SGM Herbert A. Friedman (Ret.)
On 2 March 1965 Operation Rolling Thunder, the bombing of
began. It was to be a sustained bombing campaign intended to place increasing pressure on the North Vietnamese leadership to negotiate a peaceful settlement to the war. The leaders of the North would be forced to the peace table or bombed back into the Stone Age. If the North could be forced to stop sending men and material South, the Viet Cong resistance would wither and die.The original plan was for the bombing to last eight weeks, but instead the operation took on a life of its own and lasted for three years. Targets just above the Demilitarized Zone were to be struck first, and then the bombing would progressively move north. Initially the campaign was carried out by F-105Ds fighter-bombers. Two Air Force squadrons were moved to North Vietnam where they were within easy reach of the North. Navy fighter-bombers from aircraft carriers based in the Thailand South China Seaattacked from the east. Shortly afterwards the giant B-52 bombers were added to the mix and the United Statesbegan the sustained heavy bombing of . North Vietnam
When President Johnson first ordered the bombing of
he had every intention of fighting a limited war. He feared that too large a show of force might prompt the Chinese to enter the conflict. He did not believe that the North Vietnamese and the NLF could resist American military power. However, massive bombing had little effect against a decentralized economy. To Secretary of Defense McNamara, the purpose of Rolling Thunder was to deliver a message to North Vietnam . By gradually increasing the pressure on the north, the North Vietnam United Stateswould firmly, and in a controlled manner make it clear to the leaders of that a negotiated settlement was preferable to the slow but sure destruction of their nation. When Rolling Thunder failed to weaken the enemys will after the first few weeks, the objectives of the campaign began to change. The Johnson administration still desired to influence North Vietnamese policy, but the bombing was gradually aimed more against the flow of men and supplies from the North. North Vietnam
The pilots were strictly forbidden to bomb the northern areas above Vinh by
s rules of engagement. This kept most of the North Vietnamese air bases safe from attack. Bombing was prohibited within 25 miles of the Chinese border, within 10 miles of Washington Hanoiand within 4 miles of . As a result, the campaign was destined for failure. Many of the most important military targets of the enemy were within the forbidden zones. Attacks on enemy air bases were also prohibited because there was a fear of killing Soviet technicians. Even stranger, the surface to air missile (SAM) sites could not be struck. Looking back, it was an insane way to fight a war. These policies caused the lives of many Allied pilots and there were reported cases where Air Force crews came close to mutiny. The bombing escalated and by the end of the first year, Rolling Thunder had progressed northward, reaching the Haiphong area. Hanoi
Leaflet "146-66-R" with B-52 Bomber
On 29 June 1966, American aircraft bombed the major North Vietnamese cities of
Hanoiand for the first time. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara said that he hoped that by bombing Haiphong Hanoi, the capital of North Vietnam, and , the country's largest port, communist forces would be deprived of essential military supplies and thus the ability to wage war. Haiphong
Rolling Thunder continued from 1965 to 1968. In all, the
USflew 304,000 fighter-bomber sorties and 2,380 B-52 sorties over , losing 922 aircraft and dropping 634,000 tons of bombs. North Vietnam
Robert W. Chandler introduces us to the leafleting campaign in War of Ideas: the U.S. Propaganda Campaign in Vietnam, Westview Press, Boulder CO, 1991.
The result of this intense psychological offensive was a countryside littered with a billion pieces of printed propaganda and thousands of homes penetrated by endless hours of radio broadcasts.
Leaflets intended to exploit mental anxieties created by the 1965-1968 bombing raids were the cutting edge of the propaganda program.
In the official USAF record of the Vietnam War, the bombing of the north is mentioned by Wayne Thompson in To Hanoi and Back - The United States Air Force and North Vietnam 19661973:
Although attacks on transportation and electricity added to the difficulty of life in North Vietnam, Linebacker otherwise made only feeble attempts to reduce the ability of the North Vietnamese authorities to govern their people. The Air Force did drop more than half a billion leaflets on North Vietnam. C130s and B52s dropped the bulk of the leaflets; many were released over the Gulf of Tonkin in an often vain hope that they would drift against the prevailing wind and reach the Red River Delta. In December 1967, a C130 had been lost in Route Package Five after dropping leaflets near Hanoi. F4s and drones were the only leaflet-carriers flying over Hanoi in 1972, and they could not carry anywhere near as many leaflets.
Besides warning people to stay away from targets, leaflets talked about the need for the North Vietnamese government to sign a cease-fire bringing an end to bombing in the north and troop casualties in the south. Some inflation leaflets counterfeited North Vietnamese currency; captured prisoners reported that they had been able to spend this fake currency for a while in the evening, but its washed-out color did not pass muster in daylight. In another attempt to provide a propaganda tool more attractive and influential than the usual leaflet, the Air Force dropped small radios to enable more people to hear broadcasts from South Vietnam. None of these psychological operations bore much obvious fruit.
Many of the leaflets dropped over North Vietnam were standard military missions using C-130s and other easily recognizable American or South Vietnamese aircraft. This is one of the aircraft that clandestinely dropped leaflets into Laos and along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The photo is from the collection of former Major Dusty Rhodes, Detachment 12 of 1131 Special Activities Squadron Heavy Hook, Nha Trang AB, RVN.
Major Dusty Rhodes
Instructor Pilot in the UC-123K.
I was told by another veteran that the equipment onboard these black special operations platforms was truly exotic, to the point it allowed them to penetrate & transient denied airspace. The story of these aircraft is told in the article Vietnams Most Secret Squadron in the USASOC publication Tip of the Spear, January 2010. I have edited the text heavily. Some of the comments are:
When MACSOG was set up in early 1964, the U.S. Air Force had virtually no capability to fly the kinds of covert air missions contemplated for OPLAN 34A (unconventional warfare). In order to give the U.S. government the plausible deniability it desired, the Air Force would rely on non-American third country foreign nationals to fly the missions over North Vietnam. Seven crews from the Republic of China on Taiwan (C Crews) and three crews of Vietnamese (V Crews) were recruited as First Flights primary flyers. Later there were four American crews (A Crews). In early 1964 the Air Force secretly assigned six of its C-123Bs to MACSOG under the codename Project Duck Hook.
For SOG operations, the Duck Hook C-123s received new navigation equipment, additional radios and surface-to-air missile radar detectors. Also, new crew stations were created for an electronic warfare officer and a radio operator. The Duck Hook C-123s were also sanitized and official records of the six Duck Hook C-123s were deleted from Air Force files. In December 1964, Flight Detachment began flying covert missions over North Vietnam. Leaflet drops were among the most dangerous missions because they required the C-123 crews to leave the relative safety of low altitude as they neared their target area to quickly climb to a much higher altitude where they would release their leaflets so they could flutter down far and wide. This tactic greatly increased the crews exposure to detection by enemy radar and engagement by SAMs or MiGs.
C-123 instructor pilot Major Fred Heitzhausen, recalls his first leaflet drop as "the scariest, spookiest night of my life." Immediately after completing the leaflet drop at 14,000 feet, Heitzhausen pulled off all engine power, rolled his plane over into a steep 90 degree bank, then plunged down toward the pitch black jungle below, diving 4,000 feet in only 40 seconds to get to low altitude as quickly as possible to minimize exposure to the enemy defenses. It took him another 5,000 feet of altitude just to pull out of the dive without hitting the ground. The pilot remembers this not-quite-by-the-book combat tactic as "a hairy maneuver, to say the least."
In 1965 Johnson approved an expansion of SOGs covert operations into the officially off-limits territories of Laos and Cambodia. In their second year of operation, the White House authorized the A crews to begin flying missions over North Vietnam. In early 1972 it was finally decided to shut down MACSOGs operations in accordance with Nixons Vietnamization strategy which included the steady withdrawal of U.S. combat forces from Southeast Asia. The unit lost four of C-123s and their crews. None of the planes went down in the denied territory of North Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia.
The Leaflet Campaign
In a top secret White House National Security Memorandum dated 6 April 1945 to the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, and the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, McGeorge Bundy states that President Johnson requires that:
Leaflet operations should be expanded to obtain maximum practicable psychological effect on the North Vietnamese population.
During the decade that the
United Stateswas involved in the Vietnam War, billions of leaflets were printed and disseminated over the Republic of (South) Vietnam (RVN), Laos, , the Ho Chi Minh Trail and the Democratic Republic of (North) Vietnam (DRVN). One American PSYOP officer stated that he dropped about 10 million leaflets on each mission over Cambodia . The North Vietnam United Statesand its Allies dropped 57,656,000 leaflets and another 15,000 gift packages over between mid-April 1965 and 17 November 1965 alone. North Vietnam
National Museumof the Air Force adds: United States
On 28 April 1965, one million leaflets were dropped by USAF aircraft over Cua Rao, Khe Bo, Muong Sen, and Cong Cuong. Missions were also flown on 20 and 23 May by USAF aircraft and 22 May by VNAF aircraft with a total of 1,494,000 leaflets dropped. During June 1965, the tempo of leaflet operations increased when 4,800,000 leaflets were dispensed.
In July 1965, USAF aircraft made leaflet drops on the first 14 days, dispensing a total of 9,888,000 leaflets on impact areas ranging from Dien Bien Phu and
in the north to the demilitarized zone in the south. On 20 July, Haiphong Hanoiwas targeted with 960,000 leaflets and Haiphongwith 320,000, using the wind drift method, because of the 40 mile restricted area imposed around for leaflet operations. The VNAF conducted leaflet drops on 20 and 30 July dispensing 800,000 leaflets in the south half of the DRV. The first months of leaflet operations were considered to have produced successful results. Intelligence reports and numerous transcripts of DRV press reports and radio broadcasts attested to the success of the program. Hanoi
During the mid and late 60's leaflet production and dissemination averaged about 600 million leaflets every 30 days. The campaign in
was first code-named Operation Fact Sheet, and later Operation Frantic Goat. North Vietnam
The MACV final report of 1967 says in part:
On 7 August 1967, a new six-month plan for leaflet drops over North Vietnam was approved. The objectives of the plan were:
Establish in the minds of the civilian population of NVN that the Lao Dong Party and the Hanoi authorities are responsible for the war, it continuation, their present miserable situation, and the fate of their relatives and friends in the NVA in order to lower morale, foster war weariness, increase disaffection with the Party and the Hanoi authorities, and encourage passive resistance to the regimes demands. Demonstrate to the civilian population of NVN that the RVN is a peaceful and prosperous place in contrast to the poverty, want and danger with which they live. Create doubts and fears in the minds of NVA troops about their chances of survival, about the dangers of injury and disease, about burial in unmarked graves, about the hopelessness of their situation, about the fate of their friends and relatives in NVN, and about the competence and good faith of their commanders
The 16 September 1968 declassified secret USAF report: Psychological Operations by the United States Air Force and the Vietnamese Air Force in South Vietnam mentions the early bombing of the North. The reader should remember this report only goes up to 1968.
About 60 percent of the North Vietnamese people reside in the Red River Delta area in the North. This area also happens to be the most difficult to hit due to heavy concentrations of antiaircraft and SAM sites protecting Hanoi and Haiphong. Early success in the NVN operations was indicated by reports in 1966, that the residents of Hanoi eagerly sought leaflets in an attempt to gain an early warning of impending airstrikes, so they could leave the city in time. The bombing of Mu Gia Pass caused alarm and the suspicion that Hanoi was next. Indications were that there were even struggles between residents and the police for possession of the leaflets.
The NVN campaign was stepped up in 1967. By the end of the year, JUSPAO indicated that the goal of the NVN program would be to place approximately 60 million leaflets per month in North Vietnam, distributed according to population density. This goal was never achieved, primarily due to the lack of a PSYOP system which could penetrate safely the NVN defenses and distribute large volumes of leaflets. Moreover, the cessation of bombing in the North, and accompanying restrictions on sorties above the 20th Parallel severely hampered the FRANTIC GOAT campaign. This places the majority of the people out of reach of leaflet operations. Ho Chi Minh publicly stated on 22 October 1966, his concern over the Allies Psywar effort in NVN, and urged increased determination in combating the program. It was further noted that considerable effort was being made to gather up the leaflets as soon as possible.
Loading the C-130 with Leaflets
Airman First Class Sam McGowan was a loadmaster assigned to the 35th Troop Carrier Squadron on Naha Air Force Base, Okinawa, from February 1966 to August 1967. His duty was flying classified missions against
as part of Operation Fact Sheet. He says: North Vietnam
It never occurred to me when I reported to the 35th Troop Carrier Squadron at
NahaAir Base, Okinawa in February 1966 that one of my missions would be dropping propaganda leaflets on . I had no idea that North Vietnam C-130 crews were involved in a number of special operations. Soon after my arrival I took part in a FACT SHEET mission which was directed against Naha . These missions operated out of North Vietnam . Da Nang, Vietnam
The leaflets were prepared by the Armys 7th Psychological Operations Group in cardboard boxes and remained in them until the box dropped off of the ramp of the airplane. Skate-wheel conveyors were attached to conventional aluminum cargo pallets which were rolled into the airplane and locked into the cargo handling system. The boxes were loaded on to the airplane by hand and rolled forward in the cargo compartment to the proper place where they were secured with cargo straps. A loadmaster would attach the static line to the steel cables suspended beneath the ceiling for just that purpose.
Normally, a C-130 troop carrier crew consisted of five men two pilots, a flight mechanic or flight engineer, a navigator and a loadmaster. For the leaflet drops, the normal crew was augmented with an additional navigator and four additional loadmasters. Because the drops were made from high altitude, two other airmen were part of the crew. One was a physiological training technician from the altitude chamber at Kadena Air Force Base and the other was the 35th squadron medic. Their job was to monitor the loadmasters during the drop to insure that no one fell ill to any of the ailments and conditions associated with high-altitude flight and the use of oxygen.
The leaflet missions were classified and so were the leaflets, so only the aircrew was allowed on board the airplane from the time the leaflets arrived at the airplane. Due to the classified nature of the cargo, the boxes of leaflets were loaded onto the airplane by the loadmasters themselves. It was hard, backbreaking work that wasnt made any easier by the heat and humidity of
Okinawa. By the time the airplane had been loaded, the loadmaster crew would be physically worn out, and they still had a mission to fly. If the mission was a FACT SHEET, the crew would takeoff and fly to Da Nang, or to after the spring of 1966, where the crew would rest and make the drop the following night. The combination of fatigue and altitude was too much for some loadmasters, and several succumbed to the high altitude sickness known as The Bends. Later, a new procedure was implemented where one crew of loadmasters would load the airplane and another would fly it. Ubon, Thailand
Drops were made from high altitude, usually 25,000 feet, which meant that the entire crew had to be on oxygen. The ramp and door at the rear of the airplane was open for the entire duration of the drop and sub-freezing air swirled through the cargo compartment. Even though the cargo compartment was cold, the physical exertion brought a sweat. Oxygen masks tend to slide around on sweaty faces. A 20,000-pound load of boxes at seventy pounds apiece works out to 285 boxes, each of which had to be manhandled into the airplane, and then manhandled to the rear of the airplane again for the drop. Even though they were on rollers, their weight caused the rollers to dimple the cardboard so that it was a lot harder to roll the boxes to the back of the airplane than it had been to load them.
The FACT SHEET missions werent particularly dangerous, even though the crews operated in North Vietnamese airspace. Drops were made from high altitude, which put the airplane well above most anti-aircraft, and the missions were flown at night.
The contents of the boxes werent generally known by the crews, other than that they were leaflets. The boxes were sealed and designed so they didnt break apart until the box reached the end of the static line and the leaflets thus deployed behind and below the airplane. Sometime in 1967 the FACT SHEET mission was declassified and a display was set up outside the building where the 35th TCS was located. The display included several leaflets, with the English translation. My favorite was one that offered First Aid suggestions to the North Vietnamese soldiers who were infiltrating out of
North Vietnamthrough Laosto . It concluded with the words and if you follow these directions, you may live to die in South Vietnam . South Vietnam
Retired USAF Lieutenant Colonel Bob Evans was a navigator assigned to the 35th Troop Carrier Squadron at Naha Air Base, Okinawa. He remembers the Fact Sheet missions:
I was a captain (navigator in C-130As) assigned to the 35th Troop Carrier Squadron, 6315th Operations Group at Naha Air Base. The unit changed designation probably sometime in 1966 or 1967 to 35th Tactical Airlift Squadron, 374th Tactical Airlift Wing. My first Fact Sheet mission was on May 31, 1966 and we flew out of Da Nang AFB. The later missions were flown from Ubon Royal Thai Air Base. The location was probably moved at the same time our night interdiction mission (Blind Bat) was moved from Da Nang following the loss of two C-130s due to NVA sappers. This was July or August 1966.
Normally, the winds were so light that we only dropped along the coast or along the Ho Chi Minh trail. I found it interesting how the leaflets were designed. Once a theme was agreed upon, U.S. artists would design the leaflet in English. The leaflet proof was then given to two different Vietnamese to translate. Once the translations came back the same, the leaflets in Vietnamese were then given to another two Vietnamese for translation back to English. Once the army was assured they had a correct translation, the leaflets would go to the printers.
My last Fact Sheet drop was July 20, 1968. [Authors note: The last leaflet mission was flown November 1968].
I had three favorite Fact Sheet leaflets. The one we all carried on flights was leaflet 72A promising 15,000 dong to the individual who returned a downed American flyer safely to U.S. lines.
In Vietnamese culture, it is believed that unless a person is buried in his home village, his soul will wander forever. A leaflet numbered 48 was drawn up showing a cartoon-type illustration of a soldier being shot by a U.S. aircraft in the jungle and his family praying at the family altar at home. On the reverse side was a photo of a decayed corpse lying in the jungle with only the face showing through the vegetation. The caption was something like Your soul will wander forever.
Another leaflet we used on the Ho Chi Minh trail was coded T-03 and titled Health Hints along the Trail. It had an extensive list of good health hints: change socks frequently, keep your feet dry, take your Malaria pills regularly, and so on. The kicker was at the end of the two-sided list: Follow these health hints, and you too will live to die in South Vietnam!
We also carried on each Fact Sheet mission several boxes of SAFE leaflets. These were always flip-flop leaflets that we would drop in selected areas for evasion (SAFE). The 15,000 dong reward leaflet was a SAFE leaflet.
A Fully Loaded C-130 Ready for the leaflet
Jim Hilton Sr. flew missions over North Vietnam with the 35th Troop Carrier Squadron based at Naha Air Force Base, Okinawa. The unit was noted for dropping one billion leaflets on the enemy in
. When you look at the leaflet load on this C-130 Hercules aircraft, it is easy to see why they required ten men rather than the usual five. Vietnam
Fighter over Destroyed Bridge - Leaflet 36 U.S.
One leaflet raid on
North Vietnamis mentioned in The History of the 369th Tactical Fighter Squadron on the website of the . A 6 February 1966 attack by five F-105Ds near the cities of Thanh Hoa and Thai Binh is described in detail. Canisters containing leaflets and 500 kip Laotian currency were dropped on the enemy. USAF Museum
The front of the leaflet shows a destroyed bridge and the text:
Compatriots of the North coming south to threaten and conquer our people should realize: If Communist
North Vietnamcontinues its warlike invasion of the South, then we must continue bombing every part of . North Vietnam
The back of the leaflets depicts three peaceful scenes and the text:
North Vietnamstops its destructive warfare in the South, then the land will be peaceful and prosperity will be achieved in both South and . There will be improvements and prosperity everywhere. It will allow every young man and woman to be well educated. It will permit everybody to be well provided with food throughout the year. North Vietnam
The code number of this leaflet is unknown, but the same vignette was used on several occasions. For instance, leaflet 51 depicts the destroyed bridge in a vertical format with the text:
Compatriots who are forced to repair bridges and roads beware!
Roads and bridges will continue to be bombed to prevent the Communist Party from sending troops and weapons to attack the South.
The quicker they are repaired, the sooner they will be bombed again.
Compatriots, try to avoid working on roads and bridges. You will save yourself from a needless death.
This vignette is mentioned in an Associated Press story dated 6 December 1966. It says in part:
LEAFLET BLIZZARD CONTRIBUTES TO FINAL VICTORY IN VIETNAM
Enough paper to reach more than twice around the earth at the equator has been dropped on North Vietnam by American planes. More than 400 million propaganda leaflets have been dumped on the Communist-controlled North since April 1965 One leaflet has a photograph of a shattered bridge and the shadow of a circling U.S. bomber.
In May 1972 the Joint Chief of Staffs called for an evaluation of the
North Vietnamleaflet campaign as part of a history and evaluation of psychological operations in Indochina. This article is not meant to be in-depth look at that campaign. It will just lightly touch on some of the most interesting and pertinent facts that were gleaned from that evaluation. The author is entirely in debt to the report for most of the technical data in this article. The report considered leaflets that were especially prepared for dissemination over between the years 1965 to 1968. North Vietnam
The bombing campaign was code-named Operation Rolling Thunder. The first leaflets were dropped over the North in April 1965 and continued until President Johnson called a halt to the bombing in November 1968. The first missions were launched on 14 April 1965 when
aircraft dropped one million leaflets on the cities of Dong Hoi, Ha Tinh, Vinh, and Thanh Hoa. On 19 April 1965, USAF F-105 aircraft flew their first leaflet mission when they dropped 1,200,000 leaflets on Bai Thung, Ha Trung, Thanh Hoa, Phu Qui, Phu Dien Chau, Vinh, and Ha Tinh. For most of the bombing period all of Republicof Vietnam Air Force A-1 was a target for leafleting. After March 1968 only that area between the Demilitarized Zone and the 20th Parallel North were authorized. North Vietnam
The campaign was planned and controlled by a conglomerate of both
and RVN PSYOP agencies. The Joint United States Public Affairs Office (JUSPAO) was the main proponent of leaflets. U. S.
A JUSPAO Briefing paper prepared in mid-1965 stated the objectives of the campaign.
1. To warn the population to stay away from military targets and point out that the bombing was in retaliation for DRVN attacks on
. South Vietnam
2. To give a true picture of life in
. South Vietnam
3. To explain
policies to the North Vietnamese. U.S.
4. To warn the Vietnamese of Red Chinas imperialist designs.
By 1968, the objectives had been clarified and amplified.
1. To convince the people of North Vietnamese that the bombing was in self-defense for Communist attacks in the South.
2. To convinced the people that the Americans and South Vietnamese had humanitarian concern for the people of
. North Vietnam
3. To convince the people of the North that it was in their best interests to oppose the war.
4. To keep the people and the government apprised of the policies of the
United Statesand the . Republicof Vietnam
5. To lower confidence in the
and the Peoples Republic of China as faithful allies. USSR
6. To condition soldiers to think about the Chieu Hoi (Open Arms) program as a way to escape hardship and death.
7. To discredit the
regime by: Hanoi
a. Showing that it had betrayed the Vietnamese people.
b. Blaming the regime for the prolongation of the war.
s lie that the South Vietnamese people needed or wanted liberation. Hanoi
d. Pointing out the terrible losses of manpower in South Vietnamese.
e. Telling the people of the implications of Ho Chi Minhs Long War.
The targets of the campaign were the general population, the armed forces, the party cadre and to a limited degree, the leadership of the Lao Dong (Communist) Party.
Almost all the leaflets were printed on both sides. The majority were in black and white. If the leaflet was meant to depict the Tet holiday, paintings of national heroes, or progress and the comfortable life in
, color might be used. South Vietnam
There were a great number of PSYOP themes. Some of them are as follows:
is being bombed. This message might state that the bombing was to stop the cruel Communists from killing innocent compatriots in North Vietnam . South Vietnam
2. Bomb Warnings. The population was regularly warned to stay away from military installations. Industrial sites and communication routes and facilities.
regime betrays the people. A constant effort to weaken the peoples support for the government by pointing out that thousands of young men were being killed on the orders of leaders who stole rice from the people and traded it for Chinese weapons. Hanoi
4. Red Chinese Imperialism. An attempt to exploit the traditional distrust between the Vietnamese and Chinese peoples.
5. Stop the war in the south. Leaflets told of the hardship and suffering of troops in the South and warned wives and families that they would probably never see their young men again.
6. The Long War. References to speeches by ho Chi Minh that the war might go on for 10, 20 or more years.
7. Life in
. Leaflets depicted the South Vietnamese living in freely and had a higher standard of loving then their compatriots in the North. South Vietnam
and RVN Policy. Leaflets kept the North Vietnamese aware of Allied political policies. In particular, they were told of statements by the U.S. President in regard to peace negotiations. U.S.
USSRand Red as Allies. Leaflets pointed out the arguments between these two nations and warned the China might find itself alone with a protector. North Vietnam
10. The friendship of the people of
. South Vietnam
11. The escape of North Vietnamese families. Leaflets told of the successful escape of families from Communist control.
12. Release of prisoners of war. Every release of a prisoner in the South was advertised in leaflets dropped over the North.
13. Attacks on the Hero Emulation program. Leaflets declared that the so-called heroes were actually just figments of North Vietnamese propaganda.
14. The Chieu Hoi Program. Leaflets explained how to defect and what the rewards would be.
15. Anti-Regime actions. Citizens were called upon to slow down and passively resist the war.
Some of the techniques used on the
leaflets were: North Vietnam
1. Cartoons to caricature and satirize the goals and operations of the
2. Photos to document devastation caused by the bombing campaign and that soldiers were dying in the south.
3. Terms like compatriots to emphasize the essential brotherhood of the Vietnamese people.
4. Attacks on Communist themes like Be Three ready and others.
5. A newspaper called Nhan Van (Human Knowledge).
6. Letters from Northerners living in the South.
7. Extracts from dairies and other documents found on dead soldiers.
8. Poems found on the body of dead NVA soldiers.
9. Facsimiles of North Vietnamese currency.
10. Images of heroes of the Vietnamese people.
When the program was evaluated, JUSPAO stated that the results were tenuous, often intangible and difficult to measure and said in part. It was encouraged because In reading
propaganda, one can feel that the U.S. PSYOP campaign is beginning to be a source of some concern to the Communist regime. Hanoi
The United States Air Force evaluated the program and said in part, The North Vietnamese regime has shown a genuine concern with the potential impact of the developing
psychological warfare program against the North. The Air Force report noted that a General Department of Information was created by U.S. to counter the Allied propaganda. Hanoi
was not amused. Hundreds of articles were printed attacking the campaign. The first was 16 April 1965 when Nhan Dan said: Hanoi
Planes foolishly dropped millions of leaflets containing President Johnsons allegations. U. S.
attacked the program in both newspaper articles and broadcast news. They charged that the Hanoi was attempting to: United States
Change white into black and blur the line between the just cause and the unjust one and between the warmongers and aggressors and the victims of aggression in order to make people believe in their fantastic story that the Vietnamese are committing aggression against Vietnam, while the Americans, who live tens of thousands of miles away, are sending troops to South Vietnam to defend this countrys freedom.
In general the leaflets dropped on
can be identified by their code numbers. They start at 1 and end at 151. There are generally no letters like SP or T in the code. In the early days of the campaign the leaflet sizes varied. As more was learned about the aerodynamic characteristics of leaflets (an Army PSYOP officer by the name of David G. Underhill wrote a booklet entitled Low, Medium and High Altitude Leaflet Dissemination Guide) standardized sizes and formats were used. These sizes could vary according to need by about ½ inch. Near the end of the campaign the vast majority was the standard 3 x 6-inch leaflet printed on 16-pound paper. Leaflets with a single large photo were 5 ½ x 5 ½. If a number of color photos were depicted, the leaflet was 3 x 8-inches. News bulletins were 8 x 10-inches and the newspaper Nhan Dan was 10 ½ x 15 ¾-inches. North Vietnam
We mentioned facsimiles of North Vietnamese currency in our sections on techniques. Leaflet 12 is a parody of a genuine North Vietnamese 50 dong banknote. Serial numbers on the American leaflet are "XM019" and "BD047". The back of the leaflet has been changed so that when turned over, in place of Ho Chi Minh's portrait, there is a propaganda message in black ink on a white background. The Vietnamese text is:
PARTICIPATE IN THE THREE READIES
1. Ready to end the invasion of
advocated by the Lao Dong Party. South Vietnam
2. Ready to retain the rice that the Lao Dong Party takes to exchange for weapons from Communist
3. Ready to oppose all hardships that the Lao Dong Party imposes upon you to support the war of invasion of
. South Vietnam
These leaflets were dropped over Tri Dong on 12 July 1965,
on 15 July, Tranh Hoa on 29 July, and the area of Vinh-Tranh Hoa on 20 and 22 September. From 11 to 13 October, 1,570,000 were dropped over the Red River Delta, Route 7, Thai Binh, Nam Dinh, Tranh Hoa, Ha Trung, Nga Son, Phat Diem and other areas. Yen Bay
The Lao Dong Party is the Worker's Party, the name used by the Communist Party in
. North Vietnamese students took pledges known as the "three readies" to prove their patriotism and dedication. The actual three readies pledge is: North Vietnam
1. Ready to fight and fight valiantly, ready to enlist in the armed forces.
2. Ready to overcome all difficulties, to stimulate production work and studies, under any circumstances, whatsoever.
3. Ready to go anywhere and perform any task required by the Motherland.
The North Vietnamese press mentioned these banknote leaflets in the newspaper Hoc Tap, September 1967, in an article entitled "Resolutely Defeat the Psychological Warfare of the American Imperialists."
Using airplanes and ships to fling leaflets and counterfeit money into the North is an important psychological warfare trick of the American imperialists. According to them, the American imperialists from April 1965 to the end of 1966 dropped in the North more than 400 million leaflets of all kinds, the contents of which were intended to distort our Partys struggle line of resisting America and saving the nation, to distort the Three Readies" movement of our youth, to distort the policies of our Party and Government, to divide our nation from the fraternal nations, to invent stories of troop movements to the South which are based with sickness and death, to create an impression of terror in the face of the destruction by American airplanes, to boast of "American airpower," to praise the false prosperity in South Vietnam, to propagandize the deceptive "peaceful negotiation" schemes of Johnson, etc.
Leaflet 14a Front
Although not actual postcards or letters, there are two leaflets that appear to be stamped postcards. They are from the same series and are coded 14a and 14b. At first glance the two leaflets are similar, both addressed on the front with what appears to be a postage stamp. Both of the leaflets are addressed on the front to:
To a North Vietnamese Compatriot
Leaflet 14b Front.
Leaflet 14b back
The fake stamps are cancelled
Viet Nam Saigon Cong Hoa. The stamp on 14a is a parody of a genuine stamp honoring the sisters Trung Trac and Trung Nhi who resisted the Chinese invasion in 40-44 A.D. They are depicted riding on war elephants against the Chinese with a flag in the background. The second stamp on 14b is a combination that depicts a map of Republicof Vietnam , The flag of the Republic and northerners heading south on a raft to escape Communism. The back of each leaflet contains the exact same message: Vietnam
You and I are Vietnamese living on the soil of
. Circumstances, unfortunately, keep you in the North and me in the South. Vietnam
When your communist rulers cut the country in two, close to one million of our compatriots fled the Communist Zone for the South. Since that sad day, we have been living peacefully, busying ourselves with rebuilding the country and establishing a free and democratic regime in the South.
Unfortunately, for the past ten years the Communists of the North have been waging war in the South with the aim of imposing Communist rule on the free part of our country. Men and weapons have been infiltrated to the South to destroy schools, hospitals, roads and bridges, and kill innocent civilians. In doing this, your Communist rulers claim to liberate the southern people. But, we have never asked them to liberate us. In fact, what do we want to be liberated from? We are happy with what we have and wish only to be left alone.
But, it is obvious that your Communist rulers are unmoved by our desire for peace.
Now, in face of stepped-up infiltration of men and weapons to intensify the aggressive was against the South, we are compelled to act in self defense. We are bombing the military installations and communication facilities which your Communist rulers are using to sustain their war of aggression in the South.
So, for your safety, please stay away from these targets.
My letter is short but my sentiments are immense. I am cordially yours.
The first record I have of this leaflet being dropped is 20 July 1965. American and Vietnamese aircraft dropped the leaflets over communication routes heading to Hanoi and Haiphong, as well as eight North Vietnamese cities. The leaflets were mixed with numbers 13 and 16 and a total of 3,360,000 of the three were disseminated. Another 520,000 of 14a and 14b were dropped on 30 July 1965 over Van Yen, Ba Don and Huong Khe. On 9 December another 480,000 were dropped over the
and Ba Don, Cuong Gian and Phu Kinh. Rao Nay Valley
This leaflet depicts a number of Viet Cong terrorists and the results of their actions. The text is:
Innocent women and children in South Vietnam are being slaughtered daily by these and other Lao Dong Party directed Viet Cong aggressors.
On a rural road in Long An Province, a three-wheeled passenger bus was torn into pieces by a Viet Cong terrorist mine. Killed instantly by the blast was this peasant, one who fall every day victims of the Communist war on civilian in South Vietnam.
This leaflet depicts the legendary Vietnamese General of the Tran Dynasty Tran Binh Trong. The text is:
Tran Binh Trong preferred to be a ghost of Vietnam rather than a King of China. How about the Communists of North Vietnam?
Compatriots, call on the Lao Dong Party to halt its aggression against men, women and children in South Vietnam.
When the Viet Cong aggression directed by the Lao Dong Party ceases in the south we can all live in peace.
We mentioned both cartoons and anti-Chinese propaganda under techniques and themes. This leaflet combines them to produce a colorful anti-Chinese cartoon. The front depicts a member of the Vietnamese Communist Party carrying a snake (Red China) into a hen house. Leaflet 25 was one of three leaflets in a group of 6,000,000 dropped by the USAF on 10 October 1965. The text is:
The Lao Dong Party brings the snake in to kill the peoples chickens.
The back is all text:
VIETNAM-CHINESE FRIENDSHIP CAMPAIGN
Recently a photo exhibition of the Communist Chinese unshakable friendship for the Vietnamese people was held in
Hanoiand Peking. Here is one view the Lao Dong Party failed to include in the exhibit.
REMEMBER THE VALIANT STRUGGLE OF OUR VIETNAMESE ANCESTORS.
Leaflet 26 is a cartoon that shows Mao handing weapons to the Vietnamese while he sits on bags of rice taken from
. Leaflet 26 was one of three leaflets in a group of 6,000,000 dropped by the USAF on 10 October 1965. The text is on the back is: North Vietnam
Did you know that the Big Brother from the North had pledged his full support to the Lao Dongs Partys aggressive war in
until the last drop of blood! South Vietnam
Demand that the Lao Dong Party stop the war against innocent people in
and save your rice! South Vietnam
Under themes we mentioned that the population was regularly warned to stay away from military installations, industrial sites and communication routes and facilities. Leaflet 27 depicts the might of the American Navy and Air Force. The front of the leaflet bears three photographs of different American aircraft filling the skies over Vietnam. Leaflet 27 was one of three leaflets in a group of 6,000,000 dropped by the USAF on 10 October 1965.The text is:
For your safety, stay away from military installations
The back depicts a grandson speaking to his grandfather:
Grandpa, the Party tells us that hundreds of enemy planes have been shot down. Why do so many of them keep coming daily?
Grandson, this is a state secret. Nobody except the Party is allowed to count the number of enemy planes shot down. As for us, the people are at least allowed to count the number of enemy planes that fly over our heads. We had better keep the count to ourselves and stay away from the Partys military installations when the planes come.
The Vietnamese loved their poetry. I will mention this several times in this article. Many of the American leaflets aimed at North Vietnam used poetry as a theme. This leaflet depicts a lonely soldier identified as the son of Mrs. Tran Thi Phan of Hai Duong, writing a letter to his mother shown above him on their farm in the north. The back shows the soldier killed on the battlefield of Duc Co. The poem was allegedly found on the young soldiers body. 720,000 copies of this leaflet were dropped on the Vinh-Tranh Hoa area on 26 September 1965. The poem is very long so I will only show the first few lines:
A POEM TO MOTHER
A North Vietnamese youth spills out his heart
From the day I left you Oh mother,
To follow my companions in this trip through Laos to Central Vietnam,
I have endured the hardships of climbing up the green mountains
And marching through rain and shine
The heels of my shows have worn out and the cloth on my shoulders has rubbed thin where the cold seeps in
I began to look around and wonder what there was here to liberate,
The market was crowded with people in gay mood; the rice fields were green with plants
The class rooms full of cheerful children
Leaflet 34 consists of three cartoon panels. In the first a North Vietnamese Commissar propagandizes his troops:
We must fight for 20 years or more. Good Communists must emulate
In the second panel the North Vietnamese troops are bombed:
all our brave liberators sent to the south.
The final panel asks:
How long must you suffer?
We must be Three Ready, Three Responsibilities, Three Dont, Three No, Three Yes, Work! Work! Fight!
Note: The various anti-Communist slogans in this leaflet are found on other Allied leaflets and are all parodies of North Vietnamese patriotic slogans. For instance, the Three Responsibilities are found on Leaflet 31 and the Three Dont are found on Leaflet 39. They are:
The Three Responsibilities
Be responsible in hiding your rice and money from the Lao Dong Party to deny it the resources with which to wage a war of aggression in the South.
Be responsible in keeping your husbands and sons from joining the army as lackeys of Red
to fight a fratricidal war in the South. China
Be responsible in demanding that the Lao Dong Party let the women go back to their sacred duties as mothers and wives.
The Three Dont
I dont hear from our young men who have been sent South
I dont see any of them come back.
I dont know why we have to fight compatriots in the South.
Leaflet 43 was dropped during the time that the United States was bombing North Vietnam and depicts a vignette from the standard safe conduct leaflet on one side with the text:
Compatriots; tell your friends and relatives in the army that if they go South: Have the courage to leave the aggressor forces. Go to the Armed Forces of the Republic of Vietnam or Allied Forces. Look for passes like these that guarantee good treatment and a chance to return home safely.
The other side is all text and says in part:
WHAT HAPPENS TO YOUR FRIENDS AND RELATIVE IN THE ARMY?
Thousands of young men in the Army of North Vietnam are being sent to kill your compatriots in the south.
They cannot always let you know before they leave.
Once they leave, they have no way of coming back to the North.
So they must stay in the South to die of disease or be killed in battle.
Thus is the fate of those who go South .
This leaflet was dropped on nine occasions between March and June 1966. 27,350,000 leaflets were dropped in the Red River Delta, Hanoi, Tranh Hoa, Ba Don south to the DMZ, Ha Tinh and Sam Song. Additional leaflets were dropped from September to November 1967.
Leaflet 44 depicts North Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh. There is a long propaganda text on the back on the subject of the Partys shortcomings and Ho Chi Minhs guidance telling the cadres to listen to the people. The text on the front under Hos picture is:
CHAIRMAN HO SAYS: ASSOCIATE ONESELF WITH THE MASSES.
Party leader Le Duc Tho says: In the fulfillment of their assignment and norms, if lower echelons (of cadre) violate the orders and coerce the masses, usually, they are not sternly criticized. (NOW THEY WILL BE).
We must regularly indoctrinate the cadres and members on the importance of serving the masses and on the habit of working according to the masses line. Nhan Dan, 4 February 1966).
WHAT IS THE MASSES LINE?
NO INCREASE IN NORMS
PROTECTION OF WORKERS HEALTH
CHAIRMAN HO SAYS: LISTEN TO THEIR SUGGESTIONS.
We mentioned under Themes that Every release of a prisoner in the South was advertised in leaflets dropped over the North. Leaflet 45 is a good example. It depicts 21 North Vietnamese Army prisoners on the front and the text:
These North Vietnamese soldiers captured in the South, and released by the
Republicof Vietnam, have crossed the Ben Hai Bridgeon 30 January 1966 to return to . North Vietnam
NORTHERN SOLDIERS WHO COME OVER TO THE ARMY OF THE
OR ALLIED FORCES OR WHO ARE CAPTURED ARE TREATED WELL. THESE ARE THE ONLY ONES THAT WILL LIVE TO RETUN HOME. REPUBLICOF VIETNAM
Each of the 21 returnees is documented. I will just mention the first two just to give an example of the kind of data disclosed on the leaflet:
- Le Phuc:
Thach village, Quang Ninh district, Quang Binh province, soldier of Division 325. Nam
- Tran Van Thanh: Tien Thang village, Tien Dong district, Hoa Binh province, soldier of Company 4, Battalion 1, Regiment 101, Division 325.
Retired Master Sergeant LeRoy Doc Holloway dropped the above leaflet over
in the early 1960s while on Blind Bat missions over the Ho Chi Minh Trail. He was a Flight Engineer in the 35th Troop Carrier Squadron from 1964 to 1967. He flew the leaflet missions from North Viet Nam Da NangAir Force . Base, Vietnam
Operation Blind Bat missions were flown in
from 1964 to 1970. The Communist infiltrators from the North moved south during the night under cover of darkness. The USAF was assigned the task of dropping flares from C-130A aircraft to light the skies and make the trucks visible to Allied fighters and bombers. The mission was to target trucks and interdict the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Vietnam
Holloway told me:
The mission started when we reported to the Security Section for a briefing and sanitizing of our uniforms. After leaving everything except for our ID card and dog tags we did our preflight and then took off about midnight. We flew north over the water to avoid anti-aircraft fire. We flew above 10,000 feet and wore oxygen masks the entire time we were over
. When it came time to drop the leaflets the loadmaster and helpers pushed the pallets with static lines attached to the rear of the rollers installed on the floor of the aircraft. After the drop the whole back of the aircraft was covered with leaflets. The loadmaster was tasked with cleaning up the cargo area and throwing the last of the leaflets out before we could close the ramp, pick up speed and return to the air base. North Vietnam
Leaflet 47 depicts some young North Vietnamese men who have defected to the south. If you look at leaflet 12 you will see a parody of the Vietnamese three ready program. I added this leaflet because in this leaflet the U.S. attacks that program once again. The text says in part:
YOUNG MEN OF VIETNAM BE THREE READY
1. Be ready to leave your unit when you are sent south.
2. Be ready to enjoy good treatment by the armed forces of the Republic of Vietnam and allied forces.
3. Be ready to live to enjoy life in a free Vietnam or return home someday.
These are some of your comrades-in-arms who are enjoying good treatment in the South.
The men are identified as Sergeant Vu Tuan Anh, Assistant Squad Leader Do Trung Tien and Squad Leaders Hoang Kim Chu and Nguyen Ngoc Xuan.
Leaflet 48Leaflet 48 depicts the skull of a North Vietnamese soldier on the front with the text:
WAS THIS YOUR SON, HUSBAND, BROTHER, COMRADE?
This one of the more than 2000 Northern soldiers who died at Plei Me in November 1965. Many thousands have died in other battles and many thousands will continue to die if they dont come over to the South Vietnamese or allied forces. Only these will live to return home.
Theback is all text with a long message that attacks the North Vietnamese leaders who claim that there are no Northerners in the South. One of the comments is:
North Vietnams Premier Pham Van Dong declared: The so-called presence of forces of the Democratic Republicof Vietnamin South Vietnamis but a myth fabricated by the United StatesImperialists by way of justification for their war of aggression in . South Vietnam
Leaflet 49 is mentioned briefly in The declassified Command History, United States Military Assistance
, 1967: Command, Vietnam
The most effective leaflet against the infiltrator was the safe conduct pass, which was considered a kind of insurance. The campaign was best evaluated by the number of NVA soldiers persuaded to rally or accept capture rather than be killed. Some of these were probably influenced by the successful leaflet, Born in the North to Die in the South.
The leaflet depicts a dead North Vietnamese soldier on one side and text on other side. The text is:
BORN IN THE NORTH TO DIE IN THE SOUTH
Tens of thousands of families in the North no longer hear from their dead sons in the Army. THEIR SONS ARE DEAD. This is the fate of those who are sent south. Because of the overwhelming strength of the South Vietnamese Army and Allied forces, the Communist infiltrators in the South are faced with total defeat. Only those who leave the Communist ranks in time will survive to be reunited with their families in the North some day.
I had an interesting discussion with a Vietnam War veteran that thought the motto was taken by dedicated Northern troops before they headed south. I explained that it had nothing to do with the Vietnamese; it was an American PSYOP campaign. A Vietnamese added that there was a motto of interest. He said:
Some radical NVA soldiers would swear that once they go, there would be only two options: either the grass would be green on their graves or their chests would be covered with medals.
That is interesting because it is so similar to the old Spartan warrior pledge Either this or upon this, which is usually mistranslated as Either with your shield or on your shield.
A Vietnamese told me:
The fact is that NVA soldiers loved that motto too, in their way. Instead of saying born in the North to die in the South, the Vietnamese version, in fact is shorter Born in the North, die in the South. If you are a soldier spending 6 months in the Annamite range to infiltrate the South, the motto is so easy to remember - and believe me, once you say it; it's in your head forever. And after each air strike, each mountain you climbed, each comrade you buried, you would say it in your mind born in the North, die in the South. It became what you believe - your destiny! I dont believe that was the impact the U.S. wanted. I myself consider that motto is one of the most successful mottos utilized by both warring parties!
Leaflet 50 imitates a
one dong propaganda banknote. The parody bears the serial number TO309592 on the front, and shows a code "50" on the back. The message on the propaganda tab at the right front warns the Vietnamese about inflation and the loss of value of their currency: North Vietnam
Money is worth less and less. As the war goes on, there will be less and less to buy. Prices will go higher and higher. Your savings will become worthless paper.
The text on the back is:
Beware of another monetary reform such as that of 1959. You may lose all of your wealth, fruit of your sweat and tears."
The Reporter Dispatch, November 18, 1966 reported that "To cripple Communist savings, counterfeit North Vietnamese banknotes are dropped along with a message...Most are dropped in the Red River delta near Hanoi." In an East German cold-war polemic, Falschgeld als Waffen der
USA, Ostsee Zeitung, , DDR, 9 December 1981, Dr. Julius Mader reports that the first use of the banknote leaflets was August 1966, when 1.6 million leaflets were dropped. In eight airdrops between August and December 1966, 16,765,000 leaflets were dropped around Vinh, Ha Tinh, Tien Song, Nghi Loc, Linh Cam, Rostock , Tran Hoa, and Hai Phong. Hanoi
We should also mention that the
government was counterfeiting Vietnamese currency at the very same time they were preparing these propaganda leaflets. The forgeries were prepared in United States Okinawaunder the codename "Benson Silk," which was a comprehensive propaganda campaign that included the placing of false radio messages into North Vietnamese radio broadcasts and the forging of currency.
Leaflet 54 is a warning to the people of
. It depicts oil tanks burning on the front and the text: North Vietnam
This oil storage area near
has been bombed Hanoi
STAY AWAY FROM TARGETS LIKE THIS
The back is all text:
To the civilian population of
The bombing is not directed toward you.
Dont risk your life.
Stay away from all military targets such as:
Oil Tanks and other petroleum storage areas.
Bridges, highways, railroads, and waterways used to carry military supplies and troops.
Barracks, gun emplacements, all military installations, electrical power stations, and military port facilities.
Leaflet 60 is a series of different propaganda pieces that all use Red
, the Cultural Revolution or Chairman Mao as a theme. The leaflets warn the Vietnamese people of the madness going on inside China Chinaand reminds them that it could be imported to by the Communists. There are at least eight varieties coded 60A through 60H with different messages. The text of leaflet 60G is extremely long and shows a Chairman Mao on front and back. Some of the text is: Vietnam
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution
In the Peoples Republic of
Millions of youngsters swarmed the streets in practically every city of China, plastering the walls with posters, changing the names of streets, snipping off the curls of girls, attacking everything smacking of the past, and mercilessly assaulting anyone who tried to stop them. Schools have been shut, shops closed, road and rail traffic blocked and production stopped
No matter which way the wind turns in
, the Peoples Republic has definitely lost its prestige and influence in the Communist world. The left wing Depeche du Cambodge wrote in its 17 August 1966 issue: China was undergoing a domestic crisis that might raise doubts in the minds of the leaders of the non-aligned world as to the infallibility of the Chinese way of doing things. China
Under the category of themes we mentioned attacks on the Hero Emulation program that claimed the so-called heroes were actually just figments of North Vietnamese propaganda. Leaflet 66 depicts the alleged hero Nguyen Van Be reading a newspaper report about himself. The text is:
The Late Hero Nguyen Van Be reads about his own death.
The back of the leaflet explains:
A very strange story indeed.
According to the Communists, Nguyen Van Be died a glorious death in the service of the cause. Supposedly, after the Army of
Vietnam(ARVN) forces captured him, he detonated a mine killing himself and 69 Americans and Government of troops. The Communist newspapers, Radio Vietnam and Liberation Radio printed and broadcast glowing accounts of his heroic death. Poets and musicians wrote and sang of his exploits. The government built a statue in his honor. However, as you can plainly see on the other side, he is very much alive. He is shown reading about his own death in the Hanoi newspaper Tien-phong of 7 December 1966. The Communists say he chose a hero's death. He says that he never fired a shot and did not even think about exploding a mine. Hanoi
The North Vietnam Affairs Division says in its Weekly Report:
3,500,000 leaflets on the Viet Cong Martyr come to life were dropped on the Hanoi-Haiphong area on 3 April 1967. 3,000.000 Nguyen Van Be leaflets were dropped over the Red River Delta on 10 April. An unknown number of leaflets were dropped on 4 May. On 10 May another 16,500,000 Be leaflets were dropped over the area around the DMZ. On 17 May, 9,600,000 copies of leaflet 66 were dropped between the DMZ and Dong Hoi. An unknown number were dropped again in October and November.
The North Vietnam newspaper Tien Phong retaliated on 14 April 1967:
We all want to know more about this young hero, a shining example, a proud expression of our generation, a source of fear and terror for the enemy who sought all dirty means to distort the spirit of the immortal war deed.
Another newspaper reported on 9 July all the cultural activities planned in Bes name; a play, a movie and several paintings and sculptures.
Leaflet 72 is colored a bright golden yellow with the message on the front. PSYOP records indicate that 6 million copies were printed and forwarded to the flight line at Nha Trang.
50 Taels of Gold
The back is a statement by United States Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker. Some of the text is:
Helping American pilots and other
military personnel escape to freedom can bring you 50 tales of gold! U.S.
If you see an American who has parachuted to the ground or who has escaped capture do not be afraid. Approach him. Make him understand that you wish him no harm by raising your hands.
Help him in any way you can.
Hide him from hostile authorities.
Cooperate with him in finding his way to safety.
You may escape to freedom with him or return home just as you choose .
This leaflet was dropped on 13 July 1967. It was dropped again in August over the DMZ.
The Vietnamese people love long sentimental poems. As a result, there are dozens of propaganda leaflets that feature such poems in an attempt to demoralize the soldiers of the north and convince them not to travel south to their deaths. This leaflet depicts two sad North Vietnamese soldiers on the front and a happy soldier with family on the back. The poem is quite long and credited to Nguyen The
It says in part: Ky.
TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THE FRONT LINES
Dead larvae mark the passing of autumn.
The northern wind announces the changing of seasons.
Clouds cover four corners of the sky and rain is drenching everything.
Winter has come and my heart is throbbing with emotions.
I think of my friends still on the other side of the front line.
Whose clothes are in tatters, whose bodies are thin because of exposure
15,000,000 copies of Leaflet 82 were ordered in November 1967 and 6 million of these leaflets were dropped on Cambodia.
The United States spent a great deal of time and effort trying to get the Vietnamese to vote, knowing that if they elected a government they would be likely to support such a government. Leaflet 86 depicts two injured South Vietnamese citizens in the process of voting. The text says in part:
Disregarding Viet Cong terrorism the people of the free South resolutely cast their ballots to elect a government of their own choosing.
The text mentions that the voters are Mr. Huynh Tam and Mr. Tran Cu. Both men were wounded by a Viet Cong mine at polling station 19 in Phu Lam Hamlet. The leaflet adds:
Both insisted on casting their ballot after receiving first aid care for their wounds.
I chose leaflet 88 because it depicts two of the leaders of the
Republicof Vietnam, Nguyen Van Thieu and Nguyen Cao Ky.
The back of the leaflet is bordered in the yellow and three red stripes of the national flag. The text is quite long. Some of the more pertinent comments are:
DEAR COMPATRIOTS OF
On the occasion of the inauguration of the new President and Vice President of the
, the people and the government of the South send their brotherly greetings to the kith-and-kin compatriots of the North and their sincere wishes for an early return to peace in our beloved country. Republicof Vietnam
The people and government of the South have made great efforts in the past years, despite savage sabotage by the Communists, to build a democratic society in the South in which the citizens are free to make a living and to speak about their righteous aspirations.
Leaflet 89 is in the red and gold colors of the flag of the
. PSYOP records indicate that 25 million copies of this leaflet were printed in January 1968 and forwarded to Saigon, Pleiku, Bien Hoa and Can Tho. The leaflet says on the front: Republicof Vietnam
NEW SPRING GREETINGS
The message on the back is:
On this return of spring, the compatriots of South Vietnam sincerely wish their northern compatriots to see the Communist Party soon abandon its ambitions to dominate the South, so that they can welcome back to their reunited families their husbands, sons and brothers now fighting in the South.
15,000,000 copies of Leaflet 89 were ordered in November 1967 and 11 million of these leaflets were dropped on Cambodia.
The front of leaflet 97 depicts a mass of Chinese soldiers marching toward the viewer. The text first quotes a number of radio broadcasts from Red China praising the love of the Vietnamese people toward the Chinese and especially Chairman Mao. It then goes on to counter the propaganda. Some of the text is:
He Brought a Snake Home to eat his People's Chickens.
Over the centuries,
Chinahas invaded and enslaved . This is the country that claims you have boundless love for its leaders. The Vietnamese Communist Party, which is Chinese-controlled and follows the bidding of its Chinese masters was responsible for the Tet offensive in the south that cost more than forty-thousand Vietnamese lives on both sides. Was it Chairmans Maos thought that made all this possible? Vietnam
The dragon on your border is supplying you with arms, men and thought to kill more Vietnamese. Does this really evoke your boundless love?
Leaflet 98 is interesting because the vignette showing a South Vietnamese Army soldier with his arm around a Viet Cong defector is from the standard Vietnam Allied Flag Safe Conduct Pass. This pass was produced in versions depicting one flag, five flags and seven flags as well as with the portrait of various leaders. The text to the right of the vignette in the leaflet is:
This passport is valid and can be turned in through all government agencies and allied forces.
Leaflet 100 is an oversized full-color leaflet that depicts five photographs on the front and back and shows the prosperity of
with happy people, well stocked stores, and heaps of bread and vegetables. PSYOP records indicate that 10 million copies of this leaflet were prepared in December 1967 and forwarded to South Vietnam Saigon. The text goes on to point out how prosperous the south is compared to the north. Some of the text is:
Almost everyone in the south has their own means of transportation.
The cities are crowded with heavy traffic. The tall buildings spring up like mushrooms.
reject Communist rule? South Viet Nam
Because under the free Democratic regime of the
the southern people live in peace and prosperity. Republicof Viet Nam
It is interesting to note that this was one of the leaflets discussed in the Pacific Technical Analysis 1969 booklet Pretesting PSYOPS Leaflets in Vietnam. Some of the comments about this leaflet are:
A new leaflet, on the theme the Government of Vietnam image, intended for us on persons in GVN-controlled areas (persons potentially friendly), was pretested in 21 inhabitants of Viet Cong-infiltrated urban fringe areas in Gia Dinh Province. They rated leaflet 100 as very good.
The leaflet was then tested on 20 South Vietnamese former Viet Cong (known as hoi chanh) and again the leaflet tested very good.
Courtesy of Major Hammond Salley
This is another rare full-color leaflet that depicts workers and industry in South Vietnam. The text is:
South Vietnam has no need for anyone to liberate her. She is working to liberate herself from poverty and backwardness.
Improvements in the countryside: Brick and tile houses replace thatch huts.
Industry is developed: Many modern textile plants are built throughout the country.
Commerce is expanded: The port of Saigon is crowded day and night with international cargo ships.
The other side says:
Life in South Vietnam
Small industries and handicrafts vigorously develop.
The branches manufacturing headwear
and clothing is serving our ever-growing clientele.
The branch manufacturing sandals and wooden shoes turns out improved products to the satisfaction of a large clientele both at home and abroad.
This is another full color leaflet; quite a rarity when most of the leaflets in Vietnam were either black and white or with perhaps a single color like red or green to catch the attention of the target audience. Once again, this leaflet is designed to tempt the North Vietnamese with the knowledge of the wonderful life lived by those citizens in the South. The text is:
In the Free South the people are well off and there is no rationing.
Rice, Meat, Nuoc Mam
Everyone can afford sufficient food. Food is cheap and plentiful.
Text on the back is:
In the Free South the people are well-off. There is no rationing.
Both cloth and read- made clothes are plentiful.
Everyone can buy what he needs for himself and his family
This leaflet was brought back by Master Sergeant Garry Arndt USAF (Ret.). He was a loadmaster assigned to the 7th Aerial Port Squadron at Naha Air Force Base, Okinawa, in 1967-1968. He told me:
We all carried Blanket" orders that allowed us to fly Anywhere, Anytime and on Anything in the Pacific Theater. Some leaflet missions were loaded at Naha and others were loaded at Ubon Royal Thai Air Base. I heard that we were escorted over the North. Supposedly, we had a Command & Control bird above us, a refueler for the fighters that escorted us, and allegedly there were at least four fighter / bombers with us. I dont think I ever saw any of them. We never drew fire that I am aware of. Air Force freight crews brought and helped load the plane. I was told was that when we pushed the boxes out the ramp the pilot and navigator had to know the wind direction.
Leaflet 116 is printed in blue on the front and depicts a peaceful scene of farm life in
. A farmer sits on a water buffalo. Homes and a small fishing boat are in the background. There is a long poem on the back. We translate the first and last stanza: North Vietnam
Bring back the peace of yesteryear
The early morning bursts with streaks of red.
The evening rain drops crystal droplets.
The gusting breeze softly sings a lullaby.
The mist lingers by the river side.
Bring back peace to our country.
Return the old happiness to the people.
Don't send Northern lives to die in the South.
What victory is this? We see only slow death.
Leaflet 119 is all text and not one I would normally depict, but it is interesting because it calls the leaders of
liars. The text is: North Vietnam
Where are yor loved ones now?
Representatives of the
North Vietnamregime participating in the official talks at Pariswith representatives have announced to the world press that there are no Northern troops in the south. U. S.
Do you believe that?
Where have your husbands, brothers, sons, relatives, and friends disappeared to?
If they are not in the South, what have the cadres done with them?
Ask the cadres where they are now.
Why continue to allow your loved ones to go to the South to sacrifice themselves for a regime that will not even acknowledge their whereabouts?
This leaflet depicts a peaceful Vietnam scene. The text is interesting because it offers a carrot and a stick. No bombing to areas that are good, B-52s where the areas are bad. The text on the front is:
To Our Beloved Compatriots in the North
The bombing halt north of Thanh Hoa Province is an action to prove the peaceful goodwill of the Government of Vietnam and its allies. The bombing in Thanh Hoa Province in Vinh Linh still continues because the Lao Dong Party continues to send troops and weapons to the South.
Leaflet 122 is an all-text leaflet but interesting because it mentions
THE BOMBING CAN STOP
On March 31 President Johnson said Tonight I have ordered our aircraft and naval vessels to make no attacks on
except where the continuing enemy build-up directly threatens Allied forward positions and where the movement of their troops and supplies are clearly related to this threat. North Vietnam
Even this very limited bombing of the North could come to an early end if our restraint is matched by restraint in
Whether a complete bombing halt becomes possible in the future will be determined by events. Hanoi
Leaflet 124 depicts a Viet Cong Colonel on the front and the text which says in part:
Viet Cong Colonel admits communists suffered bitter defeat.
Colonel Tran Van Dac infiltrated into
with regular North Vietnamese Army units in March 1962. He commanded some of the Communist units that attacked South Vietnam Saigonat Tet. Rather than lead his men in further suicidal attacks, he rallied to the national cause of 19 April 1968.
There are two photographs on the back depicting a number of Prisoners of war and text which states in part:
Lao Dong Lies
The Lao Dong Party is trying to conquer by force. To hide its failures and delude the people, it has falsely been claiming great victories in the South.
The photo shows 121 communist soldiers who surrendered in the Gia Dinh area of
Saigonon 18 June 68. The 121 are all that remained of the Quyet Thang Regiment that now has ceased to exist. 57 of the 121 were soldiers of the North Vietnamese Army.
Leaflet 127 is colored bright red on the front and contains three photographs. The text says in part:
The Black Panthers arrive
To help the South Vietnamese people defend against the aggression from the North led by the Communist regime in Hanoi, Thailands Black Panther Division began arriving in Saigon in July 1968.
The back is in black and white and depicts three pictures of Thai soldiers meeting with the people of
. The text is: South Vietnam
THAI SOLDIERS ASSIST THE SOUTH VIETNAMESE IN
A Thai soldier is introduced to a Vietnamese family by Pham Troung Thang, a former Communist soldier who rallied to the national cause.
A Thai soldier has found a little friend at a playground built by Thai troops.
The South Vietnamese actively help the Thai soldiers by informing on the Communist aggressors.
We mentioned Nguyen earlier in this story. He appears once again on leaflet 131. He is depicted meeting an old friend. The text is:
Nguyen Van Be and Platoon Leader Nho.
This photo, take in Saigon in July 1968, shows (on left) Tran Huy Nho, of Viet Yen, Ha Bac, leader of Platoon 1-C2, 2nd Battalion, Quyet Thang Regiment, who rallied to the national cause at Gia Dinh, near Saigon, 18 June 1968. Platoon leader Nho and 54 NVA soldiers who rallied at the same time have addressed a letter to President Ho expressing sorrow that they had been misled by Lao Dong propaganda and stating that, in reality, the South is free, independent and more prosperous than the North. Platoon leader Nho was surprised to find that Nguyen Van Be, with whom he is shown chatting, is alive and well and a supporter of the national cause. Nho now understands that Lao Dong propagandists invented the story of Be's martyrdom for the purpose of encouraging other soldiers to sacrifice themselves.
The back of the leaflet depicts Be showing a group of Vietnamese the newspaper that told of his heroic death. The text is:
Nguyen Van Be Exposes Lao Dong Propaganda. Two years ago Lao Dong propagandists were seeking ways to encourage young men to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the Party. Believing Nguyen Van Be had been killed at the Cai Beo Canal, they invented s story saying that he had been captured, tortured, and had killed himself and 69 allied soldiers by exploding a detonator against an armored vehicle. Even when it was revealed that be was alive and their story false, they insisted he was dead to cover their embarrassment. Nguyen Van Be is shown in the photo exposing the Lao Dong lie to some members of the Quyet Thang Regiment who rallied near Saigon on 18 June 1968.
Leaflet 140 depicts two photos on the front and two on the back. The front has four news stories as does the back. The text is long so we will just quote the titles of the stories:
Saigon proposes postwar exchanges
Farmers receive land grants
Hopes for serious moves toward peace
New type of store
Prepared to stop bombing
New vegetable program
Civilian self-defense corps
We should note that something strange happened starting with leaflet 140. Instead of each leaflet being different, all of the leaflets became Ban Tin Tuc (News Bulletin) starting with number 500. The leaflets still had their old number at the lower right, but now also bore a News Bulletin number. As a result, Bulletin 504 is also leaflet number 144, etc. Apparently it was believed that the peace talks and American pull-out would go smoothly and there was no more need for more aggressive leaflets.
There was one exception. Leaflet 149 was a Contingency leaflet dated June 1969 that was for use in Vietnam in the event that leaflet operations were resumed there. The message stated that the North Vietnamese had walked away from the peace talks and the war would resume. The leaflet was to be kept in stock by MACV Operations until needed.
The last official leaflet dropped during the North Vietnam Campaign was News Bulletin 510, Leaflet number 151. It has three stories on the front and three on the back. They are:
President Thieu announces RVN troops to replace 25,000 U.S. troops
US Artillery transferred to RVN troops
Results of RVN elections
The Chieu Hoi program receives its 100,000th rallier
Saigons port is the busiest in SE Asia
Communist food and arms found near Khe Sanh
I mentioned at the start of this article that all the leaflets dropped up North were numbered from 1 to 151. So, why then do I show leaflet X-3? The X series has a very interesting background. American PSYOP troops were pressed to get the most bang for the buck; that is, the most leaflets possible printed on a standard printing sheet. The leaflets were often mixed so there could be leaflets of different sizes and languages on a sheet, anywhere from a dozen to perhaps several dozen. There would always be some blank spots. In order not to waste an inch of the paper, a series of small and different sixed X leaflets were prepared and actually called scrap or waste. They were to be fitted wherever possible on a sheet and sent along with any leaflets to be dropped on a mission. I have seen about six different ones and most mention the Paris Peace talks or the peoples demand for peace. All of the leaflets seem to be either 6 x 2-inches or 4 x 2-inches in size. This leaflet was in a group of about 20 North Vietnam PSYOP campaign leaflets sent to me by an Air Force veteran who flew the missions. Clearly, it was dropped over the North. The text on the front this scrap leaflet is:
WHERE IS THE TRUTH?
For so many years the people of the North have listened only through the ears of the Party and seen only through the eyes of the Party.
In that case, how can they know the things that they want to know?
If you want to know the real truth, to hear news, both good and bad, about the Vietnam conflict and the world situation, listen to:
THE VOICE OF FREEDOM
The text on the back is:
VOICE OF FREEDOM
Daily broadcasts, Hanoi time:
Vietnamese language: On 650 KHZ from midnight to 7:00 a.m. and on 650 KHZ and 9670 KHZ from 1:00 p.m. to midnight.
Cantonese language: On 9580 KHZ from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Was there a possibility that the American bombing and leafleting of
could have forced the Communist government to the peace table? That question has been argued for three decades and the answer is probably no. As many American leaflets stated, Ho Chi Minh was willing to fight for 100 years and it was clear that the North Vietnam was not. The concept is discussed in a 3 August 1995 interview by Stephen Young in The Wall Street Journal entitled How United States Won The War. The author interviews Bui Tin, a former colonel who served on the general staff of North Vietnam North Vietnam's army and received the unconditional surrender of on 30 April 1975. He later became editor of the People's Daily, the official newspaper of South Vietnam : Vietnam
Q: What of American bombing of
? North Vietnam
A: If all the bombing had been concentrated at one time, it would have hurt our efforts. But the bombing was expanded in slow stages under Johnson and it didn't worry us. We had plenty of time to prepare alternative routes and facilities. We always had stockpiles of rice ready to feed the people for months if a harvest were damaged. The Soviets bought rice from
for us. Thailand
North Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap told historian
Karnow in a 1990 interview that the war was a psychological one: Stanley
We were not strong enough to drive out a half-million American troops, but that wasn't our aim. Our intention was to break the will of the American government to continue the war.
In 1975, Army Colonel Harry Summers went to
Hanoias chief of the delegation's negotiation team for the four-party military talks that followed the collapse of the South Vietnamese government. While there, he spent some time chatting with his North Vietnamese counterpart, Colonel Tu, an old soldier who had fought against the U.S. . Summers told Tu: United States
You know, you never defeated us on the battlefield.
Tu replied, in a phrase that perfectly captured the American misunderstanding of the Vietnam War:
That may be so, but it is also irrelevant.
The bottom line would seem to be that in the Vietnam War the will of the people of
North Vietnamwas greater than the modern weapons and industrial strength of the . Their internal PSYOP told them daily that they were fighting a war of liberation to free their comrades in the south from foreign domination. American propaganda leaflets and radio told them that they were not wanted in the peaceful and bountiful south and were instead interlopers and terrorists killing women and children. They had Ho Chi Minh, the old revolutionary who had defeated the Japanese and the French; the Americans had a foreign presence and a succession of South Vietnamese presidents who appeared to be tools of the West. Their propaganda was everywhere, seen and heard day and night; American propaganda was curtailed by the control of radios in the north and the ability to send out teams to pick up and destroy airdropped leaflets immediately after a raid. They emptied their major cities of old people, children and non-essential workers cutting the population of United States Hanoiand in half. They decentralized their industry, moving entire factories to huts and caves. Like the people of Haiphong Londonduring the Blitz they endured, believing that the United Stateswould eventually weary of the cost of the war and the loss of air crews that were shot down over . They turned out to be correct. As General Giap forecast, they broke the will of the American government to continue the war. North Vietnam
The Most Famous Urban Legend of the Vietnam War.
I would be remiss if I did not mention a very famous alleged quote by North Vietnam military leader General Vo Nguyen Giap on the subject of the bombing of North Vietnam. I have heard several variations of this urban legend, which claims that Giap wrote it in either a 1976 book entitled: How We Won the War, or in a Vietnamese-language 1985 memoir. In some versions John Kerry and the Vietnam Veterans Against the War are mentioned; in others the Democrats or anti-War demonstrations are blamed.
What we still don't understand is why you Americans stopped the bombing of Hanoi. You had us on the ropes. If you had pressed us a little harder, just for another day or two, we were ready to surrender! It was the same at the battles of TET. You defeated us! We knew it, and we thought you knew it. But we were elated to notice your media was definitely helping us. They were causing more disruption in America than we could in the battlefields. We were ready to surrender. You had won!
The quote actually came from Sir Robert Thompson, the noted British counterinsurgency expert, and first appeared in the book: The Lessons of Vietnam edited by W. Scott Thompson and Donaldson D. Frizzell. The comment was made by Thompson in a discussion panel held at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and was later transcribed and printed in the 1977 book.
Vietnamese experts have all stated that Giap would have never implied in any manner that the North might have lost the war. They always believed they were destined to liberate the south and make Vietnam one nation.
This article is just a brief look at the three-year PSYOP campaign carried out against
from 1965 to 1968. It is not a history of Operation Rolling Thunder. We have selected and depicted a few leaflets that were particularly interesting. If any of our readers have additional leaflets that they think should be included in this article, they are encouraged to send them to the author. We are also interested in hearing personal narrations of their operations up north from our readers. You are invited to write to the author at email@example.com. North Vietnam