The United States is no stranger to Psychological Warfare. Countless myths and legends have risen from shadow programs like MK Ultra or the Montauk Project, though hard evidence is generally scarce as there are few documented applications of such tactics being employed on the battlefield. One fascinating exception to this rule is Operation Wandering Soul.
As war raged in Vietnam, the unconventional nature of the conflict required a broadscale evolution of tactics to combat the Viet Cong. By far one of the most bizarre gambits devised to this end was Operation Wandering Soul. Authored by the 6th Psychological Operations Battalion (6th PSYOP), the intent was to exploit regional cultural superstitions to erode the morale of enemy soldiers. Specifically, the belief that their soul would be doomed to wander a restless hell should they be killed away from home and their bodies not returned for proper burial.
The execution of this plan was both creepy and absurd. An audio tape was created, filled with unsettling sound effects, mournful spirits, and the urgent pleas of the recent dead, urging their comrades to desert their units and flee before they suffer the same fate. It was called “Ghost Tape #10” and played over the loudspeakers around military bases or blasted out of helicopters flying over the jungle at night. A sample of the dialog reads, “My friends, I have come back to let you know that I am dead … I am dead! Don’t end up like me. Go home, friends, before it’s too late!”
The efficacy of Wandering Soul is debatable, though it is credited to have frightened off as many as one hundred and fifty soldiers in a single engagement, in which it was combined with rumors that a tiger was attacking Viet Cong soldiers. The 6th PSYOP added tiger growls to the existing recording for added authenticity. I can only imagine what a North Vietnamese soldier would think, hearing this echoing through the darkness, take a listen.