Bullets and bombs aren’t the only weapons the U.S. military has used in its quest for victory. Ghosts, superstitions and even vampires (and not the kind that “sparkle” and won’t have sex with you) have all been employed to defeat our enemies on the battlefield.
According to this recent piece in io9, the U.S. military has used local supernatural beliefs as an ongoing part of a psychological warfare agenda against its enemies. Following are two examples of how this was done against our Asian brethren; in the Philippines during the 1950s and then again a few years later during the Vietnam War.
Major General Edward G. Lansdale spearheaded the aforementioned effort in the Philippines while fighting the Communist Huk rebels to make it seem as if an Asuang, a traditional vampire-like creature in the Filipino culture that can fly (she has wings) and has a taste for unborn fetuses, was present in the area. Yup, the big military strategy was to pretend there was a vampire lose. Here’s how Lansdale explained it:
To the superstitious, the Huk battleground was a haunted place filled with ghosts and eerie creatures. A combat psy-war squad was brought in. It planted stories among town residents of an Asuang living on the hill where the Huks were based. Two nights later, after giving the stories time to make their way up to the hill camp, the psywar squad set up an ambush along the trail used by the Huks [...] When a Huk patrol came along the trail, the ambushers silently snatched the last man of the patrol, their move unseen in the dark night.
They punctured his neck with two holes, vampire-fashion, held the body up by the heels, drained it of blood, and put the corpse back on the trail. When the Huks returned to look for the missing man and found their bloodless comrade, every member of the patrol believed that the Asuang had got him and that one of them would be next if they remained on that hill. When daylight came, the whole Huk squadron moved out of the vicinity.
Who came up with this plan? I mean was a young Hannibal Lector a member of Lansdale’s unit? According to the good General, the plan worked (Really? If the Asuang primarily attacked fetuses, what would these hardened rebels have to be scared about?), but similar efforts during the Vietnam War didn’t seem to turn out as successfully.
Operation Wandering Soul was an attempt by the U.S. military to frighten the Vietcong by playing tapes of “ghost” soldiers. Here’s an account from the February 1970 issue of The Tropic Lightning News:
If you were a Wolfhound of the First Battalion, 27th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division, and were at Fire Support Base Chamberlain on the night of February 10 you might have sworn the place was being haunted by poltergeists, ghosts that is. The moans, groans and weird sounds began at eight that night, a likely time for the cloudlike forms to reveal themselves. Of course, ghosts are nonexistent, or are they? In this case the ghosts and weird sounds were furnished by the Sixth PSYOP Team and the S-5 Section of the 1/27th Wolfhounds who were conducting a night mission at Chamberlain. With the help of loud speakers and a tape of ‘The Wandering Soul,’ a mythical tale of a Viet Cong gone to Buddha, the mission was a success.
The Wandering Soul is a tape about the soul of a dead Viet Cong. It describes the wandering of this soul about the countryside. The dead VC tells his comrades to look at what has happened to his soul and that he will never be at rest, always wandering,’ said Captain William Goodman of Philadelphia, the battalion S-5. ‘Buddhists believe very strongly that if they aren’t properly buried and properly mourned, their soul will wander through eternity,’ added First Lieutenant Peter Boni of Boston, the officer in charge of the Sixth PSYOP Team. ‘We play upon the psychological superstitions and fears of the enemy. The method is very effective,” Boni said.
So in a nutshell, American tax dollars were used so the military could fight the enemy with the same plan as the bad guys in episodes of Scooby Doo—pretend to be a ghost to scare off people. Makes sense to me. And we would’ve gotten away with it too if it weren’t for you meddling Vietcong!