SGM Herbert A. Friedman (Ret.)
The Flag of
I am not an expert on Australian Psychological operations during the Vietnam War. However, as I researched various operations I had the good luck to run into former Sergeant Derrill de Heer, who was a member of the Australian 1st Psychological Operations Unit in 1969 and 1970. Derrill is writing a Masters thesis on his wartime military unit and asked me to help him find some former U.S. Army mates, get access to
archives, and locate some military field manuals and doctrine. Along the way, as I tried to help him, we conversed about his old unit and he showed me many of the leaflets that the Australians prepared during the war. There is no doubt that Derrill will write the definitive history of Australian PSYOP in Ft. Bragg . I present this study only as an introduction, and to give a general background of the operation until such time as his detailed study is available for viewing. For a very small unit the Aussies produced a lot of propaganda and did an admirable job. I think the reader will enjoy seeing some of their PSYOP products, and invite any Aussies who took part in this operation, or Americans who aided them, to send their comments. Vietnam
Captain Mike Nelson
Prior to the setting up of the PSYOP Unit in April 1970, the Australian Task Force designated a staff officer position of General Staff Officer Grade 3 Psychological Operations (GSO 3 PSYOP) to the headquarters. It was not until October 1969 that the position was upgraded to a General Staff Officer Grade 2 (GSO 2 PSYOP / CA). The officers were:
CPT Colin Swain Royal Australian Infantry 3/68 to 7/68
CPT Michael Nelson Royal Australian Infantry 7/68 to 7/69
CPT Algimantas Bruzga Royal Australian Infantry 4/69 to 11/69
MAJ Frank Cross Royal Australian Engineers 10/69 to 10/70
Derrill de Heer mentions the origin of the Australian PSYOP unit in his thesis: Victoria per Mentum: Psychological Operations Conducted by the Australian Army in Phuoc Tuy Province, South Vietnam, 1965 1971.
The first Australian officer to be responsible for conducting psychological operations in the Australian base at Nui Dat was Major John Donohoe, an intelligence corps officer who arrived at the headquarters of 1st Australian Task Force on 14 May 1966 and was appointed as the task force civil affairs and psychological operations officer.
In March 1968 the Australian command created the new position of General Staff Officer Grade 3 Psychological Operations. Captain Colin Swain was the first officer to be appointed to this position and he was assisted by two untrained soldiers and one Vietnamese interpreter attached from the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. Swains team conducted field psychological operations. These related to several tasks including the support of Australian units when they were conducting cordon and searches of villages, handing out leaflets and posters on matters of safety, controlling civilian access to areas where the Australians were conducting operations and airborne dropping of leaflets and voice missions directed towards the Viet Cong main force or village guerrilla forces.
The advanced element of the 1st Battalion Royal Australian Regiment arrives at Tan Son Nhut Air Base
Aussies arrive in Vietnam
A classified evaluation report on the Australian Task Force in Phuoc Tuy was written by an American and a Vietnamese civilian for Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support (CORDS) chief Robert Komer in August 1967. The report says in part:
The Australian Task Force Commanding General directed the Task Force to develop a staff and modus operandi for civic action operations. Major Donohoe, an officer whose previous assignments dealt with counterinsurgency primarily, was charged with the responsibility. After considerable discussions with other interested agencies, Major Donahue developed his concept of operations; and, in July 1966, twelve Australians and an attached Civic Action Detachment from the 43rd CA Company (U.S.) instituted the program.
In the first stage, Civic Action teams composed of four men each were sent to hamlets in the area surrounding the task force command post. At this time, the objective, quite simply was to establish a favorable rapport with the local population. This phase essentially was a PSYOP campaign. The teams made no promises and did not distribute gifts or engage in any other acts of largesse. This rationale was sound and correct The first stage lasted approximately two weeks and was followed by a hamlet study which outlined the types of projects which should be undertaken.
Punch a Postie
Captain Swain was replaced on 23 July 1968 by Captain Michael Nelson. Nelson achieved some fame when after the Australian Post Office union attempted to refuse to forward mail to Australians troops in Vietnam, he designed a leaflet labeled: Punch a Postie on RTA (Return to Australia).
Captain Algimantas Bruzga
Captain Algimantas Bruzga replaced Captain Nelsons in April 1969. Captain Bruzga gained experience in conducting numerous psychological operations in the field. One technique used on a number of operations involved the preparation of taped messages which were to be broadcast from a helicopter over the jungle to the Viet Cong soldiers. Bruzga was one of thirteen Australians that was awarded the Vietnamese Psychological Warfare Medal and was noteworthy for being the only recipient to have actually worked operationally in the field of PSYOP.
On 14 February 1970, Major Frank Cross signed an authorization for planning the formation of the unit Australian PSYOP unit. Another planning meeting took place at the task force on 19 February 1970 with staff from Saigon in attendance and this resulted in the establishment of the task forces Psychological Operations Unit 28 February 1970. All establishment positions were to be filled by Australian officers and men drawn from units within the task force at Nui Dat.
An example of a standard National PSYOP Catalog
Derrillde Heer adds:
During those early years there was a small psychological operations group of two to four personnel, including an ARVN Vietnamese interpreter that had a printing capability for propaganda leaflets within the Task Force Headquarters. A portable printing press was set up in the back of an air-conditioned truck that had color printing capability. The Task Force was still able to order leaflets from the National PSYOP Catalogue. The leaflets were supplied by the 246 PSYOP Company and later from the 6 PSYOP Battalion, located initially at Bien Hoa airbase and then to their new building at Long Binh after the Viet Cong attacked and destroyed the building. The main items ordered by the Australians were the Multi-national Safe Conduct pass. The new psychological operations unit had more personnel and the capability to produce and disseminate more PSYOP product.
Captain Frank Meredith
This photograph is courtesy of the Australian War Memorial, www.awm.gov.au
Australian 1st PSYOP Unit Commanding Officer Captain Frank Meredith reads a captured enemy policy document from the Viet Cong Military Region 7 Headquarters. Because of the Allied leaflets, warning that the souls of unburied guerrillas will roam forever, the communist directive orders that bodies must be recovered from the battlefield at all costs.
United Stateswas not alone in helping the fight for its independence. Five other nations also sent troops; Republicof Vietnam Australia, New Zealand, Korea, Thailandand the . Between June 1965 and March 1972, there were 16 Australian battalion tours of duty and 14,325 Australian infantrymen serving in Philippines . Vietnam formed its own psychological operations unit for the first time since World War II. In previous recent conflicts like the Malayan Emergency, the Indonesian Confrontation and the Korean War American or British PSYOP troops were responsible for supporting the Australian psychological warfare operation. Australia
Ex-PSYOP Specialist Mervyn Edwin Roberts III, PhD, mentions the arrival of the Australians in: The Psychological War for Vietnam, 1960-1968: University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, 2018. He says:
Operating first in the Bien Hoa area, the Australians later assumed responsibility for Phuoc Tuy Province and fielded the 1st PsyOps Company. Radio Hanoi attacked the Australian deployment announcement in strong terms. They accused the Australians of conniving with the United States in the aggressive war in South Vietnam, against the sovereignty and independence of the nation. In early June, the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (RAR), which included 161 Battery, New Zealand Artillery, joined the 173rd Airborne Brigade as a third maneuver element. This was welcome news. Years of fighting in Malaya had taught the Australians the importance of jungle warfare tactics. However, one battalion member was critical of the 173rd Airborne, observing, Our patrols do not fire off ammo or shoot up flares like the Yanks-they listen and move quietly.
A Review of Australian Army Experiences in Vietnam
An Australian Contingent in the 1965 Vietnam National Day Parade
Uc Dai Loi roughly means “Men from the Big Land down South”
The 1st PSYOP Unit
In 1971 the Chief of the Australian General Staff held a conference - A Review of the Vietnam War. The notes were printed the next year in booklet form and about 8000 copies spread around the army. I will add a few comments from that conference here:
Throughout 1967 and 1968, The 1st Australian Task Force psychological operations activity within Phuoc Tuy was a relatively low level when compared with that of United States. In the early part of 1969, an increase in psychological operations activity became necessary to support the involvement of 1 ATF in the South Vietnamese Pacification and Development Campaign. This support was provided by the allocation to 1 ATF of two United States Army ground teams, which were equipped for loudspeaker, film and slide propaganda.
At the beginning of 1970, the planned withdrawal of the United States army ground teams from the task force area necessitated the formation of an Australian Psychological Operations Unit. This was followed by the formal raising of 1 Psychological Operations Unit in April 1970 and it was fully operational in July of that year. The psychological operations unit provided intimate support to task force operations by conducting psychological operations against known enemy units with air broadcasts and leaflet drops.
The unit headquarters provided operational supervision, command and control of the unit. The general support section collated psychological operations intelligence and developed propaganda. The printing team enabled a speedy production of good quality leaflets, handouts and news sheets. The operation section conducted live and taped sound operations using equipment which were either: man-portable; vehicle-mounted; waterborne; or airborne. The section also conducted slide and film shows and leaflet airdrops, the purpose being to ensure that the intended message was received by as many of the target audience as possible.
There is no doubt that psychological operations, as conducted by 1 ATF, were effective. Their effectiveness is even more remarkable when it is considered that the concept and practice of these operations in an insurgent situation, by an Australian task force using its own resources, was new to the Army.
JUSPAO Leaflet 2725
The American and Vietnamese propagandists produced numerous leaflets depicting the Military troops and civilian advisors that came from other countries to help in the fight against communism. Leaflet 2725 depicts an Australian nurse caring for a Vietnamese child and cases of milk sent from
to be fed to infants. The text is: Australia
The friendship between
and Australian is reflected in these real images: Vietnam
An Australian nurse is inquiring about the health conditions of a child patient.
A thousand cases of sweetened condensed-milk for newly-born babies.
Australian Lieutenant Bryan Franklin who was assigned to the 1st Australian Civil Affairs Unit (1ACAU) in
from 4 June 1969 to 4 June 1970 talks about the origin of the Australian unit: South Vietnam
I was directed to make myself available on a temporary, part time basis to work with a very small (from recollection about 3 personnel) US Army Psychological Operations detachment positioned within the Task Force area. The Commanding Officer of this
detachment was a lieutenant or captain named Dick Williams. The other US personnel were a Sergeant and a Private. When I joined the detachment there was already an Australian soldier working with them. This chap had some graphic design training. He had been assigned to assist with the design of leaflets prepared for air drops over suspected enemy base camps. I had no design skills but was asked to help with "creative" ideas. US
I stayed with the detachment (off and on) for about 1 month. In that time I was involved in several chopper sorties over suspected enemy base camps assisting the US personnel with the broadcasting of psychological messages (developed by the US) and the dropping of leaflets.
After I left the US Detachment it was clear that there was an increasing interest in investigating the development of a dedicated Australian PSYOPS presence in the Province, rather than to continue to rely on the Americans for this type of support. An Australian Officer, a Captain Brusca, was then assigned to join the US Detachment. He was an excellent officer and I believe that his accomplishments eventually led to the formation of the 1st Australian Psychological Operations Unit.
Franklin told me at a later date:
I'm also pretty sure that the American PSYOP unit was based at the Bien Hoa airbase. Dick Williams took us to Bien Hoa in a vehicle once on a one-day liaison visit and I recall meeting his commanding officer and was impressed at the generosity of the US Quartermaster on base who was quite happy to give we visiting Aussies a flying suit each.
Author's note: We know that the 246th Psychological Operations Company became the 6th Psychological Operations Battalion on 1 December 1967 when the old 6th Psychological Operations Battalion became the 4th Psychological Operations Group. Company B was made up of Field Operations Teams that were assigned to local infantry divisions and other units. We can therefore assume that it was members of the 6th POB that worked with the Australian 1st Psychological Operations Unit.
Some of the Units that Company B of the 246th PSYOP Company supported are the 1st Infantry Division, the 9th Infantry Division, the 25th Infantry Division, The 199th Infantry Light Brigade, the 11th Cavalry, the 720th Military Police Battalion, the Hau Nghia Chieu Hoi Center, the Binh Duong PSYOP Center, The Royal Thai Queen's Cobra Volunteer Regiment and of course, the 1st Australian Task Force.
Aussies vs. Giant Cobra
Courtesy Australian War Memorial
In 1967, Australian troops in Nui Dat, Vietnam, killed this giant cobra that slithered into their 4-man tent. The snake measured 11 feet from head to tail. Left to right: Private Harold Athorn; Private Roger Fagan; Private Wayne Rutley...and the cobra. In 2017 we were notified by an old friend of Harold Athorn that he had passed away about 2014. He requested a copy of the photo and story to send to his family.
Hammond Salley, the Assistant Operations Officer (S-3) of the 6th PSYOP Battalion, August through December 1967, told me about the 246th PSYOP Company working with the Australians. He mentioned that the 246th PSYOP Company was helping the Aussies in early 1967. He said:
I remember an international row when an Aussie reporter went on patrol with an Aussie unit and picked up a leaflet and later had it translated. The leaflet depicted a Viet Cong burned with napalm and a message saying something like "We would rather treat the Viet Cong humanely." The reporter thought that this leaflet was evidence that we were admitting using inhumane methods against the VC. It got out of hand and reached Ambassador to Ambassador level. It turned out that the wording was supposed to be something like "with kindness" but the translator could not find an equivalent Vietnamese word and without checking further used the Vietnamese term for Humane. Thirty-seven years later I'm not at all certain whether this was a leaflet printed by the 246th PSYOP Company for the Australians or simply one of a numerous variety of standard leaflets printed by a higher Headquarters.
This was an interesting story and I immediately checked the leaflet catalogue for the 246th Psychological Operations Company for 1967 looking for the leaflet in question. I did not find that particular item, but it may have been a special request and not a standard leaflet. I did find six leaflets prepared for the Australians by the 246th POC in 1966, 1967 and 1968. I also note that the leaflet catalogue was distributed to the 1st Australian Task Force PSYOP Officer. I will briefly review the leaflets prepared for the Australians by
forces before the Australians began printing their own. U.S.
Leaflet 246-273 is a 5 x 8-inch leaflet prepared for dissemination by both aircraft and hand. The 246th POC printed 10,000 copies for the citizens of Phuoc Tuy. The leaflet depicts crossed Australian and Government of Vietnam flags on one side and a picture of a wounded Viet Cong on the other. The text beneath the wounded guerrilla is:
This is a picture of Pham Van Hung, a member of the Viet Cong 860th Battalion. He was captured in combat north of Ba Ria in Phuoc Tuy Province during the last week of May 1966. During the fighting, Hung was wounded in the thigh, but thanks to the excellent medical care he has received he is recovering nicely at the Australian field hospital. He has not been mistreated as Viet Cong propaganda would have you believe. The Australian forces are here to help destroy the Communists, but, at the same time, to help the Vietnamese people.
Leaflet 246-352 Also depicts crossed Australian and Government of Vietnam flags on one side, but the other side shows Australian soldiers helping villagers. The 246th POC printed 50,000 of the 4 x 5-inch leaflets to be disseminated by aircraft and hand. The theme is "Good Guys" and the leaflet introduces the Australian troops and says beneath the crossed flags:
We are members of the Australian Task Force. Our unit is operating with Vietnamese and other units to destroy the Viet Cong and their bases. While most of our units are busy defeating the Viet Cong, others are working on projects to help you.
Beneath a picture of an Australian soldier talking to Vietnamese children is:
We come as friends. We are part of the Allied forces in
helping you achieve the inevitable victory over Communist aggression in your country. We want you to be able to lead a life of happiness free from the Viet Cong forever. Help us by providing any information about the Viet Cong. Vietnam
The same image of crossed Australian and Vietnamese flags is seen on leaflet 246-86-67. The theme is MEDCAP and the target is the general population. The text is:
The Australian soldiers, who are part of the Allied Forces aiding the Government of Vietnam, are bringing aid to the people of Vietnam. The Australian medical teams are bringing health and comfort to you and your family. Support your Government of Vietnam by supporting the Australian soldiers.
This leaflet tells the people about Australian MEDCAPs. 50,000 copies were printed and distributed by hand and air by the 246th PSYOP Company. The front depicts an Australian medic treating a Vietnamese patient. The text on the back is:
The Australian soldiers who are part of the Allied forces aiding the Republic of Vietnam are bringing aid to the people of Vietnam. The Australian medical teams are bringing health and comfort to you and your family. Support the Republic of Vietnam by supporting the Australian soldiers.
Leaflet 246-11-67 concerns the distribution of captured rice. The 246th POC printed 50,000 copies of the 3 x 6-inch leaflet for local villagers with dissemination by aircraft. The leaflet depicts Australian forces returning captured rice to the villagers and the supporting text:
Your friends the Australian soldiers have taken the rice that the Viet Cong forcefully took from you and are now returning it to the rightful owners. By supporting and helping the Australian soldiers you are helping your Government of
defeat the common enemy and bringing a better life to you and your loved ones. Vietnam
On the subject of captured rice, on one occasion the 5th Battalion of the The Royal Australian Regiment found a Viet Cong food dump north of Binh Ba containing fifty tons of rice. The rice was sent as aid to South Vietnam by the United States and the bags were stamped with the Hands across the Sea Symbol along with Texas 1965 markings. Food sent to South Vietnam was often diverted from aid projects and sold on the black market in Saigon. This rice was distributed to the local South Vietnamese community by the Australians.
Leaflet 246-21-67 depicts an Allied air strike with a dead Viet Cong in the foreground. The 246th POC printed 50,000 of the 3 x 6-inch leaflets for distribution by aircraft and hand. The text tells of the destruction to come in future air raids.
Attention Viet Cong Soldiers. You have witnessed just a small part of the death and destruction that await you soon. The mighty air power of the Government of
and Australian forces will destroy you and all you represent. Your only hope for survival is to rally to the Government of Viet Nam at once. There can be no doubt in your mind as to the desolation that our air strikes bring, and they will continue with greater force each time until you are completely destroyed. You can save your life and the life of your comrades. Rally at once to the Government of Viet Nam . Viet Nam
All text leaflet 246-96-67 is 4 x 5-inches with a long message on both sides addressed to the people of Hoa Long. The 246th POC prepared 25,000 of the leaflets for distribution by aircraft and hand. The text tells the people of the friendship of the Australians and how the village will prosper with their aid.The text states in part:
Before the Australians arrived in your village, the Viet Cong frightened you with stories telling how they would harm you and your family. In the months the Australians have been here you have seen that these stories were lies. Many of you have received rice and medical aid from the Australians and you have seen the projects they have begun to help your village. The schools your children attend have been repaired, a new market place is being built and your children have received school supplies from the Government. Many other projects are planned to help you further in the future. This should prove to you that your Government, aided by the Australians is making life better for you.
All text leaflet 246-128-67 is entitled "Movement" and is 4 x 5-inches in size. The 246th POC printed 50,000 copies for distribution by aircraft and hand to local citizens. The message is the same on both sides and tells the people not to fear the Australians and to report any complaint of damaged property so that they can be compensated.The text is:
You have nothing to fear from your friends who are the Government and Australian troops. The soldiers are here to help you get rid of the Viet Cong. We ask for your help and support. You should report any complaint of damaged property to your village officials. We sincerely apologize for this inconvenience. Soon the Viet Cong will be completely defeated and life will be much better for all of us.
A number of leaflets are dated 1968 but were actually printed in 1967 before the changeover to the 6th POB. The 246th POC printed at the request of the 1st Australian Task Force 25,000 copies of the 5 x 8 leaflet 246-83-68 (printed 6 September 67) for dissemination by aircraft and hand. The subject of the leaflet is resettlement to a safe area.
The 246th printed at the request of the 1st Australian Task Force 50,000 copies of the 5 x 8 leaflet 246-84-68 (printed 7 September 67) for dissemination by aircraft and hand. The subject of the leaflet is restricting movement on hill 30 and curfew in the local jungles. It contains a warning that anyone in the jungle after curfew will be considered Viet Cong.
The 246th printed at the request of the 1st Australian Task Force 10,000 copies of the 4 x 5 leaflet 246-122-68 (printed 22 September 67) for dissemination by hand. The purpose of the leaflet is to inform the Vietnamese that the Australians were patrolling in the area and that they were not to run away or hide or they would be considered Viet Cong.
Leaflet 246-333-68 was printed on 9 November 1967 for the Australian Task Force. 100,000 of the 4 x 5-inch leaflets were printed with the theme of "Rally." The leaflet depicts a photograph of a Viet Cong Guerilla on the front and text on the back:
Viet Cong Soldier
How long will this war last? President Ho says you must be prepared to fight another ten years. How old will you be in ten years? Can you face another ten years of bombing and shelling? Ten years in the jungles, ten years of hunger and disease, ten years without your family. Will your family remember you in ten years? They will not want an old sick man back. They want you now. Why not rally to the good life? We will help you to see your family again. They are waiting for you to come home. Don't wait any longer. Rally today.
Leaflet 246-353-68 was printed on 15 November 1967. 100,000 of the 4 x 5-inch leaflets were printed with the theme of "Rice Denial" for the Australian Task Force. The leaflet depicts a drawing of armed Viet Cong demanding rice from Vietnamese farmers on the front. The back is all text:
People of Phuoc Tuy
Soon it will be time to harvest the rice. The Viet Cong hiding in the jungle are hungry and need your rice. If you sell them rice they will stay in Phuoc Tuy and cause trouble. If you refuse to sell them rice they will leave Phuoc Tuy. Do not sell your rice to the terrorists but only to the government. Report any Viet Cong or agents who try to buy your rice. Let us drive the Viet Cong terrorists out of Phuoc Tuy.
This leaflet shows the local people how the Australians have tried to make their life better by fixing a road destroyed by the Viet Cong. 50,000 copies were printed on 11 April 1967 by the 246th PSYOP Company at the request of the Australians. The theme is Route 23 is Open. The front says in part:
Open letter from Phuoc Tuy Province Chief and Sector Commander
The text on the back is:
Dear Fellow Countrymen,
Inter-provincial route 23, Dat Do to Xuyen Moc, was damaged by the Viet Cong hampering your trade. Today, with untiring effort, the local authority of the province and the Australian ally's assistance, inter-provincial route 23 has just been rebuilt in the shortest time in order to improve communications and bring a prosperous life to you. This inter-provincial route will be opened on 12 April 1967. You can travel freely from 0530 to 800 hours every day.
The 1st Psychological Operations Unit was formed as a divisional unit and allocated for duty with the 1st Australian Task Force. The history books indicate that the PSYOP organization was part of the 1st Australian Logistic Support Group, but this is incorrect. The error occurred long after the Vietnam War when a Defense Department individual saw the name psychological operations and believed that it was a medical unit. Since the
was located at Vung Tau and under the command of the 1st Australian Logistic Support Group they presumed that the Psychological Operations Unit was also under their command. The Logistics group consisted of 14 logistic support units that were essential to the functioning of the Australian Task Force in Phuoc Tuy province in the far southeast of Australian Military Hospital in the III Corps military area. Vietnam
The Australian Task Force set up its base on a strip of beach at
in Phuoc Tuy province. The Australian Task Force base at Nui Dat, was set up some 25 kilometers from Vung Tau and would be the forward fighting base for the Australian contingent. The provincial capital was the city of Vung Tau Peninsula . Ba Ria
The new PSYOP unit consisted or reassigned personnel from other units already deployed in
Vietnam. Among the members were printers, photographers, intelligence personnel and other specialists. Some members of the new PSYOP organization went to Long Binh to take part in a one-week study course sponsored by the United States Army 6th PSYOP Battalion. The Australian unit received aid and advice from MACV Team 89, which was made up of both Americans and Australians. The team was headquartered at Duc Thanh Compound on Route 2, about 20 Kilometers from Nui Dat between the villages of Ngai Giao and Vinh Thanh.
Australian Kerry Cattell was assigned to MACV Team 89 and was awarded a
Army Commendation Medal for his achievements. He entered the Australian Army in 1970 at the age of 23 and was sent to Singleton army base for recruit training and Woodside for Corps training in Intelligence. He was schooled in jungle warfare at Canungra and then sent to U.S. as a Corporal. He was assigned to MACV Team 89. Vietnam
He recalls that the team was commanded by an American officer backed up by a Master Sergeant and a Sergeant First Class. The officer (he thinks a major) was the District Senior Advisor (equivalent to the
Chief). Their duty mostly consisted of training the local Vietnamese regional forces (RF). They were later joined by an American sergeant (he thinks from the 101st Airborne Division) as a liaison between the team and their American fire support base. This was to prevent the setting up of ambushes in each other's area of operations and the possible creation of a friendly fire situation. On the Australian side, the team had a radio specialist from a signal unit and a driver from the Australian tank squadron. An Australian major and warrant officer were assigned to the team at a later date. There were additional team members, but those are the ones he specifically remembers. Vietnamese Province
[Note: Vietnamese regional forces often took part in combat operations with American troops, but seem to mostly have been used as a blocking force].
Captain Dick Church
Courtesy of Australian War Memorial
We dont know all the Americans who were attached to or supported the Australians, but we do know one who was mentioned on the Australian War Memorial site. His name was Dick Church from Augusta, Georgia. He was an American PSYOP officer who was attached in the early days [probably 1966 or 1967] to the Australians in Nui Dat, Phuoc Tuy province.
Here he talks to medical officer Captain Jack Blomley, as he attends the morning sick call at the forward section of 8 Field Ambulance at the 1st Australian Task Force base. Captain Church was attached to Task Force Wham (Winning Hearts and Minds) and is second-in-command of the joint Australian-American 1ATF Civic Action team. Church is dressed in a full, freshly washed and ironed uniform, while by contrast Blomley is bare chested, has the ends of his trousers turned up and is wearing casual slip-on suede shoes, rather than proper army boots.
My job was Intelligence. I used to travel around the district gathering information from official and unofficial sources. Initially I used an interpreter but after about 4 months my Vietnamese was good enough to get by. I worked with Nguyen van Mau, the Chief of the Vietnamese Police Field Force. I trusted Mau completely and felt more comfortable with him than I did with the interpreter. I also worked with Major Teu Ta No the District Chief and later his replacement Captain Yem.
Most days we patrolled the local area. Our operations were mainly search missions in villages. Life was always on the edge in Duc Thanh but you learned to live with that.
Of all the PSYOP work I did I most remember the day I visited Ngai Giao village, just north of our compound. It was a Viet Cong controlled village. While there I heard terrible coughing coming from a house nearby. I went to the door and asked if I could be of help. They showed me a young man about 17 years old who was just skin and bones. I told them that he should be in a hospital. They said that they had tried but there were no beds for them. My medic said he thought the boy had tuberculosis. I went to the Captain of the 1st PSYOP Unit and told him that helping this boy get medical treatment would be a strong sign of our trustworthiness and friendship. He saw the value of helping the boy from a Viet Cong village and arranged for his hospitalization in
Even with hospital care, the boy died soon afterwards. I went to visit the parents who took me into their home and treated me like an honored guest. I felt undeserving and said, "I did not do anything special, and your son died." They replied, "Yes, but you tried to help and you gave us hope." From that day on my safety was assured when I visited Ngai Giao, and I often did so unarmed.
is such a long time ago. For many years I denied myself the right to believe I had served there honorably, made a difference and survived. I am successful now and sometimes think that it was the Vietnam experience that made my personality complete. Vietnam
This pennant in the colors the flag of the
Republicof Vietnamflew on the car used by the Civil Affairs Officer of 1 Australian Task Force . The letters W H A M were an acronym for Winning Hearts and Minds. The Viet Cong attempted to reduce the effect of the Australian PSYOP by placing a bounty on the Civil Affairs personnel. The reward ranged from about $200 on a corporal to about $500 for the commander. Continued attacks by snipers, mines and ambushes on the flagged vehicle eventually led to the pennant being ordered removed from the automobile. Photo courtesy of the Australian War Memorial. Vietnam
Former infantry Private David Everitt tells about being assigned as a founding member of the Australian 1st Psychological Operations Unit formed at Nui Dat in 1967 and 1968. Everitt was later promoted to Corporal in charge of the Air Team. He says in part:
Before the unit was formed the PSYOP tasks were conducted in the province by a small number of Australian Army personnel. When the Australian 1st Psychological Operations Unit was formed it consisted of: Major Frank Cross, Commanding Officer, Sergeant Tetlow (establishment and operations), an administrative corporal, myself, a Vietnamese interpreter from the ARVN, and a small detachment of US Psychological Operations personnel. I believe the
team consisted of a Lt. Andrus and two enlisted men. The units initial tasks were 4 fold: US
1. Conduct limited air operations. The initial air operations were very limited and utilized the
air facilities prior to the arrival of the Australian Army Air Team and the Royal Australian Air Force helicopters US
2. Conduct land operations in conjunction with Civil Affairs (CA). The land operations were likewise very limited and consisted of accompanying the CA team on Integrated Civil Aid Programs, and Medical Civil Aid Programs.
3. Establish the
and Headquarters (next to the CA operations). The establishment of the Operations Center , Headquarters and barracks (tents) was quite a task as the newly recruited personnel literally had to build the blast walls, erect the tents, establish the blast pits and of course, the mandatory volley ball court. The headquarters was built from an empty hall into a command center, printing center and administrative center in a short period of time. Operations Center
4. Recruit and train the required personnel. The personnel that I remember being initially recruited were Capt. Frank Meredith, Capt. White, Lt. Hodda and Lt. Smith. Some of the others were Sergeants de Heer and Beauchamp. I recall a Corporal Lawson and another in administration. Among the troops were Tony Cullen and Privates Schick, Wandless, Kolecki, Mosey, Botham, and many others. Once the compliment was full it was only a short period before the unit was totally operational.
Captain Anthony (Tony) White
Captain Anthony Tony Whites son Andrew wrote to me to talk about his fathers time as a member of the Australian 1st Psychological Operations Unit.
Captain Tony Whites Plaque presented upon Leaving Vietnam
These plaques are usually engraved with the recipients name but these were not engraved because the All-Australian Task Force did not have an engraver. One was engraved in Baria, the province capital, but it had errors and the quality was poor. Each member of the PSYOP unit received this plaque upon leaving Vietnam.
Tony had visited Vietnam just before he died in 2018. He managed to get a photo of himself standing in front of a temple in the same pose that a much earlier photo shows him while in-country during his tour. He said that his only frustration was that he couldn't help the Vietnamese people more, and that when he left he felt like they had unfinished business to bring peace to that war-torn country.
Captain Whites plaque from the 1st Australian Task Force
This is the plaque of the 1st Australian Task Force. It was located at Nui Dat, Phuoc Tuy province from 1966 to 1972. It was a Task Force raised especially for Vietnam (Brigade size). It has the Australia and South Vietnamese flags on it. The Red kangaroo was used as a symbol for Australia. The Vietnamese did not have a work for Kangaroo so they referred to it as a red rat. They did not have a word for Australia. They used the words Uc Da Loi meaning a land in the south, generally shortened to Uc. Some Australians would say Toi La Uc meaning I am Australian.
The General Political Warfare Department was responsible for developing and implementing POLWAR programs within the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces (RVNAF) to accomplish the POLWAR missions as follows: The first mission of the GPWD was to create and maintain the loyalty of the RVNAF to its leaders, nation and national ideology. The second POLWAR mission was to gain and maintain the support of the civilian populace. The final mission of political warfare was to break down the loyalty of the enemy to his leaders and cause him to desert the enemy or rally to the government side.
In theory, the Australians did not work closely with the GPWD but as American advisor to the Vietnamese, First Lieutenant William J. Pollock told me:
I didnt work directly with the Aussies. But, off the record I did meet a few at embassy parties and from networking there we started to get many photographs from the Australians. They sent them to me by messenger hoping that we could use them in some propaganda. We printed magazines like, The Free World in Vietnam and often pictured Australian troops.
In this July 1969 picture, Australian Major Mike Currie and a young Vietnamese boy watch a troupe of Vietnamese entertainers in the village of Phuoc Tuy. Currie was the assistant PSYOP Advisor to the Province Chief and traveled around the province with a 10-man cultural drama team.Major Currie was conducting PSYOP and Civil Affairs before the Australian unit was formed. He may have been contributing to the intelligence collecting effort in Phuoc Tuy province (now Baria / Vung Tau province).
The Australian Nine Rules Card
Derrill de Heer, MA Dissertation
Every soldier who went to Vietnam was issued with a card called the Australian Nine Rules. The front of the card stated:
We as a military force and as individuals are in this country to help the Vietnamese Government and People to win their long and courageous fight against the Communists. The product of victory is a democratic State with stable government and contented people. The Communists will use any weapon to discredit the Government and countries, like ours, in the eyes of the Vietnamese people. Dont let your behavior be a propaganda weapon which helps in any way to destroy Vietnam. Here are nine simple rules for conduct whilst in Vietnam.
The failure of officers and soldiers involved in these types of incidents means that they forgot their training in Australia, or simply ignored their training on the history, customs, and laws of Vietnam that was prescribed in a book given to all officers and soldiers called Vietnam Pocketbook. This is particularly relevant in regards to spirits and to a person meeting their death in a violent manner.
Headquarters Australian Force Vietnam General Staff
Instruction Number 26 was issued to all officers and soldiers in Vietnam
Derrill de Heer, MA Dissertation
Most civilized nations print cards for their armed forces during wartime to remind the troops why they are in a foreign country and what is expected of them. Often the rules of the Geneva Convention are mentioned. Here is a card issued to every Australian soldier in Vietnam to remind him of how he is to treat any enemy prisoners of war.
Australian Warrant Officer Sonny Phillips issues clothing to a Vietnamese mother and her child in the village of Ap Dong in Phuoc Tuy Province in December 1968. The clothing and food was collected for Operation New Life by the Returned Servicemans League. The Returned Services League (RSL) collected items for distribution in war zones. They also sent Care parcels to soldiers at different times of the year such as Fathers Day, Christmas and Easter. Every soldier received a parcel. It is also an organization that contributed to a serviceman or women some money for their funeral and normally someone would attend the funeral and read the Ode of Rememberance. However, the RSL was not happy when the Vietnam servicemen and women returned and wanted to join their organization. They thought that the only wars were WWI and WWII. Vietnam was not a real war in their eyes.
This your war was not a real war belief was not unknown in the United States. I joined the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars in the early 90s when I finally retired and rose to command both local posts. When I approached Korean War and Vietnam War veterans they told me that they had been barred from joining in the past because they didnt win their wars. I made them feel welcome and brought many in, but it was shocking to hear that some of the old WWII vets and banded together to keep those young veterans out.
Comradeship between Allies.
Private Martin Miles of the 1st Australian Civil Affairs Unit offers a cigarette to a South Vietnamese Popular Force soldier while another PF looks on. The August, 1969 photograph was shot at the rubber plantation village of Binh Ba about 5 miles north of the 1st Australian Task Force base at Nui Dat. The image is surely meant to show that the Australians are just regular guys, friendly and willing to share whatever they have with their Vietnamese allies.
Sergeant Lorrie Johnstone with Vietnamese child
Unit member Sergeant
LawrenceLorrie Johnstone served his first tour in from September 1967 to September 1968. He started his tour as an interpreter and Electrical Technician Sergeant in the Signal Corps. He commanded a small detachment in Nui Dat. Because his only duty was maintaining a single radio, and a good sergeant keeps his men busy and out of trouble, Lorrie arranged off-duty assignments for his men working with Civil Affairs and assisting the doctors and dentists who treated the local Vietnamese. The Australians were concentrating the people of Thua Thich into something similar to what the Americans called a "strategic hamlet" in Suoi Nghe, near Nui Dat. Johnstone had his men help the Vietnamese build homes using the lumber from artillery ammunition boxes, plastic sheeting and corrugated roofing. They also helped to build roads and dig wells for the new tenants. When the village leader was beaten and shot by the Viet Cong for working with the Australians, the Aussies produced leaflets telling how the Viet Cong had treated him. Perhaps because of the Civil Affairs work Johnstone did with the Vietnamese, and the need for an experienced soldier trained in the Vietnamese language, about half way through his second tour in October 1971 he was transferred to the Australian 1st PSYOP Unit. Vietnam
His assignment was showing movies in the local villages as a way to get close to the Vietnamese people and gain their trust. He said that the movies were just awful for the most part; anything that he could beg or borrow. The moving pictures were projected in both friendly villages and hamlets known to have Viet Cong tendencies. Regardless, there was never an incident. Apparently the most hard-line VC would lay down his weapon for a
Hollywoodproduction. The entire village would show up, on one occasion well over 700 people, and sit on both sides of the screen. Electricity was supplied by a small portable generator. To be better safe than sorry, there were usually some Vietnamese Army (ARVN) or local uniformed Popular Force troops standing by for the protection of the 5-man Australian team.
He remembers that one particularly bad movie was an Italian Spaghetti western called "The Long Ride through Hell." He was later able to get the 1965 "Heroes of Telemark," about the British WWII raid on the heavy water plants in
. His biggest hit was a Vietnamese movie entitled The Doll. It was the story of seven Vietnamese Rangers. They were all killed in the movie, which must have been a real morale booster for the Viet Cong in the crowd. What really made this movie popular was that towards the end, one of the soldiers hallucinated that his wife walked down the beach toward him naked. No matter how many times the Vietnamese saw this movie, there was always an audible gasp from the very provincial people when the wife approached with full-frontal nudity. Norway
Setting up the projector to show a movie to the village
On the subject of these movies shown to the Vietnamese; Nils Nelson, a former sergeant of the 191st Military Intelligence Detachment, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) in
1967-1968 asked about one that he brought back. The movie was called The Vietnamese Doll. Nils says: Vietnam
It is the story of a South Vietnamese soldier who enters a Vietnamese village after the North Vietnamese kill everyone and finds the childs doll in the rubble next to a child. He seeks out the enemy in the jungle, kills them all and is wounded. As he lies dying, the ghost of the dead child appears and he returns her doll. The camera then pans out, and he is depicted on large cement cross in the position of Christ on the cross.
I asked Derrill de Heer if he recalled this movie and he said:
I have seen the film and vaguely remember it.
All the films used by the Australians were of
origin. Every two weeks one of our unit members would go to US Saigonand get new films. Besides films that were used as propaganda (soft or hard core in a political sense) in villages and hamlets they were supposed to be used in accordance with what the Hamlet Evaluation System (HES) rating was. If the hamlet was pro-government then more hard core propaganda films would be shown to reinforce the government authority. In pro-Viet Cong hamlets soft propaganda was shown. The idea was to plant the seed of doubt or show the positive actions the South Vietnamese government was doing to assist the people or improve the quality of life.
In addition US forces would give us films about world current affairs with Vietnamese dialogue. Some of these were good and of general interest. Some which were given to us I would not show them (generally after the first showing) because the reaction of the audience was one of confusion or disbelief. For example one showed a rocket on its way to the moon. In a population where there is high illiteracy rates it's hard for them to receive information due to lack of radio and radio stations, newspapers (which many could not read), and TV which was in short supply and broke down often. They had great difficulty in understanding it.
Other films that were shown were made by Disney and showed cartoon type movies (short duration) on subjects of education, health and safety issues with Vietnamese language. Mainly shown in schools, but sometimes at MEDCAPS etc.
One film that I showed whenever the HES rating was positive was one called Exodus. It was about the movement of people from
to the South, mainly led by the Roman Catholic priests of the time. During the conflict between 900,000 to 1,000,000 people moved from the North to the south. Only about 100,000 to 150,000 moved in the other direction. Of course this was after the separation of the country at the DMZ. Some of those from the north then came south later as infiltrators. Most I think were caught. North Vietnam
The Exodus film was dark, graphic and highly emotional. It always seemed to strike a chord with those who saw it. Many were killed as they tried to move south.
As the population lacked entertainment we sometimes showed normal English speaking movies typical cowboys and Indians. Although the language was not understood the action as always speaks louder than words. It was not uncommon to see in villages when these had been shown children with feathers in their hair and acting as Indians. Always put a smile on my face.
A Vietnamese interpreter and Australian Army Private David Bannister inspect a Viet Cong propaganda leaflet found during Operation Pinnaroo. It consisted of a clearing operation in the
villageof Long Dienand then a search and destroy action in the Long Hai hills south of Nui Dat, in March 1968. Photo courtesy of the Australian War Memorial. Phuoc Tuy Province
Looking through my files I noticed a 6th PSYOP Battalion Leaflet dated March 1968 that might be in regard to this battle. 50,000 copies of leaflet 6-199-68 were disseminated in Phuoc Tuy. It was requested by the 1st Australian Task Force. The all-text leaflet says in part:
People of Phuoc Tuy:
The Viet Cong tried to seize Baria, Long Dien and Hoa Long during Tet, but they were defeated by the Republic of Vietnam Army and Allied forces. Previously, they said they were going to seize Baria and control all of Phuoc Tuy Province; However, after they were defeated, they lied and said they only wanted to hold those place for two days Do not be afraid of those cowards. They can never seize your province or district because ARVN and Australian forces are too strong. The Viet Cong have been defeated in Phuoc Tuy.
Johnstone also managed to find some very forgettable comedies, and ended every presentation with a short speech about how the entertainment was sponsored by the Government of
as a gift to the people of the village. Vietnam
This photograph depicting a young armed member of the Viet Cong is from an album captured by soldiers of 1st Platoon, A Company, 7th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, during Operation Santa Fe, 8 November 1967. The album was thought to be used for propaganda purposes by a political officer from D445, the local Viet Cong Battalion in Phuoc Tuy Province. The photograph was donated to the Australian War Monument by Colonel E.J. O'Donnell.
His team also took part in face-to-face operations. He went from house to house in Phuoc Long Hai and Phuoc Long Dien, drinking tea with the locals and offering help and friendship. He was teamed with a Hoi Chanh named Tran Van Chau, a former political officer of Viet Cong unit D445. In one case they arranged for a deranged person to receive treatment in
Saigon, and in another, helped a woman get treatment for cataracts. Of course, during these conversations they heard about who or what had passed through the village. It was a win-win situation. The Vietnamese were helped with small problems and the Australians obtained valuable intelligence. On some occasions his team accompanied the infantry, leaving leaflets at outlying hamlets.
Captain Algy Bruzga Headquarters, the 1st Australian Task Force, and a Vietnamese interpreter prepare a tape-recorded message to be broadcast to the Viet Cong. The message was broadcast from vehicles and helicopters and tells Viet Cong troops that they can obtain meals and medical attention if they surrender.
Things did not always go so smooth. On one occasion the team was sent into the field to broadcast by a hand-held battery-operated loudspeaker into a Viet Cong infested forest. The sound system used up batteries at an alarming rate and the speakers were in a block of four about two-feet wide by two-feet high. There was no way to carry this quietly on patrol. The infantry considered it a bullet-magnet and did not want to be anywhere near the speakers. Eventually, they were left inside an armored personnel carrier. Johnstone wrote a report stating that the speakers were too big and bulky to be used on foot patrol. He thinks that the speakers were later used as spares when the Australians showed movies.
All the Australian leaflets should be prefixed with the letters ATF (Australian Task Force).
The image of the family looking out of their hut was used
on an American leaflet SP 927A, printed in November 1965
with the text, "Return to your family! They miss and need you."
Leaflet 1211 was printed by the
in May 1966 with the title US
"Grenades, mines, ammunition and explosives are not toys for Children!"
This same vignette was also used on a large poster coded 1212.
Australian Leaflet ATF-001-70 Protect your family.
Australian Leaflet ATF-001-70 is the first leaflet prepared by the 1st Psychological Operations Unit. This is an important leaflet because it clearly shows the influence of the American advisors on the Australian PSYOP Unit. The images used on both the front and back of this leaflet were taken directly from American leaflets already in service. The Australians printed about 400 of these large leaflets on 24 April 1970 and disseminated them by hand. The front depicts a Vietnamese family looking out from their hut. In American leaflets this vignette was placed on leaflets with a message for a Viet Cong husband fighting somewhere in the jungle. An example is Chieu Hoi leaflet SP-927A. The Australians used the image on a warning leaflet targeted at the local population and illegal refugees. The text is:
PROTECT YOUR FAMILY
You live in an illegal area. Therefore you live outside the protection of Province and District Forces. You expose yourself to danger from forces on both sides. The GVN advises you to stay in your houses at night. Keep away from military camps.
The back of the leaflet depicts two Vietnamese children hitting a hand grenade with a rock and an explosion. This same image was used on several American mine awareness leaflets including a brightly colored one coded 1211. The text is:
Keep your children away from bombs, bullets, and hand grenades.
Dont allow your children to dig up old allied rubbish tips.
If you dont take these precautions you expose yourself and your children to danger.
Australian Leaflet ATF-013-70 Mine safety
This leaflet also is in regard to mine and explosives. It depicts an explosion with text over the vignette. 3,000 of the leaflets were printed on 7 July 1970 and disseminated by hand. The text of the leaflet is:
Many people, soldiers and civilians, have been killed or wounded by mines.
Parents - tell your children not to play with strange metal objects.
Report anything that could be a mine to GVN or Allied authorities.
This could save your life or the lives of your children.
Rewards are paid for information about mines.
The identity of the people will be kept a secret.
The Australians learned quickly and in the later leaflets, the Australians used their own designs. 1st Psychological Operations Unit printed about 130 different leaflets and posters. In the last few months before the unit left
some of the leaflets were printed without the ATF or with no number at all. Vietnam
Sergeant Derrill de Heer
Since the Australian Army is small, a great number of the troops are parachute qualified. This photo shows de Heer just prior to jumping with 8th ARVN Battalion (Airborne) based in Bien Hoa. The jump was in Phuoc Tuy province about August 1970. He jumped from a helicopter as a pathfinder just prior to the entire unit arriving in the area by fixed-wing aircraft. It was a qualification jump for the Vietnamese prior to moving off into the jungle for a training operation
Derrill de Heer, a sergeant in the Australian PSYOP unit who commanded two ground teams during the Vietnam War, and now a Master degree candidate at the
, recalls the founding of his unit: Australian Defense Force Academy
The Australian Task Force grew to about 5,000 personnel and consisted of three battalions at its peak. Intelligence Corps personnel coordinated psychological warfare in the early years 1967 to 1968. These people worked on intelligence matters, but tasked US forces when leaflet, air, and ground broadcasts were required. There had been attempts to form an Australian PSYOP team, but to no avail.
Vietnamese Psychological Warfare Medal
In 1969, infantry officer Captain Algi Bruzza was seconded from an infantry battalion and placed in the ad-hoc position of General Staff Officer Grade 3 Psychological Operations. This was the decision of the Task Force Commander Brigadier Sandy Pearson. He was a very hands-on operator although he had had no PSYOP training. Capt Bruzza worked in the position for a period of about nine months. He was awarded the Vietnamese Psychological Warfare Medal for his work. Capt Bruzza wrote a proposal to form and Australian Psychological Warfare unit. This was forwarded to HQ Australian Force
Vietnam(HQ AFV) then back to Army Headquarters in . The idea was accepted and the 1st Australian Psychological Operations Unit was formed on the 14 April 1970 in Nui Dat, Canberra, Australia . Phuoc Tuy Province
I believe that in late 1969 and early 1970 an American HA and HB team was attached to the Australian Task Force for ground broadcast and to present education at schools within the province. I have heard that they were 90-day people (I am not sure what that means, but believe that it may mean that they were short timers with 90 or less days to go on their tour before going home).
[Author's Note: The HA team, (Platoon, Headquarters, Audio and Visual), provides command, operational supervision, administrative support, and limited logistical support to all organic field teams. In addition, the HA team advises and provides technical and planning assistance to the supported unit.
In March 2020, Sergeant de Heer told me his current thoughts on psychological warfare:
The constant attempt to measure the actual effectiveness of psychological operations is as difficult and frustrating to the staff as it is to commanders at all levels. Yet it was known that the programs were effective. Information was constantly being made available of the enemys recognition of their effectiveness, in enemy documents and radio broadcasts; this was further validated in interrogations. When a potential rallier picks up his first leaflet he cannot be expected to run to the nearest Chieu Hoi Center but the nudging effect has started. Exposure to additional media continually reminds him of the way out and when he finds himself in a vulnerable position he often responds to the psychological operations advertising. For one reason or another, 182,000 Hoi Chanh rallied between August 71 and the introduction of the program in 1963. While the significance of this figure may not be readily apparent, it does represent the manpower of approximately 400 battalions denied to the enemy, many of whom are now available to the South Vietnamese Government.
Derrill told me that he thought one of the most successful Australian leaflets simply showed the graves of dead Viet Cong. He quoted his own dissertation:
PSYOP leaflet ATF-004-70 was an idea copied from the Americans that showed a series of graves from the last five months with a number of known Viet Cong killed in the province shown on the headstone. There were three headstones bearing the future months and the questions asked, Will you be next? The aim of this leaflet was to demoralize the Viet Cong fighter and suggests that he would have lived longer if he had joined the South Vietnamese government side.
The leaflet in question depicts eight graves on one side and the number of VC dead in the last five months and wonders about the next three months. 200,000 copies of this leaflet were printed on 6 June 1970:
Jan. (113), Feb. (105), Mar. (51), Apr. (87),
Will you be next!
May. (88), Jun. (?), Jul. (?), Aug. (?).
The other side is all text:
Who will be next! Soldiers of the VC and NVA! Why do you continue this senseless struggle? Already this year many of your comrades have been killed in Phuoc Tuy Province. Will you be next!
As the numbers of deaths rose, leaflet ATF-004 was updated to show the new numbers in leaflets ATF-017 and ATF-032 which gave the death count all the way to August. The Americans printed similar leaflets in both Korea and Vietnam showing the rising enemy death rate. In WWI, Allied leaflets depicted American troops leaving the USA to fight in Europe; one million, two million, etc. Those leaflets are often credited with breaking the enemy morale and convincing them to finally surrender.
Australian soldier wearing man-pack loudspeaker set
Private Wally Koscielecki adjusts a loudspeaker
mounted on top of a Land Rover. June 1970.
Photo courtesy of the Australian War Memorial.
Loudspeakers were not only used on land.
Here they are used to broadcast from a gun boat.
The HB team, (Loudspeaker), provides loudspeaker support to units engaged in tactical operations. It can conduct loudspeaker operations from friendly troop positions, tactical vehicles, boats, and aircraft. It responds to targets of psychological opportunity and broadcasts to civilian and enemy audiences. It can distribute printed materials.]
The Task Force collected staff from the units that were serving in
in 1970. They all brought some skills to the job. The official date for the start of the unit was 14 April 1970, but in fact, they all marched in on the 6 April 1970. The PSYOP Unit consisted of 19 personnel. The organization of the unit was a Headquarters with Logistics, two field teams, one air team, an intelligence sergeant, and a printing team. We had four Vietnamese senior non-commissioned officers as interpreters and employed three Bushman Scouts (you called them Kit Carson Scouts). Vietnam
We then worked with the American HA and HB team in Phuoc Tuy province for a couple of weeks. That training covered general operations in ground and air teams.
We had our own printing facilities and set about designing and printing our own propaganda leaflets, posters, etc. All the leaflet drops were with Australian made leaflets mixed with US designed and produced Safe Conduct Passes. We produced our own voice tapes from the Hoi Chanhs (former VC who rallied to the Government) and flew them as a quick reaction sortie in those areas where friendly units operated.
de Heer is with a Revolutionary Development Team and their tracker dog. It was taken in the
(Phuoc Tuy province) during a face-to-face operation visiting families of the Viet Cong to inform them about the benefits available for their children, mothers, fathers, and relatives returning from the Viet Cong to the Government of South Vietnam under the Chieu Hoi program. villageof Hoi My
Our ground teams worked with units in the province conducting cordon and searches, school health education, Integrated Civil Aid Programs, Medical Civil Aid Programs, and Dental Civil Aid Programs. The unit conducted its own night propaganda operations. In our case, we operated alone in a village and with the Village Chiefs permission and we would show films to the people. In the early days, the films selected would depend on how the Hamlet Evaluation System (HES) rated the village. We would also do night propaganda operations in conjunction with Vietnamese Cultural Drama Teams and Village festivals praying for peace. The ground teams worked with the Vietnamese Revolutionary Development Care teams and Armed Propaganda teams.
Supplementary tasks were to collect intelligence information and feed it back to Australian units and through the Vietnamese District Intelligence and
Operations Coordination Centersand the . We also passed information to the Province Intelligence Operations Coordinating Centers advisors at District and Province level and in U. S. Team 89. Some members of the unit worked with people at the Chieu Hoi (Open Arms) Centre in Ba Ria. U. S.
We also used propaganda and general interest films produced by the United States Information Service (USIS) and the Joint United States Public Affairs Office to show in the villages and hamlets. We projected American made movies such as westerns, much to the delight of the Vietnamese people. Even though there was no Vietnamese dialog, they could follow the simple plots. We would mix the films with propaganda films, health and safety, and information films supplied by the USIS. A Catholic priest once asked us to show a religious film. The only film that I could get at the time was The Robe. We showed the film for four straight nights while the priest translated it into Vietnamese. The priest became more fire and brimstone as the nights progressed. It all worked out well because with the priests encouragement we received greater amounts of intelligence over the following months. This translated into more contacts with the Viet Cong (Chau Duc District Company) and increasing numbers of Hoi Chanhs. The effort was worth it. At the end of each night, we would stay with the local Regional Force or Popular Force soldiers.
Fifty-three people served in the unit during its 20 months of existence. I worked in all areas of the unit. Most of my time was in the field with Australian, Vietnamese and American troops. I did one cordon and search with the Thai forces. The unit ceased in November 1971 as the Australians withdrew from the conflict.
We know a bit more about the two American PSYOP teams after further research by de Heer. After studying documents at
he discovered that B Company of the 6th PSYOP Battalion detached HB Team 7 and HE Team 9 to work with and support the Australians in their endeavours.These teams stayed with the Task Force working under the direction of the Australians until HB Team 7 was redeployed to work for the G5, II Field Ft. Bragg on 1 May 1970. HE Team 9 was redeployed to the Province Senior Advisor, Force, Vietnam , on 1 May 1970. Phuoc Tuy Province
Founding unit member Tony Cullen tells us more about the unit operations:
We received information about the enemy from captured Viet Cong, the families of men who had joined the guerrillas, captured documents, intelligence supplied by Vietnamese agencies, prisoners of war, Hoi Chanhs, Illegal residents, and informers. We then printed our own leaflets (as many as 250,000 of each type, but generally about 100,000 to 200,000) and dropped them from U. S. helicopters and 02B aircraft on targeted areas where the Viet Cong were known to congregate or travel. Later we used our own Australian helicopters flown by 9 Squadron of the Royal Australian Air Force. This was our supporting helicopter squadron. The targeted areas were provided by the 1st Australian Task Force Headquarters based on gathered intelligence information and area pattern analysis. Quick reaction missions could be in response to contacts with the enemy by Australian ground forces.
We also made voice tapes from grandmothers, mothers, sisters, brothers, uncles and aunts who begged their Viet Cong relations to come home. At other times, we played the "Wandering Soul" tape, which even sounded sinister to the American or Australian listener. The targeting of Viet Cong individuals worked very well for three reasons; we generally knew who he was, we knew where he was, and we knew the designation of his unit. This information all supplied by our Detachment 1 Division Intelligence Unit. All of these things made him a marked man. He did not feel secure with his name known to all, and the members of his unit were not confident in him because the Australians knew his name.
During the course of our 18-month PSYOP operation, we took about 200 Viet Cong out of the war. Not one Australian was wounded. We lost a Land Rover damaged in a traffic accident, and one of our 161 Reconnaissance light aircraft took some hits during a night broadcast mission. The 161 Reconnaissance Unit flew "Kiowa" helicopters and Pilatus Porter aircraft.
In general, I believe that our mission was a great success.
Reviewing this article I find the word intelligence used twelve times. For PSYOP to be successful you must know and learn everything about your target audience. It is clear that the Australians were particularly adept in gaining intelligence, put a great deal of time into communicating with the local population, did a great deal of surveillance, and built very detailed files. I did not realize how detailed their intelligence was until I was handed a 15-page confidential report entitled Chau Duc District Orbat. This report, dated 23 October 1970, details the Viet Cong infrastructure in hamlets in the Australian AO and details the size, strength, weaponry, and even the name of position of the members. It is quite an amazing accomplishment.
The report states that COSVN Resolution 9 tasked Chau Duc District with attacking and undermining the pacification program and capturing equipment, food, medical supplies and ammunition. A long discussion of the current status of the VC says that:
Chau Duc has lost the capability for any offensive role, having been reduced to a condition where survival is their main concern. Food denial operations against known supply points have resulted in heavy casualties and hardships. Constant harassment by the Australian Task Force has kept this district constantly on the move, allowing them to stay in one place for only 2 to 3 days before being forced to move As long as Chau Duc is kept isolated from the people, their hardships will increase and their influence will continue to be insignificant in the villages of Chau Duc District.
The report mentions that Hoa Long is the main supply point for the Viet Cong, and Thai Thien is an alternative. The size of the guerrilla force is listed as 180 members. Of these, 66 are Communist Party Chapters and small independent units. 94 are civilians from Chau Duc, and 20 are a trained military unit listed as C41. The Australians even break down the weaponry of the units; twenty K54 Chinese-made pistols, one Garand, one .45 Colt pistol, Two M-16 rifles, two 9mm Browning pistols, one shotgun, five AK47s, seven SKS rifles, and other assorted heavier weapons such as Browning automatic rifles, one B40 rocket launcher, and one 60mm mortar. The report states that small arms ammunition is plentiful but the VC only have four mortar rounds and three B40 rockets. American intelligence estimated that only 5% of the arms used by the VC were manufactured in South Vietnam. The other 95% were manufactured by foreign resources. This list would seem to verify that claim.
There are several pages of reports on individuals. The Secretary of the Hoa Long Village party Chapter goes by the name of Thi Hai Loan, carries a K54 pistol, is 30 years old and is the wife of Kiem. The security man of the Ngai Giao Village Party Chapter is called Nguyen Van Ngoc, is 26 years old and carries a Thompson submachine gun.
Specific units sections are studied. For instance, the Propaganda and Training Section is discussed:
During time of peace or Viet Cong supremacy, this section becomes a corps of teachers for the civilian population. During wartime it has the responsibility of producing propaganda leaflets and news sheets in conjunction with a propaganda booklet which is issued to all members of the unit. Printing is done by using a Gestetner type skin, which is then laid on a piece of paper and pressed with a roller.
Authors note: The Gestetner was a small mimeograph or duplicating machine that was favored by communists, anti-war protestors, and others during the 1960s. One writer said, Power grows out of the barrel of the Gestetner. Bob Gould wrote in Recollections of the Struggle against the Vietnam War, this beat up little Gestetner, our engine of revolution.
To Thi Nau, a 23 year old suspected VC prisoner captured by Australian troops 25 October 1966 in the Nui Dinh Hills with a radio was later proven to be a National Liberation Front cadre member active in its propaganda, indoctrination and intelligence gathering.
I mentioned the depth and scope of the Australian intelligence to Sergeant First Class Howard A. Daniel III who served from July 1968 to August 1970 as Team Chief in the American Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV) J2 (Intelligence Section). He replied:
The Australians and New Zealanders worked very closely with us from collateral to very sensitive intelligence operations and the gathering of the intelligence. It was a pleasure to work with them, and to supply them with reports from my MACV and Combined Intelligence Center Vietnam (CICV) files.
The very sensitive intelligence files at MACV J2 were very detailed about enemy military and civilian personnel, to include the southerners' families (if they had them), their addresses and their names. There were more details available to us within the RVN National Police files.
We could and did combine our files with the Vietnamese and had very detailed information about many of the southern communists so we could have air-dropped or ground-disseminated leaflets and/or fake documents that caused them to return home to check on their families. Then we could have the police and/or our Special Operations people go get them.
I even had an enemy personnel file in our prisoner of war/missing in action (POW/MIA) database with information about those guarding our men or involved in their treatment.
Few of the very sensitive intelligence reports went more than one or two hands from me. If they did, I stripped the sources off them and reclassified the information as Secret or lower, depending on what we decided to release.
Australian PSYOP Leaflets
Private Ian Botham,1st Psyops Unit, prints the unit's first poster to be distributed in a area north of Nui Dat. The poster urged people to stay indoors at night, and to warn children about the dangers of handling old ammunition they may find. Photo courtesy of the Australian War Memorial.
There are many ways that we could approach a study of Australian psychological operations, and one way is to compare it against American PSYOP. Probably the best way is to look at themes and see if they match.
There are five major themes found in American propaganda leaflets in
. They are: Vietnam
Fear: the overwhelming possibility of being killed or crippled. The current belief is that the depiction of dead and mangled bodies is counterproductive, but they have always been a staple of American PSYOP leaflets.
Hardships: The terrible life of pain, suffering, disease and starvation facing the Communist guerrilla in the jungle.
Concern for family: Sentimental and nostalgic leaflets reminding the soldier in the field that his family is at home, lonely, and unprotected.
Disillusionment: An attempt to show the Communist guerrilla through text and maps that he has been duped by his leaders. All that he believes about why he is fighting in South Vietnam is a lie.
Loss of faith in ultimate victory: Sometimes called the overwhelming strength of Allied arms. An attempt to convince the Communist soldier that his cause is doomed and he will sacrifice his life for nothing.
A North Vietnamese Regular soldier, who surrendered carrying a Chieu Hoi pass, is handed over to an Australian provost after interrogation by intelligence staff. Left to right: Warrant Officer Class 2 Bob Wood, the North Vietnamese prisoner, Lieutenant Geoff Russell and Corporal Kerry Petrie.
The greatest single American campaign was the Chieu Hoi (open Arms) operation. Billions of leaflets were dropped on Communist strongholds in an attempt to motivate the guerrillas and North Vietnamese regulars to defect to the Government of Vietnam. The program was successful, and thousands of the enemy did come over to the Government. Besides the actual Chieu Hoi leaflets, there were secondary themes that worked to support the campaign. Examples are safe conduct passes, reward leaflets, leaflets extolling the good treatment that the Hoi Chanh (a "rallier" who returned to the Republic of Vietnam) received, Tet (Lunar New Year) leaflets, and recruitment of Hoi Chanh ralliers for armed propaganda teams.
Did the Australians follow the same pattern as the Americans? Yes, they did, and since they were aided by American advisors that should be no surprise. Of the over 60 Australian leaflets that I studied (about half of all those produced by the Australians), many use more than one theme and therefore any attempt at listing them by category cannot be 100% accurate. However, we find the following patterns.
Of the five major themes, there were nine on the fear of death, two on hardships, six on concern for the family, six on disillusionment, and six on loss of faith in ultimate victory leaflets. The Australians showed a good balance in their use of themes.
Just like the Americans, the most popular Australian theme was the standard Chieu Hoi leaflet with fourteen examples. Of the secondary Chieu Hoi themes, there was one on safe conduct, two on rewards, thirteen on good treatment of the Hoi Chanh rallier, and two Tet New Year leaflets.
Finally, there were many leaflets prepared to support the government of Vietnam and rally the people behind it. These are usually called consolidation leaflets since they are designed to consolidate the power of the legitimate government over the civilian population.
Many of the Australian leaflets are just text. For the purposes of this article, where possible, we will illustrate those that are pictorial and use photographs, drawings and bright colors to catch the attention of the target audience.
The Five Major Themes
1. Fear of Death
Australian Leaflet ATF-010-70
Australian Leaflet ATF-010-70 was produced 4 June 1970 and depicts a dead Communist guerrilla in the jungle. Text to the left of the body is:
Unburied Communist dead on the battlefield.
The leaflet targeted the Ba Long Province Viet Cong units. The purpose was to demoralize the enemy by the thought of them never being properly buried at home and wandering forever in the afterlife. The text on the back is:
Soldiers and Cadres of D440, D445, C25, C41, and other Ba Long Province Units.
Lately, and especially from 4 May to 23 May, the Government of Vietnam and Allied forces in Phuoc Tuy have found 15 bodies of communist soldiers lying where they died on the battlefield. Some only had a sheet of plastic over them.
Will you soon be killed and left unburied in the jungle?
The leaflets were supplemented with the playing of the Wandering Soul tape at night. The Australians used a Pilartus Porter aircraft to fly the missions (it replaced the U. S. Skymaster O-2B aircraft). They flew at about 1000 feet above ground level just above stalling speed at night without lights. The aircraft engine could not be seen or heard by the enemy on the ground below.
This photograph is from a captured photo album. The photograph was donated to the Australian War Memorial by Colonel E.J. O'Donnell.
Australian Leaflet ATF-042-70
The Australian 1st Psychological Operations Unit printed leaflet ATF-042-70 on 2 October 1970. About 5,000 leaflets were printed and disseminated by hand. The object was to make Viet Cong guerrilla question his belief in ultimate victory. The leaflet is printed on one side only. It depicts three dead Viet Cong, one with his eyes still open. The text is:
You seek Victory. Is this Victory? They could be living peacefully. You, too, could be leading peaceful lives. Let us stop this senseless killing.
Australian Leaflet ATF-072-71 - Rally
Australian Leaflet ATF-072-71 depicts Nguyen Van Duong, a Viet Cong who rallied to the Government cause. The back is a hand-written letter to his former comrades of the D445 Local Force Battalion. The Australians printed about 100,000 of these leaflets on 14 January 1971 and disseminated them by aircraft. These are not nearly as descriptive as the American hardship leaflets which mention injury, disease, and starvation in great detail. The Australians just lightly touch on the subject. The text is:
I am Nguyen Van Duong, also known as Ba Nam (3Nam), Adjutant of C4, D445. I brought one AK 47 and three magazines when I rallied to the Australian forces. I was warmly welcomed, which was contrary to the teachings of our Hai Kanh in the Battalion Command Group.
I was with the VC for eight years. I suffered hardship, hunger and thirst, but without the victory the VC had propagandized about. I myself, as well as my family, received nothing. At the present time I realize that our ranks are disintegrating. The above are the reasons for which I rallied.
I sincerely appeal to all those remaining in the VC ranks to rally early to the GVN to avoid a useless death and to be reunited with their families.
8 January 1971 Yours sincerely, 3 Nam
Australian Leaflet ATF-046-70
Australian Leaflet ATF-046-70 is a warning to the Viet Cong that their life is about to become even more difficult. The Australians printed about 5000 of these leaflets on 3 October 1970 and disseminated them by hand. The Front depicts a Viet Cong Soldier. The text is:
Viet Cong Cadre and Soldiers. Your base camp has been discovered by the Republic of Vietnam Air Force and its allies. From now on, you will not have any place called safe to hide. We always follow you and we know your activities. Friends, Chieu Hoi now, so that you can avoid the hardships and hunger and death. Your families are waiting for you.
3. Loss of Faith in Communist Victory
Australian Leaflet ATF-087-71
All of the Australian loss of faith leaflets are text-only, so I want to show one of the more interesting ones that actually mentions the fact that the Allies are operating in Laos and Cambodia. The threat is that if the Ho Chi Minh Trail can be cut off, then the Communist units will become vulnerable due to a lack of weapons and ammunition. The Australians printed about 50,000 of these leaflets on 23 February 1971 and disseminated them by aircraft. The front depicts the Chieu Hoi symbol and the text:
Rally to the Cause - CHIEU HOI - CHIEU HOI
The back depicts grinning skulls and the text:
You have heard of the successful Republic of Vietnam Air Force operations in Laos. Large Republic of Vietnam Armed Force units are also operating in Cambodia to close this supply and escape route.
4. Concern for Family
Australian Leaflet ATF-052-70
Australian Leaflet ATF-052-70 is a standard leaflet that depicts a weeping wife and her unhappy Viet Cong husband, far from home. The Australians printed about 100,000 of these leaflets on 10 November 1970 and disseminated them by air. Text on the front as the Viet Cong looks at a picture of his family is:
I wonder what my family is doing to-day?
Text on the back as the wife thinks of her husband is:
I wonder where and what my husband is doing today?
Australian Leaflet ATF-048-70
Australian Leaflet ATF-048-70 depicts a Viet Cong thinking of his home and then returning home. The Australians printed about 100,000 of these leaflets on 12 October 1970 and disseminated them by air. They called this leaflet a family appeal. Text on the front shows the Viet Cong thinking of his family and the text:
Nothing is sadder than living in the jungle all the year long without seeing loved ones.
The text on the back depicts the Viet Cong returning to his family:
Nothing is happier than to be re-united with family.
Australian Leaflet ATF-054-70
Australian Leaflet ATF-054-70 depicts a very doubtful looking group of Viet Cong on the front and Chieu Hoi symbols on the back. The Australians printed about 100,000 of these leaflets on 28 November 1970 and disseminated them by aircraft. Text on the front is:
Where do we go now?
The back depicts Chieu Hoi symbols and the text:
Your leaders cannot perform their tasks because they know that they do not fight for a just cause.
Australian Leaflet ATF-067-70
Australian Leaflet ATF-067-70 depicts two Viet Cong about to fire a mortar at a peaceful village and a Chieu Hoi symbol. Notice that almost every leaflet mentions Chieu Hoi, even if the major theme is a completely different subject. The Australians printed about 100,000 of these leaflets on December 1970 and disseminated them by aircraft. On the front of the leaflet a Viet Cong thinks:
These are my people
Text on the back is:
Look at the peaceful lives of the people.
The land reforms mean that everyone who wishes may till his own land.
Rally to Freedom in Free Vietnam.
Chieu Hoi Leaflets
Australian Leaflet ATF-088-71
Leaflet ATF-088-71 is a Chieu Hoi leaflet printed on 4 March 1971. The Australians printed about 100,000 of this leaflet that were disseminated by air on NVA and VC troops to encourage them to rally to the Republic of Viet Nam.
One side of the leaflet depicts two Chieu Hoi symbols and the text:
Rally to the just cause now. Follow the arrows to prosperity. Rally Now.
The other side is a map bounded by Eastings 57-77 and Northings 61-92 showing Xuyen Moc and Thau Tich Province and District borders, major Rivers, Roads, and Routes 23 and 329. There are arrows pointing to Xuyen Moc from VC areas and the slogan:
Follow the arrows
Safe Conduct Leaflets
Australian leaflet ATF-101-71
I have not seen any leaflets that were specifically for safe conduct. The closest we come to a standard safe conduct pass is leaflet ATF-101-71, which gives instructions on how to rally to the Government of South Vietnam. The Australians printed about 50,000 of these leaflets on 24 March 1971 and disseminated them by aircraft. The front depicts the standard Chieu Hoi emblem and the text:
1. You can rally to any unit or installation, military or civilian, of the GVN or its Allies.
2. Rally during day time, not night time.
3. Hide your weapons before you rally, later you can show the authorities where to get them, and you will be rewarded.
4. Take this leaflet with you if you can. But if you do not have a leaflet, not to worry, you can also rally.
5. In case you cannot report yourself to the authorities, you can ask the local people to help you.
The back shows a different emblem, one in which the Chieu Hoi bird is on a nest with hatchlings. Text on the back is:
The Chieu Hoi program will welcome you warmly and will help you to reunite with your family, and live peacefully so that you can rebuild your life.
Chieu Hoi now.
Province Chief Lt Col Tu giving reward money to two ex Viet Cong members for weapons rewards. The Australian is Sergeant Russ Tetlow and the US Officer is Lt Andrus.
Australian Leaflet ATF-082-71
Australian Leaflet ATF-082-70 offers rewards for enemy weapons. The Australians printed about 100,000 of these leaflets on 15 February 1970 and disseminated them by air on NVA and VC troops to encourage them to rally to the Republic of Viet Nam. The front depicts the Chieu Hoi symbol, a large $ and the text:
Weapons reward for Hoi Chanh
The back is all text:
Friends, when you Hoi Chanh you will receive rewards for your weapons.
Pistols (all types)
Rifles (SKS, AK47, M16)
Machine Gun (Light)
Machine Gun (Heavy) 7.62mm or .30 cal
60mm Mortar Barrel
81 - 82mm Mortar Barrel
81 - 82mm Mortar (Complete) Anti-tank mine (each)
Individual mine (each)
Claymore mine (each)
The rewards for Chieu Hoi are generous and will help you start your new life.
Australian Leaflet ATF-063-70
Australian Leaflet ATF-063-70 also offers reward, but not just for weapons. The Australians printed about 100,000 of these leaflets on 21 December 1970 and disseminated them by aircraft. The rewards offered in this leaflet include monies for the Viet Congs family, clothing, and even food and housing. I should point out that the monies are always in Vietnamese currency, not U.S. dollars. The front of the leaflet depicts three Chieu Hoi symbols and the text:
The Government of Vietnam understands that when you rally you do not have clothing or money to buy clothes. Some ralliers are sick and wounded. Some ralliers have wives and children who depend upon them for food.
So the Government of Vietnam provides clothes and medical care. The Government of Vietnam provides for your family until you can provide for them yourself.
Text on the back is:
Benefits for a Rallier: Money rewards for weapons; 2 sets of clothing or $1500 for clothing; $1200 for repatriation; $50 for food for wives and older children; $25 for each young child; $150 a month for each member of the family while staying at the Chieu Hoi Centre; Families who wish to settle in the Chieu Hoi Hamlet will be given materials and $12,000 to build a house and a supply of rice for six months.
Tet Lunar New Year
Australian Leaflet ATF-073-70
Australian Leaflet ATF-073-70 was produced on 19 January 1971 and depicts happy Vietnamese people gathering for the celebration of the Tet New Years ceremony. The Australians printed about 100,000 of these leaflets and disseminated them by aircraft. We see only women and children. The men are gone. The back depicts Chieu Hoi symbols and the text:
There are two groups of people who not be spending TET in a peaceful manner: you and the people hunting you .
TET is the time of family togetherness- the time when the year that is gone is remembered, and planning for the familys future is done for the year to come.
How many TETs have you spent in the jungle?
Chieu Hoi for Tet!
We mentioned that some American PSYOP leaflets recruited Viet Cong defectors for armed propaganda teams. I have not seen any such Australians leaflets, but they did recruit Australian Bushman Scouts.
Australian Leaflet ATF-006-70
Leaflet ATF-006-70 features a photograph of a happy ex-Viet Cong by the name of Dao Van Dol. He is smiling and smoking a cigarette as a member of the Australian Bushman Scout unit. The back of the leaflet is a handwritten letter from Dao Van Dol to his old comrades in the bush.
Dao was born a Montagnard. His family was killed and he was brought up by Vietnamese foster parents. As he grew up, the Vietnamese didn't talk to him because he was a Montagnard and the Monsignors' didn't speak to him because he was brought up by Vietnamese. As a young teenager he took the water buffalos to the fields to feed and look after them. The Viet Cong would come out of the jungle and talk to the water buffalo boys and seek information about where the government and Allied forces were. He eventually left home and joined the Viet Cong.
He joined unit D445, the enemy main local force battalion in Phuoc Tuy province. He was assigned to the mortar platoon. He fought the Australians at the Battle of Long Tan. He said later that half of the mortar platoon was killed in the battle. When the Viet Cong were selecting a new section leader he was overlooked. He believed that he had the most experience in mortars and the most time in grade in his section. He thought that he was ignored because he was a Montagnard. He was also broke and out of rations. He defected and returned to the Government of South Vietnam as a Chieu Hoi. The Australians hired him as a Bushman Scout. In what could have been a major faux pas, on the day he defected, Dol was mistakenly thought to be an interpreter or a Bushman Scout and issued an M16 and ammunition. He worked for the Australians until they left Vietnam. He married a local ethnic Vietnamese woman and had a sergeant from the Australian unit as his best man. There was a rumor that he later returned to D445 to rejoin his former unit and they promptly shot him.
This photograph of Viet Cong Unit D445 was donated to the Australian War Memorial by Colonel E.J. O'Donnell.
Sergeant Lorrie Johnstone worked with Dol and recalls that he claimed to be of Khmer descent and a great hunter. Dol regaled the Australians with stories of his killing an elephant with an old WWII Japanese rifle. He shot the beast in the knee and then killed the animal after it fell over.
On one occasion while accompanying the Infantry on a sweep, Dol proved his value when he decided to search an area that had been declared clear. He moved house bricks and blocks, then went outside and moved some water drums. He turned up a cache of weapons and ammunition that filled a trailer. Afterwards, the PSYOP team assisted the villagers who were not involved in putting things back in order, and then cooked a meal of military rations and noodles that was shared by all. This was not uncommon. When doing searches and face-to-face meetings the teams often shared their meal with the property owner and the family. Breaking bread was a good way to make friends with the local populace.
Consolidation Government building
Australian Leaflet ATF-065-70 South Vietnamese Leaflet
Australian Leaflet ATF-065-70 is intensely patriotic and colorful. It depicts the flag of the Government of Vietnam and four Chieu Hoi symbols in bright red and yellow. The Australians printed about 100,000 of these leaflets in December 1970 and disseminated them by aircraft. Note that the Australian title for this item is South Vietnamese Leaflet. That might lead one to believe that this leaflet was made at the request of, or in conjunction with the South Vietnamese. Text on the front is:
South Vietnamese solution for South Vietnamese problems.
There is a longer message on the back:
We are building a Free South Vietnam. The Government of Vietnam is achieving much. We can achieve more with your help. The Government of Vietnam is sincerely committed to solving the problems of South Vietnam, our country.
Rally to help build our country.
Australian Leaflet ATF-053-70 - Sorghum
Australian Leaflet ATF-053-70 is a form of rural development leaflet where the government gives helpful instructions to the populace in an attempt to make their life better and their loyalty to the regime stronger. The Australians printed about 5000 of these large leaflets on 20 November 1970 and disseminated them by hand. The leaflet depicts the sorghum plant and shows how it can be used for both human and animal food. The text is:
FOOD SORGHUM DRINK
Sorghum is suitable for growing in Vietnam and provides food for human and animals. It can also be used for wine.
To teach you more about Sorghum a demonstration is being held at BINH GIA by the Government of Vietnam Agricultural Service and Australian Civil Affairs Unit.
On 1 December 1970, free transport to and from Binh Gia will collect anyone interested in attending the demonstration. Come to Village Administration Headquarters where you can wait for transportation. Village members will explain the program of the demonstration.
Australian Leaflet ATF-056-70 Development in Phuoc Tuy
Australian Leaflet ATF-056-70 is designed to build the image of the Government of Vietnam among the civilian population. The Australians printed about 10,000 of these large leaflets on 25 November 1970 and disseminated them by hand. The leaflet depicts buildings, roads and dams and the text:
The Government of Vietnam and the people of South Vietnam will build a strong and new nation together. New buildings at Baria hospital to treat the sick. A new dispensary at Tam Phuoc Village. One of the new roads for you to bring your goods to market. Irrigation dams to give you bigger and better crops. New Technical Schools to give better education to your children. The Government of Vietnam is working for peace and prosperity for all the people of South Vietnam.
The Viet Cong were well aware of the coming of Australian troops. One of the earliest Communist propaganda texts I have found is dated 8 June 1965 as
Hanoireports the arrival of Australians in . It says in part: Vietnam
On 1 June 1965, the first Australian mercenaries set their aggressive heels on the Tan Son Nhut airfield. Before their arrival, Phan Huy Quat [Appointed Prime Minister of
in 1964] secretly signed with the Australian government an agreement according to which he pledged that the Australian troops would not in any case be prosecuted for law breaking. The Puppet Administration has no right to put the Australian troops on trial, and no matter how serious their crimes are, they will only be expelled from South Vietnam . The Phan Huy Quat clique has granted the Australian mercenaries the privileges reserved for the South Vietnam aggressors. The more the U.S. introduces U.S. troops and mercenaries of its satellites into South Vietnam, the greater the threat caused by those privileges to our compatriots in the cities and U.S.-controlled areas becomes The U.S. aggressors and mercenaries can now be seen everywhere in the streets. Having indulged in immoderate drinking, they show an impetuous and arrogant attitude because they can beat others without being prosecuted, rape women for the fun of it, and are allowed to act in an overbearing manner . U.S.
Aussie Go Home
Just as the US and Australian forces sometimes named the enemy unit on a propaganda leaflet, the Viet Cong sometimes returned the favor to the Australians. On one occasion, they produced a leaflet that depicts death over a series of grave markers, and the words in bold black, Aussie Go Home! The leaflet also exists in full color.
Text on the back is:
AUSTRALIAN SERVICEMEN - There is no resentment whatsoever between the Vietnamese and the Australian people! Why do you come here to kill our people and to harm the Vietnamese Revolutionary Movement? You yourselves have been deceived! The Australian reactionary government is making a profit on your blood and bones by sending you to
South Vietnamto serve as cannon fodder for the imperialists. Since stationing at Nui Dat base (Baria), you have committed untold crimes to our compatriots, especially those at Long Phuoc, Hoa Long, Long Tan, Long Dien, Dat Do, Ninh Dam area, terrorized, killed them, destroyed their homes and orchards! US
All of that are but odious crimes that bring to you any profit but only a terrible death! Only in 20 days, from May 2nd to 22nd, at
area, hundreds of Australian troops were shamefully killed, tens of tank or armored car destroyed, and it is you yourselves have witnessed by your own eyes! Ninh Dam Mountain
defeat is evident. Nixon, the president, has been forced to withdraw 25,000 soldiers from SVN. What do you think of that! To avoid useless and senseless death, commit no more crimes against the Vietnamese people, you should resolutely- US
Oppose the war! Demand to be sent back to your families!
Refuse to go raiding for the
puppet troops! US
When in contact, cross over to the fronts side, you will be well treated and given safe repatriation!
Stay in your camps at Nui Dat base! Refuse to go for ambush!
Do not harm the Vietnamese people!
BARIA LIBERATION ARMED FORCES
U.S. and Australian Armymen
This all-text leaflet asks both American and Australian servicemen to refuse to take part in military missions against the Viet Cong.
Leaflet addressed to American and Australian Troops in
Another typewritten leaflet aimed at the Australian troops says in part:
American and Australian Troops in
What profit does the Johnson McNamaras aggressive war in
being to American and Australian capitalists? Vietnam
Thousands of millions of dollars.
What does it bring to the
USA, and their people? Australia
Nothing but a loss of prestige, of honor and a loss of sympathy from peace and justice loving people all over the world.
Another poorly crafted and badly spelled typewritten leaflet is filled with hyperbole and aimed at the Australians and Americans. Some of the text is:
US, Australian Dervicemen
Only in 10 days of generalized offensive and uprising (from Feb.22 to March 4th 1969), the SVN people and liberation armed forces put out of action over 45 thousands enemies, among them over 25 thousands US and satellite troops, destroyed a large quantity of depots and numerous US war means.
Especially in a fierce attack on Feb. 26th against US 25th Infantry Division HQs at Bong Du (Gia Dinh province) the LPAF killed 1250 GIs, destroyed 125 aircrafts, 175 tanks and armoured cars.
Could you bend your heads to sacrifice yourselves for US monopoly capitalists' and for the
Saigonrotten puppet authority's interests.
The entire message goes on in the same way and ends;
Baria National Liberation Front.
Another anti-Australian Viet Cong leaflet turned up in 2013, sent by my Aussie pal Andrew Chaney. Like the previous two, this is all text and says in part:
There is no resentment whatsoever between the Vietnamese and the Australian people. Why do you come here to kill our people and do harm to the Vietnam revolutionary movement?
You, yourselves have been deceived. The Australian reactionary government are making profits on your bloods and bones by sending you to SVN to serve as cannon-fodder for US imperialists .!
Anti-War or Viet Cong Propaganda
In October 2013, a small group of seven anti-Australian, pro-Viet Cong leaflets appeared on the market. They were all printed in red and blue and had punch holes where they had been filed. With them were eleven genuine Allied leaflets and a Stars and Stripes newspaper map of Vietnam, so the entire offering seemed to be legitimate. Still, the seven new leaflets seemed too clean, the propaganda text was generally not what we expect from the Viet Cong, and the flag held by a heroic Communist horseman was all wrong. I suspect these were Vietnam-era leaflets and might have been made in Australia by a left-wing anti-Australian group. I think they were found and filed and kept hidden away for 50 years. I will depict a few of them here because they surely belong in an article on Australia in Vietnam, but I do not believe that they are Vietnam War leaflets. I have studied the Viet Cong leaflets for 50 years and seen hundreds, and I have never seen any that look like these.
Aussie Go Home
Above we show a genuine Leaflet with this same image, but done crudely in black and white. Someone produced this same image on a white paper in red and blue. As above, the text is a simple:
Aussie Go Home
A Viet Cong Horseman
There was a South Vietnamese leaflet that pictured a very heroic soldier on horseback carrying the Republic of Vietnam flag in full color. I think this leaflet attempts to copy it, but the flag is impossibly wrong and is bears instead of the five-pointed Communist star, a six-pointed Hebrew Star of David.
A 1967 U.S. leaflet depicting a Heroic Army of Vietnam Soldier Was this the model?
This leaflet is very similar to some of the Viet Cong stamps which depicted rebels firing at U.S. aircraft. One very famous 1963 full-color postage stamp showed a male and female Viet Cong shooting down an American helicopter. Here, two guerrillas fire at a pair of Australian helicopters. The text is:
We need no anti-aircraft fire, rifle fire is sufficient to shoot them down!
A Viet Cong stamp showing an attack on a US Helicopter Was this the inspiration?
Other leaflets in this strange collection have the following images and texts:
A man and a woman look at each other with the text:
The sensible man is home with his woman or someone else will be.
Is this war worth it?
The Japanese dropped many leaflets on Australia using this theme during WWII. The Viet Cong generally do not use it. Were the WWII leaflets an inspiration?
A drawing of Ho Chi Minh and the text:
Uncle Ho is your friend
A boot kicking a cartoon British lion and the text:
Nasser did it in Suez
We will do it here!
In September and October of 1956, the Israelis, British and French attempted to take back the Suez Canal from President Gamal Abdel Nasser. The Egyptians were no match for the invaders. The three allies, especially Israel, were mainly successful in attaining their immediate military objectives, but pressure from the United States and the USSR at the United Nations and elsewhere finally forced them to withdraw. It was in no way a victory for Nasser. One wonders why the Viet Cong deep in the jungle would think it was.
There was a small left-wing anti-war movement in
. A propaganda booklet entitled Australia NORTH VIETNAM A first-hand account of the blitz, by Malcolm Salmon, reporter for the Australian newspaper Tribune parrots the National Liberation Front story that the North is fighting alone for independence, and specifically points out that there are no foreign fighters in the Communist movement in . This newspaper was the publication of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPA). Concern about the alleged subversive activities of Australian communists and their sympathizers reached a peak in Australia Australiain September 1951 when the federal government attempted to ban the party, only to see the bill narrowly rejected by the electorate. Salmon's account of the war indicates how the Left Wing saw the battle:
Our Government has made us party to
U.S.politics which make the skies over a source of terror for millions. Indeed, Prime Minister Holt is one of the very few national leaders in the world who expresses support for the policy of bombing Vietnam . North Vietnam
He discusses the air war along the Ho Chi Minh Trail:
The U.S. bombing of North Vietnam has as its nominal purpose the stopping of northern aid to the South Vietnam National Liberation Front It can be said quite confidently that U.S. bombing has failed utterly in its nominal purpose On night journeys I made down the roads of North Vietnam, along parts of that Ho Chi Minh Trail so beloved by our daily press commentators, it seemed that every lorry in the world was moving southward.
A bridge over a river is bombed and a new makeshift one is put up, perhaps in pontoon form, perhaps in the form of unsinkable clusters of bamboo, with a rough and ready timber carriage-way on top.
A railway line is cut and new sections of line are laid, often within hours.
A road is bombed and if the damage is too serious to be readily repaired; traffic is diverted to one of the newly created roads, hundreds of miles of which have been pushed through the North Vietnamese jungle country .
Candy or Bombs
In July 2018, my pal Derrill de Heer wrote with a request:
I wonder if you can help me. I am looking for a copy of a US leaflet 246-287-67, Death by Napalm. There is only a reference to it in the Australian War Memorial. Questions were raised by Australian Government with Embassy and Defense staff. I need the photo and words of the leaflet. The Canberra Times reported that the Australians used this leaflet 3 times. Some Aussie soldier picked one up and sent it home during the war and someone else gave it to the newspapers and it caused an uproar in certain anti-war factions. I wanted to add it to our web site.
I had information on the alleged napalm leaflet in my files. Of course, it had nothing to do with napalm. In fact, it was a warning to the Vietnamese that if Viet Cong forces stayed within their villages, force would be used against them. The theme was movement, and the concept was to get the Vietnamese to leave their village for their own safety. The leaflet depicts a village with Allied aircraft bombing and strafing Viet Cong fighters. There is what appears to be a bomb blast and I suppose that the left-wing press might have tried to imply that was napalm burning innocent women and children. A Vietnamese villager is seen in a wagon escaping the village at bottom right. His life has been saved by the warning. 50,000 copies of this leaflet were prepared to be disseminated by air or by hand. The leaflet was originally requested by the 5th Special Forces Group. The text on the front is:
In order to enjoy freedom and security, you should move to a government-controlled area.
The text on the back is:
The presence of Viet Cong in your village has made it a prime target for our planes and artillery. In order that the Vietnamese and Allied Forces can use its modern weapons to rid you of the Viet Cong without harming you or your family we request that you leave immediately.
We prefer to drop candy to your children rather than bombs. But candy will not drive out the Viet Cong. We hope that in the interest of the National Just Cause and to protect your lives your will be pleased to sacrifice some individual privileges, and will all move to a free Government of Vietnam controlled area where the necessary bombing will not harm you or your family.
An Australian Vietnam War Poster
We should point out that the Australian forces in
covered themselves with glory and received a great number of awards and decorations. Of course, this data encompassed all Australian forces and not just the PSYOP troops. The Australians were under the British Imperial Awards system at that time. If we just study the British awards we find that the Australians received 1064 decorations including 4 Victoria crosses, 6 Commander of the Order of the Bath (CB), 25 Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE), and 37 Distinguished Service Orders (DSO). If we add the awards that Australians were awarded by the Americans, we find another 395, including one distinguished Service Cross, 30 Silver Stars, 7 Legions of Merit, and 69 Bronze Stars. In addition, the Vietnam authorized another 533 awards and decorations to the Australians. Republicof Vietnam
Australian Vietnam veteran Derrill de Heer and author Herb Friedman, June 2005
Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia
Derrill de Heer
My good friend and buddy Derrill de Heer died in 2020. He was a real gentleman, an authority on Australian PSYOP and extremely generous with his knowledge. As I sit here at my computer, directly in front of me is a little plaque he sent me after his first visit to my home. It has a Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife mounted on it, his old Australian military crest, and the message, “Thanks for your genuine support and friendship during my visit of 2005.” Rest in Peace old friend.
As I said at the start of the article, this is just an introduction to Australian PSYOP in Vietnam. If you have any information to add, or comments to make about this story, kindly write the author at email@example.com.