The objective of Project Jenny was to build a flying platform for TV and radio broadcast for troop entertainment and psychological warfare. The project began in 1964 under the leadership of Navy Captain George Dixon. Captain Dixon had been a Naval aviator and had retired, but was called back to active service to oversee Project Jenny. Dixon was quite an interesting character, and it was no doubt his forceful personality that helped bring Project Jenny to life.
Jenny equipment included a Technical Materiel Corporation (TMC) GPT-10K, a 10KW AM transmitter, a 1KW FM transmitter, specialized antennas including a trailing-wire antenna, two RCA 2.5 KW high band (channels 7 – 13) TV transmitters, a 5 KW low band (channels 2-6) TV transmitter, and essentially a complete TV studio.
The first aircraft to be deployed, Blue Eagle I (BUNO 131627), was a "radio-only" NC121-J Super Constellation aircraft, whose initial configuration and development was overseen by Dixon at Andrews Air Force Base. Construction was performed by Navy enlisted personnel, and at least one technician from Multronics, Inc. Multronics designed and built much of the equipment on the aircraft, including the transmit multicoupler, trailing-wire antenna system, and attached HF antennas. TMC Power Systems built a special diesel generator (later replaced by a gas turbine powered generator) that powered the equipment aboard the aircraft. It was located near the rear of the aircraft behind a "sound proof" partition. The aircraft was incredibly noisy when all of the equipment was running.
Blue Eagle I was equipped with three antenna systems:
- HF antenna: There were two booms sticking out of the top of the fuselage: These were insulated from the fuselage and formed part of an L-shaped radiator. Wires passed through these masts, through pulleys, then back to the empennage. There were insulators in each line between the boom and the tail, and there were winches inside the aircraft that allowed the antenna length to be tuned.
- HF “Bat Wing” dipoles, very difficult to see in the photos, that stretched from the outer portion of each wing back to the fuselage just forward of the tail. These wire antennas passed into a special tuner in the rear of the aircraft that could be configured to drive the two antennas as a dipole, or as two monopoles.
- A trailing wire antenna that was deployed in flight. There was a torpedo-shaped 55 lb. Phosphor Bronze trail weight at the end of the wire. This antenna was deployed using a winch and coupled to an LF and an HF/MF transmitter via a special transmit antenna coupler that allowed the two transmitters to share the antenna.
Blue Eagle I was incredibly entertaining to fly. There was a commercial weight limit for the Connie, and a much higher Military weight limit. Blue Eagle I was heavier than the full Military weight limit by quite a bit, requiring a very long takeoff roll and a very flat trajectory once the aircraft left the ground. Landings were similarly "interesting". As a result of the weight, the aircraft was equipped with 4 Wright R3350-42W 18 cylinder engines, the most powerful engines used on a Super Constellation.
Blue Eagle II, III, and VI were later built as combination radio and television aircraft, equipped with some of the gear used on Blue Eagle I as well as television tape recorders, film chains and transmitters manufactured by RCA. The antenna systems were specially designed and built for the aircraft, optimized for both propagation and aerodynamics.
As the American military presence in Vietnam increased, the Armed Forces Radio Television Service (AFRTS) opened radio and later television stations there.
The first AFRTS television programs in Vietnam were provided by Project Jenny. After land-based radio and television stations were built, Project Jenny aircraft provided support and backup. In more than one instance, Project Jenny aircraft flew missions to replace stations that were damaged by attacks from the Viet Cong and NVA forces.
AFRTS stations in Vietnam were initially known by the name "AFRS" (Armed Forces Radio Saigon), but as the number of stations quickly expanded throughout South Vietnam became known as "AFVN" (American Forces Vietnam Network and had several stations including Qui Nhơn, Nha Trang, Pleiku, Da Nang and Huế, the latter being overrun by the NVA in 1968 and replaced by a station in Quảng Trị. AFVN's headquarters station was located in Saigon.
In Vietnam, AFVN had a number of war related casualties. After a fierce fire fight that killed two soldiers and a civilian contractor, the remaining AFVN station staff at Huế was captured and spent five years as prisoners of war. Project Jenny stood up to the challenge and replaced the station until it was back on the air. At the height of American involvement in the war, Armed Forces Vietnam Network served over 500,000 fighting men and women at one time.
The Chieu Hoi Program, translated “Open Arms” or “A Call To Return,” was the largest and most expensive psychological operation (PSYOP) of the Vietnam War. The campaign was an initiative to encourage Viet Cong and their supporters to defect to the side of the South Vietnamese Government. A number of incentives were offered to those who chose to cooperate.
The program was conceived in 1962, adopted and implemented in 1963, and was operational on a large scale throughout the war. On April 17, 1963, President Diem issued a proclamation, which simply called upon insurgents to stop fighting and rally under the flag of the government. More than 5,700 Viet Cong accepted the opportunity to return during the initial four months of the declared amnesty. A major hindrance to the program was communist reprisals against defectors and their families - torture and even death awaited those who betrayed the communist cause. But, as additional combat troops took the field against the communists, the number of enemy soldiers rallying to the government increased.
The program of psychological warfare played on five main weaknesses of the enemy:
1. Fear. (Fear of death, injury, American technology and firepower, lack of proper burial, etc.).
2. Hardships. (Jungle life and diseases lack of medical supplies, absence from family and loved ones, etc.).
3. Loss of faith in Communist victory. (Reports of Communist defeats, lists of dead VC, overwhelming might of American forces, the coalition massed against the VC, etc.).
4. Concern for family. (The wife and family at home unprotected without a man in the house, the children growing up without a father's guidance, etc.).
5. Disillusionment. (The Communists duped you, the South Vietnamese do not want to be liberated, you are fighting for your old enemy China, you are killing your own kind, etc.).
With those five standard themes in mind, there were four special campaigns:
1. Dissemination of information in the form of Safe conduct passes and pamphlets dropped by the billions along with television and radio broadcasts by JUSPAO, carried out initially by Project Jenny, and later by land-based stations supplanted by Project jenny.
2. A reward campaign offering money for weapons, information on individuals and units, etc.
3. A Tet campaign waged each New Year when the soldier would naturally yearn to return home.
4. Recruitment of the returnee to be part of the propaganda teams.
The term black propaganda is reserved for those materials planted by the United States but in such as way that it seems to be the product or even an internal document of the target group. In other words, "black propaganda" is nothing less than a form of intellectual and political subversion. Its purpose is to attribute actions to a source, other than the true one.
SOG was the most secret elite U.S. military unit to serve in the war in Vietnam; so secret it was "black", meaning its very existence was carefully concealed. Innocuously named the "Studies and Observation Group", SOG was made up of volunteers from such elite units as the Army Green Berets, US Air Force Air Commandos, Navy SEALs, and of course, the Navy’s Project Jenny.
SOG's Psychological Studies Branch responsible for developing "black propaganda" was known as OP-33. Patterned after the old OSS Morale Operations Division, OP-33 operated behind such heavy security that few Americans in Asia knew of its existence, which was essential as any trace of SOG's involvement would destroy a deception's effectiveness.
By no means a small operation, SOG's covert propaganda operations had a 1967 budget of $3.7 million and a staff of 150, about half of them Vietnamese civilians, the other half U.S. military, plus a dozen CIA officers.
The key to successful black operations is to develop a general theme upon which to hang all sorts of individual operations. As in any kind of deception, the SOG propagandist found, it was faster, easier, and more effective to reinforce what the enemy already believed or suspected, rather than try to convince them of something entirely new. For instance, since the North Vietnamese feared and hated the Chinese, black propaganda could target and further aggravate these tensions.
Black propaganda efforts initiated by SOG included stories that: Chinese troops in North Vietnam were romancing the girlfriends and wives of faraway NVA soldiers; the Chinese were supplying poor quality ammunition; Peking was bleeding its Vietnamese comrades merely to send a political message to America. Of course there was a grain of truth to all these stories which helped make them all that more credible to the NVA.
Other covert psychological operations included SOG's "Black Radio" which was aimed at North Vietnamese civilians and soldiers.
Black Radio was limited by what the U.S. government would sanction. It was specifically forbidden to suggest the overthrow or destruction of the Hanoi government.
In Project Jenny, Blue Eagle I broadcasted SOG radio programs while flying off the North Vietnam coast (a technique used to confuse enemy radio direction finders, and because the radio broadcast was not that far away tended to overwhelm local radio stations). One program involved a supposed clandestine radio. Listeners were told broadcasts originated in North Vietnam and the radio station had to constantly be moved to evade the North's security services. On occasions in mid program there would be an excited shout that Communist forces were approaching and the station would have to close down. A few days later (with another flight) the program would be on the air with the announcer explaining how close a call it had been.
SOG's primary radio technique was called "surfing" which means transmitting alongside a real stations frequency to capture listeners who mistakenly think they've tuned to the real station. Another technique was "hitchhiking" or coming up on the same frequency of a radio stationed just after it had signed off and using its call sign.
Of course the limitation in the effectiveness of psyop broadcasted radio is that the target audience must have radios to receive the message. The solution was simple enough. Build radios that no matter how carefully you tuned the frequency dial, you would get static except for one frequency that of the SOG's "Radio Hanoi" broadcasts. These radios were inserted using ruses like: lost rucksacks; or packages left behind on buses in Viet Cong areas; Navy patrol boats floated hundreds ashore in North Vietnam; U.S. recon teams planted Peanut radios in enemy base camps or left them along trails; and C-130 Blackbirds airdropped them into North Vietnam inserting eight thousand in 1967.
Though the exact effects remain immeasurable, there can be little doubt SOG's black propaganda yielded results. The closest SOG ever came to learning its impact was in Paris in May of 1968, when as a precondition to the peace talks, Hanoi's negotiators insisted that the U.S. put an end to its black PSYOPS programs, especially that "despicable Sacred Sword of the Patriot League."