PSYOP ORDER OF BATTLE
FOR VIETNAM

 

SGM Herbert A. Friedman (Ret.)

 

Continued

 

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7th PSYOP Battalion

In the I Corps Tactical Zone, the 7th PSYOP Battalion of the 4th PSYOP Group was formed in Nha Trang from the 6th Bn's 244th PSYOP Company.  It was officially constituted 7 November 1967 in the Regular Army as the 7th Psychological Operations Battalion.  It was activated 1 December 1967. Since elements of the 244th PSYOP Company were already in Danang, the 7th PSYOP Battalion absorbed the unit and was headquartered there. It departed Vietnam on 21 December 1971 and was inactivated at Fort Lewis, Washington.

According to the Operations Report Lessons Learned Headquarters 7th Psychological Operations Battalion period ending 31 January, 1968 dated 6 February 1968, the number of leaflets printed during the last quarter of 1967 was 59 million. In addition the battalion took credit for 61 ralliers; Newsletter/Newspapers: 32,000; Ground Loudspeaker Broadcasts: 2,284 hours and 5 minutes; Motion Picture showings: 423 hours and 55 minutes; Movies shown: 699; Leaflets printed: 59,944,800; Leaflets printed Chieu Hoi: 14,977,610; Posters printed: 646,350; Total impressions: 13,850,249; New leaflets: 168; Sorties: 1222; Leaflets dropped: 620,140,500; Airborne Loudspeaker Broadcasts: 863 hours and 45 minutes and Leaflets shipped: 10,121,900.

Two additional battalion records were set during the quarter as they produced a total of 2 million leaflets in one day and a total of 7,250,500 leaflets in one week.

A 1968 U.S. Army 4th PSYOP Group booklet for newly arriving members says:

Winning the hearts and minds of the people of I Corps is one responsibility of the 7th PSYOP Battalion in Da Nang. Working closely with the Marine Corps, the battalion also provides PSYOP support for all operations in the northernmost corps. This support comes in the form of leaflet and broadcast messages and field teams. During the 1968 Tet Offensive, the battalion provided teams to such areas as Hue and Khe Sanh to give assistance to Allied units in battle scarred areas. The battalion headquarters is located on the ARVN 10th Political Warfare (POLWAR) Battalion compound. Enlisted men of the unit live in the Palace Hotel while Officers reside in the Hotel Than Nhat. During off-duty time, the men of the battalion relax at one of the many beaches located in the Da Nang area. Although the city itself is off limits to American military personnel, many recreational facilities are provided within a short distance of the battalion compound.

Although we don’t know what specific propaganda leaflets were dropped on the Communist forces besieging the Marines as Khe Sanh, we do know that C-47 aircraft from Flight A of the 9th Air Commando Squadron, 14th Air Commando Wing, dropped a total of 31,000,000 leaflets in adverse weather on the enemy and the unit’s Commander was awarded an Army Commendation Medal for “deterring enemy forces from conducting a massive ground assault on the Khe Sahn position.”

Captain Anthony Mottle was a Detachment Commander in the 7th PSYOP Battalion based in Da Nang in 1970. When asked about his duties he said:

The mission of the unit was to support the various units in I CORPS. We had a propaganda section in Da Nang that produced leaflets for units such as the 1st Marine Division, the 2nd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division at Phu Bai, The 23rd (Americal) Infantry Division at Chu Lai and the 1st Brigade of the 5th Mechanized Infantry Division. We had a Vietnamese psychologist working for us in the propaganda section. We usually assigned two-man teams to the supported units that went out with the maneuver forces to broadcast to the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army troops. We had helicopters at our disposal at the various units to broadcast to the enemy and disseminate leaflets. We also participated in Medical Civic Action Programs.

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Specialist 5th Class Pasquale Vallese who was in Vietnam from November 1968 to November 1969 as part of the U.S. Army 7th PSYOP Battalion attached to the 3rd Marine Division remarked:

I was assigned to B company, and I was sent to Dong  Ha, stationed with the 3rd Marines at their base camp.  Our unit was the Marines G2/G5 staff, so we did have a sort of free hand in our comings and goings.  We did the field broadcasting with Kit Carson Scouts and ARVN interpreters throughout northern I Corps. I found out early that the Marines like to use the PSYOP message to draw fire to locate the North Vietnam Regulars so I revised our field speaker system. My first revision was to get 50 yards of speaker cable, do some splicing and soldering and cut the speaker rack down to two horns from four. That made it a little safer to broadcast. We are talking 1968 thru 1969. I Corps had just lost Khe Sanh and NVA and VC were a tough audience to convince to Chieu Hoi. However, We did have some walk right up to us with their safe conduct passes.  

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Leaflet 7-191-68

Since we are talking about the 7th PSYOP Battalion, the Marines and Khe Sanh, this seems a nice place for this leaflet. If you want to piss off a Marine, tell him how the Army and Air Force saved the Leathernecks during the 1968 seventy-seven day siege of Khe Sanh. Marines will tell you that they were doing just fine and had the enemy right where they wanted them. Ask the Army and you will hear that the Marines were getting the Hell kicked out of them by the NVA. During the ferocious battle for Khe Sanh, the 7th PSYOP Battalion prepared a leaflet for the North Vietnamese forces taking part in the attack. The front of the leaflet depicts a map of Khe Sanh and a Huey helicopter and F4 Phantom jet attacking the forces encircling the Marine base. Curiously, there is no mention of the Marines. The text beneath the picture is:

The North Vietnamese will fail in their attempts to seize Quang Tri and Thua Thien Provinces. The Government of Vietnam and Allied firepower is defending every part of the South. You cannot survive if your invasion continues. You will be destroyed at Khe Sanh.

To the Men who Attack Khe Sanh

The march to Khe Sanh was a long and dangerous one. Many of your comrades who have come over to us speak of the misery you faced before you reached the desolate battlefield. Since arriving you have seen nothing but suffering and death. You have seen the tremendous B-52 strikes with bombs which will soon find you as they have found your comrades. From the artillery that has poured on you all day and night do you now realize how strong the Army of Vietnam and the Allied forces are? Now look at the valley to which you have been sent to die. You are surrounded instead of us. You are in the kill zone. To stay here means suffering, death and ultimate failure in a place far from your dear family.

If you want to get safely back to your family, leave now or rally to the National Government of Vietnam cause. Otherwise, Khe Sanh will be your useless grave.

The Unit’s awards and decorations include the Meritorious Unit Commendation (Army) for Vietnam 1967-1968, Navy Unit Commendation for Vietnam 1967-1968, Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm for Vietnam 1971, and Republic of Vietnam Civil Action Honor Medal, First Class for Vietnam 1967-1970. Like the Phoenix, the 7th PSYOP Battalion was eventually reborn. It was redesignated 16 June 1996 as Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 11th Psychological Operations Battalion, and activated at Washington, D.C.

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Leaflet 7-697-70

One of the more interesting PSYOP campaigns supported by the 7th PSYOP Battalion was Operation Searchlight. It was launched in Military Region I and was designed to influence enemy soldiers to defect during the Tet truce period of 19-29 January 1971. Giant searchlights would be aimed at the sky and the enemy urged to follow the beam to the searchlight where they could safely surrender. During an earlier test of the searchlight operation on 1 January, eleven Viet Cong defected. In the major operation the U.S. 101st Airborne Division used six lights, the 2nd Vietnamese Army Division, the U.S. 1st Marine Division and the U.S. 23rd Infantry Division all used five lights each. The operation was not a great success, and estimates of from zero to seven to thirty-seven defectors were rumored.  The above leaflet was prepared by the 7th PSYOP Battalion for Operation Searchlight. It depicts a pair of searchlights aimed skyward and the Chieu Hoi Symbol. The PSYOP theme was “Rally to the light of freedom and start a new life with the Government of Vietnam.” Two broadcast tapes were prepared and 6,000,000 leaflets, 500,000 handbills and 10,000 posters were printed and disseminated.

The text is:

THE LIGHT OF FREEDOM

During the cease fire period of Tan Hoi New Year, all United States, Vietnam, and other Allied bases will turn on their searchlight at night. The searchlight will help you to find freedom. Move toward the direction of light, hide your weapon and wait until the daylight to rally. When getting close to the Government of Vietnam or Allied units, shout aloud “CHIEU HOI.” You will be welcomes and receive good treatment. Guide the Government of Vietnam or Allied forces to recover your weapon for a reward.

MOVE TO THE SEARCHLIGHT
DO NOT LET YOURSELF GET KILLED IN THE DARK

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Leaflet 3211/HPWS/18

It is interesting to note that in the 1950s the British has successfully conquered a Communist insurrection in Malaya. American propagandists studied the British techniques carefully. Note that British Leaflet 3211/HPWS/18 was printed about 1954 and depicts three guerillas discussing a searchlight in the distance. It is clear that the Americans copied the concept of the searchlight leaflet 16 years later. The text on the back is:

SEARCH LIGHT LEADS YOU TO THE ROAD OF ESCAPE

Look for the bright ray of the searchlight in the night sky. The searchlight is shining from the road.

If you want to escape from the forest to start a bright new life then run in the direction of the light to reach the road. The road will take you to a brand new happy and peaceful living environment.

Before you reach the road, please hide your weapons and ammunition. Then run to the road, raise both your hands high above your head and try to stop the first car that passes by.

All military drivers have been ordered to help you, and at the same time, civilians that assist you will receive a cash award.

If you stay in the jungle you will definitely be either shot dead ravaged by disease and hunger. A lot of people have escaped from the jungle and saved their own lives. Don’t you want to save your life? Sacrificing yourself for an unnecessary and losing battle is a stupid thing to do.

You will definitely not be abused and you will immediately receive good food and medical treatment.

Come and join the side where your friends have already begun a new life.

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8th PSYOP Battalion

In II Corps, the 8th PSYOP Battalion of the 4th PSYOP Group was formed in Nha Trang from the 6th PSYOP Bn's 245th PSYOP Company. Company B of the new 8th PSYOP Bn was formed from a small detachment of the 245th Company. Later, in 1968, all of the 8th PSYOP Battalion moved to Pleiku, where it served in close association with the 4th Infantry Division. It operated there until it departed Vietnam on 26 June 1971.

According to the 8th PSYOP Battalion Operations Report for Quarterly Period Ending 31 January 1968, dated 6 February 1968, on 1 December 1967, the 8th PSYOP battalion was activated to replace the 245th PSYOP Company as the principle military PSYOP agency supporting operations within II Corps. The battalion consisted of 21 Officers and 68 enlisted.

Company A was located in Nha Trang and operated with C Flight, 9th Air Commandos Squadron, to provide PSYOP support to coastal provinces.

Company B was established in Pleiku to work with B Flight, 9th Air Commandos Squadron, on supporting the highland provinces.

8th Battalion maintained a total of 5 loudspeaker (HB) teams and 5 audio-visual (HE) teams). One HE team was attached to a province advisor team. this arrangement added flexibility which enabled the audio-visual team to support US tactical units, special cordon and search operations and a variety of revolutionary development programs.

The 9th Air Commando Squadron flew a total of 884 missions disseminating 450,518,000 leaflets and providing 1,526 hours of loudspeaker broadcasts with 22 night missions flown by AC-47 aircraft.

During the 1968 TET Campaign in II Corps, the 8th PSYOP Battalion was provided with two UH-1D helicopters from the 17th Aviation Group in Nha Trang. In addition, the 173rd Airborne Brigade loaned 2 AEM-ABS-4 1000 watt loudspeaker systems which were then rigged in the helicopters. The helicopter loudspeaker missions began operations on 27 January 1968 rendering quick reaction aerial PSYOP support to Khanh Hoa, Bin Thuan and Phu Yen provinces. A total of 94 leaflet/loudspeaker sorties were flown broadcasting a total of 953 hours and 15 minutes of recordings and dropping 3,494,000 leaflets.

Initially a problem occurred rigging the 1000 watt loudspeaker system. An expedient method of rigging these loudspeaker units was developed by a field leader while supporting the 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division (Air Mobile). This device which was constructed of scrap metal provided the necessary means to employ the speakers in the UH-1D helicopters.

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Making a recording for loudspeaker broadcast

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PSYOP Radio Station outside Pleiku City

The 1968 Army publication states:

In May 1968, a field team from the 8th PSYOP Battalion, using powerful ground loudspeakers, coaxed 95 North Vietnamese soldiers from a battered village North of Hue. The scope of Group PSYOP support in Vietnam is boundless. In II Corps, an 8th PSYOP Battalion advisory team assists Vietnamese radio broadcasters in programming PSYOP messages to hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese civilians, NVA soldiers and Viet Cong.  8th PSYOP Battalion radio technicians man the Group's 50-thousand watt transmitter from its hilltop site outside Pleiku City. In connection with the operation, PSYOP aircraft have dropped thousands of small transistor radios to Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army troops. All are pretuned to the station's frequency. The 8th PSYOP Battalion provides PSYOP support for all of II Corps. To provide adequate coverage in Vietnam's largest corps it became necessary to detach one of its companies from its headquarters in Nha Trang and station it permanently in Pleiku. The Nha Trang and Pleiku elements have printing and field team capabilities. The company at Pleiku also maintains a small PSYOP Development Center (PDC), which is an extension of the Group PDC system.

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Newspaper article of the April 68 VC attack on the 8th PSYOP Bn Radio Station
(Photo courtesy of Rick Hofmann)

In addition to other duties, the battalion was charged with operation of the Group’s 50,000 watt AM radio station in Pleiku. The mission of the station was to broadcast to audiences in a large area in the northern provinces of South Vietnam. The radio station had it problems. It was in a very exposed position. It had a guard tower manned by its own staff, barbed wire, and fence posts around it. The station was an outpost, not located within a defensive perimeter of any unit. The station was made up of modular vans that were partially dug into the hilltop and sandbagged. Another problem they had was jamming from Radio Hanoi. The Americans had bought tens of thousands of radio receivers and placed them all over the country so people could listen to the broadcasts. Initially these had fixed frequency reception, but they were easily jammed. They later provided tunable radios, so that listeners could change stations as the Americans attempted to avoid the Communist jamming.

The Viet Cong sent about 20 sappers against the radio station on 24 March 1968. They threw satchel charges into several of the sandbagged modules and destroyed the radio tower. 7th PSYOP Detachment Commander 1LT Michael Merkle was killed in the attack and the Viet Cong lost about a half dozen sappers. Radio Hanoi bragged about the attack the morning afterwards. A new tower was shipped to Vietnam from the 7th PSYOP Group in Okinawa, all modules replaced, and the radio station was back on the air and the system fully functional in exactly ten days.

In the Delta city of Can Tho, a 10th PSYOP Battalion advisory team assisted in the operation of the first television station for the heavily populated Mekong Delta.

Former Infantry Captain William W. Forgey mentions the attack:

The tower had been blown down by satchel charges. I do not remember if there was a mortar shelling by the enemy, but the attack was swift, concentrated, and over in a short matter of time.

Even with several 50 caliber machine guns that exposed position was untenable. The skill and courage of the crew that not only repaired this station, got it back on the air within 10 days, but also continued to man it from the edge of civilization (as we knew it) was astonishing. It was basically raw courage that kept that station going.

This attack is discussed in more depth in the Veritas, Journal of the Army Special Operations History, Volume 2, Number 3, 2006. Author Robert W. Jones Jr. says in part:

The radio station was essentially an outpost – it was not inside any unit’s defensive perimeter. As such, the small compound was very vulnerable to attack…What distinguished the compound from the other American facilities in Pleiku was the 250-foot radio antenna. It quickly became a Viet Cong rocket and mortar aiming post and rounds were received almost daily. It was guarded by a Vietnamese Army squad. The 23rd ARVN Division was responsible for outer perimeter security in Pleiku.

The article discusses the attack much as we have already done above, and goes on to state that:

During 2007, The 4th PSYOP Group will dedicate the new Media Operations Complex in memory of First Lieutenant Michael A. Merkel. The proposed memorialization plaque reads “1LT Merkel made the ultimate sacrifice for his nation and the people of the Republic of Vietnam. His sacrifice will serve to inspire all PSYOP dissemination soldiers, past, present, and future as to the significance and dangers of their mission.”

I should also point out the great confusion of studying Vietnam War military history. We have pointed out that one source credits the 10th PSYOP Battalion with running the radio station while another mentions the 7th PSYOP Group.

Gary L Grunow writes to say that:

The radio Station was under the 4th Group Headquarters and not the 8th PSYOP Battalion. The Radio Station Commander from 1970 - 1971 was Captain James Hlay. He led a separate detachment of about 30 people. Their barracks was on Artillery Hill outside of Pleiku. They also maintained living quarters at the radio site.

I suspect that everyone is correct and the radio station was a joint effort with the 7th Group handling logistics and training, the 4th Group in overall charge of broadcasting, and perhaps some members of the 10th assigned to the station. It is interesting to note that everyone has a different idea of who was running the radio operation.

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6th PSYOP Battalion

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LTC Raymond Deitch, Commander 6th PSYOP Battalion

In III Corps, the 6th PSYOP Battalion of the 4th PSYOP Group was formed in Saigon from the former 6th PSYOP Bn's 246th PSYOP Company. The new battalion was commanded by Major Clarence A. Binkley, the former company commander. In 1969 the battalion flag was transferred to Bien Hoa, although the 6th PSYOP Bn forces remained in Saigon until they departed Vietnam on 30 June 1971. Company A was the headquarters and administrative element; Company B was the field operations unit, with small PSYOP teams assigned to different infantry divisions of USARV in III Corps and IV Corps.The booklet continues:

The “Professional Litterbugs” of the 6th PSYOP Battalion in Bien Hoa have a long and proud record of achievement. They carry on the tradition of the old 6th Battalion, which was reorganized into the 4th PSYOP Group in December of 1967. The Meritorious Unit Commendation was awarded to the 6th Battalion in June 1968 for “consummate skill in providing psychological operations support to allied forces.” The personnel of the Battalion live and work on the Honour-Smith compound, a short distance from Bien Hoa airfield. The compound offers many recreational facilities including a newly constructed club and athletic equipment. One of the unique responsibilities of the battalion is its support of elements of the Royal Thai Army’s ‘Black Panther’ Division. The division, which arrived in-country during the summer of 1968, receives assistance in support of Civic Action programs as well as during military operations. Providing PSYOP support to all of III Corps tactical zone, the men of the 6th PSYOP Battalion continue to maintain their high level of “pride and devotion.”

The Battalion’s official report states that the 246th PSYOP Company was officially deactivated on 31 December 1967 to become the 6th Psychological Operations Battalion on 1 January 1968. The battalion colors were presented to Major Clarence A. Barkley, the 6th PSYOP Battalion Commander by the 4th PSYOP Group Commander on 5 January 1968 at Bien Hoa. The 6th PSYOP Battalion moved its residence from the Train Compound to the Honour-Smith Compound on the 28th of January 1968. The move was made due to expected increase in unit strength and the present lack of adequate space at the Train Compound. The 6th Psychological Operations Battalion reported these quarterly production totals: Leaflets printed: 49,800,000; Leaflets disseminated: 372, 800,000; Loudspeaker broadcasts: 1,425 hours and 40 minutes; Total missions: 1002. Of the 20 officers assigned to the 6th Battalion, 14 had formal PSYOP training. The remaining 6 were enrolled in after-hours study course. A small Viet Cong propaganda printing press was presented to the 6th PSYOP Battalion by the 5th Special Forces Group.

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10th PSYOP Battalion

In IV Corps, the 10th PSYOP Battalion of the 4th PSYOP Group was formed from the 19th PSYOP Company at Can Tho. It was officially Constituted 7 November 1967 in the Regular Army as the 10th Psychological Operations Battalion and Activated 1 December 1967. It continued operations until it departed Vietnam and was inactivated 17 April 1971 at Fort Lewis, Washington. The 10th Battalion maintained 15 field units, at Bac Lieu, Ben Tre, Ca Mau, Cao Lanh, Chau Doc, Dong Tam, Go Cong, Long Xuyen, Moc Hoa, My Tho, Rach Gia, Sa Dec, Soc Trang, Tra Vinh, and Vinh Long. Headquarters had 4 presses located at "Villa Cruz" that could produce 3-color leaflets in press runs of about 100,000. Larger runs (and repetitive runs like Chu Hoi and B-52 leaflets) were usually printed by the 7th PSYOP Group in Okinawa. Two 80kw generators were located there and one ran around the clock to power the presses and operate fans and light boxes for developing the run plates. The officer’s club was up on the roof of the Villa Cruz. Not to be outdone, the enlisted billet located in Ben Xi Moi had it's own club on their roof.

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10th Psychological Operations Battalion O Club, Can Tho, 1968.
Photo by William Ruzin

According to the Operations Report Lessons Learned Headquarters 10th Psychological Operations Battalion period ending 31 January, 1968 dated 6 February 1968 the 10th PSYOP Battalion dealt with a group known as the “KKK,” a quasi-bandit guerrilla band of Cambodian extract operating along the Cambodian border in Chau Doc province. The KKK was organized in company and battalion levels and constituted a threat to the local government and administration by taxing the people and in some instances attacking villages and assassinating leaders. Between 24 December 1967 and 3 January 1968, 185 of these KKK bandits rallied to the GVN. An arrangement was worked out by province officials and they offered full Chieu Hoi type benefits to the KKK members although current GVN policy does not classify the KKK as being eligible. Seizing the possibility of influencing the KKK personnel of the 10th POB dispatched 2 field teams to the area to determine conditions and make leaflet and loudspeaker appeals.

The 10th flew 5 or more leaflet-drop missions per day, using two C47 aircraft and U-10 HelioCouriers. The USAF 5th SOS located at Binh Thuy Vietnamese Air Force Base had two C47 “Gooney Birds” plus six U-10 Super HelioCouriers.) These were also used elsewhere in IV Corps. The unit was awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation (Army) for Vietnam 1967-1968, and the Republic of Vietnam Civil Action Honor Medal, First Class for Vietnam 1967-1970.

Another interesting mission occurred in January 1968 when a study was completed and plans were formulated for a project to reach the population of tightly controlled Viet Cong areas by means of attractive waterproof jackets containing leaflets and brochures along with gifts (soap, thread and needles, tooth brushes, crayons, etc.) floated into the targeted areas by means of numerous canals and waterways of IV Corps. Arrangements were made with the Binh Thay Naval Base S5 (Civil Affairs) to supply the 10th POB with detailed intelligence of the targeted groups in the river target areas and a means of delivery. A search was made for a source of cellophane bags and a bag sealer.

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The 10th PSYOP Battalion HQ building in Can Tho, following an attack in January 1968.
(Photos courtesy of Rick Hofmann)

The 10th flew 5 or more leaflet-drop missions per day, using two C47 aircraft and U-10 HelioCouriers. The USAF 5th SOS located at Binh Thuy Vietnamese Air Force Base had two C47 "Gooney Birds" plus six U-10 Super HelioCouriers.) These were also used elsewhere in IV Corps. The unit was awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation (Army) for Vietnam 1967-1968, and the Republic of Vietnam Civil Action Honor Medal, First Class for Vietnam 1967-1970.

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10th PSYOP Battalion "Order of the Delta Psywarrior" Certificate

Colonel Robert L. Gleason discusses the Air Force contribution in Vietnam in “Psychological Operations and Air Power: Its Hits and Misses,” Air University Review, March-April 1971:

In 1961, in response to President Kennedy’s order to all services to bolster their counterinsurgency capability, the USAF established the 4400th Combat Crew Training Squadron. Known as Jungle Jim, it later became the 1st Air Commando Squadron and finally evolved into the present Special Operations Air Force. Its original mission gave high priority to the conduct of psychological operations. Because of scarcity of experience in PSYOP, the Jungle Jim personnel turned to the US Army Special Warfare Center for some accelerated instruction in the subject. On 15 November 1961 they deployed to South Vietnam. On 4 December they flew our first PSYOP mission in C-47s equipped with belly-mounted loudspeakers.

The first USAF crew lost in South Vietnam was probably on a PSYOP mission. On 10 February a Farm Gate C-47 carrying USAF and USA instructors, together with Vietnamese personnel, distributed leaflets bearing Tet greetings from RVN President Diem to numerous villages between Da Nang and Saigon. Upon landing at Tan Son Nhut, the aircraft was discovered to have picked up several bullet holes. The program called for a return flight the following day over the same villages to deliver another Tet message, this time from President Kennedy. The crew, not knowing where the ground fire was picked up but anxious to complete the two-phase PSYOP project, elected to fly the return mission. It was on this flight that the aircraft was lost north of Da Lat, causing the death of its joint (USAF-USA) and combined (U.S.Vietnamese) crew.

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U.S. Navy’s Mobile Riverine Force

The booklet adds:

From its headquarters in the heart of the Mekong Delta, the 10th PSYOP Battalion coordinates PSYOP support for allied military operations throughout the IV Corps tactical Zone. The 10th PSYOP Battalion, located in the bustling city of Can Tho, maintains two billets and one headquarters compound for its operations. The “Villa Cruz” houses the printing facility as well as the officer’s quarters and Battalion S-4 section. The “New Villa” is home for the unit’s enlisted men and non-commissioned officers. The command section and S-1, S-2, S-3 and PDC sections are located on the second floor of the Civil Operations Rural Development (CORDS)* PSYOP Building. Here, all analysis and development of propaganda is accomplished including graphical illustrations and testing. Seven close support platoons are fielded by the battalion throughout the provinces of IV Corps. Broken down into two man teams, they work closely with CORDS and other representatives to give quick reaction support. One of the most unique field teams operates with the U.S. Navy’s Mobile Riverine Force during operations conducted on the waterways of the Delta. Using gigantic loudspeaker systems, the psywarriors coax the enemy from his hiding places along the thickly wooded shoreline.

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A Swabbie Santa comes to Vietnam

The photo above shows a USN Civic Action mission. Pham thi Bac (now Bac thi Eaton), perhaps the only Vietnamese female to hold full membership in both the Game-Wardens and the Mobile Riverene Association told me of going to the villages with a group of American doctors and nurses to give medicines to Vietnamese elders and children. At Christmas the Navy unit that she worked for purchased toys and candy which was taken to Cao Lanh Hospital and distributed. In the photo above an American seaman in a Santa Claus outfit hands out gifts to the Vietnamese.

* Dale Andrade discussed the CORDS program in an article called “Three Lessons from Vietnam” published in the Washington Post.

There must be a unified structure that combines military and civilian pacification efforts. In Vietnam that organization was called CORDS, for Civil Operations and Rural Development Support. Formed in 1967, it placed the disjointed and ineffective civilian pacification programs under the military. This was accomplished only at the insistence of President Lyndon Johnson, who took an active interest in seeing the pacification process function smoothly under a single manager: Gen. William Westmoreland. CORDS gave the pacification effort access to military money and personnel, allowing programs to expand dramatically. In 1966 there were about 1,000 advisers involved in pacification, and the annual budget was $582 million; by 1969 that had risen to 7,600 advisers and almost $1.5 billion. This rapid progress was possible only because of CORDS's streamlined system under Defense Department control.

Printing of propaganda by the 4th PSYOP Group was done in Vietnam, at Group headquarters in Saigon, and in facilities at each company and battalion headquarters. The 4th PSYOP Group used the offshore services of the 7th PSYOP Group for large printing jobs.

According to the booklet:

The mission of the 4th Psychological Operations Group is to provide psychological Operations in support of all U.S. military operations and internal development programs in the Republic of Vietnam.

The 4th Psychological Operations Group is organized as shown in Table of Equipment (TOE) 33-500F, 18 September 1967. The Group headquarters (in Saigon) includes a Headquarters Company. Each battalion has a close support company containing loudspeaker and audio-visual teams and a general support company containing a print plant. The Group headquarters and each battalion have the conventional S-1, S-2, S-3, and S-4 staff sections, plus a Psychological Operations Development Center (PDC). The PDC system throughout the Group is the "core" for Group propaganda operations.

With an authorized strength of 880 American military personnel, 133 Vietnamese civilian personnel and 78 Army of the Republic of Vietnam interpreters, the Group is comprised of the 6th, 7th, 8th and 10th PSYOP Battalions—one in each of the "corps tactical zones" of Vietnam.

The early history of the 4th Psychological Operations Group is actually the history of the 6th Psychological Operations Battalion. During the early phases of the Vietnam build up in the spring of 1965, PSYOP detachments began arriving from Okinawa and Fort Bragg. The 6th Psychological Operations Battalion Headquarters arrived in country on 5 February 1966. The battalion headquarters took control of the various detachments, which were organized into three companies. These companies, the 244th, 245th, and 246th were located in I Corps, II Corps, and III Corps respectively. In November of 1966, the 19th PSYOP Company was deployed to Vietnam to be assigned to the battalion and located in IV Corps.

On December 1, 1967, the 6th PSYOP Battalion was reorganized into the 4th PSYOP Group. At the same time, three of the companies became battalions, the 7th PSYOP Battalion (formerly the 244th PSYOP Company), the 8th PSYOP Battalion (formerly the 245th PSYOP Company), and 10th PSYOP Battalion (formerly the 19th PSYOP Company). The 6th PSYOP Battalion (formerly the 246th PSYOP Company) became the fourth battalion in the Group, located in Bien Hoa.

The booklet goes on to tell of some operations:

Hundreds of newly-assigned 4th Group psyoperators reflect the growing intensity of the psychological operations effort in Vietnam. The past year produced substantial evidence of the effectiveness of the 4th PSYOP Group operations in countering communist aggression is Southeast Asia. Examples typical of these operations: In June 1968, 4th PSYOP Group field teams and helicopter loudspeakers scored a record 135 enemy defections during a Communist offensive in the Saigon suburb of Gia Dinh.

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Tactical Loudspeaker Team with interpreter
US Soldier in photo is Jack O'Neil
(Photo courtesy of Rick Hofmann)

The booklet explains the missions of the four PSYOP Battalions:

The battalion mission in each corps tactical zone is two-fold; first, to provide psychological operations support to all U.S. combat units. This support includes the use of field teams equipped with powerful ground loudspeakers and audio-visual equipment. Habitually operating with front-line fighting units, loudspeaker teams provide close support in tactical operations and are highly successful in this role. Secondly, the battalions are required to support non-military "pacification" or internal development" programs. For example, they employ audio-visual jeepsters in support of revolutionary development, civic action and medical aid projects and programs throughout Vietnam. This later role appears to be an ever-increasing one for the 4th PSYOP Group.

Field teams of the Group have been part of every major combat operation in Vietnam since February 1966, including Operations Cedar Falls, Byrd, Hastings and Manhattan.

The battalions work closely with the Air Force 14th Special Operations Wing, elements of which are co-located with the PSYOP Battalions. The Special Operations Squadrons fly leaflet and loudspeaker missions, which are requested and targeted by the battalions.

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C-47 Dropping Leaflets

The booklet then explains the resources of the group to the new troops:

Aircraft are the primary means of distribution of psychological operation leaflets in the Republic of Vietnam. They are also used for aerial loudspeaker broadcasts. Aircraft used in dissemination are the C-47, U-10, and O-2B. Other means of PSYOP support include broadcasts from small naval vessels and helicopters and ground loudspeaker operations conducted by Group field teams serving with front-line combat units.

The 4th PSYOP Group headquarters has two Mobile Advisory Teams, which are designed to react immediately to any PSYOP situation. These teams also conduct instruction on PSYOP techniques for all allied units requiring such help. They also evaluate low-level PSYOP programs and make recommendations on ways of improving these efforts. A Mobile Advisory Team in each battalion performs similar functions.

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Loudspeaker also supported hamlet operations

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Aerial loudspeaker in C-47 aircraft
(Photo courtesy of Dave Boyers)

The Group as well as each of its subordinate battalions, has the capability of producing taped messages for loudspeaker and radio dissemination.

Psychological Operations Development Centers (PDC) comprise the system for development of propaganda throughout the Group. The headquarters PDC was organized in December 1967. Presently each battalion and separate company maintains its own PDC, which is an extension of the headquarters center.

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Psychological Operations Development Center (PDC)

The PDC systematically analyses the target audiences and carefully develops messages with the proper impact. Another PDC responsibility is the careful critique of all materials requested by outside agencies. All propaganda is carefully checked for compliance with Policy Guidance and validity of layout and message content. These procedures are often completed within one day of receipt of the materials to be tested. The PDC employs social scientists, area (cultural) experts, writers, artists and illustrators.

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PSYOP Illustrator prepares the graphic for a new leaflet. Finished leaflet at right

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PSYOP Print Press

The Group Headquarters provides general support to the battalions. Installed at the newly enlarged headquarters printing plant are three Hess and Barker web-fed presses, three Multilith 1250 presses and three automatic paper cutters. Battalion printing capabilities are organic to the battalion general support company. Multilith 1250 presses are the battalion’s primary means of reproduction, while the Multilith 85 press is sometimes used for quick reaction materials.

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Photo processing truck
(Photo courtesy of Dave Boyers)

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Passing out newspapers

The booklet concludes:

Newspapers and newsletters are produced by the thousands for a news hungry rural population. The 2-billionth leaflet emerged from the clamoring presses of the Group’s Headquarters printing facility in May and the 3-billionth leaflet was printed in November 1968. In several battalions, Vietnamese Armed Propaganda Teams are used in face-to-face communications and accompany Group loudspeaker and audio-visual teams in close support operations and propaganda missions to hamlets.

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Leaflet 3123

On the subject of armed propaganda teams, JUSPAO leaflet 3123 depicts an entire marching company of Vietnamese APTs, each with a loudspeaker under his right arm. To the right of the photograph is a Chieu Hoi symbol and the text:

Return to alleviate the suffering of the people.

The back is all text:

The Chieu Hoi Cadres of Long An Province. Deeply encouraged by the success of the Chieu Hoi program, the armed propaganda teams of long An welcomes the prime Minister and Vietnamese government officials to long An. The event was the opening ceremony of the ‘Spring for the fatherland’ campaign. The aim of the Chieu hoi program is to urge those still on the other side to return to their families and alleviate the sorrows of separation.

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Armed Propaganda Team Member passing out leaflets

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The 69-page APT Handbook issued to American advisors attached to Vietnamese armed propaganda teams. The handbook covers such subjects as; force structure and allocation, recruitment, operations, training, logistical support, finance, and all the other areas important for a force in the field

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7th PSYOP Group

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 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.

In Vietnam the Group worked in support of the Commander, United States Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (COMUSMACV). A two–man team consisting of a liaison officer and an NCO arrived in Vietnam on 20 October 1965 and remained after the 4th PSYOP Group was formed. At one time more than 80 people from the 7th PSYOP Group were on TDY in Vietnam. Throughout the war, the duties of the 7th PSYOP Group included the provision of PSYOP liaison and offshore printing support for South Vietnam.

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 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 Tokyo, and the Regional Service Center of the United States Information agency in Manila.

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PSYOP Loudspeaker Truck

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. 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."

The Vietnam Detachment, established by the 7th PSYOP Group, operated from Saigon, where, on 3 February 1969, it was officially designated the 244th PSYOP Detachment of the 7th PSYOP Group. Later, this detachment became a company within the 7th PSYOP Group.

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7th PSYOP Group Loudspeaker Jeep

Leaflet Mix 249 was the last number used by MACV; Mix 250 begins 7th PSYOP Group control. Leaflet Mixes 239-248 had been previously assigned to the 7th PSYOP Group. (Memo dated 4 July 1972).

Leaflet 4508 was the last number used by MACV; leaflet 4509 begins 7th PSYOP Group control.

 

After the Vietnam War, the 7th PSYOP Group was deactivated for a time. In the mid-1970s, it was revived as a headquarters for the 353rd and 306th PSYOP Battalions, the 1st PSYOP Company, and the 15th PSYOP Company, all located in California. During this period, the 7th PSYOP Group was located in San Francisco, and reported to the 351st CA Command, which was an ARCOM-level USAR element.

After the 244th PSYOP Detachment of the 7th PSYOP Group became a company, it was commanded by Maj. (later Col.) David G. Underhill.

The psywar operation in Vietnam involved complex civilian and military arrangements, and was enormous in scope and confusing in structure. In addition to JUSPAO, MACV, and the 4th and 7th PSYOP Groups, other American units conducting psywar operations in Vietnam include the U.S. Embassy Mission PSYOP Committee, Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support, the U.S. Army-Vietnam (USARV), force commanders and senior advisers, U.S. Naval Forces-Vietnam, III Marine Amphibious Force (who held original responsibility for I Corps), and the 7th U.S. Army Force. Psychological operations in Vietnam was sometimes termed "a many-splintered thing."(Arts and Science,Vol. 1, no year)

Despite the confusion and complexity of the allied psywar operations, the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong became targets of what would prove to be the largest psychological operation to date. For example, in 1969 alone, no less than 10.5 billion leaflets were distributed by JUSPAO.

Before we leave this look at Allied PSYOP against the Communists in Vietnam we should study what the Viet Cong thought of the American and Republic of Vietnam’s propaganda campaigns waged against their forces. There are numerous such reports produced during the length of the war as enemy documents were captured and translated. One such document is a JUSPAO Field Memorandum dated 27 August 1966. It is a Viet Cong internal document which is a memorandum from a high headquarters (probably the Central Committee of the People's Revolutionary Party) to its interzone and provincial level agit-prop units throughout the country:

At present, the enemy is using psywar to attack us on the ideological plane. He has scattered many leaflets from aircraft and has appealed to us through (loudspeaker) broadcasts. The objective of this is to destroy our morale. The themes of this propaganda are these: rally to the enemy side; the war causes much misery; U.S. weapons are very powerful and they menace us; rewards will be given those who leave their friends and abandon their mission; the South Vietnamese army soldiers have much honor and (monetary) benefits, and the enemy side is the side of authority.

These efforts surely influence our troops. If we do not closely control cadre and soldier thoughts, we shall face many difficulties. For this is a dangerous wicked scheme by the enemy. It is related to the general war situation, all aimed at reducing the fighting spirit of our forces and having a great influence on our struggle toward victory in general, and during this summer in particular.

Appropriate measures to counter enemy propaganda are:

1. Carefully indoctrinate troops, cadres and soldiers about the enemy's psywar schemes. Make clear to all people the fact of his corruption and that he pretends to be very strong but cannot hide his failures; that our people will gain victory. Make cadres and soldiers understand the glory of a revolutionary soldier. Make everybody energetic and cause them deeply to resent the enemy and be determined to fight and win all battles under all circumstances. "

2. Whenever the enemy uses psywar, cadres should immediately hold indoctrination sessions and closely manage the people's thoughts and actions. Be prepared for all developments. When leaflets drop, all people, even the cadres and soldiers should tear them up without reading them. Only cadre chiefs are authorized to read and then explain and analyze the contents of the leaflets to the cadres and to soldiers in their units. The latter are prohibited from reporting on the contents of this propaganda to others, or to discuss it. To discuss enemy propaganda is to voluntarily or involuntarily propagandize for the enemy. Set up a self-improved spirit in each unit so that cadres and soldiers help each other.

The two approaches to be employed, therefore, are indoctrination and denial of access to the materials.

Leaflets not prepared by PSYOP Units

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Soldiers of the 9th Division

The first PSYOP units appeared in Vietnam about June 1965. It was almost February 1966 before they were really organized and running smoothly. There were already some combat units on the ground and they produced propaganda leaflets, although it is unknown if they did this internally, or used teams of people trained in PSYOP. The 1st Infantry Division arrived in Vietnam about October 1965 and apparently prepared Propaganda leaflets either without code or actually coded “1st Inf.” The leaflet above is numbered #15, which seems to imply 14 earlier leaflets. The very crude image shows Viet Cong being killed by an artillery blast at the left while one guerrilla runs away. At the right the guerrilla shakes hand with a soldier from the 1st Division. The text is:

Soldiers of the 9th Division

You are in the operating area of the powerful 1st U.S. Infantry Division. We know you are southeast of Minh-Thanh. More units of the 1st Infantry Division will be upon you. Surrender or die. If you want to surrender; remove your shirts, sling your weapons muzzle down, and put your hands behind your neck. Then report to the first soldier you see.

Surrender now or die under the power of the 1st Infantry Division.

Special campaigns – postcards and letters

Besides the regular leaflets, handbills and posters, occasionally the PSYOP troops would partake in special campaigns. Two that are of particular interest are leaflets made in the form of either postcards or stamped letters.

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JUSPAO postcard 2904B.

This postcard was prepared in January 1969 as part of a Chieu Hoi (Open Arms) and Tet (New Year) campaign. The target was the Viet Cong and their relatives and sympathizers. It was a one-time item and not available for re-order. The same vignette was used on a poster coded 2902 which had an additional seven photographs of citizens working to improve the nation. The postcard depicts a Vietnamese mother and daughter watching some children light holiday firecrackers. The official title is “Postcard of Tet Poster No. 1, 1969.” The back of the postcard is blank. The text is:

HAPPY NEW YEAR – LONGING FOR PEACE

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Leaflet 8-319 (1.14)

This Chieu Hoi “postcard” was dropped during Tet 1969 by Captain Albert Yanus of the 5th Special Operations Squadron from an HC-47d flying out of Bien Hoa AFB. The 3 1/2 x 5-inch blank-back cards were dropped in III Corps, the densely populated alluvial plain surrounding Saigon. The 5th SOS utilized HC-47d’s, O-2’s, and U-10's at Ben Thuy for leaflet and speaker missions. In addition, the HC-47d sometimes dropped parachute flares at night in support of Army firebases. Their official motto was “The truth shall make them free,” and their unofficial motto was “Better to bend the mind than destroy the body.” Although it is hard to evaluate the effectiveness of leaflet missions, CPT Yanus remarked that on one occasion he received an immediate report of 90 VC surrendering after a leaflet drop. The propaganda postcard depicts a beautiful Vietnamese maiden holding flowering branches. At the lower left is the Chieu Hoi (“Open Arms”) emblem in full color. The card is coded 8-319 (1.14) indicating that it was produced by the 8th PSYOP Battalion. The text is:

Happy New Year

Fun with language - A Vietnamese-language linguist told me that the literal translation of the four words is Wishing [you a] New Spring. I asked what might be a better translation. He said “Happy New Year.” I told him “Wasn’t that what I said?”

Major Michael G. Barger says about the annual Tet campaigns which first showed great success in 1966:

The 1967 Tet Campaign began on 11 January and continued through the end of February. The combined effort included dropping over 300 million leaflets, loudspeaker broadcasts using over two thousand different taped appeals, and both radio and television broadcasts. MACV, though acknowledging in their 1967 Command History that, “the Tet campaign was not solely responsible,” still determined that these efforts largely accounted for the record monthly high Hoi Chanh figure of 2,917 in February 1967. This perceived success led MACV to continue February’s campaign into March, dropping 87 million leaflets calling for a “Spring Reunion” along with 27 million safe conduct passes.

There are at least three PSYOP products on card stock that the American military calls “stationery.” In all three cases the backs are blank, but it seems apparent that the products were meant to be used as postcards. In all three cases the items were prepared by the Joint United States Public Relations Office (JUSPAO) in three different formats. They are found in two different sizes with Vietnamese text, and also in a third variety with Cambodian text.

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Postcard 1668A depicts Le Loi, a legendary hero of Vietnam. The postcards were printed in full color. A smaller version is coded 1668B and the Cambodian variety is coded 1668C. In addition there is a 7 x 10-inch handout, and a 20 x 28-inch poster all apparently produced in May 1968. The text is:

FOLLOW THE EXAMPLE OF HERO LE LOI

Promote the unyielding spirit of the Vietnamese People in the
destruction of Communism and salvation of the country.

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The statue of Le Loi stands in front of the Municipal Hall of Thanh Hoa Province where he was born. Le Loi was emperor of Vietnam and founder of the Le dynasty. He is among the most famous figures of Vietnamese history and one of its greatest heroes.

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Postcard 1707A depicts Tran Hung Dao, a legendary hero of Vietnam. He stands with sword while behind him we see both soldiers from his own era and the present era marching with the flag of the Republic of Vietnam. A smaller version is coded 1707 and the Cambodian variety is coded 1707B. The text is:

FOLLOWING THE EXAMPLE OF TRAN HUNG DAO

All the people unite to fight against Communism to save the nation

A 1967 Army paper entitled Vietnamese Superstitions mentions this campaign:

PSYOP use of the venerated figure of Tran Hung Dao, victor in 1285 over the Golden Horde led by Kublai Khan’s Chinese vassal satisfies all requirements. We know the supernatural qualities with which the heroic figure of Tan Hung Dao is endowed in the popular mind, and the Government of Vietnam has the capability of invoking him in patriotic appeals aimed  against the invaders (See JUSPAO poster 1271) which are among the most popular produced in the PSYOP field to date.

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Postcard 2592 depicts a heroic Vietnamese soldier charging forward with his flag waving behind him. A smaller version is coded 2592A and the Cambodian version is coded 2592B. The text is:  

WE ARE DETERMINED TO DEFEND THE NATION

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Pack of Vietnamese Cigarettes

We have all heard the old “What came first, the chicken or the egg?” In this case, what came first, the Propaganda postcard or the Vietnamese cigarettes with the same image on the front?

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Leaflet 14a Front

Although not actual postcards or letters, there are two leaflets that appear to be stamped postcards. They are from the same series and are coded 14a and 14b which indicates that they were prepared to be dropped during the campaign against North Vietnam in early 1965. At first glance the two leaflets are similar, both addressed on the front with what appears to be a postage stamp. Both of the leaflets are addressed on the front to:

To a North Vietnamese Compatriot – North Vietnam

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Leaflet 14b Front.

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Leaflet 14b back

The fake stamps are cancelled “Viet NamSaigon – Cong Hoa.” The stamp on 14a is a parody of a genuine stamp honoring the sisters Trung Trac and Trung Nhi who resisted the Chinese invasion in 40-44 A.D. They are depicted riding on war elephants against the Chinese with a Republic of Vietnam flag in the background. The second stamp on 14b is a combination that depicts a map of Vietnam, The flag of the Republic and northerners heading south on a raft to escape Communism. The back of each leaflet contains the exact same message:

Dear Compatriot,

You and I are Vietnamese living on the soil of Vietnam. Circumstances, unfortunately, keep you in the North and me in the South.

When your communist rulers cut the country in two, close to one million of our compatriots fled the Communist Zone for the South. Since that sad day, we have been living peacefully, busying ourselves with rebuilding the country and establishing a free and democratic regime in the South.

Unfortunately, for the past ten years the Communists of the North have been waging war in the South with the aim of imposing Communist rule on the free part of our country. Men and weapons have been infiltrated to the South to destroy schools, hospitals, roads and bridges, and kill innocent civilians. In doing this, your Communist rulers claim to “liberate” the southern people. But, we have never asked them to “liberate” us. In fact, what do we want to be liberated from? We are happy with what we have and wish only to be left alone.

But, it is obvious that your Communist rulers are unmoved by our desire for peace.

Now, in face of stepped-up infiltration of men and weapons to intensify the aggressive was against the South, we are compelled to act in self defense. We are bombing the military installations and communication facilities which your Communist rulers are using to sustain their war of aggression in the South.

So, for your safety, please stay away from these targets.

My letter is short but my sentiments are immense. I am cordially yours.

The first record I have of this leaflet being dropped is 20 July 1965. American and Vietnamese aircraft dropped the leaflets over communication routes heading to Hanoi and Haiphong, as well as eight North Vietnamese cities. The leaflets were mixed with numbers 13 and 16 and a total of 3,360,000 of the three were disseminated. Another 520,000 of 14a and 14b were dropped on 30 July 1965 over Van Yen, Ba Don and Huong Khe. On 9 December another 480,000 were dropped over the Rao Nay Valley and Ba Don, Cuong Gian and Phu Kinh.

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The Trung Sisters

Because the Trung sisters were national heroes in Vietnam, they were often placed on PSYOP leaflets and posters. The Trung Sisters led the first resistance movement against the occupying Chinese after 247 years of domination. Many temples are dedicated to them and their death is commemorated each year. Legend says that in 39 AD they gathered an army of 80,000, led by 36 women generals and within a year drove the Chinese occupiers from 65 cities. Because they had liberated their country, they were named co-queens. The Chinese returned with a huge force and after defeat on the battleground the sisters committed suicide by drowning themselves in 43 AD. A Fifteenth Century poem says about the sisters: “ All the male heroes bowed their heads in submission; only the two sisters proudly stood up to avenge the country.” The text on the poster is:

Oppose the Communists' aggression in defense of our liberties as descendants
of the Hong Lac race.

Do as the two Trung sisters of the Trieu family did.

Note: The sisters renamed their country Hong Lac during their reign. Some experts believe that “Hong” represented their clan and “Lac” the ethnic group from which the Vietnamese descended. Others think the Hong Lac race moved down from the north about 4,000 years ago. The term might be mythical in nature.

A Good Image for the Government of Vietnam and the United States

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Leaflet 8N(2)-25-68

There are a great number of leaflets that try to glorify the image of the government of the Republic of Vietnam or the United States. This 1968 8th PSYOP Battalion leaflet depicts a peaceful scene of a rice paddy on one side and a Vietnamese man looking over the countryside on the other. It is meant to glorify the Vietnamese Government. The text is:

I am a citizen, born and living in Vietnam. I love my country. I love green rice fields, buffaloes grazing in the grass, birds singing beyond bamboo trees, thatched roofs with smoke in the sunset. You and we are brothers, born and living in Vietnam in the same native land. Why should we fight each other? Could we not support the same government? The Government of the Republic of Vietnam is the government of Vietnam and our government.

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Leaflet 8(1)-9-115-68

This leaflet was prepared to lift the image of the United States. It depicts local Vietnamese going to a hospital to be treated by American medical personnel. It says in part:

Dear Friends.

There is no reason for you to suffer. If you are ill or in need of medical care join with the hundreds of Vietnamese civilians of Phu My District who receive expert medical attention from the medical aid station at LZ Uplift. Every day many people of the village of Phu My are treated by qualified medical personnel. If your illness warrants, you will be sent to Phu My Hospital for further treatment. If you can be treated by the 1st Battalion (mechanized) 50th Infantry aid station, we will provide you with medicine. Many patients return regularly for continued treatment. It is our desire to help our Vietnamese brothers. Bring your sick children to us so that our medical personnel can treat them.

Your brothers of the Ichiban Battalion.

That battalion name confused me. I knew from time in Japan that Ichiban meant “number one.” Why would an American unit have that name? A little research showed that it did in fact belong to the 1st Battalion, 50th Infantry, the 2nd Armored Division.

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Leaflet 7-202-68

This 1968 7th PSYOP Battalion leaflet was also meant to build the image of the U.S. One side depicts an American soldier shaking hands with a Vietnamese and the other shows a Vietnamese working in the fields. The text is:

U.S. Soldiers are you friends; they help to secure you safety. When they come, if you run away, it is very difficult for them to distinguish innocent people from the Viet Cong. Do not run away; continue to do your work…

Inform on the Viet Cong

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Leaflet SP-1094

There were dozens of different leaflets asking the people to inform on the whereabouts of the Viet Cong. Many offered rewards and we mention them in a different article. In this very early JUSPAO leaflet from about 1962 the people are asked to inform just for their own general welfare and that of the nation. The front of the leaflet depicts farmers being forced to give the Viet Cong their rice and receiving worthless promissory notes in return. The text is:

Denounce the actions of the Viet Cong. Do not let the Viet Cong steal your rice and kidnap your sons and relatives. Denounce Viet Cong actions to the Army of the Government of the Republic of Vietnam.

The back of the leaflet depicts Vietnamese Army troops asking a farmer to tell them where the guerrillas are located. The farmer points in their direction. The text is:

Did you see any Viet Cong today? How many of them were there? Where were they? How many weapons did they have? Help the Government's Army restore peace and tranquility to Vietnam. Tell the Army about the Viet Cong and where they are hiding.

Come South and Find a Wife

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Leaflet 2486

We find several American leaflets that hint that a good Communist soldier who defects in the South might find love. Curiously, the United States did the same thing in a highly classified secret operation that dropped leaflets over North Korea about the same time. The North Koreans spies and saboteurs infiltrated south and some American leaflets showed them other spies that had been captured or defected, found love and got married.

JUSPAO leaflet 2486 depicts North Vietnamese defector Tran Quang Huan and his South Vietnamese wife Cao Thi Chau. This leaflet was found by Sergeant Jim Hackbarth, a member of the 1st Platoon, Alpha Company, 1st Battalion of the 7th Cavalry, in 1970. He said: “It is still smudged with the Red Dirt that was abundant around Quan loi.” The text says in part:

FORMER NORTH VIETNAMESE SOLDIER MARRIES SOUTH VIETNAMESE LADY

Tran Quang Huan, a former North Vietnamese soldier who rallied is photographed with his Southern wife Cao Thi Chau. Mr. Huan and his wife live in a village established by more than 100 former North Vietnamese soldiers who are now free citizens in the Republic of Vietnam.

The back of the leaflet is a long message explaining all that will be given to the defector, including over $10,000 in Vietnamese banknotes to build a house, buy furniture, etc.

Flags as PSYOP

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Leaflets 2107A, B and C

The United States often prepared patriotic flags of the Allies to be disseminated among the people. In October 1967, JUSPAO prepared three flags coded 2107 A, B, and C which depicted the flags of the Republic of Vietnam, the Republic of Korea and the United States of America. Each flag was 7 x 10-inches in size and printed on 50-pound offset paper.

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COMPATRIOTS!

We don’t know much about this leaflet that depicts the flag of the Republic of Vietnam since we do not see a code number. There is a message on the front which we translate here:

COMPATRIOTS!

The Viet Cong are now embarrassing and humiliating our Fatherland. Following orders from Communist China, they are exploiting you all. Drive them out of your hamlets and neighborhoods. Do not allow them to use your homes to shoot at the government's army and its aircraft.

The Viet Cong are losing. The government's army will continue to seek out and destroy them until our national flag flies over every hamlet and every single home.

Poetry as PSYOP

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Leaflet SP-2263

There are dozens of Vietnamese-language propaganda leaflets using poems. The tradition of poetry is long and respected in Vietnam and a poem is the perfect way to send a propaganda message to the enemy. Leaflet SP-2263 is depicted in the JUSPAO November 1968 publication Communicating with Vietnamese thru Leaflets that says:

This leaflet uses poetry as a medium of communication. In fact, some of the best leaflets ever used in Vietnam have consisted of emotion-provoking poems, with suitable illustrations related to the thematic content of the poem.

Poems frequently express nostalgia, sorrow and longing more effectively than is possible in prose. But the poetry must be good, or it will be scorned.

Do not use amateur poets; employ or use material from popular and well known poets.

The leaflet shows a sobbing mother at top left and her son in the South below. On the back the son is shown dead and alone in the jungle. It was prepared in November 1967 for distribution in I, II and III Corps areas. Some of the long text is:

From the day I left you, mother,
to follow my companions on the trip to
Central Vietnam through Laos,
I have endured the hardships of
climbing up the green mountains
And marching through rain and shine,

Although with my young age
life should blossom like a flower.
For the sake of peace I don’t mind
Enduring hardships and danger.

For several months I marched during
the day and rested at night.
My shoes’ heels have worn out
And my jacket's shoulders
Were rubbed thin through which the cold slips in…

A small box at the lower left in the back of the leaflet contains the text:

The above letter in poetry form was found on the body of a dead soldier of the Hanoi regime killed in the battle of Duc Co.

What is interesting about this poem is that it was memorized by a Vietnamese officer heading south. He mentions it in a debriefing after being captured, although his memory is a bit different from the official translation and he is probably paraphrasing some parts. This comment is from the debriefing of 2LT Nguyen Van Thong, a soldier in the 320th Regiment, 1st PAVN Division, who fought in Kontum Province in March-April 1968. PSYOP troops must have hated the first part where he says their leaflets are not very good, but cheered at the second part where he admits he memorized the poem on one leaflet:

I have seen very many PSYOP leaflets but they are very poor and we laugh at them. They make no impressions on the soldiers of the NVA. The quality of the writing is very poor and not good Vietnamese. The Americans should let the Vietnamese write them as they know how to put the story, or what you want said into poetry, the Vietnamese are a very poetic people. I know and all the men in my unit know the lines of a poem used by South Vietnam and we thought of it often. The best way to tell of good will is by a poem. The South Vietnamese poem that we remember is for our mother. It goes like this:

Since I have been away from you following my friends to Laos and then to Central Vietnam through the mountain areas, being sunburned by the sun in the coastal area, I have suffered all kinds of hardships.

The youth age similar to a blossom flower, due to the cost of peace we are not afraid of the difficulties.

During six months of day movement and night rest I’ve worn out my boot soles and shirt collars by the cold weather…

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Korean War Leaflet 1118

What is particularly interesting about this Vietnam War leaflet is that the face of the woman is exactly the same as a leaflet printed by U.S. forces in the Korean War. I can hardly think of another case where the same image was used by U.S. forces in two wars.   That leaflet, dated 26 October 1951 and coded 7009 was entitled “Needless death.” It targeted Chinese troops in Korea and depicts a dead soldier thinking of his mother. It was also produced in the Korean language coded 1118. Some of the text is:

NEEDLESS DEATH

Why must 1 be forced to die? If only I had acted earlier I could have escaped. When the Communists saw that I could no longer fight they left me to die alone. If my mother knew, how she would weep. I wonder how they will tell her. How sad she will be?

Perhaps my comrades will be wiser than I was – if I could only tell them!

THERE IS NO NEED TO DIE – GO OVER TO THE UN LINES – EASCAPE, SAVE YOUR LIVES!

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Leaflet 78T

Leaflet 78T is bright red on the front and depicts happy scenes of life in North Vietnam. The back is blue and depicts a sad North Vietnamese soldier thinking of death and destruction in South Vietnam. This leaflet was dropped on troops coming down the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The text on the back explains that the poem printed on the leaflet was written by a North Vietnamese soldier to his mother, Mrs. Tran Thi Phan of Hai Duong. The soldier was killed in the battle of Duc Co and his soul is still blaming the Communist Party for sending him south to die. The poem is printed as a legacy and warning to other young men who have been sent south to die. The poem is very long at 40 lines. Note that the poem is identical to 2263 above. I quote some selected lines here:

A POEM TO MOTHER

(A North Vietnamese Youth Spills out his Heart)

From the day I left you, O mother, to follow my companions in this trip through Laos to Central Vietnam.
I have endured the hardships of climbing up the giant mountains, and marching through rain and shine.
Although at my young age life could have blossomed like a flower, enduring hardships and dangers, for several months I marched during the day and rested at night.
The bottoms of my shoes have worn out, and the cloth on my shoulders has worn thin and the cold slips in.
Often my hands trembled while laying a mine, because later I saw people blown up and blood sprayed around.
Whose blood was it?
It was the blood of our people, those like mother and me.
That night my eyes were filled with tears, and my sleep with nightmares.

Retired Lieutenant Colonel Dave Underhill of the 7th PSYOP Group told me about the use of poetry for psychological operations:

The Vietnamese loved poetry. We reproduced a poem written by an enemy soldier that was taken from his body on the field of battle.  It was based on his experiences in the war and the fact that he had been deceived by the authorities.  It was a very sad and sentimental poem.

When I was in Laos to write a strategic leaflet program for the American Embassy, a Central Intelligence Agency representative mentioned the leaflet. He said it was a very powerful leaflet and every prisoner taken could recite the entire poem from memory.  He wanted to know who produced it.  When I mentioned that our organization had produced it, he wanted to obtain the leaflet in quantity. I was able to immediately divert to him a shipment of several million copies that was destined for IV Corp, an area where there were few North Vietnamese regulars. The CIA representative was appreciative and impressed with our efficiency.

We produced several nostalgic poem leaflets for use at Tet in the 6x3 size for use throughout Vietnam and the Ho Chi Minh Trail area. My Vietnamese advisor (while I pulled a tour at the MACV PSYOP Directorate, Leaflet Development Section) helped develop poetry leaflets.   He was Catholic, a former college professor, and had to flee North Vietnam when the French left.  After US troop withdrawal we hired him and placed him in charge of leaflet development.

Note that this poem was considered so important that it appeared on several different leaflets in black and white and in color, and in various sizes such as 3 x 6-inches, and 5 x 7-inches.

A JUSPAO document dated 18 September 1969 is entitled “Poem by North Vietnam Deserter.” The document states that the poem was written by a Hoi Chanh who did not ask for money. The poem, written by Hoai Thanh was entitled “Letter to my Comrade at Spring time.” The letter says in part: “I suggest that this be considered for use on radio, television, magazines, newspapers and leaflets. This, after all, is a nation of poets. The single most effective leaflet dropped in the past was the soldier’s poem to his mother. [The writer might be describing the poem above]. This appears to be more of the same.” A few lines from the six-stanza poem:

For I know that your heart is bleeding and your weeping soul longs for life at springtime.
Oh come dead liberation soldier, do not deny that which is most precious to you.
My heart aches as I write to you for we are both so far from our native land.
Together we came to face death on the battle field but it was for the benefit of just the few…

What is amazing is that upon his capture, North Vietnamese Army 2nd Lieutenant Nguyen Van Thong, Leader of a Reconnaissance Platoon, mentioned American propaganda when interviewed by Military Intelligence. He said in part:

I have seen lots of the PSYOP leaflets but they are very poor and we laugh at them. They make no impression on the soldiers of the NVA...The quality of the writing is very poor and not good Vietnamese. The Americans should let the Vietnamese write them as they know how to put the story or what you want said into poetry; the Vietnamese are a very poetic people…The best way to tell of good will is with a poem. All of the men in my unit knew the lines of a poem used in South Vietnam and we thought of it often. The poem that we remember is for our mother.

The poem of course was the one on 78T. The North Vietnamese apparently picked it up walking down the trail and found it so moving that they memorized it.

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Leaflet T-44

I looked through my files for an example of what Dave was talking about in his last paragraph and here is a Tet-themed poetry leaflet dropped along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. I note that some other poetry leaflets dropped over the Ho Chi Minh Trail about the same time are: T-42 (New Year’s Day); T-43 (Longing for the North); T-50 (Village Gate); T-52 (My Native Village) and T-53 (My Home). All were obviously produced to invoke nostalgia and homesickness.

Leaflet T-44 depicts a lonely wife and child watching other children play at a Tet celebration. Some of the text is:

Sincere Appeal

I burn the incense and think of you
Spring returns and cites your merits
Father died in prison leaving mother sad
You left when you were only fourteen
How could you know what revolution is?

Taking advantage and speculating in politics
Merchants of slaves with black market prices
Caught in a trap which tightens the more you struggle
If you are mad then stand up and cry
I suffer to see our people as insensitive as stone

To give an example of how much Vietnamese loved poetry we need only look at a catalog of Viet Cong leaflets disseminated in 1962 and filed in a United States Information Service booklet entitled National Liberation Front Propaganda. A brief look at some of the enemy leaflets discloses: A poem aimed at a soldier away from home and family; a poem entitled “A Mother’s Words” to her son in the army; Three poems taken from a collection called “The Bright Road” from the wife of a guerrilla to her husband; A book of poetry entitled “Slash the Barbed Wire” about Vietnamese trying to escape from government Strategic Hamlets; A poem entitled “A Mother’s Heart”; A passionate poem that includes the words “How inhumane is Diem and the United States, how tyrannically they betray the people, how miserable are the peasants and works”; A poem from the wife of an ARVN asking him why he supports the wrong side; and a poem dealing with the cruelties of war entitled “The Rice Field is the Reason for Existence.” I could add many more, but this should give the reader an idea of the Viet Cong’s use of poetry in propaganda.

Illiteracy

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SP-958

The simple fact is that many of the Vietnamese could not read. During the Vietnam War, numerous leaflets were prepared without text so that any finder could easily understand the message. The above leaflet is a case in point. It was prepared by JUSPAO about early 1967 and depicts the various forces helping South Vietnam on the front. We see the marching troops of The Republic of Korea, Australia, the United States, the Republic of Vietnam and New Zealand. The back of the leaflet depicts a helpless member of the Viet Cong being forced forward at gunpoint by China. These were simple images and any finder should have understood the message unless they did not recognize the flags and Communist symbols; and I am sure there were many such Vietnamese. In those cases, the leaflet images would have no meaning at all.

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Leaflet 244-030-68

This leaflet was prepared by the 244th PSYOP Company in 1968. It was made for Viet Cong that could not read. On the front the VC are defeated in a battle and a badly wounded fighter returns to his base camp and finds that they have left without him. The back shows an alternative scenario. The Viet Cong fighter surrenders and receives immediate medical care.

This leaflet was one selected by the Department of Defense to be evaluated for effectiveness by a test group of about 1,757 Vietnamese civilians, Hoi Chanhs (former Viet Cong who had defected) and North Vietnamese and Viet Cong prisoners of war. The leaflets were judged as very effective, moderately effective or ineffective in a publication entitled The Effectiveness of U.S. PSYOPS Leaflets: A Scale for Pretesting published 7 January 1969. The former Viet Cong questioned about this leaflet found it very bad, counter-effective and unintelligible.

 

The Phoenix Program

The Vietnam War Phoenix Program is controversial to this day. Supporters say that it was a legal and closely controlled US-Vietnamese intelligence program aimed at destroying the Viet Cong infrastructure, while the critics say that it was an illegal system of arresting, torturing and murdering innocent Vietnamese civilians. Numerous books have been written on the subject so I have no intention of defending or attacking the program. I will just offer some general information and the reader can study the subject at his/her leisure.

Ken Welch spent over seven years in Vietnam working first in Intelligence positions and later in the Phoenix Program. He explains the Vietnamese name of the program with some humor in Tiger Hound: How We Won the War & Lost the Country, Outskirts Press, Inc.:

The Phoenix Program was designed to neutralize the Viet Cong Infrastructure (VCI): the communist party members and cadre that recruited, proselytized, and attempted to form a shadow government to take over the legitimate government. “Phoenix” was an American term referring to the mythical bird that rose from the ashes; in this case, the name symbolized rising from the ashes of Tet 1968. There was no such bird in Vietnamese myths so the Vietnamese translation was “Phung Hoang,” which was somewhat relative in Chinese but, in Vietnamese, was a mythical bird of love and marriage. I wondered aloud. “Are we eliminating love and marriage for the communists? They would certainly die out then.”

Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV) Directive 381-41, dated 9 July 1967, inaugurated the Intelligence Coordination and Exploitation (ICEX) program to Attack the Viet Cong Infrastructure (VCI). In late 1967, MACV replaced the name “ICEX” with “Phoenix,” after a mythical bird that appeared as a sign of prosperity and luck and a near translation of the South Vietnamese name for the program, “Phung Hoang” (All-seeing bird”). In Chinese and Vietnamese mythology the Phung Hoang is a good omen of marital happiness, peace and good fortune.

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The Phung Hoang Advisor Handbook

The Phung Hoang Advisor Handbook adds:

In accordance with Article 4, the President of Vietnam in decree number 280-a/TT/SL, 1 July 1968, promulgated the Phung Hoang Program. The intent and aim of the program is to utilize existing civilian and military agencies in a systematic and coordinated effort to destroy the Viet Cong infrastructure throughout Vietnam.

The U.S. military described Phoenix as operations against the Viet Cong infrastructure to include: the collection of intelligence; identifying their members; inducing them to abandon their allegiance to the Viet Cong and rally to the government; capturing or arresting them in order to bring them before province security committees or military courts for lawful sentencing; and as a final resort, the use of reasonable force should they resist capture or arrest where failure to use such force would result in the escape of the suspected Viet Cong member or would result in threat of serious bodily harm to a member or members of the capturing or arresting party.

Phoenix was the U.S. government’s largest and most systematic effort to destroy Viet Cong’s political and support infrastructure which was thought to number somewhere between 70,000 and 100,000 throughout South Vietnam. It provided increased support, advisers, and funding to police and territorial forces. Soon after the introduction of the program all 44 provinces and most of the districts had American Phoenix advisers. By 1970 there were 704 U.S. Phoenix advisers throughout South Vietnam. The Phoenix Program eventually had interrogation centers in every one of South Vietnam’s 235 districts and 44 provinces, card sites, and computerized indexes. The program was supported by about 500,000 local militia and Provincial Reconnaissance Unit (PRU) strike forces.

The manner in which a suspect was to be investigated was very specific. For instance, once a suspect Viet Cong member was identified, two index cards were prepared in both alphabetic and village/hamlet files. Then a target folder was prepared which listed his habits, contacts, schedule, and modus operandi. The target folder required careful preparation and contained the “VCI Target Personality Data Form” and the “Offender Dossier.” This data was used as evidence when the Viet Cong member was brought to justice.

The program operated within a system of rules. Special laws (An Tri) allowed the arrest and prosecution of suspected communists, but only within the legal system. Moreover, to avoid abuses the law required three separate sources of evidence to convict any individual targeted for neutralization. Once identified, the individual was placed in one of three categories: A for leaders, B for those in key positions and C for rank and file members. If a suspected person was found guilty, he or she could be held in prison for 2 years, with renewable 2-year sentences totaling up to 6 years.

The Communists struck back and repeatedly emphasized attacking the government’s pacification program and specifically targeted Phoenix officials. In the Vietnam War Almanac, Harry G. Summers Jr., says:

In a remarkable display of Chutzpah, the North Vietnamese, who had regularly used assassination as one of their tactics – executing an estimated 36,725 village officials and South Vietnamese civil servants from 1957 to 1972 – denounced Phoenix as an assassination program.

Was the program effective? Apparently it was. In Vietnam : A History, Stanley Karnow quotes the North Vietnamese deputy commander in South Vietnam, General Tran Do, as saying that Phoenix was “extremely destructive.” Former Viet Cong Minister of Justice Truong Nhu Tang wrote in his memoirs that “Phoenix was dangerously effective…in Hau Nghia Province west of Saigon the Front Infrastructure was virtually eliminated.” Nguyen Co Thach, who became the Vietnamese foreign minister after the war, claimed that the Phoenix program “Wiped out many of our bases in South Vietnam, compelling numbers of North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops to retreat to sanctuaries in Cambodia.”

Officially, Phoenix operations continued until December 1972, although certain aspects continued until the fall of South Vietnam in 1975. Numerous printed products were prepared during this program, most in the form of “wanted” posters and leaflets. The 7th PSYOP Battalion produced many of them and placed the letter “P” at the front, apparently indicating poster. Examples are the “Wanted by the Government of Vietnam Security Agents” posters: “P7-905-71” and “P7-911-71.” The poster data sheets clearly state in most cases “ORIGIN: CPDS/Phoenix Quang Ngai.”

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Leaflet 7-514-68

Another special campaign was leaflets associated with the Phoenix program, the Allied attempt to destroy the Viet Cong by taking out their infrastructure in the local villages. The goal of the program was to identify the estimated 70,000 members of the Viet Cong, their leaders, cadre and supporters. The Government of South Vietnam called the program Phung Hoang (all-seeing bird) and the U.S. used the closest term available in English, “Phoenix.” The program struggled through 1968 to become effective, with difficulties in training fingerprint specialists, establishing methods to share information across provincial and district boundaries, record-keeping, and corrupt officials susceptible to bribery.

Leaflet 7-514-68 is entitled “THE DENOUNCING UNDERGROUND COMMUNIST SHEET.” It is a four page printed document written in three languages that allows an informer to identify a Viet Cong member secretly. Some of the questions that the informer answers are:

I know the location of Viet Cong weapons, ammunition, explosives or documents.
I know the infiltration route for the transportation of Viet Cong weapons.
I suspect that I know of a relation of somebody in the Viet Cong cadre.
I know the location of the Viet Cong Economic team.
I know a place that sells good and medicines to the Viet Cong.

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Leaflet 4-2-71

This Phoenix leaflet was prepared by the 4th PSYOP Battalion in 1971. It appears to have been prepared for the Vietnamese forces since it only mentions them in regard to information. The leaflet depicts the Phoenix symbol and the following text on the front:

THE PHUNG HOANG PROGRAM PROTECTS THE
PEACE AND PROSPERITY OF THE PEOPLE

Participate in the Phung Hoang program in order to isolate the Communist cadre, to destroy their underground organization, and concurrently, to be able to avoid the terrorist activities caused by them.

Report any information of terrorist activity to the National Police or National Security Forces.

Your identity will be kept absolutely secret.

Some of the text on the back is:

The Government of Vietnam has launched the Phung Hoang Campaign in order to eliminate Communist leaders and their subordinates in local areas where you want to live an adequate and peaceful life. The Phung Hoang Campaign is an effort to seek and gather information that will lead us to those dangerous Viet Cong cadre...

Leaflet 4-3-71 has the identical image and text on the front but a different message on the back. It says it part:

The Phung Hoang Campaign is designed for the benefit of the people.  By participating in this campaign we will fulfill the following objectives:

Eliminate the underground Communist cadre. Destroy their organizations. Prevent Communist terrorism and acts of destruction. Help to restore peace and prosperity to the country…

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Leaflet 4168

This Phoenix leaflet is interesting because it shows the symbol of the immortal bird at all four corners. A photograph on the front depicts Vietnamese troops and farmers looking at a bulletin board. The text is:

Participation in the Phuong Hoang campaign builds security for our hamlets.

The back is all text:

The Phuong Hoang campaign is aimed at neutralizing the entire Viet Cong infrastructure so that the people can get rid of Viet Cong terrorism and oppression. Therefore, people are encouraged to participate in this campaign, thus contributing to the building of peace and prosperity for themselves and their families.

Inform the National Police or other local security agencies of all Viet Cong activities. Your names will be kept absolutely secret.

The Phoenix program was an effective means of creating informers and defectors. The US therefore prepared an intensive publicity campaign called the Popular Information Program in October 1969 where American and Vietnamese psywar teams crisscrossed the countryside, using radios, leaflets, posters, TV shows, movies, banners, and loudspeakers mounted on trucks and sampans to spread the word.

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Mr. Ba reads the Phoenix leaflets

One of the more interesting PSYOP items was in the form of a comic book. It tells the story of a “Mr. Ba” who has Communist agents hiding in his village of Phong Thanh and decides to inform the authorities of their presence. The VC have taxed him, killed his friends and innocent civilians, and generally made life inconvenient by blowing up bridges and buildings. Mr. Ba reads posters offering rewards for the capture of the two VC and listens to the same offer on his radio. The village is then covered with aerial propaganda leaflets offering a reward for the two VC. Mr. Ba is convinced. He talks to the local authorities, the Communists are arrested and Ba is rewarded. The village is once again peaceful and all live happily ever after.

Lieutenant Winston Groom tells of his brief dealings with the Phoenix program as a member of the 245th PSYOP Company in Vietnam.

I was contacted by two civilians at Tuh Hoa during my stay at the MACV compound whom I assumed to be CIA agents. They came to me about some new project that I later discerned to be “Phoenix.” They had the names of individuals whom they knew or believed to be Viet Cong leaders in certain villages in the province. They thought it would be a good idea to print leaflets or posters listing these people, naming them and their villages. As they were caught or eliminated we would cross off that person's name on the leaflet. I can't recall exactly what symbols we used after 40 years, but I think if they guerrilla was captured; a small caricature of a man being led away in chains was placed over his name. If he was killed his name was covered by a skull and crossbones.

They brought me Vietnamese-language hand-written examples of the leaflets they desired showing the names of the supposed Viet Cong killed and captured and I would order the leaflets adding the man in chains or the skull and crossbones and we would drop them wherever appropriate. The object was to let the people know that if they were Viet Cong, there was no place to hide from us, and to make the other villagers think twice about becoming or harboring Viet Cong. How well it worked I can't say. But in my opinion, it ought to have been very effective. My own role in this was just getting the leaflets printed and calling in the drops, but there was something satisfying about it, kind of like you were a spy.

Chandler mentions similar Phoenix operations in War of Ideas; The U.S. Propaganda Campaign in Vietnam:

“Wanted posters” were put up (with photographs whenever possible)…Blacklists were posted on village bulletin boards with an “X” crossed over the names of those eliminated to show the campaign’s progress and the steady depletion of the of the insurgent ranks.

The Australian forces in Vietnam had a program similar to Phoenix, but Derrill de Heer, formerly of the 1st Psychological Operations Unit, is quick to point out that there were some major differences. He mentions Acorn operations and says that it was a radio code word for Intelligence personnel. They used Foxhound for infantry and Litterbug for PSYOP personnel. De Heer says in part:

Acorn operations were about identifying the underground enemy and convening operations that amounted to snatch and grab raids to apprehend them.  They were then interrogated and handed over to the appropriate authority. 

The Vietnamese Communist Infrastructure (VCI) operated against political targets and performed executions and political coercion by means of extortion, kidnapping and other illegal means. The only way to operate against them was by collecting high value intelligence enabling them to be seized in their homes and prosecuted before a court and having them jailed. 

The Australians obtained information from prisoners of war, Hoi Chanhs, captured documents and other Free World intelligence agencies. Acorn operations took at least six weeks to prepare and involved an aerial reconnaissance by the group commanders a day or two prior to the operation being conducted.

The Australian Acorn intelligence operations against the VCI were organized locally by the 1st Australian Task Force and were not part of the Republic of Vietnam Phuong Hoang anti-infrastructure or the U.S. Phoenix operations.  An example is operation number 17 where twenty six known VCI or active supporters were detained in forty minutes using a total of forty four personnel and a protection party. In the seventy days from 17 September to 27 November 1970 a total of eighty Viet Cong (VC) or Viet Cong Infrastructure (VCI) or Viet Cong Suppliers (VCS) personnel were taken into custody by the unit. 

Defoliation

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Nam is Concerned…

Whenever I see a leaflet with an interesting theme I add it to our story of the PSYOP of the Vietnam War. The United States produced a number of leaflets defending the defoliation program to the Vietnamese people and explaining how much safer they would be once the local flora was dead and gone. We now know what a horror Agent Orange was and that thousands of Americans, and perhaps millions of Vietnamese were harmed by it. The result is still seen today as the children and grandchildren of those who came in contact with the defoliants continue to suffer various medical maladies. This leaflet depicts four cartoons on the front and three on the back. The story starts with young Nam realizing that the Viet Cong hide in thick bushes. He tries to avoid them by going home by boat, but again, Viet Cong in bushes along the canal rob him and kill his cousin. The government then defoliates the land and all live happily ever-after. Some of the text is:

NAM IS CONCERNED ABOUT THE DEFOLIATION CHEMICALS

…The defoliation chemical is used for the purpose of drying trees and striping off their leaves. It does not harm human beings, animals, land or water at all.

One of the men spraying the chemical tells him:

Look at me. Don’t I look strong and healthy. Because of my work I have to breathe the defoliation chemical daily; and as you can see, I am not a sick man…

If by misfortune, your crops are damaged by the defoliation chemical, the government will indemnify you...

An American PSYOP policy statement adds:

PSYOP personnel should be prepared to counter VC and VC-inspired allegations that herbicides in the RVN are poisonous and bring harm to humans and animals that come in contact with them.

Our output should make the point that defoliants used in RVN are non-poisonous; even food and water affected by the spray can be consumed without danger.

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A Viet Cong Ambush

Another leaflet depicts Viet Cong ambushing boats in a narrow canal on one side and boats sailing smoothly on the other. Some of the text is:

BEFORE THE USE OF DEFOLIATION CHEMICALS, WHEN TREES AND BUSHES ALONG THE CANAL GREW WILD

The Viet Cong took advantage of the thick bushes to terrorize, to kill and plunder our countrymen…It is difficult for the Army to control and sweep away the Viet Cong.

AFTER THE USE OF DEFOLIATION CHEMICALS, WHEN TREES AND BUSHES ALONG THE CANAL HAVE BEEN DEFOLIATED

The Viet Cong have nowhere to take shelter and plunder, terrorize or kill our countrymen…The Army can easily eliminate the Viet Cong in order to bring security to our relatives and friends.

Another all-text leaflet says in part:

Up to now, the Viet Cong often took advantage of the bushes to hide themselves in order to ambush and attack buses, or to organize murders and terrorize people. In some localities they even mine the roads killing many innocent countrymen...The Government is using some special chemicals to defoliate thick trees and bushes where the Viet Cong hide…This chemical dries out trees and bushes in the areas sprayed only, and will not cause any damage to the people or animals. Even if this chemical sticks to your body or is mixed with your food and drink, your life will not be endangered…Do not listen to the Viet Cong distorting propaganda….

It is interesting to note that like so many other factors of the Vietnam War, the American military apparently borrowed the concept of defoliants like Agent Orange from the British Emergency in Malaya. A secret British Government Memorandum by the Secretary of State for the Colonies dated 21 December 1951 says in part:

It is agreed on all hands that the risks of ambush by bandits can be greatly reduced by defoliation of roadside jungle. A certain amount of this is already being done by hand but the process is slow and costly and the vegetation quickly grows again. Chemical defoliation would, it is believed, be much more effective. Experiments on a small scale have been carried out using two recently discovered hormone weed killers (2-4-D and 2-4-5-T) with Sodium trichloracetate in various combinations. Tests began on the 17 September 1951, by means of hand sprays, and within ten days the foliage was dead…

Almost three decades later, On 11 March 1979, the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took unprecedented steps against the chemical.  In the first such emergency ban ever, the EPA ordered the immediate halt to most uses of the herbicide 2-4-5-T which contains Dioxin.

For all the talk about the perils of Agent Orange to the VC in the bush, I was surprised to find a report of the 1967 interrogation of North Vietnamese Army Company commander Nguyen Luu Thanh. He stated that he always received a one-hour warning before any aircraft were sent to his area on defoliation missions. This indicates that their intelligence or spies among the Vietnamese officers were very good. The VC soldiers covered their eyes with a nylon cloth. They breathed through a canvas or gauze cloth impregnated with chemicals and charcoal. Thanh said that these protective items were completely effective and men using them suffered no ill-effects. The VC seemed to have no fear of the defoliation chemicals.

Of course, it should be pointed out that this interview occurred in 1967 and although Thanh thought he was fully protected, many of the symptoms of Agent Orange and other defoliant poisons would not show up for another 10 or 20 years.

The Assassination of Diem

Ngo Dinh Diem, a Catholic Vietnamese nationalist, returned from exile in the United States to lead the Government of Vietnam with U.S. support in 1954.

Considering that the United States supported President Ngo Dinh Diem in the early days of the war as a staunch anti-Communist, it is surprising that when a group of Vietnam generals brought up the subject of his overthrow at a later time the Americans appear to have complied. Allegedly he was not to be harmed, just to be removed from office and replaced.

A first military coup against Diem occurred in November 1960. In February 1962, disgruntled air force pilots bombed the presidential palace in hopes of killing Diem, but he survived that attempt too. The third and successful overthrow attempt occurred on 1 November 1963 and Diem was killed the following day. Although Diem had been offered exile from Vietnam, he was murdered in the back of an armored personnel carrier after being captured. According to Ahern’s CIA report:

The ignominious demise of Diem and Nhu shocked and dismayed President Kennedy, who according to Maxwell Taylor's account leaped to his feet and rushed from the meeting which Michael Forrestal had interrupted to announce their deaths…Headquarters had been warned of the high risk that Diem would not survive a military coup. But the event shocked Washington, to the extent that Smith thought Headquarters' reaction almost hysterical…Dismay at the brutal treatment of Diem and Nhu generated a panicky concern for the safety of the Nhu children. President Kennedy enjoined McCone to ensure their safe conduct to their mother, then in Europe.

Ho Chi Minh reportedly said:

I can scarcely believe the Americans would be so stupid.

One might think that as a valued friend of the Americans, he would have been treated kindly in the psychological operations that occurred after his death. Nothing could be further from the truth. He was insulted and reviled in a series of leaflets and one would think he had been a monster. A few of the early JUSPAO leaflets that mention Diem are; SP-40, SP-42, SP-52, SP-53, SP-55, SP-57, SP-58, SP-62 and SP-71.

In the various leaflets we see comments like:

After living for years under the cruel, dictatorial and feudal rule of the Ngo family, the people of South Vietnam and the Army of Vietnam rose up on 1 November 1963 and overthrew the rotten regime.

This glorious victory has put an end to a brutal and inefficient dictatorship.

Freedom has now been recovered. The totalitarian regime of Ngo Dinh Diem has been toppled.

Secret agents loyal to the Ngo family harassed those who complained about the regime…The Nhu-Diem clique plotted to sell our country to the Communists.

Under the despotic, corrupt and cruel dictatorship of Ngo Dinh Diem and his clan, sufferings were ignored and you were oppressed and plundered without pity.

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Leaflet SP-71

All of the leaflets were text-only except for SP-71 that was printed with four photographs showing all the gifts and rewards that were available to the Vietnamese under the new Revolutionary Government. The leaflet depicts; a school girl with textbooks given as gifts, tools offered by the Americans to workers in the hamlets, textbooks supplied to a group of children at a newly built school, and writing books given to students in a new life hamlet. Some of the text is: 

At this time, the Military revolutionary Council and the Provincial Government are anxious about the rural life, particularly, the living conditions in the New Life Hamlets…

All these gifts are a symbol of the government of the Republic of Vietnam’s solicitude.

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SP-65

JUSPAO was quick to prepare leaflets depicting some of the plotters that led the movement to oust Diem. Leaflets SP-65 and SP-67 both depict General Duong van Minh and Prime Minister Nguyen Ngoc. Some of the text is:

General Duong van Minh is a man of the people. He has suffered much at the hands of evil people and believes strongly in justice for all the people. He is a kindly man and is beloved by all that know him.

Nguyen Ngoc is an ardent Buddhist and has nine children and a great interest in an overall national plan for the development of the Vietnamese economy.

On 1 November 1963, a group of patriotic Vietnamese military officers and civilians staged a revolution and overthrew the government of the Ngo family. To date the new government has:

Liberated from prison all illegally held.
Brought new freedoms to the people…
Is going to conquer poverty, ignorance, stagnation and despair…

The new government is worthy of the support of loyal Vietnamese. Prepare to be part of this new and better life in Vietnam. Cooperate with the new government.

Song Sheets

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Song Sheet 1827

Another special theme was song sheets. The Vietnamese must have loved to sing because there were dozens of different leaflets prepared and disseminated that gave the words and music to pro-Government patriotic songs. I had my choice of a wide variety to illustrate, but chose the fiercely patriotic “Viet Nam.” This 8 x 10-inch leaflet was developed in April 1967 and distributed to the people to motivate them to support their Government. Some of the text is:

VIETNAM

Viet Nam, Viet Nam
Heard since our cradle
“Viet-Nam” two words
Formed on our lips;
Viet Nam , our motherland;

Viet Nam, Viet Nam
A people’s name;
“Viet-Nam” the two words
Two final words of a dying man…

As I stated above, there were numerous propaganda song sheets prepared by JUSPAO to be issued to the Vietnamese for motivational purposes. Some of those songs are:

JUSPAO Code Number, Song Title and Date of Production:

1685 – Marching Song of the Revolution Development Cadre – January 1967
1686 – It is Better to Sing Often than Well – January 1967
1687 – Let us Put on Black Coats – January 1967
1688 – Bowl of Rice, Bowl of Sweat, Bowl of Blood – January 1967
1913 – A Cadre’s Love – July 1967
1914 – Patriotic Folksong – July 1967
1915 – Self Defense Militia – July 1967
1971 – Republic of Vietnam National Anthem – August 1967
2352 – Countryside Upheaval – December 1967
2363 – Months and Years of Waiting – January 1968
2364 – Spring Without You – January 1968

The “Landscape” Series?

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Leaflet 4-87-69

The 4th PSYOP Group prepared a rather odd group of leaflets in 1969 and 1970. In each they used an image that was very clumsily drawn, almost like finger paint with a lot of black and green color. It is only after reading the military explanation sheet that you can figure out what the image represents. For instance, 4-82-69 appears to be a bunch of blobs but we are told it is a bouquet of roses. 4-87-69 is entitled “Night sky with moon” and “Tree and field” so apparently that green glob is the sky and a landscape. The text makes no mention of the images so apparently it was thought that the Vietnamese would recognize them. We see the same sort of drawings (perhaps from the same artist) a year later in 1970. Leaflet 4-11-70 depicts a green and black mass that is identified as "Unmarked graves,” and 4-13-70 shows a green blob that is identified as “Flowering plants.”

Some of the text of 4-87-69 is:

It is time for you to carefully ponder this thought: there is no reason for you to die in a conflict that sooner or later will be resolved at a conference table. Now is the time for you to think about your own and your family’s future life. You should follow the good example of your cadre and your comrades. Return to the National Just Cause; you will have the chance to rebuild your life again in a generous nation where love replaces hate.

Superstition

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Leaflet 4-40-70

One of the stranger themes used during the war was superstition. In another article we mention the use of the sounds of funeral marches and ghosts to frighten the enemy. There were also a series of four leaflets that claimed to quote a Vietnamese philosopher and mystic that forecast the defeat of the North. During WWII, both the Allies and the Axis used similar themes quoting Nostradamus and various astrologers.

Leaflet 4-19-70 depicts a pair of eyes and was meant to reinforce the Viet Cong’s fear of the unknown.

Leaflet 4-22-70 depicts an incense burner near an open book. The text attempts to convince the Viet Cong to return home by quoting the prophecies of Trang Trinh. Some of the text is:

God did not trust Ho Chi Minh with founding a nation…

Alas, the destiny of the country has not yet come true. The south gate is not shut, but the north gate (to China) is opened. The people are cheering in the daytime but crying at night… 

Leaflet 4-23-69 depicts a sign of the zodiac and is entitled THE FUTURE OF THIS WAR HAS BEEN DECIDED! Some of the text is:

Trang Trinh gained supernatural power after he received a book from a great Chinese man…Trang Trinh’s prophecy states that peace will begin to return to our people in the year 1970.

Leaflet 4-24-70 depicts a Ying-Yang (sign of harmony between the positive and negative) symbol. The title is “You cannot go against destiny.” Some of Trang Trinh’s prophecies appear once again:

Alas, there is too much confusion in this mundane business.
When will the road from North to South be cleared?
He hides himself in the caves (tomb), while Mao sees white (ages).
The whales (warships) float in the bloody sea.

Leaflet 4-29-70 is entitled THE COMMUNISTS CANNOT CHANGE DESTINY. Some of the text is:

This poem is one of hundreds of prophecies made by Trang Trinh…A remarkable individual from the North who has been well-known for over 400 years…In this poem he said that after the death of Ho Chi Minh the Northern regime would collapse…

Leaflet 4-39-70 is entitled TRANG TRINH’S PROHECIES FORETOLD THE FUTURE OF VIETNAM. Some of the text is:

In the 16th century the prophecies of Trang Trinh were respected by the Kings and his lords. The following of his prophecies have been fulfilled:

The defeat of the French in 1954. The death of Ho Chi Minh in 1969. The North has been divided internally since Ho’s death and will fall…

Leaflet 4-40-70 depicts a sign of harmony between the negative and the positive and repeats the text of leaflet 4-29-70.

The End of the American Presence Nears

As the Americans prepared to pull out of Vietnam in 1973 the propaganda leaflets gradually changed in an attempt to demoralize the Government of North Vietnam and its troops in the south. Two leaflets are perfect examples of this campaign.

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Leaflet 4488

Leaflet 4488 depicts President Richard Nixon shaking hands with Mao Tse-tung. This image was meant to show the North Vietnamese that the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China were now friends and all aid to North Vietnam would be halted. Of course, this was not true and the aid continued to flow into North Vietnam. The text on the front of the leaflet is:

AN HISTORIC MEETING

Chinese Communist Chairman Mao Tse-tung receives U.S. President Nixon in Peking. The two Chiefs of State exchange a friendly handshake at the meeting in Mao’s palace on 21 February 1972.

As a propagandist you sometimes wonder if any of these leaflets prepared with such enthusiasm are read by the enemy. In Stuart A. Herrington’s Stalking the Viet Cong – Inside Operation Phoenix: A Personal account, Ballantine Books, NY, the author is present at an interrogation of a North Vietnamese prisoner-of-war named Do van Lanh from the 271st Independent Regiment. The POW asks if he may ask a question. He is told to proceed. He says:

Has President Nixon gone to Moscow yet?

It is apparent that Combatant Do van Lahn has read a leaflet and remembered the text.

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Leaflet 4503

At the same time that America was using diplomacy, it wanted to be sure that the North Vietnamese did not think that these maneuvers were a sign of weakness. As a result, several leaflets were prepared that once again stressed the military strength of the United States. An example of what might be construed as a “carrot and stick” is leaflet 4503. It depicts an American aircraft carrier and says in part:

One of several United States Aircraft Carriers in the Gulf of Tonkin with the mission of interdicting supplies destined for the North Vietnamese Army forces in South Vietnam

The back is all text and says in part:

CEASEFIRE DESIRED

…The President of the United States announced in his 8 May 1972 speech that military actions would cease when the following conditions are met:

  1. All American prisoners of war must be returned.
  2. An agreement by North Vietnam to an internationally supervised ceasefire throughout Indochina….

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Leaflet 4558

Richard Nixon is depicted with Leonid Brezhnev on leaflet 4558. Once again it is implied that the United States and the Soviet Union are now friends and aid will no longer be sent to North Vietnam. Some of the text is:

Soviet Communist Party Secretary Leonid Brezhnev drinks a toast to U.S. President Richard Nixon after signing the agreement on Strategic Weapons Limitation on 26 May 1972…

In later leaflets Nixon swears that the United States will never desert Vietnam, and after the bombing of the North and their agreement to talks the Allies print dozens of leaflets telling the Viet Cong that the war is about to end and peace will reign once again.

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Leaflet 4609

This leaflet was prepared in November 1972 and is one of the last to depict President Nixon because the United States was in the process of pulling out of Vietnam. In four months the American troops will be gone. The leaflet tells of Nixon’s reelection on the front so if the North Vietnamese believed he would be defeated and a more Liberal President elected, they were certainly disappointed. The text is very long on both sides so I just translate some selected portions:

President Nixon Reelected

President Richard M. Nixon has been reelected President of the United States for another four-year term. He received over 61% of the votes cast, while his opponent, Senator George McGovern received about 37% of the votes…The question of how to terminate the war in Indochina was an issue in the minds of American voters. Their overwhelming expression of confidence in Mr. Nixon shows strong endorsement of his policies including support for U.S negotiations with North Vietnam which he urged during the election campaign….

Peace Talks

In late 1972, as the Allies and the North Vietnamese began to talk, a major propaganda campaign was created to inform the people of the north of the peace talks. One of the earliest leaflets using this theme is 4583. One entire group all printed with a green vignette run from 4587 to 4591. In all, there are several dozen leaflets with the theme of informing the people of North Vietnam. We illustrate leaflet 4588 dropped on 8 November 1972.

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Leaflet 4588

One side depicts a water buffalo and text:

Within 60-days of the signing of the peace agreement, all American forces will be withdrawn from Vietnam. North Vietnamese soldiers should be home long before the Tet Quy Suu (The Year of the Buffalo). This will be the happiest Tet in memory.

The other side bears a poem and text:

MY VILLAGE

In my village there is rice and mulberry.
There are flocks of white storks and flirting words.
There is a banyan tree and a temple roof.
There are flocks of pretty, graceful country girls.
In the autumn there are village festivals.
In the spring crowds of children play with swings.
The wind whistles a kite-flute song.
Soothing the soul of the Shepherd boy on the dyke.

Long before spring and well in time for Tet Quy Suu you should be home with your loved ones. Within 60-days of the signing of the cease-fire agreement, all American forces will be withdrawn from Vietnam. The North Vietnamese soldiers can return home.

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Leaflet 4694

Leaflet 4694 is the last leaflet in my collection. It is dated 20 January 1973, just 68 days before the last Americans leave Vietnam. The Government of Vietnam believes that peace is at hand and says so in this leaflet:

THE VIETNAM WAR IS OVER

North Vietnam and the United States have signed a cease-fire agreement. The fighting in Vietnam has stopped. All U.S. and Korean forces are leaving South Vietnam. Because there is peace, North Vietnamese soldiers should leave South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. All North Vietnamese soldiers should be home in North Vietnam to enjoy spring time.

SOON YOU WILL SEE YOUR FAMILY

The cease-fire has come. You do not have to fight anymore. You can rejoin your family in North Vietnam to enjoy spring time. Think how wonderful – to be with your family once again.

In reality, the Communists used the peace talks to rebuild and reinforce their troops and invaded and conquered the South in the spring of 1975. The promise of assistance from the United States in the form of economic aid and the promise that United States forces would return if there was aggression from the north did not materialize. The financial support promised was severely reduced by the US Congress, as was the military equipment.  The South Vietnamese government had to reduce the numbers in the military and government officials as they were unable to pay all the soldiers and public servants. 

Lewis Sorley mentions the “betrayal” in A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and the Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam, Harcourt Brace and Co., Florida, 1999. Sorley says that the United States had defeated the Viet Cong in the field, returned control of most of the population to the South Vietnamese, and left the South Vietnamese armed forces able to continue the war on its own. Victory only required America to provide the South with adequate supplies and intelligence, and bomb the North if they violated peace agreements. However, at the very time that the North was receiving arms supplied by China and Russia, the South had its supply of weapons and ammunition cut. Sorley points out that Nixon and Kissinger and the American political leadership are to blame for the loss of the South.

Richard Nixon wrote in a letter to South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu on 5 January 1973:

You have my assurance of continued assistance in the post-settlement period that we will respond with full force should the settlement be violated by North Vietnam.

But, Nixon and Kissinger were in the process of making a deal with the Communists that allowed the North to keep 160,000 of its forces in South at a time when the American presence was down to 27,000 troops. When Thieu balked at the secret agreement he was threatened and black-mailed by Nixon. Henry Kissinger quotes a Nixon letter to Thieu in The White House Years.

I have therefore irrevocably decided to proceed to initial the Agreement on January 23, 1973 and to sign it on January 27, 1973 in Paris. I will do so, if necessary, alone. In that case I shall have to explain publicly that your Government obstructs peace. The result will be an inevitable and immediate termination of U.S. economic and military assistance which cannot be forestalled by a change of personnel in your government. I hope, however, that after all our two countries have shared and suffered together in conflict, we will stay together to preserve peace and reap its benefits.

Once it became clear that the United States would not fulfill its promises to the Republic of Vietnam in 1975, Thieu wrote back to Nixon:

If the Americans do not want to support us anymore, let them go, get out!  Let them forget their humanitarian promises!

Australian PSYOP 

The United States was not alone in helping the Republic of Vietnam fight for its independence. Five other nations also sent troops; Australia, New Zealand, Korea, Thailand and the Philippines. Australia formed its own psychological operations unit for the first time since World War II. The 1st Psychological Operations Unit was formed as a divisional unit and allocated for duty with the 1st Australian Task Force in Phuoc Tuy province in the far southeast of Vietnam in the III Corps military area. Among the members were printers, photographers, intelligence personnel and other specialists. The Australian unit received aid and advice from U. S. Advisory Team 89 based in Ba Ria, Phuoc Tuy Province. The unit printed about 130 different leaflets, most coded with the letters ATF, though some leaflets are found without the "ATF" or with no number at all.

We mention “intelligence” a dozen times in this article. Douglas Pike spent fifteen years in Vietnam. He was one of a small group of “Hanoi watchers” who has said that the United States never really used its intelligence apparatus to learn what was going on in North Vietnam. He calls the American efforts “modest, parochial and less than adequate.” He says that even with 450,000 American servicemen in Vietnam the Hanoi watchers never numbered more than a dozen. They argued amongst themselves about whether Ho Chi Minh was a Communist or a nationalist. They argued about who was in charge between the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong. They debated if the Soviets or the Chinese where in a position of greater influence. Pike points out the difference between WWII and Vietnam. In the former there were hundreds, perhaps thousands of individuals assigned to knowing every aspect of the enemy. He suspects the reason so little was done during the Vietnam War was the belief that American firepower was so great that it really did not matter what the North Vietnamese did. They were irrelevant. They could be bombed back to the Stone Age, so why bother learning their plans and intentions? He does not use the word but he implies a certain "arrogance" at the highest level of government.

Down at the tactical level where “the rubber meets the road” the military was very involved in intelligence activities. Some comments from a high-placed American Army intelligence agent:

The very sensitive intelligence files at [deleted] were very detailed about enemy military and civilian personnel, to include the southerners' families (if they had them) and their addresses and their names.  Lesser detailed collateral intelligence versions were at [deleted]. There were more details available to U.S. agents within the RVN National Police files. We could and did combine our files with the Vietnamese and have very detailed information about many of the southern communists so we could have air or ground dropped leaflets and/or fake documents that sent them home to check on their families. Very few sensitive reports went above Colonel level and never back to Hawaii and/or DC unless someone requested them or someone else (CIA, etc.) sent them back for their own files. The Australians and New Zealanders worked very closely with us from collateral to very sensitive intelligence operations and the gathering of the intelligence too. It was a pleasure to work with them, and to supply them with reports from my [deleted] and [deleted] files

THE PSYOP MASTERS

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Ed Lansdale

We mention General Edward Lansdale as a special advisor to Director Barry Zorthian in the section on JUSPAO at the beginning of this story. Colonel (later General) Edward Lansdale (USAF) is mentioned in The Vietnam Experience - Passing the Torch, Boston Publishing Company, MA, 1981. He was apparently the master of "Dirty tricks." Lansdale had served with the Office of Strategic Services in WWII. In the 1950s, Lansdale was transferred to the Philippines-based Joint United States Military Assistance Group (JUSMAG), to advise the intelligence services of the Armed Forces of the Philippines that were then faced with a serious threat to national security posed by the Communist Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan, (People's Liberation Army). While involved in the campaign against the HUKs, Lansdale helped create an ingenious military and intelligence operation that utilized a local and much feared legend: that of the terrifying Asuang Vampire. He said:

To the superstitious the HUK battleground was a haunted place filled with ghosts and eerie creatures. A combat psywar squad was brought in. It planted stories among town residents of an Asuang living on the hill where the HUKs were based. Two nights later, after giving the stories time to make their way up to the hill camp, the psywar squad set up an ambush along the trail used by the HUKs. When a HUK patrol came along the trail, the ambushers silently snatched the last man of the patrol, their move unseen in the dark night. They punctured his neck with two holes, vampire-fashion, held the body up by the heels, drained it of blood, and put the corpse back on the trail. When the HUKs returned to look for the missing man and found their bloodless comrade, every member of the patrol believed that the Asuang had go to him and that one of them would be next if they remained on that hill. When daylight came, the whole HUK squadron moved out of the vicinity.

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A 1954 “Operation Freedom” Poster to Encourage North Vietnamese to move South

This poster was produced by the Americans and South Vietnamese to convince the Catholics and non-Communists in the north to head south. It depicts murder and violence above the 17th Parallel and peace and happiness below. The poster is entitled “Come south.” The text at the top is:

Go to the South to avoid Communism

Text at the bottom of the poster is:

Your South Vietnamese compatriots are waiting to welcome their North Vietnamese compatriots with open arms.

Lansdale was then sent to Saigon by the Central Intelligence Agency to gather intelligence on the Communists and do everything possible to disrupt Ho Chi Minh's organization of the populace of North Vietnam. Lansdale was never a CIA employee, For the Manila assignment, he had been detailed to the Agency from the Air Force; this arrangement was now extended for his service in Vietnam. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and his brother Allen, the Director of Central Intelligence, directly participated in creating the assignment. Their participation resulted in Lansdale's being sent out as chief of a second Station, reporting neither to McCarthy in Saigon nor to the chief of the Far East Division, but directly to Allen Dulles. Tran Do Cam adds:

Colonel Lansdale's organization in Vietnam was called the Saigon Military Mission (Phi B Qun S Saigon) and it included Infantry Major Lucien Conein, a professional spy who would play a very important role in the political upheavals that characterized the First Republic in South Vietnam.

Just before the North was handed over to the Communists, many Vietnamese civilians were recruited by Colonel Lansdale. Most of them came from the Vietnamese ethnic minority known as the Nng and some were native to Mng Ci, which is near Hi Phng. Others came from areas near the Chinese-Vietnam border, however, they were all sent to Saipan for training in the basics of counterinsurgency.

Lansdale organized rumor campaigns in Hanoi threatening Chinese rule under Ho, and claiming that Chinese soldiers were raping Vietnamese women. He printed fake Viet Minh leaflets which were disseminated in the North and threatened property confiscation, monetary changes and harsh treatment of workers under the Communist regime. He started rumors that "Christ has gone to the South" and "the Virgin Mary has departed from the North." He hinted that the United States might eventually drop atom bombs on the North. He produced leaflets that implied that Vietnamese would be sent into China to work as railroad laborers. Whatever he did, nearly one million North Vietnamese fled southward, many of them Catholics. He contaminated the oil supply of the Hanoi bus company and buried arms to be used by partisans when the uprising against the Communists occurred. Of course, the uprising never happened. This master of black operations is the consultant tasked to advise Barry Zorthian, whom we might consider an "innocent" civilian. What a pair they must have made.

Roberts mentions Lansdale in Let the Dogs Bark: The Psychological War in Vietnam, 1960-1968:

Lansdale hired a Vietnamese counterfeiter to produce a bogus Viet Minh leaflet instructing citizens of the north on how to behave when the Communists took over; the leaflet told them to make a tally of their possessions so that the Viet Minh would know what to confiscate. This black PSYOP was so successful that it even fooled Viet Minh officials.

Operation Passage to Freedom, as the migration program was known, resulted in most of the northern Catholic population fleeing to South Vietnam. Under Lansdale’s guidance, the Americans expanded psychological warfare training in the South Vietnamese Army. The hasty instruction program taught soldiers how to enter a village and greet civilians in a respectful manner. Lansdale urged Diem to act more like a campaigning American politician, visiting the countryside, meeting the people, and providing greater visibility. However, Diem remained reluctant to become the glad-handing politico, perhaps for valid cultural reasons. In the first half of 1963, American advisers observed dramatic improvements in governance and the skill of the Strategic Hamlet program militia in repelling the Viet Cong.

Lansdale tried to work with the French and apparently learned a lot from them. Unfortunately, there was a constant fight over who would have the most influence over this new Vietnam. Some of that story is told in: French and American Intelligence Relations During the First Indochina War, 1950–54: Jean-Marc LePage, PhD, and Elie Tenenbaum. The authors say in part:

As the French were retreating from Indochina in mid-1954, US intelligence returned to counter-guerrilla issues as it realized it would have to carry the burden of preventing a communist takeover of Southeast Asia after the French departure. During this period, there is no doubt about Col. Edward G. Lansdale’s involvement in French-American collaboration as head of the so-called Saigon Military Mission (SMM), “a covert group…entirely separate from the regular CIA station.” The SMM fit in the framework of the Military Assistance Advisory Group. For a time the SMM was under the cover of the Training Relations and Instruction Mission (TRIM). According to Lansdale, who seemed very enthusiastic about it in the beginning, the TRIM was a French-American institution that aimed “to push French and Americans to work together to help the Vietnamese to take the control of their own affairs.” The official US Army history of the period describes it as a joint training institution intended to improve the ability of the Vietnamese military to stand up to communist attacks. The mission only lasted until April 1956, when the French withdrew the remainder of their expeditionary force from the country.

Within the TRIM was the National Security Division, which was in fact another name for pacification and counterinsurgency operations. The mission allowed Lansdale to learn French know-how in counterinsurgency, in the form of the Mobile Administrative Groups from which he derived a new kind of unit: the Civic Action Teams, which were supposed “to go out in the countryside and work in the villages to foster self-rule, self-development and self-defense.” This kind of activity, resembling the usual practice of the Viet Minh peasant-soldiers, will be found again in the Revolutionary Development set up by Tom Donohue in 1964, then in the Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support (CORDS) after 1967.

John R, Campbell, a civilian psychological warfare advisor in Vietnam from 1965 to 1967 makes an interesting point about Lansdale in Are we Winning? Are they Winning: A Civilian Advisor’s Reflections on Wartime Vietnam, Author House, 2004. He seems to think that it was just as important to talk the anti-communist indigenous people of Vietnam to head south as the Catholics:

One of the war’s interesting “what ifs” could have been what if U.S. Colonel (later General) Edward Lansdale’s eminently successful operations to stimulate and facilitate the movement of the Catholics of North Vietnam to the South during Vietnam’s partition in 1954 had been replicated with the estimated million strong Nung population in the North. These fierce and efficient anti-Communist fighters, who had served the French so well against the Viet Minh, could have added the equivalent of several divisions to the South’s sorely needy defense. Those relatively few, who apparently succeeded in making the trek on their own initiative, were eventually greatly appreciated well beyond their numbers.

Neil Sheehan says in A Bright and Shining Lie that South Vietnam, it can be truly said, was the creation of Edward Lansdale.”

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Don Rochlen – October 1965

Donald H. Rochlen is an interesting character. If Lansdale was the early American PSYOP expert, Rochlen seems to be expert near the end of the war. He started off in 1955 in Thailand as a U.S. Embassy Press Officer and later an attach and the liaison between the embassy and the United States Information Agency with the USIA title of “Educational Exchange Officer.” After some language training he became a Cultural Exchange Officer in Bangkok for three years (until 1961). He was then assigned to the Voice of America broadcasting in Thai and Lao until about 1965. He next went to Saigon where he served from 1965 to 1971. At first, he was on temporary duty (TDY) to supervise the production of Vietnamese-language radio programs. He advanced to the position of Chief of Special Projects for the Field Development Division of JUSPAO. His assignment was to generate PSYWAR ideas and to develop loudspeaker programs, posters and leaflets. He worked extensively with Viet Cong defectors and prisoners and placed what he learned into leaflets and radio broadcasts. He left briefly, and then was called back in the summer of 1972 attached to the United States Information Service to interview Vietnamese citizens living in areas heavily attacked by the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army. He prepared four reports and then returned to Thailand in late 1972 where he was assigned as the Psychological Operations Advisor with the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization. In this position he made occasional trips to Vietnam.

Rochlen was a “trouble-shooter.” Like Lansdale, he got the tough jobs. He seems to have worked, possibly as a PSYOP advisor with Lieutenant General Tran Van Trung, the head of the South Vietnamese Political Warfare Department and Major General Nguyen Van Binh of the National Police. Like Lansdale, he often worked with the Central Intelligence Agency, but never for them.

He was important enough for the Hanoi newspaper Quan Doi Nhan Dan (The People’s Army Newspaper) to attack him in print. The newspaper claimed that when the Republic of Vietnam was in full retreat in 1975, he developed a rumor campaign to terrify the southerners and motivate their army to fight on. Some of his alleged rumors were that with a Communist victory there would be a blood bath. Well-coiffured heads would be shaved and spread with lime. Fingernails and toenails that wore decadent polish would be torn out by pliers. Collective graves would be dug for hundreds of thousands of people. Long six-inch iron nails would be hammered into the heads of people who had collaborated with the Americans. Buddhists would be immolated. Catholics would be forced into churches and dynamited. Other religious people would be thrown into the rivers to drown. He concluded that the Communists would kill 10 regular troops for every one they spared and the police would all be killed and their skin used to make shoes.

Rochlen later debunked the article in depth. He was not in Vietnam and in no position to pass rumors in 1975.

An American who worked with Rochlen said:

He was a legendary figure in Vietnam -- on an equal in the eyes of many veterans with John Paul Vann and Bill Colby.

Conclusion

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The War Ends

There really is no way to write a conclusion to this article because the war lasted too long and there are too many differing attitudes and opinions. There were programs that worked and programs that didn’t work and they will all be forever argued. What did the Communists think of it all? After they took power, how did they react to the thousands of leaflets, books, posters, radio broadcasts, motion pictures and the like that had been prepared by the American Government and the Government of Vietnam?

Vietnam researcher and University of California (Berkeley) Library Assistant Steve Denney quotes various North Vietnamese leaders and newspapers that show that the Communists were frightened by the propaganda and considered it very dangerous. Some of his comments are:

On the first day of South Vietnam's liberation, May 1, 1975, the Military Management Committee issued a communiqu ordering the temporary suspension of all kinds of books, newspapers, magazines and other printed material owned during the period. In Saigon, in one district only, within less than a week, the people turned in 482,460 copies of depraved literature and 3,000 kilos of reactionary newspapers formerly published by the enemy. One bookstore in Nha Trang surrendered 35,530 "reactionary books." Hanoi Liberation Radio said in a broadcast on June 30, 1975 that the people in the district town of Bac Lieu province "turned over to the revolutionary administration more than 3,000 novels and song books and hundreds of records and tapes which were reactionary in content and poisonous to the youth."

Speaking at a May Day meeting in Ho Chi Minh City, Vo Van Kiet, a high-ranking Communist official, complained of youth songs, which “through spontaneous development, have been made by a number of elements to resemble the youth music of the puppet regime and cater to the extremely egotistic tastes of remnants of the old society who are trying to rear their heads. They entice listeners to shirk obligations, detach themselves from reality, turn their backs on our people's life of labor and combat, regret the past and idolize imperialism.”

So, although it sometimes seemed that American military commanders were not sold on propaganda, the Communists were. Clearly, the first thing they did upon taking power was to send out teams to pick up every piece of printed material, song or motion picture that was sympathetic to the old regime. They had no doubt that American propaganda was poison to their cause.

This article started out as a short commemoration to honor the psychological operations units that served in Vietnam. It had grown by leaps and bounds and any reader with comments, additions, or suggestions is encouraged to send them to the author at sgmbert@hotmail.com.

   End: 18 January 2006