessman Kurt Frederick Muse, who donated US$3,000 a month to the project (Washington Post).  Just before the invasion "Operation Just Cause" began, Radio Impacto began to announce "terse nonsensical phrases," presumably to take Noriega off guard and increase his tension (Garvin, p.195).
One of the first targets of the invasion force was Radio Nacional in Panama City.  PSYOPS troops occupied the station and began to broadcast anti-Noriega material under the supervision of Lt. Gen. Carl Stiner.  General Powell, with orders from the Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, ordered Stiner to end the broadcasts from Radio Nacional so that his troops could spend more time shoring up support for the democratically-elected civillian government (Cole PANAMA, p.49).
In addition to these covert radio stations, SCN (Southern Command Network) Radio, which had been broadcasting for the Army Broadcasting Service since 1941, increased its FM schedule at the start of the invasion on December 20, 1989.  It was primarily on the air to support troop morale by taking requests and playing Armed Forces Radio, CNN, and ABC programming, but on December 27 after Noriega took refuge in the Vatican Embassy, PSYOPS began blaring it through mobile loudspeakers outside of the embassy compound.  Noriega was known to love opera and hated rock music with a passion, so U.S. soldiers began making requesting songs that had a "'musical message' for (him)... either by the words or the song title" (US SOUTHCOM, p.209).  Songs broadcast included such titles as "I Fought the Law and the Law Won," "If I Had a Rocket Launcher," "You're Messin' with a SOB," "Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down," and "Nowhere to Run" (US SOUTHCOM, p.210).  Noriega and the Papal diplomats were disturbed to the point that the dictator finally surrendered.  A soldier who was with SCN during the invasion summarized the station's goals.  "Our objectives... (Were to provide) a free flow of information to prevent misunderstanding and to safeguard the lives of our audience members.   Keeping our viewers and listeners supplied with up-to-date information on dangerous locations, riots, demonstrations and other such events was paramount to keeping them out of harm's way and preventing an atmosphere of panic and retaliation. (Autry).
The 193rd Special Operations Wing of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard reportedly also broadcast programs against Manuel Noriega from the EC-130E PSYOPS broadcast aircraft.
Gulf War 1990-91
Clandestine radio and Psyops were used so effectively during the Gulf War that an estimated 87,000 Iraqi soldiers surrendered.  In fact, a plane that would soon be known to almost every shortwave radio listener in the U.S. finally made headlines, the EC-130 Command Solo.  Flying over Iraq during the war, it broadcast the Voice of the Gulf to the Iraqi troops with messages of "Arab brotherhood, allied air power, and Iraqi isolation to induce large numbers of enemy soldiers to desert" (Psywarrior, "History").  This station began after two PSYOPS batallions were sent to Fort Bragg on August 6, 1990 with the purpose of developing leaflets and programs.  When the station began to broadcast, its programs were produced with the assistance of Kuwaiti exiles and Saudi Arabians, and shared transmitting facilities with two Armed Forces Desert Network radio station vans that broadcast to U.S. troops from Saudi Arabia.  After Kuwait was liberated in January 1991 and as troops began to return home, the Voice of the Gulf's work was complete and it left the air.
On the other hand, various stations that the Army and CIA helped to set up continue to be heard on the radio.  The Future and the Iraqi Broadcasting Corporation are two that have been confirmed as having origins with the U.S.
Somalia 1992-93
Somalia is a nation on the Horn of Africa that was propped up by the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and when the Soviet regime collapsed within itself, so did Somalia.  Tribal warlords engaged in violent battles that literally destroyed the already crippled nation, and when the UN entered the region to distribute food and medical supplies, these necessities became weapons.  The Bush administration realized that it couldn't ignore the onslaught of television images broadcast on the nightly news, and so American troops were sent to ensure the peaceful distribution of the supplies.  "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 on 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"  (Ferguson, p.28).  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 (Johnson, p.32-3).  Both humanitarian stations signed off when the UN coalition troops dropped Somalia like a hot potato and returned to their home bases.  Somalia remains a mess.
Haiti 1994
Poor Haiti entered into a crisis in late 1993 when the democratically-elected Aristide government was ousted by a military coup.  Gen Raul Cedras took control and a wave of refugees fled into the U.S. base on Cuba, Guantanamo Bay.  The Clinton Administration went into action to avoid dealing with the refugees and welcomed Aristide, who was now exiled, into the U.S.  "Operation Restore Democracy" was planned, and before launching the invastion to reinstall the ousted government, the 193rd Special Operations Group (which broadcast the Voice of Gulf to Iraq during Desert Storm as well as radio stations during the invasions of Grenada and Panama) was sent out above Haiti.  The U.S. State Department contacted the Army's 4th Psychological Operations Group (Airborne) in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to produce programming against the Haitian regime, which in turn, employed the exiled civillian government in Washington, DC.  Programs for Radio Democrat were produced in Washington and then sent by satellite to the airborne EC-130 Command Solo aircraft and were heard all over the continental United States on its frequency of 1035 kHz after it hit the air on July 15, 1994.  Even the choice of frequency had significance as it was the old frequency for Port-au-Prince's defunct religious broadcaster, 4VEH.  Its initial goals were to both prepare the island for invasion and to compel Haitians to stop boating to the U.S.  After the invasion was completed and exiled President Aristide was returned to power, Radio Democrat left the airwaves.  Veteran radio listener Terry Provance sent a reception report to the 193rd Special Operations Group headquarters in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and was the first to receive a verification of the broadcast, and this author met with Radio Democrat's announcer and received the only verification from the programming arm in Washington, DC.  The U.S. military considers Radio Democrat and the PSYOPS teams to have been an important factor in restoring the civillian government on the island and for reducing casualties (EC-130E Webpage).
Bosnia 1995-Present
U.S. troops were sent to shore up NATO's peacekeeping forces in Bosnia and to try to assist in nation-building, that is, reconstructing everything from local police morale to destroyed bridges.  Unbeknowst to most radio enthusiasts was a department within the Army called the Army Broadcasting Service (ABS).  In February 1996, a radio station signed on the clear frequency of 1670 kHz from Ft. Meade, Maryland, calling itself KTRK or "K-Truck."  The station was run by ABS for technical tests before being shipped to Tuzla, Bosnia.  It is housed in the two "containers" pictured above and uses 5 kW for its mediumwave transmissions.  (The white container houses the studio and the black one in the back is where the transmitter is located.)  KTRK changed its name to ABS during the week that it was on the air and was then sent to Tuzla, where it has been operating on 1143 kHz and 100.1 MHz FM.
The purpose of ABS is to support the American troops abroad by relaying programs recorded by the Armed Forces Radio and TV Network and major U.S. commercial networks, so it is not officially a PSYOPS operation.  As SCN Radio showed during the invasion of Panama, however, ABS-run broadcasters do support psychological operations.  It isn't clear yet how ABS Tuzla has supported PSYOPS, but PSYOPS troops are active in Bosnia and have produced such printed material as Superman comic books that warn children against the dangers of landmines.  ABS radio stations are currently located in Bosnia, Croatia and Macedonia with transmissions on mediumwave and FM.
Iraq 1998
Although troop build-up has been taking place since October 1997, the mission to enforce compliance of the UN weapons inspection program wasn't officially called "Operation Desert Thunder" until February 11, 1998.  PSYOPS will surely be an important aspect of the intervention and CIA-funded clandestine radio stations have already been blanketing the airwaves.  The 193rd Special Operations Group that broadcast programs to Iraq during the Gulf War and Haiti in 1994 has not yet been sent to the region, but as hostilities increase their departure will surely be inevitable.  This section will be updated as soon as more information is posted.
Psywarrior summarizes PSYOPS well by writing, "Psychological Operations are a vital part of the broad range of U.S. political, military, economic and ideological activities used by the U.S. government to secure national objectives. The mission of providing Psychological Operations for the U.S. Military today rests with the U.S. Army's Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina" (Psywarrior "History").  As irregular warfare becomes the norm with the end of the Cold War, PSYOPS specialists in the U.S. Army must consider many factors in order to win over the public: culture, history, and society.
The following is quoted from two Army Field Manuals, which reveal a great deal about the planning and execution of PSYOPS clandestine radio broadcasts.
Quoted from Psywarrior's "Propaganda Media."
"Propaganda Media" is based upon "Psychological Operations Field Manual No.33-1" published in August 1979 by Department of the Army Headquarters in Washington DC; and "Psychological Operations (PSYOP) Media Subcourse PO-0816" by The Army Institute for Professional Development, published in 1983.
Radio broadcasts can be transmitted to local audiences, or across national boundaries, and behind enemy lines. Political boundaries or
tactical situations may hinder radio broadcasts, but they are not complete barriers. Since radio can reach mass target audiences quickly, it is useful for all types of psychological operations. Where radio stations are not common and receivers rare or nonexistent, receivers may be airdropped or otherwise distributed to key communicators, public installations, and selected individuals. Public listener systems may also be set up.
Speed. Radio programs can be quickly prepared for broadcast. This is important when attempting to capitalize on targets of opportunity.
Wide coverage. Radio programs can reach members of large and varied audiences simultaneously.
Ease of perception. It requires little or no effort to visualize the radio message. Illiteracy does not prevent the listener from forming his individual image as he listens.
Versatility. Radio is easily adaptable to drama, music, news, and other types of programs.
Emotional power. A skilled radio announcer can exert tremendous influence on the listener simply with pitch, resonance, inflection, or timing.
Availability of receivers. Where availability or ownership of receivers is common, listening to radio is a habit. Ownership of receivers has increased greatly with the invention of transistors.
Enemy restrictions. The target group may be subjected to severe censorship, thereby reducing the effectiveness of radio broadcasts. Some countries have only single channel radios with the frequency set to the government-owned station. In some areas central receivers are connected to household receivers to control listening.
Jamming. Jamming may prevent the target group from receiving radio broadcasts .
Technical. Signal may be made inaudible or distorted by fading or static due to unfavorable atmospheric conditions.
Lack of receivers. In certain areas, so few receivers are available that radio may not be an effective medium.
Fleeting impressions. Oral media do not have the permanency of written media. Messages may be quickly forgotten or distorted.
Radio programming consists of planning the schedule, content, and production of programs during a stated period. Words, music, and sound effects are put together in various ways to produce the different kinds of programs. Some of the major types of radio programs are:
Straight news reports (without commentary).
Musical (popular, folk, classical).
Speeches, talks, discussions.
Special events; i.e., on-the-spot coverage of an election or the arrival of an important visitor, etc.
Variety, a combination including music, skits, comedy, vaudeville, etc.
Regularity. Regularity is an essential element of programming. The radio programmer must create habitual program patterns in order to build a regular audience. Content, style, and format should follow an established pattern.
Repetition. Repetition is necessary for oral learning; therefore, key themes, phrases, or slogans should be repeated.
Suitability. The radio program must suit the taste and needs of the audience. Program style and format should follow the patterns to which the audience is accustomed.
Exploitation of censorship. Discussion or presentation of banned books, plays, music, and political topics is readily received by the audience. The same is true for news withheld by censors. In breaking censorship, the psychological operator must be certain that the reason for censoring the items was political and not moral.
Voice. Having announcers with attractive voice features is essential to successful radio operations.  The emotional tone conveyed by the voice may influence the listener more than the logic of arguments.  Announcers whose accents are similar to those of unpopular groups should not be used.  Female voices are used to exploit nostalgia, sex frustration, or to attract female audiences. However, in some parts of the world, due to the status of women, female voices are resented.
Programs are classified according to content, intent, and origin:
Content. The most common and useful radio program classification is by content. News reporting, commentaries, announcements, educational or informative documentaries, music, interviews, discussions, religious programs, drama, and women's programs are the most common examples.
Intent. Classification by "intent" is useful in planning to obtain a desired response with a particular broadcast(s). Programs are produced to induce such emotional reactions as confidence, hope, fear, nostalgia, frustration, etc.
Origin. Classification by "origin" pertains to the source of the message; i.e., official, unofficial, authoritative, high military command, political party, etc.
193rd Special Operations Group
EC-130 Command Solo
EC-130 Webpage
Armed Forces Radio and Television Service
AFRTS Golden Years
Army Broadcasting Service
Southern Command Network Radio
Information Operations FM 100-6
Kaye, Jeffrey.  "Mind Games."  PBS Newshour, December 19, 1995.
PSYWar Society
Psywarrior "History of Psypos"
Psywarrior "Propaganda Media"
Psywarrior "SOG OPS-33"
U.S. Special Operations Unofficial Homepage
American Forces Network Korea Webpage
Autry, MSgt Bob.  "Just Another Day in Paradise."
Cole, Ronald H.  "Operation JUST CAUSE: The Planning and  Execution of Joint Operations in Panama."  Joint Chiefsof Staff History Office.  Washington, DC: 1995.
Cole, Ronald H.  "Operation URGENT FURY: Grenada."  Joint Chiefs of Staff History Office.  Washington, DC: 1997.
EC-130 Webopage
Ferguson, Dan.  "Listener's Notebook."  NASWA Journal, March 1993.
Garvin, G.  Everybody Has His Own Gringo.
Johnson, Hans.  "Listener's Notebook."  NASWA Journal, January 1994.
Payne, Chuck.  U.S. Army Special Operations Forces Webpage.  April, 1997.
Psywarrior.  History of Psyops Webpage.
Psywarrior.  SOG OPS-33 Webpage.
Soley, Lawrence C. and John S. Nichols.  Clandestine Radio Broadcasting.  Praeger.  New York: 1987.
Time, September 12, 1988, 28.
US SOUTHCOM.  Public Affairs After Action Report Supplement, "Operation Just Cause " Dec. 20, 1989 - Jan. 31, 1990.
Washington Post, April 29, 1989, A1, 22.