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Psychological Warfare in the Federation of Malaya by Major R.J. Isaac, HPWS

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Copy of Brief for Defence Secretary. Federation of Malaya



1. Though there has been no widespread collapse of the Communist Terrorist Organisation it is known from captured documents and the interrogation of Communist defectors that Psychological Warfare and the work of the Information Services in general has affected, not only the MCP's day to day plans, but its general policy and conduct of the armed struggle.


2. Psychological Warfare: The present aim of Psychological Warfare in MALAYA is to attack the morale of the armed forces of the Malayan Communist Party and their supporters by:-

(a) Undermining the confidence of the Communist Terrorists in ultimate victory.

(b) Publishing the advantages and methods of surrender.

(c) Creating dissension and distrust between the leaders and the rank and file.

(d) Encouraging the elimination of the Communist Terrorists by the publishing of rewards.

3. Emergency Information: The aim of Emergency Information is to:-

(a) Supply the press with full and accurate news of Emergency operations.

(b) Encourage the civil population to resist the oppression of Communism, to deny help to the terrorists, and to co-operate actively with the Security Forces against the terrorist organisation.

(c) Make known to the public the evils of Communism.


4. Leaflets:

(a) The main attack on the Communist Terrorists in the jungle has been through the medium of leaflets. In this connection during 1954 RAF Valettas carried out 328 missions airdropping 73,034,500 leaflets, whilst RAF Austers and ground distribution accounted for 30,726,000 a total of 103,760,500 leaflets, comprising 500 different leaflets.

(b) The most effective type of leaflet has proved to be those bearing group photographs of former Communists and a short personal message. Such photographs provide evidence that those who surrender are well treated and effectively combats the propaganda of the MCP leaders that those who surrender are beaten, imprisoned and hanged. It is this fear which keeps many in the jungle.

(c) In the past two years the MCP, to maintain morale, have relied to a great extent on the circulation of international news monitored from PEKING and MOSCOW radio. As a counter to this the strategic campaign has included a wide distribution of a fortnightly "Mosquito" newspaper which gives details of all Communist and Security Forces casualties on the front and international news on the back.

(d) All strategic leaflets (about 50% of the total effort) are printed by the Government printer at low cost, the remainder for speed are printed by local contract.

5. Voice Aircraft: The voice aircraft as a psychological warfare weapon has proved most successful. During 1954 the RAF Voice-Aircraft Flight consisting of 3 Dakotas and 2 Austers flew 1081 tasks. The aircraft serviceability enables immediate tactical operations to be met, but gives no room for extended planned operations or strategic campaigns. Messages are usually personal consisting of about 50 words lasting 30 seconds.


6. Mobile Units: 90 Mobile Public Address Units operate in the field in support of operations and carry out general propaganda work amongst the civil population. Each van has a crew of two men and is equipped with films, public address, tape recording music and, in some cases, wireless apparatus. In the course of a month they speak to 1,000,000 people.

7. Radio: Apart from the 100,000 personal licensed receiving sets, there are 1046 Community listening sets located in the rural areas throughout the Federation. Three times a day Radio Malaya puts out a news bulletin in English, Malay, Tamil and five Chinese dialects. Special features and stories are also broadcast when available.

8. Newspapers: Apart from the 22 commercial newspapers (6 English, 3 Malay, 9 Chinese and 4 Tamil) with a total daily circulation of 350,000, the Government prints and distributes throughout the Information Services, 7 newspapers; 2 Malay, 3 Chinese and 2 Tamil, with a monthly circulation of 500,000.

9. Live Shows: The Information Services, in conjunction with their Mobile Units, give short live sketches and arrange concerts. They also train and conduct on tour dramatic teams made up of Communist defectors.


10. Research has proved that almost every defector coming out of the jungle has at some time seen a Government leaflet or heard a Voice aircraft and approximately 80% of those interrogated have said that Government propaganda has played some part in their decision to surrender.

11. The Communist leaders have tried all manner of tricks to prevent their men from reading Government leaflets. They have brought in regulations and imposed severe punishments, they have lied about the contents and, what is more important, their Political Commissars have spent 50% of their time writing propaganda to refute our own.

12. Government propaganda has also resulted in a number of enquiries, transfers, demotions and other punishments and executions.

13. The surrender figures are: 1948 - 54. 1949 - 251, 1950 -147, 1951 - 201, 1952 - 256, 1953 - 372. In 1954 the surrender figure dropped to 210. This drop was attributed to several causes, the main ones being reorganisation, and redistribution of Communist Forces inside the jungle, and external events such as Dien Bien Phu, thereby causing a lift in morale.


14. Personal Emoluments: and other charges amount to $250,000 (£29,155) which pays for a staff of 4 officers and editorial and clerical assistants.

15. Special Expenditure covering operational production costs amount to $700,000 (£81,662) annually, of which leaflets take up $400,000 (£46,664) and newspapers $200,000 (£23,332).

16. Voice Aircraft production charges are negligible. The aircraft operational costs are borne by the RAF.

17. Mobile Public Address Units: The 90 Units establishment and running costs amount to approximately $1,150,000 (£145,825) per year and are borne by the Information Services.

18. Total costs to Federation Government approximately $3 million. (£349,998).

Date 19.2.55

R.J. ISAAC, Major
[Head, Psychological Warfare Section]


Source: British National Archives, ref. DEFE 28/1777



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