261. Memorandum From the Deputy Special Assistant for Vietnamese Affairs, Central Intelligence Agency (Horgan) to the Executive Director–Comptroller of the Agency (Colby)1
Washington, September 15, 1972.
- The Status of the Psychological Pressure Operations Group (PPOG)
- In response to your request for a sampling of current progress reports in the psyops campaign, we find that the most recent reports are fragmentary in nature and do not give an adequate grasp of the totality of our efforts. Therefore we have prepared this separate report to give you an overview of the tangible and the intangible progress we have made.
- Most psyops campaigns begin with the hope that through psychological operations the enemy will be persuaded to adopt a particular line of action. This is the conventional wisdom. Our new psyops campaign rejected this approach and instead opted to create every feasible kind of psychological pressure on Hanoi’s administrative apparatus. We believe that the basic pressure to be applied is military, and that psyops should try to magnify and capitalize on the morale situation created by this basic military pressure. The difference may appear semantic, but in practice different consequences flow from the different approaches. The conventional approach leads to a step up in conventional operations. The pressure approach leads to a spirit of getting the job done without over concern for conventional jurisdictions. The result is reflected in the title of the interagency organization—the Psychological Pressure Operations Group (PPOG).
- One of the primary internal accomplishments of PPOG in the 40-odd meetings held since its establishment on 20 May has been to organize the various components of the U.S. Government (CIA, State, DOD, USIA and NSC) into a responsive, action-oriented, integrated group. According to the testimony of the participants, PPOG is proving to be far superior to any predecessor interagency psyops committee. It has good morale and the members have a sense of [Page 956] achievement. PPOG has also developed a relatively good working relationship with the Saigon Mission’s Psyops Task Force. Illustrative of this relationship is the establishment of a regular reporting mechanism between Saigon, with its psyop sitrep cables twice a week, and Washington with our own “PPOG messages.” The Saigon Station has also been responsive to PPOG suggestions and ideas.
- Other State posts and Agency Stations (in Indochina [less than 1 line not declassified]) have been brought on board by PPOG and Headquarters. In the effort to solicit fresh ideas, Ambassador Porter at the Paris talks has been asked to suggest psych ideas and themes for exploitation, and PPOG has furnished him with materials for his use. (Porter used a PPOG cable in his presentation at the 31 August Paris meeting.)
- Organizationally, PPOG works effectively but just as important, it has functioned as a hopper for psych ideas. The interagency cross-fertilization of ideas has brought new dimensions to the overall U.S. Government psychological attack against North Vietnam. CIA’s own effort has been enhanced through PPOG. For example, many of the features of the new gray radio, Radio Mother Vietnam, owe their genesis to PPOG and non-Agency contributors. The so-called Archie Bunker project—the still languishing proposal to knock out Hanoi Radio and substitute our own broadcast of the official Radio’s medium wave home service—was originally discussed and proposed at an early PPOG session.2 (Our substitute broadcast is potentially one of the most dramatic and unsettling psychological events of the war, one that we believe Hanoi will be ill prepared to counter simply because they have no precedent to go on. In brief, we propose to broadcast our own special resolution of the “21st Plenum” which has not yet been held which declares the end of the armed struggle and the return of essentially peaceful political competition. We propose to let the North Vietnamese get the genie back in the bottle once it is out.) Another PPOG proposal, which our Headquarters has sent out for GVN implementation, involves the dispatching of a team of GVN proselytizers to Paris targeted against DRV/PRG officials. Another PPOG idea which is being implemented is a bogus “Ho Chi Minh letter”—a document Ho is supposed to have left with a trusted confidant questioning the leadership ability of Le Duan, and pointing out Le Duan’s inflexibility in situations where there is no historical precedent to go on. There are numerous other examples that can be noted here, the point being that PPOG is the primary USG focal point for psyop concepts, ideas and suggestions. The energy and imagination of specialists throughout the U.S. Government has been uncorked in PPOG, which despite its problems (some inherent in any interdepartmental committee) has orchestrated and directed a worldwide overt and covert campaign.
Specific PPOG Accomplishments
- Some specific achievements include the resumption of leafleting operations against North Vietnam, using drones, C–130’s and B–52’s. The leaflets themselves are periodically reviewed as to the suitability of their contents. New and potentially even more effective leaflets have been developed. One leaflet that has been inserted within the past few days is a so-called inflation leaflet on which a facsimile of North Vietnamese currency is printed. Judging from past results in the 1966–67 period when a similar currency-style leaflet was dropped, this leaflet will probably cause an element of disruption in North Vietnam. It is possible that North Vietnamese recipients of the leaflet will cut off the facsimile currency representation and try to pass it. Two other leaflets, which have not yet been approved by the White House, deal with the Nixon visits to Peking and Moscow and prominently show photographs of the President with Brezhnev and Chairman Mao. If authorized by the White House (which is hypersensitive on anything touching China), the latter two leaflets should prove most effective in North Vietnam.
- In order to provide responsive managerial control over the leafleting operation, PPOG has reorganized this activity by returning the authority to develop leaflets to the Saigon Mission. This step was intended to provide one centralized authority with the task of developing effective, intelligible and thoroughly pre-tested leaflets. Saigon’s Leaflet Development Unit is now beginning to function along the lines that PPOG devised.
- In the field of radio broadcasting PPOG has developed an all-embracing master theme list for world-wide use. We have greatly stepped up and improved the primary media facilities such as VOA. We have also developed the Agency’s entirely new “Radio Mother Vietnam” which is now broadcasting 55 hours per day over medium and short wave frequencies. The radio themes have improved across the board and are believed to be more hard-hitting and effective than in the past. A screening mechanism of all relevant and exploitable intelligence materials has been instituted in Saigon to support the radio media facilities with usable declassified data.
- The broadcasting of NVA POW names over VOA and the GVN’s Voice of Freedom (VOF); the step-up in the broadcasting of “Yellow Music” (a form of popular South Vietnamese sentimental music) by VOA, VOF and Radio Mother Vietnam; and Radio Mother Vietnam’s parodying of martial-sounding North Vietnamese songs were all ideas either generated or given new impetus by PPOG. These three radio broadcasting features have provoked recent criticisms from Hanoi or North Vietnamese officials.
- PPOG began planning contingencies on the dike question before it was an issue and has contributed its share in the successful countering of Hanoi’s charges of deliberate U.S. bombing of the dikes. PPOG [Page 958] has also managed a world-wide psych effort to signal Hanoi that its invasion across the DMZ and from Laos and Cambodia has stripped away all pretense of the so-called southern peoples’ rebellion against the government and at the cost of Hanoi’s international support. In another area, PPOG has been pushing the “blood bath” line and is continuing to highlight North Vietnamese atrocities in the South and thereby expose in the international arena this harbinger of things to come if the Communists take over South Vietnam. As Hanoi’s offensive in the South wanes, we are prepared to hit hard on the theme that Vietnamization is a success and Ho’s successors are pygmies compared to him, that they have led the country to destruction.
- As noted previously, it appears that some elements of our total mix of intensified activities are hitting tender nerves in Hanoi. Perhaps the clearest indication of reaction to date has been the recent issuance by the North Vietnamese Premier’s Office of a directive on the “reorientation of the information tasks.” One of the directive’s aims is the thwarting of our psychological warfare efforts, and the directive has a provision calling for the re-establishment of mobile information teams at the village, district, province and city echelons in North Vietnam. Still another Hanoi reaction admonished Party officials and secretaries for listening to Allied radio broadcasts. And in a virtually unprecedented event, a recent issue of the People’s Army daily newspaper devoted one entire full page of its regular normal four-page format to a series of articles on the need to counter the Allied psychological effort. Almost weekly reports are being received from prisoners and ralliers that attest to the effectiveness of some phase of our efforts. The most dramatic is rallier Le Xuan Thy, a soldier of the 324th Division, who turned himself in as a result of listening to Mother Vietnam and who says that our broadcasts have prompted other members of his unit to desert and return to their families.
- In sum, while much remains and always will remain to be achieved, the U.S. Government does now have a psychological warfare effort against North Vietnam that merits such a name and this collective effort of various agencies and departments reflects a quantum improvement over the various government components separate efforts that existed in one form or another (and, sometimes, largely on paper) prior to the President’s 17 April directive.3
John P. Horgan 4
- Source: Central Intelligence Agency, Executive Registry, DCI Files, Job 80–R01284A, Box 6, 1 August–30 September 1972. Secret; Sensitive. In his September 15 transmittal memorandum to Colby, Carver wrote: “When the first ‘blue ribbon’ panel was convened [the first meeting of PPOG] under Sullivan’s aegis at 1000 on the morning of 20 May, I quickly grabbed for the Agency bureaucratic control of the Washington effort and nominated my deputy as its day-to-day director. The move was made before anybody else could come up with alternatives and, in the rush of trying to be seen to be responsive to the President’s ‘get cracking’ order, nobody made any serious objections.”↩
- See Documents 197 and 206.↩
- The May 11 WSAG meeting (see Document 146) mentions the directive. On May 10 and May 18 (see Documents 143 and 159) Nixon drafted memoranda to Kissinger, and on May 18 to Haig (see Document 160), on this subject. In each memorandum Nixon expressed unhappiness with the way intelligence agencies and military departments were conducting psychological warfare against North Vietnam and directed that new ideas, new programs, and new insititutions arise to carry out his psychological warfare policy.↩
- Printed from a copy with Horgan’s typed signature.↩