According to Annie Jacobsen in her book ‘The Pentagon’s Brain‘ who uncovered shocking details via the FOIA, following several confessions by captured POW’s that the American’s had been using germ warfare on Koreans in the Korean War, the Pentagon began a propaganda campaign to discredit the claims. Secretary of Defense Charles Wilson suggested an “all out campaign to smear the Koreans.” He wanted the Pentagon to accuse the communists of a “new form of war crime, and a new form of refinement in atrocity techniques; namely that the Koreans were “brainwashing” the American soldiers. According to Jacobsen, thought Hunter had been a journalist for years, he also worked for the CIA. He’d been hired by the agency on a contract basis to disseminate brainwashing stories through the mainstream press. “Brainwashing,” wrote Hunter, was a devious new tool being used by the communists to strip a man of his humanity and “turn him into a robot or slave.” The very concept grabbed Americans by the throat. The notion of government mind-control programs had been a mainstay of dystopian science-fiction novels for decades. Brainwashing terrified people and they wanted to know more.
Hunter was a keen student of propaganda who, in addition to reporting from the Far East for various news services, amassed a large collection of Chinese political pamphlets and ephemera (now available online). For two years during World War II he worked for the Morale Operations Section of the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the forerunner of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). After the war, he not only wrote popular texts about communist brainwashing in China, Korea and the Soviet Union but also gave lectures on propaganda and psychological warfare. He served as a witness on communist brainwashing for the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee and the House Committee on Un-American Activities. In the 1960s, he edited and published a newsletter, TACTICS, which focused on psychological warfare and propaganda as it related to American national security.
Edward Hunter wrote article after article to brainwash the American people that the Koreans were brainwashing American POW’s to make false claims about germ warfare when, in fact, those claims were true and the CIA, using NAZI scientists from Operation Paperclip, were actually the ones using mind control techniques. In 1956, after reexamining the concept of brainwashing following the Korean War, the U.S. Army published a report entitled Communist Interrogation, Indoctrination, and Exploitation of Prisoners of War, which called brainwashing a “popular misconception”. The report states “exhaustive research of several government agencies failed to reveal even one conclusively documented case of ‘brainwashing’ of an American prisoner of war in Korea.”
US POWs captured by North Korea were brutalized with starvation, beatings, forced death marches, exposure to extremes of temperature, binding in stress positions, and withholding of medical care, but the abuse had no relation to indoctrination “in which [North Korea was] not particularly interested.” In contrast American POWs in the custody of North Korea’s Chinese Communist allies did face a concerted interrogation and indoctrination program. However, “systematic, physical torture was not employed in connection with interrogation or indoctrination,” the report states.
The CIA put tremendous amount of effort into the propaganda campaign, and many American movies were filmed that featured brainwashing of POWs, including The Rack, The Bamboo Prison, Toward the Unknown, and The Fearmakers during the 50’s. Fraser A. Sherman comments: “The possibility that advanced psychological techniques could reprogram people’s minds became a permanent part of pop culture.” Forbidden Area told the story of Soviet secret agents who had been brainwashed (through classical conditioning) by their own government so they wouldn’t reveal their true identities. In 1962 The Manchurian Candidate “put brainwashing front and center” and featured a plot by the Soviet government to take over the United States by use of a brainwashed presidential candidate.
Made just after the Korean War and directed by Robert Cashy, this rarely seen film entitled THE ULTIMATE WEAPON presents Ronald Reagan as narrator and host, speaking about the alleged brainwashing of American prisoners of war. Similar in some ways to the plot of “The Manchurian Candidate”, the film posits the question, “What can be done in my community to stop the growth of socialism and communism?” The film illustrates how a lack of moral fiber can lead average American G.I.s astray.