Psychological operations is known mostly for their leaflets and posters designed to demoralize the enemy or convince local populations to stay away from combat areas. But sometimes, those troops go full “spook” and complete crazy missions — like when they became vampires and ghosts to scare America’s enemies.
The vampire mission was led by Lt. Col. Edward G. Lansdale. He was sent to the Philippines in September 1950 to help dislodge Communist rebels in the area. The rebels, known as Huks, were known to be superstitious so Lansdale had his men study their local legends.
After an early mission to convince locals they would be cursed if they supported the communists helped force the surrender of some Huk units, Lansdale knew he was in business. He then turned his attention to a local vampire legend, the “asuang.”
Lansdale and his men circulated a rumor in a village that an asuang vampire lived in the hills nearby. They waited for the rumor to make its way up the hill, and then swooped into action. A covert team snuck into the hills and waited for a patrol. When it was nearly past them, they snatched up the last man, poked two holes in his neck, and drained him of his blood. Seriously.
They then put the body back on the trail. When the Huks found it, they believed the rumors of the asuang and fled from the area, allowing government forces to take the region.
Soldiers tried a similar trick in Vietnam by capitalizing on the belief that the souls of dead people not buried are forced to wander the world. Soldiers made a series of “Ghost Tapes” that were commonly called “Wandering Soul.”
The audio tapes began with Buddhist funeral music followed by a girl’s cries for her father. A wandering ghost then responds, crying with regret that he chose to die on a far off battlefield rather than staying with his family.
Soldiers with backpacks, ships, and aircraft all broadcasted the message at different times. There is little evidence that anyone believed they were hearing actual ghosts and the tapes seemed to have mixed effects.
While there were reports of Communist forces surrendering or deserting after hearing the tapes, sailors and soldiers who broadcast the messages reported coming under increased fire when they started playing the tapes.
Friendly forces used this hatred to their advantage. After a C-47 came under extreme fire while broadcasting the tape, the commanding officer of the plane swore he’d never play it again. He was sent back the next night to play it anyway, but this time with an AC-130 flying in support, targeting everything that fired at the C-47. One of the more widely known versions of the tape, “Ghost Tape Number 10,” can be heard here.