This article needs additional psychological techniques for children for verification. MISO, Psy Ops, political warfare, “Hearts and Minds”, and propaganda.
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. Mosaic of 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. 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.
Genghis Khan, leader of the 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 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. 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 successfully resisted the Lydian king Alyattes by fattening up a pair of mules and driving them out of the besieged city. 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. 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. 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 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. In August 1914, David Lloyd George appointed Charles Masterman MP, to head a Propaganda Agency at Wellington House. In 1917, the bureau was subsumed into the new Department of Information and branched out into telegraph communications, radio, newspapers, magazines and the cinema. 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.
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. Germans succeeded in inducing the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire to declare ‘holy war’, or Jihad, against the Western infidels. 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 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. 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. 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. Map depicting the targets of all the subordinate plans of Operation Bodyguard.