PSYOP ORDER OF BATTLE
FOR VIETNAM

 

SGM Herbert A. Friedman (Ret.)

Note: Images from this article were used with permission in a documentary film for the German Broadcaster ZDF entitled “The Power of Music.”

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The story of psychological operations (PSYOP) in Vietnam is difficult to relate. There were a host of originators of propaganda and the lines of authority and control are difficult to unravel and chart. I have made an attempt in this article to outline the order of battle (OB) as it has been published in official and other documents. This is an ongoing project and one that I hope the readers will help me to finish. It is a labor of love. The data is from official records, published books, magazines, field manuals, interviews, and anecdotes. I believe it is fairly accurate, but I am sure that there are many omissions. I ask any reader who can add to this story to write to me at the address below. I will be happy to add any data that will make this story more complete.

Background

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French Propaganda Leaflet for the Viet Minh

This leaflet depicts a peaceful Vietnam on the left and a war-torn Vietnam on the right.

The Time Has Arrived and We Must Choose

Vietnam: Independence. Freedom. Vietnam: Slavery. Communist China

Vietnam: From 1940, the Viet Minh, communist guerillas headed by Ho Chi Minh, fought the Japanese occupiers, and in August 1945, the Viet Minh gained control over a Japanese-sponsored government. France, seeking to re-establish its colonial power in the area, fought nationalist and communist forces from 1946 to 1954, when, on 8 May 1954, France was defeated at Dien Bien Phu. Vietnam was divided at the 17th Parallel into North and South by a Geneva accord on 21 July 1954. Ho Chi Minh's communists took over the north and established the Democratic Republic of Vietnam; in the south, Ngo Dinh Diem established the Republic of Vietnam. From 1954 on, the North attempted to conquer the South.

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 French Propaganda leaflet for the Viet Minh

This leaflet depicts Stalin holding Ho Chi Minh on leash while kicking a Viet Minh soldier and forcing him forward to attack a French-Vietnamese fort.

Hurry up stupid!

There have been questions about why President Eisenhower never supported a free election in Vietnam and a CIA report indicates it was because of faith in Diem. Some comments found in Thomas Ahern’s declassified “Center for the Study of Intelligence” secret publication: The House of Ngo – Covert Action in South Vietnam 1954-1963 are:

Ngo Dinh Diem's attractiveness to his first American patrons derived from three qualities: he was a certified anti-Communist nationalist, he was a Roman Catholic, and he understood English.

After the partition of Vietnam with the Geneva Agreements of 1954, the Eisenhower administration began to directly support the government in the South headed by Ngo Dinh Diem. President Eisenhower, in a letter to Diem, promised to help Diem maintain a "strong, viable state capable of resisting outside aggression." Armed with this support, in July 1954, Diem rejected the reunification elections provided for in the Geneva Agreements and declared South Vietnam a republic with himself as president. The CIA, although pessimistic about establishing a stable, civilian regime in South Vietnam, nevertheless set about assisting Diem in creating a new state.

In 1956 the Viet Cong, aided by North Vietnam, pressed war in the south, and South Vietnam began receiving U.S. aid. Large-scale North Vietnamese troop infiltrations of the south began in 1964, with the support of China and the Soviet Union. Masses of troops were stationed in border areas of Laos and Cambodia.

Lieutenant Colonel John A. Nagl discusses the inadequacies of the United States Army in Vietnam in Counterinsurgency in Modern Warfare, Daniel Marston and Carter Malkasian, Osprey Publishing, UK, 2008. He says:

The United States entered the Vietnam War with a military trained and equipped to fight a conventional war in Europe, and totally unprepared for the counterinsurgency campaign it was about to wage.

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Ngo Dinh Diem

Nguyen Cao Ky

Nguyen Van Thieu

Beginning in late 1963 with the assassination of longtime President Ngo Dinh Diem, the South experienced a series of military coups. The last of these was headed by Nguyen Cao Ky, who assumed control in June 1965, and who was replaced in 1967 by Nguyen Van Thieu in South Vietnam's first presidential election.

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Leaflet 88

Leaflet 88 depicts two of the leaders of the Republic of Vietnam after Diem, Nguyen Van Thieu and Nguyen Cao Ky. It is one of the very few that features 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 NORTH VIETNAM

On the occasion of the inauguration of the new President and Vice President of the Republic of Vietnam, 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.

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.

Nguyen Cao Ky was a dashing pilot who liked to walk around wearing his flight suit. He was quite the charmer and a close friend of mine who flew with him told me that he presented all the pilots with chrome-plated .357 pistols. The CIA did not think highly of Ky according to Thomas Ahern’s declassified secret publication entitled. CIA and the Generals: Covert Support to Military Government in South Vietnam:

As of June 1965, Station contacts depicted a first-class pilot and a poor administrator whose genuine charisma had given Air Force morale a dramatic boost when he became its commander in late 1963. He was also a thrill seeker and risk taker, according to intimates, renowned for his drinking, gambling, and an endless' succession of girlfriends; he also indulged a penchant for insubordination.

In return, Ky did not think very kindly of his American allies. He said at various times:

I am not bitter about America's involvement here, but I am bitter about the fact that her policy makers never listened to my advice. That is a glaring weakness with American foreign policy. Washington politicians and bureaucrats think they know more than the natives of a country like Vietnam. That is the arrogance of Washington and in my opinion it is an attitude that will always get America into trouble in countries they know very little about…

I have consistently told Washington you cannot win a defensive war in Vietnam when the other side is engaged in an offensive war. By fighting a limited, defensive war, the U.S. allowed the North Vietnamese to continuously re-supply their units in the field.

The worst thing that happened to South Vietnam was when we allowed the United States to take control of our war with the North. Long before America decided to quit the war, I realized that this would be the inevitable result of America’s lack of commitment to victory. I offered to lead a South Vietnamese attack on North Vietnam, which was defended by a single division of regular troops. All I required from the US was air support.

Nguyen Cao Ky, the flamboyant former air force general who ruled South Vietnam for two years during the Vietnam War died on 23 July 2011. He was 80. Ky died at a hospital in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where he was being treated for a respiratory complication.

President Nixon was not exactly a solid supporter of Thieu. Carolyn Page mentions a comment by the American President in U.S. Official Propaganda during the Vietnam War, 1965-1973, Leicester University Press, London, 1996:

I was aware that many Americans considered Thieu a petty and corrupt dictator unworthy of our support. I was not personally attached to Thieu, but I looked at the situation in practical terms. As I saw it, an alternative to Thieu was not someone more enlightened or tolerant or democratic but someone weaker who would not be able to hold together the contentious factions in South Vietnam. The South Vietnamese needed a strong and stable government to carry on the fight against the efforts of the Viet Cong terrorists, who were supported by the North Vietnamese Army in their efforts to impose a Communist dictatorship on the 17 million people of South Vietnam.

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Handout 2653 - Independence Palace

This July 1968 Joint United States Public Affairs Office handout depicts an 8 x 10-inch photograph of the Independence Palace. This building was the workplace of the Presidents of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. On 27 February 1962, two anti-Diem government pilots flying Douglas A-1 Skyraiders bombed the building in a futile attempt at assassinating the president. On 8 April 1975, it was bombed again by a South Vietnamese pilot flying a Northrop F5E Tiger II aircraft. The palace was the site of the official handover of power during the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975 after a North Vietnamese tank knocked down the main gate. The North Vietnamese renamed it Reunification Palace.

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Lieutenant General Duong Van (Big) Minh

There is no code on this leaflet so it is impossible to say if it was prepared by the Americans or the Vietnamese. However, the text would lead me to believe that this is a Vietnamese product. Minh led the South Vietnamese army under Prime Minister Diem. After the assassination he led Vietnam for three months before being replaced, and briefly led South Vietnam again in 1975 before surrendering the nation to the North Vietnamese Communists. He got the nickname, “Big Minh”, because he was six feet tall and weighed 198 pounds. It also distinguished him from General Tran Van (Little) Minh.

The front depicts a photograph of “Big” Minh and the text:

Lieutenant General Duong Van Minh

Chairman of the Revolutionary Soldiers Committee.

The back shows a scene of tanks and people in front of the Presidential palace and the text:

Commemorate the Success of the 1-11-1963 Revolution.

The Gia Long Palace, after a night of smoke and fighting was finally assaulted and
occupied by Revolutionary troops to end a dictatorial, corrupt and anarchist regime.

It is interesting to note that few propaganda leaflets picture Diem. There are some Vietnamese who believe that he was the only leader who had the will and strength to defeat the Communists. It is also interesting to note that after Diem’s assassination, a number of Allied leaflets were prepared that attacked the former president and promised better times. The United States quickly turned on its old ally. For instance, leaflet SP-65 depicts General Duong-van-Minh (Chairman of the Revolutionary Council) and Prime Minister Nguyen Ngoc. It says in part:

The new government of Vietnam, which overthrew the regime of the Ngo family, has been in existence only since November 1, 1963. Already much progress has been made. Many great plans are being prepared which will benefit the people of the rural areas…

Leaflet SP-71 adds:

The despotic government of the Ngo Dinh Diem family was put to an end by the November 1 revolution. This transitory period of the national history is enthusiastically welcomed by all countrymen.

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Poster 1961 

To encourage patriotism toward their nation, this 10 x 16-inch full-color poster “Scroll” was created by JUSPAO in August 1967 and depicts the Preamble to the Constitution of the Republic of Vietnam. The text is: 

Preamble 

Confident that the 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 Vietnam 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. by the people and for the people whose purpose is to unite the nation, unite the territory and assure independence, freedom, and democracy with justice and altruism for the present and future generations; 

We, 117 Deputies of the National Constituent Assembly representing the people of Vietnam, after debate, approve this constitution. 

In 1964, following the Gulf of Tonkin incident, the United States began air strikes against the North. Increased activity followed in 1965, including the use of U.S. ground troops. Failure of U.S. and South Vietnamese efforts and disputes in the U.S. over war aims led Richard Nixon in July 1969 to cease bombings of the North and to begin a series of U.S. troop withdrawals referred to as "Vietnamization." U.S. bombings of the North resumed in 1972-73. A cease-fire was negotiated in Paris in January 1973, but it was never implemented. U.S. aid was curbed by Congress in 1974. Increasing attacks from the North overwhelmed the remaining government outposts in the Central Highlands, and the Saigon government surrendered on 30 April 1975. A Socialist Republic of Vietnam, with capital in Hanoi, was established throughout Vietnam.

In 1964, following the Gulf of Tonkin incident, the United States began air strikes against the North. Increased activity followed in 1965, including the use of U.S. ground troops. Failure of U.S. and South Vietnamese efforts and disputes in the U.S. over war aims led Richard Nixon in July 1969 to cease bombings of the North and to begin a series of U.S. troop withdrawals referred to as "Vietnamization." U.S. bombings of the North resumed in 1972-73. A cease-fire was negotiated in Paris in January 1973, but it was never implemented. U.S. aid was curbed by Congress in 1974. Increasing attacks from the North overwhelmed the remaining government outposts in the Central Highlands, and the Saigon government surrendered on 30 April 1975. A Socialist Republic of Vietnam, with capital in Hanoi, was established throughout Vietnam.

Laos: Laos regained independence from France on 19 July 1949 as a constitutional monarchy. The nation consisted of political ideologies from communist to conservative to neutralist. The Communist forces were made up of Prince Chao Souphanouvong (The Red Prince), Kaysone Phomvihane, the Pathet Lao and their North Vietnamese allies (supported by Red China and the USSR). The pro-Western forces included King Savang Vatthana, Prince Boun Oum, General Phoumi Nosavan and the Hmong guerrillas and militia led by General Vang Pao (backed secretly by the U.S. Government and the Central Intelligence Agency). The neutralists consisted of Prince Souvanna Phouma, General Kong Le, and the Royal Lao Government. Conflicts among neutralist, communist, and conservative factions led to increasingly chaotic and violent conflicts, particularly after 1960. The formal Declaration on the Neutrality of Laos, signed on 23 July 1962, provided for a coalition government and the withdrawal of all foreign troops from the country by 7 October. The three factions then formed a coalition government with Prince Souvanna Phouma as premier. By 1964 the communist Pathet Lao had withdrawn from the coalition and renewed guerilla actions with support from North Vietnam. The United States got more deeply involved in Laos in an attempt to interdict the flow of traffic down the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and also to pull some front-line units out of Vietnam and into Laos. In addition, the 4500-elevation Lima Site 85 (Pha Thi) was loaded with modern electronic equipment to help the USAF in operating its missions over North Vietnam.

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Trail Campaign Leaflet T-16

The leaflet above is written in both Vietnamese and Lao and is addressed to Vietnamese troops in Laos.

PASSPORT

To: North Vietnamese Soldiers Living in Laos.

You have the opportunity to escape death and live in safety and peace. The Lao Royal Government and its people will welcome and treat you as brothers. Please show this passport to any LAO soldier or civilian.

Tong Tu Lenh,
Commander in Chief of Lao Military Forces

An Air Commando who was stationed at LS-20A (Long Tieng) and LS-153 (Mouang Kassy) told me:

Those of us who fought the war from Laos have always considered it to have been more important than the coverage indicated. But since the whole mess was classified as “never happening” and those who fought there “didn't exist” it is no wonder that most people who are knowledgeable about the war in Viet Nam will dismiss Laos as a sideshow.

Laos was divided into five Military Regions (MR). MR I was in the northwest, including Luang Prabang and the borders with Burma and China; MR II was in the northeast, including Long Tieng, Sam Neua and Sam Thong; MR III consisted of the central panhandle region, including Savannakhet and much of the Ho Chi Minh trail. MR IV was in the south, including Pakse and the Bolovens Plateau; finally MR V consisted of the neutral zone around Vientiane. 

Early in the war there were plans to use local Lao tribes as part of an American-led resistance movement. This plan was forwarded to American Ambassador Sullivan who was concerned that it might be impossible to limit and control such an operation. Furthermore, if the resistance got into trouble there would be no way to militarily support them, which might result in their very embarrassing slaughter.

Amidst the Vietnam War in 1970, the U.S. increased its military activities, but after Pathet Lao military gains, in May 1975 the government forces ceased fighting and the Pathet Lao took control. A Lao People's Democratic Republic, strongly influenced by Vietnam, was proclaimed 3 December 1975. The Republic of Vietnam and the United States Government directed several PSYOP campaigns targeting enemy troops in both Laos and Cambodia.

A PSYOP officer who served in 1967-1968 discussed some of the campaigns used in Laos against the Viet Cong moving southward on the Ho Chi Minh Trail:

There was the B-52 Follow-up Program. Within four hours of a B-52 strike leaflets were dropped informing the enemy that he has been bombed by B-52s and showed him a picture of the bomber which flew so high that he would otherwise never see it. It reminded him that the bombers would come again and urged the Viet Cong to use the printed safe conduct pass on the leaflet. Another operation, the “Trail Campaign” was directed against military and civilian personnel who used and maintained the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Most of the Trail leaflets bore a numerical code from 1-125 and the letter “T.”

Readers who wish to know more about the Laos campaign are encouraged to check http://www.laoveterans.com/about.html .

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Trail Campaign Leaflet T-07.

It seems obvious that the officer is discussing Leaflet T-07. The front of the leaflet depicts a B-52 dropping bombs. The back is all text:

You will never see one of these

You probably won't hear it. It flies too high. It is a B-52 bomber, used by the South Vietnamese people's powerful American allies to blast aggressors out of their hiding places. One B-52 carries 29,700 kilos of bombs and can drop them with pin-point accuracy, dealing certain death to everyone within the target area. The B-52 can strike you at any time during all seasons and weather conditions.

Your chance to avoid this fate will come. Look for your safe conduct pass.

We should mention the fear factor produced by the B-52 bomber. Truong Nhu Tang talks about the bombers in Viet Cong Memoir. He called the strikes “undiluted psychological terror.” Despite having been hunted by South Vietnamese and American ground forces and having endured all of the privations and hardships associated with the life of a guerrilla, Truong Tang noted that “nothing the guerrillas had to endure compared with the stark terrorization of the B-52 bombardments.”

Cambodia: During late 1966 and 1967, the U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV) conducted an intensive PSYWAR campaign against North Vietnamese army troops located along the Cambodian border with South Vietnam. In an effort to minimize violation of Cambodian air space, MACV used the wind drift method of leaflet dissemination, whereby aircraft flew along the border and used favorable wind currents to carry leaflets into Cambodia. U.S. leaflet drops from Cambodian air space were never officially acknowledged. However, information from a recently declassified top secret report US PSYOP structure in Vietnam published in the MACVSOG Command History, Index B, 1971-1972 reported that:

Under no circumstances will anyone having knowledge about these operations acknowledge that leaflets are being dropped over Cambodia. Public comments on this subject whether on background, off the record, or any other basis are prohibited. Following line, not to be volunteered, should be used in Saigon (and will be followed in Washington) in answering any press queries on a background basis: "We have for sometime been dropping leaflets in South Vietnamese border areas, Given wind drift, we assume some of these leaflets have been falling inside Cambodia." It goes on to say: "In the event of incidents involving loss of US personnel or aircraft...spokesman may acknowledge possibility of inadvertent entry into Cambodia air space by elements operating in SVN as a result of navigational error.

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Cambodian Leaflet 4-36-70

Since we mention the campaigns in Cambodia I want to add a Cambodian-language leaflet here. This all-text leaflet says:

Attention Cambodian Friends 

The Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army are bringing supplies and personnel into your country and using Cambodian sanctuaries to launch attacks against the Cambodian and Vietnamese people. They have invaded the neutral nation of Cambodia. To oppose this aggression and destroy our common enemy it is necessary to bomb enemy base camps, supply routes, convoys and depots. Follow the instructions on the reverse side and you will be safe.

Instructions for safety: 

1. Stay in your homes. 

2. Stay of roads, bridges, trails and waterways.

3. Stay away from enemy troops.

US PSYOP Structure in Vietnam

Propaganda and safe-conduct passes and leaflets were produced under the jurisdiction of the Joint U. S. Public Affairs Office (JUSPAO). JUSPAO was formed in July 1965, following 11 years of increasingly uncoordinated and inefficient psychological operations that began in summer of 1954 during Vietnam's transition from French rule. JUSPAO was given authority for all propaganda activities in an effort to end disputes and lack of coordination between Americans and Vietnamese and between American military and civilian agencies. Readers who wish to read of this agency in more depth should study U. S. Psychological Operations in Vietnam, a monograph on national security affairs written by Harry D. Latimer, Brown University, September, 1973. He points out that the civilian director (initially, Barry Zorthian) reporting to the U.S. Information Agency (USIA), JUSPAO integrated the psychological operations of the U.S. Information Service (USIS, USIA's overseas arm), The State Department's U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Joint Chief's Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV), and the U .S. Embassy. At its apex it employed 695 people, 245 Americans and 116 from the military and had an annual budget of 10 million dollars. Zorthian seemed a good choice for the position of director since he had been a combat Marine and a reporter for Time Magazine before working for the United States Information Agency. An understanding was reached in 1966 that whereas JUSPAO would retain responsibility for overall PSYOP policy and would conduct strategic operations such as the Chieu Hoi surrender program, MACV would be responsible for PSYOP tactical field operations.

Don North wrote about Barry Zorthian in January 2011 upon his death at age 90. He said in part:

At Yale, Zorthian practiced journalism…He was editor of The Yale Daily News and became a member of the secret campus society, Skull and Bones, a controversial fraternity whose members included both Presidents Bush and other American powerbrokers.

Upon graduation in 1941, Zorthian served in a U.S. Marine artillery unit in the South Pacific and came out a captain. After the war ended, he took a job at CBS radio in New York. He received a law degree from New York University but instead of practicing law preferred journalism and spent 13 years with the Voice of America as a reporter, editor and program manager.

In 1961, Zorthian joined the State Department and became a deputy public affairs officer in the U.S. Embassy, New Delhi, India. Three years later, in February 1964, U.S. Information Agency Director Edward R. Murrow appointed him as head of the Joint U.S. Public Affairs Office in Vietnam.

Although untrained in the art of psychological operations, Zorthian was responsible for coordinating these tactics designed to erode the morale of the enemy and win the allegiance of the Vietnamese people through “hearts and minds” programs.

Zorthian invested in excess of $10 million a year in dropping tons of leaflets; staging plays in which the Viet Cong were always the villains; and rounding up peasants at gunpoint for propaganda lectures.

Some of the more bizarre techniques that didn’t prove to be very successful were having local fortune tellers deliver false predictions at the expense of the Viet Cong and broadcasting funeral music from helicopters to enemy positions, followed by a child’s voice crying in Vietnamese, “Daddy, Daddy, please come home!”

The most successful PSYOP initiative was the Chieu Hoi or Open Arms program which Zorthian supported and greatly expanded in 1967. Several times, I saw Viet Cong emerging from the swamps in the Delta with fistfuls of “safe conduct ” passes dropped from aircraft.

The Chieu Hoi program promised economic aid, jobs, and relocation of families to safe areas. It is estimated to have caused 250,000 defections from 1963 to the last months of the war in 1975.

 

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MACV Headquarters – Saigon

Navy E4 David White worked in Saigon in the J3 (Operations Section) of MACV in 1970. He communicated with various units relaying information either by phone or encrypted messages. He adds:

I was stationed at MACV in Saigon from April 1970 through May 1971 and lived in the Dodge City barracks. I worked in PSYOP in the main Headquarters (1 floor up and about 10 offices down from General Creighton Abrams).  I did many presentations for the general and his staff. 

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Dave White
First week in-country at MACV – April 1970

There were Army and Air Force sections that dealt with the PSYOP units in the field. Later, the offices were combined into one section with eight officers. I worked 10-12 hour days in Headquarters of MACV typing messages, making presentations, and delivering correspondence. I saw samples of leaflets from various campaigns, but was never involved in the production of them. I guess you could say I was a Psyclerk, and not a Psywarrior. 

Major Michael G. Barger mentions MACV in his U.S. Army Command and General Staff College 2007 Master’s thesis Psychological Operations Supporting the Counterinsurgency: 4th PSYOP Group in Vietnam:

The commander and staff of MACV placed great emphasis on PSYOP from the planning stages of the troop buildup in 1965. One reason for this, in addition to the perceived failure of PSYOP advisory efforts, was the agreed division of responsibilities between MACV and JUSPAO. This agreement specified that MACV would execute

PSYOP in the field and provide print capability to JUSPAO, so MACV planners requested the addition of units with these capabilities to the troop buildup.

Because General Westmoreland and his staff appreciated and encouraged the use of PSYOP, U.S. Army PSYOP units would deploy and operate in Vietnam in unprecedented numbers compared to previous conflicts. One instrument used to communicate and encourage this “marked interest” in PSYOP was USMACV Directive 525-3, dated 7 September 1965, “which emphasized discrimination in the application of firepower and the use of all available PSYOP resources” in combat operations

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The Joint U.S. Public Affairs Office

Returning to JUSPAO, the 1968 MACV PSYOP Guide says:

JUSPAO is an altered and expanded form of the United States Information Service in Vietnam. By decision of the National Security Council in May 1965, the responsibility for all PSYOP in Vietnam was delegated to the Director of USIA. Although JUSPAO is primarily a civilian organization many of its personnel are military, assigned through MACV. Selected foreign officers are also assigned. 

The North Vietnamese Affairs Division directs PSYOP against North Vietnamese and North Vietnamese Army infiltrators.

[The Political Warfare Division advised, assisted and supported the Vietnamese General Political Warfare Department and its subordinate elements.]

JUSPAO at first consisted of about 150 officers, later 250, more than half from USIA, and about 600 Vietnamese. Latimer discusses the organization chart for the organization:

The office of Plans, Policy and Research handled policy directives, quality control, and research associated with the attitudes in friendly areas and with the enemy.

The Field Development Division was an operations shop wholly committed to the propaganda effort. In addition to responsibility for leaflets and posters, and for coordination of various campaigns, it supervised field operations.

Monta L. Osborne was the Chief of Field Development Division in the Joint United States Public Affairs Office (JUSPAO) in Saigon. He told me about the propaganda output of his organization:

NEWSPAPERS

Vietnam Ngay Nay (Vietnam Today), a weekly, printed in 600,000 copies, distributed to pacified areas.

Mien Nam Tu-Do (Free South), a bi-weekly, printed in 1,300,000 copies, air-dropped to denied areas.

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Special Issue - Mien Nam Tu-Do - No.52 – JUSPAO 3022 - December 1968

Stories include President Nguyen Van Thieu taking part in Paris talks, a photograph of Vice-President Ky and President Nixon strengthening US-Vietnam ties.

The newspaper Mien Nam Tu-Do was written by the Field Development Division, then printed in the United States Information Agency plant in Manila, with the cost paid for by the U.S. Army (7th PSYOP Group). Each issue was given a regular JUSPAO code number. For instance, mini-newspaper issue 49 of November, 1968 was coded 2984. The newspaper targeted rural areas of Vietnam that were not served by the civilian press. Its purpose was to keep those rural areas informed of national programs in their behalf; publicize Government victories and Communist defeats; developments in the Chieu Hoi program; Free World assistance to the Government of Vietnam; and the anti-Government actions by Hanoi, the NLF and the Viet Cong. The newspaper came in both a regular and a mini-size issue. In 1968, 520,000 copies of the mini-issue were distributed to the 44 provinces mostly by hand instead of air drop. The size of the mini-edition is 9.5-inches by 10.5-inches.

The full-size newspaper was 10.5-inches by 16-inches. Full-sized number 10 was dated November, 1968 and coded 2987. In 1968, 2,000,000 copies were printed every other week. Occasionally, special issues were produced. The newspaper was printed in Manila and flown to Vietnam for distribution by the four PSYOP Battalions. 1,300,000 copies were issued to the battalion to be airdropped over Viet Cong areas. The other 700,000 issues were shipped to the 44 provinces. Full-sized issue 10 depicted a photograph of President Nixon and news of his election as President of the United States.

We should mention that the U.S. also printed newspapers for the Vietnamese. JUSPAO 2955, printed in November, 1968, was entitled Ngon Song. 30,000 copies of this newspaper were prepared and handed out by the Vietnamese Information Service (VIS) Cadre to urban citizens that lived around the capitol of Saigon. The general theme of the newspaper was “The Government of Vietnam’s image.”

MAGAZINES

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Huong Que

Huong Que (Rural Spirit), a monthly, printed in 565,000 copies, for distribution throughout the rural areas of South Vietnam, intended to help improve farming methods.The publication was written by the Field Development Division staff of JUSPAO, and printed at the Regional Support Center in Manila.

The magazines were distributed by the Vietnamese Information Service throughout the 44 provinces of Vietnam. The magazine above is Number 72, with the code 3386 although it is not found anywhere on the publication. Some of the stories in this issue are: Effective Protection for Pigs and Chickens; Hatching and raising pond fish; Growing sugar cane and the globe artichoke.

The Gioi Tu-Do (Free World), printed monthly in 155,000 copies. This was a general interest magazine, edited for educated adults and students.

Long Ne, (Mother’s Heart), published bi-monthly in 200,000 copies, to gain support for the Chieu Hoi Program.

Van Tac Vu (Cultural Drama), published bi-monthly in 12,000 copies: It provided materials (songs, skits, poems, etc.) and guidance to the Cultural Drama Teams.

POSTERS

Posters were produced in varying sizes, multi-color. Normally, 50,000 copies were printed of each poster.

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Poster 2878

Because I mostly study leaflets which are usually about 6 x 3-inches and can fit into a small book or into plastic holders, I have few full-sized posters. They tend to be large and clumsy and are difficult to store. However, I do want to show our readers at least one full-sized JUSPAO poster. This one measures 30 inches in height by 11 inches in width. It would normally be tacked to a large board where Vietnamese civilians congregate. There are two images of Vietnamese self-defense forces on parade. The text is:

THE PEOPLES UNITE TO DEFEND THE COUNTRY

The goal of the people’s self-defense program is to mobilize the entire population to actively participate in the fighting.

The people will defend the rear area, will carry out production activities, and will support the front lines.

OUR ENTIRE POPULATION MUST UNITE TO DEFEND OUR JUST CAUSE IN THE POLITICAL STRUGGLE AGAINST THE ENEMY.

My translator commented:

The wording is something that could have been copied right out of North Vietnamese propaganda posters or leaflets. I wonder if they had an ex-Viet Cong who went Chieu Hoi write this.

OTHER ITEMS

Air-drop leaflets: These were usually 3” X 6”, normally printed on both sides; an average of 15 prototypes were developed each month. We had the capability of printing and air-dropping 1 billion per month.

Pamphlets: These were program-oriented; for example, they supported the IR-8 rice program, land reform, etc. They were printed in any quantity needed, ranging from 25,000 to 1,000,000 copies.

Airborne loudspeaker tapes: These were 30 to 40 second messages, normally produced in three dialects of Vietnamese.

JUSPAO had a printing plant in Saigon. We were supported by a large USIA printing plant located in Manila. The U.S. military PSYOP Group had a printing plant in Vietnam, but depended also on the printing plant of the 7th PSYOP Group in Okinawa.

The Information Division was also an operations shop, with the more traditional roles of explaining American policy and projecting the U.S. image…beginning in 1964 there was a more psychological operations slant to the efforts of the Information Division. This division was also into radio, television, motion pictures, photography and publications.

The Cultural Affairs Division was not involved in the propaganda business, being concerned with such programs as libraries, cultural centers and bi-national centers, book translations, and English teaching.

The Technical Division was largely USAID’s area of material assistance.

The North Vietnamese Affairs Division handled propaganda to the North, along the trails in Laos, and later in Cambodia.

The Mission Press Center was part of JUSPAO until 1968 when it was separated.

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Chieu Hoi Propaganda Team Member

JUSPAO carried out extensive campaigns to induce North Vietnamese troops to surrender. The bulk of money and attention was focused on the Chieu Hoi (Open Arms) program to encourage Viet Cong to "rally" to the cause of the Republic of Vietnam. Begun in 1963 and administered by JUSPAO after its formation in 1965, the Chieu Hoi campaign resulted in billions of leaflets, millions of posters, magazines, and leaflets, and thousands of hours of loudspeaker exhortations encouraging Viet Cong defection; this is said to have been the largest propaganda campaign in history, with over 10 billion leaflets dropped in 1969 alone. In addition to offering amnesty and good treatment, monetary rewards were offered and paid to defectors who turned in weapons. Rewards were offered to third parties who induced Viet Cong to defect, with special bonuses for mass defections. These schemes were highly successful and were extended through 1969, but were terminated on 31 December 1969, probably because of abuses in awarding the money. We should also mention the Dai Doan Ket Program. This was a Chieu Hoi program aimed at middle and higher cadre in the Viet Cong. Most officers had come from the peasantry and it was believed that they would not rally to the Government just to be returned to the peasant class. This program promised to accept high-ranking returnees and place them in responsible positions.

The 6 August 1967 PSYOP Guide prepared by the Office of the Psychological Operations Directorate of the United States Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, mentions the Dai Doan Ket Program:

Potential defectors need to be reassured concerning the treatment they will receive after rallying and the opportunities offered them for reintegration into society. Former middle-level and higher cadre have stated their desire to prove themselves by working for the Government of Vietnam in jobs that make use of their qualifications. Leaflets making specific reference to the “Dai Doan Ket” (National Reconciliation Program) which is aimed at helping qualified returnees find employment commensurate with their previous training and experience should be particularly useful in appealing to this group.

There were numerous command and control problems at JUSPAO just as there were in the field PSYOP groups and battalions. Colonel William E. Linn was the Chief of Policy, Plans and Research and later the Assistant Director for Field Operations from March 1968 to April 1969. He wrote a PSYOP After-Action Report on 6 June 1969 that details the problems and recommendations for solving them. I will just mention a few of the more important ones. COL Linn is particularly disturbed that JUSPAO was never warned in advance about major policy shifts, and if given advance notice, was not allowed to utilize the information for PSYOP. He gives as example the bombing halts of March 1968 and October 1968. On both occasions JUSPAO was ready to tell the Vietnamese people why the bombing was halted. Because they had no guidance or permission they were unable to do so. As a result:

Hanoi propagandists had a field day pounding all Vietnamese target audiences that they had won a total victory; to fight on until the U.S. aggressors are forced out of Vietnam; that the North Vietnamese regime had not conceded anything to the United States at Paris; and that the United States was required to admit defeat due to U.S. and world public opinion; and that the bombing halt was proof that the communists’ fight in the Republic of Vietnam was just and right.

Linn complains about the lack of a single person in charge of all PSYOP in Vietnam. This complaint is seen again and again in after-actions. There was far too much division of authority.

An interesting complaint is that although JUSPAO in theory is in general charge of PSYOP, they are not cleared to know what black operations are being performed by MACV-SOG. He worries that the two agencies might be sending different messages to the enemy:

It is recognized that this is a sensitive area, but we must also recognize that the effectiveness of PSYOP is predicated, to a large degree, on a coordinated effort.  In the case of these two activities, the product they are attempting to sell should complement one another; thereby adding to the credibility of each other’s product.

Finally, a complaint that I have seen in almost every PSYOP after-action since the Korean War is the training of personnel. Linn says:

As an example, in the Army the bulk of resources for PSYOP come from the Armor and Artillery branches, while in the Air Force the majority are ex-bombardiers of other SAC personnel. A further deficiency in the selection criteria is that officers selected for the JUSPAO staff seldom if ever are “old hands” with background and experience.

Curiously. Linn supports his own argument. His signature block shows that he was a “Colonel, Field Artillery.”

Another complaint was made by William Lloyd Stearman who headed the North Vietnamese Affairs Division of the Joint U.S. Public Affairs Office from December 1965 to September 1967. He states that when he arrived he was the only officer in the Saigon mission that had actual experience with Communist affairs. Stearman says that the early leafleting campaign was not as effective as it could have been in his book: An American Adventure, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD, 2012. He says that in 1965:

I scurried around the State Department in search of expertise on North Vietnam. To my astonishment, we had no one working fulltime on a country with which we had been de facto at war for nearly a year…

JUSPAO was largely staffed by officers the United States Information Service and Army and Air Force officers. The result was an organization that was predictably weak in substance and long on techniques. I rarely heard any discussion on why we were doing anything. It was almost always about how we were doing it…

[JUSPAO] got most of its information about the North from Vietnamese who came South in 1954 to escape Communist rule in the North. More than ten years had elapsed since they left and much had changed in the interim. In other words, their knowledge about the North was hopelessly outdated. I went through all the leaflets in our inventory and had a number of questions about them. I decided to show them to captured North Vietnamese Army soldiers to see their reaction. I was not surprised to see that they didn’t seem to understand the messages. For one thing, there was a constant harping on the Chinese menace. Chinese forces, especially artillery, were in a large measure responsible for the decisive Communist defeat of French forces at Dien Bien Phu in 1954. China provided considerable military assistance to the North…In other words; I believed the people in the North had begun to look on the Chinese more as friends than as foes….

Thomas C. Sorensen tells us more about special JUSPAO teams in The Word War, Harper & Row, N.Y., 1968:

JUSPAO helped train six-man Van Tac Vu (Cultural Drama Service) troupes and assisted in the production of their material. The entertainers - among them, attractive actresses unaccustomed to hardship - traveled in black pajamas commonly worn by peasants, and lived with the villagers as they moved around the countryside, performing twenty or more shows a month. The troupes sang patriotic songs ("Vietnam, Vietnam" and "Our House"), amused and indoctrinated the peasantry with primitive dramas about villainous Viet Cong and heroic South Vietnamese soldiers and officials, and off stage distributed medicines, seed, food, and pamphlets, and helped at chores ranging from repairing damaged buildings to bathing infants.

The PSYOP Guide also mentions Culture Drama teams:

This group, made up of all types of entertainers, provides culture drama shows for Vietnamese military primarily in the Capital Military District. Organic to each POLWAR Battalion in the four Corps is a culture Platoon which provides entertainment throughout the Corps area in the form of songs, dramas, dances and similar activities. In the remote areas, these platoons may provide the only source of entertainment for the people.

Under the heading “Current Activities” the PSYOP Guide mentions other programs of interest:

Armed Propaganda Teams are made up of ralliers under the Chieu Hoi Program. The teams provide their own protection and have proven most effective in obtaining ralliers, quite frequently by interacting with the families of known Viet Cong.

Mobile Training Teams provide on-site indoctrination training for the Popular Forces in each of the four Corps. The purpose of the teams is to promote solidarity and morale of the Popular Forces.

Medical Civic Action Program (MEDCAP). The basic intent of MEDCAP is to establish and maintain a continuing spirit of mutual respect and cooperation between the Vietnamese and U.S. military medical personal and the civilian population by providing basic medical care to the people living in rural and often Viet Cong infested villages and hamlets.

Under “PSYOP Programs” the 1968 Guide says:

The Chieu Hoi Program consists of all activities designed to cause members of the Viet Cong and their supporters to return to the rightful and legitimate government of the Republic of Vietnam.

The Dai Doan Ket Program extends the Chieu Hoi program to middle and high level Viet Cong cadre.

The B-52 Follow-up Program. Within four hours of a B-52 strike leaflets are dropped informing the enemy that he has been bombed by B-52s and showing him a picture of the bomber which flies so high that he would otherwise never see it. It reminds him that the bombers will come again and urges the Viet Cong to use the safe conduct pass.

The North Vietnamese personnel in South Vietnam Program is designed to create doubts and fears in the minds of enemy troops about their chance of survival; the dangers of injury and disease; burial in unmarked graves; the hopelessness of their situation; the fate of their friends and relatives in the north, and the competence of their commanders.

The Weapons Reward Program offers money and gifts for retrieval of weapons and ordnance.

The Defoliation Program provides security for lines of communication by removing dense vegetation that could be used to conceal ambush sites, remove jungle cover from enemy base areas and infiltration routes, and provide increased visibility around friendly installations. PSYOP programs can minimize any adverse psychological impact of defoliation and reduce the effect of enemy propaganda by providing the population with timely information. The defoliant used in Vietnam is particularly effective against broadleaf vegetation and is harmless to men and animals.

The Frantic Goat Campaign formally known as “Fact Sheet ” disseminates news and related facts to North Vietnam.

The Trail Campaign is directed against military and civilian personnel who use and maintain the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

The Tallyho Campaign is conducted in the panhandle area of North Vietnam against the civilians who maintain the lines of communications and warns them that the lines will continue to be interdicted and bombed.

The later December 1973 Survey of Psychological Operations in Vietnam adds more data about operations at the end of the war:

After the Paris Agreements were signed earlier this year, most leaflet operations were halted. Operation Trail, a leaflet program against North Vietnamese troops on the Ho Chi Minh Trail; the Royal Lao air Force Operation Fountain Pen, directed against North Vietnamese troops in Laos, and Operation Rice River, directed against North Vietnamese troops in Cambodia, continued for a period.

There is one Khmer language leaflet campaign. Operation Big Show, a gray leaflet (without attribution) by the Khmer government…Operation Freedom Care, a white leaflet (U.S. attribution) to Vietnamese communists in the Khmer Republic… the Khmer Republic has a small leaflet program. The government of Vietnam leaflet program is sharply limited and rated ineffective…

Most of the leaflet printing capability is in the hands of the Americans…Giant presses are operated by the Seventh PSYOP Group in Okinawa and at the United States Information Agency’s Regional Service Center in Manila.

Bob Fulton was the Executive Officer for Regional Service Center (RSC) in Manila, (part of the United States Information Agency (USIA). He told me about the printing plant:

In mid-1967 JUSPAO and MACV outsourced to our organization a significant portion of the design, procurement, production and logistics of printed PSYOP products, especially those that required four-colors. This was a Department of Defense-State Department level joint decision based in part on capacity and capability, strategic location, and a few convoluted international and domestic political considerations. Until I left in the second half of 1970, almost the entire high-altitude leaflet drops were printed on our presses, packed in our plant in triple-wall cardboard air-drop containers together with release shrouds, and either shipped to Clark AFB or by U.S. ship to a Republic of Vietnam or Thailand port for subsequent transport to one of five bases. If memory serves me correctly, October or November 1968 was the high mark for leaflet drops, almost 1 billion, and we produced 75% to 80% of that total.

There was no U.S. Army PSYOP commander, although JUSPAO was represented at command level through a coordinating committee.

The President of the United States directed in 1970 that an Ad Hoc PSYOP Committee on Vietnam be formed to provide direction for and coordination of psychological warfare against the Vietnamese Communists. The Chairman of the Ad Hoc Group proposed the following objectives for more effective coordination of psychological operations against the Vietnamese Communists.

1. Develop a National Psychological Warfare strategy directed against the Vietnamese Communists, including psychological objectives to be accomplished.

2. Coordinate the overall psychological warfare effort against the Vietnamese Communists.

3. Provide thematic guidance.

4. Prepare periodic reports to the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs on our psychological warfare operations against the Vietnamese Communists.

5. Assess the anticipated psychological impact of Vietnam related policy options as appropriate.

Other decisions relating to a psychological warfare strategy, as well as other decisions covering major issues in the conduct of our psychological warfare against the Vietnamese Communists, were to be referred to the President for approval. Additional recommendations were to persuade the Communist Party leadership to change its policies; increase internal tensions, doubts, and policies; and motivate the Vietnamese people to question the wisdom of the North Vietnamese Government. The proposed targets were the top Party leadership, the Party apparatus, the North Vietnamese people, and Communist forces in the north and south. The themes developed for each target were designed to convince them that the war could not be won and policies must be changed, to increase war weariness and discouragement among troops and the population, and to cause resentment and tension between northerners and southerners.

PSYOP CHRONOLOGY

U. S. Army Major Michael G. Barger wrote a thesis entitled “Psychological Operations Supporting Counterinsurgency: 4th PSYOP Group in Vietnam.” In it, he gave a chronology of PSYOP in Vietnam. We mention some of the more important dates here:

27 APR 1960 - CINCPAC directs deployment of PSYWAR personnel to Vietnam.

FEB 1962 - First PSYWAR Mobile Training Team (MTT) arrives in Vietnam

14 MAY 1965 - Formation of the Joint U.S. Public Affairs Office (JUSPAO).

22 JUL 1965 - 1st Provisional PSYOP Detachment ordered to Vietnam by U.S. Army Broadcasting and Visual Activity Pacific (USABVAPAC)

02 SEP 1965 - 24th PSYOP Detachment arrives in Qui Nhon.

07 FEB 1966 - 6th PSYOP Battalion activated at Tan Son Nhut.

10 FEB 1966 - 244th, 245th, and 246th Tactical Propaganda Companies activated at Nha Trang, Pleiku, and Bien Hoa.

19 NOV 1966 - 19th PSYOP Company (Advice and Support) activated at Can Tho.

01 DEC 1967 - 6th PSYOP Battalion redesignated 4th PSYOP Group; 244th PSYOP Company redesignated 7th PSYOP Battalion; 246th PSYOP Company redesignated 8th PSYOP Battalion; 19th PSYOP Company redesignated 10th PSYOP Battalion.

05 DEC 1967 - 245th PSYOP Company redesignated 6th PSYOP Battalion.

16 APR 1971 - 10th PSYOP Battalion inactivated.

26 JUN 1971 - 8th PSYOP Battalion inactivated.

30 JUN 1971 - 6th PSYOP Battalion inactivated.

02 OCT 1971 - 4th PSYOP Group inactivated.

21 DEC 1971 - 7th PSYOP Battalion inactivated.

Leaflet Codes

The vast majority of Vietnam leaflets bore codes. For the most part they are simple to read. In general, the originating unit placed its number first, then the number of the leaflet (for that year), and finally the year itself. So, we would expect to find leaflets starting with 4, 6, 7, 8, 10, 244, 245, 246, etc. A leaflet will generally have a code like 6-250-68 which indicates that it was the 250th leaflet produced (or distributed) in 1968 by the 6th PSYOP Battalion.

Early JUSPAO leaflets had the code "SP" (Special Project) before the leaflet number. For example, SP-2250. JUSPAO removed the "SP" when it became clear that it identified the leaflet as American in origin. The later leaflets would have only a numerical code like "4450." This was explained in an issue of the 4th PSYOP Group monthly magazine Credibilis of 10 January 1968 which explained the change thusly:

Letters of the alphabet will no longer be used in 4th PSYOP Group leaflet designations to eliminate any markings which would tend to identify the leaflet as being of American Origin.

The earliest numbered leaflets (before they were marked with a unit number) simply showed a numerical and a year. For instance, leaflets in the I Corps Tactical Zone Leaflet Catalog – Joint Psywar Civil Affairs Center, have codes like “79-66” or “183-66.” The catalog calls them “the 66 series” so it might apply to the year 1966 or it might be something completely different. Later on, unit designations were added. Number coded leaflets starting with "4-" are Fourth PSYOP Group. Number coded leaflets starting with "6-" are Sixth PSYOP Battalion, "7-" are Seventh PSYOP Battalion, "8-" are Eighth PSYOP Battalion, and "10-" are Tenth PSYOP Battalion. Higher numbered leaflets are usually the earlier PSYOP Companies; "19-" are the 19th PSYOP Company, “244-” are the 244th PSYOP Company, "245-" are the 245th PSYOP Company and "246-" represents the 246th PSYOP Company. I have not seen leaflets starting "24-", but there may be some printed by the 24th PSYOP Company.

In addition, there were a number of special codes. Leaflets dropped along the Ho Chi Minh Trail as part of the "Trail Campaign" had the letter "T." An example is T80 or 95T. Leaflets dropped on North Vietnam during the Operation Fact Sheet or Operation Frantic Goat of 1965-68 have very low numbers, from 1-151. There are Vietnam leaflets that had a very low code number preceded by a period. Examples are .214, .219, and .228. There are other codes such as "A" (the basic form of a leaflet when there is more than one variation); "H" (handbill), "P" (poster) and "R" (reprint). The code “NP” was the newspaper Nhan Van (Human Knowledge). "CP" represents "Camel Path," the secret operation in Cambodia. The CP is sometimes hidden inside the code such as “T-1-CP-C which could show the leaflet was dropped on the Ho Chi Minh Trail as part of Camel Path for Cambodia). “ATF” leaflets were printed by the Australians. In addition, there are other codes such as "CC," "F," “HQ,” “M” (M leaflets seem to be all in the Cambodian language), “NT (NT3, NT4 etc.),” “P,” "S (in Vietnamese or Lao)," SPC (Vietnamese in Laos or on the Trail to Laos?) "V," and “X” (usually has the word “scrap” and “without regard to dissemination characteristics” so they may be leaflets just printed in blank spaces on sheets to utilize the paper more efficiently). We should point out that apparently nobody bothered to record the meaning of the codes or who printed the leaflets during the war. Some we have been able to decipher by unit, language or message, but many are still unknown today.

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Leaflet P-08

Here is one of the leaflets with a code we cannot identify. I have seen at least ten of the “P” leaflets. Examples are: P-01 (Where are your comrades?); P-02 (Life in South Vietnam); P-04 (Aspects of people’s life in South Vietnam); and P-010 (Where is the liberated territory?). The image on P-08 above depicts an American helping a Vietnamese with construction. Some of the text is:

IS THIS IMPERIALISM?

The United States is the richest and most powerful country in the world. What does it need from Vietnam? NOTHING. In fact, it is now giving free Vietnam 40,000,000,000 piasters in food and economic assistance a year. Is this the new form of “imperialism” as propagandized and distorted by the North Vietnamese Communists?

We mention “Catalog” several times in this article. I have a number of such catalogs and their use is explained the 1969 document Employment of U.S. Army Psychological Operation Units in Vietnam:

Each PSYOP battalion published a catalog listing 600 to 800 available leaflets. The catalog was numerically indexed and gave data on leaflet number, theme, target, size and color of the leaflet, together with the leaflet and English translation. Catalogs were inventoried and screened periodically to maintain current leaflets. Catalogs were distributed to tactical units and PSYOP customers to facilitate ordering specific leaflets for the target audience. Action was taken by the 4th PSYOP Group to cross-index leaflet catalogs according to PSYOP themes. It was noted that several units initiated or completed indexing of catalogs by target audiences as well.

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Leaflet X-6

The “X” leaflets are very strange. They seem to fit no pattern and usually come with a comment such as “To be disseminated without regard to dissemination characteristics with normal leaflet requirements.” In other words, even though mathematical formulas were used for most leaflets according to their size and paper weight to assure that they would drop on their targets, these “X” leaflets were just added to the pile and were allowed to fall wherever they landed. Almost all of the “X” leaflets that I have seen are in regard to the Paris Peace talks. The text on leaflet X-6 is:

PEACE

The Party and the Government of the North will be found guilty by history if they don’t end this senseless war.

The Vietnamese coded their leaflets with the letters "DV" and a long series of numbers afterwards. The "DV" indicated Quan-Doi Viet Nam Cong Hoa (Army of the Republic of Vietnam).

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Leaflet DV15AH2268

Vietnamese PSYOP leaflet DV15AH2268 depicts President Nguyen Van Thieu and clarifies his attitude towards the National Liberation Front. The text is:

THE PRESIDENT OF REPUBLIC OF VIETNAM HAS DECLARED:

There will be never a Joint Government in South Vietnam.

The back is all text:

THE GOVERNMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF VIETNAM IS AGAINST A JOINT GOVERNMENT

President Nguyen Van Thieu has declared his willingness to talk to anyone in the South Vietnamese Liberation Front, but the government of the Republic of Vietnam will never recognize that Front as an independent organization.

Lately, with continuous failures in the battlefield, the Communists have spread rumors that there will be a Joint Government in the South. Their sole purpose is to create confusion among the public. However, the people of the South understand that the rumors of a Joint Government are just a propaganda tactic of the Communists. Its sole purpose is to cover their military and political failures.

There will be no Joint Government in the South.

The extent of the Allied propaganda effort in Vietnam is told by James William Gibson in The Perfect War- Technowar in Vietnam, The Atlantic Monthly Press, NY, 1986:

From 1965 through 1972 over fifty billion leaflets were distributed in South and North Vietnam and along the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos and Cambodia; this vast sum was the equivalent of more than 1,500 leaflets per person in both the north and the south. In 1969 the military and civilian propaganda apparatuses produced over 10.5 billion leaflets, 4 million pamphlets,  60,000 newspaper articles, over 24.5 million posters, and nearly 12 million magazines.

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<>Press sheet

The uncut sheet depicted above consists of a mixture of propaganda leaflets in the Vietnamese language and represents a sample press sheet from the small format, high speed Hancho web presses. Two of them were used to print leaflets during the 1966-1967 periods. Another press was added in 1968.

Declassified SOG documents show the extent of the leaflet operation in Vietnam. 31 million leaflets were dropped in 1964, 67 million in 1965, 142 million in 1966 and 271 million in 1968. MACV could produce 200,000 3x6-inch leaflets per eight-hour shift on its Harris high-speed press. The PSYWAR Directorate had a Webendorf Press that that SOG was authorized to use from 1600-2400. It could produce 500,000 leaflets per shift. In addition, the deception mail operation produced 200 fake letters per month of various types to be mailed into North Vietnam.

The black letter program was constantly being fine-tuned. A MACVSOG comment on the subject states:

We plan to use notional leftist organizations abroad as originators of the letters, but are beginning with a true leftist Japanese fishing organization. In line with this, we are soon going to use a Paris-based Vietnamese, pro-Hanoi student organization’s magazine to infiltrate subtle anti-Communist propaganda into North Vietnam by making slight changes in some of the articles…

We will experiment in the printed media field, for example; calendars, fishing hints, and tide tables are presently being obtained. Varying paper stocks are now being used.

As the war progressed the black letter output went from 3,993 in 1965 to 6,000 in 1966 and 7,550 in 1967. The letters were mailed from Singapore, Paris, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Tokyo, allegedly from North Vietnamese living outside the country. There were nine general themes for the letters: Weakness in Communist ideology; Revision in North Vietnam; Chinese imperialism; North Vietnamese mismanagement; Peace; Free Enterprise; Free society; Resistance movements and the Chieu Hoi program. The letters were coded according to type:

Special: High level hard sell propaganda (400 letters per month).
Vulcan: High and medium level with a revisionist point of view. (50-60 letters per week).
Thor: A personal letter with soft sell and human interest. (15 letters a week)
Mars: To next-of-kin of battlefield casualties. (10 letters per week)
Luna: Exploitation of captured Viet Cong letters. (as available)

I should mention here that we discuss black SOG operations in greater depth in our article on the Sacred Sword of the Patriots League. Readers interested in black operations are encouraged to read that article for more information on the “dirty tricks” of the Vietnam War.

In Volume I of the Department of Defense contracted the Final Report Psychological Operations Studies – Vietnam, Human Sciences Research Inc, 1971, Drs. Ernest F. and Edith M. Bairdain mention the value of leaflets:

In regard to the best means for disseminating the Allied message among the Viet Cong, members who rallied to the government stated that 99% saw propaganda leaflets, 100% heard airborne loudspeakers, 98% saw radio sets, 34% saw newspapers, 13% saw magazines, 9% heard ground loudspeakers, 7% read posters, 4% saw television sets and just 1% saw PSYOP novelty items. Of the enemy who saw the leaflets, 81% of the VC and 97% of the NVA actually read them. Of the enemy who heard the airborne loudspeakers, 89% of the VC and 98% of the NVA actually listened to the message. The authors point out that this demonstrates that leaflets, airborne loudspeakers, and radio are the best methods to reach Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army personnel.

Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces PSYOP

Although Americans like to believe that they invented PSYOP and are the masters of the art, the Vietnamese were practicing PSYOP early in their war against the Communists. On 1 July 1953 the Vietnamese Army had two PSYOP companies to conduct propaganda in the 1st and 2nd Military Regions (Later Corps Tactical Zones). On 1 January 1958 the unit was renamed the Mobile Cultural Battalion. On 1 November 1959 it was renamed a PSYWAR Battalion. On 1 March 1963 a decision was made to form 3 PSYWAR Battalions and the original unit became the 1st PSYWAR Battalion headquartered in Saigon. The 2nd and 3rd PSYWAR battalions would be assigned to the 2nd and 3rd CTZs headquartered in Pleiku and Da Nang with a 4th battalion planned to be activated in the 1964-1965 time frame for the 4th CTZ.

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A Vietnamese Army Loudspeaker Truck
Not exactly up to U.S. Standards, but apparently it did the job

As an ARVN tactical unit the mission of the battalion was local civic action to promote confidence in the government, to win the people from the influence of the enemy and to encourage the people to stand up against the communists; troop morale operations among ARVN forces to promote a fighting spirit and a strong determination to win, to promote discipline and a willingness to sacrifice one’s life for the nation and the people; and PSYOP campaigns against the enemy to break their fighting will and to cause them to surrender. The original single battalion consisted of 602 men, but under the new organization, each battalion was authorized 367 men. The battalions have the ability to produce white, grey and black propaganda using leaflets, loudspeakers, printed material, photographs and documents. Each battalion supports a corps, the companies support divisions, the groups support regiments and the PSYWAR teams support battalions.

After the 1963 reorganization the ARVN PSYWAR battalion consisted of a Headquarters and Headquarters Company, a Technical Company, and three PSYWAR Companies. The Technical Company was comprised of a Special Operations Platoon, a Cultural Platoon, a Radio Augmentation Platoon and a Press Platoon. Each of the PSYWAR Companies was made up of six PSYWAR Teams.

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Vietnamese PSYOP structure

The Vietnamese PSYOP structure was designed after that of the Republic of China on Taiwan. Their General Political Warfare Department was made up of a Psychological Warfare Department, a Political Indoctrination Department, a Social Services Department, Chaplain Services, a Military Security Service, Information Services and the Political Warfare College. U.S. forces were advised that because of the peculiar Vietnamese system, a POLWAR Battalion was not to be considered the equivalent of a PSYOP Battalion.

The Vietnamese 10th Political Warfare (POLWAR) Battalion worked in I Corps with the U.S. 7th Psychological Operations Battalion. They shared the same compound in Da Nang and their printing facilities were integrated. The 10th POLWAR consisted of four PSYWAR Companies, a technical and administrative company, and a cultural drama platoon. Each PSYWAR Company contained five Civic Action teams, one intelligence team, and one indoctrination team. The first priority of the POLWAR Battalion was command information; informing and indoctrinating friendly military forces. The second priority was winning over the civilian population, and the third was PSYOP efforts aimed at the enemy. The POLWAR Battalion worked under ARVN Corps Control, Often at division level, and with U.S. advisors available as needed.

Credibilis, the 4th PSYOP Group monthly Journal said about the Vietnamese POLWAR units:

There is one POLWAR Battalion assigned to each of the Corps Tactical Zones. The 10th Battalion is in I Corps at Danang. The 20th Battalion is in II Corps at Pleiku, the 30th Battalion in in III Corps at Bien Hoa, the 40th Battalion in in IV Corps at Can Tho and the 50th Battalion is in Saigon.

In a Vietnamese-language article entitled “Coastal Raiders” translated by Donald C. Brewster, Tran Do Cam talks about Vietnamese psychological operations. He mentions several operations:

Leaflet drops usually took place in the highly populated areas south of the 18th Parallel.

Large quantities of leaflets were placed in the shell of an 81mm mortar that was fired into the coastal villages and communities from the fast patrol boats when they were 1,500 to 2,000 meters offshore. The shell would explode overhead like a flare and the leaflets would flutter down from the sky.

Sometimes the fast patrol boats also distributed radios wrapped in waterproof plastic in the villages along the coast so that the population could listen to South Vietnamese radio stations such as the Voice of Freedom (Tiéng Nói Tu Do), Mother of Vietnam (Me Viêt Nam) or the Sacred Sword of Patriotism (Gươm Thiên Ái Quôc).

A former agent informs me that Brewster is incorrect with his comment about Mother Vietnam Radio. He stated that Mother Vietnam radio came into existence after MACV-SOG had phased out such boat operations.

The Special Operations Research Office of the American University (SORO) published the classified A Short Guide to Psychological Operations in the Republic of Vietnam in 1965.  Authors Jeanne Mintz, Herbert Silverberg and James Trinnaman say about radio operations:

In 1965 there were 11 radio stations in Vietnam broadcasting 120 hours a day. (This does not include the “Voice of Freedom” PSYOP broadcasts). The stations were located in Saigon, Hue, Quang Nhai, Qui Nhon, Banmethuot, Nha Trang, Dalat, Ba Xuyen, Hoi An, Tuy Hoa and Tan An. The Hue station was used by the ARVN for propaganda broadcasts. Of course, the Voice of American also broadcast on a great number of frequencies to Vietnam.

The Voice of Freedom (VOF) was a major player in the “black” radio operation. Declassified documents show that it produced 76 different programs weekly with commentaries in Vietnamese, English and French. Some of the program titles are; Vietnamese Traditional Music, Sounds of Poetry, Returnees Songs, the Roman Catholic program, the Buddhist program, Activities Abroad and at Home, the Daily Battle Scene, News Analysis, Propaganda and Truth, the Open Arms program and Liberation Deeds.

A knowledgeable source says that the SORO description of the Voice of Freedom as a "black"station is wrong.  At most it was "gray."

Other black Allied radio stations included the SOG fake Radio Hanoi clone broadcast from Number 7 Hong Tap Street in Saigon; Radio Red Flag, the voice of an alleged breakaway North Vietnamese Communist Party faction; and the CIA station Red Star Radio, allegedly a dissident Communist group in South Vietnam. The small fixed-station radios disseminated to the North Vietnamese by the Allies were codenamed “peanuts.”

By the end of the war the December 1973 Survey of Psychological Operations in Vietnam says about the radio output:

There are five CAS-operated radio stations, three broadcasting in Vietnamese and two in Khmer. Mother Vietnam Station, with a Tokyo Rose approach, broadcasts a daily basic three hour program on five transmitters. The Sacred Sword of the Patriotic League radio station, a black operation pointed toward Hanoi, broadcasts five hours a day. The Voice of Nam-Bo Liberation, a black operation directed at communists within South Vietnam broadcasts to the Mekong delta and Central Vietnam. The Voice of Khmer programs are much the same as Mother Vietnam, and a black station, the Voice of the Popular Front of Indochina appears to come from Hanoi but injects divisiveness between Vietnamese communists and their Khmer allies.

The Voice of America reaches Hanoi from two medium wave transmitters. Big Squirt at Hue and a million-watt transmitter in the Philippines.

Radio broadcasting by the Government of Vietnam consists of the Voice of Freedom and two VTVN national radio stations. Channel A broadcasts 18 hours a day and can be heard by North Vietnamese troops in the Vietnam-Cambodia border area. Channel B is the Political Warfare station and broadcasts 18 hours a day to the Vietnamese armed forces and their dependents.

The comment about "five CAS-operated radio stations" means that they were "controlled American source" stations and the term was used in government documents as a euphemism for CIA.

What did the Viet Cong think of these radio stations? A 23 May 1967 classified confidential report translates a captured Viet Cong document. In it, the Party complains that many leaders, cadre and soldiers are listening to enemy broadcasts and reading enemy leaflets. They blame this political error on lack of ideological consciousness and lax discipline. It lists those who are allowed to listen to the broadcasts, such as members of their own propaganda teams who need to know what the enemy is thinking and other political cadre, and then goes on to say in part:

Aside from the above mentioned comrades, no cadre are authorized to listen to enemy broadcasts and to read or keep enemy documents.

The document recommends a private counseling for a first infraction, a public counseling for a second infraction, and a reprimand for a third infraction.

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Mother Vietnam Radio’s seductive voice, identified over the air as “Mai Lan.”
A sophisticated beauty who had studied broadcasting in the USA, and who became an instant hit.

Mother Vietnam Radio was run by South Vietnamese Army psychological warfare staff with American aid during the War. The station had broadcast from 7 Hong Thap Tu Street and was code-designated “House No. 7.” The station was born in 1971 when Henry Kissinger called for a psywar radio offensive by the CIA to pressure the Northern communists and Viet Cong into complying with the terms of the ceasefire agreement recently signed in Paris.  The station effectively featured a seductive female voice, nostalgic music, and plenty of soft news meant to bury its political message deep in the sentimental appeal that the common Motherland of all Vietnamese at last deserved peace and the end of bloodshed. It was a “grey” radio station and moderate in comparison to other propaganda efforts. The station encouraged North Vietnamese soldiers to defect to the South and sought to break their morale.

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Viet Cong Colonel Tam Ha

Another member of the radio station staff was a former Viet Cong political commissar, a colonel whom was still addressed by his old Viet Cong name, Tam Ha. Just before the Viet Cong launched the May 1968 second phase of their Tet Offensive, Tam Ha came over to the Government side bearing the complete tactical plan for the second VC attempt to “liberate” Saigon. Thanks to him, the U.S. and Vietnamese troops deployed to meet the Viet Cong and successfully beat off their attacks.

On 20 April 1975, as South Vietnam was about to fall, the CIA sent all 144 staff members and their families, totaling about 1000 people and equipment to Phu Quoc Island off the coast of South Vietnam. The refugees were then picked up by the cargo ship “Pioneer Challenger” and moved to Guam, from where they were eventually resettled in the United States

Throughout the program's nearly five years it was continuously headed by the late Jim Welch. He came to Saigon because "Nixon went to China," so Jim had to close down his long-running Chinese broadcasts from Taiwan

There is also a record of a PSYWAR Bureau. A mention of this organization is found in Monthly Historical Summary, April 1966 (Declassified) Appendix II, from the Commander, U. S. Naval Forces Vietnam. There is a long list of operations that were Civic Action or PSYOP. We can’t tell in most cases which were Vietnamese and which was American, but in some specific instances the Vietnamese are identified:

The PSYWAR Bureau issued 22,900 magazines, 52,400 posters, and 91,500 leaflets to Vietnamese and U.S. units for further distribution. In a special project in conjunction with JUSPAO, the Vietnamese PSYWAR Bureau produced 10,000 special posters depicting the new Rung Sat Special Zone and Long Tau River security regulations. These were distributed to the Rung Sat Special Zone and the four surrounding provinces for posting.

Military Black Propaganda

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MACV-SOG

Military activities were officially described as providing assistance to the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). Within the Military Assistance Command Vietnam, the Studies and Observation Group (MACV-SOG) was charged with conducting unconventional warfare, including black propaganda.

According to author John Plaster, SOG: The Secret Wars of America's Commandos in Vietnam, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1997:

The Studies and Observations Group did not answer to MACV or its commander, General William Westmoreland; it answered directly to the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Pentagon. Officially, SOG answered solely to the Special Assistant for Counterinsurgency and Special Activities, a two-star general whose small staff responded only to the Joint Chiefs' operations officer (J-3), with unprecedented direct access to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.  Any money SOG needed would be buried in the Navy's annual budget.

Allen B. Clark adds in Valor in Vietnam: Chronicles of Honor, Courage, and Sacrifice: 1963-1977, Casemate, 2013:

The acronym SOG, standing for Studies and Observation Group, was a euphemism for a semiautonomous element of the U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, which in fact answered directly to the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington (in the person of the Special Assistant for Counterinsurgency and Special Activities). The SOG mission was conduct of clandestine operations throughout Southeast Asia by U.S. members of the various services and by indigenous personnel. Agent insertions, ambushes and raids, rescue missions, deep reconnaissance, and interdiction were among the typical SOG cross-border missions. SOG was established with a chain of command outside MACV channels. SOG would answer directly to the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Pentagon via a special liaison, the special assistant for counter-insurgency and special activities (SACSA). In Saigon only General Westmoreland and four non-SOG officers were even briefed on SOG.

MACV-SOG's efforts were organized around six sections that were assigned responsibility for clandestine operations (OP). OP-33 was the PSYOP Branch, patterned after the World War II Morale Operations Branch of the OSS; 1n 1968 it was re-designated OP-39, the Psychological Studies Group.

MACV-SOG branches:

OP-31: Maritime Studies Branch. Code-named - "Plowman."

OP-32: Air Studies Branch. Code-named "Midriff."

OP-33: PSYOP Studies Branch. Code-named -"Humidor." Comprised four sections: (a) Research and development; (b) Radio; (c) Special Projects; and (d) Printed media, forgeries and black mail. Within section (d), the military was in charge of printed media, and the CIA oversaw forgeries and black mail. PSYOP operations conducted by (d) included the Sacred Sword of Patriots League (SSPL); the contamination of enemy ammunition; the mailing from three countries of leaflets, gifts and fake letters; and the preparation (for Laos) of forged currency and booby traps. Redesignated OPS-39, Psychological Studies Group, in 1968.

OP-34: Airborne Studies Branch. Responsible for northern infiltration by air. This operation   became the Ground Studies Branch, which was then assigned to OP-35; OP-34 became a staff section, and OP-36 became the Airborne Studies Group. Infiltration operations were code-named "Timberwork," and later "Forae." Lt. Col. Tom Bowen commanded OP-33 from 22 August 1967 to 17 April 1968.

OP-35: Ground Studies Branch. Responsible for cross-border operations. It was comprised of three elements.

Special Operations Augmentation Command and Control Central (SOACCC) was formed in November 1967 and departed Vietnam in March 1971. It was stationed in Kontum, with responsibility for classified unconventional warfare operations throughout the tri-border regions of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. It had around 30 Spike Reconnaissance Teams (RT). Hatchet Forces, and four Search-Location-and-Annihilation Mission Companies (SLAM Companies A, B, C and D). Originally named after states (Arizona, New Mexico, etc.), RTs later adopted names of Asian poisonous snakes and assorted designations once all state names had been exhausted.

Special Operations Augmentation Command and Control North (SOACCN) was formed in November 1967 and departed Vietnam in March 1971. It was assigned conduct of classified special unconventional warfare missions into Laos and North Vietnam. It was composed of Spike reconnaissance teams, Hatchet forces and lettered SLAM companies. Missions into North Vietnam were initiated as early as I February 1964 under Operation Plan 34A. Operations into Laos commenced in September 1965 as part of Operation SHINING BRASS, renamed PRAIRIE FIRE in 1968. In 1971 the Laotian operations were given the code name PHU DUNG.

Special Operations Augmentation Command and Control South (SOACCS) was formed in November 1967 and departed Vietnam in March 1971. It was located in Ban Me Thuot and created when permission was granted to conduct cross-border missions into Cambodia. It was engaged in classified special unconventional warfare missions inside VC-dominated South Vietnam and throughout Cambodia. It contained Spike reconnaissance teams, Hatchet forces, and four SLAM companies. Cross-border operations had been conducted into northeastern Cambodia since May 1967 under Project DANIEL BOONE, later known as SALEM HOUSE. In 1971 the name was changed to THOT NOT.

There has been some confusion about the Forward Operating Bases (FOBs). One trooper who was an early OP-35 member stated that prior to 1968, CCN, CCC & CCS were called FOBs. He believed that of the four, FOB1 later became the CCN, FOB 2 & 3 combined to form the CCC, and FOB4 became the CCS. However, another member who was an officer recalls:

At that time CCN, CCC and CCS were not called FOB’s and I doubt that they ever were.  The FOB’s were sub-sets of the Command and Control organizations. For Example: under CCN, FOB-1 was at Phu Bai, FOB-3 was at Khe Sanh, and FOB-4 at Marble Mountain in Danang. I think that FOB-2 in Kontum was originally part of CCN but I could be wrong.  Nevertheless, CCC was not formed until late 1968 and located in Kontum.  Roy Barr, one of my FOB-3 commanders became the first Commander of CCC.  So I believe the Nov. 1967 date is wrong.

Boots Porter, 1SG, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) during Vietnam adds:

In 1968 I was at FOB-1 (Phu Bai), FOB-2 (Kontum) and FOB-4 (Danang). After the change FOB-4 became CCN, FOB-2 became CCC and FOB-5 (Ban Me Thut) Became CCS. You can take it to the bank. I was there at each of them.

OP-37: Maritime Studies Group. 

The Maritime Studies Group was the action arm of OP-31: the Maritime Studies Branch, and was responsible for covert maritime operations conducted by the Vietnamese Coastal Security Service (CSS). Its cover name was the Naval Advisory Detachment. The capability to carry out missions against North Vietnam was maintained through extensive training at Da Nang and by conducting operational missions against selected targets in South Vietnam.

OP-39: Psychological Studies Group. See OP-33.

Leaflet operations were sometimes credited to more than one branch, probably depending on whether the task was the production or the dissemination of the leaflets. All black propaganda and currency counterfeiting emerged from OP-33. Leaflets were disseminated with the assistance of OP-34 and OP-35.

SOG comprised about 400 soldiers at a given time. About 100 soldiers were doing actual combat duty, with each of the three Command and Control units of OP-35 having about 36 Americans.

MACV estimated that there were approximately 5,000 Meos, 4,000 Thais, 2,000 Nungs and 3,000 Muongs living in North Vietnam. All through the war MACV asked permission to form these groups into a resistance movement against the Communist North Vietnamese. The problem was that once the United States accepted the moral responsibility for such a resistance movement, it would be committed to support it with personnel, material and funds. No one in Washington wanted to accept that responsibility. Commanders in the field were constantly reminded that current U.S. policy did not advocate the overthrow or change in the government of North Vietnam.

United States Navy PSYOP

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Blue Eagle

Although seldom mentioned, the United States Navy was also involved with psychological radio operations in Vietnam. The first "Blue Eagle" aircraft was constructed in January 1965 using a NC-121J Lockheed Super-Constellation shell. Blue Eagle I was the first project aircraft and configured to do AM, FM, and SW radio broadcast missions. A crew of naval officers and enlisted personnel was selected. Operational and flight training began in July 1965. The aircraft was sent to Vietnam shortly afterwards where in October it broadcast the World Series to American troops and became the world’s first operational airborne broadcast station. United States Navy RMC Steve Robbins told me:

I spent three of my four flight tours in Vietnam flying this bird. Blue Eagle I (aircraft 131627) was one of four Navy Project Jenny broadcast birds that we built and operated. This bird was a radio-only bird (unlike the other three which were radio/TV broadcast birds.  Blue Eagle I, after doing a test flight in Vietnam which rebroadcast the World Series from the United States, was assigned to PSYOPS operations.

Two Blue Eagle aircraft were based at Tan Son Nhut Air Base in Saigon to broadcast Channel 11 of Armed Forces Vietnam Television (the American Forces Vietnam Network), and Channel 9 of THVN (the official station of the Government of Vietnam) in South Vietnam until 1970. 

A third aircraft was based at Da Nang Air Base to provide airborne PSYOP broadcast missions for MACVSOG off the coast of North Vietnam from 1966 to 1970. It took part in psychological operations from 1965-1967 and earned the nickname “Da Nang Dirty Bird.” John Plaster mentions the Project Jenny missions in his book about SOG and it was Blue Eagle I that flew those missions.  

Plaster says about Project Jenny in SOG: the Secret Wars of America’s Commandos in Vietnam:

In Project Jenny, a U.S. Navy EC-121 aircraft broadcast SOG radio programs while flying off the North Vietnam coast, a technique that confused enemy radio direction finders and, because the radio wasn’t far away, tended to overwhelm local station signals.

This was a highly classified mission and most of the crew did not know they were working for at the time. In 2001, personnel who served with SOG were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation by direction of President George Bush.

Robbins continues:

After 1970, the Blue Eagles were retired to the bone yard to lick their war wounds and the Navy got out of the airborne broadcasting business. The U.S. Air Force then  took over these missions with Coronet Solo broadcast birds (which were essentially remakes of the navy birds) and ultimately the Commando Solo EC-130 airborne broadcast platforms currently flown by the Pennsylvania Air National Guard 193rd Special Operations Wing.  

It is also interesting to note that in order to make the TV programs work as a psychological operation; the United States Agency for International Development provided 500 television sets for Vietnam. They were placed in public squares, store windows, or wherever Vietnamese citizens were likely to gather.

Robert J. Kodosky mentions television in Psychological Operations American Style – the Joint United States Public Affairs Office, Vietnam and Beyond: Lexington Books, Lanham, MD, 2007. Some of his comments are:

The medium JUSPAO placed the most hope for enhancing the image of the Republic of Vietnam remained television…USAID procured an initial 3,500 television sets for distribution and also took on the responsibility of maintaining their operation…Within three years, Americans had inundated the Vietnamese countryside with television sets. They distributed well over 100,000 units with “approximately 2,200 sets in pagodas, public meeting halls and other central locations where large groups can congregate.”

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Beach Jumper Insignia

The United States Navy tactical cover and deception units were called Beach Jumpers. The units were founded in WWII and used again during the Vietnam War. There were over a dozen detachments and teams. Some of their psychological operations were:

Beach Jumpers Unit 1 Detachment A was responsible for employing PSYOP which would become one of the Beach Jumpers' Vietnam missions and later, their unclassified cover activity. This included propaganda leaflet drops and loudspeaker broadcasts, which Detachment A conducted during all major operations in 1966.  

Detachment D conducted psychological operations in support of Task Forces 115, 116, and 117 operating in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam.

Detachment F rode River Patrol Boats conducting psychological operation on the Cua Viet and Hue rivers in northernmost I Corps. It dropped over 260,000 leaflets during Operation “Daring Rebel” which was a multi-battalion assault on the Hoi An area against the Viet Cong. The leaflets carried rally themes of Chieu Hoi, population control directives, and pleas for local population assistance. Aerial broadcasts, which followed the leaflet drops, carried the same themes and were made by Vietnamese liaison personnel. 

Team 13 conducted psychological operations from River Patrol Boats on all waterways in country. Additionally they supported both Army 5th Special Forces A and B Teams and Navy SEALS. For their efforts, Beach Jumper Unit One Team 13 was presented the Navy Unit Commendation which said in part:

Beach Jumper Unit 1, Team 13 operated with units of the United States Navy, the United States Army, and the Vietnamese Navy In carrying out psychological operations and combat missions of a classified nature. By April 1971, the Team had established detachments throughout the IV Corps area, effectively covering the fifteen provinces of the Mekong Delta with their diversified psychological operations capabilities; including loudspeaker broadcast equipment, leaflet drops, civic action projects, and other techniques.

John B. Dwyer tells us more in Seaborne Deception, the History of the U.S. Navy Beach Jumpers.

The Beach Jumpers often took part in deception operations. For instance, in order to fool the Viet Cong and make them think that PBRs were in the area when they were in fact back at base refueling:

Team 13 transmitted prerecorded helicopter background noises and simulated chopper voice traffic over PBR primary communications circuits…Conducted only at night, the notional transmissions were varied to avoid stereotyping and to ensure credibility.

Other operations include:

During Operation Lam Son 19 (the Multidivisional incursion into the Laotian Panhandle) SOG carried out diversionary insertions at four bogus landing zones and conducted simulated parachute raider and actual resupply bundle insertions at eight phone drop zones…

Flying in Army helicopters they played taped music…over enemy territory. The purpose…was to draw enemy fire in order to pinpoint the location of the Viet Cong on the ground. Orbiting gunships would then swoop down for the kill…The heavy metal rock music selection by Iron Butterfly was the most effective noise for drawing enemy fire.

Lieutenant Commander C. R. Hershey, Commander of Beach Jumper 1 discussed his unit capabilities and recommended that the PSYOP capabilities of the U.S. Navy be expanded in a report entitled “Concepts for the Employment of PSYOP within the Pacific Fleet.” Some of his comments are:

The successful employment of psychological operations, within varying situational requirements and geographical locations, requires a flexibility of responses and mobility to deploy rapidly…The Navy, with these inherent capabilities, stands ready to conduct PSYOP where troops have not yet been placed ashore…It is mandatory that the Navy’s ability to conduct psychological operations should not be allowed to become dormant between conflicts.

The Navy’s large combatant ships and many of the smaller vessels have organic graphic arts, duplicating and photographic facilities which are supported by trained personnel…The core of personnel, although small in number would include billets for military and civilian experts who have an educational background and training in the political and social sciences. Of course, the necessary skills required by photography, lithography and electronic would be acquired from military schools…This group would be mobile and flexible, in that they could deploy to any area to assist the commander in psychological operations on very short notice and could expand rapidly under the aegis of the task force or another commander.

There is currently a naval command, which is the only permanent naval unit tasked with the conduct of psychological operations…Upon being tasked with PSYOP during the Vietnam War, this naval unit was quick to respond in acquiring the additional skills and training necessary to take timely advantage of the fleet’s organic leaflet production and disseminating facilities as well as employing its own broadcasting equipment…For example: the unit has been able to print leaflets, containing a defector’s statement and photograph and disseminate it over the target area in less than six hours…I am the Commanding Officer of Beach Jumper Unit 1 and the organizations that I have been referring to as meeting the above requirements are the Navy’s Beach Jumper Units…The Beach Jumper Units can be the Navy’s mobile and effective nucleus for PSYOP.

We mention above that the Navy would fly loudspeaker aircraft to draw fire and then use gunships to attack the Viet Cong. The Army sometimes did the same thing. I should point out here that this is not the way to get the enemy’s trust. A PSYOP Lieutenant recalls:

I remember when the PSYOP squadron I worked for got shot up particularly bad one night while playing Robert Brown's "Fire" to the Viet Cong over the big University 1000-Watt speaker. The next night they went up again but “Spooky” flew with them. Our speaker plane flew a wide orbit playing "Fire" again, and Spooky flew opposing orbit. It was night and the speaker plane was lit up like a Christmas tree to draw attention. Spooky was blacked out. The enemy opened fire with everything they had. Spooky opened up with all three miniguns on at high cyclic rate and mysteriously all of the ground fire suddenly ceased.

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An alleged CIA forged Viet Cong stamp

It was not only the military that produced black propaganda. There is an alleged propaganda postage stamp printed by the Central Intelligence Agency. According to the Vietnam Postage Stamp Collection of the Armed Struggle for the Fatherland Safeguard, Tran Quang Vy, The 1964 10 xu stamp commemorated the victory at Ap Bac on 2-3 January 1963. This was the first major victory of the Viet Cong over a full division of the Army of South Vietnam (ARVN). Although the South Vietnamese forces were supported by artillery, tanks and helicopters, they suffered 200 killed and another 300 wounded. Five American helicopters were shot down during the battle. The vignette on the stamp depicts a Viet Cong machine-gunner downing an American CH-47 Chinook helicopter. The stamp was catalogued by Stanley Gibbons as NLF5.

Western Stamp Coillector published an article on 5 April 1982 entitled “Ex-Agent’s charges suggest CIA forged Viet Cong stamp.” The story told of an interview in The Washington Post where former Central Intelligence Agency member Frank Liechty stated that he saw sheets of the Viet Cong stamps in a CIA file in the 1960s. He claimed that documents in the file described an agency plan to fabricate evidence of outside support of the Viet Cong. The high quality of the printing would indicate to all that they were produced in Hanoi because the guerrillas in the south could not produce such stamps. Liechty claimed that the CIA intended to send letters written in Vietnamese all over the world and to journalists as part of a plan to facilitate greater US involvement in the Vietnam War. He said that the stamp appeared on the cover of Life Magazine dated 26 February 1965, two days before President Lyndon B. Johnson published his “White Paper” on the war. A week later, two Marine Corps battalions were sent to Vietnam. Liechty was fired in 1978 and depending on who you believe he is either a disgruntled ex-employee or an agent with a conscience that the CIA could no longer control.

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Genuine stamp. Note the accent mark over the letter A

Fake Stamp. Note the accent mark over the letter A

There are numerous difference between the two stamps. Two of the more obvious are:

On the genuine stamp the letters are sharp and the lines straight while the fake has crooked lines of varying thickness. The accent mark over the first “A” in “MAT ” has the point at the bottom while in the fake it is at the top.

When I spoke to a Vietnamese specialist about the alleged CIA fake he replied:

I confirm the stamp is a forgery made by the CIA. We have always heard about this forgery and attempted to discover some facts about it.

A former CIA agent who was stationed in Vietnam during the war adds:

I next examined your forged stamp in high magnification. The incorrect diacritic mark in the word MAT is the correct "lazy crescent moon" mark but mysteriously it has been inverted making it totally impossible in Vietnamese. The inversion clearly proves it a non-Vietnamese fake. You can also see in the fake an unexplained extra graphic element which connects the “M” and the “A” together. There is no reason for it to exist in a genuine Vietnamese stamp since it blots out the linguistically very important dot under the A.

My conclusion: It seems a relatively poor fake. The genuine Ap Bac stamp on your psywar page is clearly the genuine source from which the fake was copied.

Military White Propaganda

 

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Military Assistance Command – Vietnam

The MACV PSYOP Directorate employed Army, Navy and Air Force personnel and operated under the staff supervision of the Assistant Chief of Staff J3 (Operations). It served in an advisory role to the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces as well as a supervisory role to U.S. forces.

MACV consisted of a Development and Analysis Division which developed, reviewed, evaluated and analyzed programs and policies.

The Operations Division exercises staff supervision for all support activities of U.S. and Vietnamese forces.

The Political Warfare Division advised, assisted and supported the Vietnamese General Political Warfare Department and its subordinate elements.

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JUSPAO Leaflet Drop Mission Sorties Board

Although elements of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) prepared some white propaganda leaflets, much of the white printed propaganda of the Vietnam War was produced under MACV by two U.S. Army Psychological Operations (PSYOP) Groups. For Army organizational purposes (probably beginning in the early 1960s), South Vietnam was divided into four Corps Tactical Zones. Ranging from the north to the south, I Corps was in the north abutting North Vietnam, in the foothills and coastal regions east of the Annamite Mountains; II Corps was in the country's least populated region, encompassing the rugged central highlands and central plateau; III Corps was on the densely populated alluvial plain surrounding Saigon; IV Corps was the heavily populated and agriculturally productive Mekong Delta.

The original military psychological operations unit assigned to Vietnam was the 1st PSYOP Detachment (Provisional), which arrived in 1965. In late 1965, a small unit of the Okinawa-based 7th PSYOP Group arrived in Saigon.

 

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The Machinato Printing Plant – Okinawa

SP4 Jeff Truesdale of the 14th PSYOP Battalion of the 7th PSYOP Group
(December 1972 to June 1973) sent us these photographs of the Machinato Printing Plant on Okinawa.

Specialist Fourth Class Tom Major of the 15th PSYOP Detachment, 7th PSYOP Group, was assigned to the Machinato Printing Plant on Okinawa from 1966 to 1968. He told me:

When I was there we only had three web presses. They must have brought in more presses after I left in 1968. Looks like some walls may have been taken out to fit all the equipment in there. I loved my tour with PSYOP. It was my first duty assignment with the Army. I was a typist doing final drafts of propaganda scripts from previous drafts that had been corrected with pencil. After a while I wanted a bit more action so I asked to change jobs. I was then assigned to the Art Department and worked alongside Mike Peters. He became a well-known cartoonist after leaving the military. I then became a press-helper in the Printing Plant. I really enjoyed that job because I got to move around and get some exercise.

The 7th PSYOP Group was constituted 19 August 1965 in the regular Army and activated 20 October 1965 and assigned to the Ryukyu Islands, located in the Machinato Service Area. It was attached to IX Corps for operation and Training. The 7th PSYOP Group was the successor to the U. S. Army Broadcasting and Visual Activity, Pacific, (USABVAPAC) which was disbanded 20 October 1965. The 7th assumed all missions and functions previously administered by USABVAPAC and transferred members and equipment.

The 7th PSYOP Group was tasked with support activities in Okinawa, Vietnam, Taiwan, Korea, Thailand and Japan. The group consisted of the 14th PSYOP Battalion, the 15th PSYOP Detachment, the Japan Detachment, the Korea detachment, the Taiwan Detachment, and the Vietnam Detachment.

The Japan detachment was located at North Camp Drake. It produced the magazines Koryu, Chayu-Ui Pot and Shurei No Hikari (for Okinawa. In 1968, they added a magazine for Vietnam entitled Thong Cam (Mutual Understanding). The detachment produced a number of PSYOP products for Vietnam, including; 1,640,000 calendars, 23,150 magazines, 2,575,593,530 leaflets and 661,570 booklets. 

The Taiwan Detachment was located in Taipei. It maintained liaison between the 7th PSYOP Group and the Republic of China. In 1968 they trained 25 Chinese PSYOP personnel at headquarters in Okinawa.

In September 1968, a two-man detachment was authorized for Thailand. It supported the Royal Thai armed forces.

In Vietnam the Group worked in support of the Commander, United States Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (COMUSMACV). During 1965 The Okinawa printing plant produced 125 million leaflets for MACV and the Vietnam Detachment produced another 62 million on its web-fed press in Saigon. The Detachment maintained liaison with the Joint United States Public Affairs Office and the Military Assistance Command Political Warfare Directorate. In September two members journeyed to Vietnam to plan and conduct the first high altitude leaflet and toy bundle dissemination over North Vietnam. They returned again in December to assist in a Christmas toy drop over North Vietnam.

In March 1967, the detachment took part in the production of a bar of soap with eight different PSYOP messages that became visible as the soap was used. 25,000 bars of soap were ready for the annual Tet campaign of February 1969. One former officer from the group told me that the soap propaganda caused some hand chaffing in the unit when everyone in his office was ordered to wash their hands over and over again to test out the use of soap bars and see how long it took the new messages to appear.

The 7th Group Detachment produced about 800,000,000 leaflets a month for the U.S. forces in Vietnam in 1968. They worked with JUSPAO to print 2,000,000 copies bi-weekly of the PSYOP newspaper Tu Do (Free South). The detachment also printed six different calendars with a run of 1,720,000 copies and six PSYOP booklets with a run of 330,000 copies.

Major Barger adds:

The initial forces for deployment to Vietnam were drawn either from the ranks of the 7th PSYOP Group, based in Okinawa, or from stateside units, for the most part  those stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. According to official order of battle records, elements of the 7th PSYOP Group totaling 143 soldiers conducted psychological operations in Vietnam between 20 October 1965 and 1 December 1967, and additional elements continued to perform missions in Vietnam throughout the war.

SP4 William Boyle was a member of the 7th PSYOP Group in Okinawa. He said:

Our unit had a detachment in South Korea, another in Japan, and had sent some members temporary duty (TDY) to Viet Nam. In May 1965, a larger TDY detachment (about 20 of us) was sent to Bien Hoa attached to the 173rd Airborne Brigade. We were quartered at an old French villa near the river that was already used by the Special Forces. We set up shop in Bien Hoa and used our portable (tractor-trailer carried) presses to print leaflets which we dropped from specially outfitted C-47's,  which were also used as loudspeaker platforms for night missions over Viet Cong territory).

In June 1965, an American Special Forces A camp was overrun. We went to help reestablish the nearby village, which had been largely destroyed in the battle. We operated on the principle that civic action was an integral part of the effort to win the hearts and minds of the people, and visited many hamlets, villages, and towns to evaluate the needs - whether emergency food supplies or construction materials or improvements in public services (schools and clinics).

During the time I was in Nam our detachment was assigned to the 173rd Airborne, the Military Assistant Command Vietnam and the United States Army Vietnam.

I spent many hours in choppers and little fixed wing bush planes, along with many hours in C47's on both day and night missions. My tour ended in May, 1966, and until then the unit had suffered no direct enemy attacks.

Colonel Harold F. Bentz, Jr., commanded the 7th PSYOP Group on Okinawa from 30 November 1968 to 16 May 1972. After four years he was superbly qualified to discuss some of the problems he faced during his multiple tours. Some of the points he makes in  his Senior Officer Debriefing report are:

One major problem regarding PSYOP is the lack of understanding and appreciation for PSYOP by some senior military commanders. Although the situation has improved somewhat during the past decade, there are still some senior commanders who do not fully recognize the importance of the PSYOP weapons system as it is employed in a politico-military conflict situation.

One perennial problem that confronted the 7th PSYOP Group was the fact that not all officers assigned to the group had formal PSYOP training or experience.

It appears that the U. S. Army is deficient in the number of qualified printers…Such personnel shortages seriously reduce the requisite flexibility necessary to support strategic operations…

The Group was responsible for printing approximately 80% of all the PSYOP printing requirements for Vietnam…The Group had to utilize three printing plants, The USIA Regional Service Center in Manila, the U.S. Army Printing and Publications Center in Japan, and the 7th PSYOP Group printing plant.

Retired Colonel Charles V. Nahlik talks about flying leaflet missions over Vietnam for the 7th PSYOP Group as a Captain from 1966 to 1968: 

In support of Vietnam, the 7th PSYOP Group was given a schedule by Military Assistance Command Vietnam and flew missions once a month via the C-130s. We flew into Ubon AFB Thailand the day before and flew the mission the following evening. We sat with the fighter jocks for the evening briefing, jumped into our survival vest, checked maps and weapons and took off.  Depending on the wind direction, we either flew up the Ho Chi Minh trail and then along and below the demilitarized zone or we flew up the east coast of North Vietnam. When we dropped leaflets along the Ho Chi Minh Trail we took lots of fire from the Mu Giah pass. Our electronic jammers were working to their fullest but we still saw the rockets coming up at us. That is something that will start your heart pumping! However, none of that was as frightening as dropping leaflets from one of those tiny O2B aircraft out of Can Tho with a pilot who thought he should have been flying in an attack aircraft. I was dropping leaflets while he was diving at the enemy, dropping grenades and shooting a rifle out the window at Viet Cong in the bush below us. “Pure Crazy” is the way I would describe that experience.

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The 1,000,000,000 Leaflet is Dropped

In March 1967, the 7th PSYOP Group Commander, Colonel Lundelius personally assisted in dropping the one billionth leaflet printed by his unit for high altitude dissemination.

In 1967 the unit was awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation for their support of military operations. Besides the units mentioned earlier, the 7th PSYOP Group added a Radio Detachment (Provisional) Vietnam. The unit now had 41 linguists who were proficient in 11 different languages. During 1967 they printed 7 billion propaganda leaflets for Vietnam and Korea. Their printing capability was enhanced by using the U. S. Army Printing and Production Center in Japan, and the Regional Service Center in Manila.

The small detachment’s Vietnam HQs were bombed by the VC in December of 1966 and they moved to 8 Vinh Vien Street. Later they moved to 16 Pham Ngu Lao in the Cholon section of Saigon (The Cruz Compound in the Saigon rail yards). They coordinated the activities of four loudspeaker teams, supervised two leaflet dissemination courses, and assisted members who were on temporary duty (TDY) with MACVSOG. Their motto was "Credibility Through Communication."

I mention “Cruz” seven times in this article. Staff Sergeant Pedro A. Cruz of the 19th PSYOP Company (later the 10th PSYOP Battalion) was killed by enemy fire in May, 1967, while continually placing himself in danger to keep a loudspeaker transmitting in support of the 101st Airborne Division. He was awarded the Bronze Star with “V” device for valor. The 4th PSYOP Group Headquarters was named the Cruz Compound shortly afterwards.

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Anh Khe, September 1965

The 19th PSYOP Company was activated at Ft. Bragg as part of the 3rd Special Forces Group on 10 August 1962. The first Commander was Captain Blaine Revis. In July 1965, Revis was asked to form the 24th PSYOP Detachment and deploy to Vietnam assigned to the 1st Air Cavalry Division at Anh Khe. The 24th PSYOP Detachment was formed from personnel of the 1st and 13th PSYOP Battalion assigned to the United States Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center, Fort Bragg, NC. The unit, consisting of six officers and 24 enlisted, was formed, trained and deployed to Vietnam in just two weeks. The detachment arrived in Vietnam in September 1965 and assigned to support the 1st Cavalry Division G5 Section at Anh Khe. The Section was understaffed for communicating with the Vietnamese populace and the laborers who would prepare the base for the arrival of aircraft. It soon became apparent that the Cavalry Division had no interest in PSYOP support, so Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV) ordered the detachment moved in November 1965 to Nha Trang as part of the II Corps Operations section (G3). The detachment participated directly in attack planning which included control of civilians caught in the battlefield field of fire. On one major campaign called "Operation Eagle Claw" in the Bong Son Valley, the 24th POD helped to relocate 5,000 refugees onto a temporary site and supply them with tents and food for over a month. They supported operations in the Bong Son Valley on at least three separate occasions and dropped millions of leaflets each time. The detachment had loudspeaker teams in the field with Vietnamese linguists to call upon the North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong units to surrender. They had one truck with a printing press and produced a limited number of propaganda leaflets, but the majority of leaflets were printed and flown in from Japan. Some members were assigned to Korean military units, other to the 101st Airborne Division. The USAF 5th Air Commando Squadron was formed to support the unit. In February 1966, the 24th was re-designated the 245th PSYOP Company and became responsible for PSYOP in II Corps. 

The 25th PSYOP Detachment was Commanded by CPT William R. Perry and made up of seven officers and 15 enlisted men. In 1965 it was deployed to Southeast Asia from San Francisco on the USNS Hugh J. Gaffney along with elements of the United States Army 1st Cavalry Division. Anti-war protestors pelted the troop ship as it sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge. The Detachment ran the ship’s radio station on the 17-day voyage. The Gaffney docked at Qui Nhon in September of 1965. The unit was immediately trucked to an air strip where they were flown to Pleiku by C-123 and headquartered in an old French compound at the II Corps MACV headquarters north of Pleiku while a permanent barracks was built for them. The unit’s primary mission was to support the American and South Vietnamese troops in the II corps geographical area with PSYOP capabilities to include leaflet production, Medical Civic Action Program (MEDCAP) field trips, movies and operations in friendly Montagnard villages. Members of the unit were with the 1st Cavalry in November 1965 at the battle of Ia Drang.

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Montagnard Leaflet 7-320-69

The Montagnards mentioned above were a native people looked down upon by the Vietnamese. Both the Republic of Viet Nam and the Viet Cong persecuted them. Many of the natives were forced into the Viet Cong to carry supplies and do other laborer-type work. The above leaflet is one of a series that was prepared without text since many of the Montagnards were illiterate. The front of this airdropped 3x6-inch leaflet depicts a native with the Viet Cong who finds a Chieu Hoi leaflet and then surrenders to a government soldier. On the back of the leaflet the soldier has his arm around the Montagnard in a friendly manner, and in the final drawing the native is home with his wife and children.

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A Leaflet in the Tribal Roglai Language

Speaking of Montagnards, here is a leaflet with Vietnamese on one side and Roglai on the other. The Roglai are found in Ninh Thuan, Binh Thuan, Khanh Hoa, Lam Dong provinces, in the mountains west and south of Nha Trang; some near Dalat. Their autonym is Radlai, which means “forest people.” They are an ethnic community, part of the Montagnard, traditionally Christian. This leaflet depicts two tribesmen talking:

INVITE ONE ANOTHER TO RETURN TO THE GOVERNMENT OF VIETNAM

I have heard that about 200,000 highlanders have rallied to the Government of the Republic of Vietnam. My family is going to side with the government. Do you want to go with us?

Yes. The Viet Cong are very cruel. Many Roglai people have gone to the Government of the Republic of Vietnam side. Let’s report to a South Vietnam Army unit!

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Leaflet 245N-49-67

One of the more attractive leaflets produced by the 245th PSYOP Company depicts a soldier of the Republic of Vietnam riding on horseback carrying the flag of his nation and trampling the communist flag. The picture is very heroic in a traditional military manner. The text on the back of the leaflet is:

Citizens Living in this Area Please Take Notice.

Don't Run, Don't Hide

Don't run and don't hide from the Allied military forces patrolling on the ground or above you in helicopters. Stay where you are until you receive further instructions. You will be told what to do. If you follow instructions you will not be harmed.

The odd thing about this leaflet is that the code is all wrong. It should have the “245” at the center, “49-245-67.” Apparently, the 245th did things their own way and paid little attention to the system in place. A perfect example is the following leaflet where we now find the 245 at the end of the code. They also add the letter “P” which usually means “poster.”

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Leaflet 76-2-245(P)

The front depicts U.S. aircraft which appear to be Navy FJ-4F Fury fighter-bombers attacking the Viet Cong both day and night. The Fury was an extensively modified ground attack version of the F-86 that the Navy put into service after the Korean War as a light attack aircraft operating from aircraft carriers. It was flown by Marine pilots and saw limited service in Vietnam and parts of Laos. It was replaced in Navy service by the A-4 Skyhawk attack bomber, which saw extensive service throughout the Vietnam War. The leaflet text is:

During the day you are not safe

At night you are even more terrified

The back is all text:

Save Yourselves!

-The Army of the Republic of Vietnam will severely punish anyone who disrupts the security and safety of the people.

-Your only chance of survival is to rally and be reunited with your families.

First Lieutenant Bob Harvey of the 25th PSYOP Detachment (later Detachment B of the 245th PSYOP Company) reminisces about his Vietnam duty from September 1965 to September 1966:

Captain Perry was a good Commanding Officer of the Pleiku Detachment for the period he was with us, about September 1965 to June 1966. We all had a lot of respect and admiration for him.   He was part Apache Indian and part German. He was a real Regular Army trooper, an infantry officer with a Combat Infantry Badge. The PSYOP command was not for him. He petitioned to get out in the bush and engage the enemy. He finally got transferred down south to a combat unit and was replaced by Captain Henry (Lee) Dunn, a nice guy from Wyoming who was the Commander from about July 1966.

The introduction of the 25th PSYOP Detachment into the Central Highlands of Vietnam at Pleiku in September 1965 coincided with the buildup of 1st Cavalry (Airmobile) at An Khe just to the East.  The mission of the detachment was to collect intelligence regarding enemy weaknesses and vulnerabilities, develop themes and materials to exploit these vulnerabilities, and disseminate appeals and messages via leaflet, loudspeaker and other means.  The detachment had highly trained PSYOP officers and enlisted men who had specific expertise in psychological operations, counter insurgency, media development, graphic design, leaflet production, audio production, photography, and other selected skills.

The specific missions planned and executed by the unit included imbedded field teams to collect information relative to enemy vulnerabilities and develop and disseminate propaganda to their soldiers.  Aerial loudspeaker and leaflet missions flown in U-10, C-47 and UH-1 aircraft were conducted throughout the major campaigns, and leaflet missions over the tri-country border area (infiltration trails) were commonplace.

The first major ground operation was a field team comprised of one PSYOP Officer and two support  specialists from the 25th Detachment, and one Vietnamese interpreter.   This team was attached to the 1st Cavalry during the Ia Drang campaign (November 1965) and was able to ascertain NVA vulnerabilities as the basis for PSYOP efforts in the II Corps border area throughout the remainder of 1965.

With the introduction of elements of the 25th and 4th Infantry Divisions into the Central Highlands in 1966, the Detachment (now redesignated 245th PSYOP Company “Detachment B”) participated in numerous campaigns and sweeps of known enemy locations for the purpose of exploiting troop weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Many of these brigade size campaigns were staged out of the large open fields in and around Pleiku, with New Pleiku Airbase (USAF), Camp Hollaway (US ARMY AIR), and the MACV II Corps Headquarters providing support.  The Detachment’s production facility, located at the MACV compound, was able to react quickly to the latest intelligence, and develop/produce PSYOP media and material in support of field operations.

Generally, the detachment developed and produced much of its own material, however, major leaflet drops (most along the Cambodian border) of thousands of pounds of leaflets by C-47 required leaflets to be produced at Battalion in Saigon or in Manila.  These were shipped to New Pleiku Airbase by transport for loading into the C-47 following its arrival from its base in Nha Trang.

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Lieutenant Winston Groom

Second Lieutenant Winston Groom talks about his activities during the early days of the Vietnam War with the 245th PSYOP Company:

I brought over a detachment of about 30 men out of the Psywar Company at Ft. Bragg in mid-June, 1966. We boarded the U.S.S. Gaffney for the long trip over. Upon arrival, I went several weeks without a specific assignment while I studied the local operations, but nobody in command seemed to know exactly what we were supposed to do.

One morning I was suddenly told to get my stuff together because they had a job for me. When I got to headquarters Major Piragowski told me I was to be the PSYOP team leader attached to the 1st Brigade, 4th Infantry Division. While I awaited the arrival of my assigned unit, I worked with the PSYOP team leader of the 101st Airborne Division brigade, which was still operational in the area. I went on missions a few times with the 101st. At this stage of the war we were hampered by bad equipment, including loudspeakers, which were WWII vintage and rarely worked. It took a one man to carry the speaker that weighed about 40+ pounds, and another to carry the batteries, which weighed about as much.

Once the 4th Infantry Division went operational, their 1st Brigade, the one I was attached to, was assigned to Tuy Hoa. The Brigade Commander Colonel Austin told me, “Well, son, whatever you do, get on with it, and we'll give you all the help you need, but just don't get in the way of our operations.” The Division let us use their chopper and U-10 light aircraft. I took part in some U-10 operations and threw out thousands of leaflets that were ordered from Saigon or Nha Trang. I had no idea what they said, because they were in Vietnamese, but was told that they were as good as anything to throw out of the plane, and that the natives in the villages liked them because they could use them for toilet paper.

During the day all the native villages and hamlets ran up a Republic of Vietnam flag and soon as night fell they took them down and ran up the Viet Cong flag. This so incensed Major Jack Lugee, a Forward Artillery Controller one early morning as he flew over a village that he swooped down and not only buzzed the village but came away with the Viet Cong flag wrapped around his landing gear.

The 245th PSYOP Company in Nha Trang continued to ship me tons of leaflets and Chieu Hoi safe conduct passes that I dropped out of the U-10 at selected coordinates based on where intelligence said there was Viet Cong activity, which for all practical purposes included the entire province. We probably could have done some good with the bullhorn if any of the battalions had been able to hold contact with the enemy long enough for us to get there. The PSYOP Team was simply too small to go out with the rifle battalions on a regular basis, and besides we had only one bullhorn that worked sporadically, no matter how many times a day I had it tested and worked on.

We did manage to get some airborne missions using loudspeaker broadcasts of tapes we had made, either with the U-10 or by requesting a C-47 out of Nha Trang. Another problem was that it was nearly impossible to interrogate prisoners to find out if any of our propaganda was working. I asked on a number of occasions if I could at least submit questions for them to ask the prisoners, but I never got a straight answer. We were working in the dark.

I next was attached to Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV) on the southern edge of Tuy Hoa. I was provided with a PSYOP truck that had loudspeakers, photo equipment, and a big PSYOP logo painted on the side. I did some election work, my interpreter asking the local people to get out and vote over the loudspeaker.

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Photo of the 60 killed Viet Cong taken by Lieutenant Groom

Toward the end of my tour the Viet Cong attacked a Government of Vietnam Army post about six kilometers from Tuy Hoa. I rode out to the site of the battle and photographed about 60 bodies. Shortly after that I flew back to San Francisco and resumed my civilian life.

It is my considered opinion that the U.S. Army did not care at all about PSYOP at that time. If it had, it would have emphasized comprehensive training and positioned competent intelligence officers in the slots, and they would have kept at least some kind of tabs on what was going on; provided advice, help, and decent equipment.

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Detachment B (Pleiku) of the 245th PSYOP Company in spring 1967
The Detachment poses in front of the Propaganda Support Center in the ARVN Compound

Front row - left to right: SGT Mattingly (Supply), PFC Karas (Analyst), SP4 Nickerson (Broadcast Specialist/Offset pressman), SP4 Luke (Field operations), SP4 Niver (Offset pressman) and SP5 Jones (Field operations). 
Back row- left to right: SFC Davis (First Sergeant), SP4 Boothby (Press operator), CPT Dunn (Commander), SP4 Wands (Artist), CPT Brereton (Executive Officer), SP4 Keen (Artist), SP4 Johnson (Motor pool), SP5 Tiffany (Company clerk), SP4 Plemmons (Field Operations).
Missing: SP4 Bell (Overnight offset press operator)

Private Leighton M. "Nick" Nickerson arrived in Vietnam assigned to the 245th PSYOP Company on 22 July 1966. He left a year later as a Specialist 5th Class. He was first sent to Nha Trang then detached to Pleiku. He had been trained as a 71R20 Broadcast Specialist, but Pleiku had no need for that MOS and after discovering that his hobby was photography he was assigned to the photo lab. He was also trained as a printing press operator during his tour and awarded a second military occupational specialty of 71W40. He described his activities in Vietnam:

We supported the 1st Cavalry and the 4th Infantry Division with our leaflets. I never kept track of where we went and what we did but I know we did a lot of missions that had us flying over Laos and Cambodia. I know we went as far south Ban Me Thout, North to Kontum, even once to Dalat to support III Corp, and once north to Da Nang. We didn't do many loudspeaker missions from the air while I was there, and most of those were done with just Air Force personnel. We went up if there were leaflets to drop. I remember unloading an entire deuce-and-a-half of leaflets into C47's.

I flew with one Air Force Major and logged more flight time than anyone else in the unit. One day I asked why I was the only one getting requested to crew the U10's and later O2B's. He said it was because I could carry on an intelligent conversation and didn't throw up, and that second one was the most important attribute a PSYOP soldier could have.

We had a great outfit. During my tour I never heard a shot fired in anger. Of course, Charlie mortared our perimeter twice, but it was good duty until about mid-1967 when things got more "stract" and we were no longer allowed to be a bunch of "misfits" that did things our own way most of the time. I think we missed that freedom. It seems we never had the same morale or espirit de Corps after we got "militarized".

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Nick Nickerson plays Dr. Strangelove?

This was at the Bomb Dump in Pleiku; we'd get called out to pack the leaflet bombs frequently during the first few months I was there. Shades of Dr. Strangelove. We would get called out at night and go to work regardless of how we were dressed and get the job done. By the end of my tour, there is no way we would have gone on the base out-of-uniform. Early in my tour it was the mission that was important. Like I said, the misfits went to Pleiku.

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Charles Kean Jr.

Specialist Fourth Class Charles Kean Jr. Was a member of the 245th PSYOP Company in Vietnam during the years 1966-1967. He was trained as a U.S. Army Illustrator (Military Occupational Specialty 81E2W). During his tour he supported the 1st Cavalry and the 4th Infantry Division. He flew many C47 leaflet missions and received an Air Crew badge for the time he spent aloft. In this photograph he is in the process of drawing a propaganda leaflet for the Vietnamese. He told me:

We mostly did specialized leaflets for tactical situations. Since we covered an area that extended from the central highlands with the Montagnards and other tribes to the sea coast, we produced leaflets covering a lot of different dialects and situations. Also we had a very quick response time. Often we were awakened in the middle of the night and hustled to our work area to produce a brand new leaflet for an ongoing battle. Sometimes it was just nuts because we would be under attack ourselves, but we drew, printed, packed the leaflets and survived.

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Painting by Charles Kean

The Painting was done from a photo while SP4 Kean was in Vietnam. He was deeply touched by the photo that depicted a Vietnamese mother killed during a firefight.

By early 1966, Army psychological operations were being carried out by the 6th PSYOP Battalion stationed in Saigon. Demand overwhelmed capability, and in December 1967 the 4th PSYOP Group was formed from the existing PSYOP battalion and its companies. Available data on military psyop unit composition and periods and places of duty are incomplete and sometimes contradictory. The following is our understanding of the order of battle of U.S. PSYOP units in Vietnam.

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6th PSYOP Battalion

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Kihn Do Theater in Saigon after the theater was blown up on 1 December 1966
(Photo courtesy of Rick Hofmann)

The small early PSYOP detachment was followed by the 6th PSYOP Battalion, a command-and-control unit under USARV Special Troops, which arrived in Vietnam from Fort Bragg on 7 February 1966. During its independent existence (until 1 December 1967) the 6th PSYOP Battalion was the US Army's primary support unit for PSYOP in Vietnam. Headquarters was initially in the Kinh Do Theater in Saigon except for the radio and TV advisors, and the printing facilities, although a lot of paper and printing supplies were stored on the first floor where the seats had been. After the theater was blown up by an estimated 50 kilograms of “plastique,” (Staff Sergeant Ron Baker told me that he believed it was a satchel charge that blew the roof off the building he called the Capitol Theater), it moved some distance away to a small, modern, three-story building near Cholon that had been an auto shop. Our next location was down by the bridge, a small Japanese warehouse compound. That remained the HQ location until they moved downtown to the railway area. In the fall of 1967, the battalion headquarters moved to the Saigon Railyards, now referred to as the Cruz Compound. The 6th PSYOP Bn operated independent of the Saigon-based Vietnam Detachment of the 7th PSYOP Group.   The 7th Group was represented at the Japanese warehouse; they had a small liaison party there, two enlisted men and one officer. At this time the printing plant was located on the Binh Loi Canal, about a block away from the last bridge before the long ride to Bien Hoa. The unit was located in the compound of the ARVN 50th POLWAR Battalion, which turned out to be built on top of an old French ammunition dump. The dump was discovered about June 1967, when excavating for the concrete pad and building to house the new 3G press. The site was moved once the dump was discovered.

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245th PSYOP Company HQ in Nha Trang

On 10 February 1966, three companies were formed within the 6th PSYOP Bn to provide tactical propaganda support.

 1. The 244th PSYOP Company served I Corps from an initial station in Nha Trang (in II Corps), with a detachment in Quang Ngai in I Corps. Looking through the Detachment 2 Quang Ngai Leaflet and Poster Catalog I note that besides preparing products for American forces, they printed a large number of items for the 2nd Division of the 12th Division Tactical Area (DTA). An Army of the Republic of Vietnam DTA comprised two or more provinces; the DTA commander was also the ARVN division commander, and the DTA was his permanent Tactical Area of Responsibility.

2. The 245th PSYOP Company served II Corps from Pleiku (in II Corps).

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LT Robert Harvey and his team from the 245th PSYOP Company drop leaflets from a C-47 Aircraft along the tri-country border (Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia) in an attempt to reach infiltrators coming down the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

PSYOPS in Vietnam – Indications of Effectiveness. JUSPAO Planning Office, Saigon, Vietnam, May, 1967 mentions the 245th PSYOP Company:

From 1 January to 1 October 1966, Air Force planes dropped over one billion leaflets for the 245th PSYOP Company. Men of the 245th designed and printed over 61 million of these leaflets with their own facilities. Five thousand hours of loudspeaker missions were logged in the same period.

More than 6,000 Viet Cong and North Vietnamese regulars defected in areas where the leaflets and loudspeaker missions were employed by the 245th. This was a 300% increase over the same period of the previous year.

3. The 246th PSYOP Company served III Corps from Bien Hoa, about 20 miles northeast of Saigon in III Corps.

Dave Kolchuk was a Specialist 4 (E4) with the 246th PSYOP Company of the 1st PSYOP Battalion in Vietnam from October 1965 to October 1966.  He was stationed in the “Train Compound,” an old French villa a few miles from Bien Hoa.  He was an Army Illustrator supporting III Corps. He told me:

My job was to design, and produce leaflets, flyers, and posters.   We also did public relations work for schools and hospitals. I learned enough of the language to give some translation support. Once printed, I participated in leaflet drops and loudspeaker operations on air missions with the US Air Force out of Bien Hoa Air Base. I had enough hours and missions in various aircraft to earn crewman wings from the USAF. 

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Army of South Vietnam Officer’s Candidate School Booklet

The above booklet was produced by the 246th PSYOP Company in 1966. 30,000 copies of this 14 x 7.5-inch booklet were produced at the request of the 6th PSYOP Battalion. The cover of this booklet depicting three brave ARVN soldiers was drawn by Specialist Fourth Class Dave Kolchuk. The text on the cover is:

Infantry

Monthly Publication of the Thu Duc Infantry School

The Thu Duc Infantry School was the South Vietnamese Army's officer candidate’s school.It was the training school for reserve officers, while regular army officers were trained at the Dalat Military Academy. They called it the Infantry School but it was an officer’s training school. It is interesting to note that the North Vietnamese also called their Military Academy the “Infantry School.” Perhaps a title the Vietnamese inherited from their French colonial masters in the distant past.

The 4th PSYOP Group also mentions producing booklets. For instance, in 1968, twelve propaganda and political warfare booklets were printed by the 4th and 7th PSYOP Groups, about 500,000 copies in all. The average booklet contained about 75 pages and its size was about 7 x l0-inches. The Battalions are believed to have produced about 30 smaller-sized pamphlets that same year.

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The 246th PSYOP Company had an interesting pocket ID that was in the form of a “Lady Bug” with the text:

246th PSYOP Co – Professional Litter Bugs

I commented to former PSYOP officer Hammond Salley about the vignette and he sent me a picture showing that it was also on the commander’s jeep, and apparently stayed on the jeep when the 246th became the 6th PSYOP Battalion.

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Leaflet 246-55-67

Specialist 4 Eugene Simmons was an illustrator in the 246th PSYOP Company (Professional Litterbugs) for all of 1967. He recalls that Viet Cong prisoners of war would sometimes be isolated, interviewed and photographed. They would be asked to write a note to their combat buddies letting them know they were at alive and healthy. Photos would be taken and a leaflet produced with a photo of the prisoner on one side and his handwritten or typed note on the other side. Leaflet 246-55-67 depicts Nguyen Van Tuong. 50,000 leaflets were printed to be dropped by air over the 315B Unit at the request of the U.S. 1st Infantry Division. The text on the back says in part:

To Mr. Tu Thach and Friends of the 315B Unit

Hello Mr. Tu. Today I have some words for you and members in the Unit. Five years ago we were living together but I did not know where my honor was. I saw only the deaths everyday, was in need of many things and lost my freedom. The future was hopeless. I decided to leave the unit when I received the call from the Republic of Vietnam. Now I am really free. I enjoy life with my parents and my wife and family. The Republic of Vietnam has given me a house and the means to make a living…

Staff Sergeant Robert "Dennis" Brown was a member of the 246th PSYOP Company in Vietnam during 1967 and 1968. He was first attached to the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment and later the 25th Infantry Division. He recalls dropping leaflets daily from U-10 Courier aircraft, C-47 Skytrain aircraft, and UH-1D Huey helicopters.  He also regularly played Chieu Hoi tapes. He was involved in various “hearts and minds” projects such as Medical Civil Action Programs (MEDCAP) with Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV) and Special Forces teams.  He says he doesn’t know how successful his efforts were, but he did get positive feedback on one occasion:

A “grunt” with the 101st Airborne Division told me that a Hoi Chanh had stepped out from behind a tree and surrendered to him while he was on patrol. He said that if it had not been for the Chieu Hoi leaflet that the same VC would have probably killed him. 

4. Later, on 19 November 1966, a fourth company, the 19th PSYOP Company of the 6th PSYOP Battalion, was formed in Can Tho to provide advice and support in IV Corps.

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Leaflet 19-80-68

Not many leaflets from the 19th PSYOP Company can be found today. This one in a cartoon style depicts a farmer being drafted by the Viet Cong, lectured, then having second thoughts and informing on the Communists. In the final picture he is shown with his happy family holding presents in one hand and cash in the other.

Although command of the four tactical companies lay with the commander of the 6th PSYOP Bn, operational control lay with the four major area commanders in the Corps zones. During this period, JUSPAO had numerous USIA representatives operating throughout the country. These civilians maintained close contact with the four tactical companies within the 6th PSYOP Bn.

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4th PSYOP Group 

Because of the increased need for psychological warfare support, the 4th PSYOP Group was constituted in the Regular Army in Vietnam on 7 November 1967, and was activated on 1 December 1967 with headquarters in the Saigon Railyards (later, headquarters may have moved to the Tan Son Nhut Air Base near Saigon). The 6th PSYOP Battalion became the 4th PSYOP Group; the four companies currently operating in the Corps Tactical Zones became battalions within the 4th PSYOP Group, as reported in the following paragraphs. (All four companies disappear from the order of battle as of 1 January 1968.) The 4th PSYOP Group departed Vietnam on 2 October 1971.

According to the Operation Report Lessons Learned 4th Psychological Operations Group for Period ending 30 April 1970, at that time the Group had printed 313,232,000 6-inch x 3-inch leaflets. The breakdown by unit is 6th Psychological Operations Battalion - 23,190,500; 7th Psychological Operations Battalion - 94,920,000; 8th Psychological Operations Battalion - 32,115,000; 10th Psychological Operations Battalion - 76,145,000; Joint U.S. Public Affairs Office - 4,626,815,000 and Military Assistance Command Vietnam – 105,842,000.

The Department of the Army Lineage and Honors list shows that the 4th PSYOP Group was awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation and streamer embroidered “Vietnam 1967-1968,” and the Republic of Vietnam Civil Action Honor Medal, first class, and streamer embroidered “Vietnam 1967-1970.” It adds:

During its four years of service in Vietnam, PSYOP brought about the creation of the Joint U.S. Public Affairs Office which issued PSYOP policy guidance. During the "Chieu Hoi” amnesty program, an estimated 200,000 Viet Cong and North Vietnamese surrendered to the South Vietnamese government. They credited their defection to the PSYOP message which influenced their decision to leave their former units.

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4th PSYOP Group sign in Vietnam
(Photo courtesy of Dave Boyers)

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The 4th Group PDC unit in late 1968
(Photo courtesy of Dave Boyers)

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The 4th Group print shop loading dock - 1968
(Photo courtesy of Dave Boyers)

SP4 John D. (Dave) Boyers was a member of the 4th PSYOP Group from January to November 1968. He recalls his service:

I arrived in the Republic of Vietnam the day before the 1968 Tet offensive began. We were told that we were in a highly secure area and that not a shot had been fired for weeks there. That night, what we thought were celebratory fireworks kept getting louder, until we realize it wasn't fireworks at all.

I was involved in setting up the first photo processing laboratory at 4th Group Headquarters in Saigon. The lab was in the last Quonset hut at the left end of the row in the Cruz Compound. It contained a darkroom, an art department which consisted of some layout tables and a varityper, and a small audio recording studio.

[Note: The Varityper was a highly ingenious word processor of the pre-digital age. This machine could use over 300 different type styles and write in 55 languages. It produced neat, camera-ready copy for offset printing, at a cost much lower than that of conventional printer's methods. The machine used by the 4th Group was an early model that did not correct spelling, punctuation, or grammar, and did no text formatting without complicated extra work on the user's part. It was a typesetting device which was capable of full justification. It still required that diacritical marks be inserted into the finished document by hand, a long and difficult task].

[Note 2: Another 4th Group member tells of building the PSYOP complex:

It was at the old train yards in what's now called the Cruz Compound.  We moved there in late summer of 1967. We had been located at the 50th ARVN PSYOP compound on the Binh Loi Canal, the last bridge before heading up the road to Bien Hoa.  We were ordered out of that location when our Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) teams discovered we were running our presses on top of what used to be an old French ammunition dump. Years of monsoons had washed the covering soil away and all kinds of ordnance, exploded and non-exploded started peeking up through the ground. We therefore packed up and moved our operation to Saigon].

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4th PSYOP Group Print Plant guard post.
Note: Storage tank in the foreground was for diesel fuel for
the compound's generator. The warehouse in back
was where the chemicals and paper were stored.
(Photo courtesy of Dave Boyers)

The compound was a fenced area consisting of several parallel Quonset hut with their front ends facing the street. A steel roof covered the center few huts. The print shop was between the row of huts and the street, situated to the right of the main entrance. The main entrance had a guard post which was manned by an MP. The rest of the compound had four or five posts, one at each end and a couple along the railroad tracks. These posts were manned by our enlisted personnel.

Prior to building the photo lab, we took our film to the Air Force Photograph Shop at the airport for processing, and it was a long and sometimes dangerous drive. Once we could process our own film and prints, we started producing some tactical leaflets. We formed what we called a quick response team, made up of an officer, a photographer and an interpreter. I don’t recall all the details, but I do remember going to shoot photographs of captured and surrendered Viet Cong after several battles in and around the Saigon area.

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Civilian homes burn after May 1968 rocket attack
on the 4th PSYOP Group warehouse.
(Photo courtesy of Dave Boyers)

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Surveying the damage after the May 1968 Viet Cong rocket attack.
(Photo courtesy of Dave Boyers)

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May 1968 rocket attack damage to the 4th PSYOP Group print warehouse
(Photo courtesy of James Andrzejewski)

About 14 May 1968, the warehouse where the printing paper and chemicals were stored was hit by a Viet Cong rocket. I seem to recall that it was close to Ho Chi Minh’s birthday on 19 May and I guess the Viet Cong wanted to help him celebrate. A number of small huts behind the stores that faced the warehouse were set on fire. No one at the unit was hurt, though the guard bunker on top the fuel tank was actually only about 50 feet from the impact point of the rocket that hit the warehouse.

The photographic darkroom was right next door to the warehouse. Shrapnel from the attack went through two interior walls of the Quonset hut and through the steel drum of our brand new Pako print dryer. The darkroom was then moved a few buildings away and rebuilt about three times bigger. We were able to develop and print black and white film. We had no use for color at the time because almost all our leaflets were printed in black and white. Some leaflets had color added, but we never used a four-color process at that time.

We also produced a magazine for Vietnamese civilians but I don’t recall any of the details of how it was distributed, or any reactions to it.

Another effort we took part in was a small, fixed-frequency AM radio receiver which was air dropped. I wrote and photographed a brochure that went with the radio, explaining how to turn it on and listen, and to not be afraid to open the package. The radio sample I used was made of brown plastic, has an earphone for a speaker, about the size of a pack of cigarettes, with the inside filled with a black tar so it could not be used for any other purpose than to listen to our PSYOP broadcasts.

We also wrote a handbook on how to use the PSYOP loudspeaker.  Several of us in PDC had had commercial broadcasting experience before our service, and we built a small recording studio where we interviewed subjects to make loudspeaker tapes. I made transcripts of some of those interviews which featured the unbelievable hardships the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army faced.

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SP5 James Andrzejewski and his Printing Press

Army Specialist 5 James (Ski) Andrzejewski was an 83F (offset pressman) assigned to the 4th PSYOP Group in Saigon from 1968 to 1969. He was a printer when he joined the Army and received additional training at Fort Belvoir, VA. He ran one of the three web presses where he recalls printing about 7 leaflets to a sheet, and about 25,000 to 30,000 sheets an hour. The sheets were cut up by Vietnamese civilians using a large mechanical cutter. He estimates that he personally printed 250 to 300 million leaflets, but says that he never kept a single one.

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Another Rocket Attack

Andrzejewski recalls that the VC tried to rocket the hotel that housed the members of the 4th PSYOP on one occasion in 1968 but missed. In the above picture he looks down from the roof of the hotel on the damage caused by the rocket. He says that the second rocket attack must have been a late evening on a weekend because he worked nights printing leaflets during the week. He was in the hotel and the men were not allowed out of the hotel after 10:00 p.m. so the rocket attack would have come later when he was locked down. He heard the explosion and looked out the back window to see the street covered in flames. The American soldiers immediately went downstairs to the shelter in case there were further attacks. The next day he went to see the damage and all the close-packed houses built of wood were destroyed and there were charred bodies everywhere. He still carries that image in his mind.

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Sample Leaflets on the Wall near the Printing Press

The gift of the radios is mentioned in Stars and Stripes of 18 July 1967 in an article entitled “Drop Radios on North – Psywar Experts.” The article says in part:

American psychological warfare experts have proposed the dropping of small transistor radios into Communist North Vietnam in order to get allied views across to the population.

Informed sources said the idea was presented to Leonard Marks, Director of the United States Information Service when he visited Saigon recently.

The said Marks reacted “enthusiastically ” and asked for cost estimates on the radios in lots of up to one million, an indication that serious consideration is being given to the idea.

The radios would be packed in plastic cases with a spare battery, giving them 20 hours playing time. They would be dropped by tiny parachutes and fixed at a pre-set frequency which would pick up the Voice of America or the Vietnamese government’s Voice of Freedom station in South Vietnam.

The Communist North Vietnamese reported the finding of Allied propaganda radios on many occasions. Some of the MACVSOG reports of the discoveries are as follows:

On 2 May 1965, fisherman found large and small boxes floating in the water. The small boxes contained children’s clothing and handkerchiefs. The large boxes were sealed with green tape and wrapped in a nylon bag. When opening the eight large boxes they found radios, about 25cm long and 10cm high. The listeners noted that the radios played Vietnamese music and talk stations. Within every box was a piece of paper that said, “This radio set is donated to the people of North Vietnam. Do not allow anyone to take it from you. Keep it to follow the situation.” Security forces found out and two days later confiscated 23 radio sets within the Tuong Lai commune.

During the night of 9 July 1965, rangers using rubber boats landed on the coast. They advanced 3 kilometers into the mainland near Yen Diem and laid 25 radio sets there, one of which was turned on.

The Communist North Vietnamese also reported the finding of Allied propaganda gift boxes:

About Tet 1965 on three occasions gift boxes were found drifting in transparent plastic boxes near Liem Lap hamlet. They contained children’s clothes, handkerchiefs, lighters, pencils, pen and pen holders, and fishing lines and hooks. Security agents confiscated the boxes saying that if they were brought home they would explode. In addition, if the finders wore the clothes after 3 months and 10 days their skin be swollen and they would die from poison that the enemy soaked into the cloth.

Prior to Children’s Day in October 1965children found plastic boxes containing a child’s yellow T-shirt, 19 sewing needles, 1 roll of thread and many buttons. They took them home.

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SP4 Cal Crane making a print in the
HHC 4th PSYOP Gp darkroom in Saigon, 1968.
(Photo courtesy of Dave Boyers)

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Unknown pressman working in the HHC 4th PSYOP Group
printing facility in Saigon, 1968
(Photo courtesy of Dave Boyers)

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Forklift loads leaflets onto a truck going to the airfield
(Photo courtesy of Dave Boyers)

Several of the 4th Group commanders were tasked with writing an after-action report at the end of their tenure. These reports were “not releasable to foreign nationals,” and it is clear why.The officers are very honest and point our numerous shortcomings in the policies of the Vietnamese government. These reports would have cause a major political problem if they had been read by the Vietnamese leaders at the time.

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Major Alan Byrne (left) Accepts Plaque from Lieutenant Colonel Robert Laabs, Chief, PSYOP Development Center
4th PSYOP Group – Vietnam – 1968

Retired Colonel (then Captain) Alan Byrne talks about his job description while assigned as the Chief, Audience Section, PSYOP Development Center, 4th PSYOP Group, US Army Vietnam:

I planned, directed, supervised, and coordinated research to analyze the conditions and attitudes of target groups in order to determine basic psychological vulnerabilities for PSYOP exploitation. I Developed and provided direction and guidance in the completion of reports, studies, evaluations, and surveys concerning US Army PSYOP within the Republic of Vietnam. I recommended PSYOP themes to be conveyed to a selected audience and the media to be used for dissemination. I directed research teams to conduct field research in conjunction with psychological studies in a counterinsurgency environment. I reviewed and prepared reports on enemy propaganda directed against US Forces.

I had assigned to my section approximately 15 soldiers, eight of which had doctorates and/or master degrees in Psychology, which was my major as well. In addition, we had other soldiers from the basic combat arms, plus American and Vietnamese interpreters, within the PSYOP Development Center, to provide whatever assistance we required.

We constantly reviewed incoming intelligence reports and situation reports. Let's say, we discovered that captured enemy soldiers had malaria. We would quickly develop the narrative message we wanted to portray on leaflets (mention their conditions and offer immediate medical assistance), and prepare broadcast tape(s) if applicable. We would then have the narrative theme interpreted and cross checked twice by American and Vietnamese soldiers or civilians. In the meantime, our Art and Design Section of the Product Development Center would have been alerted and would be designing the art work for the leaflets and after we approved the theme, would produce the broadcast tapes.

Lieutenant Colonel William J. Beck commanded the 4th PSYOP Group from 15 October 1967 to 7 October 1968. He discusses some of his unit’s problems and successes in the declassified Senior Officer Debriefing Report. He notes that one of the major problems during the war was that the Vietnamese people did not identify with the Government of Vietnam and vice versa. He says that there are few national symbols like a “father figure,” and one of the few symbols that he had been able to utilize was the Tet celebration. [It sounds like COL Beck would love to have had “Uncle Ho” to build his propaganda around]. He complains that PSYOP is complicated by the lack of any substantial economic or social progress and lack of promised land reform.

Other problems are mentioned by Edward N. Luttwak in a 1991 article entitled “The Impact of Vietnam of Strategic Thinking in the United States,” who says that it takes more than just words to produce worthwhile propaganda. Deeds are just as important. He gives an example that hopefully is exaggerated:

The Agency for International development would come to a village in Vietnam and help it out…the next day the air force would bomb the village. Then a Special Forces team would go in to work with the survivors and rebuild the village and train them in self defense. Next the artillery would barrage the village. Then a psychological operations unit would pass around leaflets and explain the importance of fighting the Viet Cong. Then the navy would flatten the place with its gunfire.

Beck points out that the U.S. and Vietnam treat PSYOP in a completely different way. The Vietnamese try to propagandize in the Chinese manner, winning the loyalty of their followers, the beaurocracy and the armed forces; while the masses and ethnic minorities are secondary considerations. The Americans, on the other hand, want the hearts and minds of the masses if success is to be achieved.

He notes that the ARVN Political Warfare Battalions are not well trained and it would take at least one year to bring them up to the level of a US PSYOP battalion. He complains that there is some frustration at the lack of signs of tangible success, and this has led to gimmicks like the ace of spades calling card, sky-lighting effects, and ghostly loudspeakers. He says that this has reduced idea formation to the level of gimmicky and desperate attempts to find a quick solution and dramatic breakthrough. He concludes, “This is not good PSYOP.” The Colonel ends with a warning that the Vietnamese must be trained to take over PSYOP, but it should be clearly understood that they are not presently capable of doing so and need extensive training.

LTC Beck was replaced by Colonel Taro Katagiri who commanded the 4th PSYOP Group from 4 October 1968 to 13 March 1970. He discusses some of his unit’s problems and successes in another declassified Senior Officer Debriefing Report. He points out that captured enemy documents show that they are most concerned by pacification operations within Vietnam. Yet, the Colonel found that most members of his organization were unfamiliar with the pacification program. He had to redirect his personnel to support the campaign. He pointed out that the enemy regularly attacked the government’s ability to protect people, so PSYOP should build up the image of government agencies and encourage people to report information on the enemy. He also thought it important to produce propaganda clearly depicting the Viet Cong and PAVN as “Enemies of the People.” He notes that the enemy relies on face-to-face grassroots propaganda, but do not hesitate to use terrorism in support of their aims. He complains that the South Vietnamese government’s propaganda is fragmented with the Ministry of Information on the Civilian side and the General Political Warfare Department with its five Political Warfare Battalions on the military side. He points out the difference in manning and equipment between US and Vietnamese battalions. The American unit is authorized eight model 1250 multilith presses and two sheet-fed 17” x 22” presses, compared to the Vietnamese who have just two model 1250 multilith presses.

Katagiri is proud to point out that in 1969, 47,000 of the enemy became “Hoi Chanhs.” That is two and one-half times the number of the previous year. Fifty-seven people rallied from one village in September and claimed that they had been influenced by Chieu Hoi leaflet drops. At the same time, he says that supplies and maintenance are inadequate, mostly because the Group uses non-standard, low density equipment such as multilith presses, Hess and Barker presses, paper cutters, plate makers, AN/UIH-6 public address systems, a 50,000 watt radio station and the like.

He concludes that there needs to be better method of coordinating and unifying the PSYOP message. The army needs senior officers to understand what PSYOP can do. He gives an example of a brigade commander who boasted that his Chieu Hoi program consisted of two howitzers, one named “Chieu” and the other “Hoi.” He tells of pilots not wanting to drop leaflets because “That is mixing politics with war.” He wants an appreciation of PSYOP taught to all officers from early in their training.

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