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Falkland Islands Conflict - PSYOPS Lessons Learned

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Last week the Ministry of Defence released a further batch of documents to the British National Archives relating to the Falkland Islands Conflict (Operation Corporate). One document in this batch covers the role of psychological operations. Although much has already been written on this subject, the document provides new details regarding the planning of psychological operations and the difficulties experienced. Lessons learned are outlined in the paper reproduced below.




1. The two officers of the Psychological Operations Section, of the Joint Warfare Wing, National Defence College joined the Special Projects Group (SPG) in the Ministry of Defence on Wednesday, 7 April 1982.

2. This newly-formed group had been tasked by the Chiefs of Staff to collect, collate and develop ideas for deception and psy ops and develop plans from these ideas where possible.

3. The two psy ops officers, Lt Col S M B and Sqn Ldr A F G, were principally involved thereafter until Friday, 18 June 1982 on:

a. The preparation, production and dispatch of leaflets for the Task Force.

b. The formation and operation of the MOD-sponsored radio ‘Radio Atlantico del Sur’. (RAdS)


4. The preparation and production of leaflets was conducted in two phases, 15-21 April and 18-20 May 1982.

a. Phase 1 - Contingency Leaflets. The first series of leaflets was produced at a time when there could be no certainty as to eventual British military intentions, still less of the Argentine response to them. For this and other reasons it was only possible to produce three items, based on the broadest of themes which were:

(1) A safe conduct pass. (No 1)

(2) A message of inevitable defeat. (No 2)

(3) A letter of reassurance from HE the Governor to the civil populace. (No 3).

b. Phase 2 - Special Items. As operations developed, two further leaflets were produced, in response to specific events; viz:

(1) The reoccupation of South Georgia. (No 4)

(2) The opening of Radio Atlantico del Sur (RAdS). (No 5)

5. 12,000 copies of each leaf let were produced and examples (with translation where relevant) are at Annexes A-E. The first batch were dispatched to Commodore Amphibious Warfare in HMS FEARLESS whilst the Amphibious Force was still at Ascension Island. The second batch were dispatched to CBFSU Ascension for onward dispatch to HMS HERMES on 20/21 May 82. It was later announced on BBC news and in various newspapers that leaflets had been used on 3 June. However no official confirmation of this has been received.

6. Lessons Learnt. Several difficulties were encountered during the preparation of the leaflets which could be avoided in the future. The principal lessons which emerged are:

a. Lack of Psychological Intelligence. Despite the fact that Argentine attitudes towards the Falklands issue had been visibly hardening over the last three decades, no Basic Ops Study of Argentina had been prepared. Equally, the intelligence community was unaware of the special needs of Psy Ops and, given the pressure under which its staff were operating, was unable to meet these supposedly ‘new’ demands in a co-ordinated fashion. In consequence, all Psy Ops intelligence had to be extracted from individual agencies on an item-by-item basis. This difficulty arose again during the operation of RAdS and is covered later in more detail.

b. Lack of suitable delivery means. No leaflet shell has been developed for the 105mm Light gun, or indeed for field artillery in BAOR. It is recommended that such development should now be put in hand for future contingencies based on the proven base ejection leaflet round used by the 25 pound gun during World War II (Examples of which are in the Imperial War Museum). Equally there was no official leaflet delivery means available for use by Harrier or other aircraft. It is recommended that trials be carried out to assess the feasibility of using the air brakes with a modified parachute bag for the aerial release of leaflets in the future.

c. Availability of trained personnel. A critical shortage of persons knowledgeable in the psychological characteristics of the target audiences and in psy op techniques generally existed. As a consequence of this, the entire first phase of the leaflet production was based on the advice of one linguist. This does not constitute ‘pre-testing’ to the standard that is normally accepted in Psy Ops. When RAdS was in operation, its personnel were used to draft and pre-test the second batch of leaflets. However it should be noted that the Psy Op section of JWW including its printing resources are due to be disestablished on 31 July 1982.


7. Once the Total Exclusion Zone had been established round the Falkland Islands, SPG considered various options to increase the isolation of the Argentine troops occupying the islands, lower their morale and encourage them to surrender. Amongst these was a proposal to start broadcasts to these troops to bring home to them, the truth about their predicament. It had been established from refugee debriefs that the troops had short wave transmitters and listened to foreign broadcasts seeking confirmation for Argentine claims. It was also reckoned that the BBC’s Spanish language service and the World Service were broadcasting to Latin America as a whole and could not therefore address this specific military audience, especially the conscript element. The use of radio as a non-violent weapon and as a powerful persuasive medium to support military operations was reckoned to be particularly appropriate in this situation. It was in accordance with the Governments policy of using minimum force and could well result in saving lives.

8. Accordingly a case was submitted on 28 April 1982 under the codeword MOONSHINE to set up RAdS. It was proposed that a BBC transmitter should be taken over in Ascension for the duration of the broadcasts (4 hours daily) and that the broadcasts would be prepared in London and transmitted live (via satellite and land line links to the transmitter). Eventually on 18 May 1982 the project was approved by the Cabinet and the first broadcast made on 19 May 1982 between 2300 hrs - 0200 hrs Z.

9. During the period 28 April - 19 May, the initial broadcasting team was recruited and trained. It operated under the title of Media Assessment Team (MAT) and eventually comprised the following elements:

a. Management. On the journalist/broadcasting side a civilian radio consultant was employed as station manager. As the military commanding officer and link with the SPG, Lt Col B, assisted by Sqn Ldr G, provided the necessary policy guidance for the station manager to prepare the broadcasts. The guidelines to which the station operated are at Annex F.

b. Announcers/Broadcasters. These totalled nine of whom all, except one girl, were serving members of the Forces. The six with best idiomatic Latin-American Spanish were used as announcers who linked the features throughout the broadcast.

c. Translators/Typists. There were a further 5 translators/script writers and 3 Spanish-speaking typists all of whom were servicemen and whose Spanish was generally more Castilian in style. They prepared special features and translated the news bulletins. They were headed by a Military editor who had the final responsibility for ensuring the content of broadcasts conformed with MOD guidelines. They also translated from German, Italian and French press.

d. Journalists. Two professional civilian journalists were employed as news editors to prepare the news bulletins. Their sources included the British and international newspapers, Reuters teleprinter, Ceefax, Oracle and IRN.

e. Radio engineering. These comprised a civilian radio engineer and two RAF SNCO technicians. Their responsibilities included recording the broadcasts and checking that the transmission to Ascension went smoothly.

f. Collators. Three Intelligence Corps JNCOs ran the collation and filing of information from all possible sources (BBC monitoring reports, daily press, Intelligence reports, FCO summaries, etc). None spoke Spanish which limited their employment. However they provided an invaluable service especially in view of the lack of intelligence at the start of the operation (see paragraph 6a).

g. Administrative Staff. These numbered five of whom the majority doubled up with other tasks such as translating, collating/collection of information and coordination of records and music.

10. Between 19 May - 15 June 1982 when the project ended, 47 broadcasts were made, three hours each evening between 2300-0200 hrs Z and an hour in the morning between 0830-0930 hrs Z. A copy of the daily working schedule is at Annex G. Argentinian attempts to jam were reported from the second broadcast but monitoring by the Task Force and by the American monitoring station in Paraguay confirmed that these efforts were largely ineffective at stopping broadcasts reaching the Falkland Islands, possibly because the jammers were in the Buenos Aires area.

11. Effects caused. Whilst no firm information has yet been received concerning the impact of RAdS on the target audience, the following indicators have been received concerning the effect the station achieved in Latin America generally:

a. The Argentine efforts to jam the station give a very clear indication of their concern especially when judged against their allocation of very scarce and expensive electronic resources to this task. It would undoubtedly have cost them much more than RAdS cost the British taxpayer (approximately £40K).

b. It was reported that at Goose Green civilian transistors were confiscated and smashed to prevent Argentine conscripts listening to RAdS. It was also reported that Father Fernandez the Argentine military chaplain on the islands had warned his parishioners that listening to RAdS was a mortal sin. (This was possibly due to the fact that his daily morning broadcast coincided with that of RAdS).

c. On 1 June 1982 Noticias Argentina, the Argentine press agency, mentioned RAdS and in particular the list of Argentine wounded and captured given out nightly. At this time this was the only source of this information available to Argentinians. As a result Noticias Argentina was closed down by the junta for 72 hours.

d. Listener response started slowly after about a week’s broadcasting, quickly rose to a steady stream and is still being received. More than 100 letters have been received from all over the world. Of most interest are those from Latin America which currently total 26. The vast majority speak in favourable terms of RAdS broadcasts which are generally described as informative and interesting. What emerged clearly is the dislike of most Latin Americans for Argentina and hence their approval of RAdS. Not surprisingly the five responses from Argentina are not favourable although they have confirmed the ineffectiveness of the attempts to jam and a keen awareness of RAdS in Argentina.

e. It was confirmed by the Argentine authorities that their radio on the islands ‘Radio Nacional Malvinas’ closed in early June 82. Thus from this date RAdS was the only station transmitting specifically to the Argentine troops on the islands.

12. Lessons Learnt. This project was one for which there had been no recent precedent and one which aroused a certain amount of justifiable suspicion and doubt in Whitehall. This, in turn led to the station’s opening being delayed until two days before the landings at San Carlos. Ideally the station should have been allowed a longer period to establish an audience and it was in fact ready to go ‘on air’ at least one week earlier. In a future situation time may well not be available for such protracted clearance to be obtained for Psy Ops broadcasting. From this principal comment the following lessons emerge:

a. Personnel. Those servicemen and women recruited quickly picked up the rudiments of broadcasting and a most impressive team spirit emerged. However the project was set up on an ad hoc basis and it was an extremely fortunate coincidence that personalities, linguistic skills and other aptitudes fitted in so well together. The majority of the civilian staff adapted themselves to the Service background well although there was very little opportunity for vetting or checking of their skills. Consequently several did prove unsatisfactory. Clearly it would be preferable for future contingencies if people of known skills and suitability were earmarked in advance possibly as members of a reserve Psy Ops broadcasting unit.

b. Broadcasting facilities. Again the MAT were fortunate to find spare office space readily adjacent to the broadcasting studio. This coupled with the communications facilities and advice available in London made the project a reality. First class cooperation was received from all departments approached who were only too ready to assist in this particular crisis. In the future such facilities and cooperation cannot be guaranteed to be available in other circumstances which again argues for either a reserve Psy Op unit with its own resources or at least the earmarking of equipment and personnel for such use.

c. Intelligence. The invaluable contribution by the Intelligence Corps collation team in RAdS and the difficulty of extracting Psy Op intelligence from classified sources re-emphasized the importance of closer links between Intelligence and Psy Ops staff. Psy Ops has suffered in the past from a lack of a suitable sponsor in peacetime and experience in this crisis has shown how dependent they are on the Intelligence staff for their raw material.


13. It is concluded that if Psy Ops is to be considered in future contingencies the decision to close the Psy Ops section of the JWW should be re-examined as a matter of urgency. Their availability during Op CORPORATE enabled the 2 projects discussed in this report to be undertaken. Once this section goes, this particular aspect of military operations will effectively no longer be studied, practised or even kept alive within the services.

14. It is further concluded that the most logical sponsor for Psy Ops should be the Director of the Intelligence Corps with the section located at the School for Service Intelligence, Ashford. This would ensure the closer cooperation and awareness of the needs of both staffs mentioned in paragraph 12c and the continuation of the study and practise of Psy Ops.

15. Finally it is concluded that means for delivering leaflets should be developed (see paragraph 6b) and consideration given to forming a reserve Psy Op Unit (see paragraph 12a and b).


A. Translation of Leaflet 1.

B. Translation of Leaflet 2.

C. Leaflet 3.

D. Translation of Leaflet 4.

E. Translation of Leaflet 5.

F. Guidelines for Radio Atlantico del Sur.

G. Daily Working Schedule of MAT.


 Operation Corporate - SAFE CONDUCT PASS 01   Operation Corporate - SAFE CONDUCT PASS 02 



Instructions to British Forces

The soldier who bears this pass has signalled his desire to cease fighting. He is to be treated strictly in accordance with the Geneva Convention and is to be evacuated from the area of operations as soon as possible. He is to be given food and medical treatment if he requires it and is then to be held in a place of shelter to await repatriation.

Rear Admiral
Commander, British Forces


(Translation of above)


How to Use this Pass (in Spanish)

If you wish to take advantage of the terms offered in this pass you should take the following action:

a. Lay down your weapon.

b. Hold this pass in a prominent position.

c. Move forward to the nearest member of the British Forces.




From: Rear Admiral John Forster Woodward, Royal Navy, Commander British Forces

To: Brigadier Mario Benjamin Menendez, Commander, Argentine Forces

We are both aware of the serious military situation which now confronts you and your men. The forces under my command have established a dominating presence in this area and there can be no prospect of your garrison being relieved.

Matters have now reached the point where you must consider whether there is any further point in maintaining resistance in the face of such overwhelming odds. Upon your decision rests the well-being of yourself, your troops and the civilian populace. Until now you have behaved in a way which indicates that you have a genuine concern for the preservation of life. I am sure that this consideration will remain pre-eminent in your mind.

Clearly you will wish to consider your position in detail before communicating your decision to me and to your men. However, recognising the difficulties in internal communications within the Islands, I am providing you with a copy of my instructions to my troops. It is reproduced on the reverse of this letter.


 Operation Corporate - iiISLAS DE CONDENADOS!! 01   Operation Corporate - iiISLAS DE CONDENADOS!! 02 



You are completely alone. There is no hope whatever of help or relief from your Country. You are condemned to the sad task of defending a remote island. Very soon now, you will feel all the rigours of a cruel and heartless winter and the Argentine Navy is not in any condition to supply the food and reinforcements which you so badly need. Your families live with a tremendous terror that they will never see you again. All this is the perfect truth, as you well know.


Those responsible are the selfish people who have nominated themselves as the leaders of Argentina without taking into consideration the will of the Argentine people and who launched you on an absurd adventure knowing that there was no hope of success whatever. Now, those same leaders are trying to hide their clumsy incompetence behind the recognised courage of the Argentine soldier.


It is unjust for you to pay with your lives for the tortuous ambitions of those responsible for this adventure which is regarded so badly by the rest of the world.


 Operation Corporate - A Message from His Excellency the Governor Mr Rex Hunt CMG 01   Operation Corporate - A Message from His Excellency the Governor Mr Rex Hunt CMG 02 


 Operation Corporate - A Message from His Excellency the Governor Mr Rex Hunt CMG 01   Operation Corporate - A Message from His Excellency the Governor Mr Rex Hunt CMG 02 



Your valiant companions at arms recently on South Georgia have returned to their fatherland. Photographs of them being received with military honours and re-united with their loved ones have appeared in all the Argentinian press.

The Argentinian troops recently garrisoned on those islands surrendered on the 24th of April. They were recently transferred by sea to Ascension Islands and shortly flown to Montevideo. They arrived in Buenos Aires on the 14 of May.

Lt Cmdr Alfredo Astiz, the commander in charge of the forces in South Georgia on realising that the British forces possessed a superiority in fire power, surrendered with honour. This photograph shows him signing the surrender document.

The populations of both Britain and the Argentine are two nations who have traditional ties going back for more than 100 years. We do not wish to spill more blood but if there is no alternative, we are prepared to do so. More useless deaths will only create more disconsolate mothers.

Your companions at arms in S Georgia made the correct and honourable decision. You must now do the same yourself. Think of the danger you are in. Your rations and war supplies are in short supply because of the British Naval blockade. Matters will get even worse.

Think of your loved ones and the home that awaits your happy return.


 Operation Corporate - SOLDADOS 01   Operation Corporate - SOLDADOS 02 



Announcement to the inhabitants of the Malvinas

I have great pleasure of announcing a new radio station.

Radio South Atlantic will transmit daily from 20 to 23:00 hrs on a frequency of 9.71 MHz.

This transmission will operate as an additional facility to LRA National Malvinas Radio.



1. Aim. There is no change to the aim which is the use of radio in support of operational plans, to demoralise Argentine troops occupying the Falklands (particularly conscript troops) so reducing willingness to resist.

2. Station Characteristics. In order to obtain maximum audience attention Radio Atlantico del Sur (RAdS) is to produce a relaxed modern mixed programme appealing to the target audience. Announcers will present themselves as neutral, objective observers of the Falklands situation and other events. But the net effect of the broadcasts must be to increase the sense of isolation felt by the occupying forces.

3. Presentation of News. The presentation of news must not conflict with the MOD press line for the day. MAT is to maintain close contact with PR to achieve this. News is to be attributed clearly to some overt source, preferably a media source. Under no circumstances is RAdS to lay itself open to accusations that it has scored a “scoop” over the UK media. Thus, if the editorial staff is keen to use a particular news theme which has not been announced through PR, OC MAT is to attempt to influence the MOD news release staff to take steps which will permit use on RAdS.

4. Every effort is to be made to enhance the credibility of the station. There is to be accurate reporting of world news and sporting events. Broadcasts are to indicate as far as possible an accurate up-to-date knowledge of the Falklands and Argentina. No lies are to be told.






Editors, translators and scriptwriters arrive to read newspapers and prepare ideas for producer


Editorial conference for COMAT, station Manager and Editors


Allocation of work for Scripting/Translating


General briefing by Station Manager for editors, translators, scriptwriters and collators on Evening and Morning programmes

1700 until 1900

Music programming for Evening and Morning broadcasts


Evening announcers’ briefing

1800 until 2200

Recording facilities available


Briefing by Station Manager for Morning producer and announcer on content, including music, for morning broadcast

2259 until 0200

Evening broadcast


Preparation of morning programme and editing of news items


Briefing for morning translator


Collator and Typist on duty

0830 until 0930

Morning broadcast


Morning producer and announcer depart. Morning translator prepares news items for evening programme.

[Source: TNA DEFE 24/2254, transcribed by]



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