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SGM Herbert A. Friedman (Ret.)

The United States and its allies dropped over 50 billion leaflets on Vietnam. Many of them were safe conduct passes. These passes have been used in every war in recent history and were used in Biblical times, during Medieval times, and even in the American Indian wars. It is very powerful form of propaganda. It allows an enemy to defect with the absolute knowledge that he will be treated fairly and his life and safety are guaranteed.

During the Vietnam War, the United States produced a series of safe conduct passes depicting the flag of the Republic of (South)Vietnam with other allied flags, to encourage defection of Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops. These safe conduct passes and their various vignettes also appeared on other airdropped leaflets. The passes and leaflets were produced under the jurisdiction of the Joint United States Public Affairs Office (JUSPAO).

Before there was an Official Safe Conduct Pass

Leaflet SP-41

In the early days of the war before the Allies decided there needed to be an official safe conduct pass, anyone could print one. This caused confusion among enemy troops. Would the pass still be valid, would they receive good treatment, or be shot. Below is a safe conduct pass from Long An province, would it be accepted in a different province? Here is an example of an early safe conduct pass mentioned by Dave Underhill below: The text is:


The military and civil authorities of Long An Province are requested to welcome the bearer of this pass and help him get through to the nearest hamlet, village or district headquarters.

Major Nguyen Ngoc Xinh
Chief of Long An Province

A Vietnamese researcher told me:

This leaflet must have been circulated in the early 1960s. The signed authority is an Army major and Long An Province chief. From 1967 onward, one had to be at least a Lieutenant Colonel to be a chief of the province. By 1973-75, it took a full bird Colonel to be chief of province.

Retired Lieutenant Colonel Dave Underhill told me about the various early safe conduct passes:

Leaflet SP-41 was a safe conduct pass signed by the Chief of Long An Province. Leaflets SP-44, 45, and 46 were safe conduct passes from the Commander of the 22nd Tactical Zone. Leaflet SP-53 was titled Safe Conduct Pass without a signature. It sighted “The Military Revolutionary Council" as the authority for issuing the pass.” Leaflet SP-68 was a Safe Conduct Pass without a signature. It cited “Colonel Doan Van Quang, Commander, 9th Division” as the authority for issuing the pass. There were too many passes by too many units and commanders. We needed something more standardized.

During one trip to Vietnam, I discussed the safe conduct pass problem with our Vietnam PSYOP Detachment Commander. I suggested that he have his people draft a National Safe Conduct Pass to be used throughout the nation. He took a proposed leaflet layout to JUSPAO. They immediately took the project over and assigned it leaflet number SP-893. They adapted the leaflet without adequate staffing, or testing, and incorporated a major defect. It contained bright colored inks on both sides which made it impossible for the recipient to fold in the colored side in order to make hiding the leaflet easier. [Note: the bright color Underhill mentions is a yellow strip at top and bottom on the back of the 5-flag and 7-flag safe conduct passes].

Nevertheless, the leaflet was eventually produced at the rate of one hundred million leaflets per month and dropped throughout the country. Defect notwithstanding, it was a highly successful leaflet used by tens of thousands of Viet Cong and North Vietnamese soldiers. When the problem of too much color was brought up, the decision was made that it was better to go with color on both sides because of its familiarity to the target audience than “risk” the problems associated with a "new" safe conduct pass by removing the bright color from the back side. Eventually, after the withdrawal of United States and other Allied ground forces, the bright color was removed from one side when the last version used in the war, with only the Vietnamese flag, was printed. [Note: The final version with just the single flag on front has no yellow strips on the back]

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A U.S. PSYOP officer collaborates with a Vietnamese officer on the development of a flag leaflet

The main Allied operation using such PSYOP in Vietnam was the Chieu Hoi program. It is usually translated as "Open arms." It is a combination of two verbs, "to welcome" and "to return." The program was first started by President Ngo Dinh Diem in 1963. Diem believed that a defector who willingly came over to the government side was more valuable that one who is taken prisoner. He encouraged the Allies to drop billions of leaflets offering amnesty to those who might rally to the government. In 1969, over 47,000 Viet Cong deserted. During the length of the war, about 160,000 enemy soldiers voluntarily came over to the Government of (South) Vietnam. In War of Ideas: The U.S. Propaganda Campaign in Vietnam, Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado, 1981, author Robert W. Chander says:

A standard certification was used; It was slightly altered in 1967 to include the flags of Thailand and the Philippines as new allies. The serial number on the old version was dropped in favor of President Thieu's signature and photograph as evidence of the official sanction for the safe conduct invitation.

Both Viet Cong and North Vietnamese defectors and prisoners gave Saigon's safe conduct pass high credibility. Many cited it as an influential element in their decision to lay down their arms.

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

Safe Conduct Leaflets: Safe-conduct passes should be recognizable to both enemy and friendly troops. The actions to be taken in order to surrender must be clearly explained to the rebel. Emphasis can be placed on food, shelter, and safety of returning to the government side. Ralliers must be assured of their personal safety. To ensure the efficiency of the safe-conduct pass, the material in it must be standardized at the national level, although the text will be in the dialect of the target group. The pass must be of standardized color, form, and official appearance and be of convenient size for easy concealment.

In past wars the United States used dozens of different safe conduct passes. This often confused the enemy who was never sure which of the many passes were current. In Vietnam the flag pass was selected as the main safe conduct leaflet. In Cease Resistance: It's Good for you, 2nd Edition, 1999, author Stanley Sandler says:

Unlike the situation in Korea, JUSPAO saw to it that there was just one official, standard surrender leaflet, which displayed the flags of the Allied powers fighting in Vietnam, and a happy defector/returnee being welcomed by an ARVN soldier.

The United States began the aerial bombing and leafleting of Vietnam of North Vietnam in 1964, following the Gulf of Tonkin incident. Two South Vietnamese leaders are identified on the leaflets. Nguyen Cao Ky headed a military junta that assumed control in June 1965 following a series of short-lived military regimes that operated after the fall of long-time President Ngo Dinh Diem in November 1963. Nguyen Van Thieu was elected president in 1967. The process of American withdrawal and their replacement with Vietnamese troops ("Vietnamization") began in July 1969. As the American and South Vietnamese position worsened, a cease-fire was negotiated in Paris in January 1973, but it was never implemented. Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese on 30 April 1975.

Looking through the wartime files of the 7th PSYOP Group I saw a rather concise history of the Safe Conduct Passes. This is a bit repetitious but we can never have enough information:

The Safe Conduct Pass is one of the most effective leaflets in use in Vietnam. It is printed and disseminated in 50,000,000 copies monthly. It assures the enemy of a warm welcome, safety, and good treatment. It is signed by the President of the Republic of Vietnam.

The first version of the Pass contained the flags of the Republic and four countries that provided combat / support troops – The United States, Australia, New Zealand and Korea. The first version contained no signature because of the unstable government in the south. When the Philippines and Thailand provided assistance in the form of personnel, the pass was revised to include their flags. By this time the government was rather stable and General Ky signed the pass. The third version changed the signature from General Ky’s to President Thieu after the elections of September 1957.

The comment above says there was no signature because of an unstable government. I am not so sure that is true. On 15 July 1966, the pass was evaluated by 11 returnees (Hoi Chanh) at the National Chieu Hoi Center:

Nine said they would prefer to have a pass with a signature. There reasons were: The Viet Cong tell their troops the pass is from the Americans and not supported by the Government of South Vietnam. The signature would give them a name to whom they could complain if the provisions of the leaflet were not followed. There is some evidence that the common people of Vietnam consider a signature to be a mark of personal responsibility.


Leaflet 153-66

This early version using the same vignette as is found on the back of the 5-flag safe conduct pass was prepared by the Joint PSYWAR Civic Affairs Center of the I Corps Tactical Zone in 1966. Since the 244th PSYOP Company supported the I Corps, they probably printed the leaflet. The front depicts a South Vietnamese soldier with his arm around a Viet Cong fighter, both smiling broadly. The back is all text. The text on the front of the leaflet is:

The Government and the Republic of Vietnam Army are waiting to welcome you with open arms.

The text on the back is:

Why must you die or live an unfortunate or unusual life serving the cruel Viet Cong?

Listen to the appeal of the “Open Arms” and return to the government for a new, free, and prosperous life.


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5 Flag Safe Conduct Pass

All the flag safe conduct passes show a large flag of the Republic of Vietnam at center on the front and, in the earlier versions, smaller flags of allied nations participating in the war. The first was the five-flag pass, showing flags of the United States, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand, in addition to the flag of Vietnam. This leaflet and its variants were produced before 1967. In 1967, a seven-flag version was introduced, showing the additional flags of Thailand and the Philippines. Finally, in 1972, when Vietnamization became the focus of propaganda, all flags except that of Vietnam were removed. Several different forms of propaganda were used on the back side. The original leaflet was given the code 893. Subsequently, the letters "A" through "F" were added to distinguish some of the modifications. The actual leaflets bear no code so this is conjecture on the part of the author. There is some confusion because it appears that the codes were changed as new leaflets with altered images were prepared. For instance, a 7-flag leaflet with Thieu's picture and signature on the back is listed as 893B in an official data sheet dated January 1968. It has the same number in the Chandler book, War of Ideas. However, another data sheet in my possession identifies it as 893C. It is possible that as the Vietnamese leaders came and went and the propaganda text changed slightly the leaflets codes were changed or updated.

We do know from a 6th PSYOP Battalion Facts on Battalion Operations, that 50 million copies of leaflet SP-893 was ordered in December 1967. 10 million were delivered to Da Nang, 10 million to Bien Hoa, 6 million to Nha Trang, 12 million to Can Tho, 6 million to Pleiku, and 6 million to the 360th TWS.

A second document makes this order more clear. To show the popularity of this leaflet, in the one month of November 1967 alone the 6th PSYOP Battalion in Vietnam requested that the 7th PSYOP Battalion in Okinawa print 300 million copies in six different batches of 50 million each, to be delivered on 20 January, 20 February, 20 March, 20 April, 20 May and 20 June of 1958.

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JUSPAO Leaflet SP-972

The above leaflet is interesting because it depicts a Vietnamese holding the 5-flag safe conduct pass. The text is a heartfelt letter from Tran Viet to his friends in the Viet Cong around Quang Nhieu village. His comments are:

I am Tran Viet, a farmer of Quang Nhieu village. I have lived under the control of the Viet Cong, now I have fled to return to the Just National Cause. While living with the Viet Cong I learned that they are a band of bandits who rob and kill the people. They use fine words, but they are only lies. In my opinion, people have the right to love one another and to help one another. They have the right to express their opinions. The Viet Cong, however, do not believe or accept this. Their discipline is severe and cruel. I enjoyed no happiness because I had no liberty. I saw people die because they were denied the most common medicines to treat their diseases. In other words, living with the Viet Cong is like living in Hell.

After I returned to the Government, I pledged to fight to help destroy the bloodthirsty Viet Cong and to defend my country and fatherland.

In this picture you see me holding a multi-colored safe conduct pass bearing the national colors of Vietnam and of the Allied countries which are fighting at our side. I took this pass with me when I rallied to the Government.   

The Five-flag pass front has five flags on yellow-orange background, with text at top in Vietnamese, English, and Korean, "Safe-conduct pass to be honored by all Vietnamese government agencies and allied forces." The back has a drawing of an ARVN soldier with his arm around a Viet Cong guerilla at left, on white background; text on yellow background as on the front in English (top) and Korean (bottom); text on yellow background in Vietnamese at right, "Day la mot tam Giay..." ("This passport is valid and can be turned in through all government agencies and allied forces.").

The Korean texts exist in two styles. In the first, the Korean text is in script on the front and the back. These leaflets are known with horizontal or vertical stamped serial numbers, either 18.5 or 22 millimeters in length, and without serial number. Fifteen million leaflets were printed in Tokyo for the Tet campaign of 1966. It is rumored (but not proven) that the serial numbers were used to identify where the leaflets were dropped. If a defector turned himself in with such a leaflet, his story could be partially verified since the location where the leaflet was distributed was known. If the defector did not provide information, the fact that he found the leaflet in a specific location would alert the allies that an enemy force was active in that area.

Many years after I wrote the above paragraph I was told by one of the PSYOP personnel involved in designing the leaflets:

There was a time when the flag safe conduct passes were coded with the area that they were dropped in. This was so we could identify a surrendering prisoner’s area of operation by the coded number on the safe conduct pass. We could tell where he had been even if he didn’t know the location or had no access to a map and could not identify the area. This was a clever idea but turned out to be a stinker. It relied on the people dropping the leaflets to be extremely accurate and provide an overlay showing the exact spot that the leaflets were dropped. Now remember, we were dropping maybe 100 million leaflets a month. The need for the accurate overlays was mostly ignored and when we got them they were seldom useful. As a result, the attempt at identifying where a leaflet was disseminated by the use of a code number was quickly and quietly discontinued.

The Vietnam Archive Oral History Project interviewed John Hodgin on 3 February 2003. He said about the serial numbers:

Now this is November 1965 and getting to 1966. This was the C-47s. We dropped leaflets and we had loudspeakers. As far as the leaflets, about that time, the B-52s would fly out of Guam on a mission called Arc Light and just completely change a jungle into a bunch of holes by dropping from way high altitude a bunch of bombs. We had the job of being right beside them, flying close to that area while they were doing it. As soon as they would finish, we would go over the area and drop surrender leaflets. Saying, “Hey, you can give yourself up and you won’t get this stuff,” to them. We had those missions with the B-52s that we did often. The one that we are most famous for is the surrender leaflets or Chieu Hoi leaflets. Which were interesting in that they all had serial numbers on them. When we would drop those, we would mark down the serial numbers, which was a group of them from such and such to such and such, and where we had dropped them. The Viet Cong would usually find those and put them in their pocket in case they got captured. They could say, “Hey I was turning myself in or something.” Or for some other interesting reason. Or when they got killed and they got searched they would have them. We were using that, when we would find one of those people, we were using that to find out where they had picked it up, so they could figure out where they were from. It really helped us out there too.

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Block Korean letters, Horizontal Serial No.

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Script Korean Letters, Vertical Serial No.

The second type of leaflet has block-character Korean texts on front and back. It is also known with horizontal stamped serial numbers, and without serial number.

Proofs of the 5-flag Safe Conduct Pass


Black Text


The Yellow Color


The Red and Blue Colors


Multi-Colored Proofs

A set of 11 proofs exists showing the sequence of applications of colors and the cumulative results for front and back.

I have selected a few to show to the reader. These are very rare and I doubt another such set exists. I found an old hand-written description of the proofs that I must have written 30-40 years ago. I don’t know exactly what order I used, assuming there was one. I should mention that the proof paper is whiter than the finished product. The proofs are 152 x 76mm which is the same size as the safe conduct pass. The color variations are as follows:

Front yellow, back blank. Front red, back blank. Front red and yellow, back blank. Front blue, back blank. Front yellow, red, blue, back yellow. Front yellow, red, blue, black, back yellow. Front yellow, red, blue, and black, back yellow, and black. Front black text, back blank. Front blank, back yellow. Front blank, back yellow and black. Front blank, back black text, and image.

An interesting document exists that apparently depicts a proof specimen of the back of the 5-flag leaflet with block Korean text. Beneath the yellow text-box to the right of the soldier and Viet Cong member, there is the signature of an American who apparently approved the vignette of the leaflet.

The back is blank except for official stamp at the left bearing the signature of Nguyen Van Thieu and lines for a date and signature to be added. There is a stamp in the center that says “Approved S3” [Approved - Operation Section] and a place for the date. At the lower right are the numbers “9019.” This document would appear to be an early proof that was approved by both the American advisors and the Thieu government.


A "No color" Blank Back 5-flag Leaflet

I have no idea what this is. It appeared in 2024, a good 7 decades after the original leaflets were printed. Several of these one-sided leaflets were mixed in with some other items that were clearly genuine. One of the leaflets in the group was a very early 1964 reward leaflet for a missing pilot. Another was a folded card issued to troops, "Tips on VC/NVA Mines and Booby Traps." This might have been an early version of a one-sided leaflet, or an early attempt at designing the back of the 5-flag safe conduct pass. I have no idea what it is but I am sure it is genuine and served some purpose in the distant past. Because the back is blank, I thought for a moment that it might be another proof, But the size is a much larger 175 x 88mm on a cream-colored paper. Perhaps it was intended to use this as a leaflet back when a leaflet propaganda message needed to be written and delivered quickly.

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The Ryukyuan Review – Okinawa – 13 January 1967

Because the 7th PSYOP Group was headquartered in Okinawa, much of the psychological warfare products were known. In the newspaper above, the 5-flag safe conduct leaflet is described and discussed.

The vignette of this leaflet was criticized in a “Studies of the Chieu Hoi Program” interview by the Simulmatics Corporation coded CH-15. The interviewee is a 15-year old Viet Cong member who was a member of an Entertainment Group, singing patriotic songs to villagers. She said that: 

This is a bad picture because the Viet Cong is drawn smaller and less attractive than the government soldiers and the Viet Cong would exploit this by saying that they distort the view of the Viet Cong.

When asked if she had ever seen a Viet Cong wearing a hat with a star she replied that she had never seen a Viet Cong wearing such a hat. When asked to read the text she said:

I don't know the meaning of the message on the top of the side with the flags. The words are too difficult.

It must be remembered that this girl was just 15 and possibly not as well educated as the average Viet Cong member.

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Charles Kean Jr.

Specialist Fourth Class Charles Kean Jr. Was a member of the 245th PSYOP Company in Vietnam during the years 1966-1967. He was trained as a U.S. Army Illustrator (Military Occupational Specialty 81E2W. During his tour he supported the 1st Cavalry and the 4th Infantry Division. He flew many C47 leaflet missions and received an Air Crew badge for the time he spent aloft. In this photo he sits inside a 1st Cavalry “Huey” helicopter. Notice that among the leaflets he holds is the 5-flag safe conduct pass. He said about leaflet production:

When we got a request for a tactical leaflet the general layout was determined by the PSYOP commander who then issued directives to his staff. While the artist and varitypist came up with a design for the Commander’s approval; the pressmen, photographers, cutters and other personnel prepared their equipment. After the drawings and text were approved an interpreter translated it into the proper dialect. This could be why we were located on the Vietnamese Army side of the compound. Once the translation was complete, the varitypist would type the message in the appropriate font and the artist would put in the various accent marks since the Varityper didn’t have that capability. After approval of the final product, the leaflet was sent to the photo lab where offset plates were created. They were then sent to the pressmen who immediately printed them. The printed sheets had to be cut by a machine to the designated size and we all got together to cut, box, pack and load the leaflets onto waiting trucks for transportation to the Pleiku airbase or the one at Camp Holloway on the other side of Pleiku village.

Some leaflets came with one side printed, generally on nice paper and in color. These were done either in Korea or Japan or somewhere they had equipment that was vastly superior to anything in Vietnam. We would then print an appropriate message on the other side for distribution. That’s how the full color 5 flag leaflets were done.

The Marine Unit Leader’s Personal Response Handbook

The Marine Unit Leader’s Personal Response Handbook (Winning of Hearts and Minds) 1967-1968 mentions the Chieu Hoi Program and the official safe conduct pass.

A young man by the name of Thiet was for two years an active fighter for the Viet Cong. He listened to the propaganda lectures. He hated all the injustice suffered by his people. To prove his loyalty, he planted mines and would lay on his back in the shadows of a cemetery waiting for an ARVN truck to cross those mines before detonating them. But as the war drew out longer and longer, Thiet was not quite so sure who was the most unjust. As the government forces got stronger it became harder to collect taxes and gather food. Some of his VC friends resorted to assassination of their (his) own people to keep them in line.

One day they put satchel charges next to a schoolhouse and demolished it just to frighten the people. One evening after collecting rice in a hamlet, Thiet and his VC comrades were ambushed by a squad of Marines. Three of his buddies fell but Thiet was in the rear. He dropped his rice and ran. Remembering an old cave not far from there he dove for its cover. He was the only one who made it. Three of his friends were killed. Two were wounded and captured.

From a distance Thiet watched the Marines give first aid to his VC friends. It was not true that the Marines tortured prisoners. His friends were given water and cigarettes. Thiet noticed that the Marines had lowered their weapons as they tended to his friends. Here was an opportunity. Slowly, Thiet inched out of the cave. Taking the safe conduct pass out of his wallet he held the pass up in the air and cried, “Chieu Hoi!” The Marines swung around with their weapons at the ready. They did not see him at first. He raised the safe conduct pass higher and waved it back and forth. “Dung Lai khong toi ban!”, (halt or I shoot) ordered the Marine. Thiet froze. The Marine advanced slowly with his M-16 pointed right at Thiet’s heart. Another Marine came up behind Thiet, snatched his carbine and grenades and frisked him. They neither blindfolded him nor bound his arms behind him. They did, however, use extreme caution with him.

It was all over now. Had he done the right thing? Thiet expected the worst as the Marines led him back down the trail. But strangely, the Marines were very quiet. At their company Command Post the Marines turned Thiet over to the interpreter and Intelligence people. A few hours later he was on a helicopter headed for interrogation. The interrogation was long and thorough. Thiet expected this. He did not expect such decent treatment, however. This threw him off balance. Cleared to go to the Chieu Hai training center at Danang, Thiet listened with new interest to all that was said. At Danang he found several of his old friends who were now working for the government, including an ex-hero of the Viet Minh.

From an Unknown Unit’s Leaflet Catalog

An Upside-Down Leaflet

I am not sure this page should be added to this article. I like to show every odd variation of all the leaflets the U.S. printed, and this is odd simply because some unit somewhere had a specimen of SP-893 in its leaflet catalog in case some other unit wanted to order copies, and for some unknown reason they pictured it upside down. It just seemed odd enough for me to add it.

Peripheral uses of the Flag Safe Conduct Pass

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The Asselta Pass

Notice that Kean mentions that sometimes the leaflets were printed on one side and the other side left blank for a message. This leads me directly to a very exotic 5-flag pass that was used for another reason, and we are not sure exactly what for. Both of these strange passes were found by my old buddy 1SG Garry Arva of the 101st Airborne Division (Ret.). The first oddity uses the back of the standard 5-flag pass with the ARVN soldier and Viet Cong member at the left. At the right below the Vietnamese propaganda message we find the typed name and signature of one John Asselta.

The back of the pass is blank except for the printed message:

The individual whose name appears on the front of this card is authorized to pass through Police and Military Emergency control lines up to the expiration date shown below.


Note that President Thieu’s signature appears on the back of one of the safe conduct passes. This card bears the stamp “Approved S3 2 Jul 70” and the serial number 9019. S3 is military for “Operations.” The expiration date has been typed twice and is “Jul 3 1970” and “Jul 4 1971.”

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The Atkinson Pass

The second oddity uses the back of the 7-flag leaflet with the English and Vietnamese text at top and bottom, the longer propaganda at the left moved to the middle, and adds the seal of the United States War Office at the far right. At the left we find the typed name and signature of Alan Atkinson.

The back of the pass is blank except for the printed message:

The individual whose name appears on the front of this card is authorized to pass through Police and Military Emergency control lines up to the expiration date shown below.


This card bears the stamp “Approved S3 20 May 70” and the serial number 8990. The expiration date has been typed twice and is “May 21 1970” and “21 May 1971.”

I assume these passes were for members of some U.S. Government agency and allowed its members to pass through the lines as they wished, Not unlike the “get out of jail cards” that some of us were issued allowing the use of “unusual personal weapons…possess prohibited items…pass into restricted areas,” etc. I asked my old CIA friends about these passes and they claimed ignorance. I asked Charles Kean who printed many of them and he said:

Never saw any of these before. The front is a standard ready-made design print, but the individualized back is unique. They were probably issued by the Intelligence people to select individuals for covert work. My unit wouldn't see them because when we were in the field we were attached to combat units, not intelligence. Also when we pulled guard duty back at the base, we were never assigned to any of the gates only guard towers or pill boxes around the perimeter.

Understand that these could be complete frauds made up by someone to sell for hard cash to collectors. Personally, I think they are real because everything about them feels right. I don’t like those high serial numbers. They imply 9000 agents. But, propagandists often place artificially high numbers on items to make the enemy think there are more members of an organization than actually exist, or more leaflets than have been found. The U.N. Command printed perhaps 2000 different leaflets in Korea, yet code numbers reach as high as 9000. North Korean intelligence would need to have many agents searching for the leaflets they have missed. In general, I find these passes very mysterious. If any readers care to comment more on these items, I would love to hear from them.

Before we discuss the 7-flag safe conduct pass I should mention that I have seen a lot of correspondence on this subject. Changes to the original pass were discussed for quite a while and I have seen arguments for and against changes. For instance, a 14 August 1966 memorandum is titled, “Proposed alterations in the National Safe Conduct Pass.” Some of the comments are:

As discussed yesterday, it is the recommendation of those of us in your Media Development Section that the National Safe Conduct Pass be altered to include an authoritative signature and if possibly a seal. It is suggested that while this is done, the design of the front also be altered to include the Thai and Filipino flags.

The value of a signature and seal is attested from several sources. The evaluation interviews with Quy Chanh which have been carried out for us by the Planning Office have indicated this. Comments from the 6th PSYOP Battalion in Okinawa have concurred. Tests on safe-conduct passes used in the Korean War, according to Monta Osborne, have brought out the same thing. And conversations with several Joint United States Public Affair Office Field Representatives have evinced the information that the reason that they have in some cases printed local provincial safe conduct passes is that this gives them an opportunity to gain the advantage of using the province Chief 's signature and seal. This was deemed advantageous, precisely because there was no such thing on the National Safe Conduct Pass.

The one disadvantage, of course, is the possibility that in a change of government we would suddenly have an obsolete signature on our hands and would have to change it quickly. It is conceded that in such an event such a signature would be not only meaningless but possibly counter-productive as it would give the Viet Cong cadres something with which to dramatize the instability and unreliability that they allege of the Government of Vietnam.

We feel that this is a tolerable risk. We print and distribute 18 million of these a month, which suggests that each individual pass has a rather temporary life. We could even stand a fair chance of being lucky and catching the change during one of our monthly printings. But even if we are unlucky, the impact of such a change is not likely to last long if the general course of the war does not change.

Such a signature could readily be added to the present format by plating it where the serial number now appears. There is room for the serial number to be printed sideways on the end of the same side of the leaflet. Such a change would be minor enough in the overall recognizability of this standard item.


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7 Flag Safe Conduct Pass

J. A. Koch authored an Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) report in January 1973 entitled: The Chieu Hoi Program in South Vietnam, 1963-1971. He says about the flag safe conduct pass:

This leaflet -- distributed from aircraft by the 5th Air Commandos of the USAF, by the VNAF, and by hand -- proved to be the most effective means of disseminating the Chieu Hoi message. The ubiquitous, multilingual "Safe Conduct Pass" which had literally blanketed South Vietnam has been the most effective of all.

Though there are thousands of other leaflets stressing other themes, the pass is most often described by ralliers during interrogation as the one most seen, the one most conducive to rallying. After one battle during OPERATION PAUL REVERE 90 percent of the VC who could be searched -- the dead, wounded, and captured -- had the leaflets.

During a typical month (March 1969), according to the Vietnam Information Service, 713.4 million leaflets were dropped from planes and 3.3 million distributed by hand. By the spring of 1971 it is estimated that JUSPAO had distributed nearly four billion leaflets in the campaign to persuade "men to rally to the GVN under its amnesty program.

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Chip Decker at left – in the early 1990s at Ft. Rucker, Alabama

Warrant Officer 1 Chip Decker flew the “Huey” helicopter for the 128th Assault Helicopter Co. (Tomahawks) in Vietnam. He told me that in regard to the standard Chieu Hoi leaflet:

I was just 19 years old back then. This is a leaflet I dropped in 1967 in III Corps. I know at least two boxes about two feet square full of the leaflets were dropped from my helicopter. Usually we were working for the Division S2 (Intelligence)> or S3 (Operations) out of Di An. We supported the 1st Infantry Division, the 25th Infantry Division, the 99th Light Infantry Brigade, the 173rd Airborne Brigade and sometimes the Vietnamese Army Division. Di An Base Camp (also known as Di An Army Airfield) was located northeast of Saigon, 13 kilometers northeast of Tan Son Nhut Air Base and 12 kilometers southwest of Bien Hoa.

We would drop the different Chieu Hoi leaflets all the time for the Division and run some of the loudspeaker missions. I would get a mission sheet to go to Di An to pick up leaflets and PSYOP guys would jump on-board and tell us to orbit so they could drop them. The air flow around the belly of the Huey would trap leaflets against the helicopters underbelly skin and when we landed back at Division the rotor wash reacting to the ground surface would blow all the leaflets stuck on the belly all over the division helipad!

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The author holds a full uncut sheet of the 7-flag safe conduct pass leaflets.

When two more nations joined the Allies in Vietnam, their flags were added to the safe conduct pass leaflet. The front has seven flags on yellow-orange background, with large text in Vietnamese at top, "Giay Thong-Hanh" ("Safe Passport"), and small text in English, Korean, and Thai at bottom, "Safe-conduct pass to be honored by all Vietnamese government agencies and allied forces." Back has photograph of pointing ARVN soldier standing next to a Viet Cong defector at right on white background; same safe-conduct message as appears on front, on yellow background, in English at top and in Vietnamese at bottom. Vietnamese text at left center is "Mang Tam Giay..." ("Carry this safe conduct pass to collaborate with the National government and you will be: Kindly welcomed / Assured of your security / Well treated."). The back design accompanying the photograph exists in three styles.

The new pass was not created without controversy. It seems everyone had an opinion of how it should be changed and what should be added. For instance, one recommendation was:

Would there be enough room on the new safe conduct pass to have a small weapons receipt with instructions that the weapon taken from this man are recorded hereon?

A second request was:

It is the desire of COMUSMACV that the statement “this is your path to safety, good treatment, medical care, and food be printed on the back side of this pass. It is further suggested that the back side of this pass contain no color. This may enable the VC to conceal this pass by folding it backside out, giving the appearance of a newspaper clipping.

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Safe Conduct pass with signature of Nguyen Cao Ky

The first has the signature of Nguyen Cao Ky. On most examples, a small number appears at lower left on back, representing the Corps Tactical Zones (CTZ): 1, 2, 3, and 4. The allies split Vietnam up into four military areas. Once again, a defector with such a leaflet could be traced back to the general area where he had been active. Some of the leaflets have no zone numbers. The PSYOP Newsletter, Volume 1, number 4, about 1966 says that:

The serial number formerly printed on each pass have been removed in favor of a simple 1, 2, 3, and 4 to denote the Combat Tactical Zone in which the leaflet was dropped.

The PSYOP Newsletter, July 1967 warns about using the Vietnam flag on leaflets:

Vietnamese find overprinting of the National flag and any indiscriminate use of the flag in propaganda to be distasteful and disrespectful. Therefore, the use of the national flag will be limited to propaganda of significant national importance (for example, the safe conduct pass), and will be used with extreme care and discrimination only after approval of Vietnamese officials.

Nguyen Cao Ky was born 8 September 1930 in Son Tay (North Vietnam). A charismatic young officer, he became popular among Americans when as the Acting Commander of the Vietnamese Air Force in 1963 he was interviewed and photographed in his flight suit, topped off by white scarf. He was quoted as saying, "Americans are big boys. You can talk them into almost anything. Sit with them for half an hour over a bottle of whiskey and be a nice guy." He took part in the coup that led to the overthrow and assassination of President Diem. He was named Prime Minister during the years 1965 to 1967. In 1967 he was elected Vice President running with Nguyen Van Thieu. In 1971, Ky ran against Thieu for the presidency but was forced to withdraw his candidacy. He fled to California in 1975, after the fall of Saigon.

The 7-Flag Thieu Pass with a Viet Cong stamp attached.

Before I leave this seven-flag safe conduct pass with a signature of Nguyen Van Thieu (but not the picture of him) I want to mention an oddity sent to me by a Vietnamese collector. Someone picked up this pass, placed a Provisional Revolutionary Government stamp at the upper left, and then overprinted a short message over it. The Postage stamp was printed by the Viet Cong on 19 May 1970 and shows Ho Chi Minh watering a Kainito plant. It commemorated his 80th birth anniversary. The hand stamp text is:


That makes no sense at all, and the diacritic marks were added by hand which seems to indicate it was done by a Vietnamese. The 7-flag passes were good until 1972 when the new one-flag pass was introduced under Vietnamization. So, what is it? I think someone, for some unknown reason, picked up a safe conduct pass (which were dropped in the millions and quite common), placed a Ho Chi Minh stamp on it, and overprinted it trying to make it look official. Perhaps they were to be sold, or maybe it was just a personal thing. During WWII a US Navy postal person on a destroyer in the Pacific cancelled stamps to show the date, and used the ship name on the cancel to prove that the leaflet was one of those which were being dropped on Japan. That was much more complicated than this operation, but the concept is the same.

The Destroyer McIntyre places a stamp and cancellation on propaganda leaflets to Japan.
Perhaps these were later sold to sailors who wanted to bring home an "official" souvenir.

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Communicating with Vietnamese thru Leaflets

Communicating with Vietnamese thru Leaflets was a 1968 publication on the creation and distribution of propaganda in Vietnam. It was produced by the Field Development Division and the Office of Policy, Plans, and Research of the Joint United States Public Affairs Office (JUSPAO). The 62 page illustrated booklet was written by Monta Osborne with illustrations added by Phil Katz. Monta L. Osborne was the Chief of Field Development Division in Saigon in charge of the Chieu Hoi (Open Arms) program during the Vietnam War. The booklet was issued to Military Assistance Command - Vietnam (MACV) to be issued to field PSYOP personnel. Also offered to Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support (CORDS) and additional copies printed for all new PSYOP officers and civilians assigned to Vietnam.

The 1967 JUSPAO brochure Communicating with Vietnamese thru Leaflets depicts the 7-flag safe conduct pass and tells the reader:

The above leaflet is the National Safe Conduct Pass. Do not title any other leaflet a “safe conduct pass.” But you can say, on any Chieu Hoi leaflet, “You may use this leaflet for safe conduct.”

Never state or imply that a returnee must have a safe conduct pass in order to rally. Tell him he can come in with any leaflet, or, if he cannot find or keep one, without a leaflet. In that case he should yell “Chieu Hoi” as he comes in.

Use the safe conduct pass in connection with every military engagement. From 50 million to 75 million are being produced every month.

Make an effort, by working with and through U.S. Commanders, to insure that every U.S. soldier knows about the Safe Conduct Pass and is convinced that he should honor this and other leaflets used for rallying and surrendering.

Also, work toward complete indoctrination of ARVN troops, members of the regional Forces and Popular Forces, and members of Free World Military Assistance Forces in the absolute necessity of accepting VC/NVA soldiers as PWs and ralliers.

Lieutenant Colonel Dave Underhill was assigned to the 7th PSYOP Group on Okinawa during the Vietnam War. He produced and dropped many of the safe conduct passes using C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft based at Kadena AFB. He told me:

Our printing plant operated 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and printed 100 tons of leaflets a month. We also controlled the printing of an additional 900,000,000 a month by using the Adjutant General's printing plant in Japan, and the United States Information Service Regional Service Center in Manila.  At the peak, a billion leaflets were printed each month. This included 100,000,000 National Safe Conduct Leaflets.  The leaflet was my idea, and used by over 100,000 Vietnamese. 

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Signature and photograph of Nguyen Van Thieu SP-893C
The Data sheet for this leaflet says:

“Safe-conduct pass to be honored by all Vietnamese Government Agencies and Allied forces" in Thai, Korean, and English.

Front: Shows the flags of seven nations--The Vietnamese flag flanked on the left by the US, Australian, and Thailand flags, and on the right by the Republic of Korea, New Zealand and, and the Philippine flag.

Back: Shows the same safe-conduct message in English and Vietnamese, A special message in Vietnamese is signed by Nguyen Van Thieu with his picture. Alongside this is a photo of a detector being befriended by a Free World soldier.

The second variety bears the signature and photograph of Nguyen Van Thieu. The leaflet was developed in January 1968. Nguyen Van Thieu was born on 5 April 1923, in the province of Ninh Thuan. As a young man, he briefly helped the Viet Minh fight the French colonial powers in his native province. He attended the National Military Academy in Hue and joined the French-backed Vietnamese army fighting the Viet Minh. By 1963 he was chief of staff of the Armed Forces of South Vietnam. During the confusion of the mid-1960s, when South Vietnam was wracked by coups, General Thieu became commander of the military region embracing the Mekong Delta. In June 1965, Thieu was appointed chairman of a 10-member military directorate. From there it was a short step to the presidency. He was elected in 1967, and presided over the country for eight years of the war. As the North Vietnamese armies moved south in greater numbers Thieu appealed to President Nixon for more financial aid. Nixon was sympathetic but the United States Congress was not and the move was blocked. Starved of funds, Thieu had difficulty paying the wages of his large army and desertion became a major problem. With the fall of the government to the Communist armies he fled to Taiwan in April, 1975. He died in September 2001 in Boston.

Note: Captain Hammond M. Salley, Infantry, Assistant S-3, 6th PSYOP Battalion, was tasked with the mission of obtaining Nguyen Van Thieu's signature for the new Safe Conduct Pass once he became President. A Vietnamese Officer who “Ham” knew from PSYOP School was one of Thieu’s aides.  The President did not want to sign a blank piece of paper, but finally agreed since the signature was needed for the printing plates.

A Reproduction the 7-Flag Safe Conduct Pass

In April 2023, decades after I wrote this article, I was offered a reproduction of the Thieu-signed 7-flag safe conduct pass. The story was it was made as a prop in a Vietnam movie. The owner could not name the movie. The copy appears to have been made on a photocopy machine in black and white. That is surprising because this leaflet is one of the most colorful made by the Americans. Hopefully these will not be flooding the market in the future.

A Viet Cong fighter surrenders holding a 7-flag safe Conduct Pass wrapped in plastic
in 1969. The South Vietnamese Army would send these up by balloon with firecrackers
attached.  After a certain time, the firecracker would explode and spread the leaflet.

Monta L. Osborne had a long and distinguished government career and was awarded the Distinguished Civilian Service Award by the Department of Defense and the Exceptional Civilian Service Award by Department of the Army. He was the Chief of Field Development Division in the Joint United States Public Affairs Office (JUSPAO) in Saigon in charge of the Chieu Hoi (Open Arms) program during the Vietnam War. After his death his papers revealed some of his thoughts about the program:

The most commonly used item produced by the Field Development Division of JUSPAO is the airdrop leaflet. One example is the National Safe Conduct Pass which features flags of all nations that are providing military support to the GVN. It is signed by the President of the Republic, Nguyen Van Thieu. A total of 75,000,000 of these are dropped each month. Frequently leaflets are printed only on one side, and then sent to the field for local PSYOP organizations to print their messages on the blank side.

The blurry photograph depicts a leaflet box full of 7-flag safe conduct passes
These were being dropped on the enemy by a C-47 in 1967.

William Lloyd Stearman, head the North Vietnamese Affairs Division of JUSPAO (Joint U.S. Public Affairs Office), and head of psychological war operations against North Vietnam and its army says in An American Adventure: From Early Aviation through Three Wars to the White House, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland, 2012:

The most successful leaflets were safe conduct passes in Vietnamese and English that looked official and could come in handy for any NVA soldier who had had enough and wanted to safely surrender. Others were designed to exploit problems in the North and demoralize the population.

There exists a variation of this leaflet in a proof form that was apparently never printed. The proof depicts the back of the leaflet bearing the text “Mang Tam Giay…”but instead of the photograph of the ARVN and Communist soldier, there is the seal of the United States Army (formerly the War Office seal). To the left of the text two signatures of American advisors approve the image.

The back is blank except for official stamp at the left bearing the signature of Nguyen Van Thieu and lines for a date and signature to be added. There is a stamp in the center that says “Approved S3” [Approved - Operation Section] and a place for the date. At the lower right are the numbers “8990.” This document would appear to be an early proof that was approved by both the American advisors and the Thieu government. This leaflet was never printed and certainly a decision was made to use an image of Vietnamese instead of an American seal which would be used by the enemy to point out that the Thieu government was a pawn of the American Army.

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The Viet Cong Return a Flag Safe Conduct Pass in the Movie “Platoon”

The 1986 motion picture Platoon was written and directed by Oliver Stone and is allegedly loosely based upon his experiences as a U.S. infantryman in Vietnam. In one scene, an American soldier goes missing, and his body is later found by his platoon. He had been mutilated and killed, and a 7-flag safe conduct pass is pinned to his body. This leads directly to American atrocities in a nearby Vietnamese hamlet reminiscent of the My Lai Massacre of 16 March 1968.

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Leaflet DV15AH2268

The Vietnamese PSYOP units printed many leaflets that start with the code “DV.” Leaflet DV15AH2268 depicts the same image of President Nguyen Van Thieu as is found on the flag safe conduct passes. The text is:


There will be never a Joint Government in South Vietnam.

The back is all text:


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

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

There will be no Joint Government in the South.

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Signature of Nguyen Van Thieu, without Thieu's photograph

The third 7-flag leaflet depicts the signature of Nguyen Van Thieu, without Thieu's photograph. The Okinawan newspaper "Ryukyuan Review" of 13 January 1967 published an article entitled "7th Psychological Operations group Supports 'Win in Vietnam' Efforts." The front and back of the 5-flag leaflet was illustrated full-sized in the story. The article says in part:

Production of the safe conduct pass and other supporting material is coordinated by the Army's 7th Psychological Operations Group on Okinawa. Material is transported to South Vietnam when tens of millions are disseminated from aircraft and by field units as they pass through the hamlets on operations.

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Warrant Officer Antonio Ojeda

CW2 Antonio Ojeda served in Vietnam and Laos and told me a short story about dropping the 7-flag safe conduct passes:

I was first assigned as administrative clerk to the Senior Advisor. I didn’t have much to do as a clerk, so I was assigned to fly Chieu Hoi dropping missions. I stayed active duty but retrained into Radio Repair. I was subsequently recruited by the Army Security Agency ending up with 265th Radio Research Company, 101st Airborne at Camp Eagle, VN. Several years later I was appointed a Warrant officer with dual Military Occupational Specialties in Commo-Electronics and Target Acquisition Radar. I retired in 1986.

While I was never in PSYOP, we had a PSYOP campaign with Advisory Team 99, 21st ARVN Division at Duc Hoa. I flew in several missions dropping Chieu Hoi leaflets while flying in what I believe was an O1E Birddog piloted by an USAF Lieutenant Colonel attached to our team. My job once we were over our target area was to play a cassette tape over our loudspeakers on the side of the plane and then proceed to drop leaflets such as the flag safe conduct passes until we finished the packs or started receiving ground fire. It was not often that we received fire, but whenever the pilot detected any ground fire, he would make a quick dive then just as quickly vacate the area and head back to Duc Hoa.

From Pacific Stars & Stripes, 29 April 1971:

The subjects of the taped messages varied from asking the people to stop paying Viet Cong extortion money to foreboding omens about the consequences of death far away from home. Other tapes included the voices of friends or relatives that have rallied to the government, completed the first phase of the Chieu Hoi program and become Hoi Chanh. The Hoi Chanh could make a tape and ask his friends or relatives to give up and join him in his new life with the government. The tape was then played over the area where the person's relatives or his friends were located, so they could hear of his pleasant experiences since being united with the South Vietnamese government.

The ID Booklet

The Soldier

The Hidden Safe Conduct Pass

Before I leave the 7-flag safe conduct pass I should mention that many Americans thought that the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese army troops always had a safe conduct pass secreted away somewhere on their body just in case. That could be true. Veteran Mike Hegel mentioned finding a Democratic Republic of [North] Vietnam National “Paper Proof’ Personal ID document issued to citizens. The official stamp on the booklet read Milice of Vinh Phu so we know the province. When Hegel opened it up, he found a 7-flag safe conduct pass folded up inside. I show the booklet, the individual and the pass above. The People’s Army of Vietnam troops sent south were not allowed to carry North Vietnamese identification or other items that may link them to the DRV, but the control was not always strict, and many soldiers and officers managed to smuggle some such personal items. We are not sure about the motive of this person, but my translator said that such an ID could be thought to be helpful in identifying the remains.

The 7-Flag Safe Conduct Pass used as a Sign

We know very little about this sign except that the picture was taken in Vietnam. It does depict the standard 7-flag safe conduct pass. In addition, it has some Korean Text and depicts the symbol of the Korean 9th (White Horse) Infantry Division. The Republic of Korea sent military forces to Vietnam to help the Republic of Vietnam fight Communism. The Korean text appears to be a Chieu Hoi message:

Do you miss your family and freedom?

White Horse

The Vietnamese text has been changed on the safe conduct pass and now also seems to bear a Chieu Hoi message:


will respect the rights of all returnees.

Travel pass

This travel pass is valid at all Republic of Vietnam organizations.

The 1969 Vietnamese propaganda publication: The Free World in Vietnam adds:

Korea ranks second among the Allies in troops fighting in Vietnam. In 1965, elite divisions such as Blue Dragon, Tiger, White Horse, etc., were sent to Vietnam. Korean forces, reaching 50,000 men were responsible for an area covering 68,000 square kilometers in the 2nd Corps Tactical Zone. In the 3rd Corps Tactical Zone, the Korean Combat Engineer Support Group opened roads and built bridges Each Korean unit sponsors a hamlet and visits daily to fix roads, bridges, and houses for the people.

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The 1-Flag Safe “Vietnamization” Conduct Pass

The final flag safe conduct pass is the one-flag variety. This was a symbol of the American policy of Vietnamization. President Richard M. Nixon explained that plan in a 3 November 1969 speech. He said:

The Vietnamization plan was launched following Secretary Laird's visit to Vietnam in March. Under the plan, I ordered first a substantial increase in the training and equipment of South Vietnamese forces. In July, on my visit to Vietnam, I changed General Abrams' orders so that they were consistent with the objectives of our new policies. Under the new orders, the primary mission of our troops is to enable the South Vietnamese forces to assume the full responsibility for the security of South Vietnam.

It was hoped that this policy would eventually enable the United States to withdraw all their soldiers from Vietnam. To increase the size of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN), a mobilization law was passed that called up into the army all men in South Vietnam aged between seventeen and forty-three. In June, 1969, Nixon announced the first of the US troop withdrawals. The 540,000 US troops were to be reduced by 25,000. Another 60,000 were to leave the following December.

Colonel Hoang Ngoc Lung

Vietnamization was explained a bit differently by Vietnamese Colonel Hoang Ngoc Lung, who wrote a monograph titled " Strategy and Tactics" for the U.S. Army Center of Military History in 1983

The enemy’s 1968 Tet General Offensive, although a Communist military failure, resulted in a significant change in U.S. policy toward the war. A reflection of this change was contained in U.S. Defense Secretary Clifford’s statement of 8 April 1968 to the effect that the main responsibility for prosecuting the war would be gradually handed over to the Republic of Vietnam. This policy took shape in the Vietnamization program announced at the Midway Conference on 8 June. The objectives of Vietnamization were outlined by Defense Secretary Melvin R. Laid as follows: To turn over military responsibility to the South by giving it sufficient strength to withstand invasion. To reduce American losses. To maintain U.S. obligations and interests in Asia while heading toward peace.

An official document dated 20 December 1972 states:

The Republic of Vietnam National Safe Conduct Pass depicting the Vietnamese National Flag surrounded on either side by the six flags of the Vietnamese Allies participating in the Vietnam War is rendered obsolete by Vietnamization. This safe conduct pass is replaced by a Safe Conduct Pass depicting only the Vietnamese National Flag, after United States ground combat forces withdrew.

What is interesting is that my old pal from the 7th PSYOP Group asked for permission to keep a bunch of obsolete leaflets and received permission from Captain James D. Davidson, Adjutant. Davidson added to Underhill’s personal letter:

This certificate constitutes authority for Lieutenant Colonel David G. Underhill to retain and dispose of one box of these obsolete passes (approximately 40,000 copies), except that direct sale of the passes is prohibited.

The Author lecturing at an Elementary School Class

David gave me a group of these leaflets and for years when I talked to school children about the war, I would award a mint safe conduct pass to any child that was able to answer a question about the War. If they could tell me who Ho Chi Minh was, or what happened at the Gulf of Tonkin, they got a safe conduct pass to take home.

The front of the final leaflet has one flag on blue background with purple border; brief text in Vietnamese, "Viet Nam Cong Hoa" ("Government of Vietnam") at top, and "Giay Thong-Hanh" ("Safe Passport") at bottom. The Back has photographs of a pointing ARVN soldier standing next to a Viet Cong defector at right and photograph and signature of Nguyen Van Thieu at left. The text in Vietnamese at bottom translates "Safe-conduct pass to be honored by all Vietnamese government agencies". Text in Vietnamese at center is the same as the central text promising good treatment on the seven-pass leaflets. This leaflet was the last in the series. In accord with the U.S. policy of Vietnamization, all the previous 5- and 7-flag leaflets were to be destroyed starting 20 December 1972, when this new leaflet was prepared.

Former TSGT Bob Remel of the 35th Civil Engineering Squadron, 35th Tactical Fighter Wing, recalls what it was like to burn the old safe conduct passes at Phan Rang Air Base in the late spring of 1971. He was a member of the Base Fire Department and Crash Rescue team. He says:

As an Assistant Fire Chief I was in charge of a detail to destroy hundreds of thousands of the old safe conduct passes. They were packed in tight bundles and were extremely hard to burn. We dumped them in a large pit and used a 5000 gallon JP-4 jet fuel tanker truck to soak them. The fury of the fire and the wind caused a lot of loose leaflets to blow all over the area. I managed to run down several of them and sent them home to my wife.

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Leaflet 4-20-68

There is also a tactical flag safe conduct leaflet that depicts the flag of the Republic of Vietnam. It is coded 4-20-68, which indicates that it was the 20 printing order of the 4th PSYOP Group in 1968. The leaflet is aimed specifically at enemy troops in the IV Corps Tactical Zone, also known as Military Region Four – the most southern part of the country including the heavily populated and agriculturally productive Mekong Delta. One side of the leaflet shows the flag of the Republic of Vietnam and the text is English and Vietnamese:

Safe Conduct

Safe conduct pass to be honored by all Vietnamese Government agencies and Allied forces in the 4th C.T.Z.

The other side of the leaflet depicts a friendly American soldier welcoming a returning Viet Cong fighter to the just cause of the Republic. The text is in part:


Carrying this safe conduct pass and cooperating with the Government of South Vietnam will enable you:

To be Honorably Welcomed
To have security is Guaranteed
To be equitably Rewarded


Major General Nguyen Duc Thang
Commanding General, IV Corps, IV Tactical Zone


"Chieu Hoi - The Winning Ticket"

Page 9 depicts a Hoi Chanh who know works with the Armed Propaganda teams

The image of the flag safe conduct pass is so stirring that it was used repeatedly on U.S. official documents and publications. The seven-flag pass is featured on the cover of the Booklet Chieu Hoi - The winning ticket issued to servicemen in Vietnam in 1968 (MACV Command Information Pamphlet 6-68, July 1968), 1969 (MACV Command Information Pamphlet 6-69, March 1969), and again in 1970 (Command Information Pamphlet 9-70, March 1970). The back of the pamphlet shows a small American U-10 aircraft dropping leaflets over Vietnam. Curiously, the 1970 pamphlet is a reprint of the 1969 pamphlet and has the same information with the main difference being that MACV was removed as a sponsor. This booklet explains to the reader the importance of greeting the defectors and treating them well. General Creighton W. Abrams is pictured and quoted:

The Chieu Hoi Program pays dividends to you, the fighting man.  It provides intelligence and it saves lives. It is my desire that every servicemen in Vietnam assist this program whenever he can. Your support of this program will help materially in the defeat of the enemy on the battlefield.

The booklet adds:

What is the Chieu Hoi program? Chieu Hoi (open arms) is the national Viet Cong defector program. It pays off big dividends: It weakens the NVA/VC, it saves American and allied lives, and it can shorten the war.

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A Vietnamese Version of the Same Booklet

Page 11 depicts a Viet Cong fighter waving a Chieu Hoi Leaflet

Help them return easily and safely. (Remember, the Hoi Chanh rallier is not a prisoner of war)

This booklet coded 2964 was developed in November 1968 and designated "Pamphlet: "Serviceman and Open Arms Operations." This 16-page booklet, with full color cover, is designed to explain the purpose, achievement, operational methods, inducement appeals, correct treatment of returnees and the benefits to the soldier, nation and effort for peace of the GVN Chieu Hoi Program to Popular Forces, Regional Forces and to a limited degree, Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces. The purpose is to instruct Regional and Popular Forces concerning “Open Arms” Chieu Hoi Program, particularly reception and treatment of ralliers coming from the enemy-controlled area.

A Korean Version of the Same Booklet

Page 4 depicts a dead Viet Cong Fighter

Actual combat reveals many of the enemy's weaknesses, and the Viet Cong soldier realizes that the training he received was a lie. In other words, they realize that not only do they not have the support of the people, but they are making more and more sacrifices in front of powerful friendly forces, and there is no clear cause for which they are fighting.

This 16-page booklet was developed in January 1969 and designated "Chieu Hoi Booklet (Korean Edition)" and coded 3073. It was adapted by Korean forces from the Military Assistant Command Vietnam Command Information pamphlet 2964. 15,000 copies of the booklet were delivered to the Headquarters Republic of Korea Forces for unit distribution. The booklet’s title in Korean is SERVICEMEN AND OPEN ARMS OPERATIONS. The information document adds:

This 16-page booklet with full color cover, is designed to explain the purpose, achievement operational methods, inducement appeals, correct treatment of returnee, and the benefits to the soldier, nation, and effort for peace of the Government of Vietnam Chieu Hoi Program to Korean Armed Forces in the Republic of Vietnam.

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A Chieu Hoi Folded Wallet Card

The same picture and text was on a small card issued to servicemen to be folded and carried in their wallet. The front of the card depicts the Vietnam seven-flag safe conduct pass and on the back a message from General Creighton Abrams. Inside, there is a text message:

HOW CAN YOU HELP? Give voluntary defectors Chieu Hoi (Not PW) treatment. Segregate Chieu Hoi from PWs. Treat the returnee with respect. Give him a receipt for all weapons that he brings in. Deliver him safely to the unit intelligence officer for prompt debriefing and then promptly to the Government of Vietnam Chieu Hoi Service at the nearest District or Province headquarters.

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Booklet SP-2169

Another small illustrated 21-page propaganda booklet coded SP-2169 and entitled Dairy of a Hoi Chanh (Returnee) depicts a Viet Cong reaching for a propaganda leaflet on the front. Inside, it explains the life that is offered to a returnee by the Government of Vietnam and depicts the front and back of the 7-flag safe conduct leaflet on pages 19 and 20.

There is also a propaganda pamphlet with the entire front of the 1-flag safe conduct pass on one page.

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Souvenir Safe Conduct Pass - Ohio Vietnam Veterans Reunion

An interesting 7-flag safe conduct pass reproduction (Thieu signature and photograph) printed on somewhat thicker paper with slightly brighter colors.  The registration is rather poor.  They were given out in 1989 at the Ohio Vietnam Veterans reunion as souvenirs. 

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Fake Vietnam “Wallet filler” set

This set of fake documents advertised as what you might find in a Viet Cong wallet contains a counterfeit 7-flag safe conduct pass. Once again, know the person you buy such a propaganda leaflet from. The Australian EBay seller asks for a bid of $10 and says in this offer:

New: A brand-new, unused, unopened, undamaged item. See the seller's listing for full details. Set includes: Vietcong Achievement Certificate, Chieu Hoi Trade Arms for Cash Leaflet (Trade that rusty AK for some greenbacks), Chieu Hoi Safe Conduct Pass (For when you've had enough of the revolution, etc.).

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Fake Safe Conduct Passes Printed to Bilk Collectors

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A fake 5-flag Safe Conduct Pass printed in black and white

This 5-flag pass was offered for sale in 2014 with a number of items that seem to be genuine. However, we know this pass was printed in color and in general the color covers the entire front. Here we see that the image seems to be printed on a piece of white paper with a border all around. It is very suspicious and the seller admitted:

I don't know if anything is original… 

Because these Flag Safe Conduct passes are colorful, common and popular among collectors, various forgeries exist. Above are three blatantly poor facsimiles of the 7-flag safe conduct pass (Thieu signature and photograph), printed in pink, red-orange and in green, produced to bilk unknowledgeable collectors.

The flag safe conduct passes were so successful that reproductions of parts or all of the 5-flag and 7-flag safe conduct passes are found on other propaganda leaflets. These show entire fronts or backs or partial vignettes from the fronts or backs. The reproductions are usually reduced in size.

The "Trail" campaign was directed against the military and civilian personnel who use and maintain the Ho Chi Minh Trail. This series of roads and trails twisted for thousands of miles in and around Vietnam and was the main supply route for the VC and NVA. The Allies routinely dropped leaflets (all coded with a "T") over the trail in an attempt to destroy the morale of the enemy. Some of these leaflets show the front or back of various flag safe conduct leaflets.

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Leaflet T-04

Leaflet T-04 depicts a 175 mm cannon on the front. The back depicts the front of the 5-flag safe conduct pass at right, and text at the left:

This gun has not been aimed at you yet. If it had been aimed at you, you would not be reading these lines. This is a 175 millimeter cannon. It shoots a 75 kilogram round more than 30 kilometers and is able to destroy everything in the target area. You are indeed fortunate to escape this terrible fate by finding this safe conduct pass which points the way for you to come across and live under the protection of the government of the Republic of Vietnam.

Over 14 million T-4 leaflets were dropped from the DMZ to Dong Hoi in October and November 1967 and again April and May 1968.

Leaflet T-06

Leaflet T-06 depicts captured weapons on one side. Three million of these leaflets were dropped over the Ho Chi Minh Trail in December 1966 and March 1968. The back is all text with the 5-flag safe conduct pass. The text is:


Your comrades were carrying them a few days ago. But that was before they arrived in South Vietnam and encountered the powerful opposition of the law-abiding South Vietnamese people.

Your chance to avoid the fate they met will come. Look for your safe conduct pass. It will have this symbol.

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Leaflet T-07

The front of the leaflet depicts a B-52 dropping bombs. Curiously, this leaflet appears in at least three different forms.

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One variety is in a horizontal format and depicts a B-52 bomber flying toward the left and dropping bombs. This version is in orange ink on white paper and depicts the 5-flag safe conduct pass.

The second variety is in a vertical format and depicts the B-52 flying toward the right and dropping bombs. This version is printed on green paper and also depicts the five-flag safe conduct pass.

The third variety is in a vertical format and depicts a B-52 bomber flying toward the right and dropping bombs. This version depicts the seven-flag safe conduct pass.

We don’t know the exact breakdown of the numbers, but 15 million T-07 leaflets were dropped on the Ho Chi Minh Trail from August 1967 to April 1968. All three varieties have the same text:


You will never see one of these. You probably won't hear it. It flies too high. It is a B-52 bomber, used by the South Vietnamese people's powerful American allies to blast aggressors out of their hiding places. One B-52 carries 29,700 kilos of bombs and can drop them with pin-point accuracy, dealing certain death to everyone within the target area. The B-52 can strike you at any time during all seasons and weather conditions.

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

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Leaflet T-08

Leaflet T-08 is also very graphic. The front depicts the 5-flag safe conduct pass at the lower right and the text:

You can avoid this fate. Use your safe conduct pass in order to cross the lines to the protection of the government of Vietnam. The pass carries this symbol.

The back depicts a photograph of a dead Viet Cong guerrilla in the mud. The text is:

Why did this young man from North Vietnam come to die here, outside the mud wall of a lonely outpost in Ba Long? His place should have been at his home, in his farm, where his labor is needed to help feed his compatriots in the north. Instead, he has been sent to the South and assigned the hopeless job of storming into an outpost defended by the people of the South. What did he hope to achieve by his suicidal attempt? To "liberate" the people of the South as he had been told by his Communist masters? But why do the people that he is supposed to liberate build mud walls and plant bamboo spikes to keep the liberators out? Perhaps, at the last minute he saw the truth. But, it was too late. The Labor Party has already spent him like an expendable item in its bid to take over South Vietnam.

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Leaflet T-09

A number of these “T” leaflets show photographs of dead Vietnamese. United States policy frowned on such images because it was believed they made the enemy motivated to fight. However, the propagandists in the field believed that they weakened enemy morale and used them quite often. In this case, the leaflet also mentions that the body was left unburied and unidentified; using the Vietnamese superstition that a body not buried with his ancestors will walk the earth in pain and hunger forever. This leaflet depicts a dead body lying in a pond on one side. The back is all text and the 5-flag vignette. The text is:


Unfortunately, it is not. But this is the final resting place; many, many kilometers from the graves of his ancestors, for this young North Vietnamese soldier whose body, along with those of 2,200 of his comrades, were left dead in the plains of Plei Me. His body cannot be identified. His grave cannot be marked, and his soul will never find rest.

You can avoid this fate. Watch for your safe conduct pass and directions to cross the lines to the protection of the Government of Vietnam. The pass will have this symbol.

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Leaflet T-010

Leaflet T-010 depicts a dead North Vietnamese soldier on the ground. The text is:


This young North Vietnamese soldier will never again see the loved one whose picture he clutches. He and 2,200 of his comrades who died with him in the recent battle in the Plei Me area will never celebrate this kind of “victory.”

The back is all text and the 5-flag vignette. The text is:

You can avoid this fate. Watch for your safe conduct pass and directions to cross the lines to the protection of the Government of Vietnam. The pass will have this symbol.


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Leaflet T-011

This leaflet depicts ralliers (defectors) from the enemy who have come over to the Government’s side. The back is text and depicts the 5-flag safe conduct pass. Twenty million orange-colored T-011 leaflets were dropped from the DMZ to Dong Hoi and over the Ho Chi Minh Trail from August to November 1967. The orange color would stand out against the jungle floor. The text is:


Holding gifts presented by officials of one of South Vietnam’s “Open Arms” Centers; these men are no longer fighting their fellow Vietnamese. The Republic of Vietnam offers a warm welcome to those who will voluntarily leave the ranks of the aggressors and join the cause of those who defend their independence. More than 25,000 former Viet Cong and North Vietnamese soldiers have done so.

You can do this too. Watch for your safe conduct pass and directions to cross the lines to the protection of the Government of Vietnam. The pass will have this symbol.

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Leaflet T-012

Leaflet T-012, a Trail leaflet, depicts a dead North Vietnamese Army soldier on one side with the text: 

Do you want to be used as a Chinese bullet shield and die in vain like this?

The back depicts the Chieu Hoi 5-flag safe conduct pass and the text:


Your death is only a matter of time.

But after you die, who will feed your wife and children at home?

Who will take care of your parents who are already old and weak? Will you be able to rest peacefully?

There is one way out of this dilemma. Watch for your safe conduct pass and directions to cross the lines to the protection of the Government of South Vietnam. The pass will have this symbol:

Ten million of this leaflet were printed and disseminated.

Perhaps one of the greater achievements of the small Flag safe conduct passes was the defection of Lieutenant La Thanh Tonc of the North Vietnamese Army on 20 January 1968 to the Marines at Khe Sanh Combat Base. The story is told in the January 2005 issue of Leatherneck by LTC James B. Wilkinson (Ret.). The author explains that Tonc provided the general battle plan of the NVA forces and the order of battle. He pointed out that the plan was to take Hills 861 and 881S. Thereafter, the major attack to seize Khe Sanh would commence. This assault would be supported by heavy artillery, which had been laboriously dug into Co Roc Mountain in Laos. Khe Sanh was to be their most important effort since the United States entered the war, with General Vo Nguyen Giap in command. The Marine’s victory at Khe Sanh can be attributed in part to the information gained from this valuable Chieu Hoi.

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 Sanh position.”

At the same time, JUSPAO was dropping similar leaflets over the jungles of South Vietnam. These were generally coded with the letters "SP" (Special Project) and a number in the early years of the war. Since it was always the American desire that all PSYOP should appear to come from the government of Vietnam, the letters "SP" caused a problem. That was a sure sign that the leaflet was an American product. In later leaflets, the letters were removed and the codes were only numbers.


CP-04 depicts a dead communist soldier on the ground. The exact same image was produced to be dropped along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, with the code T-10. That message was different and said on the front: “Victory at Plei Me? This young North Vietnamese soldier will never again see the loved one whose picture he clutches. He and 2,200 of his comrades who died with him in the recent battle of Plei Me will never celebrate this kind of victory.” The head of the dead soldier was used on leaflet 2398 with the title “Is this Viet Cong soldier sleeping?

Leaflet CP-04 says on the front:


The back is a long text:


Can you identify this North Vietnamese soldier? He will never see this photo with his shrinking body. This man, and his 2000 accomplices were killed near Plei Me in vain. They were victims of the VC political cadres, who had told them the South was largely liberated, and it was enough to beat the Americans up to end the war.

What those cadres did not tell them was all they could liberate was the jungle where they had to live in hiding like hunted animals. Those cadres did not tell them that apart from the bravery of its soldiers, the ARVN also enjoyed strong support from forces of the Free World. Anybody who believed in the propaganda of the VC political cadres and infiltrated to the South will face death.

You can escape death. You can pick up your safe conduct pass. Save them so you can show them to the ARVN or allied forces whenever you have a chance to rally to the side of the Nationalist Government. You will be warmly received and taken care of with a brotherhood, and you will be able to return to your loved ones.

The 5-flag standard Vietnam safe conduct pass is also displayed on the back of the leaflet.

The leaflets coded “CP” are extremely rare and were highly classified. They were used in Cambodia by American troops that were not supposed to be there.

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Leaflet CP-09

The CP stood for the classified operation name “Camel Path.” These leaflets were not to be mixed with other leaflets and were only to be dropped over Cambodia. And of course, the words “Camel Path” were not to be spoken. The leaflet is text at the top with an arrow pointing to the official 7-flag safe conduct pass used in Vietnam. The text on the front is:

You can avoid this hopeless fate. Use the pass to cross the front line and come back to live under the protection of the Government of Vietnam. The pass bears this symbol.

The back of the leaflet depicts a dead North Vietnamese soldier and the text:

Why did this young man from North Vietnam come to die here, outside the mud wall of a lonely outpost in Ba Long? His place should have been at his home, in his farm, where his labor is needed to help feed his compatriots in the north. Instead, he has been sent to the South and assigned the hopeless job of storming into an outpost defended by the people of the South. What did he hope to achieve by his suicidal attempt? To "liberate" the people of the South as he had been told by his Communist masters? But why do the people that he is supposed to liberate build mud walls and plant bamboo spikes to keep the liberators out? Perhaps, at the last minute he saw the truth. But, it was too late. The Labor Party has already spent him like an expendable item in its bid to take over South Vietnam.

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Leaflet 43

Leaflet 43 was dropped during the time that the United States was bombing North Vietnam and depicts a vignette from the standard safe conduct leaflet on one side with the text:

Compatriots; tell your friends and relatives in the army that if they go South: “Have the courage to leave the aggressor forces. Go to the Armed Forces of the Republic of Vietnam or Allied Forces. Look for passes like these that guarantee good treatment and a chance to return home safely.”

The other side is all text:


Thousands of young men in the Army of North Vietnam are being sent to kill your compatriots in the south.

They cannot always let you know before they leave.

Once they leave, they have no way of coming back to the North.

So they must stay in the South to die of disease or be killed in battle.

Thus is the fate of those who go South.

However, there is a way, THE ONLY WAY, for them to return home safely:

They should have the courage to oppose the shameful war waged by the Lao Dong Party to take over South Vietnam. They should go to the Armed Forces of the Republic of Vietnam or the Allied Forces. They will receive an honorable welcome. They will have a chance to return to the North.

They will find safe conduct passes as they travel South to help them carry out their legitimate intention.

However, with or without a pass, they can leave the aggressor forces. They will be well treated. They will live to return home.

This leaflet was dropped on nine occasions between March and June 1966. 27,350,000 leaflets were dropped in the Red River Delta, Hanoi, Tranh Hoa, Ba Don south to the DMZ, Ha Tinh and Sam Song. Additional leaflets were dropped from September to November 1967.

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Leaflet Q-225

I added this very strange leaflet because it uses the standard image of a Viet Cong and Allied soldier, and more because it has the unknown code “Q.” I have not seen many of these “Q” leaflets and have no idea of who printed them. The front of the leaflet shows the usual pair and the text:

Please Return Immediately

Chieu Hoi

The text on the back is:

Ever since the Chieu Hoi program began, the Government and the Armed Forces of the Republic of Vietnam have constantly appealed to you to return to our nation’s just cause. A number of you have already rallied and are now living peaceful, happy lives with their families.

Seize this opportunity and immediately abandon the ranks of the Viet Cong or the National Liberation Front. Return to the Nationalist side and you will be guaranteed a quiet, peaceful, honest, and happy life with your family.

If you want to enjoy such happiness, all you need to do is to present yourself to the nearest Republic of Vietnam Government or Military installation, and you will be immediately accepted. The Government and the Armed Forces of the Republic of Vietnam stand ready to greet you.

Although we know very little about this leaflet, I have seen a letter dated 2 July 1966 that states:

As of 10 February 2966, about one million of these leaflets have been dropped on 45 sorties by U-10 aircraft. Areas and quantities dropped are attached.

29 locations were attached to the letter, a few of them are: Duc Pho – 52,000, Ha Thanh – 40,000, Issued to USMC – 20,000, Operation Secret Trail – 20,000 and Operation Hot Springs – 48,000.

The same image but without any text is also found on leaflet 246-66-68. Some of the text on the back is:

To members of the 274th VC Regiment:

The people of South Vietnam are ready to receive you with open arms under the Chieu Hoi Program. Use the confusion of battle with US forces to rally to the Government of Vietnam. Leave the VC ranks and hide. Then, when you have a chance, rally to the nearest Allied or Government of Vietnam unit. You will be well treated and received warmly….

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Leaflet 244th (Q) 018-67

This leaflet was printed by the 244th PSYOP Company in 1967. It seems to be a fairly early version of the image of the Viet Cong and Allied soldier, in this case a Korean Marine. The 244th PSYOP Company served I Corps initially from Da Nang. The unit was subsequently relocated to Nha Trang (in II Corps), with a detachment in Quang Ngai in I Corps. The text on the front is:

Our people should cooperate with the Korean Marines in order to eliminate the Viet Cong

The back of the leaflet is a fairly direct threat which basically says, "Cooperate with the Korean Marines or else." The text is:

The Korean Marines have come here to help the South Vietnamese people. The Korean Marines are now conducting reconnaissance missions and patrols in your villages and out on the front lines to look for the Viet Cong. If you help, conceal, or cooperate with the Viet Cong, allowing them to covertly shoot at the Korean Marines to kill or wound them, your village will inevitably suffer terrible consequences[retribution].

You should cooperate with the Korean Marines when they enter your village to eliminate the Viet Cong for the sake of your own self-preservation.

Curiously, I was talking about the Koreans with Vietnam Vet Darrell Bain, and he said:

I like the way the Korean Marines handled their sector. Anytime they got fire from a nearby village, they simply went in and leveled the place. It may not have made many friends but they sure got rid of a lot of enemies.

Apparently, the Koreans were not to be trifled with.

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Leaflet 147

This leaflet depicts a happy Vietnamese family eating a meal in front of their home while watching from the woods is a skeletal starving Viet Cong guerrilla. The text on the front is:

This or this?

The back depicts the five flag safe Conduct pass and the message:

As you were told previously, you do not have much time left to choose. Either you can follow the example of 25,000 of your former comrades who have used the Pass to return to build a peaceful and prosperous life, or you can remain behind to await a painful death and a life filled with danger. Those who remain behind will never know when more bombs will fall. Use this National Pass to quickly return to the cause of justice!

Leaflet SP-939

This leaflet is a combination of the front and back of the 5-flag safe conduct pass and the photo of a family. This leaflet is also found in red color. We will see this combination again in the next few leaflets. There is no text on the front. The back is all text with a short message. Notice that although the leaflets are dropped on the Viet Cong, it claims to be a message for their mothers and wives. In fact, it reminds the Viet Cong that leaflets are constantly dropped and you can take one and use it at any time. The text on the back is:



You need not worry about safe conduct passes for your loved ones. The government is distributing more and there will be enough for all.

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Leaflet "SP-953"

Leaflet "SP-953"depicts both the front and back of the 5-flag leaflet and a photograph of a Vietnamese wife and children. Text on the front is:

Safe conduct passes are more valuable than gold as they can save the lives of those you love.

The back is all text:


Keep all the safe conduct passes distributed by the Government which has the same pictures as on this leaflet. Each safe conduct pass is an official government document and has a number which has officially been registered in a book. These passes will be of value to VC soldiers when they want to use them to return to the National Government. Keep many of these to save the lives of your husbands, sons, and friends. Give them these when they come for a visit, or bring these to them if possible. These small safe conduct passes are more valuable than gold, as each one can save the lives of those you love."

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The “Smaller Variation” Leaflet 953

There is a second variation of this leaflet that bears the same code number. The changes are not what we would regularly expect. The photograph and flag safe conduct pass leaflet front have not been changed, but the flag leaflet back was broken up into three different images of the flags and the text at left which is two lines on the regular leaflet has been made into three lines in the variety. The original version is 8.5 x 3 inches. There is no explanation for this change but leaflets fall into characteristic patterns according to size. They probably wanted to take this long leaflet and shorten it into the standard 6 x 3-inch Vietnam leaflet to insure more leaflets delivered to the target audience.

The entire concept of leaflet sizing is an interesting one and a constant argument during the Vietnam War. I have seen correspondence where changing the size of a standard leaflet from 6 x 3-inches to 5.25 x 2.83-inches would save $80,000 because more leaflets could be printed on standard paper sheets with less waste. The fact that the leaflets would not fall at the same speed or drift the same way was of no concern to the person who did the math and worried only about the cost. This debate went from the printing plant in Manila to JUSPAO in Vietnam. The argument seems to have been settled in the PSYOP Newsletter of 15 July 1968 in an underlined sentence:

For aerial leaflet dissemination throughout South Vietnam, the 6 x 3-inch leaflet on 20 and 16 pound paper are considered superior to all other leaflet sizes.

My friend, retired Lieutenant Colonel Dave Underhill wrote the publication Low, Medium and High Altitude Leaflet Dissemination Guide. I paraphrase his very technical comments:

Printing the 6 x 3-inch leaflet results in extending the spread on the ground. The 20-pound paper leaflet falls at a rate of 2.5 feet per second. The most common leaflet used by the 7th PSYOP Group in its printing support for Vietnam is the 6 x 3-inch leaflet in 20 pound paper. This is also the size of the safe conduct pass used throughout Vietnam. It has a spread factor of 1.11 times the distance to the center of the leaflet mass. (Plus an addition of one half the drop altitude caused by the spread in still air effect). I normally disregarded this. At low altitude it is negligible.

The 8.5 x 2.83-inch leaflet has a falling rate of 1.8 feet per second on 16 pound paper. It has favorable dissemination characteristics but has a major disadvantage that when stronger winds prevail the leaflets cover a much larger area. That was the advantage we were looking for over North Korea and North Vietnam. We were using a strategic message for the targets and were looking for increased target area coverage knowing full well the density was low. 10 million 8.5-inch leaflets would weigh 10 tons, or a ton per million. As a rule of thumb, we used a ton a million or ten million per C-130 load and require one C-130 aircraft. Reducing the size to 6 x 3-inches would reduce the weight to 1,038,000 leaflets per ton at 519 leaflets per pound on 20 pound paper, or one C-30 load per ten tons of leaflets).

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Front and Back of Leaflet SP-894.

Leaflet SP-894 is identical to SP-953 except that in leaflet 894 the text is handwritten and in leaflet 953 the text is typewritten. Notice that the code on this leaflet is 894 although the JUSPAO records list it as SP-894.

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Leaflet SP-1539

There are three varieties of the SP-1539 leaflet. The one we show above with the code “SP-1539 1st A.C.” depicts a cartoon of an ARVN soldier with his arm around a Viet Cong fighter (from the back of the 5-flag pass), with the addition of a 1st Cavalry patch at the right. The back is all text. PSYOP troops were assigned to frontline combat units and worked closely with them. In the case, the 1st Cavalry would have requested a leaflet showing their insignia to identify themselves to Vietnamese civilians and perhaps cause fear and trepidation in the hearts of the Viet Cong insurgents in their area. The text is:


You can turn yourself in to a Government of the Republic of Vietnam (GVN) official or to a GVN outpost. You can also contact GVN or allied soldiers. They are prepared to receive you.

No matter what the situation, for your own security you should follow the following instructions:

1.-Hide your weapons somewhere, turn yourself in, and then lead GVN soldiers to the place where you hid the weapons in order to receive your reward.

2.-When you turn yourself in to an armed unit or an armed government official, come in during the daylight hours and raise your hand to demonstrate your good will. If you have a government pass or leaflet, present it.

3.-You can turn yourself in even if you do not have a leaflet. When you turn yourself in, hold your hands high in the air to help GVN and allied soldiers understand that you want to return to our just cause

Insignia of the U.S. 1st Air Cavalry Division

Version 2 Front

Version 2 Back

The second version has the same cartoon of an ARVN soldier with his arm around a Viet Cong without the 1st Cavalry patch. Once again the back is all text.

A heartfelt letter from The Chief of Province, Medic, Major, Chair of the Return Committee of the Gia Đinh Province.

To the servicemen in the ranks of the NLF of South Vietnam.


On this anniversary of the death of the Hung Kings, Major General Ngyen Cao Ky, Chairman of the Central Executive Committee, has solemnly announced to the Nation the policy of Great National Unity aiming at the achievement of three principles: The People, People's Harmony, and People's Progress.

Regarding Returning, the Great National Unity policy calls for the abandonment of hatred. All who had lost their way upon returning to the national community shall be invited and accorded every civil right as stipulated in the Constitution of the Republic of Vietnam. The following event will testify to it: During the last village-level elections, returnees participated in voting and ran for office, and quite a few of them have been elected.

Therefore, within the policy of Great National Unity, why should you refrain from reuniting with your family and joining the national community?

As a Chief of Province and Chairman of the Return Committee of the Gia Dinh province, I eagerly call on you to return to us. I have ordered all military and political authorities of the province to prepare for you a warm reception and devoted support upon your return. You may use this paper as a safe pass.

Cordially yours,

Chief of the Gia Dinh province, Medic, Major

Bui The Cau

Version three front is identical to Version 2 front.

Version 3 back

The third variety of this leaflet depicts the same cartoon of an ARVN soldier with his arm around a Viet Cong, but the back shows a despondent Viet Cong soldier sitting under a tree, and a map of the Cu Chi area, the site of a notable battle where the Viet Cong took major losses. The text above the map is:

What is your location? Find your way to the Hau Nghia province!

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Leaflet SP-2209

Another JUSTPAO leaflet is coded "SP-2209." It depicts the photograph of a pointing ARVN soldier standing next to a Viet Cong defector (from the back of the 7-flag pass) at the right and a propaganda message at the left:

TO THE PEOPLE IN THE COMMUNIST RANKS. When returning to the national cause, you will be welcomed warmly and treated kindly by the government. You will be reunited with your family and given medical treatment if you are sick. You will be rewarded if you guide us to any hidden weapons or bring us weapons information. You will enjoy other rights and privileges to start a new life for you and your family.

The back is all text:

INSTRUCTIONS TO RETURN TO THE NATIONAL CAUSE. Friends, you may report to any official at any Vietnamese government office, or to any of the armed forces of the Republic of Vietnam or the Allies. They will be glad to receive you. But, for your own safety, please follow the procedure below:

1. Hide your weapons. You can later guide the Republic of Vietnam armed forces to their location for a reward.

2. If you report to a military unit or a government official and you are carrying a weapon, please do so during daylight. To show your good faith, you should produce your identification card or this leaflet if you have one. But, if you do not have a leaflet, report to us anyway.

3. When reporting, please raise your hands above your head to show that you sincerely wish to return to the nationalist cause.

The 6th PSYOP Battalion printed 15 million copies of leaflet SP-2209 on 5 January 1968 and again on 5 February 1968. 4 million were delivered to Da Nang, 4 million to Bien Hoa, 2 million to Nha Trang, 4 million to Can Tho, and 1 million to Pleiku each time.

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Leaflet SP-2208

Curiously the same image appears on leaflet 2208 as 2209, but 2208 has a blank back and the message on the back of leaflet 2209 INSTRUCTIONS TO RETURN TO THE NATIONAL CAUSE is on the front of leaflet 2208. Leaflet 2208 was printed in October 1967.

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Leaflet "SP-2590"

A fourth JUSPAO leaflet is coded "SP-2590." It was dropped over "contested areas" in May 1968. It depicts the entire back of the 7-flag pass (Thieu's signature only). The back is all text:

To Officers and Soldiers in the NVA in south Vietnam. What you expected has come. The Government in Hanoi and the United States will talk. The talks will begin in Paris on May 10, 1968. Don't continue to fight. You may meet death needlessly. Return to the people and armed forces of the Government of Vietnam. You will be welcome and given a peaceful and happy life like 95 of your comrades from Battalion 8, Regiment 90, Division 342B who just rallied at Hue - Danang.

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Leaflet 1389A

This leaflet was part of a mix that we mention just below this entry. It depicts the back of the 7-flag safe conduct pass usually signed by Thieu or Ky on the front. The back is all text. Although it does not bear the “CP” code, we know it was dropped on North Vietnamese troops in Cambodia. The text on the front is:

To friends on the other side of the front line

You will be treated deservedly once you leave the Communist ranks to return to the Country and the Nation. You will live in peace under the protection and help of the government of the Republic of Vietnam.

You will be greeted as loved ones by your compatriots. You will be provided all articles for everyday use until you will have had a new life. Should you bring in a weapon, you will be rewarded a monetary amount adequate to the value of the weapon.

Another JUSPAO leaflet with the flag safe conduct pass vignette is SP-1049. There are certainly many others.

Leaflet 1389

This would seem to be the first version of the leaflet, later replaced with 1389A. The text is the same on both leaflets. Perhaps there is a very fine error that I cannot see. At any rate, 1389A seems more common than 1389.

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Leaflet "146-66-R" (3 x 6-inch version)

The code for leaflet 146-66-R  indicates that it was prepared in 1966 and that it is a reprint of a previous similar leaflet. In fact, the leaflet was prepared in both the standard 3 x 6 inch size and in a larger 4 x 6 inch size. In both leaflets a B-52 Stratofortress is shown dropping bombs on the front. The back of the smaller leaflet depicts the front of the 7-flag leaflet at the lower left. In the larger leaflet, There are two different backs.

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Leaflet 146-66-R (4 x 6-inch version – 5-flag image)

In one version the back of the leaflet shows the ARVN and VC as friends found on the back of the 5-flag leaflet.

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Leaflet 146-66-R (4 x 6-inch version – 7-flag image)

On the second version of the larger leaflet we see an image that appears to be the back of the 7-flag Nguyen Cao Ky signature leaflet. Both of the larger leaflets have the same message although the font is slightly different:

This is the Mighty B-52.

Now you have experienced the terrible rain of death and destruction its bombs have caused. These planes come swiftly, strongly speaking as the voice of the Government of Vietnam proclaiming its determination to eliminate the Viet Cong threat to peace. Your area will be struck repeatedly, but you will not know when or where. The planes fly too high to be heard or seen. They will rain death upon you again without warning. Leave this place to save your lives. Use this leaflet of the Government of Vietnam National Safe Conduct Pass and rally to the nearest government outpost. The Republic of Vietnam soldiers and the people will happily welcome you.

The 6th PSYOP Battalion printed 10 million copies of leaflet 146-66-R on 15 January 1968. 2 million were delivered to Da Nang, 2 million to Bien Hoa, 1 million to Nha Trang, 2 million to Can Tho, 2 million to Pleiku, and 1 million to Saigon.

A Vietnamese friend looked at the text on the back of this leaflet and thought there was an error. He said the title was, “Here is the giant rocket launching aircraft B-52.” Of course the B-52 generally dropped bombs rather than launch rockets so that would seem to be a problem. He also pointed out that one line was “Use this leaflet, or a safe conduct pass,” and he thought it should have said “Use this leaflet as a conduct pass…” That could be an error, or since the image of the “official Vietnam safe conduct pass” is at the right, the message could mean use this or the leaflet that we show to the right. We will never know, but these little oddities of speech and translation are always interesting.

An old document from the 7th PSYOP Group says in part:

Originally this series (146 and 147) was started by the 7th Group element on temporary duty in Vietnam. The leaflet was made by the 6th Battalion before the arrival of the 4th PSYOP Group and the implementation of the practice of identifying leaflets with a Group or Battalion number. Examples are 146-66-R and 147-66-R. The leaflets were prepared prior to 15 October 1965 when USABVAPAC became 7th PSYOP Group. Suffix “R” indicates a remake of the original leaflet. The number 66 indicates the year 1966. The 7th PSYOP Group equipment and most personnel in Vietnam were absorbed by the 6th PSYOP Battalion upon its assignment to Vietnam. The Vietnam Detachment, 7th PSYOP Group, remained a separate element from the 6th PSYOP Battalion.

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Leaflet "147-66-R"

The final leaflet we will discuss is 147-66-R, it was also printed in 1966 and is a reprint of an earlier leaflet. Like leaflet 146-66-R it appears in two sizes, 3 x 6 inches and 4 x 6 inches. The front of the leaflet has a photo depicting the devastation of  multiple bombs exploding. the text on the front of the leaflet warns:


The back of the leaflet is all text with the exception of a small picture depicting the back of the 7-flag Thieu signature leaflet. The text on the back is:

You have been warned before, these aircraft will come back to give quick death, you all do not have much time to make another choice.

Follow the example of 70,000 citizens that have used the Safe Conduct Pass and returned to a better  life full of peace; or stay here for death, heartbreak, and sudden danger.

Those people who stay will never know when the bombs will fall. Be smart, don't delay again. Use the Safe Conduct Pass of the Republic like the one printed on this leaflet, and quickly return to the just cause.

The ANZAC Memorial, Australia

A second variety of the leaflet is identical on the front depicting the bursting bombs, occurs in the two sizes mentioned above, with identical text, but on the back, instead of the flag side of the safe conduct pass, depicts the side showing the Allied and enemy soldier.

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The Safe Conduct Pass Vignette Reappears

In 2010, to mark the 35th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War, the tiny island nation of Niue used the image of the Vietnam National Safe Conduct Pass on a two dollar denomination one-ounce silver coin. 5,000 of the coins were minted and depict the raised images of the soldiers of the Republic of Vietnam and People’s Army of Vietnam. To make the coin more noticeable, the flag of the Republic appears in full color. The coins were sold for $140 (New Zealand), about $98 U.S.

We have illustrated a very small percentage of the leaflets that use the flag safe conduct pass as part of their propaganda message. The author is always interested in hearing about others that were brought back from Vietnam. Interested readers are encouraged to write to him at