The Info List - Psychological Warfare

warfare (PSYWAR), or the basic aspects of modern psychological operations (PSYOP), have been known by many other names or terms, including MISO, Psy Ops, political warfare, "Hearts and Minds", and propaganda.[1] The term is used "to denote any action which is practiced mainly by psychological methods with the aim of evoking a planned psychological reaction in other people".[2] Various techniques are used, and are aimed at influencing a target audience's value system, belief system, emotions, motives, reasoning, or behavior. It is used to induce confessions or reinforce attitudes and behaviors favorable to the originator's objectives, and are sometimes combined with black operations or false flag tactics. It is also used to destroy the morale of enemies through tactics that aim to depress troops' psychological states.[3][4] Target audiences can be governments, organizations, groups, and individuals, and is not just limited to soldiers. Civilians of foreign territories can also be targeted by technology and media so as to cause an effect in the government of their country.[5] In Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes, Jacques Ellul discusses psychological warfare as a common peace policy practice between nations as a form of indirect aggression. This type of propaganda drains the public opinion of an opposing regime by stripping away its power on public opinion. This form of aggression is hard to defend against because no international court of justice is capable of protecting against psychological aggression since it cannot be legally adjudicated. "Here the propagandists is [sic] dealing with a foreign adversary whose morale he seeks to destroy by psychological means so that the opponent begins to doubt the validity of his beliefs and actions."[6][7]


1 History

1.1 Early 1.2 Modern

1.2.1 First World War 1.2.2 World War
II 1.2.3 Vietnam War 1.2.4 Recent operations

2 Methods 3 By country

3.1 Soviet Union 3.2 China 3.3 Germany 3.4 United Kingdom 3.5 United States

4 See also 5 References

5.1 Bibliography

6 External links

History[edit] Early[edit]

Mosaic of Alexander the Great
Alexander the Great
on his campaign against the Persian Empire.

Since prehistoric times, warlords and chiefs have recognised the importance of inducing psychological terror in opponents. Facing armies would shout, hurl insults at each other and beat weapons together or on shields prior to an engagement, all designed to intimidate the enemy. Massacres and other atrocities were certainly first employed at this time to subdue enemy or rebellious populations or induce an enemy to abandon their struggle.[citation needed] In the Battle
of Pelusium (525 BC) between the Persian Empire
Persian Empire
and ancient Egypt, the Persian forces used cats and other animals as psychological tactic against the Egyptians, who avoided harming cats due to religious beliefs. Currying favour with supporters was the other side of psychological warfare, and an early practitioner of such this was Alexander the Great, who successfully conquered large parts of Europe
and the Middle East and held on to his territorial gains by co-opting local elites into the Greek administration and culture. Alexander left some of his men behind in each conquered city to introduce Greek culture and oppress dissident views. His soldiers were paid dowries to marry locals[8] in an effort to encourage assimilation. Genghis Khan, leader of the Mongolian Empire
Mongolian Empire
in the 13th century AD employed less subtle techniques. Defeating the will of the enemy before having to attack and reaching a consented settlement was preferable to actually fighting. The Mongol generals demanded submission to the Khan, and threatened the initially captured villages with complete destruction if they refused to surrender. If they had to fight to take the settlement, the Mongol generals fulfilled their threats and massacred the survivors. Tales of the encroaching horde spread to the next villages and created an aura of insecurity that undermined the possibility of future resistance.[9] The Khan also employed tactics that made his numbers seem greater than they actually were. During night operations he ordered each soldier to light three torches at dusk to give the illusion of an overwhelming army and deceive and intimidate enemy scouts. He also sometimes had objects tied to the tails of his horses, so that riding on open and dry fields raised a cloud of dust that gave the enemy the impression of great numbers. His soldiers used arrows specially notched to whistle as they flew through the air, creating a terrifying noise.[10] Another tactic favoured by the Mongols was catapulting severed human heads over city walls to frighten the inhabitants and spread disease in the besieged city's closed confines. This was especially used by the later Turko-Mongol chieftain. The Muslim caliph Omar, in his battles against the Byzantine Empire, sent small reinforcements in the form of a continuous stream, giving the impression that a large force would accumulate eventually if not swiftly dealt with. In the 6th century BCE Greek Bias of Priene
Bias of Priene
successfully resisted the Lydian king Alyattes by fattening up a pair of mules and driving them out of the besieged city.[11] When Alyattes' envoy was then sent to Priene, Bias had piles of sand covered with corn to give the impression of plentiful resources. This ruse appears to have been well known in medieval Europe: defenders in castles or towns under siege would throw food from the walls to show besiegers that provisions were plentiful. A famous example occurs in the 8th century legend of Lady Carcas, who supposedly persuaded the Franks to abandon a five-year siege by this means and gave her name to Carcassonne
as a result. Modern[edit] First World War[edit]

Lord Bryce
Lord Bryce
led the commission of 1915 to document German atrocities committed against Belgian civilians.

The start of modern psychological operations in war is generally dated to the First World War. By that point, Western societies were increasingly educated and urbanized, and mass media was available in the form of large circulation newspapers and posters. It was also possible to transmit propaganda to the enemy via the use of airborne leaflets or through explosive delivery systems like modified artillery or mortar rounds.[12] At the start of the war, the belligerents, especially the British and Germans, began distributing propaganda, both domestically and on the Western front. The British had several advantages that allowed them to succeed in the battle for world opinion; they had one of the world's most reputable news systems, with much experience in international and cross-cultural communication, and they controlled much of the undersea cable system then in operation. These capabilities were easily transitioned to the task of warfare. The British also had a diplomatic service that kept up good relations with many nations around the world, in contrast to the reputation of the German services.[13] While German attempts to foment revolution in parts of the British Empire, such as Ireland
and India, were ineffective, extensive experience in the Middle East
Middle East
allowed the British to successfully induce the Arabs to revolt against the Ottoman Empire. In August 1914, David Lloyd George
David Lloyd George
appointed Charles Masterman
Charles Masterman
MP, to head a Propaganda
Agency at Wellington House. A distinguished body of literary talent was enlisted for the task, with its members including Arthur Conan Doyle, Ford Madox Ford, G. K. Chesterton, Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling
Rudyard Kipling
and H. G. Wells. Over 1,160 pamphlets were published during the war and distributed to neutral countries, and eventually, to Germany. One of the first significant publications, the Report on Alleged German Outrages of 1915, had a great effect on general opinion across the world. The pamphlet documented atrocities, both actual and alleged, committed by the German army against Belgian civilians. A Dutch illustrator, Louis Raemaekers, provided the highly emotional drawings which appeared in the pamphlet.[14] In 1917, the bureau was subsumed into the new Department of Information and branched out into telegraph communications, radio, newspapers, magazines and the cinema. In 1918, Viscount Northcliffe was appointed Director of Propaganda
in Enemy Countries. The department was split between propaganda against Germany
organized by H.G Wells and against the Austro-Hungarian Empire
Austro-Hungarian Empire
supervised by Wickham Steed
Wickham Steed
and Robert William Seton-Watson; the attempts of the latter focused on the lack of ethnic cohesion in the Empire and stoked the grievances of minorities such as the Croats and Slovenes. It had a significant effect on the final collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Army at the Battle
of Vittorio Veneto.[12] Aerial leaflets were dropped over German trenches containing postcards from prisoners of war detailing their humane conditions, surrender notices and general propaganda against the Kaiser and the German generals. By the end of the war, MI7b
had distributed almost 26 million leaflets. The Germans began shooting the leaflet-dropping pilots, prompting the British to develop unmanned leaflet balloons that drifted across no-man's land. At least one in seven of these leaflets were not handed in by the soldiers to their superiors, despite severe penalties for that offence. Even General
Hindenburg admitted that "Unsuspectingly, many thousands consumed the poison", and POWs admitted to being disillusioned by the propaganda leaflets that depicted the use of German troops as mere cannon fodder. In 1915, the British began airdropping a regular leaflet newspaper Le Courrier de l'Air for civilians in German-occupied France and Belgium.[15]

At the start of the war, the French government took control of the media to suppress negative coverage. Only in 1916, with the establishment of the Maison de la Presse, did they begin to use similar tactics for the purpose of psychological warfare. One of its sections was the "Service de la Propagande aérienne" (Aerial Propaganda
Service), headed by Professor Tonnelat and Jean-Jacques Waltz, an Alsatian artist code-named "Hansi". The French tended to distribute leaflets of images only, although the full publication of US President
US President
Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points, which had been heavily edited in the German newspapers, was distributed via airborne leaflets by the French.[16] The Central Powers
Central Powers
were slow to use these techniques; however, at the start of the war the Germans succeeded in inducing the Sultan
of the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
to declare 'holy war', or Jihad, against the Western infidels. They also attempted to foment rebellion against the British Empire in places as far afield as Ireland, Afghanistan, and India. The Germans' greatest success was in giving the Russian revolutionary, Lenin, free transit on a sealed train from Switzerland
to Finland after the overthrow of the Tsar. This soon paid off when the Bolshevik Revolution took Russia
out of the war.[17] World War

An example of a World War
II era leaflet meant to be dropped from an American B-17 over a German city. See the file description page for a translation.

Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
was greatly influenced by the psychological tactics of warfare the British had employed during WWI, and attributed the defeat of Germany
to the effects this propaganda had on the soldiers. He became committed to the use of mass propaganda to influence the minds of the German population in the decades to come. By calling his movement The Third Reich, he was able to convince many civilians that his cause was not just a fad, but the way of their future. Joseph Goebbels was appointed as Propaganda
Minister when Hitler came to power in 1933, and he portrayed Hitler as a messianic figure for the redemption of Germany. Hitler also coupled this with the resonating projections of his orations for effect. Germany's Fall Grün plan of invasion of Czechoslovakia had a large part dealing with psychological warfare aimed both at the Czechoslovak civilians and government as well as, crucially, at Czechoslovak allies.[18] It became successful to the point that Germany
gained support of UK and France through appeasement to occupy Czechoslovakia without having to fight an all-out war, sustaining only minimum losses in covert war before the Munich Agreement. At the start of the Second World War, the British set up the Political Warfare Executive to produce and distribute propaganda. Through the use of powerful transmitters, broadcasts could be made across Europe. Sefton Delmer
Sefton Delmer
managed a successful black propaganda campaign through several radio stations which were designed to be popular with German troops while at the same time introducing news material that would weaken their morale under a veneer of authenticity. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
made use of radio broadcasts for propaganda against the Germans.

Map depicting the targets of all the subordinate plans of Operation Bodyguard.

During World War
II, the British made extensive use of deception – developing many new techniques and theories. The main protagonists at this time were 'A' Force, set up in 1940 under Dudley Clarke, and the London Controlling Section, chartered in 1942 under the control of John Bevan.[19][20] Clarke pioneered many of the strategies of military deception. His ideas for combining fictional orders of battle, visual deception and double agents helped define Allied deception strategy during the war, for which he has been referred to as "the greatest British deceiver of WW2".[21] During the lead up to the Allied invasion of Normandy, many new tactics in psychological warfare were devised. The plan for Operation Bodyguard set out a general strategy to mislead German high command as to the exact date and location of the invasion. Planning began in 1943 under the auspices of the London Controlling Section
London Controlling Section
(LCS). A draft strategy, referred to as Plan Jael, was presented to Allied high command at the Tehran Conference. Operation Fortitude
Operation Fortitude
was intended to convince the Germans of a greater Allied military strength than existed, through fictional field armies, faked operations to prepare the ground for invasion and leaked information about the Allied order of battle and war plans. Elaborate naval deceptions (Operations Glimmer, Taxable and Big Drum) were undertaken in the English Channel.[22] Small ships and aircraft simulated invasion fleets lying off Pas de Calais, Cap d'Antifer and the western flank of the real invasion force.[23] At the same time Operation Titanic
Operation Titanic
involved the RAF
dropping fake paratroopers to the east and west of the Normandy landings.

A dummy Sherman tank, used to deceive the Germans.

The deceptions were implemented with the use of double agents, radio traffic and visual deception. The British "Double Cross" anti-espionage operation had proven very successful from the outset of the war,[24] and the LCS was able to use double agents to send back misleading information about Allied invasion plans.[25] The use of visual deception, including mock tanks and other military hardware had been developed during the North Africa campaign. Mock hardware was created for Bodyguard; in particular, dummy landing craft were stockpiled to give the impression that the invasion would take place near Calais. The Operation was a strategic success and the Normandy landings caught German defences unaware. Subsequent deception led Hitler into delaying reinforcement from the Calais
region for nearly seven weeks.[26] Vietnam War[edit]

"Viet Cong, beware!" – South Vietnam
South Vietnam
leaflets urging the defection of Viet Cong.

The United States
United States
ran an extensive program of psychological warfare during the Vietnam War. The Phoenix Program
Phoenix Program
had the dual aim of assassinating National Liberation Front of South Vietnam
South Vietnam
(NLF or Viet Cong) personnel and terrorizing any potential sympathizers or passive supporters. Chieu Hoi
Chieu Hoi
program of the South Vietnam
South Vietnam
government promoted NLF defections. When members of the PRG were assassinated, CIA
and Special
Forces operatives placed playing cards in the mouth of the deceased as a calling card. During the Phoenix Program, over 19,000 NLF supporters were killed.[27] The United States
United States
also used tapes of distorted human sounds and played them during the night making the Vietnamese soldiers think that the dead were back for revenge. Recent operations[edit]

An American PSYOP leaflet disseminated during the Iraq
War. It shows a caricature of Al-Qaeda
in Iraq
leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
caught in a rat trap. The caption reads "This is your future, Zarqawi".

made extensive use of Contra soldiers to destabilize the Sandinista
government in Nicaragua.[28] The CIA
used psychological warfare techniques against the Panamanians by delivering unlicensed TV broadcasts. The United States
United States
government has used propaganda broadcasts against the Cuban government through TV Marti, based in Miami, Florida. However, the Cuban government has been successful at jamming the signal of TV Marti. In the Iraq
War, the United States
United States
used the shock and awe campaign to psychologically maim and break the will of the Iraqi Army
Iraqi Army
to fight. In cyberspace, social media has enabled the use of disinformation on a wide scale. Analysts have found evidence of doctored or misleading photographs spread by social media in the Syrian Civil War
and 2014 Russian military intervention in Ukraine, possibly with state involvement.[29] Military and governments have engaged in psychological operations (PSYOPS) and informational warfare on social networking platforms to regulate foreign propaganda, which includes countries like the US, Russia, and China.[30][31] Methods[edit]

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Most modern uses of the term psychological warfare, refers to the following military methods:


Distributing pamphlets that encourage desertion or supply instructions on how to surrender Shock and awe
Shock and awe
military strategy Projecting repetitive and annoying sounds and music for long periods at high volume towards groups under siege like during Operation Nifty Package

radio stations, such as Lord Haw-Haw
Lord Haw-Haw
in World War
II on the " Germany
calling" station Renaming cities and other places when captured, such as the renaming of Saigon
to Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City
after Vietnamese victory in the Vietnam War False flag
False flag
events Use of loudspeaker systems to communicate with enemy soldiers Terrorism[32] The threat of chemical weapons[33]

Most of these techniques were developed during World War
II or earlier, and have been used to some degree in every conflict since. Daniel Lerner was in the OSS (the predecessor to the American CIA) and in his book, attempts to analyze how effective the various strategies were. He concludes that there is little evidence that any of them were dramatically successful, except perhaps surrender instructions over loudspeakers when victory was imminent. It should be noted, though, that measuring the success or failure of psychological warfare is very hard, as the conditions are very far from being a controlled experiment. Lerner also divides psychological warfare operations into three categories:[34][page needed]

White propaganda
White propaganda
(Omissions and Emphasis): Truthful and not strongly biased, where the source of information is acknowledged. Grey propaganda
Grey propaganda
(Omissions, Emphasis and Racial/Ethnic/Religious Bias): Largely truthful, containing no information that can be proven wrong; the source is not identified. Black propaganda
Black propaganda
(Commissions of falsification): Inherently deceitful, information given in the product is attributed to a source that was not responsible for its creation.

Lerner points out that grey and black operations ultimately have a heavy cost, in that the target population sooner or later recognizes them as propaganda and discredits the source. He writes, "This is one of the few dogmas advanced by Sykewarriors that is likely to endure as an axiom of propaganda: Credibility is a condition of persuasion. Before you can make a man do as you say, you must make him believe what you say."[34]:28 Consistent with this idea, the Allied strategy in World War
II was predominantly one of truth (with certain exceptions).[citation needed] By country[edit] Soviet Union[edit] Main articles: Zersetzung, Russian military deception, and Active measures China[edit] According to U.S. military analysts, attacking the enemy’s mind is an important element of the People's Republic of China's military strategy.[35] This type of warfare is rooted in the Chinese Stratagems outlined by Sun Tzu
Sun Tzu
in The Art of War
and Thirty-Six Stratagems. In its dealings with its rivals, China is expected to utilize Marxism
to mobilize communist loyalists, as well as flex its economic and military muscle to persuade other nations to act in China's interests. The Chinese government also tries to control the media to keep a tight hold on propaganda efforts for its people.[35] Germany[edit] In the German Bundeswehr, the Zentrum Operative Information and its subordinate Batallion für Operative Information 950 are responsible for the PSYOP efforts (called Operative Information in German). Both the center and the battalion are subordinate to the new Streitkräftebasis
(Joint Services Support Command, SKB) and together consist of about 1,200 soldiers specialising in modern communication and media technologies. One project of the German PSYOP forces is the radio station Stimme der Freiheit (Sada-e Azadi, Voice of Freedom),[36] heard by thousands of Afghans. Another is the publication of various newspapers and magazines in Kosovo
and Afghanistan, where German soldiers serve with NATO. United Kingdom[edit] The British were one of the first major military powers to use psychological warfare in the First and Second World Wars. In current the British Armed Forces, PSYOPS are handled by the tri-service 15 Psychological
Operations Group. (See also MI5
and Secret Intelligence Service). The Psychological
Operations Group comprises over 150 personnel, approximately 75 from the regular Armed Services and 75 from the Reserves. The Group supports deployed commanders in the provision of psychological operations in operational and tactical environments.[37][38] The Group was established immediately after the 1991 Gulf War,[39] has since grown significantly in size to meet operational requirements,[40] and from 2015 it will be one of the sub-units of the 77th Brigade, formerly called the Security Assistance Group.[41] Stephen Jolly, the MOD's Director of Defence Communications and former Chair of the UK's National Security Communications Committee (2013–15), is thought to be the most senior serving psyops officer within British Defence. In June 2015, NSA files published by Glenn Greenwald
Glenn Greenwald
revealed details of the JTRIG group at British intelligence agency GCHQ
covertly manipulating online communities.[42] This is in line with JTRIG's goal: to "destroy, deny, degrade [and] disrupt" enemies by "discrediting" them, planting misinformation and shutting down their communications.[43] United States[edit] See also: Psychological
Operations (United States)

U.S. Army soldier hands out a newspaper to a local in Mosul, Iraq.

U.S. Army loudspeaker team in action in Korea

The term psychological warfare is believed to have migrated from Germany
to the United States
United States
in 1941.[44] During World War
II, the United States
United States
Joint Chiefs of Staff
Joint Chiefs of Staff
defined psychological warfare broadly, stating " Psychological
warfare employs any weapon to influence the mind of the enemy. The weapons are psychological only in the effect they produce and not because of the weapons themselves."[45] The U.S. Department of Defense
U.S. Department of Defense
currently defines psychological warfare as:

"The planned use of propaganda and other psychological actions having the primary purpose of influencing the opinions, emotions, attitudes, and behavior of hostile foreign groups in such a way as to support the achievement of national objectives."[46]

This definition indicates that a critical element of the U.S. psychological operations capabilities includes propaganda and by extension counterpropaganda. Joint Publication 3-53 establishes specific policy to use public affairs mediums to counterpropaganda from foreign origins.[47] The purpose of United States
United States
psychological operations is to induce or reinforce attitudes and behaviors favorable to US objectives. The Special Activities Division
Special Activities Division
(SAD) is a division of the Central Intelligence Agency's National Clandestine Service, responsible for Covert Action and " Special
Activities". These special activities include covert political influence (which includes psychological operations) and paramilitary operations.[48] SAD's political influence group is the only US unit allowed to conduct these operations covertly and is considered the primary unit in this area.[48] Dedicated psychological operations units exist in the United States Army. The United States
United States
Navy also plans and executes limited PSYOP missions. United States
United States
PSYOP units and soldiers of all branches of the military are prohibited by law from targeting U.S. citizens with PSYOP within the borders of the United States
United States
(Executive Order S-1233, DOD Directive S-3321.1, and National Security Decision Directive 130). While United States
United States
Army PSYOP units may offer non-PSYOP support to domestic military missions, they can only target foreign audiences. A U.S. Army field manual released in January 2013 states that "Inform and Influence Activities" are critical for describing, directing, and leading military operations. Several Army Division leadership staff are assigned to “planning, integration and synchronization of designated information-related capabilities."[49] See also[edit]

Psychology portal War

Charles Douglas Jackson Demonizing the enemy Demoralization (warfare) Electromagnetic Weapon Information warfare Lawfare Media manipulation Military psychology Mind games Minor sabotage Political Warfare Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes Psychological
manipulation Special
Operations Taliban propaganda Unconventional Warfare Fear § Manipulation


Able Archer 83

US specific:

Information Operations Roadmap Military journalism NLF and PAVN battle tactics Psychological
operations (United States) Special
Activities Division Zarqawi PSYOP program

World War

Political Warfare
Political Warfare
Executive Psychological
Warfare Division


Active measures


Asymmetric warfare Fourth generation warfare


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Fred Cohen. Frauds, Spies, and Lies - and How to Defeat Them. ISBN 1-878109-36-7 (2006). ASP Press. Fred Cohen. World War
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Warfare: International Propaganda and Communications. ISBN 0-405-04755-X (1948). Revised second edition, Duell, Sloan and Pearce (1954).

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Psychological

Look up psychological warfare in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

Movie: Psywar: The Real Battlefield is the Mind by Metanoia films

Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger. Psychological
Warfare at Project Gutenberg The history of psychological warfare IWS Psychological
Operations (PsyOps) / Influence Operations "Pentagon psychological warfare operation", USA Today, December 15, 2005 "U.S. Adapts Cold- War
Idea to Fight Terrorists", New York Times, March 18, 2008 US Army PSYOPS Info - Detailed information about the US Army Psychological
Operation Soldiers IWS — The Information Warfare Site U.S. — PSYOP producing mid-eastern kids comic book The Institute of Heraldry — Psychological
Operations Psychological

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Media manipulation


Bias Crowd psychology Deception Dumbing down False balance Half-truths Machiavellianism Media Obfuscation Orwellian Persuasion Psychological


Alternative media Boycott Civil disobedience Culture jamming Demonstrations Guerrilla communication Hacktivism Internet Media Occupations Petitions Protests Youth


Billboards False Infomercials Mobiles Modeling Radio Sex Slogans Testimonials TV Criticism of advertising

Censorship Regulation

Books Broadcast law Burying of scholars Corporate Cover-ups Euphemism Films Historical negationism Internet Political Religious Self


Alternative facts April Fools' Fake news website Fakelore Fictitious entries Forgery Gaslighting List Literary Racial Urban legend Virus


Branding Loyalty Product Product placement Publicity Research Word of mouth

News media

Agenda-setting Broadcasting Circus Cycle False balance Infotainment Managing Narcotizing dysfunction Newspeak Pseudo-event Scrum Sensationalism Tabloid journalism

Political campaigning

Advertising Astroturfing Attack ad Canvassing Character assassination Charm offensive Dog-whistle politics Election promises Lawn signs Manifestos Name recognition Negative Push polling Smear campaign Wedge issue


Bandwagon Crowd manipulation Disinformation Fearmongering Framing Indoctrination Loaded language Lying press National mythology Techniques


Airborne leaflets False flag Fifth column Information (IT) Lawfare Political Public diplomacy Sedition Subversion

Public relations

Cult of personality Doublespeak Non-apology apology Reputation management Slogans Sound bites Spin Transfer Understatement Weasel words


Cold calling Door-to-door Pricing Product demonstrations Promotion Promotional merchandise Telemarketing

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Military deception


Denial and deception Disinformation False flag Information warfare Maskirovka Military camouflage Psychological
warfare Ruse de guerre


Military dummy Q-ship


Bertram Bodyguard