HBM055: Ghost Tape Number Ten

All is fair in love and war... even mind games. The United States military employs psychological warfare in nearly every war it's part of. From creating a "ghost army" of inflatable tank fleets in World War II, to blasting heavy metal music toward enemy territory during the Gulf War, the purpose of these tactics is to decrease morale and inspire enemy combatants to surrender or defect. The US Military calls these tactics "Psychological Operations", or "PSYOP".

The Vietnam War was no different. Threatened by the growing popularity of communism in North Vietnam, the United States joined the conflict in the early 1960's in support of anti-communist South Vietnam. Within a few years, U.S. Army 6th PSYOP Battalion tried a new form of psychological warfare, they called it "Operation Wandering Soul".

 

Operation Wandering Soul was designed to exploit a Vietnamese belief that death far away from home meant becoming a restless spirit, doomed to wander aimlessly for eternity. The PSYOP unit hired South Vietnamese voice actors to play the role of ghost soldiers and their families lamenting in an echo chamber. They played these recordings at full volume from helicopters and airplanes flown over enemy territory in the middle of the night. The hope was that North Vietnamese soldiers, exhausted by combat, would drop their weapons and go home.

In this episode, Sergeant Major Herb Friedman (Retired) explains how Ghost Tape Number Ten was created and its effect (or lack there of) on the course of the Vietnam War.  Friedman did not work in the U.S. Army 6th PSYOP Battalion nor any other psyops unit, but in his civilian life he became an expert U.S. psychological operations. You can read more about him and other psyop tactics at psywarrior.com, including his article about Operation Wandering Soul.

This episode included excerpts from Lynden B. Johnson's 1966 State of the Union address.

Caitlin Pierce produced this episode. Caitlin is an independent producer living in New York, and is the creator of the podcast Borders. This episode was edited by Bethany Denton and Jeff Emtman. Our editor at KCRW is Nick White.

Music:  Phantom Fauna ||| The Black Spot

HBM036: Throw It In The Ocean [EXPLICIT]

Eric Chase's memory of April 19th, 1989 is largely a blur. On that day, he was aboard the USS Iowa, a World War 2 era battleship, equipped with some of the world's biggest cannons, capable of leveling a city block with a single hit.

But April 19th, 1989 was the day when one of the 16 inch guns aboard the ship malfunctioned and caused a huge internal explosion that claimed the lives of 47 sailors and caused a huge fire on the ship.

Eric Chase was one of the responders who ventured into the turret to recover bodies, or, well, in this case, parts of bodies. In this episode of Here Be Monsters, Eric describes his experience inside the turret, putting organic material into garbage bags, wading through the destruction. He describes how it awakened a contradiction between his sense of duty and his sense of dissatisfaction with the Naval chain of command and policy. Needless to say, if you're easily offended by descriptions of dead bodies, then you should not listen to this episode.

At the time of her commissioning in 1943, the USS Iowa was one of the world's most formidable war machines.  3 other similar ships, the USS New Jersey, the USS Wisconsin, and the USS Missouri were built at the same time.  They had an illustrious history fighting in WWII.

In the video below, the Iowa displays her absolutely devastating firepower not long after her maiden voyage.

As Word War 2 wound down, the USS Iowa was decommissioned / mothballed.  However, as part of President Reagan's 600 Ship Navy plan during the Cold War, the Iowa was brought back from mothballs, despite its age. 

Off the coast of Puerto Rico, during a 16-inch gunnery exercise on April 19th, 1989, something went critically wrong, and Turret 2 suffered a massive explosion.

The turret explosion was captured by a camera mounted in one of the USS Iowa's towers.

Australian news report on the USS Iowa turret explosion (1989)

In the investigation that followed the explosion, the navy blamed Petty Officer 2nd Class Clayton Hartwig, saying that he had been jilted by a his homosexual lover, another sailor on the ship named Kendall Truitt.  The Navy claimed that the explosion was a result of Hartwig's suicidal attack on the Iowa.

Hartwig's family made congress conduct another study, being convinced neither that he was gay, nor that he was suicidal.  The congressional investigation, headed up by the General Accounting Office (GAO) found that the aging powderbags on the ship, combined with the fact that guns were being over-rammed with extra powder, likely caused a spontaneous explosion while the back of the gun was still open, shooting a massive fireball into the turret. 

The Navy re-opened their investigation and concluded that the cause was unable to be determined.  However, they did admit to fabricating the evidence against Hartwig.

Even today, the two reports still contradict one another.


This episode was produced by Alex Kime a writer and sound engineer based in Chicago. He also produced Fugitives of the Blue Laguna, which aired on Here Be Monsters earlier this season.

Jeff Emtman is HBM's Lead Producer.  Bethany Denton is HBM's Story Editor.

Music
Phantom Fauna
Serocell
Swamp Dog
Olecranon Rebellion

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