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Slinging the Bull in Korea: An Adventure in Psychological Warfare

Slinging the Bull in Korea: An Adventure in Psychological Warfare by John Martin Campbell. University of New Mexico Press, 2010, 192 pp.

Korea, “the forgotten war,” remains underrepresented on the list of popular subjects in military history. Moreover, although other books have covered conventional operations in that conflict, Slinging the Bull in Korea, as its name might imply, delves into one of the lesser-known areas of a less-studied war—that of psychological warfare. A combination history and wartime memoir, this book tells the story of US psychological warfare operations in Korea and, more specifically, that of the Air Resupply and Communications Service, the rather nondescriptive name of the organizations charged with this mission. This service worked both “white” and “black” operations, but author John Campbell sticks to his personal experience in white operations, limiting his description of black operations to recalling that they involved all manner of skullduggery.

White operations, mostly in the propaganda field, consisted of truthful leaflets and radio broadcasts to both allied and communist forces. The focus on allied forces, especially early in the war, sought to bolster resolve and fighting spirit; against communist forces, the goal involved destroying morale and convincing soldiers either to stop fighting or to defect.

Slinging the Bull in Korea benefits from a short (21 pages) introduction by Katherine Kallestad, a military history and psychological operations author, that not only offers a quick overview of events leading up to and during the Korean War but also sets the stage for psychological warfare operations and the agencies which operated in that realm. Although the book is not so much an in-depth history as a personal journal, it does include some interesting tidbits, such as the tale of “Madam Rhee’s theaters arts circle”: ladies who parachuted into North Korea to work their wiles on communist officers and leaders and then sneak back into the South with whatever information they could gain (pp. 71–72). The 54 pages of photos reproducing the various pamphlets and psychological warfare flyers, especially those produced by the communists for use against allied forces, are another highlight and make for interesting reading. The 33 different images vividly illustrate what each side was trying to convey, as well as the target audiences.

As the author observes, “Ordinarily, there is so little glamour attached to white-hat activities that few historians care to write about them” (p. 40). That fact alone makes Slinging the Bull in Korea worth reading. It does, however, seem more akin to a robust research paper (with numerous notes and references), combined with a fair amount of reminiscing, than a substantial military history.

Lt Col Aaron Burgstein, USAF

Washington, DC

"The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense."

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