One weapon of the American armed forces being used in Iraq is paper leaflets dropped from U.S. Navy F-18 Fighters over Iraqi territory with messages for both civilians and soldiers. The leaflets are printed aboard the aircraft carrier Constellation in the Persian Gulf and loaded onto planes.
A machine aboard the carrier cuts and trims the leaflets before they are dropped over Iraq. The messages tell people to stay away from dangerous areas and for soldiers not to fight, but to go home and take care of their families.
"To date, we've printed over 5.5 million. Within 24 hours, we can go from printing to dropping,” said Lt. Kurt Mole, who is in charge of the operation. “It's a Vietnam-era munition that had bomblets in it. The bomblets have since been removed and you put in leaflets where the bomblets used to be."
The messages are composed by a U.S. Army unit in charge of psychological warfare. Technicians here receive the contents by computer, and use a standard copier to print the two sides. The forms were marked "secret", which a technician said was "because when we get them, they are secret...because we haven't dropped them yet,"
“We package the leaflets in a roll. And you can get about 3,000 or so per roll. So you can get 20 rolls in each canister for about a 60,000 mix," said Lt. Mole.
Sailors pack the leaflets into canisters not far away in a mess hall. The work parties are drawn from throughout the ship's company. The paper is heavy so the leaflets can flutter far and wide, but not rip. On the Constellation, the printing machines seem as busy as the flight deck.