THE CHIEU HOI PROGRAM
OF VIETNAM

SGM Herbert A. Friedman (Ret.)

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The above leaflet depicts a Viet Cong guerrilla holding an Allied Chieu Hoi leaflet and surrendering to government forces. The text below the image is:

The entire people welcome the cadres and soldiers back into the national family.

[Note]: images from this article were used in a WPSD Paducah, Kentucky, TV news series called “The Wall that Heals.”

This is a subject that requires an entire book to explore in depth. The Chieu Hoi (Open Arms) program was the biggest and most expensive psychological operation (PSYOP) campaign of the 10-year Vietnam War. It is impossible to cover every aspect of such an all-encompassing program. We will just look at some general concepts and illustrate leaflets that show the many themes of the operation.

Perhaps we should start with an in-depth look at the term. You will notice that I use the "Open Arms" translation for Chieu Hoi in this article. An expatriate civilian English teacher who prefers to be called Tran Ky Lan told me that in 1963 when that program was launched, he was moonlighting as the English-language copy editor for Saigon's "semi-official" news agency Vietnam Press. He needed to translate the name of the new program but "Chieu" was usually the first part of many different compound words or phrases, some that implied embracing ideas like welcome, enticement, recruitment, enlistment, reception, entertainment, appeal, and signboard. The other part, "Hoi" was easily understood in the sense of a return (perhaps to home) or a restoration (to life after illness). He continued:

So, literally, what were options to translate the new program's name? "Welcome Back?" "Enticed to Return?" You can't do it literally. We faced a deadline, and the first thing that came to mind from that brainstorming was "Open Arms". And that's stuck ever since. I have no idea what English name US officials used among themselves while drafting the program with their Vietnamese counterparts, but thanks to first publication by Vietnam Press, "Open Arms" became the program's "official" English name as far as the Saigon government and most US organizations were concerned. "Bras Ouverts" became its French name.

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Grunt

During the Vietnam War a humor magazine called Grunt was very popular among the troops. I chose to show this cover because we see some happy Viet Cong on the front, and the one at the far right has a Chieu Hoi surrender leaflet attached to his uniform. If things go bad he is ready to turn himself in for a hot shower and a good meal. I also like the soldier at the far left who is holding a ticket to a Bob Hope show.

The history behind the "Chieu Hoi" phrase is not widely known. The Headquarters, USMAC-V Office of the Psychological Operations Directorate Newsletter dated 11 December 1967 says, "In the 14th century, King Le Loi led the Vietnamese people in their struggle against the Minh dynasty of China. Amnesty was offered to certain civil prisoners if they would fight for King Le Loi against the Minh. The amnesty offer included a phrase similar to "Chieu Hoi". The phrase "Chieu Hoi" is a combination of two verbs "to welcome" and "to return." Celebration of Le Loi's victory is on the 22nd day of the 8th lunar month (Gregorian calendar equivalent to late September)."

Midshipman Jason Thomas Chaput of Annapolis adds detail in a 2000 thesis:

Though almost entirely carried out by the Government of South Vietnam, for its duration, the Chieu Hoi Program was clearly a foreign-inspired endeavor. Begun in 1963, the program was primarily the result of the efforts of two foreigners, Sir Robert Thompson and Rufus Phillips. Thompson headed the British Advisory Mission to Vietnam.

[Author’s note: Many years ago when we studied and taught the lessons of the successful military resistance against Communist-inspired rebellions, the three examples referenced in the literature were Malaya, the Philippine Islands, and Greece. Each of these guerrilla defeats was caused by a different circumstance. Readers who are interested should study these government’s victories. Sir Robert Thompson is often credited with bringing the Chieu Hoi concept to President Ngo Dinh Diem. He had taken part in the fight against the Malayan insurrectionists and was considered an expert on the subject].

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1968 MACV PSYOP Guide
Note the image depicting two Vietnamese in a restaurant reading Chieu Hoi literature.

Curiously, the Americans also took credit for the origin of the Chieu Hoi program. A government booklet entitled Chieu Hoi and National Reconciliation says:

The Chieu Hoi program originated in the minds of the Agency for International Development (AID) personnel in 1962 who were familiar with the experience of Philippines President Magsaysay and the Armed Forces Economic Corps (EDCOR) program against the HUKs in the early 1950s. They sold the idea to the GVN with support from other members of the country team, and the GVN officially launched the program in 1963.

Apparently, when an idea is successful, everyone wants the credit.

Chaput goes on:

Phillips, the head of the Rural Affairs Office for the U.S. Operations Mission (USOM), worked in conjunction with Vietnamese Colonel Hoang Van Lac to sell the idea to Diem's brother. On April 17, 1963, Diem issued a proclamation, which simply called upon the insurgents to stop fighting and rally under the flag of the Government…responsibility and direction for the program fell under the jurisdiction of the Commissariat in the President's office. On the U.S. side, direct responsibility for funding and advising lay in the hands of the Rural Affairs Office…American input and assistance, according to the program's original design, was to be limited to conducting training programs and providing funds and materials to construct the Chieu Hoi Centers where the defectors would rally.

Assistant Director of Rural Affairs Rufus Phillips told me:

I would like to confirm that USAID-USOM Rural Affairs got the Chieu Hoi program off the ground. While it is true that Thompson had recommended such a program to President Diem, when I arrived in June 1962 to do a survey for USAID about how to get the economic aid mission (USOM) involved in counterinsurgency the idea was going nowhere. I talked with Secretary of Defense Nguyen Dinh Thuan about it and offered to bring out retired Lieutenant Colonel C.T.R. Bohannon from the Philippines to work with the Vietnamese government to actually formulate and launch the program. Thuan enthusiastically agreed. I also spoke directly to President Diem about it. (I did not talk to the President's brother Ngo Dinh Nhu about it although I assume he supported it.) I was then asked in Washington to come back and run a new office in USOM called Rural Affairs responsible for counterinsurgency and got agreement that our office would provide support for the program. I got Bohannon (an old Lansdale hand involved in the HUK campaign in the Philippines) put on contract to USOM and brought him to Saigon. Bo had experience with the successful surrender program against the HUKs. He arrived in Saigon in late November 1962 and working together with some Vietnamese designated by Thuan, he and they developed the ideas for the program, drafted the edict issued by President Diem and helped to get the program started. Later during 1963, we brought over some Filipino advisors to work with the Vietnamese on its implementation. 

Jerald W. Berry adds more in his book Psychological Warfare leaflets of the Vietnam War,"self-published and sold on CD, 2001:

The original name of the Chieu Hoi Program was Phong-Trao Chieu-Tap Khang-Chieu Lam Dong, or The Movement to Regroup Misled Members of the Resistance. The Vietnamese eventually abbreviated the name to Chieu Hoi. The Vietnamese word 'Chieu' means' to appeal', and the word 'Hoi' means 'to return'. These two words used together translates into 'a call to return' to the family of South Vietnam.

Note: It has been stated that Berry misspelled the Vietnamese name of the program and it should be: Phong-Trao Chieu-Tap Khang-Chieu Lam Duong.

Another anecdote about the origin of the translation of Chieu Hoi may be more accurate. According to this source Chieu was usually the first part of a compound word or phrase like chieu-đai-vien (typically a bar hostess or airline stewardess) or chieu hon (calling back the soul of a dead person). The other part, hoi, was easily understood to imply the return to home or a restoration to life after illness. After considering terms like "welcome back" and "enticed to return," and facing a deadline, a decision was made to adopt "Open Arms."

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The Chieu Hoi Symbol

The Chieu Hoi symbol is in the form of a shield and depicts a stylized long-winged white bird at the left flying toward a flame at the right. The words "CHIEU HOI" are above the image.

The theme song of Chieu Hoi started with the lyrics, "tung ca'nh chim ti`m ve" which translates to, "Bird, fly home to your warm nest." The dove was used as an invitation to the VC to come back home with loved ones. The Vietnamese believed that the birds always returned to their nest! Hence, the symbol of the white dove (a universal symbol of peace) flying toward the fire, which to the Vietnamese represents the warmth of family, homecoming and reunion. It can still be heard on Youtube. It was banned by the Communist Government after the war but now is freely available.

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Chieu Hoi pocket ID

It has also been suggested that the flame could represent the difficulty and hardship that the Viet Cong member had to endure during his time in the south and especially during his escape. By acknowledging the danger, the GVN and the Americans implied that they were sympathetic and would respect the returnee. An understanding of the symbols on the Chieu Hoi symbol might help the Viet Cong member to be more confident in the good treatment he would receive when going Hoi Chanh.

Major Michael G. Barger mentions the concept in Psychological Operations Supporting Counterinsurgency: 4th PSYOP Group in Vietnam:

Vietnamese culture provided some opportunities for effective PSYOP programs that probably would have been less effective in other cultures. For example, the Chieu Hoi (Open Arms) program, established by President Diem on 17 April 1963, was an offer of amnesty and forgiveness that western cultures and even Vietnamese officials found difficult to support. However, the program proved effective in reducing Viet Cong strength, in part because it cast the GVN in the role of a benevolent and forgiving father or older sibling, powerful imagery to family-oriented Vietnamese. Further, the program followed through on this image by providing vocational training, opportunities to reunite with family members, and a route back to citizenship and, nominally at least, acceptance back into society members of the VC and North Vietnamese Army to rally (rather than surrender) to the GVN.

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1970 Estimate on Approximate Cost per rallier

The Chieu Hoi Program began in 1963. There was little American involvement, yet the number of ralliers was over 11,000. Another 10,000 rallied in 1965 as the first American ground troops began to flow into South Vietnam. As the ground war gained momentum in 1966, Chieu Hoi brought in over 20,000 ralliers. Berry tells us, "American officials had already realized that the Chieu Hoi Program had the most potential as an effective pacification program and had the most favorable cost/benefit ratio of any other existing pacification program. The average cost of processing, retraining, and resettling a returnee was $14 in 1963. This cost rose to $250 in 1967, to $350 in 1969 and to $500 in 1970. Even the increased cost seemed minuscule to the United States, especially when considering the military cost in lives and equipment to eliminate each one of these as enemies.

The cost of getting a Viet Cong to rally was constantly argued in the press. Elliot Harris, author of The un-American Weapon - Psychological Warfare, M. W. Ladd Publishing Company, New York, 1957, says:

The average cost expended to cause one Viet Cong guerrilla to defect is $125, vs. the average cost expended to kill one Viet Cong guerilla, $400,000.

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A Viet Cong Chieu Hoi

William F. Johnston gives some rather staggering dollar numbers in a 1968 article entitled "Some thoughts on Psychological Operations." He says:

To date, the total defections of Viet Cong returning under the program total 75,000. If we take this figure in the commonly accepted ratio of ten government soldiers needed for each insurgent guerilla, the program has saved the GVN-US a troop strength of over 750,000 soldiers. If we do a little arithmetic from the dollar-saved angle, the total cost of the program, using a cost-sited figure of $127 to bring in a Viet Cong defector, would be around nine and a half million dollars. But looking at the cost to kill a Viet Cong, which is estimated at $300,000 each, this number would have cost two and a quarter billion dollars.

Barger has his own set of numbers:

By the end of 1966, Vietnamese and U.S. efforts resulted in 20,242 Hoi Chanh returned (or rallied) to the Government of Vietnam. About two-thirds of these were VC combatants rather than political supporters, a significant drain on enemy strength. The number of Hoi Chanh since the program’s inception now totaled 48,041, and the trend in ralliers had been increasing steadily since mid-1965. More important, MACV estimated the total cost of the program so far (not counting US salaries) at only $125.12 per returnee. JUSPAO estimates were slightly higher, showing a cost per Hoi Chanh of $150, but when compared to the estimated $322,000 cost per VC combatant killed, the program was remarkably inexpensive no matter which estimate was correct.

About the program, Berry says:

In 1967, the United States took complete control of directing the Chieu Hoi Program and actively stepped up pacification efforts. Despite the lack of trained personnel and language barriers, the program netted more than 27,000 returnees. There were hundreds of American advisors involved in administering the program at this point in the Vietnam War.

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Page from Chieu Hoi - The Winning Ticket (1970)

By April 1975, the program had attracted more than 159,000 soldiers and members of the Communist Party underground organizations to rally to the Republic of Vietnam (RVN). About 15,000 were from North Vietnam Army (NVA) regular units. The ralliers received vocational training and got help in finding jobs. A large number enlisted in the Government of Vietnam's Army (ARVN) and various paramilitary units. About 700 served American combat platoons as Kit Carson Scouts. Many of the ralliers contributed their skill and their intelligence information as well as their blood to the just cause of the RVN. Thanks to their contribution, the allied forces achieved numerous feats of arms, including destruction of important targets in North Vietnam.

Berry’s numbers are even higher. He says:

By the end of American involvement in the Vietnam War, over 194,000 former VC, NVA, and Communist sympathizers had rallied to the GVN. These numbers alone should represent a measure of success for the Chieu Hoi Program.

The US Army lesson plan Historical Perspectives of Psychological Operations is the highest of all. It says:

One of the largest and best known PSYOP campaigns of the Vietnam War was the Chieu Hoi or Open Arms program.   With promises of economic aid, jobs, and relocation of family members to safe areas this program caused approximately 250,000 Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army defections from 1963-1975.

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.

As long as we are mentioning the Marines we should point out that during the Vietnam War psychological operations were carried out by Army personnel attached to Marine units. Don Gates served with the 4th PSYOP Group from July 1969 to June 1970. He was attached to the 7th Marine Regiment, mostly out of Landing Zone Baldy (thirty-five miles North of Chu Lai and about 20 miles south of Da Nang) and Fire Support Base Ross (just west of Que Son District Town)the entire tour. Gates told me that according to a Stars and Stripes article at the time his team held the record for the most number of Chieu Hoi, having talked in 61 enemy troops during one operation in the Antenna Valley.

In the book Slow Burn – The Rise and Fall of American Intelligence in Vietnam, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1990, former CIA Chief of Military Region Three in Vietnam Orrin DeForest discusses the cause of Vietnam defection after interviewing thousands of prisoners and building immense files. He says in part:

In 1969 and 1970 thousands of Viet Cong and NVA were coming over for the most part because of intense American military pressure. The Chieu Hoi Centers were full of people whose unit had been overrun two or three times and who had just decided they had had it. Some of the North Vietnamese defectors came in saying they were simply not going to die in the South…They got no R and R leave, no sick leave, nothing of that nature. They had no contact with their families, often they could neither send nor receive letters…Quite a few talked about the B-52 bombings. They had survived the attacks (though often with ruptured eardrums) but had witnessed the horrifying results: the concussions that killed many of their friends, or burying them alive in their bunkers.

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A Chieu Hoi Reception Center

The text at top is Chieu Hoi is the quickest path to victory over the Communists; the sign at the lower right says Reception Directorate.

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A Provincial Chieu Hoi Center

There were three types of Chieu Hoi Centers. They were National, Regional, and Provincial. The National Chieu Hoi Center was located at Thi Nghe in Saigon and was able to accept 4000 returnees a year (in three month increments).

The Regional Centers were originally in Danang, Pleiku, Bien Hoa, and Can Tho. They could accommodate 2,400 returnees a year.

There was one provincial center in each of the 44 provinces in 1967. Some cities had special centers and as a result, there were 47 provincial centers in all.

The new Hoi Chanh took a series of academic discussions at the National and Regional centers as part of clearing his mind of old ideas and introducing new policies and theories. Among them were 20 hours on Chieu Hoi Policy, 32 hours on understanding and evaluating the Communist Systems, 48 hours on the History of the Struggle and Establishing Viewpoints, 10 hours on the Law, and a final 2 hour Conclusion of all they had learned.

A 17 August 1968 letter entitled “Standard Procedures for The Political Education Of Hoi Chanh” stated that the Political education for ralliers had a double objective: To give ralliers a chance of thoroughly knowing the errors of Communism and the facts of life in South Vietnam in order to help them develop strong anti-communist attitudes, and to present the fundamentals of civic and democratic procedures to permit ralliers to adapt themselves easily to the national community.

Some of the Political Education Principles were:

1. Trainees are free to express their views.

2. Political education courses are held in the form of lectures and discussions and not as school classes.

3. Political education for ralliers is a special effort to:

a. Give them a basic knowledge of national life.

b. Clarify their anti-communist beliefs.

4. A political course is not a technical training course. It must be conducted flexibly and delicately for each rallier.

What was the official American concept of the program? Guideline to Chieu Hoi Psychological Operations: The Chieu Hoi Inducement Program, prepared by the Field Development Division of JUSPAO, April 1966 says:

The Chieu Hoi inducement program consists of all activities designed to cause members of the Viet Cong and their supporters to leave the Viet Cong and return to the side of the rightful and legitimate Government of the Republic of Vietnam. The Chieu Hoi inducement program consists of: Psychological operations addressed to Viet Cong military forces, Viet Cong civilian Infrastructure, families of the Viet Cong and the population of Viet Cong-controlled areas.

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"Hey! You Lose these Maybe?" Chieu Hoi Cartoon
6th Psyop Battalion Psy Observer - 10 January 1968

Monta L. Osborne had a long and distinguished government career.  Osborne was a PSYWAR Officer in China during WWII. During the Korean War he worked in the PSYWAR Section in Japan and Korea. He then served as the Chief of Operations and Plans from 1953-1956. He directed Public Affairs in Okinawa from 1960 to 1966. He arrived in Vietnam 20 January 1966 and left 26 October 1968 to join the United States Information Agency. He was awarded the Distinguished Civilian Service Award by the Department of Defense and the Exceptional Civilian Service Award by Department of the Army. The Republic of China awarded him the Order of Cloud and Banner and the Republic of Korea awarded him The Chung Mu with gold medal; 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 program during the Vietnam War. After his death his papers revealed some of his thoughts about the program: 

Chieu Hoi is a policy and program of the Government of the Republic of Vietnam, adopted in 1963, under which those who have served in the Viet Cong or the North Vietnamese Army in South Vietnam may rally to the government and be welcomed as citizens of the Republic. Those who accept the offer and rally are called “Hoi Chanh” or returnees. The Chieu Hoi offer extends to any persons who have given active support to military, political or economic activities of the enemy and who voluntarily decide to return to the side of the GVN.

The program begins with the inducement phase. In this phase, every medium of communications existing in Vietnam is employed to make the Chieu Hoi Policy of the GVN known to members of the Viet Cong, the NVA, and the populations of VC-held areas. Leaflets are air-dropped or distributed by patrols.

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PBRs did well on psychological operations because they could get so close to the people who lived along the delta's rivers and canals. This PBR was rigged with a tape recorder and large speakers to broadcast the message, an appeal for the South Vietnamese Government's Chieu Hoi (open arms) program. A sign on each side of the PBR said in Vietnamese, “This is a Chieu Hoi Rally Point. You will be welcomed here.”

The target audiences hear the message from airborne loudspeakers, or loudspeakers mounted on vehicles, boats or outposts. Chieu Hoi themes are broadcast over radio and television stations and appear on posters and banners. There are Chieu Hoi films, 35 mm. for the theaters and 16 mm. for outdoor audiences in the countryside. The national, provincial, and district newspapers carry the story, as do pamphlets, magazines, calendars, diaries and comic books. Chieu Hoi is discussed at rallies, lectures, conventions, movie showings and dramatic and musical programs. Cultural drama teams infuse subtle Chieu Hoi inducements into their entertainment programs.

[Author’s note: Osborne mentions 16 mm movies above. I have seen one such 14-minute movie, entitled The United States Marine Corps Presents: the Chieu Hoi PSYOP Program, produced by the Naval Photographic Center in 1968 in full color and sound].

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, then sent to the field for local PSYOP organizations to print their messages on the blank side.

Perhaps the single most important printed psyop medium is a newspaper called Free South, published biweekly in two million copies and air-dropped in 1,200,000 copies over Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops, and hand-distributed in 700,000 copies in contested areas of the Republic. This paper stresses the development of democracy and social justice in the Republic of Vietnam, the accomplishments of the government, victories by the armed forces of the RVN and defeats inflicted on the VC; and stories by returnees as to why they rallied and the good treatment they have received.

Rulers with the Chieu Hoi symbol have been distributed through the schools. Boxes of matches have been disseminated with the Chieu Hoi symbol and slogan on the cover. This symbol and slogan also are printed on small bars of soap, paper market bags, and even on children’s kites. Plastic market bags have been distributed, with gifts inside, to families in the provinces known to have relatives in the Viet Cong.

The Ministry of Chieu Hoi plans, produces materials for, and supervises the implementation of National Psychological Operations Campaigns in support of Chieu Hoi. The Ministry of Information is assigned responsibility for supporting the Chieu Hoi Ministry with media under its control or influence. On the military side, responsibility for psychological operations in support of the program is assigned to the General Political Warfare Department and its field organizations.

JUSPAO is a unique organization. It is a combined operation, staffed by USIS civilians and U.S. military. The Director is a USIA man, Barry Zorthian, but his deputy is a General Freund.

I wrote a PSYOP paper listing 106 vulnerabilities of the Viet Cong which we shall try to exploit during the forthcoming campaign. In two hours today I was able to block out 106 leaflet and loudspeaker topics for the upcoming campaign. I have prepared eight chapters of a projected fifteen chapter manual on the Chieu Hoi program, for distribution in English to all of the concerned Americans and in Vietnamese for the Chieu Hoi Ministry, the four Corps level Chieu Hoi officers, the province chiefs and their Chieu Hoi advisors.

I am helping to produce a motion picture about the Chieu Hoi program. There will be an English language version for showing to the American, Australian and New Zealander troops. The Vietnamese version will be shown all over the nation by TV and there will, theoretically, be showings for all of the military forces of the GVN. We are even doing a Korean language version for the ROK troops here. The fact is, I am the only American present in Vietnam who has had long-continued, high-level experience in PSYWAR. The Agency (USIA) has no real experts in this field, because it does not really like PSYWAR, and disdains it as a perversion of true information programs.

I received the Psychological Warfare Medal, First Class at the Ministry of Chieu Hoi. I am presently and since 1 June 1967 have been, the Chief of Field Development Division of the Joint United States Public Affairs Office of the U.S. Mission in Vietnam. We call ourselves JUSPAO. We are the PSYOP policy agency in Vietnam and all U.S. organizations, including MACV, must follow our policy guidance. My own division, Field Development, would more properly be called the Psychological Operations Division of JUSPAO. Our principal job is the planning of PSYOP campaigns and the production of materials to support these campaigns. You name it, we produce it: leaflets, posters, handouts, aerial loudspeaker tapes, ground mobile loud-speaker tapes, radio programs, diaries, calendars, astrological forecasts, pamphlets, cartoon books, magazines and newspapers. We also place PSYOP messages on match boxes, bars of soap, kites, paper marketing bags, packets of candy. We produce slogans, streamers, and flags.

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Former Viet Cong Guerrillas study for a New Life at the Phuoc Loi Province Chieu Hoi Center

Bruce Kinsey mentions the Chieu Hoi campaign in GOOD GUYS: The Quiet Americans Who Worked to Pacify Vietnam:

The Chieu Hoi program, one of the earliest pacification components, was a nationwide amnesty program for Viet Cong and North Vietnam troops who turned themselves in to the government. Before Chieu Hoi, the GVN too often dealt with Viet Cong who fell into their hands by jailing, shooting, or simply releasing them into a suspicious South Vietnamese society. None of those responses gave disenchanted Viet Cong much of an incentive to stop fighting.

During its formative years the program was an administrative stepchild. Responsibility for it first rested with a subcommittee reporting (as many did) directly to President Diem. In its first three years it had 13 different leaders and structural incarnations. Too often Chieu Hoi received little on-the-spot support from GVN hard-liners, who suspected it of “treating communists too generously.” Such prejudices slowly lifted as the program proved its value, but they never entirely disappeared.

Chieu Hoi later became part of the Information Ministry, and finally wound up an independent Ministry. Through all these iterations the program was normally divided into five main tasks: Attraction; Intelligence; Armed Propaganda; Resettlement; New Skill Training & Employment.

The primary means of distributing Chieu Hoi messages was the leaflet. Some were hand-distributed in target areas, mostly by propaganda teams, but the great majority was air-dropped over known VC and NVA base areas and communications routes, including the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos. In a typical month in 1969 over 700 million leaflets might be airdropped.

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Chieu Hoi Matchbook

A short propaganda message on the back said:

Ask your relatives to return [to the Government] to end your worries about their safety.

Matchbooks were first used as propaganda during WWII when American General Douglas MacArthur dropped them on the Philippine Islands with the propaganda text “I shall return!” They were used again in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, usually showing a wanted terrorist or former political leader and offering a reward.

Other ways of getting the word out were not overlooked. Chieu Hoi messages were broadcast on Vietnamese radio and on TV. Low-flying aircraft often circled suspected enemy hiding spots delivering Chieu Hoi messages over loudspeakers. Hoi chanh addressed GVN-sponsored public meetings and Chieu Hoi theater troops performed in rural villages. There were Chieu Hoi posters, magazines, slide shows, motion pictures, story books and Chieu Hoi matchbooks, cigarette lighters, soap, calendars, chess games, and even playing cards.

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The PSYOP-POLWAR Newsletter

The PSYOP Newsletter was printed by the United States Military Assistance Command to inform commanders, PSYOP personnel, and PSYWAR advisors of psychological operations in Vietnam and to exchange idea and lessons learned. Later Vietnamese POLWAR personnel were added and the name was changed to the PSYOP-POLWAR Newsletter. Looking through my copy from September 1968 I find the following comment:

The primary target for Long Me, the new Chieu Hoi magazine is the civil bureaucracy at all levels – National, regional, provincial, district, and village and hamlet. Second in importance is the military establishment in the Repiblic of Vietnam. Long Me’s “raison d etre” is to sell the Chieu Hoi program to government official and the Armed Forces. Other audiences include families know to have relatives in the Viet Cong and the Chieu Hoi centers.

A 15 April 1966 document entitled The GVN/US Joint Chieu Hoi Program explains the psychological operations aspect in some detail. It says in part:

The Government of Vietnam through the Ministry of Information and Chieu Hoi and supported by the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces, is mounting a sustained Chieu Hoi effort, with the active support of various elements of the U.S. Mission, including the Agency for International Development, the Joint U.S. Public Affairs Office, and the U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam.

The production of new materials and the development and expansion of techniques to induce defections is a continuing process…Requirements will exist for major quantities of leaflets with a Chieu Hoi appeal…Speaker tapes, posters; radio programs, press placement and other media of communication will have comparable goals…

The themes to be followed are:

1. The Government of Vietnam welcomes returnees.
2. The Government of Vietnam and its allies are winning the war.
3. The Government of Vietnam is the only assurance of peace and prosperity.
4. The Government of Vietnam will accomplish social revolution, eradicate social injustice, and build a true democracy and a stable, viable economy.
5. The National Liberation Front is an artificial creation of Hanoi that serves China.
6. The Viet Cong are agents of a foreign power, use terror, fraud and extortion and have suffered many defeats and will eventually lose the war.

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Leaflet SP-1721

I was digging through some of my older leaflets from early in the war and found this one where PSYOP troops try to explain to the VC and NVA what the Chieu Hoi program is all about. I dislike leaflets without images because I think the reader finds them boring, but this is interesting because Most of the leaflets in this article are in the 2000s and 3000s and this early one is just 1721. The Chieu Hoi program was probably just getting settled in when this leaflet was printed. The text is:

WHAT THE CHIEU HOI PROGRAM MEANS

The aim of the Chieu Hoi policy is to coordinate all efforts to create good conditions and favorable opportunities for the return of the mistaken elements of the community of our people, so that they may contribute to national reconstruction and assist in achieving social justice and freedom.

The Chieu Hoi policy is not a political trick. We need not resort to deceit, because we have been winning in all fields of military operations and through national reconstruction the living standards of the people have been greatly improved. The results so far obtained are concrete proof of our intentions.

The Chieu Hoi program is not a stratagem designed to cope with a particular situation; instead, the program is a continuing, national program which can help defeat the Communists and bring peace and democracy to our country. Through it our people can once again enjoy full happiness.

The Chieu Hoi policy is a policy of indulgence and generosity for the benefit of those persons who have gone the wrong way and who desire to return to the country and the people.

Problems with the Chieu Hoi Program

The Chieu Hoi program was not universally admired among the Vietnamese officials and military. The Command History - 1967 of the United States Military Assistant Command in Vietnam says:

The GVN support of the Chieu Hoi Program lacked 100 percent participation on the part of the GVN officials, for many believed that too much was being done for the Hoi Chanhs. A characteristic remark was "They were the enemy once. When they returned they were not sent to prison, but were even allowed to return to their families."

One American MACV officer said:

Many Province Chiefs are quite simply against Chieu Hoi and will pay lip-service to national policy while dragging their feet at the province level. Other Vietnamese point out the apparent difficulty in maintaining an aggressive attitude in the GVN armed forces against the Viet Cong on one hand, and a lenient police toward returnees on the other.

John R. Campbell’s mentions such problems in Are we Winning? Are they Winning: A Civilian Advisor’s Reflections on Wartime Vietnam, Author House, Bloomington, IN, 2004:

We went to a warehouse which I found strangely deserted except for a few soldiers loitering around. “Where are the Chieu Hoi?’ “Down here” said. He opened kind of a trap door in the floor. “Go down.” I went down a few stairs-very few stairs! I abruptly found myself on my knees on a dirt floor with about four feet of headroom. The only light filtered in between the slats separating this crawl space from the floor above...There, all around me, were dozens and dozens of crab-like dark figures on their haunches…”Are those Chieu Hoi?” I irritatedly demanded of my assistant. He gave me to understand that the province officials were designating them as such while sorting them out.

Major Michael G. Barger adds in Psychological Operations Supporting Counterinsurgency: 4th PSYOP Group in Vietnam:

The ARVN, never really accepted Hoi Chanh back into society, so passive resistance was the program's biggest obstacle to success. The feeling among many that the former VC members were being rewarded for their betrayal of the government was well founded but also missed the point, because it was this reward that caused them to come in without a fight, potentially saving lives on both sides. This reward provided military PSYOP teams with a tool that had proven value on the battlefield. This reward represented a cost saving measure, not only in lives but also in currency, when compared with the costs associated with combat operations against the VC. However, the jealousy that was associated with the reward produced bitterness that prevented full acceptance of Hoi Chanh, and limited the Chieu Hoi program from reaching full potential, so perhaps a more vigorous effort on the part of Government of Vietnam to counter this internal bitterness may have produced greater results.

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Harry Wagner and “Major Tan”
Courtesy: The Headless Snake

Major Tan, the highest ranking North Vietnamese officer who defected to Chieu Hoi. He was the Deputy Province Administrator for Lang Son.

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14-year-old Nguyen Xuan Mai

We show the high ranking official Major Tan above. Many of the Hoi Chanhs were not high ranking; in fact many were not even adults. Here, 14-year-old Nguyen Xuan Mai arrives at the Tan Binh District Headquarters in Gia Dinh, Saigon following his surrender to the South Vietnamese in Tan Phu Hamlet on 12 May 1968. The young North Vietnamese Army private had walked for three-months to reach South Vietnam. He had picked up a safe conduct pass on the battlefield and rallied under the Chieu Hoi program. At right is a South Vietnamese Army corporal. (Photo) the Douglas Pike Collection

Harry Wagner mentions the Chieu Hoi program in The Headless Snake, self-published, 2018. Wagner was involved in PSYOP in Vietnam from 1966 to 1968 as the Director of Psychological Operations in II Corps. He starts with an introduction:

The Chieu Hoi program was the largest and most effective in Vietnam. I was the Senior Advisor for Region II and First Field Force Vietnam. It was like running a large hospitality business. We spent all of our time working with the Vietnamese side and the rest with the military promoting Chieu Hoi in the field with the U.S. units. Chieu Hoi was the most active PSYOP program in Vietnam.

Region II processed 12,000 to 18,000 Chieu Hoi enemy defectors a year. We operated 12 compounds containing up to 3,500 former enemies.

Problems: When I arrived in Vietnam in September, 1966, the program was put on a high priority and was expanding without much field support. The Chieu Hoi Center located in Binh Dinh province had been inoperable for three years. No one had been able to get it started because of contract disputes and dishonesty. 3,500 Hoi Chanh were sitting on a soccer field for a week without any facilities…We got to work. I shared meals with them and slept in the same quarters while we were working. We used the Hoi Chanh as labor…I was able to get it up and running efficiently within six months.

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GI Cigarette Lighter

Other general problems were caused by less than 100% support of the program by American troops. Although the above cigarette lighter is a joke, it gives an idea of an attitude that would not be helpful in convincing Vietnamese farmers and peasants to back the Chieu Hoi Program.

Robert J. Kodosky mentions other problems in Psychological Operations American Style – the Joint United States Public Affairs Office, Vietnam and Beyond: Lexington Books, Lanham, MD, 2007:

United States Information Agency Director Carl Rowan visited Chieu Hoi rehabilitation centers in 1965 and found them “presently without even the most elementary psychological indoctrination programs.” He observed that returnees “languish two or three months in detention with few daily activities beyond interrogation and occasional lectures on the good national cause. As a result of such conditions, “Defectors have become disillusioned anew, returned to the VC fold, and are now warning their colleagues not to fall for the promises of the government’s Chieu Hoi program”

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A Display of weapons and explosives turned in by Viet Cong Guerrillas at the Sadec Province Chieu Hoi Center.

It is also possible that the Chieu Hoi message was simply not getting through. Upon his capture, North Vietnamese Army 2nd Lieutenant Nguyen Van Thong, Leader of a Reconnaissance Platoon, mentioned Chieu Hoi propaganda when interviewed by Military Intelligence. He said in part:

I have heard of the Chieu Hoi program but I do not know what it is. I heard a little about it from an airplane but we really didn’t pay attention because it was poor propaganda and the voice did not sound sincere.

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

The Viet Cong Response

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Perhaps one of the reasons the message was not getting through was the response by the Viet Cong. An article in the Chicago Tribune of July 1966 titled “Foe devising odd means to offset propaganda” said in part:

The National Liberation Front is advising Viet Cong Guerrillas to beat pots and burn leaflets to counter the South Vietnamese Open Arms program. Under that program, 10,000 Viet Cong have given themselves up to the South Vietnamese so far this year, and last year 11,000 gave themselves up.

To fight this defection rate, the National Liberation Front tells the guerrilla that when he hears government loudspeakers overhead to shout, put his hands over his ears, or beat pots and pans. These noises are intended to drown out tape-recorded broadcasts urging guerrillas to defect. Viet Cong leaders also instruct people not to read propaganda leaflets scattered by government planes. They are ordered to burn them immediately. Viet Cong soldiers are ordered to shoot at aircraft spreading government propaganda.

Bob Fulton, the Executive officer of the Regional Support Center in Manila told me of the many complaints he heard. He admits that they were mostly hearsay; second-hand verbal information from sources such as Joint United States Public Affairs officers and Psychological operations officers. He says:

I heard that many of those Americans involved in the Chieu Hoi program believed the actual results and effectiveness of the program had been substantially overstated, and had voiced such concerns but felt they had been willfully ignored by their superiors. A common complaint was that there had been little meaningful attempt to measure the “recidivism rate.” How many “ralliers” (Enemy troops that voluntarily defected to the Government of Vietnam) eventually returned to the Viet Cong fold, either as combatants or in another capacity? Many thought it was a very high number. A common joke was that they came in for rest and relaxation (R&R), had a hot shower, a good meal, some malaria pills, and then returned to their units in the bush.

There was some anecdotal evidence that many Viet Cong rank and file carried safe conduct leaflets not for the purposes of defecting, but for self-preservation, an insurance policy in the event of capture. Waving a Chieu Hoi leaflet when capture was inevitable would keep them from being shot. The corollary was that Viet Cong field commanders turned a blind eye to their possession and encouraged the idea that it was okay to appear to rally, do time in a re-education camp, and gradually drift back to the fold.

[Author’s note: There could be some truth to this belief. I was told by Private First Class Don R. Gertenrich of A Company, 1st of the 22nd, 4th Infantry Division out of Pleiku:

On or near the Cambodian border on 16 February1967, A Viet Cong whom I thought I’d dispatched stood up big as life within 15 feet of me with his hands in the air. He had a conical “Lon Na” farmer’s hat over his chest and was yelling “Choo Hoy.” I was too stunned to do anything but someone to my right opened fire and cut him down. As he went over on his back there was an explosion from his chest area that was emitted straight up into the air. He was wearing a hidden satchel charge. After that experience I always referred to that suicidal guerrilla as “Satchmo.” And, I was very cautious of anyone who called out “Choo Hoy” to me.]

Fulton continues:

A much bigger concern was that the Rewards Program was being subverted for profit. The main suspects were South Vietnamese officials in charge of counting and reporting the Hoi Chanhs (defectors) and operating the Chieu Hoi Centers. It was suspected, and I understand later proven, that a lot of official’s relatives and even South Vietnamese Army troops had been recruited to pose as Viet Cong ralliers, given a monetary award and then shared the cash rewards with the government officials.

There was even conjecture that the Viet Cong were using the reward policy as a fund-raiser. Relationships were not always smooth between the regular North Vietnamese Army troops in the south and the much more decentralized Viet Cong cells, especially when it came to providing promised funding. Intelligence regularly reported the Viet Cong to be chronically short of cash and often engaged in crimes (such as bank robberies). I heard claims of anecdotal evidence that some Viet Cong had been sent to surrender, often with worn and useless weapons, to do their time in relocation centers, and then collect the bounties upon graduation and return to their guerrilla units with the government’s reward.

An example of the way some of this money seems to have been misused is the “third party inducement campaign.” JUSPAO prepared a set of four Chieu Hoi leaflets coded 2990-2993 that were part of a “third party Inducement campaign.” Each leaflet offered rewards to friends and family of Viet Cong who talked them into rallying to the government side.

Each leaflet bore the Chieu Hoi (Open Arms) symbol on the front. The leaflets are mostly all text and not well illustrated, but the messages cover a wide variety of categories. Leaflet 2990 has the following text on the front and back:

CHIEU HOI NATIONWIDE REWARDS CAMPAIGN.

To invite all citizens of Vietnam to participate in a special program for the inducement on VC/NVA ralliers during the period of 1 November 1968 through 31 January 1969, and to give cash to all citizens who successfully persuade enemy military or civilian personnel to rally under the Chieu Hoi program.

Awards will be paid to any Vietnamese citizen who induces a VC/NVA to rally, including members of the RVNAF, National Force, Cadre, Kit Carson armed propaganda teams (APTs), former Hoi Chanh or private citizens.

The back of the note has a large "$" over a number of categories of personnel with the price paid for each.

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Leaflet 2991

Leaflet 2991 says in part:

All persons, (civilian, military, government employees, etc.) who induce Communist individuals or military to rally under the Chieu Hoi program will be paid cash awards…

Village Company Commander $25,000
Deputy Village Company Commander $20,000
Guerrilla Platoon Leader $15,000

Leaflet 2992 says in part:

In cases where a Communist military unit is induced to rally as a group, the individual inducing the group to rally will receive not only an award for each individual in the unit, but also an extra bonus…

Leaflet 2993 says in part:

The awards will be paid within three days to the individual responsible for inducing the rallier either at province or district level. The individual who induces ralliers will have his name kept secret.

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Leaflet 2228

In general, I ignore all-text leaflets and try to show just those with interesting images because I believe the reader prefers the more pictorial items. However, I must point out that many Vietnam leaflets are all-text. Leaflet 2228 is an example. The text on the front and back is:

TO RALLY IS SIMPLE

Hide your weapon. You will be paid for it later. Report to a Chieu Hoi Center, or to village authorities, or to ARVN or Allied military people. You do not need a surrender leaflet or any leaflet to rally, but you may use one if you have it. The Government of Vietnam wants and needs all of its sons and daughters.

SOLDIERS, OFFICERS AND CADRE WHO ARE FIGHTING AGAINST THE NATIONAL GOVERNMENT

Here is a message from the Republic of Vietnam. You are invited to rally to the Government of Vietnam under Chieu Hoi. You will be warmly welcomed and will not be harmed. Return and your family will be with you and well cared for. Hoi Chanh are paid for their weapons.

J. A. Koch mentions this campaign in The Chieu Hoi Program in South Vietnam, 1963-1971:

A basic principle underlying Chieu Hoi was that a man's loyalty cannot really be bought. However, it is possible-- without dragging a defector program down to a monetary exchange for a man's loyalty--to pay a third party for rendering a service, i.e., inducing a potential rallier to defect and having the rallier attest to his sponsor's bona fides in getting him to do so.

Such a program was inaugurated in the summer of 1967 in Vinh Binh and Vinh Long Provinces. It proved quite successful. The November 1968, Accelerated Pacification Campaign extended the program to the whole country. An intensive effort was undertaken to pay rewards to any Vietnamese citizen or Hoi Chanh instrumental in getting a VC or NVA to rally. Eligibility for reward was determined by a special committee at province, and amounts -- based on the rank of the rallier – varied from VN$250,000 for a commander of a Military Region to VN$3,000 for a member of the guerrilla force.

But it soon became apparent that under the "Third Party Inducement Program," too many ralliers turned out to have a "third party inducer," sometimes a Vietnam Government official, who in fact had done nothing to induce the rallier. Chieu Hoi cadres at the centers were also found to be in collusion with ralliers coming into the centers with whom they would offer to split the "third party" reward.

Fulton continues:

Another chronic complaint was over the collection and disposal of arms and ammunition. Just like the rewards program, the problem was the administration by the Government of South Vietnam officials. Robert Chandler Says in The War of Ideas that six to twelve percent of the ralliers brought in weapons in any given year. Example: In 1969, 47,023 Ralliers surrendered but only 3,091 weapons were turned in (mostly individual arms, few crew-served). This makes little sense, implying that either the number of genuine Viet Cong ralliers was overstated or a lot of weapons simply disappeared and were not reported. I remembered claims at the time of much higher numbers, closer to fifty percent or more.

[Author’s note: the 1968 issue of Chieu Hoi – The Winning ticket says that 21,178 Viet Cong rallied to the Government in 1967, and 17,671 were “Armed military.” The 1970 booklet says that in 1967-1968 the number of ralliers were 45,249 and those that were armed military is 29,276. The booklet does not say that every armed military brought his weapon, but it is implied. The percentage would seem to be about 64%].

In 1969, the Joint U.S. Military Assistance Command (JUSMAG) in the Philippines received intelligence that some of these arms and munitions, mostly AK-47’s, together with American M-14’s and M-16’s, were showing up in the local arms markets. Tracing of some serial numbers indicated a link to South Vietnam, and coincided with rotations of the small Philippine Civic Action Group deployment to and from Vietnam by the Philippine Navy.

The Chieu Hoi Message

What did it take to get a hard-core Viet Cong or North Vietnamese soldier to defect? In Volume I of the Department of Defense contracted the Final Report Psychological Operations Studies – Vietnam, Human Sciences Research Inc, 1971, Drs. Ernest F. and Edith M. Bairdain say:

Defection is most likely to occur as an immediate response to PSYOP messages when appeals are received in the context of some form of military pressure. Where timely persuasive messages are received, the opportunity exists and defection is feasible to the situation, the potential for inducing defection varies together with the degree of pressure. In the absence of exposure to immediate high external pressure, defection may occur because of the cumulative effects of a series of unrewarding, frustrating, difficult, and intermittently dangerous experience which greatly outweigh and positive features in the total situation.

That seems a very fancy way of saying that when the enemy is under constant pressure and stress, he is more likely to surrender. It hardly seems to be a surprise.

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Ralliers were educated and trained in new skills.

What did the Viet Cong think of the Chieu Hoi program? A South Vietnam Liberation Army document dated 20 December 1966 says:

The impact of increased enemy military operations and 'Chieu Hoi' programs has, on the whole, resulted in lowering of morale of some ideologically backward men, who often listen to enemy radio broadcasts, keep in their pockets enemy leaflets, and wait to be issued weapons. This attitude on their part has generated an atmosphere of doubt and mistrust among our military ranks.

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PSYOP Loudspeaker Team

Another captured Viet Cong document states:

At present, the enemy is using psychological warfare to attack us on the ideological plane. He has scattered many leaflets from aircraft and has appealed to us through (loudspeaker) broadcasts. The objective of this is to destroy our morale...

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

Carefully indoctrinate troops, cadres and soldiers about the enemy's psychological warfare schemes. Make clear to all people the fact of his corruption and that he pretends to be very strong but cannot hide his failures...

Whenever the enemy uses psychological warfare, cadres should immediately hold indoctrination sessions and closely manage the people's thoughts and actions...When leaflets drop, all people, even the cadres and soldiers, should tear them up without reading them. Only cadre chiefs (team chiefs) are authorized to read and then explain and analyze the contents of the leaflets to the cadres and to soldiers in their units.

An undated captured 5-page Viet Cong document entitled, “Action against the Enemy’s Psychological Warfare and the Chieu Hoi Program” says in part:

The Chieu Hoi Program, one of the most important activities of the enemy psychological warfare, is a national policy of the neo-colonialist war…its main purpose is to deceive, flatter or impress us and impair our morale and ideology…The enemy seduces our men with money, women and sympathy or resorts to bombs. Close and detailed investigation should be conducted to find out the reason for evil inclinations such as attempts to desert or surrender….When it is confirmed that the case is the result of the enemy’s Psywar; we must denounce the cunning plot of the enemy and at the same time correct the error.

The United States Government spent a great amount of time and energy tracking the effectiveness of the Chieu Hoi program. In the report PSYOPS in Vietnam – Indications of Effectiveness. JUSPAO Planning Office, Saigon, Vietnam, May, 1967, there are numerous Communist documents and directives complaining about the Chieu Hoi program. For instance, a report on the Operation and Coordination Committee meeting of the Thu Dau Mot Province Unit Headquarters, Eastern Nam Bo Region of the Liberation Army held on 17 December 1966 says:

The enemy has begun to increase their demagogic propaganda and Chieu Hoi activities, using every insidious strategy to draw our soldiers to their side. At the same time as their attacks on our military and economic fronts, the enemy has begun to increase their psywar operations, aiming at rallying the inhabitants of the disputed area to their side. For the same purpose they created an artificial victory, sent the Americans and South Koreans into strategic hamlets to distribute medicine, candy and cakes to the grownups and children. In an ambush in Binh Nhan when one of our cadre was killed, they came to visit, comfort and offer money and other objects to the family of the deceased.

The enemy used "Dakota" airplanes equipped with megaphones to appeal to our cadre and soldiers to rally to the puppet government under the Chieu Hoi program.

An article entitled "Viet Cong Documents on the War" published in Communist Affairs, January-February 1968, quotes almost two dozen documents where the Viet Cong leadership warns of the Chieu Hoi threat. One of the most interesting finds the commissars offering a carrot, a stick, or a pat on the back:

In case we discover a cadre or fighter who induces some other people to desert our ranks, we are to throughly study the case to see whether that cadre is someone sent by the enemy or just a person who could no longer endure hardships and has resorted to such wrong means.

If the man happens to be a real enemy, then we must deal with him in a proper manner. If he happens to belong to the second case, then we must reeducate and reform him right in the unit.

In case some cadres and fighters receive appeals from their families to return and inform us about such moves, we are to promote their revolutionary spirit and comfort them. We must also make public such a revolutionary spirit and have it studied by other people. Concurrently, we are to consolidate their thought and strive to prevent them being shaken by other appeals that will be launched by their families at other times. Finally, we are to motivate people to write letters to build revolutionary concepts for their families or inform regional authorities to take care of that work.

The Chieu Hoi Program in Vietnam, by Ho Van Cham, The Vietnam Council of Foreign Relations, Saigon, Republic of Vietnam, November 8, 1970, reports an interesting example of one of the successes of the Chieu Hoi program.

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Former Viet Cong militia who rallied near Tam Ky. 1

Quang Tru province was the scene of one of the most spectacular mass defections in Chieu Hoi history. The commanders of two Viet Cong units garrisoning villages in a coastal wasteland district near Tam Ky, a district that had remained outside government control since 1946, came over to the Republic's side with all of their militia troops -- 221 veteran, hard core communists in December 1969. Those troops elected to Chieu Hoi and began fighting communists.

It all started in with Ngo Thoi, a disillusioned VC Officer, whose Viet Cong rank was equivalent to captain. Thoi had a brother who was a sergeant in the government forces at Tam Ky. Through him, Thoi made a proposal to the province chief, Colonel Hoang Dinh Tho. He would defect with his entire militia unit if the province chief re-armed the men with modern weapons, kept them together as a government fighting unit under their own leaders, waived the orientation period, permitted them to stay with their families, and brought prompt material assistance to their war-ravaged village. Colonel Tho accepted the conditions, whereupon another Viet Cong commander from the same district, 27 year old Tran Quyen, petitioned for a similar arrangement. Again Colonel Tho agreed. As Thoi and Quyen assembled their men for the mass defection ceremony, the news flashed through the fishing villages of the district and guerillas from local squads attached themselves to the force of ralliers.

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North Vietnamese Hoi Chanh at Pleiku – 1966

The above four North Vietnamese Army soldiers of the 33rd Regiment, 320th Division, came down the Ho Chi Minh Trail, but were disillusioned to find that they were not welcomed as liberators and that the life of a guerrilla in the jungle was exceedingly hard. The Hoi Chanh are Sergeant Vu Tuan Anh, Do Trong Tien, Hoang Kim Chu and Nguyen Ngoc Xuan.

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Leaflet P-05

Here, one of the defectors depicted in the above photograph is featured on a propaganda leaflet. There were many leaflet codes we could not identify when we started this research, but after diligent research we discovered that the “P” code targeted the PAVN (People’s Army of Vietnam) also known as the NVA inside South Vietnam. Chieu Hoi leaflet P-05 depicts happy Communist defectors enjoying a wonderful meal in a South Vietnamese Chieu Hoi Center. This leaflet is found in both a horizontal and a vertical format, though the text has not been changed. The text on the front says:

Sergeant Vu Tuan Anh. 33rd Regiment, 320th North Vietnamese Division, enjoys a meal at the Pleiku Chieu Hoi Center.

The back is all text and says in part:

THESE MEN USED

THE SAFE CONDUCT PASS

These men are enjoying life in one of South Vietnam's “Open Arms” centers. They have stopped killing the innocent people of the South. The Government of South Vietnam offers a warm welcome to those who will voluntarily leave the ranks of the aggressors and join the cause. More than 30,000 Viet Cong and North Vietnamese soldiers and cadre have left the ranks of the Liberation Army....

Colonel Tho selected ten volunteers from the new Hoi Chanh group and made them scouts for the province's Regional Forces Reconnaissance Company, which began combing the district for boobytraps, arms caches, bunker complexes and for other potential Hoi Chanh. Within three weeks more than 200 had rallied to the government's side. Within a month the reconnaissance company, placed into ambush position by their new scouts, intercepted a main force VC Unit. The VC regulars lost 78 dead to the Regional Forces Company and their Hoi Chanh scouts.

As the rest of the Hoi Chanh, newly equipped with combat boots and M-16 rifles, went on patrol in the district, Colonel Tho lived up to his side of the bargain. Relief supplies were shipped to the hamlets. In Quyen's village, arrival of a shipment of lumber and roofing material from provincial headquarters was the signal for the start of a community self-help program, and soon the grass huts were replaced by sturdy dwellings. A tent market was airlifted from Tam Ky, bringing all the small items from the outside world that the villagers had not seen for years -- manufactured soap, cigarettes, finished textiles, shoes. To obtain money with which to buy these items, the Hoi Chanh stepped up their jungle combing activities and uncovered many more Viet Cong arms caches. The reward money for the weapons took the villagers off the barter economy that they had known for two dozen years.

Colonel Tho's gamble paid off and the communist grip on the district was shattered. Said Lietenant Colonel M.G. Stafford, senior U.S. Observer in Quang Tin province:

It's going to be very hard for the Viet Cong main force units or for the North Vietnamese Army Units to do anything in this district from now on. These guys here, these new Hoi Chanh, are some of the finest troops I've seen. They know all the trails and all the tricks that the communist units in this area have used.

Why, after nearly 25 years under communist rule, had these Quang Tin Villagers welcomed government control, and why had professional Commanders like Thoi and Quyen defected with all their troops? The fact that Thoi could talk over the situation with his brother, and the fact that Colonel Tho had the wisdom to bend a little of the conventional Chieu Hoi procedures were factors. But Thoi gives another reason:

The main force communist units in our area had left us on our own, saying that there was too much military pressure from the government for them to stay. They promised to return soon but advised us in the meantime to leave our women and children and hide whenever government troops came near our village. We could not accept this.

Quyen's main reason was more general:

I have lived on promises too long -- promises that the Viet Cong would win and end the war soon.

Quyen's reason -- disillusionment with the communist apparatus and its goals and promises -- is given by a number of ralliers when they are interviewed at Chieu Hoi Centers. They say they had witnessed too many broken promises to retain any confidence in the good intentions of the communists. Sixty-five percent say they were drafted into communist ranks, 35 percent volunteered. But about half say they did not know what they were fighting for and merely obeyed orders. About half say that at first they believed they were fighting for the betterment of the poor, for the welfare of the nation and for the freedom from aggression and imperialism. Loss of these convictions, often coupled with other motives, led them to rally to the government's side.

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Leaflet NT3/A/TD9

The above leaflet depicts a Viet Cong guerrilla holding an Allied Chieu Hoi leaflet and surrendering to government forces. The text below the  image is:

The entire people welcome the Communist cadres and soldiers back into the great family of the national community.

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

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

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Leaflet NT4/A/TD10

This leaflet was produced by the same artist that did the previous one. He has an interesting technique and shows the VC guerrilla as a human being who should be taken alive. This one depicts a lonely guerrilla thinking of his family at home and perhaps considering surrendering to the Allies. The text on the front is:

While the war stretches on, how are my wife and children doing in North Vietnam?

The text on the back is long so I will just translate a few lines:

Your family, your wife and children are eagerly awaiting your return.

The Vietnam Government and armed forces are ready to receive you and help you achieve all of your aspirations.

To avoid a useless death you should rally so that the Vietnam Government and armed forces can help you build a new life in South Vietnam as 140,000 Communist cadre and soldiers have already done.

Specialist Fifth Class Paul Merrell was stationed in Vietnam from April 1968 until August 1970. He was a member of the 8th PSYOP Battalion of the 4th PSYOP Group with a military operational specialty of 83F20, Offset Press Operator. During his three tours in Vietnam he worked in both HQ and the field in a number of diverse operations and positions. I asked about Chieu Hoi missions and he told me about his team:

I was the leader of Team 8B5 operating out of Landing Zone English in Binh Dinh Province, under the operational control of the 173rd Airborne Brigade. We were a three-man team, two Army enlisted men and one South Vietnam Army translator. The Brigade's mission at the time was pacification of the northern coastal area of Binh Dinh Province, extending to the West well into the Highlands. My team's primary work was loudspeaker missions, both aerial and by ground, with aerial missions frequently also involving leafleting. Things heated up in early 1970 when the 4th North Vietnam Army Division moved into our operational area. The Brigade's forces were supplemented by II Corps' reserve brigade from the 4th Infantry Division. We did the PSYOP for both, remaining on eagle status at LZ English but often flying as many as a dozen loudspeaker missions a day. For our 250-Watt backpack speakers, I manufactured a cable to connect the recorder with the amplifier with about 100 feet of communications wire between the two jacks. I kept it rolled up on an empty movie reel. It should have been standard issue.

Most of our missions delivered Chieu Hoi messaging, although we often did more focused missions on particular enemy units, delivering a message recorded by someone from that unit who had been captured or had defected. We could get leaflets printed with his picture and handwritten message back from our Battalion HQ, with 24-hour service.

On the bad side, we were kept largely out of the loop, with the targets chosen by non-PSYOP officers of the host combat unit. So at least during my time with the 173rd, we rarely knew what effect on the enemy we had. We would get a monthly count of the defectors in the operational area, but that's where the feedback ended. We had no ability to interrogate detainees unless a Brigade S5 decided he wanted a quick-reaction message from a particular detainee recorded and written. The extent of intelligence I had access to was the previous night's “fire report” of body heat signature locations obtained via F4 surveillance; and the Brigade's daily action summaries.

We generally had good defector numbers for Viet Cong probably averaging somewhere around 125 per month. I suspect a lot of that was because the 173rd was very good at kicking ass, creating the emotional climate for defection. We never learned whether a particular message had brought a defector over. The rare exceptions were when we actually talked someone into surrendering to us personally. Personally, I didn't have a lot of faith in the Viet Cong defector counts because I knew nothing about the individual defectors and there were lots of incentives to “defect” even if you were not really a VC. We had far less success with the North Vietnam Army of course. I heard rumors that the few we got for the most part had been ordered to “defect” because they had medical conditions that required better treatment than the NVA could provide in the field.

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Former Viet Cong who graduated the Chieu Hoi program
being released at a ceremony held at the Saigon Zoo.
(Photo courtesy of Dave Bowers)

Naturally, there were some arguments about the value of the program. Thomas L. Hughes, Department of State, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, said in his Memorandum, Statistics on the War Effort in South Vietnam Show Unfavorable Trends, 22 October 1963:

In addition to the military defectors, some 13,700 persons "rallied" to the government from April through August 1963 under a national surrender and amnesty campaign. This campaign, known as "Chieu Hoi," was officially inaugurated on April 19. The South Vietnamese government regards the bulk of these as Viet Cong. United States officials, who do not screen these statistics, believe the vast majority to be refugees and persons who, for one reason or another, have left areas controlled or formerly controlled by the Viet Cong. Many of them, however, may well have assisted the Viet Cong in some way voluntarily or under duress. The number of "Chieu Hoi" returnees increased progressively from April 19 to June 1963, when a high of about 3,200 was reached. By August, returnees dropped to a low of about 1,600."

John Doolittle was a Provincial and later Regional Advisor to the Chieu Hoi program in from 1966-1968. Some of his recollections are:

I was assigned to II Corps as a Provincial Advisor, Qui Nhon, Binh Dinh province in late 1966. This is the largest province in Vietnam and at the time and had the highest monthly level of Viet Cong and NVA defectors of any province in the nation. I was the only American Provincial Advisor in II Corps; all Provincial Advisors in the other twelve provinces of II Corps were Filipino citizens, most of whom had been involved in the counterinsurgency successes attributed to Ramon Magsaysay.

All of the traditional Chieu Hoi phased activities were carried out in Binh Dinh, i.e., Processing (screening for bona fides, interrogation for intelligence and political rehabilitation through mandatory political lectures); Vocational Training and Resettlement and Employment.

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Chieu Hoi Job Training Leaflet 2399

This JUSPAO leaflet shows a happy former Viet Cong platoon leader named Nguyen Duc Thang
who returned to the Government on 12 December 1966. He was sent to a Chieu Hoi Center where
he learned to repair cars, scooters and bicycles. He was hired as a mechanic and makes 22 piasters an hour.

At the time of my departure from Binh Dinh, we had relatively sophisticated vocational training activities underway in the areas of bricklaying, carpentry and auto mechanics, and electronics and plumbing were on the drawing board. Some of these training activities were conducted by full time trainers employed at the Center. But they were augmented by what was informally referred to as “reverse apprenticeships”, where craftsmen and tradesmen from local business were brought in to assist with short term training activities.

Over the duration of my assignment in Binh Dinh, the level of Hoi Chanh defections increased, as did “successful Hoi Chan throughput” (meaning Hoi Chanh that successfully progressed through all phases of the program and were eventually “resettled”). We assisted significant numbers of Hoi Chanh in finding gainful employment, often based on a skill they had acquired at the Chieu Hoi Center. When this occurred, we also coordinated with local police and local military officials to try and assure that possible “recidivism” was monitored.

In mid-1967, I was promoted to the position of Regional Chieu Hoi Advisor, domiciled in Nha Trang and responsible for the thirteen provinces in II Corps. This was the era of CORDS (Civilian Operations and Revolutionary Development Support), that hybrid organizational strategy and structure headed by General Westmoreland but actually run by Robert Komer, which mixed and matched civilian and military leadership at various levels of government. It was bizarre. At all levels of government (national, provincial, district and hamlet) you would find civilian personnel (from a multitude of US government agencies) reporting to military personnel; and conversely in other venues, military personnel reporting to civilians. In my case, as the Regional Advisor, I reported to a Lt. Colonel, but the regional G-5 Civil Affairs unit, headed by a Major and responsible for, among other things, region-wide leaflet drops, reported to me. By virtue of the CORDS ranking algorithm, I also “outranked” many other military officers who dealt with the Chieu Hoi Program in the smaller provinces I continually visited, although most of these officers were much older than I.

My role as Regional Advisor was much different than it had been as a Provincial Advisor. I spent a great deal of my time accompanying military as they tried to “sell” the Chieu Hoi Program. These presentations met with mixed success; officers tended to be receptive but typically, enlisted troops generally were skeptical and doubted that taking in ralliers on the field of battle could help them in any way.

Another large segment of my time was spent checking in on the Provincial Advisors in each of II Corps’ thirteen provinces. II Corps was at the time the largest generator of Hoi Chanh defections, but our post-defection results were mixed. Overall, we generated large defection totals in II Corps during 1967-68, but most defection contributions came from five large provinces, and Center operations in the smaller provinces tended to be marginal.

I left the Chieu Hoi Program in late 1968. I’ve often looked back, trying to gauge the successes and failures of the Chieu Hoi Program. From a success standpoint, I believe it is incontrovertible that many individuals were helped by the Program, and I sincerely feel intelligence gathered from rallying Hoi Chanh was directly responsible for significantly reduced allied casualties. Where implemented vigorously, the inclusion of enhanced vocational training and job placement along the Hoi Chanh experience continuum further improved the Program.

On the negative side, from my observations, the political rehabilitation and mandatory political lecture segment of the Processing phase of the Program was usually vapid, incompetently taught and ultimately inconsequential. We just hoped that the subsequent phases of the Program would compensate and ultimately outweigh the notoriously deficient RVN political rehabilitation effort. The most egregious example of qualitative failure is how comparatively few NVA or Viet Cong officers ever defected. While intelligence gathered from Hoi Chanh intermittently assisted our military efforts, the admittedly large numbers of low level conscripts that defected didn’t disrupt NVA or Viet Cong strategy or operations to any appreciable degree.

I do know I’m proud to have been involved, and to have played a small part in the Chieu Hoi story.

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This 1966 photograph from the Viet Nam Photo Service depicts an official of the Binh Dinh Chieu Hoi Center speaking to over a hundred former Viet Cong who have gone Hoi Chanh and come over to the government for job training, a personal subsistence allowance and a reward for weapons they brought with them.

The civilian "Bible" of Vietnam PSYOP is the Robert W. Chandler book War of Ideas: The U.S. Propaganda Campaign in Vietnam, A Westview Special Study, Boulder, CO, 1981. Chandler devotes an entire chapter to the Chieu Hoi program in his book. Although we will use many other official military and government documents in this report, much of our data follows Chandler’s general outline.

He says:

The government's American-inspired and funded amnesty invitation, the Chieu Hoi or "Open Arms" program...was adopted in 1963 as a magnanimous offer of forgiveness and exoneration to those who had been temporarily seduced into following the alien Communist path.

He goes on:

The term 'surrender' was avoided; instead the Viet Cong were implored to atone for their past sins by 'rallying' to the 'just cause' of the Republic." Promises included, "good treatment, medical care, and repatriation after the war. He continues, "Do not fear detention after your capture or surrender. you will be comfortable and well cared for. Wounded prisoners receive the best medical care.

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Chieu Hoi Ralliers at the Bien Hoa Chieu Hoi Center received training in automotive repair to help them in their new lives. 2

The American government spent the greatest amount of money and placed the greatest emphasis on the Chieu Hoi program. In conjunction with the Republic of Vietnam they built reception centers at various locations throughout the country. The ralliers (Hoi Chanh) remained in the camp for forty-five to sixty days where they received indoctrination and were then resettled.

In 1966 the Joint U.S. Public Affairs Office (JUSPAO) drew up a plan to work on five conceived weaknesses of the enemy. They were:

1. Fear (of death, injury, American technology, lack of proper burial etc.)

2. Hardships (the terrible march south, jungle diseases, lack of medical supplies, absence from family and loved ones, etc.).

3. Loss of faith in Communist victory (reports of Communist defeats, list of dead VC, overwhelming might of RVN and American forces, the coalition massed against the VC, etc.).

4. Concern for family. (The wife and family at home unprotected without a man in the house, the children growing up without a father's guidance, etc.).

5. Disillusionment. (You were duped by the Communists, the South Vietnamese do not want   to be liberated, you are fighting for your old enemy China, you are killing your own kind, etc.).

 

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This official U.S. Army photograph taken by SP/5 Paul Sgroi depicts Specialist 4th Class John C. (Jack) Stermer of the S-5 (Civil Affairs) Section, 3rd brigade, 1st Air Cavalry. Stermer tosses handfuls of Chieu Hoi leaflets from a UH-1H (Huey) helicopter in mid-1969.

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ARVN interpreter prepares for loudspeaker mission

Stermer told me of a PSYOP mission over a small island on the Song Be River.

On the mission with me that day was an ARVN interpreter who helped with broadcasting some friendly, pre-taped PSYOP messages. I remember there was a truce that day in honor of Buddha's birthday and our mission was supposed to be pretty benign. However, two Viet Cong on the island began firing on a platoon of our guys trying to cross the river. As a result, we had the interpreter broadcast a live message offering Charlie a chance to surrender. That didn't happen, so we directed artillery fire on the island and the river crossing was successful.

The speakers we used fit in the door opening and we connected it to a small Sony tape recorder. I think the tapes came down from Division HQ. I always thought we were going to get shot out of the sky. The tapes had to really piss off Charlie!

Besides the five standard themes, there were four special campaigns.

1. Safe conduct passes dropped in the billions.

2. A reward campaign offering money for weapons, information, individuals and units.

3. A Tet campaign waged each New Year when the soldier would naturally yearn to return home.

4. Recruitment of the Hoi Chanh as part of the propaganda teams.

Tricks

Sometimes the Chieu Hoi people would use little tricks to get information. One of these is mentioned in Allen B. Clark’s Valor in Vietnam: Chronicles of Honor, Courage, and Sacrifice: 1963-1977, Casemate Publishers, Philadelphia, 2012. Clark says:

The very talented Kim was a fortune-teller in the ancient Vietnamese tradition and she began a rather unusual activity at the Chieu Hoi center that proved to be invaluable in gathering intelligence for the province. She would play cards with the former Viet Cong and then pull out her fortune-telling kit; it was much like a child’s Pick-Up-Sticks game in America. Kim would shake the can and then spill the sticks into a pile. Each stick had a special marking. She would start at the top and carefully remove each stick, explaining the meaning to the defector. Soon, she would reach a solid black Death Stick, which suggested grave difficulties or even death were on the horizon for the man. Then she would note that the stick immediately below the Death Stick would cancel it out, but it required the man to provide worthwhile information to the government in order to be effective. The ploy worked! Defectors who had resisted trained government interrogators were trained government interrogators were soon telling everything they knew about Viet Cong activities in the province, all because of Kim’s trick Death Stick.

The Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) published a Directive 381-11-1 On 5 August 1968 entitled Military Intelligence Exploitation of Human Sources and Captured Documents.

The document says:

Returnees are particularly fruitful sources of information because, unlike prisoners of war, they have made a personal decision to reject their former allegiance. The psychological barrier of "name, rank, service number, and date and place of birth" does not exist. Interrogation, exploitation, detention, and processing must take into full account the significantly different status of the returnees.

RVN authorities require that the returnee be delivered to a Chieu Hoi agency within 48 hours of the original contact with friendly elements. During this period he may be interrogated for perishable information of immediate tactical value. If, for some reason, he cannot be delivered to the local Chieu Hoi agency within this length of time, immediate notification must be given the Province Chieu Hoi officials of the arrival of the returnee. Interrogation and exploitation should be accomplished as expeditiously as possible.

Returnees reporting to RVN agencies or directly to the Province Chieu Hoi Center will be available at the Chieu Hoi Center for interrogation upon request by the local senior US intelligence officer to local Chieu Hoi officials. GVN Chieu Hoi regulations require that interrogations be conducted in the Chieu Hoi Centers which are located at Province, Region, and National levels. The purpose of these regulations is to prevent hostile interrogation or mistreatment of Hoi Chanh. In special cases, however, returnees may be removed from the Center provided Chieu Hoi officials are aware and are in agreement with proposed action. The local senior US intelligence officer will establish continuing liaison with ARVN and GVN Chieu Hoi officials to insure that returnees who report directly to the Province Chieu Hoi Center are properly interrogated and reported.

Returnees may be asked to volunteer to assist military operations as guides or informants; however, such request must be approved by the local Chieu Hoi officials. Units using returnees in such operations will insure that the individuals are adequately protected, fed, housed, and returned to the Chieu Hoi Center immediately upon completion of the operation. A report will be furnished the local Chieu Hoi officials of the results of the operation in order to properly reward the returnee for his information.

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Some of the weapons turned over by ralliers were displayed at the Binh Duong Chieu Hoi Center. 3

Receipt for confiscated weapons, monies, and documents will be issued to the returnee by the receiving unit or agency prior to transfer of the returnee to the Chieu Hoi Center.

Returnees should not be evacuated as prisoners of war, but should be delivered to the nearest Chieu Hoi official or office (there is an office in each district). If for some reason returnees must be evacuated through intelligence channels to higher or adjacent headquarters, the CMIC, or a Corps CIC, the local Chieu Hoi officials must be notified.

Operations using Chieu Hoi Ralliers (Hoi Chanh)

Some of the North Vietnamese officers and soldiers who came over to the “just cause” of the Republic of Vietnam as a Chieu Hoi were not just passive guests. They took part in clandestine actions against their old comrades. From about 1969 to 1971 United States Army Special Forces (MACV-SOG), Central Intelligence Agency handlers and the Vietnamese So Cong Tac (Special Mission Service) sent some of these ralliers back behind the lines as part of a secret operation code-named Earth Angel. Some of these agents were inserted using the high altitude low opening (HALO) parachute method. These operations took place all along the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Cambodia and Laos and sometimes in the demilitarized zone. We should note that Cambodian defectors were also used in a second operation code-named Pike Hill. Since these teams were supposed to be local enemy troops they moved along the roads and trails instead of the jungle. As a result, you will also find them identified occasionally as Road Runners.

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Female Hoi Chanh Records Propaganda message Against her old Viet Cong Comrades

E4 John P. Martin of the 170th Assault Helicopter Company / Command and Control Central, Kontum, assigned to the Studies and Observation Group (SOG) discussed an Earth Angel mission:

About March 1970 I was asked to report to Forward Operating Base (FOB) II at Kontum. We were told that we would insert a very hard looking older man dressed in a North Vietnamese Colonel’s uniform behind the lines. The officer in charge pointed to a map and although I don’t remember exactly where we were going, I think it was in Cambodia.

We took him in by helicopter and left him in some heavy brush along a tree line. We returned to our base and were taken off standby for three days. The NVA colonel was our only mission. After three days we returned to the tree line and there he was. We had a minute of worry wondering if he had “turned” again and we were about to be ambushed, but there was no movement along the tree line. I watched the colonel carefully to make sure he never pointed his weapon at us as he boarded the craft. We returned to the same FOB II inside helipad as we used to take him out. That pad was rarely used since there was another one outside the FOB that was used on SOG missions. This mission was very secret and we had no cover going in or coming out. We were all alone. That makes for a very nervous disposition. There were just a few of us crewing the bird, none of my people, and as a result I never told anyone in my unit or talked about it until today. We took the colonel in to join a NVA unit, learn as much as he could, quietly depart, and come back to us. I did not try to talk to him. He didn’t have much to say to me either. What was there to talk about?

Major “Wick” Zimmer, the 1970 SOG Airborne Studies Group (OP-36A) Commander admired the dedication of the North Vietnamese Hoi Chanh who took part in Earth Angel:

The Earth Angel agent was a product of northern society. They would hold self-criticism sessions at night, just like they had done in the North Vietnamese Army. They never balked at a mission, never gave any disciplinary problems. They were extremely motivated, almost without parallel.

A more interesting example is a Viet Cong Lieutenant who rallied to the Republic of Vietnam as a Chieu Hoi and became the perimeter security adviser at a secret airfield / combat base in Laos. He was always able to spot areas of likely infiltration and see that they were well covered by weapons and explosives. The story is told by a former Air Commando who served at Laos Site (LS-153) in Mouang Kassy in 1970:

I was met at the shed by the guys I was to be working with and with them was what looked like a civilian local national. He was a bit taller than I was used to and was dressed a bit differently. He was the guy who was responsible for setting up the static perimeter defenses around the airstrip, main compound, and the interior compound where us falangs (foreigners) stayed. He immediately took me on a tour of the defenses. There was a minefield, tanglefoot (single-strand barbed wire strung in a meshwork pattern at about ankle height. A barrier designed to make it difficult to cross the obstructed area by foot. Usually placed around permanent defensive positions), stacked concertina, and more tanglefoot. The bunkers covered each other and were fronted by and flanked by tanglefoot. There were "V" board rocket launchers aimed to hit places of natural cover that couldn't be easily cleared. There were trip flares, set so that they could be seen from inside the bunker line but not from outside. They would be indicators of a probe if they were moved or tampered with but not tripped overnight. There were mortar pits. There were bunkers built up to give the occupants a high vantage point and with a "basement" bunker included to protect from direct fire. Bunker openings designed so that fire from the rear could not freely penetrate the main bunker. The main point of entry to the secure area defended in depth by bunker lines on each side covering the guardhouse. It would take some doing to get inside the compound from outside using force. While the tour went on, the civilian's chest would sort of puff out every time I made a complimentary remark or mentioned that some detail looked better done here than it had been done on other sites I had been to. As the tour wound down and we neared the communication bunker he explained why things were different here. That civilian in charge of the static defenses had once been a Lieutenant Grade cadre in the Viet Cong who had Chieu Hoi'ed and was now working with the Government of Laos forces against the communist Pathet Lao. He had been allowed to bring his family from Viet Nam to live with him and since there were numbers of local Lao fighting on both sides in the war he was trusted because he too was falang to the local tribe.

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"Double your pleasure" Chieu Hoi Cartoon
4th PSYOP Group Credibilis - 10 January 1968

A Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) sergeant reported that he had a Chieu Hoi that had one major problem. Enemy prisoners left alone with him tended to end up dead. This Hoi Chanh had lost his Grandfather, his father and two brothers to the Viet Cong death squads. He had been conscripted at age 12 by the Viet Cong, but had snuck away at 13 and alerted an Army fire base about a planned sapper attack. Apparently, he had a long memory and it did not include “forgive and forget.”

Things did not always go so smooth with Chieu Hoi defectors. The same LRRP sergeant told of a Chieu Hoi that went out with a team and returned alone with a slight flesh wound to his upper arm. A second team was sent out with this very lucky Hoi Chanh and this time kept a careful watch on him. One of the team was an Apache and when the Chieu Hoi snuck off one night the Apache was hot on his heels. The defector met up with a couple of NVA, talked for a few minutes and headed back to the team's location. The Apache returned before the Chieu Hoi and briefed the team on what he had seen. They immediately departed the location and called for extraction a kilometer away. The Chieu Hoi was mysteriously "killed in action."

PSYOPS POLICY No. 59, dated 20 February 1968 contains a psychological operations policy and guidance. It was prepared by JUSPAO, the military agency that directed U.S. propaganda efforts from Saigon in accordance with US mission directives, and was to be implemented as pertinent by all U.S. Elements in Vietnam. The title is "The North Vietnam Army (NVA) Soldier in South Vietnam as a PSYOP Target." Besides guidance, the policy paper mentions a number of standard leaflets available for immediate reprint should the need arise. SP-1415 "Who Is Your Enemy?," SP-2263 "NVA Poem," SP-2266 "Good Treatment for NVA POWs," SP 2267 "To Soldiers of the NVA" (a Tet greeting), SP-2273 "Soldiers of the NVN People’s Army" (Tet Greeting), SP-2277 "The RVN Invites You," and SP-2236 "NVA POWs Live Peacefully."

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The Enemy in your Hands

On the subject of prisoners-of-war, during WWII it was very hard to bring in a Japanese POW in the Pacific theater because the Marines tended to kill them all. This was a constant problem and there were numerous letters and memorandums sent down to the men explaining how important it was to get a live Japanese soldier for intelligence. The Marine Brass finally figured it out. They gave two cases of beer to anyone bringing in a live POW.

In Vietnam the men were educated from day one to take prisoners and issued this folded card to remind them. It opens to show five paragraphs of instruction. Here I depict the front and back, notice that it is authorized 23 August 1965 by President Lyndon B. Johnson.

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Detainee Card

Once the Viet Cong or North Vietnam Army fighter was in Allied hands, there was another form to be filled out. The Detainee Card - USARV Form 365 dated 21 December 1966 was attached to POWs and detainees in the field as they were sent to the rear. The card was made of cloth-paper. It was to be filled out completely and attached to enemy POWs, detainees, and Hoi Chanhs. The actual status of the detainee was determined in the rear area after processing. If the detainee card was not available, then even the cardboard from C-rations boxes could be used for a make-shift tag.

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Blacklist Card

The 3 x 5-inch card on white stock was used by the Chieu Hoi staff to identify Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army infiltrators. When information was received from a friendly Hoi Chanh, it would be listed on this card in English and Vietnamese so there would be a record of the individual should he be found or interrogated at some future date.

Printing the Leaflets

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U-10 aircraft disbursing leaflets

It is impossible to determine how many Chieu Hoi leaflets were produced during the length of the war. The Leaflet Catalog, 7th PSYOP Battalion, Danang, 1969, lists no less than 65 leaflets in the special category "Chieu Hoi." The first is 7-757-68, "Soldier of North Vietnam," the last is 7-528-69, "The Nguyen Trai Campaign." The latter was a campaign to psychologically attack enemy cadre and soldiers to cause them to rally. These 65 leaflets are just from a single battalion in a bit more than one year of the war.

The reader must also remember that the Chieu Hoi leaflets were being printed in numerous places. For instance, Bob Fulton, the Executive officer of the Regional Support Center (RSC) in Manila, the Philippines, told me:

I was intimately involved with the high-altitude leaflet and Chieu Hoi programs. We worked closely with JUSPAO, 7th PSYOP Group and the Air Force for more than three years. Even the C.I.A. got into the act at one point. In mid-1967 JUSPAO and MACV outsourced to our organization a significant portion of the design, procurement, production and logistics of printed PSYOP products, especially anything that required four-colors. We did the majority of the magazines (and comic books), posters, and miscellaneous printed stuff as well. We procured and put together the strange Chieu Hoi “gift bags,” the hidden-message soap, and even the one-channel air dropped radios for the clandestine North Vietnam missions.

The 7th PSYOP catalog also mentions various mixes of Chieu Hoi leaflets that were designed to be dropped together. For instance, mix 4 consists of 7-565-68 "With aching Heart," 7-690-68 "Chieu Hoi Poems," and 7-757-68 "Chieu Hoi is for VC/NVA." Mix 12 consists of JUSPAO leaflets SP3210 "I can't stop weeping," and SP3211 "Rallying helps you return to your friends."

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A former VC guerilla receives a cash award after he rallied to the GVN side then led allied troops to a large cache of communist weapons. 4

The reader must remember that there were also various leaflets offering rewards for weapons and information, monetary offers, safe conduct passes, etc., all of which were part of the program but not specifically listed under "Chieu Hoi."

The catalog mentions five Chieu Hoi themes under the heading "Instructions for use of objectives/ appeals indicators." The instructions are, "The Chieu Hoi campaign: The PSYOP objective is to cause the enemy to rally. This is done essentially, with five types of themes or appeals:

1. Rallier exploitation (exploitation of Hoi Chanh).

2. Rally appeals (inducements to rally so as to relieve a condition; i.e. fighting for the wrong cause).

3. Third party inducement (an appeal to a third party to convince a member in the enemy ranks to rally).

4. Advertisement (an advertisement of the benefits a Hoi Chanh derives from rallying).

5. Instructions (how to rally).

Were there additional items produced and distributed besides themed leaflets? Absolutely. We have already stated that this was the biggest and costliest PSYOP program during the Vietnam War. There were hundreds, and perhaps thousands of other objects used to convince the enemy to rally.

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1970 Chieu Hoi Pocket Calendar

Small pocket calendars and large wall calendars were given to the military and the public. They bore the Chieu Hoi emblem and/or a message.

The Calendar above shows the first six months of 1970 on the front and the last six months on the back. Chieu Hoi symbols are on both sides. Although it is difficult to see, the holidays are marked with red. The text is:

Our life is guaranteed under the Government of Vietnam
All the family is missing you. Chieu Hoi!
There is nothing difficult about Hoi Chanh. Just act!
Follow the Chieu Hoi appeal and return to build your life in freedom!

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Chieu Hoi Folded Pocket Card

Military members were issued a small folding card that showed the Vietnam seven-flag safe conduct pass on the front and a message from General Creighton Abrams on the back. Inside there is a text starting “How can you help?” followed by five ways to help a Viet Cong go Chieu Hoi. The above card was carried by U.S.A.F. Colonel W.J. McKenzie, Squadron Commander, “A” Flight, 4th Special Operations Squadron, Da Nang, Republic of Vietnam, August 1968 to August 1969.

Robert W. Chandler mentions Chieu Hoi gifts in War of ideas, the U. S. Propaganda Campaign in Vietnam:

Twenty-five thousand Japanese-produced strongly scented bars of soap, each containing seven different Chieu Hoi messages printed on interior layers, were delivered by hand during the 1969 Tet campaign.

One infantry division dropped white flags soaked in the Vietnamese fish sauce called Nuoc Mam to hungry enemy soldiers in an effort to persuade them to rally.

Marines placed a Chieu Hoi leaflet and a cigarette in plastic bags and floated them up the mouths of rivers during evening tides; similarly, plastic bags containing a washcloth, a half piece of elephant soap, needles and thread, and a leaflet were drifted into Viet Cong areas.

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A Chieu Hoi T-Shirt

As long as we are talking about gifts we should show this Chieu Hoi T-Shirt found by Specialist 4th Class Sig Hall of the 64th Engineer Detachment (Terrain) between Nha Trang and Ban Me Thuot shortly after the Viet Cong 1968 Tet offensive. I assume that when the shooting got close and “Charley” was all around, some wise Hoi Chanh ditched this shirt to save his life. The text on the front of the shirt is:

Chieu Hoi

You Will Be Treated Well

The text on the back of the shirt is:

Why Follow the Inhuman Communist Thugs

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Chess Game

It was apparently decided in November 1967 during the Vietnam War that if the locals and the Viet Cong could become interested in playing chess, they would be less likely to set up ambushes and bury mines and punji stakes. As a result, this Joint United States Public Affairs Office product coded 2257 was developed. The finder could use the leaflet and cut out the pieces to play Vietnamese chess. It is certainly one of the oddest PSYOP items disseminated in wartime. Notice that the center of the board bears the words “Chieu Hoi” (“Open Arms”), and the Chieu Hoi symbol is at the left and right.

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Leaflet 3434

During WWII the Americans produced a number of leaflets depicting Japanese troops in prisoner-of-war camps playing Chess, Checkers, or Go. We mention Vietnamese chess above, but in this leaflet we see Vietnamese prisoners happily playing music and what appears to be the board game backgammon. It was important to show prospective defectors that their time spent in captivity would be enjoyable. The title of this leaflet is:

YOU WILL BE TREATED HUMANELY

The back is all text and says:

HOW ARE VIET CONG AND NORTH VIETNAMESE ARMY PRISONERS TREATED?

The Government of Vietnam is using love to wipe out hatred. Therefore, all VC and NVA prisoners are treated well. On the front are some pictures taken in Prisoner-of-war camps in Vietnam which prove that to be captured is not to be dead. If you are captured do not despair. Fortunately, you will be treated humanely like the comrade in these pictures.

This leaflet was picked up by an American airman in Da Nang in 1971. It was in a cloud of such leaflets dropped by a C-130 aircraft flying west of the Da Nang Air base.

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Poster 2720

Although a bit worse for the wear after being handled and folded for five decades, this poster still holds it color pretty well. It has “Number 3” at the bottom so we assume it was one of a series of similar posters. It depicts the return of a former Viet Cong who has accepted the Chieu Hoi offer, and other pictures imply that his family has also returned or at least rejoined him. The Chieu Hoi symbol is at the bottom of the poster. The text is:

MORE THAN 140 VIET CONG CHOSE TO LIVE

Embracing freedom, these returnee brothers were warmly greeted and conscientiously assisted by the Government of the Republic of Vietnam. Now they are highly confident in the return policy and being processed for interim settlement at the returnee center.

Mr. Tran Huy Nho, a Viet Cong platoon leader, has returned.

This 12 year old little boy has returned and now is joyfully talking with a woman.

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Navy Boats Chieu Hoi Poster

Hundreds of different posters were printed and put up on walls and poles wherever the people were likely to congregate. Even the Navy got into the act. Posters were used in the Delta to induce Viet Cong to give themselves up. The United States Navy and the Vietnamese Navy used Patrol Boats, River (PBR), Yabuta junks, River Assault Group (RAG) boats, and Patrol Crafts, Fast (PCF) "swift boats" for missions where they played Chieu Hoi tapes late into the night. Posters were produced showing the various vessels and reminding the Viet Cong:

Rules for the Costal and Water Port Areas.

To those who live in the Delta or Costal Areas:

If you want to return to the Just Cause of the Nation, please follow the following instructions:

Hide your weapons, remember where you hide you weapon so you can retrieve it later for rewards.

Approach South Vietnamese or Allied ships (pictures attached herewith), raise your hands high to show your good will.

Our sailors are instructed to welcome you and to take you to a Chieu Hoi Center.

Please Return to The Just Cause of the Nation so we can build a prosperous nation together.

This poster is a passport for your safe passage.

The vessels often had signs on the port and starboard railings and on the fantail which said,

Every vessel of the Navy of Vietnam and the United States is a Chieu Hoi rallying point for those friendly Viet Cong who want to return to the true government

The U.S. Navy did a lot of Chieu Hoi PSYOP in Vietnam. The U.S. Naval Forces Vietnam After-action Monthly Reports mentions hundreds of such operations but I will just add a few:

The 1968 Tet Psychological Operations Campaign began on 1 January with the distribution of printed material designed to instill a desire for unity under the National Government. U. S. Navy units conducted loudspeaker broadcasts providing entertainment, news and Chieu Hoi appeals throughout the coastal and river areas.

In April 1968, the Navy medics treated approximately 25,000 Vietnamese. The Vietnamese always gathered in large crowds to hear the loudspeaker broadcasts and to receive the wide variety of PSYOP material including food, newspapers, magazines, Chieu Hoi leaflets, soap and cooking oils.

The Chieu Hoi rate for Naval forces dropped off drastically from the record high at 115 in May 1969 to six who rallied directly to Naval units and six who turned themselves in to other forces as a result of Navy loudspeaker broadcasts. Some of the themes of the PSYOP tapes played in June 1969 were: “Wandering Soul,” “Women and Children Crying,” “Family Separation,” and “VC Fighting a Hopeless War.”

There were nineteen enemy soldiers who went Chieu Hoi to U.S. Navy and Vietnamese Navy forces in October 1969. Disillusionment with the Viet Cong cause, lack of food, and family separation were common reasons that the Viet Cong gave for rallying to the Government of Vietnam’s side. There has been some success with Chieu Hoi messages that called for VC by name to give themselves up. One Hoi Chanh said he rallied because he was afraid the "big iron boat" would return and call him by name.

The General Political Warfare Directorate was responsible for developing and implementing POLWAR programs within the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces (RVNAF) to accomplish the POLWAR missions as follows: The first mission of the GPWD was to create and maintain the loyalty of the RVNAF to its leaders, nation and national ideology. The second POLWAR mission was to gain and maintain the support of the civilian populace. The final mission of political warfare was to break down the loyalty of the enemy to his leaders and cause him to desert the enemy or rally to the government side.

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Chieu Hoi – Reward Poster on Bulletin Board

This poster was photographed on a bulletin board. It shows a standard safe conduct pass with some changes, the Thai text at bottom is now Vietnamese. It has a reward message for weapons at the right. Some of the text is:

The bond of love between husband and wife is very deep

How can you be so cruel as to leave her behind and make her miss you.

On the safe conduct pass:

This pass will be honored by all agencies of the Republic of Vietnam's Government and by Allied Forces

On the rewards for weapons side:

Rewards for Weapons

The Government of the Republic of Vietnam will appropriately reward rallies who turn in weapons or who show the government where weapons are cached.

Weapons List
Pistols (all types) $1,000
Rifles (all types) $3,000
Sub-Machinegun $5,000
Flamethrowers $5,000
Light Machine-guns $7,500
7.62mm machineguns $7,500
12.7mm machineguns $20,000
Mortars (all types) [illegible]
57mm recoilless rifles [illegible]
75mm recoilless rifles $34,000
82mm recoilless rifles $50,000
Bazookas (all types) $20,000

Take this pass to the national government and you will be:
Greeted and Welcomed
Your life will be protected
Treated Well

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Actively Participate…

The first poster asks every soldier to be an agent for the Chieu Hoi campaign. Each of them should approach any Viet Cong that they know and appeal to him to return to the government side. The code on both posters is “DBV 328 AH 9669.”The text is:

Actively Participate in Appealing to Communist Cadres and Soldiers to Return to the Nationalist Cause

Every Soldier...

The second poster has the same general theme. It reminds the average Vietnamese soldier that he is expected to be a salesman for the “Open Arms” campaign. The text is:

Every Soldier and Every Citizen Must Be a Chieu Hoi Cadre

A number of slogan cards were developed. These long cards were used by both sides during the war. I have seen numerous pieces of paper with a pro-VC message on them. Often the VC would take a regular piece of writing paper and prepare long streamers about 8 x 2 inches with anti-Government text. JUSPAO prepared a series of 20 x 5 inch slogan cards, coded 1369 in August of 1966. There were seven different slogans printed, one to each card. They are:

  1. Taking part in Chieu Hoi activities is an act of patriotism.
  2. Chieu Hoi means building families and national brotherhood.
  3. Chieu Hoi is the means by which VC cadres liberate themselves.
  4. All the people take part in the Chieu Hoi activities.
  5. Chieu Hoi is the shortest way leading to peace.
  6. The Chieu Hoi policy is humanitarian.
  7. If Chieu Hoi activities are strong, the VC cadres are demoralized.

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The Chieu Hoi Story

There were also a number of small booklets published. A July 1967 20-page full-color cartoon booklet  coded 2078 entitled The Chieu Hoi Story presents in cartoon style the experiences and thoughts of a Hoi Chanh on the events which led to his decision to rally.

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Diary of a Returnee

An October 1967 booklet is coded 2169 and entitled Diary of a Returnee. It is a 20-page booklet with 12 photographs describing the experiences of a Viet Cong soldier from the time of his disillusionment to his return. It also lists Chieu Hoi benefits, weapons rewards, and a photograph of the standard flag safe conduct pass.

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Memoirs of Ten High-Ranking VC Cadres

This 88-page Vietnamese-language propaganda magazine is entitled Memoirs of Ten High-Ranking VC Cadres. Inside, are the photographs and stories of ten Viet Cong cadre who went Hoi Chanh and defected to the south.

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Recording PSYOP Tape

There were a number of short audio tapes available for use against the Viet Cong and NVA. In the National Catalog of PSYOP Material, JUSPAO, 1969, over 161 such tapes are listed. Many of them are Chieu Hoi. One 38-second tape, number 7, is entitled "Your choice, return to the Government of Vietnam or die." A male voice says:

Do you want to get out of this living Hell? Do you want to live instead of dying? If you want to live, then answer the call to Chieu Hoi. You have just two choices - death or Chieu Hoi. You have just two choices - death or Chieu Hoi. Death or Chieu Hoi.

A second 47-second tape, number 26A, also features a male speaker. It starts with a bugle call, then:

Attention weary soldiers of North Vietnam! We know the hard times you face. Not enough food; not enough medicine; your leaders have misled you; they are taking you down the road to sure death. You see now they have not told you the truth. Do not die far from home because of their lies. Return to the open arms of the Government of Vietnam. The choice is up to you. Death...or come to the Open Arms of the Government of Vietnam! Death of Chieu Hoi.

The message ends with a second bugle call.

A third 60-second loudspeaker tape features the sounds of women and children crying for the first 20 seconds. Then an exchange between two voices is heard:

Announcer # 1: Oh why is there such mournful crying

Announcer # 2:  These are the sounds of sorrow coming from the homes you left, the heart-broken cry of a young wife who has lost her husband – the sad cry of a mother whose son will not return – the pitiful cry of a little child whose father has been killed – cruelly robbed of life in the so called "war of liberation" – the very war in which you now participate.

Announcer # 1: It is also the sad, sad cry of families whose sons have died so senselessly for communism.

Announcer # 2: Why don’t you return at once to rejoin your family? They are waiting for you. A child’s laugh is such a dear sweet sound. But the child’s cry is such a sad and mournful sound. Isn’t it?

The last 20 seconds of the tape is a repeat of the sounds of women and children crying.

There is another sound tape associated with Chieu Hoi that we should mention. The 1969 document Employment of U.S. Army Psychological Operation Units in Vietnam says about Operation Tintinnabulation:

Operation Tintinnabulation was a new Propaganda technique being tested by the 10th PSYOP Battalion, in cooperation with the 5th Special Operations Squadron, was recently employed against two VC battalions. Tintinnabulation (which literally means the ringing of bells) involves two C-47 aircraft, one "Spooky" (minigun-equipped) and the other a "Gabby" (loudspeaker-equipped). During the initial phase, the Gabby employs a frequency pulsating noisemaker designed to harass and confuse the enemy forces during night hours, while the Spooky provides air cover. During the second phase, the harassing noisemaker continues, however, emphasis is given to use of Chieu Hoi tapes. The first phase is designed to eliminate the feeling that the night provides security to the target audience, while the second phase is designed to reinforce the enemy’s desire to rally. Targets for both phases are recommended based on the results of daytime ground operations. During a recent operation in Vinh Long Province, a total of 24 missions were flown with over-the-target time of approximately 2 hours per aircraft. The number of Hoi Chanhs in the province more than tripled (122 in September to 379 in December), and ralliers stated that the effects of the night missions caused them to rally. The initial success of Operation Tintinnabulation suggested this concept should be considered for use in other areas.

Paper and Plastic Bags as a Medium of Propaganda

The propagandist is always looking for a new method to place his PSYOP message in front of the public. One way that was tried on several occasions in Vietnam was placing the message on plastic or paper bags. In the first case it was the ammo wrapper of the M16 rifle. The bags were discarded after use so why not add a PSYOP slogan?

In other cases carrying bags and shopping bags were utilized. There is some question about the value of these bags. I have heard criticisms that most Vietnamese were not in the habit of carrying their items in bags so would tear them up and use the paper to wrap their purchases. I can’t say how successful the campaign was, but there are about a dozen items known, most of them with Chieu Hoi messages.

The Operational Report of Lessons Learned for the Quarterly Period ending 31 July 1968 of the 10th PSYOP Battalion mentions shopping bags:

A psychological operations campaign designated "Shopping Bag Campaign" has been developed. Small paper bags are to be over printed with propaganda messages and disseminated to market place venders. Goods purchased from the venders will be placed in the bags. The objective of the campaign is to infiltrate propaganda into VC infested areas. In support of the campaign the battalion has developed and printed Chieu Hoi and National Police messages:

Cooperate with the National Police

Chieu Hoi to a better way of life

A third theme is being developed to encourage participation in civil defense organizations. Initially, 60,000 bags (20,000 per theme) will be disseminated. Upon receipt of feedback indicating positive effectiveness, the battalion will continue to develop and print messages in support of the campaign.

The declassified 1969 report Employment of US Army Psychological Operations Units in Vietnam said about the shopping bag Campaign:

The IV Corps Tactical Zone PSYOP Campaign “Grocery Bag” was completed on 14 September 1968. Small paper bags, printed with PSYOP messages, were disseminated to market place vendors. The objective of this campaign was to convey PSYOP messages into VC controlled/contested areas. The following themes were stressed in support of the campaign: Chieu Hoi, Support the rational Police, and Join and Support Self-defense. Reports from provinces were favorable. No province reported resistance by vendors to having Chieu Hoi materials in their possession. In Dinh Tuong Province, Cultural Drama Team members handled the distribution of the grocery bags and reported the merchants received the bags with enthusiasm. All indicators pointed to a very successful campaign.

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M16 Ammo Bag

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M16 Ammo box

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10 round strip of 5.56 mm M16 ammo

The climate of Vietnam was hot and wet. M16 ammunition was sometimes packed in a plastic waterproof bag that was discarded after use. Each ammo bag contained two strips of ten 5.56 mm ball cartridges. This was exactly the amount needed to fill one M16 magazine. A Chieu Hoi message was placed on the bag so that it could be left along the trail for the VC to find and read. The text is:

Returning Chieu Hoi will help you see your parents, your wife and your children again in the peaceful scenery of a free and democratic state of Vietnam.

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We miss you

This paper shopping bag was issued by JUSPAO in May 1968 coded 2619. The bags were made by a private contractor and funded by the unit requesting them. The vignette depicts a Vietnamese father, wife and daughter. The text is:

CHIEU HOI

We miss you at the evening meal.

We miss you at every evening meal; your mother, your child and I are waiting for you.

Return to the Just Cause and be reunited with your family.

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Friends with the Viet Cong

This paper shopping bag is coded 2620 and uses an image that is also found on a propaganda leaflet 927A “Compatriots, come home"… It depicts a Vietnamese family longing for their son who has joined the Viet Cong. The bags were made by a private contractor and funded by the unit requesting them. Other paper bags were coded 2621 and 2622. The text is:

CHIEU HOI

Friends with the Viet Cong!

Return to your family!

They miss you and need you.

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Leaflet 2620

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The House is our House

JUSPAO also produced waterproof plastic bags. The bags were made by a private contractor and funded by the unit requesting them. This first bag, coded 2679 was part of a “Patriotic School Kit.” It depicts the flag of Vietnam in the center at text at the bottom:

This house is our house, our fathers worked hard to establish it; their grandchildren continue to preserve it, long life to our homeland.

 

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Chieu Hoi

The final plastic bag coded 2274 was produced out of the country by commercial contract for JUSPAO and as usual the cost was borne by the organization requesting them. A Chieu Hoi symbol was in the center and text below.

Implore your dear ones to return so you can stop worrying about their well-being.

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Clear plastic shopping bag

Curiously, in the case of the paper and plastic bags, JUSPAO did not provide the items freely. In both cases there is a note, "This is a contractor produced item. The funds to have these bags produced must be provided by the requester." Perhaps it was because they were considered commercial items.

An Army officer who worked at the Regional Service Center (RSC) in Manila producing many of these bags told me:

The gift bags were distributed at the Reeducation Camps where Chieu Hoi defectors were sent. They were pretty basic, approximately 12 x 18-inch plastic bags with the Chieu Hoi logos silk-screened on both sides. They included writing stationary, pencils, soap, and a lot of propaganda material trying to recruit them into volunteering for the South Vietnamese Army or as US Scouts. We called them the "Welcome Wagon" bags. Like many other projects we took on, this was a JUSPAO-conceived project, passed off to 7th PSYOP Group to devise and implement, and after the initial tests, given to us to produce and cost-optimize. In addition to our in-house capabilities, RSC had a large number of outside vendors throughout SE Asia, largely through the family networks of overseas Ethnic Chinese communities. We procured the bags, soap, and pencils from a variety of these sources, most in the Philippines, printed the written material in-house, put the packages together, and shipped them to Vietnam by sea transport. Initially, the bags were white opaque, but were changed to clear plastic so that they could not be used to smuggle stuff in or out of the reeducation camps.

The typical Chieu Hoi returnee was from 15 to 25 years of age, had little or no education, and had been a farmer or hired laborer before becoming a Viet Cong guerilla. Most defectors rallied after being with the Viet Cong for less than a year. These returnees were persuaded to surrender to the GVN by various propaganda leaflets generated by the Chieu Hoi Program. Generally, VC morale was low because many of their recruits had been pressed into service.

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MACV Information Pamphlet on the Chieu Hoi program

A number of official military publications were prepared and distributed to the troops. In both 1968, 1969 and 1970 small booklets entitled Chieu Hoi – The Winning Ticket were published as an MACV Command Information Pamphlet. The pamphlet shows the 7-flag safe conduct pass on the cover. The back shows a small American “Helio U-10 Courier” aircraft dropping propaganda leaflets. The inner pages contain photos and text:

WHAT IS THE CHIEU HOI PROGRAM? Chieu Hoi (Open Arms) is the national V.C. defector program. It pays big dividends: It weakens the NVA/VC, it saves American lives, and it can shorten the war. The Viet Cong know what they want. They give their men hard training and effective indoctrination. The result – a dangerous enemy. But, the heat of the battle reveals many weaknesses. The VC soldier soon finds out his cadre lied. He finds – he is outgunned and outclassed; fighting for a phony cause – a lost cause. A man starts to think: given a chance, he might decide to quit. Many do quit when they get the chance.

The 1968 pamphlet (MACV Command Information Pamphlet 6-68, July 1968) gives the current count:

27,178 rallied to the government in 1967. Of these, 17,671 were armed military Viet Cong/NVA. That is the same as two enemy divisions. If we had been forced to eliminate those 17,671 on the battlefield, it would have cost us and our allies about 5000 dead. Under Chieu Hoi we got those 17,671 over to our side without taking casualties.

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MACV Chieu Hoi 1969 Information Pamphlet Back

The 1969 pamphlet (MACV Command Information Pamphlet 6-69, March 1969) gives a later count:

45,259 rallied to the government in 1967 and 1968. Of these, 29,276 were armed military Viet Cong/NVA. That is the same as 95 enemy infantry battalions. If we had been forced to eliminate those 29,276 on the battlefield, it would have cost us and our allies about 6000 dead. Under Chieu Hoi we got those 29,276 over to our side without taking casualties.

For some reason the 1969 booklet seems rarer than the 1978 and 1970. Perhaps it was an off year and not so many were printed. One was offered for sale in 2015 and sold for $26.

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MACV Chieu Hoi 1970 Information Pamphlet Back

The 1970 pamphlet (Command Information Pamphlet 9-70, March 1970) gives a final count:

45,259 rallied to the government in 1967 and 1968. Of these, 29,276 were armed military Viet Cong/NVA. That is the same as 95 enemy infantry battalions. If we had been forced to eliminate those 29,276 on the battlefield, it would have cost us and our allies about 6000 dead. For 1969 over 47,000 had rallied. The Chieu Hoi program brought those ralliers over to our side without taking casualties.

Notice that the 1969 and 1970 numbers are almost identical. They have removed MACV as a sponsor and simply reprinted the previous year’s pamphlet.

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Chieu Hoi Propaganda Team Member

The booklets go on:

When he comes over, he provide valuable information about: enemy units, caches of weapons, ammunition, caches of food. He brings in or locates weapons which otherwise would be used against you. Many serve as ‘Kit Carson’ scouts. They help you locate enemy mines, booby traps, and serve as guides for your unit. Many former V.C. join armed propaganda teams, which talk other V.C. into rallying. Finally, the former V.C. goes back to farming or some other occupation. What does the program Cost? The cost is approximately $369.00 ($500 by 1970) for each former enemy Viet Cong. This is insignificant when you consider that the estimated cost for killing a V.C. runs into many thousands of dollars. How can you help? Let all the would be defectors (Hoi Chanh) come in safely. Give voluntary defectors Chieu Hoi (not POW) treatment. Segregate Chieu Hoi from POWs. 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.

It is worth noting that 15,000 copies of “The Winning Ticket” were also printed in the Korean language in January 1969, coded 3073. The booklet depicted the same aircraft on the cover but now it bore Korean insignia. The 16-page booklet was adapted from the English version by Korean forces and was designed to explain the purpose, achievement, operational methods, inducement appeals, correct treatment of returnees, and the benefits to the soldier, nation, and efforts for peace of the Chieu Hoi program to Korean Armed Forces in The Republic of Vietnam.

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Leaflet 3123

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

Return to alleviate the suffering of the people.

The back is all text:

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

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Leaflet 2330A 

JUSPAO leaflet 2330A is longer than usual at 3.4 x 8.5 inches and was prepared for use against the Viet Cong nationwide in December 1967. The leaflet was picked up near Landing Zone Bronco, Dac Pho village, I Corps, by a SP4 of the 23rd (Americal) Infantry Division's 11th Light Infantry Brigade in early 1968. The front is in horizontal format, bears Chieu Hoi emblems at the left and right and the text:

DAI DOAN KET
means

All those who leave the Communist ranks and come back to the National Community will be welcomed as full-fledged citizens and will be protected and helped to rebuild a new life.

Why can't you leave the Communist ranks and return to the National Right Cause to serve the government and the people in building a bright future for our children rather than continue struggling with hardships which lead to a meaningless death?

The back of the leaflet is in a vertical format and depicts a photograph of members of the armed propaganda teams on parade. The text is:

THEY ARE SERVING THE NATIONAL JUST CAUSE

On the National Day 400 members of the Armed Propaganda Teams participated in a parade in Saigon and were applauded by high-ranking officials of the Government of Vietnam and by hundreds of thousands of citizens.

Armed Propaganda teams are composed of returnees who voluntarily serve the Government of Vietnam. Their most important job is to explain the Chieu Hoi policy of the government to the people. They are furnished uniforms and equipment. They receive a monthly salary to support their families and children.

You are welcome through the Chieu Hoi door into the serving of the country and the people. You can use this leaflet or any other safe conduct pass to come back. You will be welcomed.

Although we will not discuss it in this article, the program called Dai Doan Ket (the National Reconciliation Policy) was an advanced part of the Chieu Hoi policy. This policy was promulgated by the Vietnamese Prime Minister on 19 April 1967 in order to extend the Chieu Hoi Program to the leadership levels of the enemy. The policy pledged reconciliation to all enemy soldiers and cadre who rejoined the national government. Returnees were promised jobs commensurate with their talents and experience. The government promised former VC that:

All citizens who abandon the communist ranks will enjoy the rights set forth in the Constitution, including the right of freedom, the right to have life, property and honor protected by the law, the right to take part in elections, the right to enjoy national assistance toward improving the standard of living of the nation.

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General Abrams

The next to the last page in both of The Winning Ticket pamphlets depicts a different photograph of General Abrams but the same text:

Remember – Chieu Hoi pays dividends. The Chieu Hoi program pays dividends to you, the fighting man. It provides intelligence and it save lives. It is my desire that every serviceman in Vietnam assist this program whenever he can. You support of this program will help materially in the defeat of the enemy on the battlefield. (Signed) Creighton W. Abrams, General, United States Army, Commanding.

The back cover of each pamphlet depicts the same image of a small aircraft dropping Chieu Hoi leaflets over the enemy.

There is another earlier and longer version of a similar pamphlet entitled Chieu Hoi – A Winning Program. Some of the pertinent quotes from this version are, "WHAT IS CHIEU HOI? Chieu Hoi is a program that appeals to military and civilian Viet Cong and to North Vietnamese Army (NVA) soldiers to rally to the side of the rightful government of the Republic of Vietnam. Translated, "Chieu Hoi" means "Open Arms." Through Chieu Hoi, the government offers the hand of friendship and a new beginning in life to any VC or NVA members. The program is directed specifically at communist-infested areas. "Hoi Chanh" (pronounced Hoy Chun) is the name given individual returnees, those who voluntarily return to government control after actively supporting the VC. "Returnee" is the English term used. A group should be addressed "Anh Chi Em Hoi Chanh," or "Our brothers and sisters who rally to the just cause." Similarly, a man is addressed "Anh Hoi Chanh Nguyen Van X" (Brother Nguyen Van X, Hoi Chang) and a woman "Chi Hoi Chang Nguyen Thi Y" (Sister Nguyen Thi Y, Hoi Chanh).

Hoi Chanh often identify VC for government forces. In Da Nang one man pointed out 20 VC to police in one day. In the 25th Division area another identified 16 VC in one day. (The government determines the reliability of Hoi Chanh before using their information, by careful interrogation and crosschecking of their stories with other sources.) Hoi Chanh frequently volunteer to accompany troop units on sweeps through villages. The benefits of using them on these operations are double. First, the Hoi Chanh is familiar with the area and its people and can identify VC as well as clear loyal villagers of suspicion. Second, the Hoi Chanh assists with population control by calming the fears of the people. He knows the Americans, Australians or whatever the force is and can tell the people that they have no cause for fear.

A rallier does not have to have a Safe Conduct Pass. In some cases, ralliers reported never having seen the passes. They can bring in any leaflet, or come without a leaflet. With or without a pass, a VC who wants to rally to the government often has a difficult time doing so. He must escape and evade the VC, then make contact with friendly forces without being shot by them. Rallying is even more difficult for the North Vietnamese soldier. His life has been lived in a closely controlled society; he usually has no information his Hanoi leaders do not want him to have. Not even radio broadcasts from the south can reach him because only higher headquarters have radios. Once in the south, the NVA soldier is usually stationed in deep jungle far from populated areas, in territory unfamiliar to him. His actions are watched by the other members of his three-man cell."

The booklet goes on to explain the Chieu Hoi organization.

The Vietnamese program is supervised by the Ministry of Information and Chieu Hoi. On the U.S. side, three agencies have Chieu Hoi responsibilities. USAID has executive responsibility for the Chieu Hoi Program for the US Mission. JUSPAO furnishes Chieu Hoi advisers at national level to assist GVN psychological warfare efforts, and JUSPAO field representatives help exploit the program in the regions and provinces. MACV provides technical advice and assistance to the Chieu Hoi program at all levels, particularly in PSYOP and in the area of exploiting intelligence from Hoi Chanh.

The Armed Forces Vietnam Network helped to educate the American soldier with various Chieu Hoi public announcements. One said:

Chieu Hoi is not a new helicopter.
[Sounds of helicopter].
Chieu Hoi is not a new automatic weapon.
[Sounds of gun fire].
Chieu How is not a Piece of heavy artillery.
[Sounds of cannon fire]
But the Chieu Hoi program can be just as effective as any of that equipment.
Chieu Hoi means “Open Arms” and that means a chance for enemy forces to rally to the government side.
To make sure that it’s as successful as possible, learn and follow all the rules of the Chieu Hoi Program.

Another message says:

Striking a blow at the enemy without endangering yourself is hard to do.
There is a way though.
We call it the Chieu Hoi program.
Every day thousands of leaflets are dropped along known and suspected enemy trails urging the enemy soldier to turn himself in.
He’s promised fair treatment and government protection if he does so.
When he turns himself in he expects you to follow the rules too.

Colonel Benjamin F. Findley, Jr. USAFR wrote a short review of selected parts of the program entitled US & Vietcong Psychological Operations in Vietnam, published in Psychological Operations Principles and Case Studies , Frank L. Goldstein, Air University Press, 1996.

Two special PSYOP targets were the Vietcong (VC) and the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) soldiers in South Vietnam. Two Chieu Hoi operations carried out in the Delta during 1970 and 1971 proved that PSYOP and combat pressure working together could get results. The operations were Operation Roundup in Kien Hoa Province and Project Falling Leaves in Kien Giang Province. Operation Roundup produced hundreds of enemy defectors, according to Colburn Lovett, a USIS foreign service information officer. One PSYOP technique was to take pictures of ralliers/defectors and have them sign a simple message on a leaflet, encouraging their comrades to join the cause. Another technique was to use loudspeaker teams of former VC soldiers who were sent back into the areas of their units to speak to their comrades in the bush. Project Falling Leaves combined Vietnamese and US personnel working in joint PSYOP activities. Armed propaganda teams (100 percent ex-VC) made deep penetrations and extensive face-to-face communications. All possible media were used, including boat-carried loudspeaker teams, leaflet drops, radio tapes, and television appeals by former VC.

He lists just four techniques:

Four special PSYOP techniques were employed in Vietnam: distribution of safe conduct passes, money for weapons, focus on returning home to celebrate during the Tet New Year, and armed propaganda teams composed of hoi chanh. Many PSYOP professionals believe these teams were effective because of their personal touch to the Chieu Hoi invitations.

The Psychological Operations book also says about the campaign:

After the low point at the end of 1964, the Chieu Hoi program showed a steady increase in the number of Vietcong returnees. In 1966 there were over 20,000 defectors, double the number of the preceding year. Total defections of Vietcong returning under this program numbered more than 75,000. If we accept the ratio of 10 government soldiers needed for each insurgent guerrilla, this program saved the GVN and the USA troop strength of over 750,000 soldiers. From the dollars-saved angle, the total cost of the program, using a figure of $127 to bring in a Vietcong defector, was around $9.5 million. Since the cost to kill a Vietcong is estimated at $300,000, killing this number of soldiers would have cost $2.25 billion.

Leaflets distributed from aircraft and by hand-proved to be the most practical means of disseminating the Chieu Hoi message. The ubiquitous “safe conduct pass,” which literally blanketed South Vietnam, was probably the most effective message. Though there were thousands of other leaflets stressing many other themes, the safe conduct pass was most often described by ralliers during interrogation as the one most seen and the one most conducive to rallying. After one battle, 90 percent of those VC who could be searched-the dead, wounded, and captured-had the safe conduct leaflet.

By the spring of 1971, JUSPAO had distributed nearly four billion leaflets in the campaign to persuade “men to rally to the GVN [Government of the Republic of Vietnam] under its amnesty program.”

Besides the safe conduct leaflet and rewards program, testimonials from Hoi Chanh (former VC) proved to be effective in the total psychological process of attitude change. It was determined that the Hoi Chanh testimonial should contain four essential elements: a photograph and complete individual description of the Hoi Chanh; an indication of why he rallied; discussion of the good treatment he received; and an appeal to his former comrades to rally. Experience in the field showed that when a PSYOP person wrote a testimonial message for a Hoi Chanh, it was usually recognized as propaganda. The best approach was for the Hoi Chanh to address his message specifically to his former unit and address some of his former comrades by name . He should tell enough about himself to convince the recipients of the message that he is in fact alive and well. The operative word in all Hoi Chanh testimonials was credibility.

The Joint U.S. Public Affairs Office Field development Division booklet Guidelines to Chieu Hoi Psychological Operations: the Chieu Hoi Inducement Program, states that the following media should be utilized to the maximum degree to reach military forces of the Viet Cong and encourage Hoi Chanh ralliers with Government of Vietnam and United States output:

Leaflets: Air-dropped and distributed by hand by military forces, Pacification teams, and Armed Propaganda teams.

Loudspeaker broadcasts: Airborne loudspeakers, vehicle-mounted speakers for use in daytime areas that can be reached and stationary speakers at outposts.

Radio: Radio Saigon, Voice of America and provincial radio stations.

Film: Theater film (35mm), Films for use in rural areas (16mm) and slides.

Newspapers: Provincial newspapers circulated in Viet Cong controlled or contested areas and mimeographed district news bulletins.

Display Materials: Posters, banners, photo exhibits, weapons exhibits, displays of Hoi Chanh art, displays of professional art and slogans on walls.

Public Meetings and Performances: Lectures or speeches, discussions, ceremonies, dramatic programs, musical programs and rallies or conventions of returnees.

Publications: Pamphlets and magazines.

Other Media: Conversations, comic books, calendars, almanacs, messages on gifts or donated items, books and letters.

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Chieu Hoi Postage Stamp

To advertise and popularize the Open Arms program the Republic of Vietnam released this stamp 18 February 1973 to celebrate the 200,000 returnee under the Chieu Hoi program.

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Stainless Steel and Brass Stencils bearing Slogans

We mention slogans on walls several times in this article but do not show the stencils used to make them. John Boyd II found these stainless steel and brass plates about 1972 while in college at NC State University in Raleigh, North Carolina. There were in a storage box with an old light projector. At first I thought that perhaps the images were projected on walls, but now believe that they are stencils for patriotic and government slogans and directives. Metal and brass stencils are recommended when the same text is going to be printed over and over. For propaganda purposes they could be sent out to the Vietnamese provinces or districts where the locals could use them for messages or to cut their own stencils out of cardboard or paper for placing the messages on walls or to use as leaflets. The texts in the above image are:

Stop; Give up because you are now surrounded; You will well-treated; Chieu Hoi; Chieu Hoi (repeated 12 times); Uncle Ho and the Party have sent you to the end of the road; The Chieu Hoi symbol; Chieu Hoi; Return to the Just Cause of Our Nation; Follow the arrow to the assembly area; You are not going to receive any reinforcements; and Come out of the house with your hands up.

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A Yellow Plastic Ball

I seldom get stumped with a PSYOP product but this one was new to me. It turned up in 2019 from a former Marine Officer assigned to their 7th Regiment about 1968 who said he had recalled picking them up in some villages and had brought one home. The Americans often produced propaganda items like soap or soccer balls with messages, but I never saw anything in the form of a yellow plastic ball about 2-inches in diameter made of hard plastic, injection molded with mold-mark and a sealed vacuum point. And, of course, it floats. He found them around Danang, Hoi An, Goi Noi, and probably around “Dodge-City.” Were they handed out, dropped from the sky or floated in streams? What was their purpose? They were nice and bright and certainly could be used by a defecting VC. He could hold it in his hand and be seen from quite a distance. The short text on the small ball is:

The Road to Freedom: Chieu Hoi

I was unable to find out much about this operation but did discover that Lieutenant Commander Mike Walsh made comments about something similar in his autobiography Seal! From Vietnam's Phoenix Program to Central America's Drug Wars. He mentioned getting some small yellow balls onto which they painted 3 red lines to look like the flag of South Vietnam. They would drop them over villages. The children would pick them up to play with them. The VC and NVA would pass through the village and confiscate them, making the kids unhappy and reflecting badly on the liberators. A very simple hearts and minds program.

Sampling of Chieu Hoi leaflets

According to Chandler, during its seven years in Vietnam, the United States Information Agency (USIA), supported by the armed forces, littered the countryside of the North, South, and the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos and Cambodia with nearly 50 billion leaflets. – more than 1,500 for every person in North and South Vietnam. Many of these leaflets were in support of the Chieu Hoi Program.

Safe Conduct Passes

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JUSPAO Leaflet 2632

JUSPAO leaflet 2632 depicts five photographs to tell a story. The leaflet is entitled "It is easy to rally. The first picture shows a Viet Cong reading a leaflet. The text is:

Answer the Chieu Hoi call of the Government of Vietnam. The next photo shows the guerilla hiding his weapon. The text is, "Hide your weapon. You will get a reward later.

In the third photo he has rallied:

Report yourself to the Chief of District, Village, Hamlet or any official. Meet with your family and request them to rally with you. Report to a Chieu Hoi Center or a Chieu Hoi section at the district.

In the fourth leaflet he points out his hidden weapons:

Show the place in which you have hidden the weapons to Government of Vietnam officials and you will get a reward."

In the last picture he is reunited with his family. The text is:

You will reunify with your family.

A Chieu Hoi symbol is depicted and the final text:

It is easy to rally. The nation awaits the return of it's sons.

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One of several versions of safe conduct passes that 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. For more information on Flag Safe Conduct Passes click here.

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 passes:

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 12 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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Leaflet Q-225

I added this very strange leaflet because it uses the standard image of a Viet Cong and Allied soldier as seen in the above leaflet, 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.

A military fire-fighter told me about his experiences with the flag safe conduct passes:

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

Another tactical safe conduct leaflet that depicts the flag of the Republic of Vietnam 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:

TO RETURN IS TO LIVE

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

[Signed]

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

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Leaflet 4-18-69

This 4th Group leaflet is very simple. It just depicts a sad and tearful wife or girlfriend and the text:

Chieu hoi – your family waits for you.

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PSYOP Plays the Jodie Card

The above Phil Fehrenbacher cartoon depicts a lonely Viet Cong reading an American propaganda leaflet telling him that his neighbor Nguyen is in the sack with his girlfriend. This is a great parody of a standard Chieu Hoi leaflet. Phil was assigned as an 81E Illustrator assigned to 6th PSYOP Battalion at Bien Hoa, but landed in Vietnam during Tet 1968. He ended up for 14 months in the 519th military Information Operations/Intelligence section where he was awarded a 96B MOS and promoted to staff sergeant, and the last 8 months was with the Combined Document Exploitation Center, Saigon. He told me:

My cartoons about a tour of duty in Vietnam has been something I’ve wanted to do for many years, but only realized the opportunity two years ago. I self-published my book "In-Country" in early 2017.

[Note]Among American soldiers, “Jody” appears in many marching cadences and songs. He is the one who stayed home and is having fun with your girlfriend:

Ain’t no use in calling home
Jody’s got your girl and gone>

Ain’t no use in feeling blue
Jody’s got your sister too

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Leaflet 4-24-69

This 4th Group leaflet is also simple with a very short text. The bright color should catch the eye of a passerby. The text is:

Darling! My eyes are flooded with tears
When will you leave the communists and return home?

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SP-2079

Leaflet # SP-2079 encouraged the distant soldier to surrender and return to his wife, child and country. The leaflet depicts the soldier’s wife and son looking at the distant mountains and seeing the face of her husband. The leaflet title is “Returnees are free to build a new life." PSYOP records indicate that 15 million copies of this leaflet were prepared in December 1967 and forwarded to Da Nang, Nha Trang, Pleiku, Bien Hoa, and Can Tho. A translation of the text is:

CHIEU HOI.

Returnees are completely free to build their new lives, and enjoy happiness with their loved ones.

Under all circumstances, those who voluntarily come back are WARMLY RECEIVED under the Chieu Hoi Program.

You may use this leaflet as a safe conduct pass. Even without a safe conduct pass or leaflet, you are still warmly welcomed.

The back has a list of 11 “perks” the returning Hoi Chanh will receive. Many of the perks are in the form of money. Understand these are all Vietnamese dollars. The text is:

The Government of Vietnam pledges that each returnee under the Chieu Hoi program will enjoy:

Good treatment.
Full citizenship in the Republic of Vietnam.
Medical treatment in the Chieu Hoi Center.
Permanent reunion with the family.
$30 food money daily for each returnee, his wife and older children; $15 for younger children.
$200 a month pocket money; $100 for each family member in the Center.
Rewards for weapons brought in (from $500 to $75,000).
Two suits of new clothing or $1000.
New suit of clothing or $1000.
$1000 per family for resettlement.
Help in finding a job.
Those who settle in a Chieu Hoi hamlet receive $10,000 to build a house and $2000 for furniture; free cement and roofing and six months’ worth of rice.

I should add a general word about the concept of paying money for defections. During an interview with Lam Quang Truong, a political and PSYOP cadre who defected to the South in 1969, the subject of money payments was discussed. He said:

About the promise to pay them off. You must understand. They are used to the bitter and harsh life. Money does not mean a thing to them. If they should ever want to rally to the Government side, then money is not the reason. Never! This does not ring any bells with them. Sometimes this may even hurt their pride. You people do not know how to really appreciate the moral value, the motives of the Viet Cong, the motivation.

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Leaflet 2806

We see the term “New Life” several times in this article, there were a series of leaflets that use the term as a theme. In the above leaflet we see happy Viet Cong returning to the Government, greeted by a South Vietnamese soldier. The text on the front is:

RETURN TO US IN THE SPIRIT OF NATIONAL SOLIDARITY

The message on the back is:

A NEW LIFE

TO OUR FRIENDS ON THE OTHER SIDE

The Government of the Republic of Vietnam has launched the New Life Campaign for the sole purpose of helping you all to realize the false propaganda tricks of the Communists so that you can then think about rebuilding your lives as part of the greater family of the Vietnamese nation.

You have sacrificed so much love - fathers separated from children, husbands separated from wives - and you have endured so many hardships and dangers, and yet what has it gotten you? In the end you will be forced to endure every type of hardship and pain - you suffer hunger because you have no food, you suffer pain and disease because you have no medicine, and when your body lies dead in the dust there will be no one to bury your remains - and for all this you will not enjoy even the slightest bit of freedom.

These truths, these facts have been demonstrated over the past several years. You all know this, especially since the Tet Offensive, when your units throughout the country suffered from one-third to one-half casualties in the so-called "General Offensive" in South Vietnam.

Dear friends,

In our "New Life" campaign you will be able to return without surrendering, without fear of death or sacrifice. You will return in a spirit of national solidarity so that we can quickly end this war with honor and you will have full status as a citizen of Vietnam so that you can carry on our Lac Hong blood-line, enjoy the love of our people, and eliminate hatred and enmity.

Chieu Hoi Minister
Nguyen Ngoc An

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Leaflet 2807

This clearly was part of the same campaign as the leaflet above. It depicts former Viet Cong returning to the National Cause and being welcomed by A Vietnamese Army soldier. The text on the front is:

Return to Lend a Hand in the Reconstruction of the Land

The back is all text:

THOUSANDS HAVE RETURNED TO THE JUST CAUSE

Do you know that in July 1968 there were 1,844 Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Forces in the South who returned to the Just Cause of the Republic of Vietnam. This was the highest monthly figure since August 1967. They made the total number of returnees of 1968 surge to 7,548 persons (as of 3 August 1968).

Those 7,548 persons returned for the following reasons:

- They realized the Just Cause was on the side of the Government and the People of the Republic of Vietnam.

- They were lied to by their commanders during the Tet Offensive and the second attack campaign during last May, and now they have had enough of the meaningless death of their comrades.

- They acknowledged the wrong cause of their fight.

- They want to contribute to the search for peace and the reconstruction of the country.

The 1,844 returnees during July, the 7,548 in 1968, and the 75,209 returnees so far (totaling 82,757 persons) await your return to lend a hand in the reconstruction of the land.

There were a number of PSYOP campaigns aligned with the Chieu Hoi program that were designed to influence the enemy to defect. Two such programs are mentioned The Final Report Psychological Operations Studies – Vietnam. One was Operation Tinh Thoung (Affection), a 1969 campaign in Military Region III that specifically addressed the NVA using the themes of lack of food, medicine, and popular support. The result of this operation was 60 NVA soldiers rallying after the expenditure of 114,000,000 leaflets and 1,400 hours of loudspeaker time.

Operation Searchlight in Military Region I was designed to influence enemy soldiers to defect during the Tet truce period of 1970 - 1971. Giant searchlights would be aimed at the sky and the enemy urged to follow the beam to the searchlight where they could safely surrender. There is no record of any defectors rallying at any of the 22 searchlight sites.

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Leaflet 7-697-70

The above leaflet was prepared by the 7th PSYOP Battalion for Operation Searchlight. It depicts a pair of searchlights aimed skyward and the Chieu Hoi Symbol. The text is:

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

MOVE TO THE SEARCHLIGHT

DO NOT LET YOURSELF GET KILLED IN THE DARK

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Chieu Hoi Image Projected on to Low-hanging Clouds

Speaking of strange operations and the use of lighting for a psychological operation, there were experiments in Vietnam in 1968 where a C-47 aircraft was used to project messages on the underside of clouds. Bill Tyner, former S3 (Operations) Air Liaison officer of the 10th PSYOP Battalion in Vietnam told me:

Everyone remembers the old Batman TV show from around the mid-1960s. Someone in our Propaganda Development Center thought that the idea of a “bat signal” was a good one that could be used in psychological operations. He thought that we might be able to take a transparency and place it into a projector, turn on the intense illumination and manipulate the focusing lens, and then project an image out great distances. He envisioned using such symbols as “Chieu Hoi” (open Arms) or the flag of the Republic of Vietnam.

Once the projector and transparencies were prepared and ready I had to obtain a power source to run to run the high-wattage projector lamp. An Army 3.5 kilowatt generator set was obtained and placed in our loudspeaker (Gabby) C-47 aircraft. The commander of the 5th Special Operations Squadron was unhappy about that extra power source in his aircraft, but eventually he went along with the experiment.

The ideal clouds would be a low-hanging “mattress” blanket cloud cover, but in the Delta they were not all that common. On a less than ideal night Gabby took off and flew a mission provided by our S3 shop. We usually targeted large Viet Cong formations and I believe this was a suspected VC battalion. The illumination unit worked and the image was projected, but there was no way of determining how well it was seen without a prisoner to interview.

The next mission was over Vinh Long and our field team witnessed the projection and reported that it was blurry and not very effective. The problem was the transparency of the cloud cover. It was not dense enough, and on that particular mission the cloud cover was so low that it was extremely dangerous for the aircraft and the safety of the crew. “Angels 3” was considered the nominal altitude for safe operation and the low cloud cover would bring Gabby within 1500 feet of the Viet Cong muzzles. That was simply not going to happen.  

Still, even under those poor conditions there was an image. We had proven that the system should work under perfect conditions and had proven that messages could be projected onto low-floating clouds with the use of a projector and portable generator.

The operation itself proved a failure. After the second mission, some members of our staunch allies, the Army of Vietnam (ARVN's) were seen running off with our generator set from what had once been a locked storage shed at Binh Thuy Vietnamese Air Force Base. Without the power source all further missions were cancelled. Those spotlight missions were innovative and showed a great deal of originality and imagination, but unfortunately it would take a lot more to defeat the Viet Cong insurgency.

Curiously, this was not the first use of such an image projection. The British looked into such a program in March 1940, and 50 years later the U.S. Army considered a similar operation during Operation Desert Storm.

Fear of Death

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 using the images of death:

Positive propaganda is much better than negative. The Government of Vietnam and especially its army tend to make photo exhibits of gruesome pictures of Viet Cong dead and think that people will flock to the government cause.  People would probably be much happier hearing about a new government program to protect the rice from worms.

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2398 - Is this Viet Cong sleeping?

JUSPAO leaflet 2398 depicts a picture of a dead Viet Cong soldier. The text on the front is:

He sleeps forever, but he no longer dreams. His heart will no longer quicken when he thinks of home. His arms will never reawaken to embrace his loved ones.

The text on the back of the leaflet is:

Before you lie down for the eternal sleep, you will never know that you have been betrayed...and the lies you believed in brings only death to you and destruction to your country, and nothing useful. That is the reason for the sad expression on your face. There is a way to escape from that eternal sleep. Respond to the Chieu Hoi and rally to the Republic of Vietnam Government.

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2563

JUSPAO leaflet 2563 depicts a large Chieu Hoi symbol on one side. The other side is all text, "The Chieu Hoi Call. At the age of 20, you have lived a life of hardship. But it is no match for the suffering of the innocent. The young are being thrown into death. These deaths are certain and without a doubt. They die with their bodies shattered and mutilated. They die shamefully in the jungle and along river banks. They die and their decomposed bodies are hauled away by the neck with a rattan rope (the dead at Khe Sahn). Oh, what tragic deaths. Why don't you flee to the south where life is brighter every day? Learn about the Chieu Hoi program which will show you how to defect. Come back in response to the Chieu Hoi call. These are my sincere words. The program is clear. Nobody can fool you. Hurry and pack up and leave your ranks.

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SP-2141

Leaflet # SP-2141 depicts a mother crying over the image of her dead son, killed while fighting. The leaflet is designed to encourage enemy soldiers to rally to the government side before being killed in battle. PSYOP records indicate that 15 million copies of this leaflet were prepared in December 1967 and forwarded to Da Nang, Nha Trang, Pleiku, Bien Hoa, and Can Tho. The text on the front of the leaflet is:

We cry for the dead
We are bitter because of the Communists
have destroyed our families.
When will mothers and children be reunited?

The back of the leaflet lists what rewards a returnee (rallier) can expect. The translation of the back of the leaflets is:

Returnees Will Receive the following Rewards

1. Be treated well.
2. Retain all privileges
3. Health care at the "returning center".
4. Be re-united with their family.
5. $30 (piasters) for each returnee; wife and grown children will each get 15 (piasters) per  month.
6. $200 (piasters) per month for errands. $15 (piasters) for each member of the family who stays at the government center.
7. Reward for turning in your weapons $500 to $7800 (piasters).
8. Two pairs of shirts and pants or $1000 (piasters).
9. Returning home expenses of $1000 (piasters)
10. Help getting a job.
11. Returnees who wish to re-settle in the "Open Arms" hamlet will receive cement, roofing in iron sheets, $10,000 (piasters) for home building and $2000 (piasters) for furniture, plus a six-month supply of rice.

A 1967 report entitled Viet Cong Measures against Government of Vietnam Leaflets in Phu Yen Province says in part:

The most effective Chieu Hoi leaflet depicted families of both North Vietnam and South Vietnam urging their sons, husbands and relatives to return home and give up the war. Cadres alleged that they could see through this distortion of the truth and were not discouraged. Chieu Hoi leaflets which urged people to resettle in Government-controlled areas enjoyed less success. Many who had resettled had found only hardship. When they returned to their native villages, they reported to their friends that life had been difficult. The government had not made good on its promise to aid and support them. Jobs were difficult to obtain. Farmers were unable to continue to farm, because land and money were not available. Life was better in the Viet Cong-controlled areas.

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Leaflet SP-2263

I added this leaflet for three reasons. First of all, it uses the same vignette as leaflet SP-2141 above. That is an oddity in itself. Second, it has a long and sentimental poem and we should point out that poetry was an important part of Vietnamese PSYOP. The final and most important reason is that it is depicted in the JUSPAO November 1968 publication Communicating with Vietnamese thru Leaflets that says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Leaflet 2662

Rob Laurent is an Australian Vietnam veteran who was assigned to the 6th Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970. During his time in Vietnam he found hundreds of leaflets but the only one he kept is this JUSPAO leaflet coded 2662 that depicts dead North Vietnamese troops in a ditch on the front along with Chieu Hoi symbols, and a longer all-text message on the back. The propaganda text says in part:

Chieu Hoi is a way to a new life

To: Members of the NVA in the South.

Xuan Thuy, the leader of the North Vietnamese delegation at the Paris Conference, declared: “North Vietnam has no troops in the South.”

Why is Hanoi afraid of the truth? Because they are afraid that the world would condemn their destruction of their brothers in the South if they admit that they have 85,000 troops there.

They keep ordering you to fight to the end. If your relatives in North Vietnam knew the truth, what would they think?

The exact same image was used on leaflets 2660, 2660-T and 2661. Leaflet 2660-T was dropped on North Vietnamese Army Regulars (NVA) coming down the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The text on each leaflet is changed slightly. 2660-T says in part:

The Government of Vietnam needs and wants all its sons and daughters

The Government of Hanoi has sent complete divisions with weapons and ammunition into South Vietnam causing much suffering for the people for nearly eight years.

Now, in front of the world press, Xuan Thuy, leader of the North Vietnamese delegation in Paris made the statement: “North Vietnam troops do not exist in South Vietnam.”

Why does Hanoi deny this sacrifice on the part of your soldiers in the South? You have come south to fight for a Communist cause.

After you complete your infiltration, return to the welcome of the people and Army of South Vietnam. Your efforts will be respected and rewarded properly.

Since leaflet 2660 is addressed to troops already in the south, they eliminated the phrase:

After you complete your infiltration,

Leaflet 2661 says in part:

You will be welcomed Chieu Hoi

For whom are the thousands of relatives in the North Waiting?

Don’t fight and make sacrifices for a cause that is not even recognized by Hanoi.

Come back to the friendship of the Southern people and rebuild your Motherland.

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Leaflet 2675

There was a short series of leaflets coded from 2675 to 2677 that showed two Viet Cong that had defected on each leaflet along with a short propaganda message and the Chieu Hoi symbols at right and left. All of the leaflets were entitled “Don’t let yourself be sacrificed uselessly!” Leaflet 2675 depicted Colonel Tran Van Dac and Lieutenant Colonel Huynh Cu. Leaflet 2676 depicted Lieutenant Colonel Phan Viet Dung and First Lieutenant Luong Dinh. Leaflet 2677 depicted Lieutenant Colonel Le Huan Chuyen and Doctor Le Vinh Can. Some of the text on 2675 is:

COSVN ordered all commanders to launch big offensives to support the negotiations in Paris, disregarding the number of lives of the soldiers sacrificed. Therefore, during recent days, you have seen many of your comrades who have been sacrificed uselessly.

Can you win the last victory to annex the entire South? Surely not. Because the just cause is not with you; your power is too weak compared to the armed forces of Vietnam and its allies…The leaders of the Communist Party are using you as sacrificial tools for the benefit of the Party. Think! Many of your high-ranking officers have returned to the people of South Vietnam. I returned to the just cause. Chieu Hoi and live.

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Leaflet 2779

There is another set of Chieu Hoi leaflets coded 2774 (Death or Chieu Hoi), 2775 (Reunification with Family), 2776 (Future of Nation), 2777 (Chieu Hoi offers), 2779 (What honor is there fighting against your brothers?) and 2781 (Many nations help the Government of South Vietnam). The text on the front of 2779 is:

What honor is there fighting against your brothers?

Are you looking for a way to join your brothers in peace?

The Government of Vietnam offers an honorable choice for honorable men through the Chieu Hoi Program. End the strife among brothers! Join the just cause of the Government of Vietnam!

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Leaflet 2776

I add this leaflet from the same series only because I see that it is in both black and white and in green. The front depicts various tropical birds in a tree. The text is:

FUTURE OF THE NATION

We cannot build the future of our nation with the bodies of young men.

Rally in order to build a peaceful and prosperous Vietnam.

The back of all five leaflets bears the Chieu Hoi symbol and the five rules to safely defect.

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SP-782

Leaflet SP-852 has two photos. The photo on the left shows a VC bunker and a dead VC. The photo on the right shows a VC rallier being reunited with his family. The text on the leaflet is:

Do you want to die and be buried in an unmarked grave or come back to your family and enjoy the government's protection?

The reverse of the leaflet has the same two photos and reads:

It is your choice, either this or that.

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10-157-68

Leaflet SP-10-157-68 is a letter written from a mother to her beloved sons who are members of the Viet Cong. She expresses her sorrow and worries for the lives and future of her sons. Therefore, she tells them to go home through the government open arms program.

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Uncoded Leaflet

This uncoded leaflet depicts a VC choosing a path, one leading to Chieu Hoi Program and a safe and secure home, the other to war and certain death.

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Leaflet 246-327-67

This leaflet was produced by the 246th PSYOP Company in 1967 and depicts what appears to be an M109 155mm self-propelled howitzer clearly marked with the designation “US Army,” with the main gun aimed directly at the reader. The M129 can throw a 98-pound projectile 30,000 meters with great accuracy. The text above the weapon is:

You Cannot Escape

The back of the leaflet is all text and threatens the Viet Cong with artillery:

This leaflet was delivered by an artillery shell. Artillery can reach any target. What do you think? You could be killed by the next artillery volley. What should you do? Rally to the government in accordance with the government's Chieu Hoi policy.

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Leaflet 246-226

This crude cartoon leaflets tells the people that the Viet Cong Main Force units are pushing those people drafted from the villages to the front when attacking. 100,000 copies were printed to be distributed by air. The leaflet consists of three panels. The front depicts Viet Cong telling the local draftees to attack. The back shows dead guerrilla in front of an Allied position, and the final picture shows happy Vietnamese in front of a Chieu Hoi building. The text says in part:

It has been reported recently that several leaders of main force units in your area have forced local guerrillas to charge in the first wave of assaults…Don’t let yourselves be sacrificed like animals. Do not die a useless death.

The leaders care nothing for your lives. They care only about the success of the battle. Don’t let yourselves be sacrificed like animals. Do not die a useless death. Rally today, the Government’s Chieu Hoi program will save your life.

Professional Medical Care

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Leaflet 247

This crude leaflet depicts a Viet Cong guerrilla on his cot shivering from disease. I can tell you as an old medic that is a basic symptom of malaria; continual chills and sweating as the parasites in your red blood cells grow and multiply and then break out and destroy the RBCs and search for and attack a fresh cell. The disease is carried by mosquitoes of course, and the leaflet depicts a giant mosquito over the shivering guerrilla. The number 247 is an early one and indicates that the PSYOP Companies were not yet in Vietnam or newly there and not yet using their coding systems. The text on the front is:

MALARIA

The text on the back is:

JUNGLE MALARIA

Do you ever have chills and fever? Do you get a pounding headache?If so, these are symptoms of malaria.

You probably know that many of you have died of this disease, and others become sick and weakened for months at a time. As for medicine, if there is any, it is only enough for your commanders. Meanwhile mountain mosquitoes are everywhere and they will make you sick by biting you. You all are just Viet Cong soldiers. If you want to avoid falling ill and dying, your only option is to return to the government's just cause. The government will give you amnesty. Return and rally at one of the Chieu Hoi Centers. There they have medicine and doctors who will care for you.

There is a curious error in the leaflet. The American that wrote it wrote “Mountain jungles” instead of “Mountain mosquitoes.” Errors like that cause the leaflet to lose all veracity. It becomes a joke instead of a serious warning. This leaflet should have been checked by a native Vietnamese speaker more carefully.

Ray Cassidy told me:

I remember finding Chieu Hoi pamphlets in the jungle on occasion. One I found more than once was an image of a VC in a hammock being attacked by a giant mosquito.

Another leaflet from the 245th PSYOP Company in 1967 depicts a crude American eagle attacking a Vietnamese Guerrilla with lightning bolts. The artist would seem to be the same.

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Leaflet 2640

The Viet Cong in the jungle had little access to proper medical treatment. There were few if any drugs, doctors were at a premium and even sterile bandages and sheets were a problem. The Americans knew this and the Viet Cong did too. The leaflet depicts a former VC being treated in a clean hospital and the Chieu Hoi symbol. In this leaflet, entitled “There is no guarantee for your life,” the text is:

If you remain in the ranks of the Viet Cong and you are wounded you will die because there is a shortage of medicine.

You will receive enough medicine if you rally to the Republic of Vietnam.

The back is all text and quotes a former Viet Cong doctor who has come over to the government. The text says in part:

Dr. Lee Vinh Can, a noted surgeon who recently rallied revealed the serious lack of medical facilities among the NVA and Viet Cong.

In the surgical unit where I served, there were patients who died due to lack of medicine and blood for transfusion. In the Viet Cong ranks, because of difficulties in medical evacuation, the seriously wounded would normally die on the battlefield. A wounded man usually has to wait half a day, sometimes a whole day or 24 hours for evacuation. Those who suffered serious wounds usually died because they could not endure the pain or lost too much blood…Rally to the Government of Vietnam and live!

Letters from High Officials

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Leaflet 2919

This leaflet was produced in December 1968 for the 1969 Tet holiday. Its title is “Tet Greeting – Prime Minister,” and it has a photograph and a letter from Prime Minister (who also served as the Minister of Chieu Hoi) Tran Van Huong.

As is many such leaflets, it was designed to first be handed out, while the 7th PSYOP Group was tasked with preparing leaflets to be airdropped. The message is extremely long, with 11 full paragraphs, so I will just quote some small comments of interest:

The Republic of Vietnam’s Prime Minister’s sping letter to soldiers and cadre on the other side of the front line.

The Tet holidays are a sacred occasion in our people’s customs and traditions…I believe that every time spring comes, you, as well as I, all wish for an early end to this war so that everyone may enjoy peace and happiness…The government, led by me, has instructed military, civilian authorities and cadres of all levels to readily receive you at anytime and anywhere, and give you all the necessary help so that you may come back to enjoy a spring full of love and affection with your families and compatriots…I extend to you my sincere best wishes for good health and hope that you will be enlightened and soon abandon the Communist ranks for the national fold, so as to end the war and bring about peace to the country.

Money for Weapons

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SP-2247

Leaflet # SP-2247 was developed in October 1967. The designation of the leaflet is "Your Family Needs You". The translation for the leaflet is:

Happy New Year, Your family needs you.  Your government needs your cooperation, Tet is the time for you to start a new life. Return to your family through the Chieu Hoi Program of the Government of Vietnam (GNV). Rewards will be promptly paid for weapons you return.

The back side of the leaflet gives rates of rewards for weapons brought back by returnees.

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Australian Chieu Hoi/Tet Propaganda Leaflet

 

Australian Leaflet 073-71 was produced on 19 January 1971 and depicts happy Vietnamese people gathering for the celebration of the Tet New Year’s ceremony. We see only women and children. The men are gone. The back depicts Chieu Hoi symbols and the text: 

 

There are two groups of people who not be spending TET in a peaceful manner: you – and the people hunting you….

 

TET is the time of family togetherness- the time when the year that is gone is remembered, and planning for the family’s future is done for the year to come.

 

How many TETs have you spent in the jungle?

 

Chieu Hoi for Tet!

 

Chieu Hoi!

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7-284-69

Leaflet 7-284-69 depicts a VC looking at a rocket placement. The text reads:

You can not only help to stop the Communist invasion, you can also get rewarded by the government. Any rocket attacks by the communists will be appropriately responded in kind by the Government of Vietnam.

The back of the leaflet states:

The Communists could bring disaster to your village. Please save your village by quickly contacting your local government or the military and showing them where you see rockets or mortars.

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SP-769

Early in the war JUSPAO prepared leaflet SP-769. The "SP" indicated "Special Project" and was proof to the Viet Cong that the leaflet was American. Since it was desired that the people believe that these leaflets were coming from their own government, the "SP" was soon removed from the code. This leaflet is an excellent product and depicts two scenes on the front. In the first, two Vietnamese civilians surrender rifles to an ARVN soldier. In the second, they are handed banknotes for those weapons.

The back illustrates various weapons and lists the current prices that the government will pay for them Some of the prices are; pistol $800VN, grease gun $2,000, mortar $8,000 to 10,000 (depending on size), and $5,000 to 6,300 for a heavy machinegun (depending on caliber).

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Leaflet SP-3863

I selected this leaflet because it falls into several themes. For instance, although it is a reward leaflet depicting an RPD automatic weapon, it is also a Chieu Hoi leaflet and surrender pass. The text on the front is:

OPEN ARMS REWARD

Sub-Machine Gun

7,500$

You can use this leaflet as a passport to return.
If you don’t have this leaflet, you will still be welcomed.

The text on the back explains all the advantage of rallying:

Each Returnee Will Receive from the Government:

1. Good treatment.

2. Citizenship papers.

3. Health care at the “Open Arms Center.”

4. A Reunion with his family.

5. 30 Piasters for food each day.

6. 200 Piasters pocket money each month while living at the “Open Arms Center.”

7. Reward for returned weapons - 500 to 7,800 Piasters.

8. Two suits of clothing valued at 1,000 Piasters.

9. 1,000 Piasters for transportation to go home.

10. Help in finding a job.

11. Returnees living in the “Open Arms” village will receive: cement, metal roofing material, 10,000 Piasters for building costs, 2,000 Piasters for furniture, and a six-month supply of rice.

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2808

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Uncoded Leaflet

TO ALL LOYAL VIET CONG.

The government of the Republic of Viet Nam will reward and assist you if you come back to the R.V.N.

*24 Piasters for food/rice every day
*24 Piasters every day for your wife
*12 Piasters every day for each of your children
*Will also include other (undisclosed) considerations

For all of the WEAPONS that you bring back, there is a reward according to the type you bring .

Weapons:
800 Piasters for a pistol
1000 Piasters for an AK-47 or M-1 Girrand
1200 Piasters for an SKS 7.62 semi/automatic carbine
2000 Piasters for an M-3 "Grease Gun"
3500 Piasters for an RPD light machine gun
5000 Piasters for a 30 caliber medium machine gun
6300 Piasters for a 51 caliber heavy machine gun

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Uncoded Money for Guns Leaflet

Another uncoded leaflet produced by the Government of Vietnam depicted the same items and prices, but added a recoilless rifle listed from $15,000-20,000 (depending on size). For more information on reward leaflets click here.

Tet Greeting

One large series of JUSPAO leaflets (2913-2917) pictures various scenes of Tet New Year's celebration. The leaflets are known in black and white on paper and in full color on cardboard. These leaflets were all developed by the FDD, Joint U.S. Public Affairs Office in November 1968 for Tet 1969. The leaflets were both disseminated by hand and the 7th PSYOP Group printed large numbers for distribution by aircraft.

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2913 Front

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2913 Back

Leaflet 2913 shows a smiling wife holding a young girl while children light fireworks. The text is:

Happy New Year, Pray for peace.

The back shows a single child lighting a firecracker in a country scene. the text is:

Only the Chieu Hoi program can bring to the family a happy reunion during Tet.

There are four more almost identical leaflets in this series ending with 2917.

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SP-2244 - Back

Leaflet # SP-2244 is another leaflet emphasizing that if the rallier takes advantage of the Chieu Hoi program he could enjoy Tet with his family and friends. The translation for this leaflet is:

Your family will be very sad if you are not home for the Tet Season. We urge you to return and enjoy Tet and a Happy New Year with your family. The newly elected Government will welcome you through its Chieu Hoi Program." The back of the leaflet text is: The Hoi Chanh shown above are enjoying a Tet meal at a Chieu Hoi Center. As Tet is coming everybody wants to eat good food, to be reunited with the family, friends, and live a happy life in a secure are of the GVN. Your family needs you and sincerely hopes that you will return to your parents and wife and children. Tet will lack its meaning and your family will be sad if you are not at home. The Chieu Hoi Program of the Government offers you a way back to the Great Nation's Family and to enjoy full citzenship.

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SP-2248

Leaflet # SP-2248 is another Tet leaflet. The leaflet text on the front is:

New Year's Greetings. On Tet Holiday, you will return to your home town (or village) to look for your loved ones. They are waiting for you. After reuniting with your family you can respond to the Chieu Hoi Policy of the GVN because it brings you many benefits.

The back side of the leaflet outlines the steps the rallier should take to return. The text on the back is:

Follow These Instructions to return To The National Cause. You may report to any GVN official at any GVN outpost. Or, you may come to GVN or Allied soldiers: they will readily welcome you. In any case, follow these instructions for security reasons:

1. Hide your weapons. Later you can lead RVNAF soldiers to the weapons and receive your reward.

2. When reporting to any unit or official whom you can expect to be armed, report only in the daytime. To show your goodwill, you may display a safe conduct pass or any other leaflet if you have one. Even if you do not have a leaflet. you can still rally.

3. When you come to report, all you have to do is help the GVN and allied troops understand that you intend to return to the National Cause.

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Leaflet SP-2252

I was not going to add this leaflet but it is so colorful I felt I add to. It was called “New Year Greeting No. 1.” The front depicts a picture of a happy family, a flowering Tet tree branch and a string of firecrackers. The text is:

HAPPY NEW YEAR

There is a long message on the back which I shall translate in part:

HAPPY NEW SPRING

Spring will soon return to our country and people. While people in the Government of Vietnam area are preparing for Tet, their hearts are sad thinking of the hardships and danger that our people living under Viet Cong domination must endure. They hope that New Year will bring happiness to the people. They hope that our compatriots will soon be delivered from the worries and fear of the Viet Cong. You are encouraged to consider the benefits of the Chieu Hoi program of the Government of Vietnam and advise your relatives who have been misled into following the Viet Cong to return to the just National Cause.

We wish you a year of good luck.

Tet 1968 and Chieu Hoi Policy

In 1968, the Viet Cong broke a Tet holiday truce and rose up all across South Vietnam. They expected a general uprising among the people but that never happened. The Communists were defeated and for all general purposes the fighting arm of the Viet Cong was destroyed. JUSPAO issued a PSYOPS POLICY on 8 February that put a temporary halt on all Chieu Hoi leafleting and ordered a complete change of themes. Dozens of leaflets that were being used were banned, and just a very few that carried the message JUSPAO wanted were allowed to be dropped.

It was determined that the VC had intended to seize all the major cities after a popular uprising and as a result there were no plans for a VC retreat and no plans for reinforcements. The VC had been lied to by their leaders and told that reinforcements would arrive within 48 hours. In Tactical Zone III the VC had been told they would receive revolutionary new weapons. That was also a lie.

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SP-893

This is one of the leaflets that still could be used after Tet 68. All the leaflet 893 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.

JUSPAO wanted leaflets that emphasized the rejection of the VC by the South Vietnamese, the total failure of the offensive and the unprecedented losses in men and weapons. As a result, all Chieu Hoi materials to include leaflets, news sheets, loudspeaker and radio messages should include the failure of the Communist offensive. The inventory of standard leaflets and tapes should no longer be used. The few acceptable leaflets that could still be used were SP 893 (Safe Conduct Pass), 2263 (NVA Poem), 2266 (Government treatment of POWs), 2326 (Message to NVA soldier) and 2393 (News of the victory).

After about two weeks, on 23 February 1968 the policy was relaxed as things started to get back to normal and 37 of the older standard Chieu Hoi leaflets were returned to use. Their codes ran from 782 to 2243.

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Leaflet 2530

I add this April 1968 Chieu Hoi leaflet here because it actually quotes Ho Chi Minh’s Tet greeting in 1968. The Americans describe it as “Chairman Ho’s poem and counter poem – A poem by Chairman Ho telling on NVA/VC victories in the spring and a counter-poem by an NVA returnee telling of defeats suffered by the NVA in the spring.” The front of the leaflet depicts the Chieu Hoi Symbol. The back is all text and shows Chairman Ho’s greeting, and then goes on to change all of the positive comments into negative ones. Ho says:

Tet Greeting From Chairman Ho

This New Year will be better than past new years
Victory and good news will sweep the nation
South and North vie with one another in fighting the Americans
Advance - total victory is ours

Spring 1968 - Ho Chi Minh

The Hoi Chanh answers:

This spring is significantly worse than the last few ones.
Sad news of defeat throughout the homeland.
The North and the South both protest
A doomed future is inevitably there for us.

A Vietnamese read this leaflet and was critical. He said:

The “counter” poem was poorly constructed, mainly by paraphrasing the original one and by replacing positive words with negative ones. This is considered a pitiful style in writing couplets, where words must be skillfully chosen to counter the original verse, but never to repeat.

This is an interesting look at PSYOP during a time of crisis. The United States felt that the Tet 68 disaster could be used to demoralize the enemy and sharply cut the use of leaflets to those with a specific theme. Once that advantage seemed done, the PSYOP campaign went back to business as usual. For more PSYOP that used Tet as a theme see my article Tet PSYOP.

Loss of Faith/Disillusionment in the Communist Government

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SP-2145

Leaflet # SP-2145 poses the question to the Viet Cong:

If the Government and life in South Vietnam are so bad then why is the economy flourishing in South Vietnam? Why do our stores and shops overflow with goods, while in the North many shortages of items exist?

The communist Cadre preached to the Viet Cong that the general population in the South would rise up and support them as they were unhappy and living conditions intolerable in the South. The purpose of this leaflet was to get the Viet Cong to wonder if this is true, what other lies had he been told and perhaps it would be better for him to defect. 

I have copious files of data on these leaflets and I seldom add technical information so as not to bore the reader. I think I will add some additional information here so you can see that we know a lot about these drops. According to my files the leaflet is called “Prosperity Series 2” and 5,000,000 copies were ordered by the 6th PSYOP Battalion in November 1967 to be printed by the 7th PSYOP Group on Okinawa designated priority 1 cargo. They were to be sent to Da Nang (500,000), Nha Trang (500,000) Pleiku (500,000), Ben Hoa (1,000,000) and Can To (500,000). There is no explanation of where the surplus leaflets went.

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6-513-69

Leaflet 6-513-69 challenges the VC leadership. The front of the leaflet has a blue Chieu Hoi symbol. The back of the leaflet is all text:

Attention VC Soldiers of SH-3 1. Your NVA leaders don't keep their words to you. They don't heed the fact that you lack weapons, ammunition, and food. They don't consider supplying replacements for the slain ones. They care solely for themselves. All they think about is to exploit your blood and bone as much as possible. Why do you hesitate? Under the circumstances of shortages, the grim reaper will certainly soon come to you. decide to rally to the GVN immediately, so that you can live in peace and happiness.

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Uncoded Chieu Hoi Symbol and Flutist

This small leaflet is uncoded. It comes in several varieties and one side depicts the Chieu Hoi symbol in color as above in 6-513-69. It also is found in other colors that would show up brightly on the ground. The back depicts a flutist and a short text. The flutist and text is in a different color from the front. For instance, one blue Chieu Hoi symbol has a green flutist on the back. A mauve symbol has a blue flutist on the back. Certainly, there are more color combinations. The text is:

Peace and Happiness are waiting for you under the government of the Republic of Vietnam

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Leaflet 6-624-69

The 1969 Tactical leaflet was produced by the 6th PSYOP Battalion and targeted the soldiers of the 275th NVA Regiment. It was prepared all in blue and depicts the Chieu Hoi symbol on one side. The other side bears the message:

To the soldiers of 275th Regiment

Your commanders have exploited your blood and flesh to satisfy their invasion dreams. Therefore, your weapons are more important than you are. They tricked you when you are alive and neglect you when you die. They order you to carry your weapons back during a retreat but leave behind the bodies of your fallen. Your life is all hardship and you may die without a proper burial, not even a single marker. What do you think about this? Don't continue to live in this situation. Return to the Government of Vietnam to live in harmony, love and unity.

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Leaflet 8N2 22 68

 

500,000 copies of this strange leaflet were requested by the Military Assistance Command – Vietnam, in Phu Yen, from the 8th PSYOP Battalion in 1968. The front has a caricatured version of the Chieu Hoi symbol and both the front and back contain text. The text on the front says in part:

 

Cadres and soldiers in the Viet Cong Ranks

 

The coming spring is an opportunity for us to reunite with our families, and to renew the bonds of affection among our relatives in order to be together with them and enjoy a warm and united family. This year, with the TET of Mau Than, have you had your wife and children by your side? Or, are there only hills and the hardships of the jungle with food shortages and death that might soon visit you all. What are you waiting for? Get up and join the others rallying to the National Cause in order to see your family again and to rebuild a new life and happiness in the peaceful atmosphere of the National Government.

 

Your Family Needs You - Reunite with Loved Ones

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Leaflet 3208

Leaflets 3207 to 3212 are a series with large text and the same message on both sides. The idea was that any Viet Cong walking through the bush could look down and read the message without having to stop and pick it up. As a result, the name of the series was "Chieu Hoi Leaflet at a Glance." Each leaflet had a very simply illustration and the text was never more than 16 words. The VC could easily read the message on the march without his political commissar being any the wiser.

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Leaflet 3209

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Leaflet 3210

Leaflet 3207 depicted a mother holding her baby; Leaflet 3208 depicted a wife, son and daughter; 3209 depicted what appears to be a flowering Tet branch, a sign of spring; 3210 depicts a wife or sweetheart crying; 3211 is a happy family, father, mother and three children; and 3212 is a boy beneath a flowering Tet bush. The short and simple text of the leaflets is:

3207 – Your family waits for you. Chieu Hoi!
3208 – Your family waits for you, Chieu Hoi!
3209 – Chieu Hoi brings you a free and happy life.
3210 - Darling! My eyes are flooded with tears. When will you leave the Communists and return home?
3211 – Chieu Hoi gives you the opportunity to meet again with your family in a peaceful life of a free and democratic Vietnam
3212 – Spring really does come back whenever you rally to the National Government.

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Leaflet 4112

The 7th PSYOP Group also printed similar leaflets in November 1970, now called “Rally at a Glance.” The code numbers are 4112 to 4116. Each of the leaflets has the same theme: "Rally to the Government of Vietnam." The images and text on the front and back are the same in each case. The text of leaflet 4112 is:

Your family waits for you. Rally to the Government of Vietnam Forces

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SP-2500

Leaflet # 2500 shows a happy VC returning to his wife and child while a smiling ARVN looks on. It is addressed to:

Soldiers and Cadre of the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army in South Vietnam.

It reads:

The government of the Republic welcomes returnees from your ranks under the Chieu Hoi program. Return and you will enjoy a life of peace and freedom.

The back of the leaflet outlines the rewards a rallier can expect (e.g. good treatment, medical care, $200 (piasters) a day spending money, $30 (piasters) a day for food, $1200 (Piasters) for clothing, etc.).

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SP-1252A - Front

Leaflet SP-1252A was developed in March 1966. The text on the front of the leaflet reads:

What does Chieu Hoi Really Mean? Chieu Hoi means being reunited with your loved ones. It means escape from a terrible loneliness.

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SP-1252A - Back

The reverse of leaflet SP-1252A again asks the question:

What does Chieu Hoi Really Mean?

The leaflet further reads:

Chieu Hoi means friendships and a chance to serve the fatherland.

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SP-927A

Leaflet SP-927A shows a family looking out for their missing father, son, or husband. The Front of the leaflet reads:

Return to your family! They miss you and need you.

The reverse of the leaflet is all text and reads:

COMPATRIOTS - COME HOME! Your family needs you. They fear for your health and welfare. They know you will die if you do not heed their plea. The Government also wants you to come home. Contact the nearest GVN soldiers or officials. You will be well treated, and both you and your family will be helped as soon as you return to the Just Cause. DON'T DELAY. COME HOME!

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Leaflet CP-05

Leaflet CP-05 depicts three North Vietnamese ralliers at the entrance to a Chieu Hoi camp. The text is:

Headquarters - Open Arms Center

The back is all text and says in part:

THIS IS TO CERTIFY THAT NORTH VIETNAMESE SOLDIERS ARE
ALIVE AND REUINTED WITH THEIR FAMILIES.

They are no longer in the jungle, and those they left behind are hungry. These soldiers are at the Open Arms Center where they are being treated well, they have food and clothing. More than 50,000 North Vietnam soldiers have chosen the way and are receiving good treatment. They are alive to be with their friends and family.

I have seen this same image on several leaflets. For instance leaflet P-06 to North Vietnamese Army troops has the same image on the front but a different message on the back:

THESE NVA SOLDIERS WILL LIVE TO SEE THEIR FAMILIES AGAIN

These NVA soldiers in one of the Republic of Vietnam “Open Arms” centers are living happily and will see their families again. They are no longer killing other Vietnamese. They have left the jungle, hardship and hunger…There is plenty of food, there is clothing, there is medical treatment. A warm welcome is offered to all who voluntarily leave the ranks of the Lao Dong Party aggressors.

Go Chieu Hoi and Find Love

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Leaflet 2486

This is an interesting leaflet because there is an implication that if you go Chieu Hoi you might find love with a southern girl. The Nationalist Chinese on Taiwan used this theme quite often showing defectors from the mainland getting married. And, we must remember that the Nationalist Chinese were very involved with South Vietnamese propaganda. I see their hand in this campaign. The leaflet depicts a handsome man and lovely woman on the front. The text is:

FORMER NORTH VIETNAMESE SOLDIER MARRIED SOUTH VIETNAMESE LADY

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

The back explains in part:

When you rally to the true peoples’ government, you will remain in a Chieu Hoi center for about two months, where you will receive medical care, rest from your long months of fighting in the jungles or rice paddies, plenty of food and new clothing…After you leave the Chieu Hoi center, you will be granted full citizenship in the Republic, and you will be granted enough money and supplies to help you start a new and free life….

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Leaflet 3962

Another Chieu Hoi leaflet using love and marriage as a theme. The image on the front depicts a returnee’s wedding ceremony at the Thi Nghe Open Arms Center. The text on the back says in part:

BEGINNING OF A NEW LIFE

A returnee’s wedding ceremony was solemnly held at the Thi Nghe Open Arms Center before the presence of the Center Director and the other returnees living in the Center. This is one of many wedding ceremonies organized by the Thi Nghe Open Arms Center to help the returnees, of both sexes, get married in order to build a new life in the GREAT FAMILY OF PEOPLE…

Support the GVN

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6-1051-69

The front of leaflet 6-1051-69 is an image of the flag of the government of South Vietnam. The back of the leaflet is a government appeal with the text reading:

The GVN today has truly grown up in every respect. In free South Vietnam, every citizen has the right to vote and elect his representative in the Government. Before, the ARVN forces were not sufficient in men and equipment. Today they have grown up in combat ability as well as experience as proved by the victories throughout the 4 Corps Tactical Zones. The GVN, backed by the Army and the positive support of the whole people, will definitely achieve the final victory in the protecting and holding aloft the flag of Just Cause. To Support the Government is to help yourself .

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Leaflet 2998

Former Master Sergeant James E. Sands served with the 18th Special Operations Squadron in Vietnam. He brought this leaflet back from the war so I decided to add it to this story. The front of the leaflet depicts a Vietnamese farmer sitting on his buffalo near his peaceful rice paddy. The text on the front is:

Return as an Honorable Hoi Chanh

The back is all text and says in part:

The Government of Vietnam is Winning

Your cadres always tell you that the Government of Vietnam is a puppet government and that government troops are fighting for a lost cause. They can tell you that but they cannot hide the truth. The Government of Vietnam is a legal government elected by the people and government troops are fighting to protect the properties and lives of the people of South Vietnam and they are winning everywhere in the county.

Stop believing the propaganda of the Viet Cong. Join the great family of 86,000 Hoi Chanh who are now making valuable contributions to the building of peace in the Fatherland.

Personal Pleas from Hoi Chanh (former VC who had rallied)

The way that some of these leaflets came to be written is a story in itself. The Chieu Hoi Newsletter, Chieu Hoi Division, Office of Civil Operations, United States Mission to Vietnam, 27 April 1967, explains:

Chieu Hoi and PSYOP advisors at the Rach Gia Chieu Hoi Center in Kien Giang Province came up with a new twist to an incentive program for Chieu Hoi ralliers. Every day they would give the Hoi Chanh at the center an opportunity to write their personal testimonies about rallying. Each was furnished with a pen and blank JUSPAO stationary paper.

The rallier was asked to write a brief message on one side of the paper explaining that he had rallied and that the Chieu Hoi Program was as stated by the GVN. Each written leaflet was then placed in a raffle box and a prize was given to the lucky Hoi Chanh at a drawing held at the end of each month. This action encouraged each rallier to write a maximum number of leaflets. Some wrote as many as 400 during their stay. The average number was 65.

The leaflets, several thousand each month, were re-sorted into individual stacks and marked with the exact location of the man's last home. This location was then converted into the grid coordinates of a pilot's map of the area. Each stack was then wrapped and bound with a rubber band to which a six-foot drawstring was attached. The addressed packages were then taken to an airstrip from which three Forward Area Controllers (FAC) pilots operated. The FAC's used the grid coordinates like a zip code and dropped the leaflets precisely on target.

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8(2)-3-40-68

Leaflet # 8(2)-3-40-68 has a photo of a VC defector writing a letter to his former comrades. The back of the leaflet shows the letter which reads in part:

My comrades, save yourselves! The GVN will treat you kindly, as a mother would a son. Soldiers of H3 (his unit)and soldiers of other units, rally now, Do not delay!

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7-494-68

Leaflet # 7-494-68 shows another photo of two ralliers, on the back of the leaflet is a handwritten letter to their comrades encouraging them to take advantage of the Chieu Hoi Program and join them.

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7-384-68

Leaflet  #7-384-68  is another photo of two ralliers with again a personal plea to their comrades to Chieu Hoi and join them.  The text on the front is:

My name is Doan Thanh and my brother is Doan Thuyen. We have returned to the 13th Riverine Group on June 27, 1968.

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"6 months ago this man would have killed you...."

In order to emphasize the importance of the Chieu Hoi Program and to garner support of the use of PSYOP among US Forces, the 6th PSYOP Battalion published the above poster which reads:

6 months ago this man would have killed you if he could." The text at the bottom of the poster goes on to state: "Anh Nam used to fight with the Viet Cong. Today he is fighting with the GVN and her Allies. He was convinced to rally to the GVN by Psychological Operations leaflets and loudspeaker missions. Thanks to PSYOPs, you have one less enemy and one more ally. PSYOPs can be effective if used properly.  Think PSYOPs. It's worth it. Your life and the lives of your men are worth it.

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Leaflet 1815

The front of this leaflet is all text with the message:

Are these people your friends?

Look closely, please, perhaps you will recognize some of your friends among the people in this picture. They are all people who in February 1967 made the decision to quit the Communists in Phuoc An district of Darlac province. They found that they could not trust Communist propaganda or promises. They saw that the Communists were losing the war. They are only a few of the people that returned to the Government of Vietnam…

I show the back of the leaflet where all the happy Hoi Chanhs who have returned to the National Cause are pictured.

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Leaflet 1927

Major Marcus S. Welch mentions leaflet 1927 in his Master of Military Art and Science paper, Irregular Pen and Limited Sword: PSYWAR, PSYOP, and MISO in Counterinsurgency. My files show that this leaflet was requested by the Ministry of Chieu Hoi, disseminated in May 1967 and called “Letter to Friends on the Other Side.” Welch says in part:

To establish credibility for Chieu Hoi was more challenging. Potential ralliers had to be accessed by trustworthy sources that possessed firsthand knowledge of the program: the Hoi Chanh who had rallied. The Hoi Chanh were exploited to provide credibility in US and GVN psychological operations in two manners: broadcast and print products attesting to the validity Chieu Hoi program by Hoi Chanh and with face to face persuasion by Armed Propaganda Teams (APT) and Van Tac Vu or “Cultural Drama Teams” composed of Hoi Chanh.

Broadcast and print products providing statements by Hoi Chanh attesting to the good treatment received upon rallying and to the reintroduction benefits of the program were widely disseminated. Where possible, photographs of the Hoi Chanh, specific Viet Cong military unit information, or specific regional information were included to substantiate the authorship. In some tactical applications, Hoi Chanh even broadcast directly using loud speakers. The substance of credibility is illustrated in JUSPAO Leaflet #1927:

Dear Friends,

I am Huynh Thi Tan, alias “Ba Thanh,” former Assistant Commander of the 558th Regional Company, operating in Tam Chau and An Phu, An Giang Province. I fought in the ranks with you before, but I have left for reasons which all of you must know.

You, as well as I, have been fighting for many years, but our struggle has been exploited. We have been caught in the Communist propaganda net. They regard us as mere instruments, serving the Party’s red ideology and imperialist ambitions. We have suffered all kinds of hardships and many of our friends have died shamefully for a meaningless cause. For us women, we have sacrificed the love of our families and children to serve the Party. We have suffered tremendously without any consolation.

I made up my mind to leave the Viet Cong and return to the land of freedom with the assistance and leniency of the Government. I have found happiness and confidence in the future again. I sincerely hope that you, especially my fellow female cadre, will find an opportunity to rally to the National Cause. I know the Government and the people are always waiting for you. Hope to meet you again soon!

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Australian Leaflet ATF-088-71

The Australian 1st Psychological Operations produced leaflets and posters in Vietnam during 1970-1971. Leaflet ATF-088-71 is a Chieu Hoi leaflet printed on 4 March 1971.  The Australians printed about 100,000 of this leaflet that were disseminated by air on NVA and VC troops to encourage them to rally to the Republic of Viet Nam.

One side of the leaflet depicts two Chieu Hoi symbols and the text:

Rally to the just cause now.  Follow the arrows to prosperity.  Rally Now.

The other side is a map bounded by Eastings 57-77 and Northings 61-92 showing Xuyen Moc and Thau Tich Province and District borders, major Rivers, Roads, and Routes 23 and 329. There are arrows pointing to Xuyen Moc from VC areas and the slogan:

Follow the arrows

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Leaflet 4248

This is a late leaflet, perhaps just a year and a few months before the United States pulled its troops out of Vietnam. The Government of Vietnam still believes that victory is in sight and tells the Communists the great number of their soldiers and guerrillas that have defected. Text on the front is:

JUST FOR THE RECORD ATTENTION TO THE FOLLOWING FIGURES

In 1970 there were

32,661

Cadre in the Communist ranks who returned to the national right cause through the Chieu Hoi Program. Follow their example and return to the right cause and freedom.

The back of the leaflets depicts all the Hoi Chanhs that came over to the government from 1963 to 1971. The text is:

The above represents the total number through the first six weeks of 1971. Don’t delay. The Government of Vietnam needs its sons. You can use this leaflet as a safe conduct pass.

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Leaflet 4546

This is a very late leaflet, probably just months before the war was over for U.S. forces. The front depicts Hoi Chanhs being trained in carpentry and masonry work, skills needed to help rebuild Vietnam after the war was over. The text on the front is:

PROFESSIONAL TRAINING FOR HOI CHANHS

Hoi Chanhs at the Kien Hoa Open Arms Center getting carpentry training before returning home.

Hoi Chanhs at the Kien Hoa Open Arms Center getting masonry training before returning home.

The back of the leaflet is all text with the Chieu Hoi emblem at the lower left and right. The text is:

VOCATIONAL TRAINING FOR RETURNEES

According to Open Arms policy, Hoi Chanhs are like friends just back from faraway journeys who need help. Therefore, the Government of the Republic of Vietnam has not only welcomed them back, cared for them, and granted them rewards they deserve, but also helped them insure their futures by providing them with suitable professional training so that they can earn for themselves a livelihood. My friends, you can choose any professional training you want: internal combustion engines; masonry; carpentry; dress making; electrical; car driving; hair dressing; refrigeration; radio; or ask for additional training if you are a medical doctor, engineer, etc.

RETURNEES KNOW THAT THE WAR HAS TO END SOMEDAY, AND ARE TRAINING FOR A PROFESSION TO ENSURE THEIR OWN FUTURE. SOUTH VIETNAM’S TROOPS AND PEOPLE ARE WILLING TO ASSIST YOU.

Chieu Hoi missions did not always run smoothly. Former aircrew member James D. Trozzo mentions one operation that didn’t exactly go as planned:

On a mission somewhere over Cambodia we spotted two small boats beached on a sandbar. Black pajama clad people were unloading or loading boxes but they never looked up as they heard us fly over. I told the entire crew what I saw, and collectively we agreed to request a forward air controller (FAC). None were available. I was aghast, here was Charlie out in the open, and we couldn't even get a shooter to go after him. Since we were truly alone, unarmed and not necessarily afraid, we did the next best thing a "Goony Bird" crew could do. We made another pass over the boats with a "steady on course 072 degrees, correct to 1 left, drifting, drifting, left 2, steady, steady, bombs away!" At the command of bombs away, someone kicked out 5 unopened boxes of "Chieu Hoi" leaflets stored under our door netting. I tried to watch the impact to report damage at our debriefing, but the pilot said, "We’re getting the hell out of dodge," as he dove away for airspeed before the fireworks started.

Chieu Hoi in the Highlands

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Leaflet 8A-175-70 depicts Montagnard natives with
two representatives of the Vietnamese government.

Most of this article relates to Chieu Hoi in the jungles and urban areas of Vietnam. There was an entirely different PSYOP battle fought in the highlands of Vietnam where an attempt was made to bring the ethnic minorities and hill tribes that had gone over to the Communist side back to the government. Captain Max Lund was deployed in the highlands from 1968 to 1971. Part of that time he was the Ethnic Minorities Advisor for Phu Bon province. He worked with the Montagnard tribesmen as part of MACV Team 31, Cheo Reo. MACV Team 31 was the only American unit in Phu Bon province.  It was the umbrella for the military advisory effort, USAID and the State Department. He told me:

There were 31 distinct native tribes in Vietnam. The French had allowed them to be independent and created autonomous zones throughout Indochina for the various tribes. Except for a strip of coastal land, the 12 provinces of II Corps were nearly all Montagnard. The Communists knew that the key to military victory was control of the highlands with support of the local population. Much of their insurgency effort was spent in trying to win over the tribes.

When the cease-fire came in 1954, both sides were to withdraw to their respective corners and await free elections. However, the North Vietnamese military units in the south went from hamlet to hamlet assembling hundreds of children and selecting only the best and brightest and forcibly removing them from their families. They were taken north where they were indoctrinated as Communist cadre who could return as young adults and win over the tribes. They did so for the next 10 to15 years.

It was against that background that the PSYOP war was fought in the highlands. Many of the Allied leaflets and programs were aimed at bringing the Montagnards who had strayed from the government side out of the jungle. It was not always as the Government of Vietnam had not treated their minorities well and the North was actively courting them.

We had teams of self-help cadre assigned to assist the villagers. Part of the cadre training was to get the word out that the Government of Vietnam was not so bad, that self-determination was possible, and that they (the tribesmen) needed to work together to survive. That was where the Chieu Hoi program was important. Every hamlet had communist agents, or at least sympathizers, so we needed to tell them that if they “rallied” they could return to their family and help the village to be strong and stand against all outside influence. Whenever we could we placed Hoi Chanhs with the self-help cadre as proof and as examples.

In an area where there was little education, several languages, and many dialects, word of mouth worked best. There is nothing like someone from your own clan talking to you face-to-face in your own village.   Leaflets and posters had a limited effect, partly because of illiteracy or the use of the wrong language, and partly because of distrust of all things Vietnamese. We got the word out through hunters and woodcutters and gatherers who from time to time would have contact with fellow tribesmen hiding in the jungle. “Come home, rally to the government, all is forgiven. The Chieu Hoi program will help you make a new start.”

For those who want to read more about a Special Forces rescue of an entire Montagnard village, I recommend a story on the website of Detachment A-502.

David Tucker tells us more about the Montagnards in Confronting the Unconventional: Innovation and Transformation in Military Affairs:

As part of efforts to increase the security of the South Vietnamese population, an Army officer working for the CIA came up with the idea of having U.S. forces train and advise Montagnards, tribal people living in the highlands of Vietnam. The purpose of the program was to get the Montagnards to stop the Vietcong from gaining control of their villages and tribal areas. In the fall of 1961, the Special Forces began training and supporting what came to be called Civilian Irregular Defense Group (CIDG). Run by the CIA, the program focused on village defense, although it included a strike force that the program planners intended to use to protect the program’s training center and to provide additional protection to any villages that the Vietcong might attack in force. In their support of CIDG, the Special Forces aimed at the insurgency’s social-political center of gravity by winning the loyalty of the villagers. For example, they conducted medical assistance in the villages and included in the program other civil affairs activities; work with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and psychological operations. An American soldier who worked with the Montagnards pointed out that part of their pay package was made up of cut tobacco and salt. It was measured by how much the pay officer could hold in his hand when reaching into a sack of the stuff. On the subject of propaganda leaflets, he said that the CIDG troops often used our PSYOP leaflets as rolling papers for their thick cigarettes.  

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SP4 John Orr

Army Specialist 4th Class John Orr of the 6th PSYOP Battalion recalls helping an entire Montagnard village go Chieu Hoi on one occasion:

A small group of about 20 men had gathered with one of their chiefs. I had previously dropped leaflets on their village. I think that the men had either volunteered or had been chosen by their chief to test out our process. That is, were the Americans trustworthy and truthful? 

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The Montagnards

I was supposed to escort them to Long Binh from their home in the highlands. They were frightened of the Caribou transport plane and seemed to think that it might eat them if they walked into the gaping hole at the back. I managed to get the chief to come into the plane with me, then showed him how the tail was closed (so his tribe would not fall out) and then took him back outside so his people could see that the Caribou had not eaten him. We then talked some and I made the chief and his warriors a gift of a few packs of Camel cigarettes (their favorites). That sealed the deal. I later heard that the entire village came over to the government side but I doubt they were ever very close to the Viet Cong anyway. I have worried on occasion (very deeply) about the plight of the Montagnards, I fear they were not treated well after the North took control.

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Leaflet 6-622-70

We have mentioned the Montagnard in some depth so I want to show a 6th PSYOP Battalion leaflet designed for the native tribe in September, 1970. This leaflet was found by Sergeant Jim Hackbarth, a member of the 1st Platoon, Alpha Company, 1st Battalion of the 7th Cavalry, in 1970. Notice that the leaflet is dirty and stained from being on the ground in rain and sunlight. My files show it is a “remake,” so it was printed earlier and apparently they liked it enough to do so again. There are numerous other leaflets for illiterates without text and six panels.

The Americans knew that most Montagnards could not read so this leaflet was designed to be understood without any text. The front and back have three cartoon panels each.

On the front, an armed native who apparently was drafted by the Viet Cong finds a Chieu Hoi leaflet. He takes it to an American soldier who points him to a Chieu Hoi center. At the center a friendly ARVN accepts his AK-47 and hands him a cash reward.

On the back the native is checked for any medical problems. He is then put in a class and taught a trade. In the last drawing he lives happily with his family in a peaceful setting.

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Leaflet CC-822D-70

Another series of leaflets that are almost all from 1970 are the “CC” series. Number 822 is found in four versions with the letter “A” to “D.” I think “D” is the most interesting because it shows a Viet Cong guerrilla actually finding a Chieu Hoi leaflet. Notice his weapon. It is the Karabiner 98 kurz often abbreviated K98k. It was a WWII bolt-action rifle chambered for the 7.92×57 mm Mauser cartridge that was adopted on 21 June 1935 as the standard service rifle by the German Wehrmacht. The text on the front of the leaflet is:

The Government of Vietnam always keeps the promises it makes

Since 1968, 68,500 Communist cadre have rallied and
enjoyed all the benefits shown on the back

The benefits on the back are:

All Hoi Chanhs will be warmly received.
An allowance of $50 VN per day for all family members including his wife and children.
Clothing valued at $1000 VN.
Pocket money in the amount of $300 VN a month.
Free medical care for him and his family.
Vocation training at the Chieu Hoi center.
Resettlement allowance of $1200 VN.
Reward for weapons.

The Americans and Vietnamese constantly wondered how effective their propaganda was. Defectors were regularly questioned to see if the leaflets, radios, or loudspeakers were the main motivator for their rallying. PSYOP Chieu Hoi questionnaires were prepared for use by Allied troops. The questionnaire is in the form of a four-page brochure with 128 questions to be answered by the new Hoi Chanh. Some of the questions are:

Has source seen any leaflets?
Could source understand what the leaflets were saying?
Which leaflets can source remember seeing?
Did source believe the leaflets?
Which ones did he think were most credible?
Which one did source not believe?
Did any leaflets in particular induce the source to rally?
Did source have any leaflets in his possession when he rallied?
Did any leaflets lower his or his units ’ morale?
What are the best kinds of leaflets?
Has source heard any loudspeaker broadcasts?
Where did the source hear them?
Were the broadcasts clear?
Could source understand the entire message?
Could source understand only part of the message?
Has source ever listened to the radio?
Has the source heard non-communist broadcasts?
How often could source listen to the radio?
Did the source notice any difference between communist and non-communist broadcasts?
Did the source believe non-communist news broadcasts?
Did the broadcasts induce source to rally?

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Forgeries of Chieu Hoi Leaflets

Any individual who wants to collect these Chieu Hoi leaflets should be sure to purchase them from a veteran who has brought them back from Vietnam. There is a booming market in forgeries and apparently, they are made well enough to fool some people. Buyers beware! The dealer who is selling this group of forgeries says:

Vietnam Chieu Hoi Propaganda Leaflets.
Early to late 60's print series covered.

All items are reprinted copies of the Original Wartime Leaflets.
All have an old aged look and some have original stains and marks.

This concludes our look at the Chieu Hoi program. It was clearly successful in getting large numbers of Viet Cong to rally to the government. On the other hand, it also seems clear that the defectors were mainly low level soldiers and porters, and few officers or dedicated well-indoctrinated troops came over.

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

Years after I wrote this article I spoke to former Captain Alan Byrne who was the Chief of the Audience Analysis Section, Psychological Development Center, 4th PSYOP Group from December 1967 to October 1968, and the Group's Adjutant from October to December 1968. I asked about the successes and failures of the Chieu Hoi program and he said that he had one story that he had not told and whenever he thought of it he had to laugh. It is a funny story and one case where we know for sure that the Chieu Hoi program brought in a Viet Cong member:

Sometime in 1968, the 4th PSYOP Group reached the milestone of surpassing either the 1 or 2 billion leaflets printed in country which leads into the story. For obvious reasons, virtually all Viet Cong who came in under the Chieu Hoi program were required to be extensively interviewed in order to determine their main reasons for turning themselves in.

The main reason one Viet Cong cited, is loosely stated as follows:

The Viet Cong member was with his unit in the field and a plane flew over and dropped leaflets.His leader told him to go out and pick up the leaflets and not to return until he had picked them all up. He did this for hours and returned only after it was too dark to see. The next day the same thing happened again and he was ordered once again to go back out and pick up all the leaflets. On the third day, when he heard the plane in the distance, he decided that he had enough and left to Chieu Hoi. So, simply by virtual of the volume of leaflets dropped alone, we chalked up at least one Chieu Hoi.

ARE THE LESSONS OF CHIEU HOI VIABLE TODAY?

There is an adage, “what’s old is new again.” Understanding the concept that “what goes around comes around,” we find that information used in one war can be used again in another war. A good example is those techniques used in Vietnam to bring insurgents back to the national government. Thousands and perhaps hundreds of thousands of Viet Cong returned to the Republic of Vietnam after being offered amnesty, cash, medical treatment, food, education, and sometimes a home or civilian clothes under the program called Chieu Hoi (Open Arms).

40 years later the same problem arose in Afghanistan when the new national government attempted to motivate the insurgents, many of whom were Taliban, to return to the fold under a program now called “reintegration.” At least two military units use this article on the Vietnam Chieu Hoi program as a pattern for psychological operations in Afghanistan. I suspect many more have quietly done so. Members of the unit have told me:

I have read your paper on the Chieu Hoi program. I found it very interesting and applicable to the conditions we're currently facing in Afghanistan. I've written an analysis on the paper that I intend to be used as our reference source for basic planning of a similar program here.

We have read your article on Chieu Hoi, and we were impressed at the scope of the project and its successes during the Vietnam conflict. We are looking into conducting this project at the tactical level here.

The United States also used Strategic Hamlets in Vietnam and I was informed by one official in Afghanistan that my article on that subject has also been read for reference. Another official informed me that Armed Propaganda Teams as mentioned in my Vietnam article were presently being trained in Afghanistan:

We are currently training Afghans to engage in the information domain and making them part of their Special Ops and Afghan National Army units. It is called the Afghan Information Dissemination Operations (AIDO) and the program is getting its legs.

I guess the old saying “What comes around goes around” is absolutely accurate.

We remind the reader that we have just touched on the subject. Readers who wish to discuss this operation in more detail are encouraged to write the author at sgmbert@hotmail.com.

NOTES

1. Photo Courtesy of The Chieu Hoi Program in Vietnam, by Ho Van Cham, published by the Vietnam Council on Foreign Relations, P.O. Box 932, Saigon, Republic of Vietnam, Nov 2, 1970.

2. Ibid

3. Ibid

4. Ibid