The Psychological War for Vietnam, 1960-1968

Mervyn Edwin Roberts III

The Psychological War for Vietnam, 1960–1968, for the first time fully explores the most sustained, intensive use of psychological operations (PSYOP) in American history. In PSYOP, US military personnel use a variety of tactics—mostly audio and visual messages—to influence individuals and groups to behave in ways that favor US objectives. Informed by the author’s firsthand experience of such operations elsewhere, this account of the battle for “hearts and minds” in Vietnam offers rare insight into the art and science of propaganda as a military tool in the twentieth century.

The Psychological War for Vietnam, 1960–1968, focuses on the creation, capabilities, and performance of the forces that conducted PSYOP in Vietnam, including the Joint US Public Affairs Office and the 4th PSYOP Group. In his comprehensive account, Mervyn Edwin Roberts III covers psychological operations across the entire theater, by all involved US agencies. His book reveals the complex interplay of these activities within the wider context of Vietnam and the Cold War propaganda battle being fought by the United States at the same time. Because PSYOP never occurs in a vacuum, Roberts considers the shifting influence of alternative sources of information—especially from the governments of North and South Vietnam, but also from Australia, Korea, and the Philippines.

“[This] well-written book is interesting on several levels because it addresses PSYOP during the Cold War and in the advisor years and the overwhelmingly American phase of the war in Vietnam. It possesses a depth of knowledge beyond the operational and tactical levels of application and is philosophical and intellectual in its understanding of how propaganda affects decision making. Roberts draws a valuable summary of lessons learned in his analysis of American PSYOP efforts in Vietnam.

—Air Power History

“Roberts’s book is a good primer on PSYOPs as he includes definitions of different types of propaganda and a short history of US use of psychological warfare before the Vietnam War.

—Journal of Military History
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The Psychological War for Vietnam, 1960–1968, also addresses the development of PSYOP doctrine and training in the period prior to the introduction of ground combat forces in 1965 and, finally, shows how the course of the war itself forced changes to this doctrine. The scope of the book allows for a unique measurement of the effectiveness of psychological operations over time.

About the Author

Mervyn Edwin Roberts III is a professor of history at Central Texas College and a reserve instructor at the Joint Special Operations University at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa.