SGM Herb Friedman (Ret.)
Note: Images from this article were used with permission in the Carl R. ToersBijns book: Combat Medic: Men with Destiny - A Red Cross of Valor.
Marine Corporal Tim Duffie, Lai Phuoc Hamlet,
Trieu Ai Village, Quang Tri Province, Vietnam, 1967.
When we talk about psychological operations (PSYOP) we tend to think of leaflets warning the enemy of coming military disasters, demanding surrender, offering rewards for weapons, or showing gruesome photographs of dead bodies. Although it is true that such types of propaganda leaflets and posters are printed and disseminated there is another type that is seldom mentioned and hardly ever depicted. These are the leaflets that are designed to help the friendly population of an Allied nation or people live safely in their environment. These leaflets will teach cleanliness, explain how to cook foods, talk about the importance of inoculations and generally help to make the quality of life of a friendly population better. This is the side of PSYOP that is seldom mentioned, the attempt by the United States military to help its friends live a better and healthier life. PSYOP troops should be proud of these leaflets. They are not meant to threaten or terrorize the enemy; instead, they are meant to help the friendly target audience live a longer and healthier life.
In every war that the United States takes part in PSYOP units are tasked with the responsibility of preparing small wallet cards for the troops telling them how to interact with the local population, understand local customs, treat prisoners-of-war and understand the rules of engagement. In 2012, I received a request from an officer instructing military advisor teams deploying to Afghanistan. He wanted to inculcate an attitude of respect between the advisors and advisees in his classes and show that respect for host nation people and personnel is not a new thing. I forwarded him this Nine Rules card which was distributed to troops in Vietnam in an attempt to win hearts and minds.
In order to help American troops deal with the local population the government often printed booklets or Pointee-Talkie cards that have a number of needed phrases in both English and the local language. They can be used by simply pointing to the appropriate phrase and letting the Vietnamese read it in his own language. Above is an eight-fold accordion Department of Defense Pointe-Talkie card that an American service member can use to make himself understood to a Vietnamese he is attempting to help or question.
The Marines were also issued a phrasebook with about a dozen pages of terms, sentences, numbers and all the things that would help their survival in country. My favorite phrase is Where are the booby traps? (Nyoong by no uh dow?).
Vietnam Combat Phrase Book
Of course, many troops or their families would buy phrase books so that life in Vietnam would be just a bit easier. This phrase book was sold for a quarter in California.
The Pocket Guide to Vietnam
The PG-21A Pocket Guide to Vietnam was one of a series of guidebooks produced by the United States Department of Defense for American servicemen stationed overseas during the Vietnam War period. It was designed to lessen the culture shock; a remarkably compact and surprisingly timeless crash course in Vietnamese culture for visitors to that foreign land. The tiny handbook was 94 pages in all with chapters on such subjects as: The country; 2,000 years of history; at home with the Vietnamese; and a language guide. There were also color charts of the ranks of the Vietnamese Army, Navy and Air Force.
Corpsman checks to see who is next during MEDCAP visit
These leaflets first became common during the Vietnam War. They have been used by the
military in almost every war since. Many were combined with military and civilian action programs such as the Medical Civic Action Program (MEDCAP) and the Dental Civic Action Program (DENTCAP). There were other programs organized and run by government and civilian agencies, but every one was aimed at helping the Vietnamese people. We should point out that all of the services, and especially the U.S. Marines were heavily involved with these programs to help the Vietnamese people. American medical aid programs began in the early years of support in United States . As the Vietnam military commitment grew throughout the 1960's, new and expanded programs were developed. Some of the programs were: US
The Provincial Health Assistance Program (PHAP). A major objective of PHAP was to improve the training of Vietnamese physicians, nurses, and medical technicians and to expand and improve Vietnamese hospitals and dispensaries and eradicate malaria.
The Military Provincial Health Assistance Program (MILPHAP). The increase in military medical resources which accompanied the buildup of
combat troops in 1965 permitted an expansion of the effort to improve the health of Vietnamese civilians. The first MILPHAP teams went into operation in US in November 1965. Each team was composed of three physicians, one medical administrative officer, and 12 enlisted technicians. A MILPHAP team was assigned to a Vietnamese provincial hospital where its work was under the supervision of the provincial chief of medicine. By the end of 1970, teams were assigned to 25 of the 44 provinces. A major objective of MILPHAP was to improve the medical skills of the Vietnamese. Vietnam
The Medical Civic Action Program (MEDCAP). This program began operation under the auspices of the Department of the Army in January 1963. The primary objective of MEDCAP was to provide increased outpatient care for Vietnamese civilians living in rural areas. American and Vietnamese military medical personnel were used in the program, a major goal of which was to increase mutual respect and cooperation between the military forces and the civilian population. The MEDCAP teams normally traveled to hamlets and villages with their Vietnamese Army counterparts and established temporary health stations, of dispensary size to provide medical care for the inhabitants. Through the operation of these teams, Vietnamese medical personnel were also trained in medical techniques. The extent of the MEDCAP program in
was remarkable. Both American and Free World forces participated in it, often, on a volunteer basis. On many occasions, US medical personnel devoted their free time to MEDCAP activities. Vietnam
A medical assistant treats a child under the Medical Civic Action Program (MEDCAP)
The Medical Civic Action Program treated more than 40 million Vietnamese civilians. Between 500 million and 750 million dollars were expended in the programs. Medicine became part of the civic action program intended to win the hearts and minds of the populace. The
conflict extensively demonstrated this use of medical care. In addition, US dental and veterinary military personnel participated in the MEDCAP program with equally gratifying results. The dental contribution to the program is often termed "DENTCAP." During the 1967 to 1968 period dental treatments under the program averaged approximately 15,000 per month. Vietnam
50,000 copies of this leaflet were prepared by the 246th PSYOP Company in early 1946 targeting civilians and Viet Cong to tell them about the MEDCAP program. The text is:
American doctors and medical teams help the Government of Vietnam improve the health of the Vietnamese people. Better health means a better life.
Supporting the Government of Vietnams efforts to improve the health of the people, American doctors give attention to childrens diseases and ailments. This child received expert treatment at Lai Thieu for a skin disease.
Medicine Envelope 246-279
These envelopes were printed as needed usually about 10,000 at a time. When Vietnamese civilians attended a MEDCAP, the pills would be placed in an envelope that had propaganda messages on the front and back. In this case the messages are:
The American forces are here to assist the Government of Vietnam in improving the health of the people. One way in which they do this is be sending medical civic action teams of doctors and medics to various villages throughout the country, so that as many people as possible have a chance to be examined and treated. Your Government is concerned about your health and welfare.
A Better Life through Better Health!
You have just been treated by an Allied Forces Medical Civic Action Team. Inside this envelope is your medicine as prescribed by the doctor. Follow the doctors instructions carefully.
Do these various programs assist our psychological operations? The answer is an unqualified yes. A Military Assistance Command
(MACV) document dated 11 October 1967 and entitled Medical Civic Action Program says: Vietnam
Naturally, the primary benefit from MEDCAP is psychological rather than medical. We are providing proof to the people in the rural areas that their government is interested in their health and is doing something about it. This interest is expressed in the action that they see, hear about from others and benefit from regardless of their political thoughts. We are able to influence their thinking toward their government much more through these deeds than through pure propaganda The prime psychological benefit devised here is that it makes the presence of the Free World units more acceptable to the local population when they see a demonstration that our concern for them extends beyond their politics .
The Civilian War Casualty Program (CWCP). As the tempo of the war increased in 1967, the growing problem of civilian war casualties called for new efforts. Estimates of 50,000 such casualties a year indicated that existing Vietnamese medical resources would be overwhelmed in providing care for these victims. A temporary allocation of 300 beds in US Army hospitals in
was made, with this number increased to 400 in December 1967. Three Army hospitals, the 27th Surgical at Vietnam ChuLai, the 95th Evacuation at DA Nang, and the 29th Evacuation at Can Tho, with a total bed capacity of 1,100, were then designated as CWCP hospitals. American military medical personnel were assigned to the program and plans were made for additional hospital construction.
The enemy knew of these programs and they did not like them. A captured Viet Cong 6-page document from their Security Department dated 27 October 1966, and entitled Flash Circular discusses a 19 October 1966 sweep in My Quy village. It shows that the VC were watching closely. Some of the comments are:
The people were given medicine and clothes The enemy behaved kindly to the people to win their hearts. They carried the children in their arms, washed and changed their clothes They told the people to take as much medicine as they needed Those who were wounded were given thorough medical treatment At night, they sprayed insecticide throughout the school against mosquitoes they also propagandized that after medical treatment the people could live wherever they wanted.
We realized that because did not enthusiastically help the people when they were sick or wounded the enemy could easily move in and take advantage of them The enemys actions were dishonest but they influenced the peoples spirit The people did not understand the enemys scheme. They took American gifts with them to the village. They unintentionally propagandized that the Americans are kind.
The American troops are our enemy. They behaved kindly to us in order to take advantage of us and to win our heart.
A number of leaflets and posters were prepared for use with the various support programs for the Vietnamese people. Most of them are categorized under theme number 3 - Revolutionary Development; some of the others that involve minor construction fall under theme number 4 Community Development.
This leaflet depicts the symbol of the Combined Action program and explains it's working to the Vietnamese on the back. The text is:
The Combined Action Platoon is here to help the people.
The back of the leaflet is all text:
The Combined Action Platoon is here to help you. But they can only accomplish their duty with your sincere assistance.
The blood-thirsty communists have been waging a war against the people of
. They are carrying out acts of assassination, kidnapping, theft of your daily supplies and destruction of your property. Besides those acts, they force the people to hide their possessions inside their homes. South Viet Nam
Whenever those marauding enemies are in the village, or when you know where they are at, notify the army at once so they can be apprehended and destroyed lest they cause horrible acts to the people and your dear relatives.
Being so fortunate as to live under the protection of the army, you have the duty to report to the army the movement or the presence of the enemy within your village.
The God Fathers of Baby Lanh
PFC Mike Smith and CPL Rick Moore, 1970
Private First Class Mike Smith and Corporal Rick Moore were both young members of United States Marines Combined Action Platoon (CAP) 4-3-2, in the villages of Linh Ahn and Long Quan in Quang Tri Province. It was April 1970; their Corpsmen (a highly-skilled Navy medical specialist attached to the Marines) were in the rear getting resupplied and the rest of the platoon was out on day patrol. The two men were left back to watch the unit gear. The CAP carried everything it needed on patrols, and somebody always had to be left back to make sure that nothing was liberated.
Suddenly, a very pregnant Vietnamese woman appeared. She needed help and she needed it quickly. Mike Smith told me:
We were in a situation in which we had no frigging idea what to do, but we had to do something. We fought back the panic simply because there was no alternative. The dirt floor in the hootch, the blood, the delivery, the knife slicing through the placenta, the smell of abject fear, no time to think, all contributed to my filing this memory in the forget it file. Our minds were racing far ahead of our actions. As Rick pulled his K-bar out of the sheath, I somehow knew that we would need something with which to tie the cord. The thing that jumped to my mind was the ties on my poncho liner. I tore out of the hootch, grabbed my poncho liner, cut off the tie, and was back in the hootch in about 3 seconds.
I remember now that when it was over, I could hear the silence roaring in my ears. Coming down off of an adrenaline rush, finally taking a breath, exhaling for what must have been an hour; all those are the same feelings as when you realize you have cheated Death.
Rick Moore with children of CAP 4-3-2
Rick Moore added:
The other Marines in our CAP couldn't believe what we had done when they returned to the village from patrols. We made good use of my K-bar and Mike used a piece of cord from his poncho liner. Improvising at its best! Smitty and I are still amazed at what we did that day 37 years ago.
The Mamasan worked the rice paddies the next morning with Lanh tied to her stomach.
I'll never forget the feelings of total fear and overwhelming joy as I placed little Lanh in her mothers arms. And, the look on Mikes face when it was over was priceless.
[Note] A Combined Action Platoon was a squad of Marines who were assigned to defend a group of small South Vietnamese villages. Their job was Vietnamization, the winning of hearts and minds of South Vietnamese civilians, and the training of South Vietnamese military forces. They lived in the villages and hamlets 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year and interacted with the South Vietnamese on a daily basis. It might be said that their lives depended on interaction with the people of
. South Vietnam
The highest ranking Marine in a CAP was an E-5 Sergeant. As CAP commanders, these Sergeants were responsible for not only the lives of their men, but also for all of the activities involved in winning hearts and minds. Their Corpsmen, always known as Doc, provided medical care for the civilians as well as the Marines.
Mike Smith said:
We dug wells and built schools, but mostly we defended the villages from acts of terrorism. The North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong regularly used torture, rape, and murder to intimidate the villagers. They came in the night to hold indoctrination classes for the villagers. These indoctrination classes often consisted of gathering all the citizens of a village to watch the public gang rape of the wives and daughters of unfriendly civic leaders. Sometimes the civic leaders were beheaded. Sometimes the villages were burned. Sometimes the young men were kidnapped and conscripted into the Communist army. Sometimes the right hand of every man, woman, and child was chopped off. Middle Eastern terrorists have nothing on Communist terrorists.
Helping the children
Public Affairs Office (JUSPAO) defines Revolutionary Development in their Policy Guidance 24 dated October 1966. United States
The Revolutionary Development program of the Government of
Vietnamaims primarily at radically improving the social, economic and political condition of the peasants who represent 80% of s population. It seeks to bridge the bamboo hedge that has always kept the village isolated from a distant and at best indifferent central government by showing the peasants that the government is now willing and able to help them help themselves Vietnam
We should describe successful self-help projects, moves to increase agricultural productivity, the direct local impact of Vietnamese / United States supported air projects on the rural population; and the steps toward better living conditions in the countryside taken under the RD program
There is a continuous flow of posters, leaflets and photo inserts of RD themes for national distribution. JUSPAO and individual field representatives also produce targeted material for local distribution .
LEAFLETS AND POSTERS
Perhaps the greatest number of leaflets of this type shows Allied medic personnel treating Vietnamese adults and children. Leaflet 10-91-68 was produced by the 10th PSYOP Battalion and depicts an American medic bandaging the head of a Vietnamese child held by its mother. The text beneath the picture is:
The Government is looking after the peoples health in Song-Ong-Doc District.
The back is a long all-text message. Some of the comments are:
The American Vietnamese medical section looks after the peoples health in Song Ong Doc District. The treatment and medicine is free
They cure and provide medicine at the peoples home, give instructions and encourage people to practice personal hygiene in order to keep their good health and avoid dangerous diseases
These people are always ready to help you. If you get sick, dont hesitate, come and allow them to cure you.
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 Viet Cong-infiltrated and Viet Cong-controlled areas in III Corps, was pretested on 20 South Vietnamese Hoi Chanh (defectors from the Viet Cong). They rated leaflet 10-91-68 as just fair.
The 25th Infantry Division Tropic Lightning News of 15 June 1970 mentions a MEDCAP mission:
Major Bobby L. Rice, executive officer of the 1st Battalion, 8th Artillery, explained the purpose of the MEDCAP to the village elders in French. Then he began passing out candy to the children to interest them in the project.
Soon the patients began to trickle in - a girl with a scraped knee, a boy with stomach trouble, a baby with an infection. As a doctor, I do not see much difference in the Cambodian MEDCAPS from those in
Vietnam, observed 25th Division Artillery surgeon, Captain Charles R. Lyons Jr. Ulcerated skin infections are the most common ailment in both places and the children always seem to have a lot more trouble with infections.
Fleming added that the villagers showed their appreciation for the doctors efforts. One of the local boys climbed a coconut tree and pulled off a dozen or so. After testing each for milk, the villagers presented all the good ones to the medics.
First aid for an injured foot
The 9th Infantry Division also discussed such operations:
A new concept recently developed within the division is the DENTCAP. In this program an American dental team with an interpreter visits the remote areas where people have never seen a dentist and know little about oral hygiene. The teams do what they can to improve the dental health of the people and disseminate facts about dental care.
NIGHTCAPS are another relatively new concept in civil affairs. This is essentially a MEDCAP except the team moves into the area in the afternoon, treats those in need of attention and then spends the night with the people to win their confidence. Often a movie projector is taken on the NIGHTCAP and movies are shown to the people after dark.
The division has also sponsored an active program to repair and construct facilities in neighboring cities and hamlets. Many new schools, churches, orphanages, bridges and roads have been constructed through the joint effort of the Americans and Vietnamese. Using material and advice from the Americans, the Vietnamese demonstrate their energy and ingenuity in project after project throughout the Delta.
Author's Note: Jimmie Gonzalez was in 41st Civil Affairs in Pleiku. He usually worked in 2 or 3 man teams. When we talked about movies, he told me his own favorite story about such an occasion:
Our PSYOP support consisted of one grizzled old guy, a Sergeant First Class. Since I was the language and intelligence guy I went out with him a few times to show movies. He would usually go out on his own. One of the times I was with him he decided to wait for darkness to show a movie. Just after he started showing 3 armed Viet Cong came in and watched the movie from the back of the crowd. When I finally asked if he was aware of them, he very nonchalantly said, Oh yeah, they do it all the time. Afterwards we got on Highway 1 and drove without lights back to Pleiku.
"Doc" Paul Marling
Doc Paul Marling, Platoon Medic of Delta Company, 1/12th Cavalry recalls his MEDCAP experiences:
We went to the same village on three different occasions. I dont recall its name, but it was north of
TayNinh. At first no one approached us. Finally, a young boy who may have been eight or nine years old came to me with a tooth ache. I rubbed some oral-gel on his gum and sent him away with a small tube and a smile. Soon I think every kid within 2 miles was there ALL complaining of a toothache and wanting some of the soothing gel. That was about all we saw on the first visit, just kids, most of which were fairly healthy.
We returned a second time and set up once again in the center of the village. The kids of course were back but now the elders of the village also came to see us. They were suffering from a variety of ailments more associated with their age and diet than anything else. We pulled a few teeth, treated some sores and rashes, and dispensed some antibiotics and vitamins. It felt nice to be doing something in
without getting my hands and clothes covered in blood. Vietnam
On our third visit there was a line waiting to see us; young, old, and now some of those in-between. We treated some recent gunshot wounds and many had the scars of past wounds. Of course, they all claimed that the wounds were from the Viet Cong. We treated all who came to us.
I still remember the last person I treated in
. He was a young boy of eight or nine. He had stepped on a mine and his leg was almost completely blown off. I cradled him in my arms and once again my hands and clothes were covered in blood. Vietnam
PFC Howard Beck on Guard
Marine Howard Beck of Company A, 1st Anti-Tank Battalion, 1st Marine Division, Talks about his assigned duties as a typical private. He says:
Besides my normal headquarters duties I went on ambush patrols, blocking force for operations, perimeter guard and anything else they wanted me to do. Trash runs, mess duty for a month, fill the Water Buffalo, empty the heads...you name it and I did it.
Above, he guards a Doctor and a Corpsman during a MEDCAP in October 1966 while they give medical aid to Vietnamese children at a local school. He says in regard to the humanitarian service:
We were in Chu Lai the first part of the month and in Da Nang the second part. We did our medical treatment at a school in An Tan Hamlet in Chu Lai. We did not treat major injuries. I think we mostly did just basic services for the kids. I was outside on guard most of the time and did not get to see what kind of treatment was delivered by our medical people. I know they were happy to see us. Our Command Chronology says, From 1 to 17 October the 1st anti-tank Battalion was involved with numerous MEDCAPS in the Chu Lai Tactical Area of Operational Responsibility. Approximately 150 persons were treated by the Battalion Medical Officer and his Corpsman.
Not only did the Americans provide medical aid, they also taught the Vietnamese how to treat themselves in an emergency. Handout 1663 explains cardiopulmonary respiration and other medical emergencies and explains first aid techniques. Some of the text is:
FIRST AID INSTRUCTIONS
This handout contains instructions on first aid procedures and also a chart of injury, symptoms, and treatment for twenty different injuries.
Retired U.S. Army Captain Thomas Chorba Sr. recalls:
I remember the Civil Action Program teams and the good things they did. I was with Military Assistance Command
in Quang Tri city. Our Advisory Team coordinated many civic functions with the G5 of the 3rd Vietnam Marine Division at Dong Ha. While we did not have any CAP teams per se, the U.S. Navy had a Military Provincial Health Assistance Program (MILPHAP) team based at Camp Kilroy, whose sole mission was to provide the civilian populace with free medical and surgical care at the Quang Tri City Hospital. Each of our five District Senior Advisors had a medical person on their staff, and the seven US MobileAdvisory Teams (MAT) that served at the hamlet level with the indigenous popular forces also had a medic assigned.
Retired Lieutenant Colonel Joe Meissner of the 5th Special Forces remembers a four-vehicle convoy visiting a Montagnard village in the foothills near Pleiku:
As we approached an old ruined church, a large group of people were waiting there to meet us. The main reason for their presence was the medical team that accompanied us and whose assistance had been promised in advance. After halting our vehicles and setting up a perimeter guard, the medical team set up their clinic. Women, holding crying babies in their arms, small children, and elderly men with wisps of white whiskers all lined up to see the doc.
Two hours later the MEDCAP was completed. Many of the villagers came up to us, smiling and thanking us for coming. Basic medical care had been provided to all who asked, from passing out pills to cleaning infections, from bandaging wounds to providing physical examinations.
Leaflets 1747, 1748, 1749
In general I do not like to depict all-text leaflets because I believe the reader deserves to see interesting images. However, each of these American JUSPAO leaflets in a series discusses a health issue so I thought I would make an exception and show them.
Leaflet 1747 Asks, Are you drinking polluted water? Three million of these leaflets were disseminated nationwide. The text on the front and back is:
Are you drinking polluted water?
Just one of the diseases you can get from polluted water is typhoid. Do you have these symptoms: Headache; stomach ache; nausea; blurry vision or weakness? If you do, seek treatment at once. You are sick now.
Leaflet 1748 was produced in three million copies and discusses malaria. The text on the front and back is:
Attention Malaria is deadly, but it can be cured with proper treatment.
Here are the symptoms: fever; headache; sweating and weakness. If you have these symptoms you are sick now. Seek medical assistance at once.
Three million copies of leaflet 1749 were printed and warn of salt deficiency. The text on the front and back is:
Salt deficiency can be deadly!
Make sure you get plenty of salt with your food. Substitutes are no good. The human body must have salt to replace that lost through sweating. Get salt every day.
Some comments on these messages. They are certainly aimed at the Vietnamese people to remind them that the Americans and their government care about their health and welfare. But, they can also serve to scare the enemy living out in the bush and drinking untreated water and being bitten by mosquitoes. I am sure there was some thought that this might drive the Viet Cong and NVA to Chieu Hoi. I should also mention as an old medic that I dont like the malaria symptoms mentioned. In my time we were taught that the malaria patients suffer fever and chills. I do not understand why chills was left out of the text.
The Americans are your Friends
A number of leaflets, handouts and posters were prepared to introduce the Vietnamese people to their new allies and explain what the Americans were doing to help them live a better life. This handout shows American construction crews on the front and back and says in part:
American Seabee Teams are in
to Help You Vietnam
Your government of the
has requested another type of American assistance to help develop a better country for you. This help comes to you and your province as a group of trained Republicof Vietnam Navy construction men called Seabees. These men work hard and are trained to build roads. Bridges, schools, wells, dams, dispensaries, piers, and to clear land. They also repair generators, motors pumps, and other machines. They are in U.S. to help you. Most important, they want to teach you to do these things Vietnam
This poster was prepared in April 1968 with the same general theme of introducing the Vietnamese to the Americans. It shows Americans building houses, supplying food and treating babies. The text is:
AMERICAN FRIENDS HELP IN THE BUILDING OF OUR NATION
They help people rebuild their homes
give medical assistance
and food, and materials to needy areas.
LET US ALL WORK TOGETHER IN BUILDING OUR COUNTRY
SFC Howard Daniel III
Retired MSG Howard A. Daniel III did six tours in
. He told me: Vietnam
When I was assigned to Military Assistance Command
VietnamJ-2 in January 1966, the majority of the Army staff came from the 519th MI Battalion. The 519th supported an orphanage that was located in Cholon, but just on the edge of U.S. Saigon. The orphanage regularly had day-old to week-old babies left outside its main gate early in the morning. The orphanage staff often checked the area and brought the babies inside. As a senior NCO in my section, I was asked to collect donations for the orphanage. I did so and we brought the funds to the orphanage director, a very nice lady who had great compassion for the children.
There was a small playground inside the walls of the orphanage but it was a wreck when I first visited it. I talked to a few people about it and was assigned the task of creating a new playground. We found a Sears catalog and I saw playground equipment in it. I picked one of everything that looked heavy duty, plus some baby and children's clothing and sent a long letter to the Sears headquarters in
. I requested that they acquire one long CONEX container and put everything in it and ship it to me. Once they had the total cost, I would acquire the funds, put them in my personal checking account and write them a check. A couple of months went by and then I received a nice letter from someone high up in Sears. They had put all of the items in the CONEX container that I requested plus filled it to the end with other stuff for babies and children! And they were covering all of the costs! It was fantastic!!! Chicago
When the CONEX arrived, I had it hauled to the orphanage and dropped it in the middle of the compound. A few days later, I arrived with a dozen or more GIs with tools from the motor pool and a small engineer unit. We carried all of the clothes, food, candies, and other small items into the orphanage supply room. The director and her staff were crying as they saw a huge amount of supplies for them piling up. Then the GIs put the playground equipment together. Someone took a few pictures and we went back to work. I continued to collect donations every month until I departed at the end of my four and one-half year tour in August 1970.
Duong Thi Kim Son
When one writes an article like this he never knows exactly what the ramifications will be. In this case, a former Vietnamese orphan living in
wrote to me stating that she was from an orphanage in Saigon and wondered if MSG Daniel had any information that might help her. I put them together in hopes that he might be able to assist her in learning more about her origin. She told me: Belgium
I was adopted from a Saigon orphanage on 25 January 1967 through Terre des Hommes in
Thank you so much for your help. Master Sergeant Daniel just e-mailed me and is trying to find out the name of the orphanage for me. Belgium. My alleged Vietnamese name was Duong Thi Kim Son. I know that I will never find my biological parents since I have no Vietnamese birth certificate and the orphanage gave me a fake name and birthday so I could leave the country quickly and be adopted. I was one of the last children left in their care. Apparently the orphanage was destroyed by explosives a week after I left and all records have been destroyed. All I know from my adopted parents in is that American soldiers found me in the street and brought me to an orphanage in Saigon. Belgium
In early June of 1968 the U.S. 1st Infantry Division and the Vietnamese 5th Infantry Division wanted to do a cordon and search of the area around Tan Phuoc Khanh, a village of about 9,000 people. They could have air-assaulted in with guns blazing and herded the people behind wire to question them, but instead they ran a festival, played music, gave away prizes, medically treated the people, and distributed pro-government information. 50,000 of these 5 x 7-inch leaflets were distributed by hand and air to the local Vietnamese. The leaflet depicts Vietnamese Regional Force and Popular Force fighter standing armed and ready. The text is:
Notice to All Young Men
Serve your hamlet and village while staying in your home area. Service in the Regional or Popular Forces allows you to serve your government while remaining at home.This area is now a part of Lam Son II operations. Government of
Vietnamand U.S.Forces are operating here, which brings increased security and allows you to work as comrades in arms with both ARVN and Forces against the common enemy. More and more men are becoming aware of the increased pay and privileges as well as the honor of serving their own people, and every day more and more men are joining the Regional Force and Popular Force, so see your village or district chief NOW. U.S.
Operation Lam Son II is discussed by Lieutenant General John H. Hay Jr. in Vietnam Studies Tactical and Materiel Innovations, Department of the Army,
1989. Hay says in part: Washington D.C.
The mission was to pacify the village, conduct a thorough search, root out the Viet Cong infrastructure, gather intelligence, and win the hearts and minds of the people. The first step was to assemble all men between the ages of fifteen and forty-five. These men were moved to the National Police headquarters in Phu Cuong for additional screening. Next came the hamlet festival. The festival was designed to display the concern of the Vietnamese government for the welfare of the people. The start was sounded by the
band. As hamlet residents began arriving they were greeted by personnel from province headquarters. Several tactical units conducted a lottery during county fair operations. Instructions or information to villagers were distributed by means of leaflets, which were stamped with lottery numbers. These leaflets helped control the people and, at the same time, maintain their interest in the program. The winners received household items as prizes. The children had games to play and the adults were told about national programs from a government official. Binh Duong Province
The 1st Infantry Division Band Performing at Tan Phuoc Khanh
As the people gathered in the entertainment area, the 5th ARVN Division band began the Vietnamese national anthem. The national anthem was followed by a performance of traditional dances and pantomimes by the 5th ARVN Division cultural teams.
The Medical Civic Action Program (MEDCAP) station was manned by medical personnel from one of the
units. The staff normally included a doctor, medical specialists, Vietnamese interpreters, and sometimes a dentist. The operation was conducted like a sick call and held in conjunction with psychological activities. The medical treatment was mainly symptomatic-aspirin for pains, soap and medication for skin diseases, and extraction for toothaches. Serious medical cases were referred to other facilities outside the military channels for proper treatment or corrective surgery. The Youth Service Activity entertained the children so that the parents were free. Games were played, songs were sung, candy and toys were handed out to the children, and movies were shown. U.S.
At 1200 an American luncheon of hot dogs, potato salad, milk, juice, and all the extras was served. Although the people commented about the strange taste of the food, they all returned for second and third helpings. The meal was an interesting change from their normal rice-heavy diet.
The psychological operations and civil affairs teams performed several duties. They helped direct and control the people at first and mingled with the crowd, talking to small groups. The real purpose of the hamlet festival was to bring the government to the people and, at the same time, to turn an intelligence operation into an activity that the citizens would find pleasant. A major objective was to eliminate the Viet Cong infrastructure. All civilians were therefore required to pass through identification stations for an interview, a check of their identification cards, and the issue of special passes.
By the time the 1st Infantry Division Band paraded through the streets, the results were becoming evident. Of the 740 men who had been sent to Phu Cuong for screening earlier in the day, 29 were found to be Viet Cong suspects, 9 were army deserters, 4 possessed false identification cards, 13 were former Viet Cong who had violated the limits of their probation, and 62 were South Vietnamese draft dodgers .
The Army of Vietnam Soldiers are your Friends
Many Vietnamese were distrustful of their own government. This leaflet shows them how the soldiers help the people and attempts to gain their trust and loyalty. Two photographs on the front and back show the soldiers hard at work building so that the people can have a better life. Some of the text is:
Besides the mission of fighting the Communists for national salvation, soldiers of the Vietnam armed forces also build and protect roads and bridges so that people can travel and do their business easily and safely.
Because of the homeless situation of the people created by the cruel attacks of the Communists, soldiers must temporarily cease their fighting mission to rebuild houses for the people.
This is such a strange leaflet that I hardly knew where to place it. I think it works here though. The 8th PSYOP Battalion printed 250,000 of these leaflets in 1968 to show the people that the military were held responsible for their actions and what to do after a traffic accident. The front depicts a military vehicle and the standard markings found on their bumpers. The text is:
The Administration of Khanh Hoa Province thoughtfully reminds the provincial population: When there is an accident where vehicles of the South Vietnamese Army or their allies have hurt someone and damaged the property of the people you should
1 - Try to note the number of the vehicle (front or back) and unit of vehicle involved in the accident.
2 - Immediately report to the nearest administrator or policeman in order to appraise the damage.
These are very important in the business of damage compensation because any damages are systematically compensated by the government or the allied forces.
Sergeant Allen Lance of the 23rd Military Police Company of the 23rd Infantry (Americal) Division told me how this claim for payment worked in Chu Lai in 1968:
The people presented themselves at the main gate and were escorted to the Provost Marshalls Office by the MPs. As I recall, when the people arrived to make the claim they were sad, some angry, and always disappointed by the small amount of money they received. In thinking more about this I believe another factor in deciding the payment amount was the fact that a Vietnamese civilian working on a US military base was getting paid $1 US dollar, equivalent to 118 Vietnamese dollars per day at that time
Any incident that the Military Police investigated or reported on was paid with no problems since they had the documentation. The Provost Marshall was put in charge of this remuneration program by the Commanding General. We had a book, like an insurance actuarial table, that had a formula for deciding the value of the life of a Vietnamese killed by a US military vehicle. It was based on gender, age, dependents, employment and other factors. It was the same with injury to a person or certain property damage. They were paid in Vietnamese dollars, and signed a release of liability when they got the payment.
The South Vietnamese also offered medical care to the enemy. This leaflet depicts South Vietnamese medical personnel treating North Vietnamese soldiers on the front and back. The text on the front is:
PROTECTION OF THE HEALTH OF PRISONERS OF WAR
When your leaders say that North Vietnamese soldiers will be treated cruelly or killed if they are captured in South Vietnam, they are lying. Many Communist soldiers have been captured by the South Vietnam Army and its allies and they are still alive. If the prisoners of war become sick, they are given good medical treatment.
The text on the back is:
Many Communist soldiers were already sick when they were captured in South Vietnam. Even though they became prisoners of war they were lucky because they received good medical treatment.
The Vietnamese diet was based on rice and other traditional Asian vegetables. When the
and its allies started to bring food into the country it was important to teach the Vietnamese how to cook the new products. Leaflet 1092 was produced in April 1966 and depicts a mother cooking corn flour and her son eating it from a bowl. The text on the front is: United States
How to cook
Easy to cook
Delicious to eat
The back is all text and gives directions for preparing the dish. It says in part:
HOW TO COOK CORN FLOUR
One Bowl of corn flour.
Three bowls of water or milk.
Add salt, if desired.
Add salt to water and boil.
Add corn flour slowly. Stir regularly to avoid improper thickening. Cook until boiling, and then reduce fire to a simmer until the flour thickens. Remove the cooked flour from the fire, and cover with a lid and let cool for 5 minutes before serving.
The leaflet also explains the method for frying corn flour to make patties.
Besides corn, the
also introduced wheat rice to the Vietnamese peasants. Leaflet 1146A was printed in April 1966 and once again depicts a Vietnamese mother cooking the wheat and a Vietnamese boy eating it. The pamphlet is four pages long. Some of the text is: United States
HOW TO PREPARE WHEAT RICE
Donated to the people who are victims of communist terrorism in
. South Vietnam
Origin: provided as aid by the
; its real name is BULGAR. United States
Shape: The grain is as big as regular rice with a lengthwise cleft. It is light brown in color, has a white core, and some of the grains are usually broken,
Quality: It is cooked by steam and dehydrated. When recooked, it becomes puffy and glutinous.
Nutritive Value: Rich in protein and Vitamin B.
Use: It can be cooked into ordinary cooked rice, rise soup, pies, rice-cakes, etc.
The brochure goes on to give a number of recipes for various forms of rice and soups.
John R. Campbell, a civilian psychological warfare advisor in
from 1965 to 1967 says about this program in Are we Winning? Are they Winning: A Civilian Advisors Reflections on Wartime Vietnam , Author House, 2004: Vietnam
To try and help fill the gap in the resulting rice shortage, American ingenuity brought forth something called bulgar wheat. It was hearty, rot resistant, processed wheat that looked like rusty colored broken rice. Naturally, the Vietnamese called it American rice and definitely did not like it. Despite USAID (
Agency for International Development) putting out a special recipe booklet in Vietnamese on how to prepare it (the catch was, that unlike rice, one was supposed to soak it overnight before cooking), the resultant stomach aches were probably in the millions and much swollen resentment resulted. U.S.
This leaflet was dropped over North Vietnam to show them that the U.S. was helping the people in the South. The leaflet tells of a new miracle rice called IR-8. There are three pictures on the front and text is:
More than 100 farmers from nine villages visit Hiep Hoa and inspect a test plot from which 7.9 tons of rice were harvested from each hectare.
IR-8. South Vietnams miracle rice. All Vietnamese can enjoy this rice when peace comes.
At the Hiep Hoa experimental section near Saigon, a woman farmer applies fertilizer to her field of IR-8 rice.
A Vietnamese researcher told me that he had found a document that said that by the 1980s the IR-8 rice strain accounted for more than half the rice cultivation area in North Vietnam. It also stated the North got their hands on the IR8 as early as in 1968, most probably from the South!
Leaflet 1275 was prepared in June 1966 to teach the Vietnamese how to cook wheat. This the third leaflet to show the mother and son, and the text now reads:
How to prepare
Easy to cook
Delicious to eat
As in the two previous leaflets, it gives the formula for mixing the wheat, this time using water, dried milk and sugar. Once again, the method of cooking is explained.
Another leaflet produced by the 246th PSYOP Company coded 246-112 was produced for the 1st Infantry Division and was all text. It is entitled Preparation of wheat and gives recipes for wheat and fish, wheat and pork, wheat and coconut, and wheat and sweet potatoes.
This leaflet tells the Vietnamese about the import of Berkshire pigs and how men are being trained to care for them. Even VC who return to the South are offered this training. Some of the text is:
Cattle breeding is a job that POWs like. Besides making food for the other people in their camp, they are getting familiar with modern animal husbandry methods and the various kinds of cattle that they never knew before.
This leaflet tells the Vietnamese about the training people are getting to keep the various farm animals healthy so that they can improve their diet. Some of the text is:
The animal husbandry movement including chickens, pigs and ducks, etc., is being developed in the South. Many families get a monthly supplement thanks to this movement. Those that return from the Communists to serve the people of the country are helped to become poultry farmers.
Australian Leaflet ATF-053-70
The Australian 1st Psychological Operations Unit in
was also busy winning hearts and minds. They prepared a food leaflet That depicted the Sorghum plant and described its various uses. 5000 copies were printed and handed out to local villagers. The text is: Vietnam
FOOD SORGHUM DRINK
Sorghum is suitable for growing in
and provides food for human and animals. It can also be used for wine. Vietnam
To teach you more about Sorghum a demonstration is being held at BINH GIA by the Government of Vietnam Agricultural Service and the 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 the Village Administration Headquarters where you can get transportation. Village members will explain the program and the demonstration.
Poster 2412 was prepared in March 1968 and teaches the Vietnamese how to properly fertilize their rice crop. It depicts a healthy rice plant and full bags of rice, and an unhealthy plant and just a bag and one-half of rice. The text is:
TAKE CARE OF AND FERTILIZE YOUR RICE
Fertilizer enriches the soil and grows more rice.
Without fertilizer, plants are weak and produce less rice.
Sergeant Flowers and friends
Marine Sergeant Gerry Flowers remembers visiting the Vietnamese with his CAP unit.
We would put the word out that our corpsman would treat locals from a set time to another set time during the day. We were constantly on the move, so we treated a lot of folks. We taught them how to grow things better with fertilizer (water buffalo excrement was good) and treated literally hundreds of kids with everything from sores to ear infections. We pulled the odd tooth, gave the locals all the leftover food from our C-rations, etc. I ordered a dozen pairs of plastic sandals for the barefoot kids in one village, drew all their feet on paper, sent that home and a month later got these sandals, made of bright plastic called "jellies." I started a program to help clear the area of booby traps, and even fixed a tractor for a village.
Pure water was always a problem for the Vietnamese farmer and peasant. In leaflet 1445 printed October 1966 the way to purify water is explained. This leaflet was normally folded in half to give four sides of text. Two water jugs are depicted on the front; a woman is depicted on the back boiling water alone. The text on the four sides of the leaflet is extensive. The text on the front is:
DRINK PURE WATER
The Government of
Some other comments are:
Drink only filtered and boiled water.
Housewives who care for their families health should give them only filtered and boiled or chlorinated water to drink.
Avoid diseases transmitted by water, such as dysentery, cholera, typhoid .
The 6th PSYOP Battalion prepared an 8 x 10-inch all-text handout in April 1968 coded 6-250-68 with the exact same title and message.
One series of leaflets were entitled Activities of the People in the Free Area. Leaflet 3008 has two photographs on the front and two on the back. They show the construction of a dam to give the people fresh water to grow their crops. Some of the text is:
900 hectares of rice fields of the people in the Hoa Vang District, Quang Nam Province, have not enough water. The Government of Vietnam has decided to build a dam on this river in order to irrigate the rice fields of the people.
Within a short time the construction of the Ha Thanh dam in the Hoa Vang District, Quang Nam Province has been finished thanks to the knowledge of the technicians and the precious contribution of labor by the people of the district.
Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division
Lou Redmond of the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division recalls:
Several times during 1966, our battalion went into three villages east of Phu Loi. Bravo Company got the village in the middle named Tan Phuoc Khanh. We worked out of there for about a month at a time. Our medics set up a daily working MEDCAP for all who came in. We built a village community center for the people. The medics took care of everything from scratches and bruises to one old guy that had gangrene in his leg.
We helped clean up the whole town doing things like clearing refuse from their wells, rebuilding the berm around the town, repairing houses, getting heavy equipment out to resurface the two roads, and getting supplies for the local school. It was part of the Pacification effort. The last time I was there, it was so peaceful that many nights the village had lights on and had entertainment for the whole village at the community center about once a week.
I volunteered for
twice - for a myriad of reasons, but there was a prime reason - the children. What I did and what I was privileged to do during our part of the pacification efforts in Tan Phuoc Khanh and in our home base at Lai Khe, and wherever I happened to be, even in the Triangle or up around Xuan Loc, I did my best for the children. Vietnam
Every one has the right to damn that war if they like, however, it gave me a chance to help the kids in a way that very few ever can. Maybe I actually saved a couple of lives of kids because of what I did and where I did it - I hope so. I would never bless war for any reason, but I don't damn the war I fought, because it was for the children.
General Westmoreland mentions civic action programs in Final Report:
Historically, wherever the
has had military forces, there has always been some form of military assistance to civilians who are without the means of helping themselves U.S.
For example, one of the major civic action programs in 1964 involved providing Vietnamese hamlets with a source of potable water. We introduced
U.S.Navy Seabee teams as well as Army engineer detachments to exploit their technical skills in hydrojet well drilling U.S.
I required all U.S. units arriving in Vietnam to develop civic action plans for assisting the people living in the vicinity of their base areas Our troops constructed long-needed bridges over canals and streams, built schools, established medical dispensaries, and generally improved public sanitation .
Handout 2314 was printed in December 1967 to teach the Vietnamese how to best use American soap. Some of the text is:
A HAPPY HEALTHY CHILD BATHES DAILY WITH SOAP
To bathe your child properly you will need: clean water, two clean cloths and soap.
Work the soap up into a full lather and spread the lather liberally over all parts of your childs body
A child who is thoroughly bathed every day will be resistant to skin sores and infections and will have a better chance to grow into a strong and healthy adult
The same product was printed as a poster in March 1966 coded 1017.
Poster 2534 was prepared in April 1968 to teach the Vietnamese the value of cleanliness. It depicts women and children washing various utensils and other items around the home. The text is:
FOR BETTER HEALTH WASH ALL OF THESE
Feeding utensils, teeth, house, hands, vegetables, cooking and eating utensils, clothes and your body.
Gary & Darrel Bain in Vietnam
My good friend and buddy ex-Specialist 6th Class Darrel Bain was a medic in Vietnam. He is a science fiction author in civilian life and made me a character in one of his novels entitled Alien Infection a while ago and promptly had government agents kill me. Some pal! I must have been popular among his readers. He resurrected me in The Frontier Rebellion and then an entire trilogy called Apertures, where he made me an officer and a gentleman. Darrell recalls his Vietnam experiences:
During the 1960s, many of the troops in Vietnam spent their own time and money making friends with, and helping Vietnamese civilians. Our small nine-man unit often had free time in the afternoon. About once a week several of us would go to Binh Hoa, a city near Long Binh. There was an orphanage on the outskirts of the village and we would chip in and donate as much money as we could to help the kids. After a while we got to know some of the kids and began bringing them small presents. They were overwhelmingly grateful to have someone paying attention to them. I have no idea if the money we gave was properly used or not, but there's no doubt the kids were happy to see us.
Every few weeks we would take the ambulance, jeep and a truck out into the boonies and set up a sick call at a village. It was strictly palliative medicine. There was no way of instituting long term treatment of many of the diseases we saw. Mostly we tried to cure the kids of infections acquired from cuts and scrapes that went untended, as well as ear infections and upper respiratory infections. We did what we could for skin infections caused by fungi and treated many for parasites. From studies done on civilians prior to hiring them for mess hall duty we knew that almost 100% were infected with either amoebas or round worms. Parasitic infestations were endemic. The treatment probably only relieved them for a short time, but we tried.
We usually carried tons of soap, sent from Louisiana and Texas in response to a short request for soap by my mother, published in the Shreveport Times. The result was overwhelming. We always gave out a bar of soap to every patient we saw, either for treatment of skin diseases or as a simple prophylactic measure. We know we were doing some good because the local Viet Cong, rather than targeting us, began coming in at night and blowing up the Chief's home in any village we'd been to. We were ordered to stop going. It was sort of illegal (unauthorized) to begin with so we couldn't argue.
Leaflet 7-646-68 depicts a Vietnamese mother washing her child in a basin and the text:
Soap and water help you clean germs on the skin. You should bathe your child with soap and water every day to prevent skin disease.
The back depicts a bright red cross and three Vietnamese civilians. Two wash their food in a stream while a third urinates into the same stream. The text is:
Dont wash food in dirty water. Dirty water contains disease. Wash your food in clean water only. Protect your health.
Carl R. ToersBijns Today
Specialist Four Carl R. ToersBijns was a combat medic attached to the 23rd Medical Battalion Headquarters, 23rd U.S. Army (Americal) Infantry Division, in Chu Lai, Vietnam from 1967 to 1968. He later wrote a book entitled Combat Medic: Men with Destiny - A Red Cross of Valor. He told me:
As a medic I participated in many weekly, monthly or quarterly medical civic action programs called MEDCAP and commonly referred to as an instrument to promote the relationships between civilians on battlefields (COB) and the military forces occupying the provinces of South Vietnam during the war. Every time we went out, we took a trailer full of medical supplies to meet and mingle among the native inhabitants of various villages as far as 50 miles away from Chu Lai. Our focus was on their children, their young and their elderly as well as anyone willing to walk in while we were there and be seen for treatment or examination. Our team consisted of 5 medics, 2 interpreters and 2 soldiers to stand guard.
We always took the time to teach the locals cleanliness, sanitation of their living areas and the need to get their inoculations which we always carried on us when we knew we were going to stay in a village. What PSYOP did with leaflets, we did with the word of mouth and actions on the ground that showed we were friendly and trustworthy.
Within months, the moods had changed towards American soldiers and medics. No longer fearing our presence, the people came freely and without fear. It was a milestone in public relations and it was working, between the PSYOP information disseminated for their benefit and our regular visits into their villages or hamlets, the tide was turning. We found one of the most important and difficult illnesses to treat were infections of the skin and other fungi lesions. It was always a matter of cleanliness or using soap and water but that was such a rarity, many didnt have it. Sometimes we had to scold them for putting manure on a wound instead of coming to the aid station or sick call line to be treated and get an antibiotic injection.
Every day off we had we would volunteer to work the MEDCAP locally. Unofficially, every few weeks we would take the ambulance, jeep and a truck out into the boonies and set up a sick call at a village. Since we had no way of instituting long term care, we had to rely on others and volunteers to follow care and ensure the medication was taken. It appeared to be working. Wearing the insignia of the medical corpsman means this person cares and that he or she has a destiny to heal a heart, body or mind, where others benefit from their passion, their desire to excel and the humanity to treat every man, woman, child and elderly with care, kindness and respect.
We mention DENCAP several times in this article. The Americans attempted to bring good dental care to the Vietnamese and this even included teaching them the proper way to brush.
20,000 copies of this leaflet were prepared by the 10th PSYOP Battalion in July 1968 to teach good dental hygiene. The text says in part:
Food can lodge in the crevices of the teeth, after eating. If it is not removed, teeth become decayed and such decayed teeth become worse causing pain and it then become necessary to have such a tooth pulled by a dentist. The pictures show us how to prevent the causes of decayed teeth.
1. Put a little toothpaste on a toothbrush.
2. Brush down on the upper teeth.
3. Brush up on the lower teeth. Pay attention. Do not eat or swallow toothpaste.
4. If you do not have a toothbrush, use your index finger. Rub up and down and from the inside of your mouth to the outside. Use water to rinse out your mouth after brushing teeth.
There were an entire series of leaflets and posters that warned the Vietnamese of various diseases and how to avoid them. We depict poster 997 which explains and depicts the treatment of tuberculosis. Some of the text is:
X-Ray chest examination.
Eating and sleeping adequately.
Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) preventive injection.
Separating sick persons.
Poster 2558 printed April 1968 is entitled Dont spit and warns that spitting spreads TB.
Poster 1003 was printed March 1966 and is entitled "Cholera". It depicts sick and deceased Vietnamese. The text is:
Cholera is very dangerous and can spread very quickly.
Cholera patients may die after a few hours.
Pain in intestines, profuse discharge from the bowels, vomiting 15 to 30 times a day, quick loss of weight, weak pulse.
Special Forces "C Team" medical doctor (left) and Captain Len Cummings
During my 1969-1970 tour with the 5th Special Forces Group, my medics operated a clinic at our camp at Tien Phuoc in I Corps. We treated numerous locals from the surrounding area. We even had patients that were carried over the mountains for several days to get there. Complicated things like tuberculosis and blown off limbs were flown to the C team in
which had real doctors. Those doctors would occasionally come out to the camp and work with my medics. That was an interesting experience because many of the young doctors had less experience with trauma and tropical diseases than some of my own medics did. I had one local that had stepped on a toe popper landmine had had his foot blown off. A Viet Cong toe popper can be made many ways; the easiest is a single bullet set on top of a nail. If you step on it, the bullet is pushed down on the nail and fired through your foot. Da Nang
You know that Martha Rae was very beloved by the Special Forces in
and had been honored with the rank of Honorary Colonel. Colonel Maggie visited our camp on 14 November 1969 during a tour of Special Forces camps in the Delta. She came in despite a heavy dangerous fog. When it came time for her to leave she volunteered to give the injured Vietnamese a lift back to the hospital in her chopper. Vietnam
This August 1967 poster tells of all the various Free World medical facilities that
have volunteered to help the people of
FREE WORLD MEDICAL FACILITIES SERVE THE PEOPLE OF
Apart from the treatment of wounded Allied and Vietnamese servicemen, many Vietnamese civilians are treated in Free World medical facilities. Medical teams also visit hamlets and villages to treat people on the spot.
Navy physician on a hospital ship checks a child. U.S.
2. Fourteen year-old Le Van A had a disfiguring harelip. He received corrective surgery from Captain Calo, a doctor in the Philippine Army
3. A two-year old orphan girl enjoys a laugh with an American nurse. When admitted to the hospital, she could not walk because of burns on her right foot. Today she walks, thanks to the help of the hospital
The two leaflets in this section were printed by the Americans for the Vietnamese. They were both printed by the U.S. Joint Public Affairs Office and the 7th PSYOP Group in November 1968 as part of the Tet campaign, and both wish the finder a Happy New Year. The above leaflet depicts a Vietnamese Army doctor giving a medical examination to a child. The leaflet aims to win the support of the general population for the Vietnamese armed forces. Some of the text on the back is:
Besides their mission to destroy the enemy and defend the nation, the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces is concerned about fighting other enemies which are dangerous; disease, illiteracy and poverty
In this leaflet, the Vietnamese soldier is helping a child learn to read and write. Some of the text is:
The Government of Vietnam soldiers try to teach as well as protect the people Anywhere the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces is stationed, they organize free classes to provide a minimum education for the entire population, old and young.
This leaflet was prepared by the 246th PSYOP Company in Bien Hoa in 1967. It depicts an American medic washing a Vietnamese baby on the front. The text is:
The American forces in Vietnam not only fight the Viet Cong, but also help the Vietnamese Government in improving the health of the people.
The back of the leaflet depicts an Army doctor treating a line of Vietnamese civilians. The text is:
In villages all over Vietnam American doctors and medics make visits to give better health to the people. The medical team can help you cure skin diseases, colds, headaches, and most other complaints. When a medical team comes to your area they will be glad to help you.
Specialist 5 Kenneth Bennett
Specialist 5 Kenneth Bennett was a member of the 6th PSYOP Battalion in Vietnam. Like many units, his adopted an orphanage; one run by Catholic nuns in Bien Hoa. The unit helped care for the kids on a regular basis. They often bought food and milk for them.
The Nuns care for the Orphans
There was a minor medical emergency because the infamous hungry Vietnam rats would enter the orphanage at night and sometimes gnaw the fingers, nose, or toes, of the children. The volunteers found rabbit wire on black market and covered the doors and windows and virtually ended the rat problem. The troops also built an 8-foot high wooden fence to keep bad things outside and the children safe inside. Nobody talked about expenditures or how much money they laid out. They just did it. Their hearts were in the right place. For many of the troops, helping the children was great therapy, considering they were living in a war torn country and missing their families and homes. This was a way to think about what you could do for helpless orphans instead of thinking about the injuries and deaths of your buddies.
The Orphans in their Classroom
They sponsored birthday parties for the orphans. The 6th Battalion members spent as much time as possible helping and doing all that was needed to keep the place running safely. The children were mostly GI babies and if the women kept them, they had hell to pay for having relationship with men, especially American soldiers. That has not changed much to this day. The Vietnamese still look down of children of mixed races.
Ken said that a few years ago he and his wife visited Vietnam and found the orphanage and all the old buildings in Tan Mai, near Bien Hoa. A Catholic Nun gave them a tour. From third floor, He could still clearly see the church and the old buildings he knew from the war. Eventually he had to walk away, trying to hold back tears. The 3-story orphanage had become a dumping ground for children with severe birth defects.
The problem of what to do with human excrement is always a problem in an underdeveloped country. American troops burned their excrement using jet fuel. Most Asians saved it and used it as fertilizer. Nobody who served in
Asiawill forget the smell of the honey bucket man as he passed by with a yoke over his shoulders and two buckets of human waste. Your eyes would water from 100 yards away. Posters 998 and 999 both discuss human excrement. Some of the text on poster 998 is:
DISEASES CAUSED BY HUMAN EXCREMENT
The spread of diseases
Pathogenic germs in excrement.
Unsanitary septic tank. Improper disposal of excrements.
Germs transmitted by flies to food.
Drinking of infectious water.
Drinking of unwholesome water or use of unsanitary water containers.
Poster 999 was prepared in March 1966 and illustrates and explains the use of a septic tank and basic sanitary habits. The text is:
DISEASES CAUSED BY HUMAN EXCREMENT
Construct and use a sanitary septic tank.
Cover your food and keep flies away.
Use clean water for drinking and washing.
Use a sanitary water well.
Cover your drinking utensils carefully.
Boil your drinking water.
Handout 2740 is a tri-fold leaflet printed in August 1968 that taught the Vietnamese How to Build a Gooseneck Latrine. It explains how to select a site, digging the latrine, casting the goose neck latrine slab, placing the slab on the pit opening, building a covering shed and cleaning the latrine.
75,000 copies of this rather crude 246th PSYOP Company leaflet were printed in early 1966. Once again the Americans try to explain the danger of human waste. The text is:
Human waste deposited in the open on streets or on the ground are a source of dangerous germs and diseases which are carried by flies to your food. This contaminated food can bring sickness and even death to you, your family, and your friends.
Through your efforts and those of your local community authorities, public latrines offer a safe place for the disposal of human waste. They help you, your family and your friends enjoy a long life and health and happiness.
There were numerous leaflets and posters dedicated to a better diet for the Vietnamese people. Poster 2533 is entitled Energy giving foods and depicts various foods that represent a healthy diet. Poster 2532 also depicts foods and is entitled Body building foods. Poster 2531 above, printed April 1968 depicts additional healthy foods. Some of the text is:
A listing of healthy foods which should be eaten regularly to maintain a strong and healthy body.
This poster, created in April 1968 depicts fish, beef, eggs and other healthy foods. The text is:
BODY BUILDING FOODS
A listing of nutritious foods which should be eaten regularly to improve health.
Specialist five Jack ONeill of the 6th PSYOP Battalion told me:
While working with 82nd Airborne in 1969 First Lieutenant Ben Rogers and I volunteered at an orphanage just outside
Saigon. We were happy to spend time there because the children were mostly orphans of ARVN soldiers whose parents had been killed by the Viet Cong or North Vietnamese Army. When we were there the kids would flock around us, wearing my hat, and wanting hugs and laughter which we were able to give them by making faces and funny noises. We also cried a lot worrying about their future. When working with 1st Air Cavalry we helped with MEDCAP and DENTCAP projects and spent time with the children teaching them how to play baseball, taking them to the Saigon Zoo, giving them comic books, coloring books, soccer balls and other items.
Poster 1468 encourages the Vietnamese people to give blood to help save lives. The poster features a wounded Vietnamese man on a hospital bed and another holding his arm who has apparently just donated his blood. The text says in part:
GIVE THE GIFT OF LIFE AT NO COST TO YOURSELF
To many soldier wounded in the defense of your nation, and to many accident victims, blood means the difference between life and death. Blood may be taken from the veins of a healthy person and given to the injured without endangering the health of the donor in any way.
Quality of Life
Australian Leaflet ATF-053-70
Some leaflets just talked about the quality of life and how the Government of
and its allies are working to make life better for the people. 10,000 copies of leaflet ATF-053-70 were disseminated by hand and depict new hospitals, schools, roads and dams. The text is: Vietnam
Together, the Government of
Vietnamand the people of will build a strong and new nation. South Vietnam
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
Vietnamis working for peace and prosperity for all the people of . South Vietnam
NEW ROAD TO A NEW LIFE
We know little about this early uncoded leaflet. There is a drawing of a road on the front, with various pictures around the circular road. We see a Republic of Vietnam soldier, People voting, a happy couple, a man receiving medical treatment, and abundant food that includes a tasty pig. There is no code number so we cannot say who prepared this leaflet, but I suspect the Republic of Vietnam had some part in its creation. The title of the leaflet is:
NEW ROAD TO A NEW LIFE
The drawing shows the road, which runs from Can Tho through Cai Cang, Phong Dien, Cau Nhiem [Nhiem Bridge] to Ba Se. The back has a long text that explains to the people all that the government has done to raise their quality of life.
Countrymen - Just Compare
In 1963 the VC began to sabotage and attack the BA SE provincial road. They made dirt piles to block the road, they destroyed bridges, and they terrorized the people, turning the road into a Death Road. This caused the people all kinds of problems in their daily lives. The people could not go to the market to buy and sell things and their children were not able to go to school, leaving them uneducated and ignorant.
On 15 March 1965 the local government began to repair the BA SE road in order to restore security and make the people more prosperous. The repairs have now been finished. The goals of the Rural Construction Revolutionary Development [RD] Program are to restore security, to make the people more prosperous in their daily lives, and to make the lives of their children happier in the future.
So far the following results have been achieved:
Hamlet Councils have been elected in eight hamlets.
Thirteen iron bridges and forty monkey bridges have been built or repaired.
Twenty-six thousand people have received medical treatment.
Thirty-two kilometers of gravel road have been repaired.
Twenty-five school classrooms have been built or repaired.
Seven culverts have been built.
Eight outposts have been built.
One thousand one hundred fifty pigs and chickens have been given to the people.
Fourteen tons of rice seed have been distributed.
Two thousand two hundred gift packages have been distributed to the poor.
These are only the initial results of the [RD] program. Therefore you should inform the RD cadres of the aspirations of the local population so that the Government can help to build whatever the hamlets need. You compatriots should help our RD cadres and our Government along the new road in order to provide new lives to the people.
The Free Areas
Another series of leaflets that told the Vietnamese about all of the advantages they had as loyal citizens of the national government were the Free Area leaflets. For example, leaflet 3005 talked about business and depicted food stands and trucks carrying produce. The leaflet explained that this will not be found in the Communist controlled areas and This scene of business happens only in the Free Area.
Leaflet 3006 talks about industry and technology and shows the Vietnamese building homes. It saids in part:
In order to prepare for the building of the nations future when peace is restored, workers in the free area are being trained in techniques by the Republic of Vietnam.
Workers living in the free area have the right to buy houses built by the Government of Vietnam and pay in installments over 20 years.
Leaflet 3007 above mentions animal husbandry, schooling and education. Some of the text is:
To improve the educational level to usefully serve modern science and technology is a necessary condition. Therefore, workers living in the free area have actively studied literature after finishing their work at factories, enterprises, work camps, etc Under the free and democratic regime; people are protected by laws against oppression.
Leaflet 3008 mentions the governments aid to farmers by building dams and seeing that there is adequate water to grow rice.
Leaflet 3009 mentions food carts and tells the people that they can do business freely and sell whatever they want to help their family. Leaflet 3010 explains that the Vietnamese Army does not just fight the communists; they also help the people by building bridges and protecting the roads so people can travel freely.
This series was very well thought-out and is designed to make the people see that their government is doing everything possible to protect them and give them a better quality of life.
Another series that talked about the good life under the government of Vietnam was called The GVN Image. A number of leaflets showed happy workers making good wages in the South. This leaflet depicts fisherman on the front and those same fishermen working on their nets on the back. The text is:
ACTIVITIES OF THE PEOPLE IN FREE AREAS
Fishermen in South Vietnam who live under the Governments protection are free to fish. The Government also provides facilities for them such a motorized boat, a nylon fishing net, etc., so they can fish on the open sea and catch more fish.
Thanks to the Governments loan program, fishermen can buy the necessary fishing facilities like nylon fishing nets. This kind of fishing net is durable and can resist the floundering of large fish such as cod, rays, etc.
In the same series 3077 talks about building bridges for the people; 3078 talks about the free market for the fishermen where they can buy and sell; and 3079 talks about the peoples right to buy and own their own homes.
The Contested Areas
Leaflets were also prepared for those people that were in areas with a concentration of Viet Cong. This September 1968 leaflet depicts President Thieu giving farmers deeds to their land. It is designed to show the farmers and the Viet Cong what the government is doing for the people. The text on the front is:
A Thousand farmers cheer as President Nguyen Van Thieu distributes land title certificates
The back is all text:
Many South Vietnamese Farmers own the land they till
On 8 September 1968, hundreds of farmers of Chuong Thien Province received titles to their land from South Vietnams President Nguyen Van Thieu. This was one of very many such presentations.
The President said: It is the Governments police to distribute Government-owned land to the tenant farmers at a price they can afford.
The farmers expressed their feelings by saying: We are truly grateful to the Government because they are helping us to own our land.
Health and Welfare Education
In this photograph a series of posters and leaflets on health and welfare have been taken into the field and are being studied by local Vietnamese. Australian Leaflet ATF-053-70 is at the upper left of the far right panel.
The Australian Civic Aid budget was $230,000 in 1970. Nearly $174,000 of this was to be spent on
. In October 1969, a joint venture began at Phuoc Tuy Province on a major renovation and building program. The Australians built kitchens, dining rooms, toilets and showers, a water supply, a sewerage system, and roads. Baria Hospital
Early in 1970, the Civil Affairs unit began construction of a 12 room school at Bau Pram. In addition to civic aid projects in
Phuoc Tuy Province, members of the RAAF carried out projects in their local area and, in Saigon, members of the Force Headquarters gave extensive assistance to orphanages. Small dispensaries were constructed in several villages and constant repairs and improvements were made in Phuoc Tuy's main hospital in Baria. In June 1971 major renovations and buildings were completed. These included a new toilet block and septic system for the medical ward and the addition of an annex to the maternity ward.
Australian Leaflet ATF-037-70
The Australians printed 100,000 copies of leaflet ATF-037-70 to be distributed from the air. The leaflet depicts a medical helicopter on the front and the text:
The helicopter ambulance saves lives.
Some of the all-text message on the back is:
This is a helicopter ambulance.
You can see by the picture that the helicopter ambulance doesnt carry any weapons.
The helicopter ambulance saves lives.
The helicopter ambulance saves lives.
The 7th PSYOP Battalion on 26 September 1971 began the leaflet, poster, radio or TV and Aerial broadcast missions for the white medevac helicopter campaign. The objective of this campaign was to persuade enemy forces to refrain from firing on medivac helicopters.
The 7th PSYOP Battalion printed a series of leaflets showing helicopters in an attempt to stop the Viet Cong from firing on rescue missions and provide better medical care to the Vietnamese people. Examples are 7-205-71 which says
This is an ambulance helicopter painted in white. Like all other ambulance helicopters, this helicopter is not armed. The only duty it performs is to save wounded regardless of friends or foes.
DO NOT FIRE UPON THESE AMBULANCE HELICOPTERS
The message on the back is:
All medical helicopters bear the Red Cross. They are used in an emergency to transport sick and wounded people. Some new medical helicopters are painted white so that they can be better recognized by your ranks and should not be shot at.
Leaflet 7-206-71 has the same image as leaflet 7-205-71 and says in part:
Helicopters like this help sick and wounded persons, regardless if they are civilians or soldiers, friend or foe.
MEDICAL HELICOPTERS ARE USED FOR RESCUE MISSIONS AND THEY ARE NOT ENGAGED IN COMBAT. YOU SHOULD NOT FIRE AT THEM.
White medical helicopters with Red Cross markings, like all other medical helicopters, are not armed.
They are used only to save endangered lives. Help medical helicopters in their humanitarian tasks. Do not shoot at medical helicopters.
The back of leaflet 7-207-7 depicts two images and no text. The images are men looking up at a medical helicopter and medics placing a wounded soldier on a medical helicopter.
There were some problems with these leaflets. Although the standard dust off medical helicopters did not mount weapons, there were helicopters in several of the combat divisions assigned to dust off operations, and apparently some of them did have M-60 machines guns, (sometimes illegally held by bungee cords), M-14s, M-16s, and at least in one case an XM-117 which the crew could use for self-protection. Some North Vietnamese troops claim that they held off firing at the marked helicopters, only to be fired upon. After that they always fired at the helicopters, Red Cross or not.
During a discussion among Vietnam veterans some of the comments were:
U.S. helicopters painted white were seldom used except by the 57th Medical Detachment or Company in January 1972.
As I recall, about 3 of these were delivered to I Corps...and they drew as much (or more) hostile fire as the old ones did.
It may seem strange to put the Preamble to the Vietnamese Constitution in this section but explaining to the people how their government works and what their rights are is a quality of life issue. In handout 1961 the
Government tells many of its farmers and peasants, perhaps for the first time, what rights they have as a citizen. This handout was printed in August 1967. Some of the text is: Vietnam
Confident that patriotism, indomitable will and unyielding traditions of the people will assure a radiant future for our country:
Conscious that after many years of foreign domination, followed by the division of our territory, dictatorship and war, the people of Viet Nam must take responsibility before history to perpetuate those hardy traditions and at the same time to welcome progressive ideas in order to establish a republican form of government of the people
Numerous American leaflets taught the Vietnamese the proper way to deal with garbage. Poster 2682 and 2682A are entitled Dont put garbage here and there. Poster 2682 is in Vietnamese, 2682A is in the Koho language. They both depict various scenes of garbage elimination and the text:
DONT PUT THE GARBAGE HERE AND THERE
In order to get rid of flies and mice and avoid sickness
We should bury
Put it in the container
Or burn it.
There are a number of leaflets that mention rats and mice. Leaflet 7-648-68 depicts a hand removing a dead mouse with forceps. The text is:
Mice live in many dirty places. Mice carry disease germs from garbage and dead animals to your home and food. Keep mice away from your food and protect your health.
10,000 copies of Poster 10-034-69 were printed in July 1968 to teach the Vietnamese farmers about rat control. The right side of the poster was illustrated, the left side all text. The message is:
To all Friendly Farmers of
Did you know?
That thousands of tons of metric rice are eaten by rats every year. That thousands of metric tons of secondary crops have been given to rats every year. That thousands of human lives have been snuffed out by the fleas brought in on rats backs.
Join the rat control campaign beginning right now in your province, district, village and hamlet.
Everyone join the rat control campaign. Use you rat-killing skills; fill your rice fields with rice.
Kill the rats to protect your crops and increase your production. Visit your Provincial Agricultural Cadre for information and material on the killing of rats.
Former Marine Corporal James Jones told me:
Our first priority in Combined Action Program 2-1-3 and 2-1-4 was to provide security and training for the local popular forces. Another objective was to provide medical assistance to the local people. We would set up a station with our Corpsman and let the people know where we were. They came from the local hamlets and presented the Corpsman with various infected sores and wounds that needed attention. We treated what we could and medivaced out those who we couldn't help. I also was involved in rebuilding a bombed out school by getting materials from various engineering companies located in our tactical area of responsibility. We took part in digging new wells, showing the people how to better farm, and teaching better methods of hygiene. I believe this helped us to win over the locals and gave them the peace of mind that we would be there to help them and keep the local Viet Cong out of their homes. It also helped in getting intelligence from the people. It was the best experience of my life and I carry with me to this day the things that I learned during my tour in Vietnam.
Handout 2769 is entitled Plaque kills people, and warns the people of bubonic plaque carried by rats. Handout 2771 in entitled Rat poem, and discusses various ways that the people can eliminate the rat problem.
Gifts of Food and Money to the Vietnamese Poor
Some Americans are still helping the Vietnamese people four decades after the end of the war. For instance, the Friendship Foundation of American Vietnamese Inc., travels to
Vietnamannually. The mission of the Foundation is to build bridges of friendship between the people of and people of other countries. Vietnam
Humanitarian Activities in Vietnam include: visiting and working with orphans; visiting hospitals, especially the children's wards; setting up a choir to sing at orphanages, senior citizen homes, homes for the handicapped and mentally retarded; visiting rural villages and meeting the people; distribution of foods to the poor, distribution of school supplies; distributing scholarships to good students from low-income families; assisting with Health Fair Days in rural areas including helping with the doctors as they examine and prescribe for patients; visiting women's groups and discussing their projects and how to help them; clothes distribution to children from poor families; and helping in local development projects.
Bob Delzell a former member of the 196th Light Infantry Brigade (Separate) during 1969 and 1970 has lived in
since 2001. He teaches English to Vietnamese students. He recently wrote about the attitude of the Vietnamese people toward Americans: Vietnam
in a time of peace and prosperity, getting to know the people, and working with them extensively, I want you all to know that they honor and thank us for what we tried to do. Never feel that what we did here was not respected by the people who fought on both sides fought the war. They set Americans apart from the others who came here and waged war. They told me that we are different from the French, Japanese, Chinese, and Russians. Vietnam
I have had Vietnamese soldiers who fought for the South and spent years in their prisons, tearfully thank me for my service. I have had former Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army troops tell me that we were formidable on the battlefield and helpful to their country and its people in peace.
When one thinks of the Vietnam War we remember the left-wing attack on the troops as drug addicts, rapists and murderers. Until this day some people distrust
Vietnamveterans because they still believe the old enemy propaganda waged by the political Left that claimed that American troops went to to wage aggression and murder. This is just a brief look at hundreds of the category 3 revolutionary development and category 4 community development theme leaflets designed to assist the people of Vietnam . It is a reminder that psychological operations need not be about aggression, fear or intimidation. The propaganda leaflet can be used to support a higher quality of life for the target audience. The author looks forward to your comments. If you care to discuss any part of this article please contact him at Sgmbert@hotmail.com. Vietnam
When one writes these article one never knows what effect the story will have on the reader. In this case it helped inspire a documentary producer to look deeper into American military volunteer humanitarian actions in Vietnam. In March 2012, I received a letter which I reprint in part:
My name is Paul Callahan and I'm making a documentary about a Vietnamese interpreter I had during an Operation Smile medical mission in Can Tho, Vietnam. His name is Mr. Thach and I spent several weeks with him out in the hamlets of the Mekong Delta finding people with cleft lips and palates Before I started this documentary I knew very little about the war. I contacted some advisors participating in the Pacification and Development Program during the Vietnam War and they all seemed to have had a good experience in Vietnam. Many said it was the highpoint in their lives. I am just trying to show some sort of universal truth about how helping people is at the core of our human nature I read Hearts and Minds and that was the article that led me to you.I'm hoping you can give me some insights that would benefit the documentary.