By Herb Meeker
News Report Staff
Brad Traub’s job during the Gulf War was getting into the enemy’s head.
That Army veteran from Dieterich worked with the 4th Psychological Operations (PSYOB) Group for eight years. He went to Saudi Arabia soon after Operation Desert Shield started in August 1990.
Traub, who joined the Army soon after his graduation from Dieterich High School in 1978, explained he had been training for his job on demoralizing enemy units long before the invasion of Kuwait.
“I was an interrogator and learned Arabic. I had studied at the Defense Language Institute in California. In 1986, I was assigned to Psych Ops,” Traub recalled.
He would participate in different exercise and training sessions in the Middle East before the Persian Gulf War military building started.
The use of threats or terror for centuries tried to convince soldiers to surrender. Psychological Warfare became more scientific during the last century. Loudspeakers near the frontline, radio broadcasts with females with velvet voices and also leaflets were all used by different military forces to convince enemy soldiers to surrender or fall back from the battle line. Traub’s duties concentrated on gauging the effectiveness of airborne leaflets bearing messages aimed at Iraqi soldiers.
Getting the leaflets to the right places required operations comparable to dropping airborne troops by parachute.
“We would use C-130s loaded with cardboard boxes containing up to 60,000 leaflets. There was a static line that pulled out the leaflets. The wind speed and direction of the leaflet drop was all calculated because we would be aiming for a specific Iraqi unit, whether it was a regiment or battalion. There were so many variables like the weight of the paper to be considered,” Traub said.
Each group of leaflets had carefully worded messages coupled with illustrations.
“We had teams of writers, illustrators, linguists and cultural experts working on each leaflet before a drop. We would run them by the Arabs, too, so the message was correct for what we wanted to get across,” Traub said.
The illustrations tried to convey the futility of fighting. For example, one leaflet showed the image of an Iraqi soldier surrounded by his wife and children. The threat of bombs raining down from American or Coalition warplanes tried to convince the soldiers to surrender for the sake of their families.
“We wanted to convince them about the senselessness of fighting when they faced almost certain death. The family is big in that society. And we wanted to offer them a face-saving option. That gave them a way out,” Traub said.
Many the leaflets instructed the Iraqis how to surrender to Coalition forces. They were told to discard their weapons or lower the rifle barrel down to the ground. Then hold up the leaflet to their captors.
The overwhelming firepower of the air war, abundance of armored vehicles pouring into Kuwait and messages conveyed through the leaflets all resulted in many Iraqi soldiers giving up without firing a shot. In many ways, the leaflets saved many lives, both for Iraqis and Americans.
“I talked to the prisoners on how those leaflets affected them. Many talked about how they used the leaflets to surrender,” Traub said.
He was deployed forward during the ground war and witnessed how smoke from the oil well fires, torched by Saddam Hussein’s forces at the start of the war, turned midday “into midnight.”
“All that smoke at noon was really eerie,” he said.
He would also see the remains of the “Highway of Death,” a stretch of roadway connecting Kuwait City to the Iraq border where Iraqi soldiers and some civilians tried to escape from the Coalition forces. Bombings and strafings by dozens of aircraft produced a slaughter and hundreds of riddled and burned-out cars, trucks, buses and other vehicles were left stranded.
“They had pushed the burned-out vehicles off the highway by the time we came. It was unbelievable the amount of destruction that was there,” Traub said.
But he did receive thanks from some Kuwait citizens after the war had ended. They were glad to see the Americans and their allies clear out the Iraqis.
“When we were driving around, the people there were very happy. They were thankful and coming up to you and shaking your hand,” he recalled. Nowadays, he notices the overwhelming appreciation of Arabic country tourists when he talks to them in their language when they are visiting the United States.
About a year after leaving Saudi Arabia in April 1991, he would deploy to Somalia as the United States military assisted with a humanitarian aid mission in association with the United Nations. Traub’s PSYOPs group tried to convince Somalis in villages through leaflets to not harm the UN teams helping people in need. He would leave that country before Somali militias attacked American troops.
He still uses his skills to help the military.
Looking back, he regrets the Gulf War did not settle everything with Iraq. But Traub still takes pride in the work he and his PSYOPs team and other military personnel accomplished in a few months 25 years ago.
“I was in Riyadh and watching the buildup. It was inspiring. We deployed that large a force in just a few months. And it was a coalition of Arabs, as well as Europeans that fought with us,” Traub said.