SGM Herbert A. Friedman (Ret.)
Ngo Dinh Diem
Dai Doan Ket is a difficult program to write about because the term seems to have been used by different organizations with different meanings. For instance, before the war it was the Catholic Party of Greater Solidarity. It was a group organized in 1954 to unify the non-Communist nationalist organizations in South Vietnam in the period before Ngo Dinh Diem came to full power. Headed by Diem's brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu, this was the forerunner of the Can Lao, the Personalist Labor Revolutionary Party, a secret party formed to support the Ngo Dinh Diem regime in South Vietnam.
Nguyen Cao Ky
During the early years of the Vietnam War the term was used in the south as The National Reconciliation Program. Republic of Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Cao Ky instituted Dai Doan Ket by proclamation on the 19 April 1967. It was meant to reinvigorate the Chieu Hoi (Open Arms) defector program in place since 1963. 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 Government of Vietnam by various propaganda leaflets generated by the Chieu Hoi Program. Generally, Viet Cong morale was low because many of their recruits had been pressed into service.
Reading through an old copy of the Chieu Hoi Newsletter in my bookcase dated 27 April 1967, I found Vice President Kys proclamation. It is too long to quote in full, but some of the more interesting aspects are:
My dear fellow Vietnamese,
Today on Hung Vuong day, when the entire nation is reminded of its origins, the Government solemnly announces its course of action and its police concerning the National Reconciliation program to be put into effect throughout the country
The three guiding principles of the National Reconciliation program are National Community, National Concord and National Progress .The principle of National Community is based on the fact that out ties of blood demand us to have tolerance rather than hatred The principle of National Concord aims at restoring the life of harmony that was worked out by our ancestors after much hardship The principle of National Progress will guide our people to move forward with greater expectations
In the field of Chieu Hoi, these three principles provide the Government and the people three ways to implement the National Reconciliation program
First, all those who decide to leave the ranks of the communists and reintegrate in the national community will be warmly welcomed as citizens with full rights of citizenship. All returnees will be protected by the Government which will also provide them facilities to build a new life. In other words, every citizen who abandons the communist ranks will enjoy the rights set forth in the Constitution, including the right to have the law protect his freedom, his life, his property, and his honor, the right to vote and to run for office, the right to go back and live within ones family, the right to choose his place of residence and the right to enjoy the national assistance on the pursuit of his profession.
Second, the citizens who rally to the national cause will be employed in accordance with their ability so that every Vietnamese, without distinction, will have the opportunity to contribute positively to the reconstruction and development of the country.
Third, the citizens who rally to the national cause, but who have violated the law under communist coercion or deception, whether they have been convicted or not, will enjoy all the guarantees set forth in the Constitution. The country will be tolerant to the utmost so they have the opportunity to put their ability and determination to serve and redeem themselves.
The Government hereby orders all cadres at all levels; civilian, military and administrative, and calls on the entire people to disseminate and carry out the National Reconciliation policy and program.
The realization of this policy will help shorten this destructive war initiated by the Communists and will soon bring about the day which has been yearned for by the entire people for more than 20 years: the day of a lasting genuine peace.
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 December 1967 I find the following comment:
Historical Notes: Threatened by invading Mongols, the 13th Century Vietnamese Emperor Tran Nhan Ton called a conference of provincial elders. He asked them whether Vietnam should resist or surrender. The consensus was for continued resistance to the invading Chinese. With the mood of the provincial elders conference for a guide, General Trang Hung Dao rallied the people of Vietnam to unity and victory with the cry Dai Doan Ket. This phrase is translated Great (National) Unity. The holiday which celebrates the victory of 1284 is on the 20th day of the 8th Lunar month (early October) The history and expression Dai Doan Ket are widely known and understood by the Vietnamese people.
Chieu Hoi Symbol
While Chieu Hoi targeted foot soldiers, the new initiative promised government aid in finding careers for top-level defectors. Further, it offered full participation in political activities to all who agreed to renounce force, abandon communism, lay down their weapons, and abide by the constitution of Vietnam. Unfortunately, the concept was really American and not Vietnamese and as a result had little backing and was destined for failure. The Vietnamese Cabinet was against the concept because they feared it might lead to a coalition government. The Government of Vietnam issue the proclamation, but the Vietnamese never really accepted or implemented what they considered an American Program.
Of course, the Communist North also wanted reconciliation so they also used the term in their propaganda. After the war, the name was adopted by a major Vietnamese newspaper based in Hanoi.
The propaganda program is perhaps best explained by the Joint United States Public Affairs Office (JUSPAO) PSYOP Policy 75, dated 18 December 1968 and entitled CHlEU HOI AND DAI DOAN KET NATIONAL RECONCILIATION PROGRAM. The purpose of the policy was to provide guidance to Psychological Operations (PSYOP) personnel on support of the Chieu Hoi (Open Arms) and Dai Doan Ket (National Reconciliation) programs. The policy states in part:
The Chieu Hoi and Dai Doan Ket National Reconciliation programs consist of all activities designed to cause members of the enemy forces and their supporters to rally to the Government of Viet-Nam (GVN). The mounting military pressure brought to bear by the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces and the Free World Military Assistance Forces and the enemy's inability to gain a victory make him increasingly vulnerable to PSYOP designed to induce his rallying to the GVN.
Enemy or contested audiences:
1. Members of the Viet Cong military forces.
2. Members of the political structure of the National Liberation Front for South Vietnam (NLF) and the People's Revolutionary Party (PRP).
3. North Vietnamese Army.
4. Families of the Viet Cong Military, NLF and PRP.
5. Population in enemy-controlled or contested areas.
1. Civil bureaucracy of the GVN from national to village/hamlet level.
2. Armed forces of the Republic of Viet-Nam (RVN) including paramilitary.
3. Other elements of the population of RVN.
4. Armed forces of the Free World serving in Viet-Nam (with the exception of the United States, where the responsibility for information on the Chieu Hoi/Dai Doan Ket Program lies with the Military Assistance Command - Vietnam Office of Information).
1. To convince potential ralliers that they can contribute to peace and save their own lives by laying down their arms and rallying under the Chieu Hoi/Dai Doan Ket banner which is an honorable way to reduce the bloodshed and suffering of the Vietnamese people.
2. To convince potential ralliers that the people and the government of SVN will welcome them because of their decision to join in the pursuit for peace and prosperity and will recognize their full rights as citizens.
The Chieu Hoi and Lai Doan Ket National Reconciliation programs have been instrumental in bringing about the rallying of numerous enemy personnel. The programs have brought in over 90,000 returnees to the GVN side.
The Dai Doan Ket National Reconciliation Policy
The Dai Doan Ket Policy (National Reconciliation Policy was promulgated by the Prime Minister of Vietnam on 19 April 1967 in order to extend the Chieu Hoi program to leadership levels of the enemy. This policy pledges reconciliation for all enemy soldiers and cadre who rejoin the national community.
To former members of the Communist movement who have borne arms against the government, the government has promised in an official proclamation that:
All citizens who abandon the communist ranks will enjoy all the rights set forth in the Constitution including the right of freedom, the right to have life, property and honor protected by law, the right to take part in elections and the right to enjoy national assistance toward improving the standard of living of the nation.
An important part of the policy is the opportunity of returnees to gain jobs commensurate with their talents and experience. The policy therefore aims not only at the economic integration of former dissidents' but at a meaningful employment of their skills and enthusiasm in the service of the nation. This most important point is one aspect of the policy-which has not received the attention it deserves. Renewed interest is due in this area in order to maintain the credibility of the policy.
The 6 August 1967 PSYOP Guide prepared by the Office of the Psychological Operations Directorate of United States Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, mentions the Dai Doan Ket Program:
Potential defectors need to be reassured concerning the treatment they will receive after rallying and the opportunities offered them for reintegration into society. Former middle-level and higher cadre have stated their desire to prove themselves by working for the Government of Vietnam in jobs that make use of their qualifications. Leaflets making specific reference to the Dai Doan Ket (National Reconciliation Program) which is aimed at helping qualified returnees find employment commensurate with their previous training and experience should be particularly useful in appealing to this group.
JUSPAO Magazine Van Tac Vu Issue 11, 1968
Armed Propaganda Team Song in honor of Dai Doan Ket
The programs seem to have been very effective. Here we see that the Americans are combining the two defection programs with the Vietnamese National New years holiday of Tet. JUSPAO Policy Number 44 Guidance for Conduct of the 1968 Tet/Chieu Hoi/Dai Doan Ket Campaign states in part:
The 1967 Tet/Chieu Hoi Campaign was such a marked success that a comparable campaign will be conducted during 1968 in conjunction with the Vietnamese Tet Season. The more than 100% increase in ralliers during the 1967 Campaign period compared with previous monthly averages is evidence of the effectiveness of last year's program.
Media used will be: leaflets, both air-dropped and hand distributed by civilians, military, RF/PF, police, RD Teams, and Armed Propaganda Teams; Saigon and affiliated radio stations; VOA and VOF; all TV media; stationary and mobile loudspeakers (ground, water and air borne); provincial newspapers, district and other news bulletins; other suitable printed media; face-to-face contacts; hoi chanh letters; drama teams; films; and where feasible, public meetings and gatherings.
Leaflets and loudspeaker operations will be the primary media used to deliver the Tet messages to the VC/NVA controlled people. The highest priority will be given to the development of specific Tet messages for these media and to material for use by the Van Tac Vu Teams.
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 Dai Doan Ket:
Beginning in April 1967 a new policy of "national reconciliation" ("Dai Doan Ket") provided that Hoi Chanh would not only continue to be given amnesty and guaranteed their political and civil rights but would be helped by the GVN to find careers commensurate with their experience, ability, and loyalty. It was to be an inducement to the high-ranking Viet Cong to rally. As with the original Chieu Hoi idea, however, Dai Doan Ket was a U.S. initiative pressed on the GVN, and it has never been widely implemented. GVN officials were reluctant to reward their former enemies with jobs and political careers, lest such full economic and political participation result in a coalition government.
Probably the most important innovation in the Chieu Hoi Program since its inception was the Proclamation in April 1967 by Prime Minister Nguyen Gao Ky of a Policy of National Reconciliation (Dai Doan Ket). The Proclamation provided that Hoi Chanh who returned to the GVN would not only be given amnesty and guaranteed their political and civil rights as before under the earlier Chieu Hoi Program, but would also be helped by the government to find careers commensurate with their experience, ability, and loyalty.
One large series of cards and leaflets (2913 to 2917) picture various scenes of Tet New Year's celebration. The leaflets are known in black and white on paper and in color on cardboard. These leaflets were all developed by the Field Development Division, 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. The data sheet explains that The audience is the Viet Cong and friends of the Viet Cong. The theme is Chieu Hoi and Dai Doan Ket.
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.
We find the program mentioned again in JUSPAO Policy 53 - PSYOP Support of Pacification dated 11 January 1968:
The Dai Doan Ket program might be defined as an upward extension of Chieu Hoi. It seeks to appeal to the higher military and civilian cadre among the VC/NVA forces and to play on their growing war weariness and disillusionment. It offers qualified returnees responsible jobs commensurate with their talents, experience and demonstrated new loyalty.
John Doolittle and a Government of Vietnam official at a ceremonial meeting with rural
Montagnard villagers in a II Corps village near Ban Me Thuot in the Central Highlands.
My friend John Doolittle was actually involved with the program and I asked him to tell me what he remembered from almost five decades ago. He said in part:
I was first stationed in Qui Nhon, Binh Dinh Province (1966-67) as a Provincial Advisor and later in Nha Trang (1967-68) as Director of the Chieu Hoi Program for II Corps 13 provinces. I remember that Dai Doan Ket was introduced to us about mid-1967. In Qui Nhon, where I was at that time, it didnt get much fanfare when announced, but was:
1. Portrayed (by Chieu Hoi - Saigon) as an addition to the Chieu Hoi Program.
2. Said to have had the full support of Nguyen Cao Ky, (then Vice President of South Vietnam).
3. Said to advance the concept that the two programs working together would provide a foundation for national reconciliation.
I italicize programs above because we on the ground didnt really see Dai Doan Ket as a separate program. Rather it seemed adjunctive to Chieu Hois existing program, simply recalibrating and refocusing on higher level defectors:
1. Whose military intelligence value was much greater than the typical low level defector and whose personal knowledge location, force levels, terrain, tactics, etc. could be rapidly exploited.
2. Whose defection would be significant and negatively affect enemy morale.
3. Who would because of their higher status receive a greater level of resources as they cycled through the Chieu Hoi rehabilitation phases
4.Would be promised and would actually be placed in District and Provincial jobs that were commensurate (in status and income) with their previous positions
There were two reasons we in II Corps gave very little attention to Dai Doan Ket as a separate construct or program.
First, the concept seemed very similar to what the Marines were doing with Kit Carson scouts in I Corps and just didnt seem to be anything new. In II Corps, we were very cognizant of the success the Kit Carson Scout effort had attained with respect to military intelligence. We usually significantly outpaced I Corps in gross defections, but never achieved the degree of higher level defections that they did. While I was in country, no significant additional strategies were introduced (other than changes in pamphlets and broadcasts) to implement the concepts and objectives of Dai Doan Ket, and our level of high level defections remained low.
Secondly, Binh Dinh and later all of II Corps were early adaptors of (then) innovative vocational training and job placement practices. Before Dai Doan Ket was announced, we already had experience with the type of job placement that was being advocated by Dai Doan Ket. While we had some job placement successes, especially in the trades areas, we knew from experience that there was very little support for reintegrating former enemy political or military personnel into the South Vietnamese government. Perfunctory discussions with provincial and district officials about job placement of Hoi Chanh occurred on multiple occasions (in several provinces and districts) but it was evident there was never an appetite for such an initiative.
I do remember the provincial and district officials generally being dismissive of the Dai Doan Ket concept because of the belief it was an American scheme, a belief also often attributed to the Chieu Hoi Program in general. And I remember that the term itself was confusing, evidently having been used earlier in the French era, and even contemporaneously at the time it joined hands with Chieu Hoi.
This program seems very much like the Chieu Hoi program and of course that is by design. Readers who want to learn more about Chieu Hoi should read my article. The Chieu Hoi program mostly got lower ranking Viet Cong soldiers to rally to the government. I have read that the highest ranking officer they ever had defect was a Lieutenant Colonel. What was really desired was high ranking officers and political commissars that would have good usable intelligence and also help to destroy the morale of the common soldier by showing that those above him who should be loyal to the cause have seen the error of Communist philosophy and deserted. What is interesting is that while the Chieu Hoi program generally offered money, clothes, and perhaps a home to the defector, the Doan Ket program offers much more. It constantly talks of jobs commensurate with ones ability, so certainly the offer seems to be for high-paying positions, and perhaps even positions of authority and power in both the military and the government. The common soldier is offered a job and freedom; the more desirable Doan Ket deserter is offered citizenship, the right to vote and even run for office, something a conscripted rice farmer would never consider.
The way this program was designed to run is mentioned in the JUSPAO May 1967 report titled Campaign Plan for National Reconciliation Program.
The National Doan Ket poster - SP-1874
This is a very handsome JUSPAO poster printed 18 April 1967 that touches on several themes. At the top left you have a brave Vietnamese soldier in the center right you have a woman voting, and at bottom left you have a strategic hamlet. 100,000 copies of this poster were printed and distributed throughout the nation. The text is:
The inexhaustible military resources of the Government of Vietnam and its Free World allies support the determination of the South Vietnamese people to defend their freedom. This combination of power and will is steadily driving the Communist Forces back and has made the triumph of freedom inevitable.
THE BUILDING OF DEMOCRACY
The South Vietnamese progress toward a government fully responsive to the will of the people from the hamlet to the national level began with the election of a Constituent Assembly to produce a Constitution expressing the people’s aspirations. It continues with elections of hamlet and village officials and finally national popularly elected leaders to guide our nation in the path of freedom and social justice.
CONSTRUCTION OF THE NEW LIFE IN RURAL AREAS
In hamlet after hamlet, village after village, as the wicked Viet Cong are driven out and security is restored, the people themselves, with the support of trained workers and government officials, are building the institutions, organizations, and facilities needed to transform Vietnamese rural life into one of prosperity and peace.
Military victories, the building of Democracy, and the construction of the new life in rural areas will create the spiritual conditions and the way of life which will bring home our brothers now in the enemy ranks, and they will break with the Communist authorities and cadres and come over to our side, join our forces to rebuild the nation in a spirit of good will and national reconciliation.
During the preparatory phase, JUSPAO produced five leaflets for nationwide distribution in an edition of 50-million copies (10 million each) and a national Doan Ket poster in an addition of 100,000 copies.
The PSYOP Campaign
There are a great number of leaflets connected to the Dai Doan Ket campaign. Unfortunately, we have some leaflets without translations and many translations without leaflets from military archives. I will write the text portion of the article at this time and hope that in the future I find more leaflets so those images can be added. The next five leaflets were all produced in the same number and on the same day; 18 April 1967. Clearly this was to be a massive campaign with 50 million leaflets disseminated. We should note that the SP letters on all of these leaflets was the JUSPAO code for Special Project. Since the letters clearly identified the leaflet as American, they were soon removed from American aerial propaganda leaflets leaving only the numerals.
Curiously, Ex-PSYOP specialist Mervyn Edwin Roberts III, PhD, mentions five leaflets in: The Psychological War for Vietnam, 1960-1968: University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, 2018:
One of the goals was to bring in higher level Front members, thus breaking the Viet Congs ability to continue the war. One way to do this was to offer them positions within the government. Doan Ket became a major PSYOP campaign after May 1967. To support this, JUSPAO produced five leaflets and a poster to introduce the program. Beyond that, the plan envisioned using all available communication means radio and television, newspapers, film and special events to spread information on Doan Ket.
In May 1968, the Field Development Division of JUSPAO initiated action to publicize ordinary Hoi Chanh who through the Dai Doan Ket program after leaving the Chieu Center has been able to make a reasonable living. They asked for photos and stories about Hoi Chanhs who are making a living at farming, repairing machinery, carpentry, masonry or any kind of respectable work. One previous call for such material found a Hoi Chanh making an excellent living repairing Tri-Lambrettas. That was developed into a national leaflet. I suspect that is leaflet SP-2399 depicted in this article.
Ten million copies of JUSPAO leaflet SP-1869 were printed in April 1967. They were distributed nationwide. The title is:
DOAN KET IS THE SHORTEST WAY TO PEACE, SOCIAL EQUALITY AND FREEDOM
The text on the back is:
WHY HAVE MORE THAN 59,970 OF YOUR COMRADES RETURNED TO THE GOVERNMENT OF VIETNAM?
These officers, cadres and soldiers have come back to the people because they know that Communist promises are false and that the only way to bring peace and freedom to Vietnam and to rebuild the country is to rejoin the true National Effort.
You too can return under the Doan Ket program. You will be warmly welcomed with brotherly love. You will have full rights as citizens, job opportunities commensurate with your abilities, and you can contribute to the Social Revolution that will result in equality and justice for the people of Vietnam.
Ten million copies of JUSPAO leaflet SP-1870 were printed in April 1967. They were distributed nationwide. The front depicted a happy Vietnamese mother taking her children to school while the street bustles with happy workers and trades people. The title is:
Means a brighter future for you and your loved ones
Text on the back is:
OFFICERS, CADRES AND SOLDIERS WHO FIGHT AGAINST THE GOVERNMENT OF VIETNAMS NATIONAL CAUSE
You should carefully consider these questions:
Do you want to return to your loved ones?
Do you want to live in peace with your families?
Do you want to vote in democratic elections?
Do you want to run for an elective office?
Do you want to work in a position commensurate with your abilities?
Do you want to help build a peaceful and prosperous Vietnam?
Do you want to insure that your children will have a bright future?
You can do all these things if you return to the people and the Government of Vietnam. In the spirit of Doan Ket you will be welcomes with open arms. You will be provided with all the necessities of life, and you will have full rights as citizens in a democratic society.
Ten million copies of JUSPAO leaflet SP-1871 were printed in April 1967. They were distributed nationwide. The front depicted a returnee being welcomed back to the National Government. The title is:
THE SPIRIT OF DOAN KET
When you return to your families, the people and the Government of Vietnam you will be welcomes as a beloved son. You will enjoy freedom and security and have full rights as other citizens living in the free south.
The back is all text:
If you hesitate to return to the National Cause you should consider the following:
More than 57,970 of your former comrade have rallied under the Chieu Hoi program.
Every returnee is guaranteed good treatment and provided with all the necessities for rebuilding his life, including job opportunities commensurate with his abilities.
Returnees have full rights as citizens and can serve the true social revolution that will bring peace, prosperity and democracy to our country.
Hoi Chanh can rejoin their loved ones and lead a secure and productive life.
Citizens who return to the National Community, and who have previously been compelled to commit crimes, will have opportunities to use their energy and their will to serve in order to wipe out their mistakes of the past.
Ten million copies of JUSPAO leaflet SP-1872 were printed in April 1967. They were distributed nationwide. The front depicted a high Ranking Viet Cong cadre reading reports and looking troubled. The title is:
WHAT WILL BECOME OF YOUR ABILITIES AND YOUR FUTURE?
The text on the back is:
FRIENDS ON THE OTHER SIDE
The truth is now self-evident! The cause that you once thought so noble has been betrayed! You are now fighting a war of aggression directed against the people. You are simply being used! Your talents are being shamefully wasted. The promises that you have heard year after year are false promises.
If you want to help in achieving true justice, equality, and freedom, return now to the people and the nation.
Through the Doan Ket program you will be given the opportunity to contribute to the rebuilding of the country. You will have full rights as citizens; you will have job opportunities commensurate with your abilities, and you will know that you are serving the cause of the people.
THE DOAN KET PROGRAM IS YOUR GUARANTEE OF A FREE, USEFUL, AND REWARDING LIFE.
Ten million copies of JUSPAO leaflet SP-1873 were printed in April 1967. They were distributed nationwide. The front depicted a peasant, a soldier, a white collar worker and a woman smiling and waving. The title is:
WHAT IS YOUR FUTURE?
Text on the back is:
WHAT DOAN KET MEANS>
The aim of Doan Ket is to coordinate all efforts to create good conditions and favorable opportunities for your return to the community of our people so that you may enjoy full rights as citizens, contribute to Doan Ket, and help in achieving social justice and freedom.
Doan Ket is not a political trick. We do not need a stratagem designed to cope with a particular situation. Indeed, the program is a large-scale continuing 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 Doan Ket policy is one 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.
Poster 2077 was 17 x 22-inches in size and prepared in July of 1967. It was part of the JUSPAO theme 2 Chieu Hoi. The poster was entitled Dai Doan Ket, National Assembly Building. It depicted a building on top of a number of blocks, each of which was labeled.
National Heritage Democratic Harmony
National Community National Concord National Progress
Doan Ket to Build the Country
This leaflet is all text on the front and shows a former female Viet Cong who has come back to the Government speaking to other defectors. The text on the front is:
THE GREAT NATIONAL UNITY
Citizens returning to the national community shall be employed according to their merits, so all Vietnamese, with no discrimination, no distinction, shall have the opportunity to actively participate in the reconstruction and development of their homeland
THE DECISION IS ALL YOURS.
The text on the back is:
Mrs. Huynh Thị Tan, a female VC company deputy commander of the Viet Cong 558th Company in Tan Chau, An Phu, Chau Doc province, returned to the just national cause on January 1, 1967. Mrs. Tan was warmly received and amply assisted by the authorities and assumed the function of an instructor to other returnees.
Here Mrs. Tan is talking to other female Viet Cong returnees.
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 Specialist Fourth Class 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.
This leaflet depicts the Vietnamese Prime Minister awarding medals to Viet Cong officers who have returned to the National Cause. Text on the front is:
Two High Ranking Hoi Chanh Awarded Psywar Medals
In a ceremony at the Prime Ministers Building on the morning of 7 December 1976, the Vietnamese Prime Minister pinned medals on two former Hoi Chanh, Lieutenant Colonel Le Xuan Chuyen and Lieutenant Colonel Huynh Cu. Lieutenant Colonel Le Xuan Chuyen returned last year and was appointed Commander of Central Headquarters of Armed Propaganda Teams. It is known that these armed Propaganda Teams have the job of explaining the Chieu Hi Policy to people all over the country. Lieutenant Colonel Huynh Cu, ex-leader of the Viet Cong Training Section, Zone V, returned early this year and was appointed a Special Assistant to the Chieu Hoi Minister with the responsibility of advising the Minister on special Chieu Hoi projects.
Text on the back of the leaflet is:
Prime Minister Loc awards medals to 11 officials and Cadres of the Chieu Hoi Ministry.
Dai Doan Ket Dan Toc means:
All those who leave the Communist ranks to return to the National Community will be welcomed as full-right citizens and will be protected and helped to rebuild their lives.
The leaflet then reproduces an article copied from the Vietnamese Press on the award ceremony.
Leaflet SP-2399 depicts a happy Viet Cong Hoi Chanh repairing a motor scooter. Text on the front is:
You can become a Free Citizen under the Dai Doan Ket Policy of the Government of Vietnam
Mr. Nguyen Duc Trang, 24 years old, an ex-rallier, a native of Tu Than Village, Tu Ngia District, Quang Ngai Province.
The back is all text:
He joined the Viet Cong in 1964. After three years of working for the Viet Cong as a Platoon Leader in the 139th Provisional Main Force Battalion, he had seen the cruel face of the Viet Cong. Moreover, he had to live miserably in jungles and did not have enough food or medicine. He returned to the government on 12 December 1966. He was housed in the Chieu Hoi Center in Saigon. During his period of time in the center he was trained to repair cars, scooters and bicycles, and then was released to return to Quang Ngai. Now he is a skilled mechanic with a salary of 22 piasters per hour. With the money he earns he can buy things he wants and is not afraid. He is very proud of the money he makes on his job.
I should also mention that many leaflets that do not actually mention Dai Doan Ket were still part of the general program. There is a whole series of leaflets with a simple drawing and short message entitled Chieu Hoi Leaflet at a glance. This concept was explored after it was determined that VC Cadre had forbidden their troops to pick up leaflets. Since the image and text were in a large font and easy to read, a passing VC could read the leaflet on the ground without picking it up. I have seen at least six from this series. Although no programs are mentioned in the leaflet, the data sheets accompanying them all say Chieu Hoi/Doan Ket. The same concept was used later in the war with leaflets 4112-4116 also listed as Chieu Hoi leaflets at a glance.
The leaflet produced by the 8th PSYOP Battalion in 1968 does not mention Dai Doan Ket in the text but the data sheet that explains its purpose says Reason for development Dai Doan Ket. It was requested by CORDS in Binh Thuan for Tet 1968 and has the usual flowery scene on the front. The back depicts a picture of the Provincial Chief of Binh Thuan. Some of the text is:
Spring Letter Binh Thuan Provincial Chief to Friends on the Frontline
At the beginning day of the New Year in the lovely, tender space of families, and before the splendid sight of spring I sincerely send to you all my best wishes for a Happy New Year. I know clearly what you are expecting, thinking about before and after the changes of the old and new year. You are hiding here and there; your life is always threatened with death and danger From the suburbs, counties, towns, cities and everywhere people are enjoying TET, and wish the best to each other Among them are your families, who are praying for a wonderful for them and for all. I think in this sacred time, if you were with your families, how joyful you would be and what good times you would have.
Newspaper Tu Do (Free South) – 3058
The Chieu Hoi Minister gives reward money to Mr. Nguyen Van Thoi
This is the mini version of the American propaganda newspaper, about half the size of the larger standard paper. It is dated January 1969 15-1B with the theme of Chieu Hoi / Doan Ket. It was written by the Field Division of JUSPAO and printed by the 7th PSYOP Group. The front depicts American Astronauts and mentions all the advances in the Republic of Vietnam in 1968. The back is the part of interest to this story. It depicts a Hoi Chanh who rallied to the Republic and was awarded $707,000VN in Kien Giang Province. The text is long so I will just give a short synopsis.
The story was an interview with a former 72-year-old Viet Cong who was employed as an agitator in the Viet Cong peasant organization. He led the Popular Forces Regional Forces to a Viet Cong weapon cache with 79 SKS rifles, 94 AK-47 rifles and ammunition, for which he was awarded 707,000 dongs. He waited for the Viet Cong to depart the cache and let the PF/RF to it. He said he would use part of the money to relocate his family somewhere else to avoid retaliation by the VC.
[Note] The Popular Force resembled the Local Force and village-guerrilla level component of the VC, while the Regional Force was a full-time force available for operations within a province.
The Communist is lucky because he has been saved by the
Republic of Vietnam and Allied Forces
This December 1968 leaflet was used in both the Chieu Hoi and Dai Doan Ket campaigns. It depicts a wounded enemy soldier receiving medical treatment on the front and back. It was developed by JUSPAO and MACV and printed by the 4th PSYOP Group. The text and image are similar on both sides so I will just translate this side:
HUMANITY MUST BE PUT ABOVE THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF A COMMANDER
With helicopters used as a fast MEDIVAC facility and with modern hospitals, the Republic of Vietnam and Allied have saved 90% of the soldiers who have been wounded on the battlefield, regardless if he was friend or foe.
In the past, there were many wounded Communists who have been saved thanks to the modern medical facilities of the Republic of Vietnam and Allies.
Being a leader and by humane instinct, you should give a chance to those who are seriously wounded on your side by leaving them for the Republic of Vietnam and Allied Forces to take care of. Many other wounded Communists have been saved in this matter.
Leaflet 3207 depicts a woman holding a baby and the text:
Your family waits for you. Chieu Hoi.
Leaflet 3208 depicts a woman with two children and the text: Your family waits for you, Chieu Hoi. Leaflet 3209 depicts a flowering tree and the text: Chieu Hoi brings you a free and happy life. Leaflet 3210 depicts a crying woman with the text: Darling! My eyes are flooded with tears. When will you leave the Communists and return home? Leaflet 3212 depicts a husband and wife and three children and the text: Chieu Hoi has given you the opportunity to meet again with your family in the peaceful life of a free and democratic Vietnam. Leaflet 3212 depicts a young boy under a flowering tree; a symbol of Tet. The text is; Spring does really come back whenever you rally to the National Government.
Leaflet 4116 depicts a smiling boy and the text:
Spring really does come back whenever you rally to the Government of Vietnam forces.
In the later series leaflet 4112 depicts a crying woman with child and the text: Your family waits for you, rally the Government of Vietnam Forces. Leaflet 4113 depicts a woman with two children and the text: Your family waits for you, rally to the Government of Vietnam Forces. Leaflet 4114 depicts a flowering tree and the text: Rally to the Government of Vietnam forces where you will find peace and a happy life. Leaflet 4115 depicts a crying woman and the text: My eyes are flooded with tears. When will you leave the communists and return home?
Leaflet 3704 depicts a former Viet Cong soldier with his wife and two children. The text is:
Returnee Lives Pleasantly With his Family in a Chieu Hoi Center.
The back is all text:
A NEW LIFE
To friends still remaining on the other side
The life of returnees in a Chieu Hoi village reflects the National Reconciliation Policy of the Government of Vietnam, which wipes out hatred and animosity with love and compassion.Since inception of the Chieu Hoi program, over 147,000 returnees have enjoyed a new life with health and freedom.
Today, they dont have to hide in jungles and mountains suffering privations, hardships and constantly facing the threat of death. They earnestly wish their friends remaining on the other side of the frontlines to come back quickly to the Government of Vietnam, to heal the wounds of the country and reconstruct a free and thriving South Vietnam.
Leaflet 3722 depicts a Vietnamese armored personnel carrier (APC) and an artillery piece. The United States used M113 and M114 armored personnel carriers in Vietnam and because of its size, this would appear to be the M113. Cannons are always hard for the non cannon-cocker to identify, but the size of this one implies that it could be a M114 version of the 155mm howitzer. The text on the front is:
How can you survive?
Text on the back warns the Communists that the ARVN is training with modern weapons and have the ability to protect the people:
To discourage Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army shelling and attacks and provide security for the civilian population, the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces has applied modern combat techniques to discourage terrorists and thwart the aggressive plots of the Communists.
Save yourself by responding to the Dai Doan Ket Campaign and help rebuild our nation.
This leaflet depicts a happy Hoi Chanh receiving a sizable award from the Vietnam Government. The text is:
Worthy Rewards for Meritorious Returnees
On 11 April 1970, Chieu Hoi Minister Ho Van Cham handed a reward of 1,348,000 Vietnamese piasters to returnee Nguyen Van Xang at Hau Nghia for his meritorious services. On three occasions he guided Government operational forces to seize different types of communist weapons.
The back is all text and says in part:
The Chieu Hoi program appeals to friends on the other side to come back in the spirit of National Conciliation and also provides worthy rewards to meritorious returnees. The Government of Vietnam encourages accomplishment of good services upon rallying to the national cause and provides additional assistance for the returnees to start their new life
As the above leaflet shows, there was a later series in the war that mostly showed defectors under the Dai Doan Ket program receiving cash rewards. Some of these leaflets are 3691 Worthy rewards for meritorious returnees; 3704 Returnee lives pleasantly with his family in a Chieu Hoi Center; and 3778 Worthy rewards for meritorious returnees.
Newspaper Tu Du (Special Edition No. 52)
The Chieu Hoi/Dai Doan Ket program also had its own propaganda newspaper; Mien Nam Tu Do (Free South). This newspaper was prepared in both a large and miniature format. It was aimed at Viet Cong cadre and soldiers, North Vietnamese Army troops and Vietnamese civilians in contested areas. It was written by the Field development Division, printed by the United States Information Agency in the Regional Service Center, Manila, and paid for the by the U.S. Armys 7th PSYOP Group.
Its primary purpose was to impair the morale of the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese regulars and induce surrender and defection. In addition, it was meant to convince insurgents that the government of Vietnam was legitimate and deserved support. It also tried to convince the VC and NVA that the Government of Vietnam was growing stronger and their defeat was inevitable. Finally, it hoped to convince civilians in contested areas to support the Chieu Hoi and Dai Doan Ket programs.
Every other week two million copies were printed. There were also special issues printed as needed. 1,300,000 million regular issues were sent to the four U.S. PSYOP Battalions for air dropping over the enemy. The remaining 700,000 copies were shipped to PSYOP units in the 44 provinces to be handed out to the people.
We depict special edition number 52 above, printed in December 1968 and coded 3022. This paper was printed in miniature and measures just 9.5 x 10.5-inches. The special editions were printed in smaller numbers, in this case 520,000 copies to be distributed by hand. The newspaper features the photographs of President Thieu and Vice-president Ky. Some of the articles in this newspaper are: President Thieu to participate in new Paris peace talks; Vice President Ky to provide guidance to the Vietnamese delegation at peace talks; and a number of local news and pro-Government articles.
Newspaper Tu Du (Regular Edition No. 10)
We depict regular edition number 10 above, printed in November 1968 and coded 2987. The paper is larger than the mini or special addition at 10.5 x 15.5-inches. President Nixon and President Thieu are featured in this issue. Some of the stories featured in this issue are: President Thieus new peace plan; New Zealand Prime Minister meets with President Thieu; Outstanding returnees awarded 182,000 Vietnamese piasters and Richard Nixon elected new U.S. President.
There were also a number of short prerecorded messages broadcast to the Viet Cong using Dai Doan Ket as a theme. I have seen about a dozen of them. For instance, Tape 105, dated May 1967, was 30 seconds long and said:
Friends on the other side! Listen!Your mistakes can be forgiven. Come back and become a true citizen. Your full rights are guaranteed. Doan Ket is the goal of the Government of Vietnam. Return now, friends! Remember Doan Ket! Doan Ket!
Tape 107, dated May 1967, was 43 seconds long and said:
Officers and soldiers on the other side! We welcome your return in the spirit of Doan Ket. You can live with your loved ones in peace. You will have full rights as citizens. You can hold a good job. Doan Ket means a bright future.
Tape 108, dated May 1967 was 32 seconds long and said:
Officers and soldiers! Are you being used? Are your talents being wasted? Come back now and accept a just position and help in the true revolution of the people. Your full rights are guaranteed. Doan Ket is your guarantee. Doan Ket.
Tape 116 was 50 seconds long and said:
Officers and soldiers in the Front. Listen! The three principals of the Dai Doan Ket program are national community, national concord and national progress. Rally now to the Government of Vietnam. You will have full rights of citizenship, equal employment opportunities, and your past mistakes may be forgiven. You can live in peace with your family. You will be warmly welcomed and well treated in the spirit of Doan Ket. Rally to the Government of Vietnam now. Doan Ket is your guarantee of freedom.
This ends our brief look at the Dai Doan Ket program. Readers with more information or leaflets involved with this program are encouraged to write to the author at Sgmbert@hotmail.com.
End 9 May 2012