The North Vietnam Leaflet Campaign

SGM Herbert A. Friedman (Ret.)

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Flags of North Vietnam, USA, South Vietnam

On 2 March 1965 Operation Rolling Thunder, the bombing of North Vietnam began. It was to be a sustained bombing campaign intended to place increasing pressure on the North Vietnamese leadership to negotiate a peaceful settlement to the war. The leaders of the North would be forced to the peace table or bombed back into the “Stone Age.” If the North could be forced to stop sending men and material South, the Viet Cong resistance would wither and die.The original plan was for the bombing to last eight weeks, but instead the operation took on a life of its own and lasted for three years. Targets just above the Demilitarized Zone were to be struck first, and then the bombing would progressively move north. Initially the campaign was carried out by F-105Ds fighter-bombers. Two Air Force squadrons were moved to Thailand where they were within easy reach of the North. Navy fighter-bombers from aircraft carriers based in the South China Sea attacked from the east. Shortly afterwards the giant B-52 bombers were added to the mix and the United States began the sustained heavy bombing of North Vietnam.

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Map of North Vietnam

When President Johnson first ordered the bombing of North Vietnam he had every intention of fighting a limited war. He feared that too large a show of force might prompt the Chinese to enter the conflict. He did not believe that the North Vietnamese and the NLF could resist American military power. However, massive bombing had little effect against a decentralized economy. To Secretary of Defense McNamara, the purpose of Rolling Thunder was to deliver a message to North Vietnam. By gradually increasing the pressure on the north, the United States would firmly, and in a controlled manner make it clear to the leaders of North Vietnam that a negotiated settlement was preferable to the slow but sure destruction of their nation. When Rolling Thunder failed to weaken the enemy’s will after the first few weeks, the objectives of the campaign began to change. The Johnson administration still desired to influence North Vietnamese policy, but the bombing was gradually aimed more against the flow of men and supplies from the North.

The pilots were strictly forbidden to bomb the northern areas above Vinh by Washington’s rules of engagement. This kept most of the North Vietnamese air bases safe from attack. Bombing was prohibited within 25 miles of the Chinese border, within 10 miles of Hanoi and within 4 miles of Haiphong. As a result, the campaign was destined for failure. Many of the most important military targets of the enemy were within the forbidden zones. Attacks on enemy air bases were also prohibited because there was a fear of killing Soviet technicians. Even stranger, the surface to air missile (SAM) sites could not be struck. Looking back, it was an insane way to fight a war. These policies caused the lives of many Allied pilots and there were reported cases where Air Force crews came close to mutiny. The bombing escalated and by the end of the first year, Rolling Thunder had progressed northward, reaching the Hanoi area.

Graham A. Cosmas said about the bombing of North Vietnam in MACV, The Joint Command in the Years of Escalation, 1962–1967:

From its beginning in February 1965, the bombing campaign against North Vietnam gradually expanded in the number of raids and in the importance of the industrial, transportation, and military targets struck. American public and official debate over the campaign, its justification, objectives, and effectiveness, intensified even as the bombing did. Within the government, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Admiral Sharp continuously pressed for heavier bombing of more significant targets.

During the policy deliberations of 1964 and early 1965, Westmoreland repeatedly expressed doubt that air attacks would bring Hanoi to terms while its forces were winning in the south. It was probably late 1966 or early 1967 before he fully understood how important the air campaign against North Vietnam was. Whatever his initial reservations, Westmoreland did join Admiral Sharp and General Wheeler in their advocacy of the northern air campaign. He had no objection to putting direct pressure on Hanoi, provided that such action did not jeopardize South Vietnam or divert resources from the campaign there. In October 1966, Westmoreland repeated his endorsement of Rolling Thunder directly to McNamara when the defense secretary visited Saigon. He told McNamara that South Vietnam was secure enough that "we are now in a position to apply whatever pressure is necessary to influence the leadership in the North."

Through the end of the year, in the face of rising debate in the United States over the war and its strategy, General Westmoreland kept up his support of the bombing campaign, always in terms of its importance in assisting allied operations and saving American lives in South Vietnam. He thus told presidential adviser Walt Rostow in November: "I believe the bombing campaign is of the greatest importance. If we are to have real impact on the enemy’s lines of communication, we should bomb them throughout their entire length."

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Leaflet "146-66-R" with B-52 Bomber

On 29 June 1966, American aircraft bombed the major North Vietnamese cities of Hanoi and Haiphong for the first time. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara said that he hoped that by bombing Hanoi, the capital of North Vietnam, and Haiphong, the country's largest port, communist forces would be deprived of essential military supplies and thus the ability to wage war.

Rolling Thunder continued from 1965 to 1968. In all, the US flew 304,000 fighter-bomber sorties and 2,380 B-52 sorties over North Vietnam, losing 922 aircraft and dropping 634,000 tons of bombs.

One Congressional report added:

Beginning in 1965, propaganda leaflets were released from aircraft operating over North Vietnam or were dropped over waters outside the boundaries of North Vietnam and wind-drifted into the country. Until March 31, 1968, this program was designed generally to convince North Vietnam, both the people and regime, that North Vietnamese aggression in South Vietnam would fail, to motivate North Vietnam to seek peaceful settlement of the conflict, and to warn the people to stay away from military targets because they were subject to air strike. At its peak, the program involved some 25 million leaflets per month. Following the partial bombing halt announced on March 31, 1968, leaflet targets were restricted to that south of 20 degrees North Latitude. The primary objective of these leaflets was that of keeping the people in the area aware of efforts by the Government of Vietnam and the United States to bring about a negotiated settlement of the conflict.

Perhaps we should mention the PSYOP unit that was most involved with leaflets to North Vietnam. JUSPAO mentions this important division in its General Briefing Book:

The Joint U.S. Public Affairs Office North Vietnamese Affairs Division plans, directs and has policy responsibility for psychological warfare operations aimed at the population and government of North Vietnam as well as the North Vietnamese military wherever he may be -- whether in North Vietnam, in the process of infiltrating into South Vietnam or in South Vietnam. This mission is carried out in consultation and close coordination with the Psyops Directorate within MACV as well as with other appropriate Government of Vietnam and U.S. agencies.

The Division also directs research projects on North Vietnamese matters which are carried out by the staff of the Planning Office. The third major effort is consultation with the Planning Office on the regular and coordinated release of captured enemy documents. The primary psychological warfare medium available for communication with the enemy is the airdropped leaflet. The leaflet program was started in April 1965 and over one billion leaflets have been dropped over selected populated areas in the north.

The next most useful medium is radio. Close liaison is maintained with the Voice of Freedom a Vietnamese Ministry of Defense radio beamed to the North. The program is aimed at: Driving as large a wedge as possible between the population of North Vietnam and their government, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, and its political arm, the Lao Dong Party, by informing the North Vietnamese population of the true nature of the aggressive war in South Vietnam and relating their hardships and privations to the continuation of the aggression. The program stresses the many efforts made by South Vietnam and other countries to find a peaceful settlement and the rejections by the Hanoi government.

Convincing the North Vietnamese people and regime that the so-called "liberation" war in South Vietnam is futile, that defeat in the South is inevitable and that unification, a common aspiration of both North and South Vietnamese, can only be achieved through peaceful means. Warning the North Vietnamese population about air strikes and advising them to stay away from installations likely to be hit.

Leaflets were also an important part of the mission. For instance, on 15 July 1965 military files show that the Vinh Son military barracks were attacked by Vietnamese Skyraiders and USAF Starfighters. Another 39 USAF jets struck Son La army supply depot. Four USAF Thunderchiefs dropped 270,000 leaflets over the port city of Vinh, 135 miles north of the 17th Parrallel. The following day, another Four USAF Thunderchiefs dropped 700,000 leaflets on Yen Bai, 75 miles north of Hanoi. The leaflets urged North Vietnam to cease aggressive operations in the South and said that North Vietnam was sending rice to China for guns. On 30 July, USAF Thunderchiefs dropped 815,000 leaflets around Tranh Hoa. On the 31st, Thunderchiefs dropped 420,000 leaflets over Dien Bien Phu and another 820,000 over four more cities. The leaflets showed street scene in Saigon with prosperity everywhere and a bombed bridge on the back (Leaflet 36?); an explanation of why the North was being bombed, and a postcard type leaflet (Leaflet 14B?), "To a Compatriot in the South." I could add dozens more of these raids but the reader can see that they were an almost daily occurrence.

In October 1965, Hanoi radio complained that this psychological warfare was intended to sow confusion and anxiety among the people and incite counter revolution. Hanoi radio stressed that the key task is to imbue everyone with a keen hatred of the United States aggressors.

The United States Joint Chiefs of Staff Official History says about the leafleting of North Vietnam:

Psychological operations against North Vietnam under OPLAN 34A had long included the dissemination of propaganda materials such as leaflets, radios, and gift kits by air. These had been dropped from C-123 aircraft which, because of their vulnerability to North Vietnamese anti-aircraft, had been restricted to sparsely populated, lightly defended areas of North Vietnam. By relying on wind-drift, leaflets could be spread over a wide area. The technique did not allow "tactical leaflets" to be dropped on specifically selected targets. Nor could radios and gift kits be widely disseminated. Consequently, U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam and Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet Headquarters proposed using the faster and less vulnerable Douglas A-1G Skyraider aircraft for these operations, thus achieving greater accuracy directly on specific population centers. The Joint Chiefs of Staff recommended to the Secretary of Defense in a memorandum that this employment be approved. The Joint Chiefs of Staff were informed that Deputy Secretary of Defense Vance had approved additional OPLAN 34A missions employing the Douglas A-1G Skyraider.

It sometimes looked like the Air Force was trying to set new records for leaflets dropped on the North. In one massive drop, Four USAF Thunderchiefs dropped 800,000 leaflets over the Delta. On another mission, Vietnamese Skyraiders dropped 1 million leaflets 45 miles north of the DMZ. In late September, USAF planes dropped 1 million leaflets on Haiphong and the following day another 1 million in the Red River Delta. The first major record was set on 12 October 1965 when 6 million leaflets were dropped on one day by Four USAF Thunderchiefs. On 1 December 1965, 7 million leaflets were dropped over the Delta on a single day making the total 60 million leaflets at that time. On four days in February 1966, 20 million leaflets were dropped over North Vietnam.

Robert W. Chandler introduces us to the leafleting campaign in War of Ideas: the U.S. Propaganda Campaign in Vietnam, Westview Press, Boulder CO, 1991.

The result of this intense psychological offensive was a countryside littered with a billion pieces of printed propaganda and thousands of homes penetrated by endless hours of radio broadcasts.

Leaflets intended to exploit mental anxieties created by the 1965-1968 bombing raids were the cutting edge of the propaganda program.

In the official USAF record of the Vietnam War, the bombing of the north is mentioned by Wayne Thompson in To Hanoi and Back - The United States Air Force and North Vietnam 1966–1973:

Although attacks on transportation and electricity added to the difficulty of life in North Vietnam, Linebacker otherwise made only feeble attempts to reduce the ability of the North Vietnamese authorities to govern their people. The Air Force did drop more than half a billion leaflets on North Vietnam. C–130s and B–52s dropped the bulk of the leaflets; many were released over the Gulf of Tonkin in an often vain hope that they would drift against the prevailing wind and reach the Red River Delta. In December 1967, a C–130 had been lost in Route Package Five after dropping leaflets near Hanoi. F–4s and drones were the only leaflet-carriers flying over Hanoi in 1972, and they could not carry anywhere near as many leaflets.

Besides warning people to stay away from targets, leaflets talked about the need for the North Vietnamese government to sign a cease-fire bringing an end to bombing in the north and troop casualties in the south. Some “inflation” leaflets counterfeited North Vietnamese currency; captured prisoners reported that they had been able to spend this fake currency for a while in the evening, but its washed-out color did not pass muster in daylight. In another attempt to provide a propaganda tool more attractive and influential than the usual leaflet, the Air Force dropped small radios to enable more people to hear broadcasts from South Vietnam. None of these psychological operations bore much obvious fruit.

Operation Field Goal was a PSYOP campaign against North Vietnam that took place from July 1972 to January 1973. On 1 July 1972, the management of PSYOP in Southeast Asia passed from the Military Assistance Command-Vietnam to Commander in Chief Pacific (CINPAC). The target was the North Vietnamese soldiers in South Vietnam and the people of North Vietnam. The Strategic Air Command would provide B-52 bombers, F-4 fighters, ship-launched AQM-34 drones for selected targets and the 7th PSYOP Group on Okinawa would provide packaged leaflets. The 7th Group was tasked with developing themes, selecting targets, and determining the number of leaflets to be dropped.

A plan for directing PSYOP against North Vietnam existed in 1965 under the name Fact Sheet. It was originally conceived by JUSPAO as a threat campaign, its main message threatened increased bombing if the North Vietnamese continued to support their government's policies.

Later, the program was renamed Frantic Goat and was redirected to inform the people of North Vietnam of the actual progress of the war and of the intentions of the government of the Republic of Vietnam and its Allies. The cessation of bombing in the North in March 1968, and the accompanying restriction on sorties above the 20th parallel, limited the execution of the Frantic Goat campaign.

A "Secret" Project CHECO (Contemporary Historical Evaluation of Combat Operations) report titled Psychological Operations by USAF/VNAF in South Vietnam was published on 18 September 1968. It is important to remember that the report spoke of things as they were at the time. 

The Frantic Goat Campaign, originally called Fact Sheet was established by JUSPAO on 2 April 1965 to carry the propaganda programs directly to the people of North Vietnam. Initially, the program was designed to convince the North Vietnamese that the Free World Forces would continue to increase the attacks against North Vietnam unless their support of the insurgencies in Laos and South Vietnam was stopped. Since its inception, the program has been redirected and expanded toward educating and informing the North Vietnamese people of the actual progress of the war and the intentions of the GVN and Free World Forces. It is hoped that this information will aid in discrediting Communist claims and convince the people that they are being exploited by their leaders. The Frantic Goat operations have been hampered through lack of a PSYOP system which can penetrate the high threat areas in North Vietnam.

Psychological Operations in areas outside of South Vietnam were started in 1965. The first mission into North Vietnam was flown in April 1965, and 12 missions into Laos were begun in January 1966. Support for these operations was provided from a variety of sources and can best be explained in terms of the major out-country campaign, Frantic Goat.

FRANTIC GOAT Missions - The presence of heavy concentrations of antiaircraft fire and SAM sites in many regions of North Vietnam has required the use of fighter aircraft for leaflet distributions near these areas. Other regions can be reached by using a high-altitude technique for wind drifting leaflets over large distances into targets in North Vietnam. The 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, using F-4C aircraft with the M129E1 leaflet bomb, performs missions requiring fighter aircraft for high-threat areas. The Wing is stationed at Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand. Mission requirements are generated by the Joint United States Public Affairs Office and Military Assistance Command-Vietnam and the sorties are fragged out of 7th Air Force Headquarters at Tan Son Nhut. Most of these missions have been to the Red River Delta area near Hanoi and Haiphong, where most of the North Vietnamese people are located. Sorties to this area or above the 20th Parallel were curtailed since late March 1968. The high-altitude leaflet drops are performed by C-130 aircraft stationed with the 374th Tactical Airlift Wing at Naha AFB, Okinawa. These aircraft normally are staged out of Ubon where a 374th Tactical Airlift Wing is located for their support. The fragging of missions was accomplished in the same manner used for the F-4C sorties. Usually, the mission uses leaflets printed at Okinawa; therefore, the C-130 brings a load with it to Ubon. As requirements for the number of leaflets to be dropped increased. it was found that better aircraft utilization could be obtained by prepositioning leaflets at Ubon and having the C-130 perform another sortie the next night.

Returning to our history, After the cessation of bombing in the north in March 1968, the Frantic Goat mission was not entirely suspended; a leaflet campaign, Frantic Goat South, was developed against the North Vietnamese Army and the North Vietnamese populace below the 20th parallel, as well as against North Vietnamese soldiers who had infiltrated the Republic of Vietnam.

Operation Field Goal was a psychological operation against North Vietnam from July 1972 to the cease-fire in January 1973. Field Goal (developed by the 7th PSYOP Group on Okinawa and dated 22 August 1972) was implemented. Field Goal was a high altitude leaflet dissemination operation (the operation may also be utilized on occasion to disseminate other forms of PSYOP material such as mini-radios, news sheets, and gift packages as directed), conducted against North Vietnam. On 9 May 1972, the President of the United States announced that the bombing of North Vietnam above the 20th parallel would resume and that North Vietnamese harbors would be mined. Four different types of aircraft were used to support Operation Field Goal: C-130, F-4, B-52, and SAC drones. The total number of leaflets dropped by all aircraft types during Field Goal operations from 1 July 1972 to 28 January 1973 was 660,649,000. This was an average of slightly over 94 million per month compared to the desired 240 million.

David Axe published a book in September 2021 titled Drone War Vietnam. I will quote some of the passages that mention leaflets:

The Ryan Aeronautical Model 147 Lightning Bug subsonic drone, a mainstay of the Vietnam air war, launched in mid-air from a DC-130 mother plane, navigated along preprogrammed checkpoint, at the end of its mission, popped a parachute and floated toward the ground. A helicopter buzzed in to retrieve it.

Drones played an important—and today largely unheralded—role in the bloody, two-decade U.S. air war over Vietnam and surrounding countries in the 1960s and 1970s. Drone aircraft spotted targets for manned U.S. bombers, jammed North Vietnamese radars, and scattered propaganda leaflets, among other missions.

The Air Force wanted to complement its lethal raids in 1972 with intensive propaganda efforts. The service for years had been scattering paper leaflets—millions of them—across North Vietnam to win hearts and change minds. Some of the early leaflets were just long statements from President Johnson [perhaps leaflet 22 shown elsewhere in this article] extolling the reader to choose peace. Others depicted American warplanes and the damage they could inflict. Some mocked communist leaders. Some included photos of North Vietnamese dead.

Operation Field Goal, which ran between July 1972 and January 1973, involved F-4 fighters, C-130 transports, B-52 bombers, and Model 147 drones dropping 94 million leaflets per month for a grand total of 661 million scraps of paper. Tactical Air Command’s chaff-dispensing Model 147NCs were perfect for the role. The command simply swapped out radar-foiling metal strips for paper leaflets. The “bullshit bombers,” as the Lightning Bug team called the leaflet-dispensers, flew 29 missions between July and December 1972.

Operations Linebacker I and Linebacker II were to convince the North Vietnamese to negotiate a settlement to the war.

The Operation Order for Field Goal said that besides 240 million leaflets a month, the operation should be prepared to also drop mini-radios, news sheets, and gift packages as directed. C-130 Combat Spear aircraft could be used for stand-off wind delivery of leaflets.

C-130 aircraft were to disseminate 12-18 million leaflets per sortie. F-4 aircraft would carry nine M-129E leaflet bombs and disseminate 1.1 million leaflets per sortie. B-52 bombers would disseminate 8 million leaflets per sortie. Drones were to deliver 200,000 leaflets per sortie. The total number of leaflets actually dropped during Field Goal was 660,649,000.

One very successful leaflet was called an “inflation leaflet.” The leaflet had a written message and a counterfeit of a North Vietnamese 1, 2, or 5 piaster note that could be cut from the leaflet and used. The mini-radios could be picked up by the North Vietnamese military so only a few at a time were dropped. They were also floated in rafts or ballooned into North Vietnam.

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Many of the leaflets dropped over North Vietnam were standard military missions using C-130s and other easily recognizable American or South Vietnamese aircraft. This is one of the aircraft that clandestinely dropped leaflets into Laos and along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The photo is from the collection of former Major “Dusty” Rhodes, Detachment 12 of 1131 Special Activities Squadron “Heavy Hook,” Nha Trang AB, RVN.

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Major “Dusty” Rhodes
Instructor Pilot in the UC-123K.

I was told by another veteran that the equipment onboard these black special operations platforms was truly exotic, to the point it allowed them to penetrate & transient “denied airspace.” The story of these aircraft is told in the article “Vietnam’s Most Secret Squadron” in the USASOC publication Tip of the Spear, January 2010. I have edited the text heavily. Some of the comments are:

When MACSOG was set up in early 1964, the U.S. Air Force had virtually no capability to fly the kinds of covert air missions contemplated for OPLAN 34A (unconventional warfare). In order to give the U.S. government the “plausible deniability” it desired, the Air Force would rely on non-American “third country” foreign nationals to fly the missions over North Vietnam. Seven crews from the Republic of China on Taiwan (C Crews) and three crews of Vietnamese (V Crews) were recruited as First Flight’s primary flyers. Later there were four American crews (A Crews). In early 1964 the Air Force secretly assigned six of its C-123Bs to MACSOG under the codename Project Duck Hook.

For SOG operations, the Duck Hook C-123s received new navigation equipment, additional radios and surface-to-air missile radar detectors. Also, new crew stations were created for an electronic warfare officer and a radio operator. The Duck Hook C-123s were also “sanitized” and official records of the six Duck Hook C-123s were deleted from Air Force files. In December 1964, Flight Detachment began flying covert missions over North Vietnam. Leaflet drops were among the most dangerous missions because they required the C-123 crews to leave the relative safety of low altitude as they neared their target area to quickly climb to a much higher altitude where they would release their leaflets so they could flutter down far and wide. This tactic greatly increased the crew’s exposure to detection by enemy radar and engagement by SAMs or MiGs.

C-123 instructor pilot Major Fred Heitzhausen, recalls his first leaflet drop as "the scariest, spookiest night of my life." Immediately after completing the leaflet drop at 14,000 feet, Heitzhausen pulled off all engine power, rolled his plane over into a steep 90 degree bank, then plunged down toward the pitch black jungle below, diving 4,000 feet in only 40 seconds to get to low altitude as quickly as possible to minimize exposure to the enemy defenses. It took him another 5,000 feet of altitude just to pull out of the dive without hitting the ground. The pilot remembers this not-quite-by-the-book combat tactic as "a hairy maneuver, to say the least."

In 1965 Johnson approved an expansion of SOG’s covert operations into the officially off-limits territories of Laos and Cambodia. In their second year of operation, the White House authorized the “A” crews to begin flying missions over North Vietnam. In early 1972 it was finally decided to shut down MACSOG’s operations in accordance with Nixon’s “Vietnamization” strategy which included the steady withdrawal of U.S. combat forces from Southeast Asia. The unit lost four of C-123s and their crews. None of the planes went down in the “denied” territory of North Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia.

The Leaflet Campaign

In a top secret White House National Security Memorandum dated 6 April 1965 to the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, and the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, McGeorge Bundy states that President Johnson requires that: 

Leaflet operations should be expanded to obtain maximum practicable psychological effect on the North Vietnamese population.

The Southeast Asia Team of Project CHECO prepared a report titled Rolling Thunder: March - June 1965:

An integral part of the Rolling Thunder operation was Operation “Fact Sheet”, a PSYOP program calling for the dropping of some four million leaflets weekly over North Vietnam by USAF and Vietnamese Airforce aircraft, with VNAF participation on a limited basis. The first “Fact Sheet” missions were launched on 14 April when Vietnamese Airforce A-l aircraft dropped one million leaflets on the cities of Dong Hoi, Ha Tinh, Vinh and Thanh Haa. USAF F-105 aircraft made their first "Fact Sheet" mission on 19 April when they dropped 1,200,000 leaflets on Bai Thung, Ha Trung, Thanh Hoa, Phu Qui, Phu Dien Chau, Vinh and Ha Tinh. The leaflets warned civilians to stay away from military installations, compared life in the south with life in the north, and explained the reason for the strikes against the North Vietnam.

On 28 April, one million leaflets were dropped by USAF aircraft over Cua Rao, Khe Bo, Muong Sen and Cong Cuong. Missions were also flown on 20 and 23 May by USAF aircraft and on 22 May by VNAF aircraft with a total of 1,494,000 leaflets dropped. During June, the tempo of leaflet operations increased when 4,800,000 leaflets were dispensed.

In July, USAF aircraft made leaflet drops on the first 14 days, dispensing a total of 9,888,000 leaflets on impact areas ranging from Dien Bien Phu and Haiphong in the north to the DMZ in the south. On 20 July, Hanoi was targeted with 960,000 leaflets and Haiphong with 320,000, using the wind drift method, because of the 40-mile restricted area imposed around Hanoi for leaflet operations. The VNAF conducted leaflet drops on 20 and 30 July dispensing 800,000 leaflets in the southern half of the DRV. The first months of leaflet operations were considered to have produced successful results. Intelligence reports and numerous transcripts of the North Vietnamese press reports and radio broadcasts attested to the success of the program.

During the decade that the United States was involved in the Vietnam War, billions of leaflets were printed and disseminated over the Republic of (South) Vietnam (RVN), Laos, Cambodia, the Ho Chi Minh Trail and the Democratic Republic of (North) Vietnam (DRVN). One American PSYOP officer stated that he dropped about 10 million leaflets on each mission over North Vietnam. The United States and its Allies dropped 57,656,000 leaflets and another 15,000 gift packages over North Vietnam between mid-April 1965 and 17 November 1965 alone.

The National Museum of the United States Air Force adds:

On 28 April 1965, one million leaflets were dropped by USAF aircraft over Cua Rao, Khe Bo, Muong Sen, and Cong Cuong. Missions were also flown on 20 and 23 May by USAF aircraft and 22 May by VNAF aircraft with a total of 1,494,000 leaflets dropped. During June 1965, the tempo of leaflet operations increased when 4,800,000 leaflets were dispensed.

In July 1965, USAF aircraft made leaflet drops on the first 14 days, dispensing a total of 9,888,000 leaflets on impact areas ranging from Dien Bien Phu and Haiphong in the north to the demilitarized zone in the south. On 20 July, Hanoi was targeted with 960,000 leaflets and Haiphong with 320,000, using the wind drift method, because of the 40 mile restricted area imposed around Hanoi for leaflet operations. The VNAF conducted leaflet drops on 20 and 30 July dispensing 800,000 leaflets in the south half of the DRV. The first months of leaflet operations were considered to have produced successful results. Intelligence reports and numerous transcripts of DRV press reports and radio broadcasts attested to the success of the program.

During the mid and late 60's leaflet production and dissemination averaged about 600 million leaflets every 30 days. The campaign in North Vietnam was first code-named Operation Fact Sheet, and later Operation Frantic Goat.

The MACV final report of 1967 says in part:

On 7 August 1967, a new six-month plan for leaflet drops over North Vietnam was approved. The objectives of the plan were:

Establish in the minds of the civilian population of NVN that the Lao Dong Party and the Hanoi authorities are responsible for the war, it continuation, their present miserable situation, and the fate of their relatives and friends in the NVA in order to lower morale, foster war weariness, increase disaffection with the Party and the Hanoi authorities, and encourage passive resistance to the regime’s demands. Demonstrate to the civilian population of NVN that the RVN is a peaceful and prosperous place in contrast to the poverty, want and danger with which they live. Create doubts and fears in the minds of NVA troops about their chances of survival, about the dangers of injury and disease, about burial in unmarked graves, about the hopelessness of their situation, about the fate of their friends and relatives in NVN, and about the competence and good faith of their commanders…

The 16 September 1968 declassified secret USAF report: Psychological Operations by the United States Air Force and the Vietnamese Air Force in South Vietnam mentions the early bombing of the North. The reader should remember this report only goes up to 1968.

About 60 percent of the North Vietnamese people reside in the Red River Delta area in the North. This area also happens to be the most difficult to hit due to heavy concentrations of antiaircraft and SAM sites protecting Hanoi and Haiphong. Early success in the NVN operations was indicated by reports in 1966, that the residents of Hanoi eagerly sought leaflets in an attempt to gain an early warning of impending airstrikes, so they could leave the city in time. The bombing of Mu Gia Pass caused alarm and the suspicion that Hanoi was next.Indications were that there were even struggles between residents and the police for possession of the leaflets.

The NVN campaign was stepped up in 1967. By the end of the year, JUSPAO indicated that the goal of the NVN program would be to place approximately 60 million leaflets per month in North Vietnam, distributed according to population density. This goal was never achieved, primarily due to the lack of a PSYOP system which could penetrate safely the NVN defenses and distribute large volumes of leaflets. Moreover, the cessation of bombing in the North, and accompanying restrictions on sorties above the 20th Parallel severely hampered the FRANTIC GOAT campaign. This places the majority of the people out of reach of leaflet operations. Ho Chi Minh publicly stated on 22 October 1966, his concern over the Allies Psywar effort in NVN, and urged increased determination in combating the program. It was further noted that considerable effort was being made to gather up the leaflets as soon as possible.

The Army Concept Team in Vietnam conducted an evaluation of US Army PSYOP units from 1 December 1968 to 21 March 1969. A booklet was prepared titled EMPLOYMENT OF US ARMY PSYCHOLOGICAL OPERATIONS UNITS IN VIETNAM. The booklet said about Frantic Goat:

The Frantic Goat campaign accounted for about 20% of the leaflet program. This program was conducted outside of South Vietnam with a mission of disseminating news and facts to the North Vietnamese audience. Themes used on these leaflets included the social and economic prosperity of the Republic of Vietnam. The North Vietnamese reader was asked to compare this with conditions in the North. The campaign wished to counter the false or misleading propaganda produced by the North Vietnamese Government and to provide information which was not ordinarily received by the North Vietnamese public. To give news to families of prisoners, one leaflet listed North Vietnamese soldiers who were held in prisoner of war status by the Republic of Vietnam.

Some facts about the leaflet programs from correspondence of the time:

Leaflet Formats: In the early stages of the campaign, leaflet sizes tended to vary widely. As more was learned about the aerodynamic characteristics of leaflets, there was a tendency to adopt standardized sizes. During the last year of the campaign, leaflet developers standardized on the 3 x 6-inch leaflet printed on 16 pound paper. Leaflets with 5.5 x 5.5-inch were generally used to accommodate single large photographs. Multi-colored leaflets depicting life in South Vietnam were printed on 3 x 8-inch or 3 x 8.5-inch leaflets. News bulletins were generally 8 x 10-inches or 8 x 10.5 inches. The newspaper Nhan Van was standardized at 10.5 x 15.75-inches

Themes: There were an amazing number of themes and I could write a paragraph on each. However, I will just mention the theme titles and the reader can search them out from the leaflets we depict in this article: Why North Vietnam is being Bombed; Bomb Warnings; The Hanoi Regime Betrays the People; Red Chinese Imperialism; Stop the War in the South; The Long War; Life in South Vietnam; U.S. and Vietnamese Policy; The Soviet Union and China; The Friendship of the Vietnamese People; Escape of North Vietnamese Families; Release of Prisoners-of-War; Attack on the Hero Emulation Program; The Chieu Hoi Program; and Anti-Regime Actions.

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Loading the C-130 with Leaflets

Airman First Class Sam McGowan was a loadmaster assigned to the 35th Troop Carrier Squadron on Naha Air Force Base, Okinawa, from February 1966 to August 1967. His duty was flying classified missions against North Vietnam as part of Operation Fact Sheet. He says:

It never occurred to me when I reported to the 35th Troop Carrier Squadron at Naha Air Base, Okinawa in February 1966 that one of my missions would be dropping propaganda leaflets on North Vietnam. I had no idea that Naha C-130 crews were involved in a number of “special operations.” Soon after my arrival I took part in a FACT SHEET mission which was directed against North Vietnam. These missions operated out of Da Nang, Vietnam.

The leaflets were prepared by the Army’s 7th Psychological Operations Group in cardboard boxes and remained in them until the box dropped off of the ramp of the airplane. “Skate-wheel” conveyors were attached to conventional aluminum cargo pallets which were rolled into the airplane and locked into the cargo handling system. The boxes were loaded on to the airplane by hand and rolled forward in the cargo compartment to the proper place where they were secured with cargo straps. A loadmaster would attach the static line to the steel cables suspended beneath the ceiling for just that purpose.

Normally, a C-130 troop carrier crew consisted of five men – two pilots, a flight mechanic or flight engineer, a navigator and a loadmaster. For the leaflet drops, the normal crew was augmented with an additional navigator and four additional loadmasters. Because the drops were made from high altitude, two other airmen were part of the crew. One was a physiological training technician from the altitude chamber at Kadena Air Force Base and the other was the 35th squadron medic. Their job was to monitor the loadmasters during the drop to insure that no one fell ill to any of the ailments and conditions associated with high-altitude flight and the use of oxygen.

The leaflet missions were classified and so were the leaflets, so only the aircrew was allowed on board the airplane from the time the leaflets arrived at the airplane. Due to the classified nature of the cargo, the boxes of leaflets were loaded onto the airplane by the loadmasters themselves. It was hard, backbreaking work that wasn’t made any easier by the heat and humidity of Okinawa. By the time the airplane had been loaded, the loadmaster crew would be physically worn out, and they still had a mission to fly. If the mission was a FACT SHEET, the crew would takeoff and fly to Da Nang, or to Ubon, Thailand after the spring of 1966, where the crew would rest and make the drop the following night. The combination of fatigue and altitude was too much for some loadmasters, and several succumbed to the high altitude sickness known as The Bends. Later, a new procedure was implemented where one crew of loadmasters would load the airplane and another would fly it.

Drops were made from high altitude, usually 25,000 feet, which meant that the entire crew had to be on oxygen. The ramp and door at the rear of the airplane was open for the entire duration of the drop and sub-freezing air swirled through the cargo compartment. Even though the cargo compartment was cold, the physical exertion brought a sweat. Oxygen masks tend to slide around on sweaty faces. A 20,000-pound load of boxes at seventy pounds apiece works out to 285 boxes, each of which had to be manhandled into the airplane, and then manhandled to the rear of the airplane again for the drop. Even though they were on rollers, their weight caused the rollers to dimple the cardboard so that it was a lot harder to roll the boxes to the back of the airplane than it had been to load them.

The FACT SHEET missions weren’t particularly dangerous, even though the crews operated in North Vietnamese airspace. Drops were made from high altitude, which put the airplane well above most anti-aircraft, and the missions were flown at night.

The contents of the boxes weren’t generally known by the crews, other than that they were leaflets. The boxes were sealed and designed so they didn’t break apart until the box reached the end of the static line and the leaflets thus deployed behind and below the airplane. Sometime in 1967 the FACT SHEET mission was declassified and a display was set up outside the building where the 35th TCS was located. The display included several leaflets, with the English translation. My favorite was one that offered First Aid suggestions to the North Vietnamese soldiers who were infiltrating out of North Vietnam through Laos to South Vietnam. It concluded with the words “and if you follow these directions, you may live to die in South Vietnam.”

Retired USAF Lieutenant Colonel Bob Evans was a navigator assigned to the 35th Troop Carrier Squadron at Naha Air Base, Okinawa. He remembers the Fact Sheet missions:

I was a captain (navigator in C-130As) assigned to the 35th Troop Carrier Squadron, 6315th Operations Group at Naha Air Base. The unit changed designation probably sometime in 1966 or 1967 to 35th Tactical Airlift Squadron, 374th Tactical Airlift Wing. My first Fact Sheet mission was on May 31, 1966 and we flew out of Da Nang AFB. The later missions were flown from Ubon Royal Thai Air Base. The location was probably moved at the same time our night interdiction mission (Blind Bat) was moved from Da Nang following the loss of two C-130s due to NVA sappers. This was July or August 1966.

Normally, the winds were so light that we only dropped along the coast or along the Ho Chi Minh trail. I found it interesting how the leaflets were designed. Once a theme was agreed upon, U.S. artists would design the leaflet in English. The leaflet proof was then given to two different Vietnamese to translate. Once the translations came back the same, the leaflets in Vietnamese were then given to another two Vietnamese for translation back to English. Once the army was assured they had a correct translation, the leaflets would go to the printers.

My last Fact Sheet drop was July 20, 1968. [Author’s note: The last leaflet mission was flown November 1968].

I had three favorite Fact Sheet leaflets. The one we all carried on flights was leaflet 72A promising 15,000 dong to the individual who returned a downed American flyer safely to U.S. lines.

In Vietnamese culture, it is believed that unless a person is buried in his home village, his soul will wander forever. A leaflet numbered 48 was drawn up showing a cartoon-type illustration of a soldier being shot by a U.S. aircraft in the jungle and his family praying at the family altar at home. On the reverse side was a photo of a decayed corpse lying in the jungle with only the face showing through the vegetation. The caption was something like “Your soul will wander forever.”

Another leaflet we used on the Ho Chi Minh trail was coded T-03 and titled “Health Hints along the Trail.” It had an extensive list of good health hints: change socks frequently, keep your feet dry, take your Malaria pills regularly, and so on. The kicker was at the end of the two-sided list: “Follow these health hints, and you too will live to die in South Vietnam!”

We also carried on each Fact Sheet mission several boxes of SAFE leaflets. These were always flip-flop leaflets that we would drop in “selected areas for evasion” (SAFE). The 15,000 dong reward leaflet was a SAFE leaflet.

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A Fully Loaded C-130 Ready for the leaflet Mission

Jim Hilton Sr. flew missions over North Vietnam with the 35th Troop Carrier Squadron based at Naha Air Force Base, Okinawa. The unit was noted for dropping one billion leaflets on the enemy in Vietnam. When you look at the leaflet load on this C-130 Hercules aircraft, it is easy to see why they required ten men rather than the usual five.

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U.S. Fighter over Destroyed Bridge - Leaflet 36

One leaflet raid on North Vietnam is mentioned in “The History of the 369th Tactical Fighter Squadron” on the website of the USAF Museum. A 6 February 1966 attack by five F-105Ds near the cities of Thanh Hoa and Thai Binh is described in detail. Canisters containing leaflets and 500 kip Laotian currency were dropped on the enemy.

The leaflet depicts an American reconnaissance aircraft’s shadow over a destroyed North Vietnamese bridge. This photograph of an American F-101 Voodoo over a bombed Vietnamese bridge appears in about a dozen Allied leaflets. The Tactical Air Command and Strategic Air Command had three squadrons operating the Voodoo during the Vietnam War; all of them flying reconnaissance missions doing bomb damage assessment and taking photos of potential targets. Another leaflet identifies the target as the My Dac Bridge located 30 kilometers north of the 17th parallel, attacked and destroyed on 22 April, 1965. The text on the front is:

The front of the leaflet shows a destroyed bridge and the text:

Compatriots of the North coming south to threaten and conquer our people should realize: If Communist North Vietnam continues its warlike invasion of the South, then we must continue bombing every part of North Vietnam.

The back of the leaflets depicts three peaceful scenes and the text:

If Communist North Vietnam stops its destructive warfare in the South, then the land will be peaceful and prosperity will be achieved in both South and North Vietnam. There will be improvements and prosperity everywhere. It will allow every young man and woman to be well educated. It will permit everybody to be well provided with food throughout the year.

The same vignette was used on several occasions. For instance, leaflet 51 depicts the destroyed bridge in a vertical format with the text:

Compatriots who are forced to repair bridges and roads beware!
Roads and bridges will continue to be bombed to prevent the Communist Party from sending troops and weapons to attack the South.
The quicker they are repaired, the sooner they will be bombed again.
Compatriots, try to avoid working on roads and bridges. You will save yourself from a needless death.

The image of the destroyed bridge was used a third time in Leaflet 62. The image was horizontal and the text beneath the picture was: 

Civilians, avoid these military targets: railroads, convoys, gun emplacements, bridges, port facilities, oil tanks and all military targets. If you live or work near such targets, evacuate!

This vignette is mentioned in an Associated Press story dated 6 December 1966. It says in part:


Enough paper to reach more than twice around the earth at the equator has been dropped on North Vietnam by American planes. More than 400 million propaganda leaflets have been dumped on the Communist-controlled North since April 1965…One leaflet has a photograph of a shattered bridge and the shadow of a circling U.S. bomber.

In May 1972 the Joint Chief of Staffs called for an evaluation of the North Vietnam leaflet campaign as part of a history and evaluation of psychological operations in Indochina. This article is not meant to be in-depth look at that campaign. It will just lightly touch on some of the most interesting and pertinent facts that were gleaned from that evaluation. The author is entirely in debt to the report for most of the technical data in this article. The report considered leaflets that were especially prepared for dissemination over North Vietnam between the years 1965 to 1968.

The bombing campaign was code-named Operation Rolling Thunder. The first leaflets were dropped over the North in April 1965 and continued until President Johnson called a halt to the bombing in November 1968. The first missions were launched on 14 April 1965 when Republic of Vietnam Air Force A-1 aircraft dropped one million leaflets on the cities of Dong Hoi, Ha Tinh, Vinh, and Thanh Hoa. On 19 April 1965, USAF F-105 aircraft flew their first leaflet mission when they dropped 1,200,000 leaflets on Bai Thung, Ha Trung, Thanh Hoa, Phu Qui, Phu Dien Chau, Vinh, and Ha Tinh. For most of the bombing period all of North Vietnam was a target for leafleting. After March 1968 only that area between the Demilitarized Zone and the 20th Parallel North were authorized.

The campaign was planned and controlled by a conglomerate of both U. S. and RVN PSYOP agencies. The Joint United States Public Affairs Office (JUSPAO) was the main proponent of leaflets.

A JUSPAO Briefing paper prepared in mid-1965 stated the objectives of the campaign.

1. To warn the population to stay away from military targets and point out that the bombing was in retaliation for DRVN attacks on South Vietnam.

2. To give a true picture of life in South Vietnam.

3. To explain U.S. policies to the North Vietnamese.

4. To warn the Vietnamese of Red China’s imperialist designs.

By 1968, the objectives had been clarified and amplified.

1.  To convince the people of North Vietnamese that the bombing was in self-defense for Communist attacks in the South.

2. To convinced the people that the Americans and South Vietnamese had humanitarian concern for the people of North Vietnam.

3. To convince the people of the North that it was in their best interests to oppose the war.

4. To keep the people and the government apprised of the policies of the United States and the Republic of Vietnam.

5. To lower confidence in the USSR and the People’s Republic of China as faithful allies.

6. To condition soldiers to think about the Chieu Hoi (Open Arms) program as a way to escape hardship and death.

7. To discredit the Hanoi regime by:

a. Showing that it had betrayed the Vietnamese people.

b. Blaming the regime for the prolongation of the war.

c. Exposing Hanoi’s lie that the South Vietnamese people needed or wanted liberation.

d. Pointing out the terrible losses of manpower in South Vietnamese.

e. Telling the people of the implications of Ho Chi Minh’s “Long War.”

The targets of the campaign were the general population, the armed forces, the party cadre and to a limited degree, the leadership of the Lao Dong (Communist) Party.

Almost all the leaflets were printed on both sides. The majority were in black and white. If the leaflet was meant to depict the Tet holiday, paintings of national heroes, or progress and the comfortable life in South Vietnam, color might be used.

There were a great number of PSYOP themes. Some of them are as follows:

1. Why North Vietnam is being bombed. This message might state that “the bombing was to stop the cruel Communists from killing innocent compatriots in South Vietnam.”

2. Bomb Warnings. The population was regularly warned to stay away from military installations. Industrial sites and communication routes and facilities.

3. The Hanoi regime betrays the people. A constant effort to weaken the people’s support for the government by pointing out that thousands of young men were being killed on the orders of leaders who stole rice from the people and traded it for Chinese weapons.

4. Red Chinese Imperialism. An attempt to exploit the traditional distrust between the Vietnamese and Chinese peoples.

5. Stop the war in the south. Leaflets told of the hardship and suffering of troops in the South and warned wives and families that they would probably never see their young men again.

6. The Long War. References to speeches by ho Chi Minh that the war might go on for 10, 20 or more years.

7. Life in South Vietnam. Leaflets depicted the South Vietnamese living in freely and had a higher standard of loving then their compatriots in the North.

8. U.S. and RVN Policy. Leaflets kept the North Vietnamese aware of Allied political policies. In particular, they were told of statements by the U.S. President in regard to peace negotiations.

9. The USSR and Red China as Allies. Leaflets pointed out the arguments between these two nations and warned the North Vietnam might find itself alone with a protector.

10. The friendship of the people of South Vietnam.

11. The escape of North Vietnamese families. Leaflets told of the successful escape of families from Communist control.

12. Release of prisoners of war. Every release of a prisoner in the South was advertised in leaflets dropped over the North.

13. Attacks on the “Hero Emulation” program. Leaflets declared that the so-called “heroes” were actually just figments of North Vietnamese propaganda.

14. The Chieu Hoi Program. Leaflets explained how to defect and what the rewards would be.

15. Anti-Regime actions. Citizens were called upon to slow down and passively resist the war.

Some of the techniques used on the North Vietnam leaflets were:

1. Cartoons to caricature and satirize the goals and operations of the Hanoi regime.

2. Photos to document devastation caused by the bombing campaign and that soldiers were dying in the south.

3. Terms like “compatriots” to emphasize the essential brotherhood of the Vietnamese people.

4. Attacks on Communist themes like “Be Three ready” and others.

5. A newspaper called Nhan Van (Human Knowledge).

6. Letters from Northerners living in the South.

7. Extracts from dairies and other documents found on dead soldiers.

8. Poems found on the body of dead NVA soldiers.

9. Facsimiles of North Vietnamese currency.

10. Images of heroes of the Vietnamese people.

When the program was evaluated, JUSPAO stated that the results were “tenuous, often intangible and difficult to measure and said in part. “It was encouraged because “In reading Hanoi propaganda, one can feel that the U.S. PSYOP campaign is beginning to be a source of some concern to the Communist regime.”

The United States Air Force evaluated the program and said in part, “The North Vietnamese regime has shown a genuine concern with the potential impact of the developing U.S. psychological warfare program against the North.” The Air Force report noted that a General Department of Information was created by Hanoi to counter the Allied propaganda.

Hanoi was not amused. Hundreds of articles were printed attacking the campaign. The first was 16 April 1965 when Nhan Dan said:

U. S. Planes foolishly dropped millions of leaflets containing President Johnson’s allegations.”

Later, Hanoi attacked the program in both newspaper articles and broadcast news. They charged that the United States was attempting to:

Change white into black and blur the line between the just cause and the unjust one and between the warmongers and aggressors and the victims of aggression in order to make people believe in their fantastic story that the Vietnamese are committing aggression against Vietnam, while the Americans, who live tens of thousands of miles away, are sending troops to South Vietnam to defend this country’s freedom.

The Leaflets

In general the leaflets dropped on North Vietnam can be identified by their code numbers. They start at 1 and end at 151. There are generally no letters like “SP” or “T” in the code. In the early days of the campaign the leaflet sizes varied. As more was learned about the aerodynamic characteristics of leaflets (an Army PSYOP officer by the name of David G. Underhill wrote a booklet entitled Low, Medium and High Altitude Leaflet Dissemination Guide) standardized sizes and formats were used. These sizes could vary according to need by about ½ inch. Near the end of the campaign the vast majority was the standard 3 x 6-inch leaflet printed on 16-pound paper. Leaflets with a single large photo were 5 ½ x 5 ½. If a number of color photos were depicted, the leaflet was 3 x 8-inches. News bulletins were 8 x 10-inches and the newspaper Nhan Dan was 10 ½ x 15 ¾-inches.

The Military kept records on how many leaflets were dropped and one early document says:

The rapid expansion of the program is reflected by statistics showing the number of leaflets dispensed over North Vietnam: 67 million leaflets were delivered in 1965, 142 million during the following year, and 271 million during 1967.

We know the text of the very early leaflets, but apparently nobody thought at the time to save specimens of those leaflets. We know that the very first leaflet (Number 1) explains why the forces of the Republic of Vietnam have bombed the main roads and bridges of North Vietnam. The readers are warned to stay away from Communist military installations and advised to oppose the Communists’ plot to send their sons to die in South Vietnam. the text of the first leaflet is:

Compatriots of North Vietnam,

Recently the armed forces of the Republic of Vietnam bombed the main roads and bridges of North Vietnam. This is a self-defense action to stop the aggression of the Ho Chi Minh clique, lackeys of the Red Chinese. The government and armed forces of the Republic of Vietnam only destroy the military bases and road networks of the Communists in North Vietnam. We avoid doing harm to the compatriots’ lives and property. To protect yourselves, please keep away from the Communists military installations and oppose the Communists’ plots to send your sons and husbands to die in South Vietnam.

Leaflet 2

Leaflet number 2 explains that the bombing of North Vietnam was instituted to stop the plots of the Communists to kill innocent people of South Vietnam, and that the targets are limited to military installations and communication facilities.

Compatriots of North Vietnam,

To stop the cruel Communists from killing our innocent compatriots in South Vietnam, the Government and Armed Forces of the Republic of Vietnam have destroyed the military installations and road network of North Vietnam. The air strikes were aimed at the Communist military installations but not at the compatriots of North Vietnam. We love peace but if the Communists of North Vietnam persist in their aggression, the air strikes will be continued on a wider scale until the Communists stop the killings in South Vietnam. To protect yourselves, please keep away from the Communist military installations, offices, industrial plants, and important communication axes.


Leaflet number 3

Leaflet number 3 was titled “Who Betrays the People?” and reminds the readers that it was the North Vietnamese who invaded the South and killed civilians. A decade after I first wrote this story, I found a copy of number 3, a very plain all-text leaflet. I continue to search for the early leaflets. The full text is:

Who Betrays the People?

The Communists signed the Fountainebleau agreement in 1946 with the French to land troops in Vietnam. In 1954 the Communists signed the Geneva Accords with the French, dividing the county and giving half to the colonialists.  In 1956 the Communists started the aggressive war against South Viet Nam, on orders of the Red Chinese. 

In the past 10 years the Communists invited the Red Chinese into North Viet Nam and applied a cruel dictatorial rule over the people of North Viet Nam. In the past 10 years the Communists were hired by the Red Chinese to wage a war of aggression against the people of South Viet Nam.

Who commits all the crimes? The Viet Cong.

Who plunges the people into war and destruction? The Viet Cong.

Who act as lackeys of the Red Chinese to enslave the people? The Viet Cong.

I note that the first three leaflets were all dropped on 14 April 1965. 250,000 of each were dropped on Dong Hoi, Ha Tinh, Vinh and Thanh Hoa. During the whole month, a total of 3,210,000 leaflets from number 1 to number 6 were dropped. In May, another 1,472,000 were dropped on six targets. In the month of June, 4,800,000 leaflets were dropped om 11 targets.

Leaflet 4 is a communique to the of the Republic of Vietnam Government dated 11 April 1965. It is about President Johnson’s speech and talks about the conditions for peaceful negotiations between North and South Vietnam. 

Leaflet 5 quotes the speech of President Johnson who stated American policy on Vietnam in his speech on 7 April 1965.

Leaflet 6 says that there is concrete evidence that the Chinese and Vietnamese Communists have been giving supplies and guidance to their accomplices who are waging war in South Vietnam.

Finally, leaflet 7 uses an image, the first leaflet in this series to do so.

Leaflet 7

Leaflet 7 is an interesting cartoon which shows the Chinese giving weapons to the Viet Cong while they take the people’s rice and other foodstuffs. The Viet Cong then turn those weapons upon the people of the South and murder them and burn their homes. I want to stop and point out an interesting fact. The Viet Cong have a Communist star on their helmets. There was a major argument about this star because it was pointed out to the PSYOP artists that the VC hide in plain clothes so they cannot be identified, and their helmets when in uniform do not usually have a star. The PSYOP artists answered by saying that they did not think the people would recognize that the terrorists were Viet Cong and added the star to make it more apparent. An interesting insight into the way the artists and their superiors thought. The text on the back of this leaflet is:

The Communist government in Hanoi has taken the rice and rice paddies of the people to give to the Communist Chinese in exchange for weapons and ammunition so that they can kill our innocent people in the South.

The Air strikes by the Republic of Vietnam and United States Air Forces against the Communist military bases and lines of communication in North Vietnam are necessary to stop the transportation of arms and ammunition into South Vietnam.

Ask the Communist Government to keep the food, increase the rations in the North, and stop the aggressive actions in the South so that the people of both North and South can earn their living in peace.

1,250,000 copies of leaflet 7 were dropped on four targets on 23 June 1965. Additional drops occurred on 28 June, 12 July, 15 July, and at least on 5 more occasions.

By Leaflet number 10, the PSYOP people had started to think in terms of saving samples of the leaflets for posterity.

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Leaflet 10

Even though the purpose of the bombing of North Vietnam was to force their government to meet at the peace table, the Americans still dropped bomb warning leaflets so as not to cause too great civilian casualties. Talk about sending a mixed message. The front of the leaflet depicts the general form of a bomb and the text:


The back is all text:

Dear Compatriots of North Viet-Nam

We are bombing the facilities which are being used to support the Communist aggression in the South (SVN), such as: Military installations, Power plants, Communication routes and Bridges.



We see many leaflets, but we seldom see what the training and reference booklets say about specific leaflets. The 1965 Psychological Operations Guide explains how a bomb Warning Leaflet should look. We seldom see this pattern on U.S. leaflets, but the guide just shows different way to print the leaflets, it is not in the form of a mandatory format. This page is a recommendation for the way the bomb warning leaflets should be printed to include the weight of the paper and even the size of the font. 

Leaflet 10 was dropped on 11, 12, 14, 17, and 29 July 1965 on Nam Dinh, Ly Nhan, Vinh, Ha Tinh, Phu Qui and Thanh Hoa. In July 1965, 10,991,000 total leaflets were dropped on 32 targets. Throughout the campaign, the population of North Vietnam was warned to avoid military installations, industrial sites and communication routes and facilities which were being used to support the aggressive war in the south. On occasion they were warned to avoid specific waterways, or areas which were designated as free bombing zones. These warnings were calculated to gain the good will of the North Vietnamese people to the extent this was possible under the circumstances, to serve a humanitarian purpose, and also to impair the North Vietnamese war effort by promoting absenteeism from military, industrial and communication enterprises.

I should point out that leaflet 11 had the exact same text, but some slight changes in the appearance of the text and image. For instance, the front of the leaflet does not show the bomb in 11. There are simply the two words underlined. Perhaps somebody noticed the mixed message and made a change.

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Leaflet 12

We mentioned “facsimiles of North Vietnamese currency” in our sections on techniques. Leaflet 12 is a parody of a genuine North Vietnamese 50 dong banknote. Serial numbers on the American leaflet are "XM019" and "BD047". The back of the leaflet has been changed so that when turned over, in place of Ho Chi Minh's portrait, there is a propaganda message in black ink on a white background. The Vietnamese text is:


1. Ready to end the invasion of South Vietnam advocated by the Lao Dong Party. 

2. Ready to retain the rice that the Lao Dong Party takes to exchange for weapons from Communist China.

3. Ready to oppose all hardships that the Lao Dong Party imposes upon you to support the war of invasion of South Vietnam.

These leaflets were dropped over Tri Dong on 12 July 1965, Yen Bay on 15 July, Tranh Hoa on 29 July, and the area of Vinh-Tranh Hoa on 20 and 22 September. From 11 to 13 October, 1,570,000 were dropped over the Red River Delta, Route 7, Thai Binh, Nam Dinh, Tranh Hoa, Ha Trung, Nga Son, Phat Diem and other areas.

The Lao Dong Party is the Worker's Party, the name used by the Communist Party in North Vietnam. North Vietnamese students took pledges known as the "three readies" to prove their patriotism and dedication. The actual three readies pledge is:

1. Ready to fight and fight valiantly, ready to enlist in the armed forces.

2. Ready to overcome all difficulties, to stimulate production work and studies, under any circumstances, whatsoever.

3. Ready to go anywhere and perform any task required by the Motherland.

The North Vietnamese press mentioned these banknote leaflets in the newspaper Hoc Tap, September 1967, in an article entitled "Resolutely Defeat the Psychological Warfare of the American Imperialists."

Using airplanes and ships to fling leaflets and counterfeit money into the North is an im­portant psychological warfare trick of the American imperialists. According to them, the Ameri­can imperialists from April 1965 to the end of 1966 dropped in the North more than 400 million leaflets of all kinds, the contents of which were intended to distort our Party’s struggle line of resisting America and saving the nation, to distort the “Three Readies" movement of our youth, to distort the policies of our Party and Government, to divide our nation from the fraternal nations, to invent stories of troop movements to the South which are based with sickness and death, to create an impression of terror in the face of the destruction by American airplanes, to boast of "American airpower," to praise the false prosperity in South Vietnam, to propagandize the de­ceptive "peaceful negotiation" schemes of Johnson, etc.

Long after the war was over the United States began declassifying documents from the Vietnam War. One that caught my interest was this one, either a leaflet or a radio report that mentioned the theme of the “Three Readies:” 

When there is so much poverty and food shortage around what is the use of the "three responsibilities" and the "three readiness" rules? They could also be the "ten responsibilities" and the "ten readiness" topped with the "hundred postponements" and still the Party would be unable to fulfill the needs of the North Vietnamese people so long as it continues to wage useless war against the South. North Vietnamese Compatriots: How many kilos of rice are each of you allowed to buy each month; how many meters of cloth each year? How many of you must wear rags or turn to the black market for clothing? The Party tells you to work harder. But when you work harder, do you have more food and warmer clothing? What has happened to your sons, husbands, and brothers that you must work harder and harder only to enjoy less and less?

Leaflet 135-66

I should point out here that just as the Communists liked their various slogans, the American propagandists loved to make fun of them. The above slogan was parodied several times.

This leaflet parodying “The Three Readies” was created by the I Corps PSYWAR and Civil Affairs Center in 1966. Later the 244th PSYOP Company, and then the 7th PSYOP Battalion, would print leaflets for the I Corps Tactical Zone in the far north of the country. The stains on the leaflet were caused by glue used 50+ years ago to paste the leaflets into a leaflet catalog. The text on the leaflet says in part:

To the Young Men in the Viet Cong ranks:

The Viet Cong operates under the concept of the three “delays: Delay of love; delay of marriage; and delay of having children.

Divert one’s attention from these thoughts, to eradicate the young people’s happiness, to disengage you from your family and become an easy Viet Cong tool of sacrifice, and to transform the Vietnamese family into Communists who are without family and fatherland…Turn your rifle against them and return to the Republic of Vietnam Government.


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Leaflet 14a Front

Although not actual postcards or letters, there are two leaflets that appear to be stamped postcards. They are from the same series and are coded 14a and 14b. At first glance the two leaflets are similar, both addressed on the front with what appears to be a postage stamp. Both of the leaflets are addressed on the front to:

To a North Vietnamese Compatriot – North Vietnam

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Leaflet 14b Front.

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Leaflet 14b back

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

Dear Compatriot,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The first record I have of this leaflet being dropped is 20 July 1965. American and Vietnamese aircraft dropped the leaflets over communication routes heading to Hanoi and Haiphong, as well as eight North Vietnamese cities. The leaflets were mixed with numbers 13 and 16 and a total of 3,360,000 of the three were disseminated. Another 520,000 of 14a and 14b were dropped on 30 July 1965 over Van Yen, Ba Don and Huong Khe. On 9 December another 480,000 were dropped over the Rao Nay Valley and Ba Don, Cuong Gian and Phu Kinh. July was a busy month with leaflets from number 7 to number 16 being dropped on 32 targets for a total of 10,991,000 in all.

Leaflet 15 mentions the murder of an American Sergeant and the blowing up of the My Canh restaurant. A photo shows some victims of the bombing.

Leaflet 16 is a long text with four conditions for peace in Vietnam,

Leaflet 17

This leaflet is very simple. It shows a South Vietnamese man welcoming the dove of peace. To his right a North Vietnamese official smacks the bird away. The text is a simple:


There is a long text message on the back that says in part:

Dear Compatriots,

The communist regime of Hanoi has clearly shown that it was not interested in peace. The Hanoi regime, echoing Peking, refused to receive former Foreign Minister of Great Britain, who was traveling on behalf of the British Government to seek a peaceful solution to the problem of Vietnam.

Hanoi, echoing Peking, rejected an appeal by 17 non-aligned countries proposing the settlement of the Vietnamese problem by peaceful negotiations. When President Johnson proposed unconditional discussions as a step toward a peaceful settlement of the Vietnamese problem, Hanoi, again faithful to Peking's line, crudely rejected the proposal.

A peace mission composed of chiefs of governments of Great Britain and of many Afro-Asian countries, proposed to visit all countries concerned with the war in Vietnam to seek a peaceful solution to the Vietnamese problem. Again, Hanoi, echoing Peking, refused to receive the mission. What is the meaning of all this? It means simply that the Lao Dong Party, prodded by their masters from Peking, and blinded by their thirst of conquest and domination, are unmoved by the sufferings of the Vietnamese people, both South and North. Vietnamese lives and blood are being wasted profusely to serve communist ambition.




Leaflet 18

The front of this leaflets shows Aspects of people's life in South Vietnam. Photo captions are:

A happy family reunion.
A Busy city scene.
An Ample rice supply.
A modern factory.

The text on the back is:

As you can see the people of South Vietnam are progressing in many ways. We do not need the Lao Dong Party aggression and communist enslavement to be happy.

- Demand that the Communist authorities stop the aggression in the South so that your sons and brothers won't be sent out as bullet shields, and your rice won't be exchanged for weapons which kill innocent compatriots in the South.

-The North needs the young men to build the country and the people need rice to keep them from starving.

- Demand the Communist authorities and the Lao Dong Party end the war in the South, respect the people's rights, improve the people's life so that the compatriots in the North may live in prosperity as do the compatriots in the South.

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Leaflet 19

This leaflet depicts several Viet Cong terrorists and the results of their actions. The text is:

Innocent women and children in South Vietnam are being slaughtered daily by these and other Lao Dong Party directed Viet Cong aggressors.

On a rural road in Long An Province, a three-wheeled passenger bus was torn into pieces by a Viet Cong terrorist mine. Killed instantly by the blast was this peasant, one who fall everyday victims of the Communist war on civilian in South Vietnam.

The text on the back is:

Refuse to support this war on innocent civilians directed by the Lao Dong Party.

Stop the North Vietnamese Communist aggression in the South and this slaughter of innocent women and children.

Let peace return to our families.

Leaflet 20

The front of this leaflet depicts the legendary Quang Trung riding over the bodies of his enemies on his war horse with his sword held high.

The text on the front is:

Quang Trung, the national hero who foiled Le Chieu Thong’s plot to “bring the snake home to kill the chickens.”

The text on the back is:

The spirit of Quang Trung is still with the Vietnamese people. Numerous concrete evidence has shown that the Lao Dong Party, backed by our hereditary enemy of the North who wishes to spread its new form of communist imperialism have been giving direct support and guidance to a war on the total population of South Vietnam. These people are like yourselves, workers and peasants including many women and children.

We ask you, what is the purpose of all this terrorism and murder? By necessity we must cut off the supply of materials and infiltrators through air strikes sent by the Lao Dong Party to carry on the aggressive war in South Vietnam.

Compatriots in North Vietnam, don’t let the Lao Dong Party use your sweat, toil, and even food they trade to the Communist Chinese for weapons to kill your brothers in the South. Let Peace return to our families.

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Leaflet 21

This leaflet depicts the legendary Vietnamese General of the Tran Dynasty Tran Binh Trong. The text is:

Tran Binh Trong preferred to be a ghost of Vietnam rather than a King of China. How about the Communists of North Vietnam?

Compatriots, call on the Lao Dong Party to halt its aggression against men, women and children in South Vietnam.

When the Viet Cong aggression directed by the Lao Dong Party ceases in the south we can all live in peace.

An Example of the Nhan Van (Human Knowledge) Newspaper.

This small leaflet-sized newspaper was printed by the 7th PSYOP Group on Okinawa. I do not have an image of it. We know it was dropped on at least four occasions. Leaflet 24 discusses agricultural development in South Vietnam during 1965 and 1966. Leaflet 30 was dated 15 September 1965 and featured a story on thanks from Nguyen Van Thieu to Korean President Park Chung Hui for sending another infantry division to help the Republic of Vietnam fight the Communists. Leaflet number 31 was also coded NP-3 and featured an article about helping farmers become land owners and the defeat of Viet Cong attacks. Leaflet 31A (NP-4) which celebrated National Day in South Vietnam and the visit of Prime Minister Ky in Seoul.

This ends the month of August 1965, when a total of 3,488,000 leaflets numbering from 16 to 24 were dropped on 14 targets.

Leaflet 22

This leaflet depicts President Lyndon B. Johnson. It quotes his speech of 25 July 1965, so we know it was dropped shortly after that date. The text is extremely long, so I will just translate some of the opening comments where “Why are we in Vietnam” is explained. The text says in part:


In a speech made from the White House on 28 July 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson of the United States made a significant speech. Here are some of the main points that pertain to Vietnam, North and South:

Why must young Americans, born into a land exultant with hope and with golden promise, toil and suffer and sometimes die in such a remote and distant place?

The answer, like the war itself, is not an easy one, but it echoes clearly from the painful lessons of half a century. Three times in my lifetime in two world wars and in Korea, Americans have gone too far lands to fight for freedom. We have learned at a terrible and brutal cost that retreat does not bring safety and weakness does not bring peace.

It is this lesson that has brought us to Vietnam. This is a different kind of war. It is guided by North Vietnam and spurred by Communist China. The goal is to conquer the South, to defeat American power, and to extend the Asiatic power of Communism…Therefore, I have today ordered to Vietnam the Airmobile Division and certain other forces which will raise our fighting strength from 75,000 to 120,000 men almost immediately. Additional forces will be needed later, and they will be sent as requested....

My records show that 320,000 leaflets were dropped on Thanh Hoa, 240,000 on Nam Dinh, and 120,000 on Dong Hoi. In October, another 1,540,000 were dropped over the Red River Delta.

Leaflet 23

Leaflet 23 shows the South Vietnamese praying for their dead on the “Day or Pardon for the Dead.” A short poem reminds the people to “burn a stick of incense in honor of our ancestors.” The captions on the two photographs on the front are:

Faithful to their ancestral tradition, the people of South Vietnam are praying for the dead on the “Day of Pardon for the Dead.”

As we sadly turn our thoughts toward the withering North,

No sticks were burned on Vu Lan Day, and no comfort was given the wandering souls.

The message on the back is:

Dear Compatriots of North Vietnam,

The Trung Nguyen or Vu Lan holidays are approaching. This is the time when every Vietnamese would pause to burn a stick of incense in honor of our ancestors or as an act of mercy for the souls of those dead who have no one to honor their memories.

Faithful to our ancestral traditions, we in the South are burning incense and praying for the deceased. On this occasion, our thoughts go to you and the many sufferings, both material and moral, you are enduring under the ruthless regime of the Godless communists. We know that you are being harassed into abandoning your pious duty of honoring your dead. But our thoughts also go to the many dead who fall every day in South Vietnam under the murderous hands of the Viet Cong. How many wandering souls need our prayers and your prayers on this day of "Pardon for the Dead"?

Compatriots, demand that the Lao Dong Party stop its war of aggression in the South so that no more innocent souls would have to join the already great number of innocent souls now wandering on this war-torn country of the South.

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Leaflet 25

We mentioned both cartoons and anti-Chinese propaganda under techniques and themes. This leaflet combines them to produce a colorful anti-Chinese cartoon. The front depicts a member of the Vietnamese Communist Party carrying a snake (Red China) into a hen house. Leaflet 25 was one of three leaflets in a group of 6,000,000 dropped by the USAF on 10 October 1965. The text is:

The Lao Dong Party brings the snake in to kill the people’s chickens.

The back is all text:


Recently a photo exhibition of the Communist Chinese unshakable friendship for the Vietnamese people was held in Hanoi and Peking. Here is one view the Lao Dong Party failed to include in the exhibit.


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Leaflet 26

Leaflet 26 is a cartoon that shows Mao handing weapons to the Vietnamese while he sits on bags of rice taken from North Vietnam. Leaflet 26 was one of three leaflets in a group of 6,000,000 dropped by the USAF on 10 October 1965. The text is on the back is:

Dear Compatriots,

Did you know that the “Big Brother from the North” had pledged his full support to the Lao Dong’s Party’s aggressive war in South Vietnam…until the last drop of blood!

Whose blood?

Vietnamese blood!

Demand that the Lao Dong Party stop the war against innocent people in South Vietnam and save your rice!

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Leaflet 27

Under “themes” we mentioned that the population was regularly warned to stay away from military installations, industrial sites and communication routes and facilities. Leaflet 27 depicts the might of the American Navy and Air Force. The front of the leaflet bears three photographs of different American aircraft filling the skies over Vietnam. Leaflet 27 was one of three leaflets in a group of 6,000,000 dropped by the USAF on 10 October 1965.The text is:

For your safety, stay away from military installations

The back depicts a grandson speaking to his grandfather:

Grandpa, the Party tells us that hundreds of enemy planes have been shot down. Why do so many of them keep coming daily?

Grandson, this is a state secret. Nobody except the Party is allowed to count the number of enemy planes shot down. As for us, the people are at least allowed to count the number of enemy planes that fly over our heads. We had better keep the count to ourselves and stay away from the Party’s military installations when the planes come.

During September 1965, a total of 12,630,000 leaflets numbered from 24 to 28 were dropped on 5 targets (sometimes more than once) on 8 different days.

In October, U.S.A.F. planes dropped many of the leaflets they dropped earlier in the war numbered from 7 to 27. A total of 17,630,000 leaflets were dropped on 17 targets.

From 1 to 17 November 1965, 3,325,000 leaflets were dropped numbered from 7 to 18 over 6 targets. In addition, 5,000 gift packages (including cloth and copies of Nhan Van #3) were dropped on the coastal region on 1 November.

A total of 67,656,000 leaflets were dropped plus about 15,000 gift packages from the inception in mid-April through 17 November when the first halt was called. Further leafleting occurred when bombing was resumed until all bombing was halted by President Lyndon B. Johnson in November 1968.

Speaking of gift boxes, perhaps the readers would like to know more about what they contained.

Basic Necessities Fall from the Sky

Stars and Stripes – 11 November 1965

On 3 November 1965, National Day in Vietnam, the South dropped 5,000 kits of basic daily necessities by C-130 aircraft on North Vietnam. Each kit contained a T-Shirt, a towel, cotton cloth, two notebooks, a comb, sewing needles, thread and a length of plastic that could be used as a raincoat. The Government of Vietnam had paid more than one million dong to buy the items which had all been manufactured in the South. Along with the gifts were 25,000 copies of the U.S. propaganda newspaper Nhan Van (Human Knowledge).

Declassified SOG documents state that the following numbers of gift kits were dropped on North Vietnam in the early years of the Vietnam War: 33,000 in 1964, 24,000 in 1965, 80,000 in 1966 and 21,000 in 1967.

And what did the Communist leaders of North Vietnam think of these gift packages? Radio Hanoi said:

The psychological warfare tricks of the U.S. aggressors are very cunning, ranging from intensification of deceitful propaganda by means of broadcasting systems, dropping tons of leaflets and of Psywar boxes containing children’s clothes and toys to tempt them…

The North Vietnamese Army Journal Quan Doi Mham Dan added:

Wherever the enemy spread leaflets or distorting and reactionary rumors or dropped “deceitful gifts” the militia and self-defense forces and the people would immediately disclose and check these tricks…

Ho Chi Minh said in a speech on 22 October 1966:

U.S. leaflets and Psywar boxes were recently dropped over some places in the North, but our people just refused to read or take them…Whenever the enemy dropped toys or clothing, the people immediately collected them and brought them to the local administrators or fighters for the People’s Security Armed Forces nearest them.

During September 1965, a total of 12,630,000 leaflets numbered from 24 to 28 were dropped on 5 targets (sometimes more than once) on 8 different days.

In October, U.S.A.F. planes dropped many of the leaflets they dropped earlier in the war numbered from 7 to 27. A total of 17,630,000 leaflets were dropped on 17 targets.

From 1 to 17 November 1965, 3,325,000 leaflets were dropped numbered from 7 to 18 over 6 targets. In addition, 5,000 gift packages (including cloth and copies of Nhan Van #3) were dropped on the coastal region on 1 November.

A total of 67,656,000 leaflets were dropped plus about 15,000 gift packages from the inception in mid-April through 17 November when the first halt was called. Further leafleting occurred when bombing was resumed until all bombing was halted by President Lyndon B. Johnson in November 1968.

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Leaflet 29

The Vietnamese loved their poetry. I will mention this several times in this article. Many of the American leaflets aimed at North Vietnam used poetry as a theme. This leaflet depicts a lonely soldier identified as the son of Mrs. Tran Thi Phan of Hai Duong, writing a letter to his mother shown above him on their farm in the north. The back shows the soldier killed on the battlefield of Duc Co. The poem was allegedly found on the young soldier’s body. These poems were considered to be very powerful propaganda and many Northerners walking down the Ho Chi Minh Trail that were later captured said that the poems were demoralizing and made them homesick. 720,000 copies of this leaflet were dropped on the Vinh-Tranh Hoa area on 26 September 1965. The poem is very long so I will only show the first few lines:


A North Vietnamese youth spills out his heart

From the day I left you Oh mother,
To follow my companions in this trip through Laos to Central Vietnam,
I have endured the hardships of climbing up the green mountains
And marching through rain and shine…
The heels of my shows have worn out and the cloth on my shoulders has rubbed thin where the cold seeps in…
I began to look around and wonder what there was here to liberate,
The market was crowded with people in gay mood; the rice fields were green with plants…
The classrooms full of cheerful children…

There was an error on leaflet 29 that caused some problems. The Joint US Public Affairs Office had used the letter “SP” (Special Projects) on their leaflets early in the war. Because the United States wanted the VC and NVA to think that all the Vietnamese leaflets were made by the Vietnamese, those letters were ordered off all US leaflets. Leaflet 29 had clearly been designed by JUSPAO and on the left arms of the guerrilla on the back of the leaflet the original code number SP-695 had been left on the leaflet. Nobody noticed this when the leaflets were reissued for use over North Vietnam, but a letter  from the Chief of the Printing Branch to the Commander of the 15th PSYOP Detachment on 7 September 1966 ordered that improper code on the arm be removed from all future printings of leaflet 29.


Leaflet 78

The exact same poem was printed again as Leaflet 78. The format was changed, the images different and some color was added. We depict leaflet 29 above, we depict leaflet 78 here.

Leaflet 134-66

This is another early I Corps leaflet that was used in 1966. It was not dropped over the North. The reason I add it is because many of the American leaflets to the enemy used the mother as a theme. This one depicts a mother looking at an empty bed at left, at the right we see her son, not sleeping, but dead in the jungle The text on the front is:

He was here only last year! Where have they buried him!

The text on the back is:


Mother, I considered it certain that I would die in battle, and you would not know of my death. Sometimes I felt that death was perhaps better than this way of life, but I felt sorry for you, mother, who needed my assistance. I dared not let my comrades know of my true feelings, because I feared they might report them to my leaders. Many of my comrades were tired and as sick as I was because of the lack of food and medicine. I’m sorry I had to leave you, mother, but death was better than my life with the Viet Cong.

Leaflet 34

Leaflet 34 consists of three cartoon panels. In the first a North Vietnamese Commissar propagandizes his troops:

We must fight for 20 years or more. Good Communists must emulate…

In the second panel the North Vietnamese troops are bombed:

…all our brave “liberators” sent to the south.

The final panel asks:

How long must you suffer?

We must be “Three Ready,” “Three Responsibilities,” “Three Don’t,” “Three No,” “Three Yes,’ Work! Work! Fight!

The text on the back of the leaflet is:

Compatriots – Your masters have promised you victory in 1964 and in 1965 – Is victory any nearer? And meanwhile, what have you gained?, everywhere the enemy of the Vietnamese people – The aggressive forces of the Lao Dong Party is on the run. But – There is no place for them to hide anymore. The jungle diseases are swallowing them up. The wounded die from poor or no medical care. Many are captured or defect.


Note: The various anti-Communist slogans in this leaflet are found on other Allied leaflets and are all parodies of North Vietnamese patriotic slogans. For instance, the “Three Responsibilities” are found on Leaflet 31 and the “Three Don’t” are found on Leaflet 39. They are:

The Three Responsibilities

Be responsible in hiding your rice and money from the Lao Dong Party to deny it the resources with which to wage a war of aggression in the South.

Be responsible in keeping your husbands and sons from joining the army as lackeys of Red China to fight a fratricidal war in the South.

Be responsible in demanding that the Lao Dong Party let the women go back to their sacred duties as mothers and wives. 


Several leaflets mention Thailand. Leaflet number 37 is addressed to “Our compatriots in North Vietnam from Thais who formerly lived in Son La, Muong La, and Mai Son in North Vietnam and now live in South Vietnam. It tells the Northerners “Don’t follow or live near the Communists – Don’t stay near their Army barracks because you might be attacked by aircraft. Leaflet 38 shows a number of “White Thais” that once lived in North Vietnam and now live in South Vietnam. The message tells the North Vietnamese that the Thais have plenty of food to eat and plenty of clothes to wear. It warns the Communists caused the bombings and the people of the North should stay away from military targets. 

Leaflet 35

This leaflet is a reminder of the long strife between China and Vietnam. It depicts four movie scenes, each showing conflict between the two nations. China is depicted as a snake twice. The text says in part:



“Heroic Sons” directed by the Communist Party

Gallant Viet Cong heroes in Chu Lai, Vietnam

Present Red Chinese friendship

Traditional Chinese Vietnamese friendship

The text on the back is:

Compatriots of North Vietnam; do not be slaves to Chinese imperialism.

The Communist Party’s aggression in South Vietnam is rapidly on its way to total defeat.

Leaflet 37

Small aspects of the Vietnam War were fought from Thailand by the Americans who controlled some of the aircraft over Vietnam, and there was also a viable communist underground movement in Thailand that might have driven out the legitimate government. I mention this because the Thais were used as part of the American propaganda campaign against North Vietnam. This leaflet depicts two Thai women in traditional garb. The text is in Thai on the front and Vietnamese on the back. Some of the text is:


We are the Thai people of Son La, Muong La, and Mai Son in North Vietnam. We are people who have moved to South Vietnam, and we have a few words for our brothers and relatives in Son La province:

We appeal to our brothers of the Thai people not to listen to the propaganda of the Communists, and not to follow them, because Communist bandits rob the people’s property, and destroy and kill compatriots in South Vietnam. For this reason, the airplanes bomb and destroy the military installations such as ammunition depots and bridges, to stop the Communist’s infiltration into the South…Our Thai people should tell each other to stay away from the Communist areas. We in the South are well.

Leaflet 39

A common theme of many Allied leaflets was that when the fighters from the North came down the Ho Chi Minh Trail they were killed in the South and never heard from again. That was partly PSYOP and partly true because thousands of the soldiers coming down the Trail were lost and left where they fell. The Leaflets sometimes asked the people of the North, “Do you know anyone that got a letter from their children fighting in the South?”

This leaflet depicts three pairs of people talking. Their comments are:

I do not hear from our young men who have been sent to the South.

I do not see any of them come back.

I do not know why we must fight our compatriots in the South.

The text on the back is:

Compatriots of North Vietnam, demand that the Lao Dong Party end the aggressive war in the South.


Leaflet 40

This is an interesting leaflet that depicts some survivors of a Viet Cong attack on the Hotel Metropole. The text on the back is short and concise, almost like a police report. Just the facts, nothing extra. The text on the front is:


The text on the back is:

DATE: December 4, 1965

TIME: 5:30 a.m.

PLACE: Hotel Metropole; Navy Outpatient Clinic; Nguyen-Cu-Trinh Bus Station; Vietnamese shops and houses.

DEAD: Six Vietnamese, One American, One New Zealander.

INJURED: 26 Vietnamese men, 24 Vietnamese women, 12 Vietnamese children, 72 Americans, 3 New Zealanders.

Your government “warmly acclaims” this naked brutality against your fellow-Vietnamese. Do you share these sentiments?

Leaflet 42

This leaflet depicts a beautiful Tet holiday table with a floral decoration. The text on the front is:

Happy New Year (The year of the horse)

The text on the back is:

The people of South Vietnam wish the people of North Vietnam a happy and prosperous New Year. All the Vietnamese people can enjoy such happiness and prosperity if the Communist rulers of the North will cease their aggression against the peace-loving people of the Republic of Vietnam.

Leaflet 43

Leaflet 43 depicts a vignette from the standard safe conduct leaflet on the front. It tells the soldiers of the North that if sent South, they should look for safe conduct passes on the ground. With or without the passes they can give themselves over to the Southern forces and be assured of good treatment. Some of the text is:

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

The other side is all text and says in part:


Thousands of young men in the Army of North Vietnam are being sent to kill your compatriots in the south. They cannot always let you know before they leave. Once they leave, they have no way of coming back to the North. So they must stay in the South to die of disease or be killed in battle. Thus is the fate of those who go South. However, there is a way, THE ONLY WAY, for them to return home safely…They will find safe conduct passes as they travel South to help them carry out their legitimate intention. With or without a safe conduct pass, they can leave the aggressor forces. They will be well treated. They will live to return home.

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

Curiously, I later found that leaflet 41 is almost identical. This leaflet simply points out that the South Vietnamese and Americans tried to stop the bombing hoping that the Northern leaders would offer to talk, but they rejected the offers of peace. The major difference is that the message at the front right of 43 is on the back of 41. The message on the back of 41 says in part:


For several weeks there was no bombing in the north as the Republic of Vietnam and other nations throughout the world sought ways to end the war and bring peace to our land. Your Lao Dong leaders foolishly rejected these sincere offers to restore peace. Instead, the continued to force increasing numbers of your loved ones to go South and kill their compatriots. They do these completely disregarding the disastrous consequences for you…Before your husbands, sons, brothers, and loved ones are sent South, tell them not to attack their southern brothers, but seek and use safe conduct passes to leave the aggressor forces.


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Leaflet 44

Leaflet 44 depicts North Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh. There is a long propaganda text on the back on the subject of the Party’s shortcomings and Ho Chi Minh’s guidance telling the cadres to listen to the people. The text on the front under Ho’s picture is:


Party leader Le Duc Tho says: “In the fulfillment of their assignment and norms, if lower echelons (of cadre) violate the orders and coerce the masses, usually, they are not sternly criticized. (NOW THEY WILL BE).

We must regularly indoctrinate the cadres and members on the importance of serving the masses and on the habit of working according to the masses’ line.” Nhan Dan, 4 February 1966). 


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Leaflet 45

We mentioned under “Themes” that “Every release of a prisoner in the South was advertised in leaflets dropped over the North.” Leaflet 45 is a good example. It depicts 21 North Vietnamese Army prisoners on the front and the text:

These North Vietnamese soldiers captured in the South, and released by the Republic of Vietnam, have crossed the Ben Hai Bridge on 30 January 1966 to return to North Vietnam.


Each of the 21 returnees is documented. I will just mention the first two just to give an example of the kind of data disclosed on the leaflet:

  1. Le Phuc: Nam Thach village, Quang Ninh district, Quang Binh province, soldier of Division 325.
  2. Tran Van Thanh: Tien Thang village, Tien Dong district, Hoa Binh province, soldier of Company 4, Battalion 1, Regiment 101, Division 325.

Retired Master Sergeant LeRoy “Doc” Holloway dropped the above leaflet over North Viet Nam in the early 1960’s while on Blind Bat missions over the Ho Chi Minh Trail. He was a Flight Engineer in the 35th Troop Carrier Squadron from 1964 to 1967. He flew the leaflet missions from Da Nang Air Force Base, Vietnam.

Operation Blind Bat missions were flown in Vietnam from 1964 to 1970. The Communist infiltrators from the North moved south during the night under cover of darkness. The USAF was assigned the task of dropping flares from C-130A aircraft to light the skies and make the trucks visible to Allied fighters and bombers. The mission was to target trucks and interdict the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

Holloway told me:

The mission started when we reported to the Security Section for a briefing and sanitizing of our uniforms. After leaving everything except for our ID card and dog tags we did our preflight and then took off about midnight. We flew north over the water to avoid anti-aircraft fire. We flew above 10,000 feet and wore oxygen masks the entire time we were over North Vietnam. When it came time to drop the leaflets the loadmaster and helpers pushed the pallets with static lines attached to the rear of the rollers installed on the floor of the aircraft. After the drop the whole back of the aircraft was covered with leaflets. The loadmaster was tasked with cleaning up the cargo area and throwing the last of the leaflets out before we could close the ramp, pick up speed and return to the air base.

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Leaflet 47

Leaflet 47 depicts some young North Vietnamese men who have defected to the south. If you look at leaflet 12 you will see a parody of the Vietnamese “three ready” program. I added this leaflet because in this leaflet the U.S. attacks that program once again. The text says in part:


1. Be ready to leave your unit when you are sent south.

2. Be ready to enjoy good treatment by the armed forces of the Republic of Vietnam and allied forces.

3. Be ready to live to enjoy life in a free Vietnam or return home someday.

These are some of your comrades-in-arms who are enjoying good treatment in the South.

The men are identified as Sergeant Vu Tuan Anh, Assistant Squad Leader Do Trung Tien and Squad Leaders Hoang Kim Chu and Nguyen Ngoc Xuan.

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Leaflet 48

Leaflet 48 depicts the skull of a North Vietnamese soldier on the front with the text:


This one of the more than 2000 Northern soldiers who died at Plei Me in November 1965. Many thousands have died in other battles and many thousands will continue to die if they don’t come over to the South Vietnamese or allied forces. Only these will live to return home.

The back is all text with a long message that attacks the North Vietnamese leaders who claim that there are no Northerners in the South. Some of the comments are:


While thousands of North Vietnamese soldiers are losing their lives in the jungles and on the battlefields of South Vietnam, the rulers of Hanoi keep denying that they have ever sent soldier to the South.

North Vietnam’s Premier Pham Van Dong declared: “The so-called presence of forces of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in South Vietnam is but a myth fabricated by the United States Imperialists by way of justification for their war of aggression in South Vietnam.”

This leaflet is found horizontal in a large 3 x 8.5 inches size on regular paper and a smaller 2.5 x 6-inches on a lighter paper in a vertical format.

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Leaflet 49

Leaflet 49 is mentioned briefly in The declassified Command History, United States Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, 1967:

The most effective leaflet against the infiltrator was the safe conduct pass, which was considered a kind of insurance. The campaign was best evaluated by the number of NVA soldiers persuaded to rally or accept capture rather than be killed. Some of these were probably influenced by the successful leaflet, “Born in the North to Die in the South.”

The Allies was very excited to discover that this leaflet was being found on all the dead bodies they checked. They also noticed that many of the prisoners had memorized the leaflet. More leaflets were requested for the enemy in Laos. It was discovered that a shipment had been made to IV Corps where the message was inappropriate. The shipment was immediately moved to Laos where they were put to good use. This leaflet was printed in three formats. They are identical except the second version is the standard 3 x 6-inch size with the body centered and some white area at the right for the title. The third version is slightly larger with the body of the Viet Cong enlarged and the background jungle going all the way to the right edge. The text is unchanged.

The leaflet coded 49 depicts a dead North Vietnamese soldier on one side and all text on the other. The text on the front is:


This soldier is one of the many thousand Northern soldiers who have died in the South so far.

The text on the back is:


Tens of thousands of families in the North no longer hear from their dead sons in the Army. THEIR SONS ARE DEAD. This is the fate of those who are sent south. Because of the overwhelming strength of the South Vietnamese Army and Allied forces, the Communist infiltrators in the South are faced with TOTAL DEFEAT. ONLY THOSE WHO LEAVE THE COMMUNIST RANKS IN TIME WILL SURVIVE TO BE REUNITED WITH THEIR FAMILIES IN THE NORTH SOMEDAY.

I had an interesting discussion with a Vietnam War veteran that thought the motto was taken by dedicated Northern troops before they headed south. I explained that it had nothing to do with the Vietnamese; it was an American PSYOP campaign. A Vietnamese added that there was a motto of interest. He said:

Some radical NVA soldiers would swear that once they go, there would be only two options: either the grass would be green on their graves or their chests would be covered with medals.

That is interesting because it is so similar to the old Spartan warrior pledge “Either this or upon this,” which is usually mistranslated as “Either with your shield or on your shield.”

A Vietnamese told me:

The fact is that NVA soldiers loved that motto too, in their way. Instead of saying “born in the North to die in the South,” the Vietnamese version, in fact is shorter “Born in the North, die in the South.” If you are a soldier spending 6 months in the Annamite range to infiltrate the South, the motto is so easy to remember - and believe me, once you say it; it's in your head forever. And after each air strike, each mountain you climbed, each comrade you buried, you would say it in your mind “born in the North, die in the South.” It became what you believe - your destiny! I don’t believe that was the impact the U.S. wanted. I myself consider that motto is one of the most successful mottos utilized by both warring parties!

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Leaflet 50

Leaflet 50 imitates a North Vietnam one dong propaganda banknote. The parody bears the serial number TO309592 on the front, and shows a code "50" on the back. The message on the propaganda tab at the right front warns the Vietnamese about inflation and the loss of value of their currency:

Money is worth less and less. As the war goes on, there will be less and less to buy. Prices will go higher and higher. Your savings will become worthless paper.

The text on the back is:

Beware of another monetary reform such as that of 1959. You may lose all of your wealth, fruit of your sweat and tears." 

The Reporter Dispatch, November 18, 1966 reported that "To cripple Communist savings, counterfeit North Vietnamese banknotes are dropped along with a message...Most are dropped in the Red River delta near Hanoi." In an East German cold-war polemic, Falschgeld als Waffen der USA, Ostsee Zeitung, Rostock, DDR, 9 December 1981, Dr. Julius Mader reports that the first use of the banknote leaflets was August 1966, when 1.6 million leaflets were dropped. In eight airdrops between August and December 1966, 16,765,000 leaflets were dropped around Vinh, Ha Tinh, Tien Song, Nghi Loc, Linh Cam, Hanoi, Tran Hoa, and Hai Phong.

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

The most popular leaflet we ever dropped over the North was a very good reproduction of a one dong (their currency) note with a message attached. We soon got reports that many were picking up these leaflets, cutting off the message and passing them off as legitimate currency. This prompted me to come up with the brilliant idea for throwing their economy into turmoil by dropping large numbers of much larger denominations with serial numbers and all the hallmarks of real money. Somehow the U.S. Treasury Department got wind of my scheme and killed it off decisively with the warning that, war or no war, the U.S. government never gets into the counterfeiting business.

We should also mention that the United States government was counterfeiting Vietnamese currency at the very same time they were preparing these propaganda leaflets. The forgeries were prepared in Okinawa under the code name "Benson Silk," which was a comprehensive propaganda campaign that included the placing of false radio messages into North Vietnamese radio broadcasts and the forging of currency.

Leaflet 51

Leaflet 51 depicts an American fighter bomber’s shadow over a destroyed North Vietnamese bridge. This photograph of an American F-101 Voodoo over a bombed Vietnamese bridge appears in about a dozen Allied leaflets. The Tactical Air Command and Strategic Air Command had three squadrons operating the Voodoo during the Vietnam War; all of them flying reconnaissance missions doing bomb damage assessment and taking photos of potential targets. Another leaflet identifies the target as the My Dac Bridge located 30 kilometers north of the 17th parallel, attacked and destroyed on 22 April, 1965. The text on the front is:


The back is all text:

Compatriots who are forced to repair roads and bridges, beware! Roads and bridges will continue to be bombed to prevent the Lao Dong Party from sending troops and weapons to attack the South. The quicker they are repaired, the sooner they will be bombed again. Compatriots, try to avoid working on roads and bridges. You will save yourself from a needless death.

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Leaflet 52

Leaflet 52 depicts a bombed and destroyed bridge at the left and dead North Vietnamese soldiers at the right. The text on the front tries to motivate the North Vietnamese to come to the peace table and negotiate:


More Bombs

More dead Sons and Brothers

Or, Honorable Negotiations

The back is all text:

The South Vietnamese and the Americans are ready to negotiate but the Hanoi authorities refuse.

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Leaflet 54

Leaflet 54 is a warning to the people of North Vietnam. It depicts oil tanks burning on the front and the text:

This oil storage area near Hanoi has been bombed


The back is all text:

To the civilian population of North Vietnam


The bombing is not directed toward you.

Don’t risk your life.
Stay away from all military targets such as:
Oil Tanks and other petroleum storage areas.
Bridges, highways, railroads, and waterways used to carry military supplies and troops.
Barracks, gun emplacements, all military installations, electrical power stations, and military port facilities.

Leaflet 54 is found in a large 3 x 8.5 inches size on regular paper and a smaller 2.5 x 6-inches size on a lighter paper.

Leaflet 55

This leaflet features a group of hundreds of former Viet Cong who have gone Chieu Hoi. The text is long on the front and back so I will just translate some of the highlights:


Because: over 40,000 soldiers and cadre of the “Liberation Front” of South Vietnam have rallied to the government side. Over 1000 continue to rally each month.

Chieu Hoi Center, Binh Dinh

8 February 1966

Here are some of the 40,000 of your former southern comrades who have rallied under the Chieu Hoi Program. Your cadres will deny what this leaflet says. Look around you in the south and see how your cadres have lied to you about everything.

This leaflet is found in a large 3 x 8.5 inches size on regular paper and a smaller 2.5 x 6-inch size on a lighter paper.

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Leaflet 59D

This leaflet was printed in a series of four coded 59A through 59D. The propaganda text was the same on all of them. Below the text on each leaflet is a list of the names of different NVA troops who have been returned to the North by the South. The text says in part:

North Vietnamese soldiers in a prisoner-of-war camp in Pleiku in September 1966

These North Vietnamese soldiers have returned to the North.

Recently, another group of North Vietnamese soldiers captured in the South were released and allowed to return to the North at their request.

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Leaflet 60G

Leaflet 60 is a series of different propaganda pieces that all use Red China, the Cultural Revolution or Chairman Mao as a theme. The leaflets warn the Vietnamese people of the madness going on inside China and reminds them that it could be imported to Vietnam by the Communists. There are at least eight varieties coded 60A through 60H with different messages. The text of leaflet 60G is extremely long and shows a Chairman Mao on front and back. Some of the text is:

The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution

In the People’s Republic of China.

Millions of youngsters swarmed the streets in practically every city of China, plastering the walls with posters, changing the names of streets, snipping off the curls of girls, attacking everything smacking of the past, and mercilessly assaulting anyone who tried to stop them. Schools have been shut, shops closed, road and rail traffic blocked and production stopped…

No matter which way the wind turns in China, the People’s Republic has definitely lost its prestige and influence in the Communist world. The left wing Depeche du Cambodge wrote in its 17 August 1966 issue: “China was undergoing a domestic crisis that might raise doubts in the minds of the leaders of the non-aligned world as to the infallibility of the Chinese way of doing things.”

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Leaflet 60H

Leaflet 60H is another long-winded leaflet that uses the same picture of Mao and Lin Pao as 60G. The main difference is that the back is all text. This leaflet is more about Lin than Mao. Some of the text is:


Marshal Lin Pao, Chinese Defense Minister, who has been chosen by Mao Tse-tung to carry out the Cultural Revolution, emerged as the number two man in the new Chinese hierarchy. In a rally in Peking last month, Lin Pao was given the honor of standing shoulder to shoulder with Chairman Mao, as shown in this picture.

The long text then goes on to talk of the situation in China where city after city is being overrun by the young radicals who have fought with Army units and kill those people who refuse to follow their revolutionary beliefs. Numerous strikes have occurred and production is down all through China.

Leaflet 62 

This leaflet is interesting because of the implied threat; what death and destruction the United States could cause if it wanted to. The front shows a bombed bridge with the shadow of an American aircraft overhead. The same photograph with the shadow of an F-101 Voodoo over a bombed bridge appears in about a dozen Allied leaflets. The Tactical Air Command and Strategic Air Command had three squadrons operating the Voodoo during the Vietnam War; all of them flying reconnaissance missions doing bomb damage assessment and taking photos of potential targets. The text is: 

Civilians, avoid these military targets like railroads, convoys, gun emplacements, bridges, port facilities, oil tanks and all military installations. If you live or work near such targets, evacuate.

The back is all text:


If civilians were targets for bombing, all of your cities and towns would now be in ruins. Allied pilots risk their lives by flying low to try and avoid destroying anything but military targets. This caution has been responsible for the loss of many of the nearly 500 aircraft shot down over North Vietnam. A heavy price has been paid to avoid bombing civilians.

The People’s Army antiaircraft missiles and guns fired over populated areas endanger your lives and homes.

I don’t think the message on this leaflet is very good. First, The United States admits the loss of almost 500 aircraft which I suspect would encourage the Vietnamese to keep fighting. Then, the people are told to stop shooting at the aircraft because it might endanger the civilians below. I think if I were a civilian and we had shot down close to 500 aircraft I would want more missiles fired at the enemy aircraft. 

Leaflet 64

This leaflet depicts the Vietnamese people voting for a new Constituent Assembly that had the duty of writing a new Constitution for their nation. Text on the front is:


A new Constitution for the Republic of Vietnam was promulgated on April 1st. This Constitution was written by a Constituent Assembly elected on 11 September 1966 by a majority of all the people old enough to vote. This is a people's constitution which guarantees their rights and freedoms.

The photo caption is: The people of Vietnam cheerfully go to the polls to elect their Constituent Assembly.

The back of the leaflet is all text:

The free people of Vietnam reject the one-Party rule of the Lao Dong. The so called "National Liberation Front" is trying to spread the rule of the Lao Dong over all Vietnam. The people in the South are fighting to remain free of Lao Dong control. They want their own Constitution. They want to be governed by the people they freely elect not by Lao Dong Party bosses who take away the freedom of the people.


Leaflet 65

This leaflet informs the people of North Vietnam that to stop the infiltration of troops and supplies into the South by water they are mining certain waterways. The text on the front warns:


The text on the back is:


Several rivers and waterways in North Vietnam have been and will continue to be mined as a measure to stop the infiltration of troops and war materiel which the Hanoi regime is sending to South Vietnam to prolong its war of aggression against our Southern compatriots. Be careful while traveling on rivers and waterways. Avoid those waterways which the communist authorities use for military purposes.

[Author’s Note]: In WWII, the United States Office of War Information based on Saipan printed and dropped leaflets coded 2098 on the Japanese depicting a B-29 Super Fortress bomber dropping mines in the waters off Japan. Several other leaflets also mentioned the mines.

The United States Joint Chiefs of Staff Official History says about the mining of North Vietnam waters:

To exploit the possible psychological impact of his announcement to mine the waters of North Vietnam, President Nixon also decided on a leaflet campaign directed toward North Vietnamese armed forces in both North and South Vietnam. In consideration of a leaflet effort several weeks earlier, the Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet Headquarters and the Joint Chiefs of Staff had favored the idea while the US Embassy in Saigon was opposed, and no action resulted. Now, the President approved a saturation campaign. He wanted to bring to the attention of the North Vietnamese forces his decision on the mining and the strangling effect it would have on their resupply He also hoped to alert the North Vietnamese troops to the continuing US offer for a cease-fire. Accordingly, the Department of State issued appropriate instructions to the Embassy in Saigon. The Joint Chiefs of Staff passed the necessary order to the Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet Headquarters based on the same guidance, and operations began with 200,000 leaflets dropped at An Loc.

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Leaflet 66

Under the category of themes we mentioned “attacks on the "Hero Emulation" program that claimed the so-called "heroes" were actually just figments of North Vietnamese propaganda. Leaflet 66 depicts the alleged hero Nguyen Van Be reading a newspaper report about himself. The text is:

The “Late Hero” Nguyen Van Be reads about his own death.

The back of the leaflet explains:

A very strange story indeed.

According to the Communists, Nguyen Van Be died a glorious death in the service of the cause. Supposedly, after the Army of Vietnam (ARVN) forces captured him, he detonated a mine killing himself and 69 Americans and Government of Vietnam troops. The Communist newspapers, Radio Hanoi and Liberation Radio printed and broadcast glowing accounts of his heroic death. Poets and musicians wrote and sang of his exploits. The government built a statue in his honor. However, as you can plainly see on the other side, he is very much alive. He is shown reading about his own death in the Hanoi newspaper Tien-phong of 7 December 1966. The Communists say he chose a hero's death. He says that he never fired a shot and did not even think about exploding a mine.

The North Vietnam Affairs Division says in its Weekly Report:

3,500,000 leaflets on the Viet Cong Martyr come to life were dropped on the Hanoi-Haiphong area on 3 April 1967. 3,000.000 Nguyen Van Be leaflets were dropped over the Red River Delta on 10 April. An unknown number of leaflets were dropped on 4 May. On 10 May another 16,500,000 Be leaflets were dropped over the area around the DMZ. On 17 May, 9,600,000 copies of leaflet 66 were dropped between the DMZ and Dong Hoi. An unknown number were dropped again in October and November.

The North Vietnam newspaper Tien Phong retaliated on 14 April 1967:

We all want to know more about this young hero, a shining example, a proud expression of our generation, a source of fear and terror for the enemy who sought all dirty means to distort the spirit of the immortal war deed.

Another newspaper reported on 9 July all the cultural activities planned in Be’s name; a play, a movie and several paintings and sculptures.

Leaflet 68
Some selected images from the seven versions

Leaflet 68 consists of a group of seven leaflets coded 68A through 68G. Each of the leaflets is pictorial with a photograph of happy North Vietnamese troops about to be sent home at their request on 3 February 1967. The back of each leaflet has a list of 28 prisoners-of-war being sent home. The message on the front is similar in each leaflet, all starting with the prisoners being held in Pleiku, and end with a brief explanation of the scene depicted: A - POWs decorate their barracks for Tet; B - An art performance for Tet; C - Indulging in their painting hobby, D - POW football team is congratulated by the camp commander, E - POWs show off their physical fitness; F - Entertaining the prisoners on Tet, G - and a Cultural show on Tet.

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Leaflet 72

Leaflet 72 is colored a bright golden yellow with the message on the front. PSYOP records indicate that 6 million copies were printed and forwarded to the flight line at Nha Trang.

50 Taels of Gold

The back is a statement by United States Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker. The text is:

Helping American pilots and other U.S. military personnel escape to freedom can bring you 50 tales of gold!

If you see an American who has parachuted to the ground or who has escaped capture do not be afraid. Approach him. Make him understand that you wish him no harm by raising your hands.

Help him in any way you can.
Hide him from hostile authorities.
Cooperate with him in finding his way to safety.
You may escape to freedom with him or return home just as you choose.

You will be paid the 50 taels of gold at the time the American is rescued or at any other time you choose. You may collect the reward in gold bullion or in the equivalent amount of any currency you choose. Payable in any Free World Country you wish.

Ellsworth Bunker
United States Ambassador

I have a lot of data on most of these leaflets but generally do not want to bore the reader. In the case of the above leaflet, I can add that the leaflet was called "Downed Pilot," and 6,000,000 copies were ordered by the 6th PSYOP Battalion to be printed by the 7th PSYOP Group on Okinawa. The leaflets were to be delivered to the 1st Flight Detachment at Da Nang. This leaflet was dropped on 13 July 1967. It was dropped again in August over the DMZ.

I should also point out that the PSYOP specialists were constantly evaluating all these leaflets using POWs, Viet Cong defectors and ralliers. It is amazing how many leaflets were considered total failures by the Vietnamese that read and evaluated them. They did not like this leaflet. As an American, I found this leaflet very attractive with its bright gold color. However, when prisoners of war inspected the leaflet, not one person said anything positive about the leaflet. They unanimously voted it to be insulting and useless. Many of them stated they thought the leaflet would increase the Northerners motivation to kill or capture Americans.

The prisoners objected to the implication that they could be purchased with money. They emphatically stated that the motivation of the Northerners was ideological not material. One of them stated he would not help an American for 500 taels of gold, and several others made comments of a similar nature, asked if the leaflet contained any text that could be used for counterpropaganda, many of the interviewees said there was no need for the cadre to counter this leaflet, it serves as its own counterpropaganda. Some stated that it would make the Northerners even more hostile. Others said it would serve as proof that the NVA had captured many Americans and demonstrated that the Americans have no ideals and money is their substitute for true political ideals.

I should mention that there was a 72A with a revised message, four paragraphs of pilot rescue text on the front, three paragraphs on the back. The message is much the same as 72. I will add a few of the more interesting statements:

The huge reward we use to save our downed pilots is typical of our society’s high regard for a fellow human being’s life. For the same reason, we try to bomb only military targets to save the lives of innocent people in North Vietnam…Through this message, we hope that, for human reasons, you will save our military men when they are shot down over the territory of the North.

How to help communist fighters to return

Soon after you have helped him to a safe place, he will be rescued, and your great humanitarian act will be richly rewarded. You and your family may enjoy a safe and easy life in Free Vietnam or, if you prefer to remain in the North, your rescue work will be rewarded immediately by a gift of 15,000 dong.

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Leaflet 73B

Specialist 4 Mike Ewing, a field artilleryman at Fire Support Base Barbara from August to September 1970 told me that when the wind blew just right, these leaflets aimed at North Vietnam blew over Quang Tri Province up near the DMZ. The leaflet is one of a series of three coded 73A to 73C that offers a reward to any North Vietnamese who tells the Allies where POWs are being held or who actually rescues a POW or downed airman and brings him back to friendly forces. The leaflets are all text, basically the same message with some changes, and say in part:

Dear Fellow Citizens:

In recent years, with the help of International Communists, the North Vietnamese government attempted to conquer South Vietnam by force. The citizens and soldiers of South Vietnam, with sincere helps from the Allied governments, are fighting to protect freedom.

Many allied soldiers have sacrificed their lives helping the South Vietnamese fighting against the dictatorship of communism. A few of Allied soldiers are being held by communists. Please help these Allied soldiers by freeing them from enemy prisons. Please help them to escape, or provide information of their whereabouts to the district or provincial offices, or either to ours or Allied military check points.

Your action will be appreciated by those that love peace. Your action also be rewarded and your security will be guaranteed.

1. If you save and deliver an Allied soldier to a safe place you will be rewarded 600,000 piasters.

2. If your information to the ARVN or the Allied results in saving any Allied personnel, you will be rewarded 60,000 piasters.

3. If you provide credible information about Allied personnel that are being held by the communists, and if the information proved to be correct, you will be rewarded 18,000 piasters.

Note: The exchange rate was 1 U.S. Dollar to 118 Vietnamese piasters, so 600,000 was worth more than 5,000 USD. Between 1968-1970, an ARVN lieutenant earned less than 20,000 piasters a month.

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Leaflet 74

I dislike all-text leaflets but this one does have a touch of color and the text is interesting because it almost makes fun of the North and tears its society apart. This same leaflet was dropped as 74-T over the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Some of the text is:


The people of the South do not want to be ruled by the Lao Dong Party…In the South there is freedom of movement; there is plenty of food; there is no rationing; there are no compulsory political meetings; there are no “three readier” and “three responsibilities.”

In the South people are not suspicious of each other; do not spy on each other; people can sell what they raise or make; there are no cooperatives; workers are protected by trade unions.




Leaflet 76

This all-text leaflet blames the Communist Party in North Vietnam for the bombing. The message on the back says: “Your sons, husbands, brothers, and friends are being sent to a senseless death in the south.” The text on the front is:


Other people do not want to be controlled by the Communists. The people of South Vietnam resist the control of the Party. The Government of South Vietnam has asked the United States, and other countries to help defend the country against Lao Dong aggression. There were no Americans fighting in South Vietnam when the Party started sending large numbers of North Vietnamese troops south. Because the Party sent large numbers of troops south, many Americans had to come to help the Government of Vietnam. Because the Party sent more and more troops and supplies south, the Government of Vietnam and Americans had to begin bombing transportation and other facilities to cut down this infiltration.

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Leaflet 77

This leaflet is designed to show the kindness of the Government of South Vietnam It pictures 41 North Vietnamese who had been captured participating in terrorist action in the south. The text is:


A group of 41 persons, including a woman and her infant son, were returned by the Government of South Vietnam to North Vietnam on 12 June 1967. All of these people with the exception of the infant were prisoners of war who had been captured while committing aggression against their brothers of the South on the orders of the Hanoi authorities. All were returned for humanitarian reasons.

Thirty nine of them – all except the woman Nguyen Hong Chau and her child, were seriously sick and wounded prisoners who were returned in fulfillment of the pledge made by the Manila Conference and in fulfillment of the requirement of the 1949 Geneva Conventions on prisoners of war as well as for humanitarian reasons.

Why have the Hanoi authorities refused to observe the Geneva Conventions and offer the same humanitarian treatment to the prisoners of war they hold?

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Leaflet 81

This leaflet depicts the Xuan Mai army barracks that was bombed 19 April 1967 at the left, and the Thai Nguyen thermal plant that was bombed 19 March 1967 at the right. The text in the center is:

The longer the war goes on, the more military targets in North Vietnam such as these will be destroyed. The war can be stopped at any time the Hanoi authorities agree to stop their aggression against the South.

On the other side there is a long message discussing Ho Chi Minh’s 17 July 1966 statement about the possible length of the war:

“The war may last 10 or 20 years or longer. Hanoi, Haiphong, and other cities and enterprises may be destroyed, but the Vietnamese people will not be intimidated.”

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Leaflet 82

The Vietnamese people love long sentimental poems. As a result, there are dozens of propaganda leaflets that feature such poems in an attempt to demoralize the soldiers of the north and convince them not to travel south to their deaths. This leaflet depicts two sad North Vietnamese soldiers on the front and a happy soldier with family on the back. The poem is quite long and credited to Nguyen The Ky. It says in part:


Dead larvae mark the passing of autumn.
The northern wind announces the changing of seasons.
Clouds cover four corners of the sky and rain is drenching everything.
Winter has come and my heart is throbbing with emotions.
I think of my friends still on the other side of the front line.
Whose clothes are in tatters, whose bodies are thin because of exposure…

15,000,000 copies of Leaflet 82 were ordered in November 1967 and 6 million of these leaflets were dropped on Cambodia. I have some interesting notes on this leaflet that add:

The leaflet is called “New Poem” and another 3,000,000 copies were ordered by the 6th PSYOP Battalion to be printed by the 7th PSYOP Group on Okinawa. To be delivered to Plieku by surface shipment only. Do not ship earlier than the required delivery date, 5 January 1968, as adequate storage is not currently available.

So, apparently the 6th PSYOP Battalion had so many leaflets in storage that they had no room for any more.

Leaflet 83

This leaflet depicts the people of the Republic of Vietnam voting in a free election. The text on the front is:

Your southern compatriots are determined to be the master of their own fate, to reject communist domination, and build a free, democratic, and prosperous Vietnam.

The text on the back is:


On 3 September 1967, your compatriots in South Vietnam exercised their freedom to elect a government of their own choosing. Almost five million citizens of the Republic of Vietnam representing 83% of the eligible voters enthusiastically went to the polls, disregarding Viet Cong threats of terrorism, assassinations, shelling, exploding of mines and grenades intended for the sabotage of the elections.

One hundred fifteen observers from 25 countries and 575 international reporters came to witness the historical proceedings of this completely free nationwide presidential election. Through the elections, your southern compatriots demonstrated their will to be master of their own fate and their rejection of domination by force exercised by the communists.

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Leaflet 86

The United States spent a great deal of time and effort trying to get the Vietnamese to vote, knowing that if they elected a government they would be likely to support such a government. Leaflet 86 depicts two injured South Vietnamese citizens in the process of voting. The text says in part:

Disregarding Viet Cong terrorism the people of the free South resolutely cast their ballots to elect a government of their own choosing.

The text mentions that the voters are Mr. Huynh Tam and Mr. Tran Cu. Both men were wounded by a Viet Cong mine at polling station 19 in Phu Lam Hamlet. The leaflet adds:

Both insisted on casting their ballot after receiving first aid care for their wounds.

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Leaflet 88

I chose leaflet 88 because it depicts two of the leaders of the Republic of Vietnam, Nguyen Van Thieu and Nguyen Cao Ky. 3,000,000 copies of this leaflet were printed by the 7th PSYOP Group on Okinawa and forwarded to Saigon in December 1967.

The back of the leaflet is bordered in the yellow and three red stripes of the national flag. I have also seen it with plain red text. The size of the heads seems to vary on different printings of this leaflet from 54 mm in height down to 52 mm. The text is quite long. Some of the more pertinent comments are:


On the occasion of the inauguration of the new President and Vice President of the Republic of Vietnam, the people and the government of the South send their brotherly greetings to the kith-and-kin compatriots of the North and their sincere wishes for an early return to peace in our beloved country.

The people and government of the South have made great efforts in the past years, despite savage sabotage by the Communists, to build a democratic society in the South in which the citizens are free to make a living and to speak about their righteous aspirations.

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Leaflet 89

Leaflet 89 is in the red and gold colors of the flag of the Republic of Vietnam. PSYOP records indicate that 25 million copies of this leaflet were printed in January 1968 and forwarded to Saigon, Pleiku, Bien Hoa and Can Tho. The leaflet says on the front:


The message on the back is:

On this return of spring, the compatriots of South Vietnam sincerely wish their northern compatriots to see the Communist Party soon abandon its ambitions to dominate the South, so that they can welcome back to their reunited families their husbands, sons and brothers now fighting in the South.

15,000,000 copies of Leaflet 89 were ordered in November 1967 and 11 million of these leaflets were dropped on Cambodia.

Leaflet 92

Just like leaflet 50 above, leaflet 92 is a facsimile of a banknote warning the people of North Vietnam of the inflation that will occur because of the continued war. This one bears the serial number RE412887. The message on the tab at the left front is:

The facsimile of the one-dong note printed on this leaflet is to remind the people of North Vietnam that it is the aggression of the Lao Dong Party against the South that is destroying your country’s wealth and your livelihood.

The text on the back translates to:

Please carefully observe the level of rice in your bins. It is probably half of what it was last year because of price increases in the free market and lack of supply in the official ration shops. This is what the continued aggression by the Lao Dong Party is doing to you and your country.

The parody is a close reproduction of the original. The color of the parody is red brown, closely matching that of the original. However, the serial number is printed in the same red-brown color, whereas the serial number on the original is printed in red.

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Leaflet 97

The front of leaflet 97 depicts a mass of Chinese soldiers marching toward the viewer. The text first quotes a number of radio broadcasts from Red China praising the love of the Vietnamese people toward the Chinese and especially Chairman Mao. It then goes on to counter the propaganda. Some of the text is:

He Brought a Snake Home to eat his People's Chickens.

Over the centuries, China has invaded and enslaved Vietnam. This is the country that claims you have boundless love for its leaders. The Vietnamese Communist Party, which is Chinese-controlled and follows the bidding of its Chinese masters was responsible for the Tet offensive in the south that cost more than forty-thousand Vietnamese lives on both sides. Was it Chairman’s Mao’s” thought” that made all this possible?

The dragon on your border is supplying you with arms, men and “thought” to kill more Vietnamese. Does this really evoke your boundless love?

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Leaflet 98

Leaflet 98 is interesting because the vignette showing a South Vietnamese Army soldier with his arm around a Viet Cong defector is from the standard Vietnam Allied Flag Safe Conduct Pass. This pass was produced in versions depicting one flag, five flags and seven flags as well as with the portrait of various leaders. The text to the right of the vignette in the leaflet is:

This passport is valid and can be turned in through all government agencies and allied forces.

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Leaflet 100

Leaflet 100 is an oversized full-color leaflet that depicts five photographs on the front and back and shows the prosperity of South Vietnam with happy people, well stocked stores, and heaps of bread and vegetables. PSYOP records indicate that 10 million copies of this leaflet were prepared in December 1967 and forwarded to Saigon. The text goes on to point out how prosperous the south is compared to the north. Some of the text is:

Almost everyone in the south has their own means of transportation.

The cities are crowded with heavy traffic. The tall buildings spring up like mushrooms.

Why does South Viet Nam reject Communist rule?

Because under the free Democratic regime of the Republic of Viet Nam the southern people live in peace and prosperity.

It is interesting to note that this was one of the leaflets discussed in the Pacific Technical Analysis 1969 booklet Pretesting PSYOPS Leaflets in Vietnam. Some of the comments about this leaflet are:

A new leaflet, on the theme “the Government of Vietnam image,” intended for us on persons in GVN-controlled areas (persons potentially friendly), was pretested in 21 inhabitants of Viet Cong-infiltrated urban fringe areas in Gia Dinh Province. They rated leaflet 100 as “very good.”

The leaflet was then tested on 20 South Vietnamese former Viet Cong (known as “hoi chanh”) and again the leaflet tested “very good.”

In 1969 the Advanced Research Projects Agency of the Department of Defense studied the effectiveness of U.S leaflets in Vietnam. A sample of 1,757 Vietnamese was used to represent the target audience. They included the inhabitants of Viet Cong controlled areas, Hoi Chanh who had defected, and prisoners of war. The questions asked of the panels was the effectiveness of symbols, appeals both locally and national, and the vulnerability of certain groups. Leaflets were judged on a scale of very good, good, fair, bad, and very bad. One problem was to reduce the number of leaflets to a workable size. In this test, 798 leaflets were judged and the leaflets were reduced to 77. Unfortunately, the report did not explain why certain leaflets were good or bad. Leaflet 100 was rated VERY GOOD by this panel too.

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Leaflet 101
Courtesy of Major Hammond Salley

This is another rare full-color leaflet that depicts workers and industry in South Vietnam. The text is:

South Vietnam has no need for anyone to “liberate” her. She is working to liberate herself from poverty and backwardness.

Improvements in the countryside: Brick and tile houses replace thatch huts.

Industry is developed: Many modern textile plants are built throughout the country.

Commerce is expanded: The port of Saigon is crowded day and night with international cargo ships.

The other side says:

Life in South Vietnam

Small industries and handicrafts vigorously develop.

The branches manufacturing headwear…

…and clothing is serving our ever-growing clientele.

The branch manufacturing sandals and wooden shoes turns out improved products to the satisfaction of a large clientele both at home and abroad.

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Leaflet 102

This is another full color leaflet; quite a rarity when most of the leaflets in Vietnam were either black and white or with perhaps a single color like red or green to catch the attention of the target audience. Once again, this leaflet is designed to tempt the North Vietnamese with the knowledge of the wonderful life lived by those citizens in the South. The text is:

In the Free South the people are well off and there is no rationing.

Rice, Meat, Nuoc Mam

Everyone can afford sufficient food. Food is cheap and plentiful.

Text on the back is:

In the Free South the people are well-off. There is no rationing.

Both cloth and read- made clothes are plentiful.

Everyone can buy what he needs for himself and his family

This leaflet was brought back by Master Sergeant Garry Arndt USAF (Ret.). He was a loadmaster assigned to the 7th Aerial Port Squadron at Naha Air Force Base, Okinawa, in 1967-1968. He told me:

We all carried “Blanket" orders that allowed us to fly “Anywhere, Anytime and on Anything” in the Pacific Theater. Some leaflet missions were loaded at Naha and others were loaded at Ubon Royal Thai Air Base. I heard that we were “escorted” over the North. Supposedly, we had a “Command & Control” bird above us, a refueler for the fighters that escorted us, and allegedly there were at least four fighter / bombers with us. I don’t think I ever saw any of them. We never drew fire that I am aware of. Air Force freight crews brought and helped load the plane. I was told was that when we pushed the boxes out the ramp the pilot and navigator had to know the wind direction.

Leaflet 103

Leaflet 103 is 11 x 2.75-inches in size. It has two pictures on the front and four on the back. It uses the full-color photographs to show that “In the Free South, the people build a prosperous agriculture.” The photos show various scenes of life in rural Vietnam; the use of small motors for power; the use of tractors to replace water buffalo; vehicles of many kinds; a cooperative warehouse; and farmers selling produce as they choose. The text on the front is:

In the Free South, the people build a prosperous agriculture.

In the South, the peasants are free to grow whatever crops they wish. They even get support from the Government of the Republic of Vietnam on technology herbicides and chemical fertilizers.

The Southern peasants have plenty of herbicides and chemical fertilizers.

Tractors gradually replace animals.

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Leaflet 104

Leaflet 104 is 11 X 3-inches in size. I wonder how they were able to figure out the aerodynamics for dropping these from thousands of feet of altitude and having them fall accurately on targets in North Vietnam. The leaflet has three photographs on the front and four on the back. The text at the top is:


The people of the South fought the colonialists during a long and difficult war of resistance to win their freedom, and are determined not to lose it by yielding to Communist Imperialism and the dictatorial yoke of the Communist Party.

The pictures on the front are a Buddhist religious service, a Catholic mass and people freely voting. The photographs on the back are a woman looking at massed newspapers she can freely purchase, a drama play where the actors can say what they want, a family with the children free from any government indoctrination and people using their leisure time to enjoy walking through a park.

The text on the front is:

A Buddhist religious Service.

A Catholic Mass. In the South, people are free to follow the religion of their choice. The government never interferes in the internal affairs of religions.

Voting. The people are free to elect leaders of different Political views.

Leaflet 105

This is the last of the five-consecutive full-color leaflets talking about the benefits of living in the Republic of Korea. This 3 x 11-inch leaflet has six photographs on the front and another six on the back showing the advances in the South. The text on the front is:


Although they revere the tradition of their ancestors, the people of the South are determined to keep abreast of the advanced nations in all fields.

The Nguyen Du Supermarket

In the Supermarkets the people can buy food more cheaply and conveniently.

An Air Vietnam Jet

Air Vietnam provides modern domestic and international service.

The University of Saigon Medical School

The University of Saigon Medical School is one of the most modern medical schools in the world.

The Prisoner of War Leaflet Program

We often hear of devious plots where there are wheels within wheels. This is such a case. Leaflets 113 and 121 are long dull leaflets with no images and so boring I would not normally depict them. Both have numeral codes that tell us that they were designed for the North Vietnam bombing campaign. However, they were something special, an attempt to convince the North Vietnamese civilians to come together, to collect the leaflets and talk to their neighbors about the prisoners held in the South. The program then expanded, and a “T” was added to Leaflet 121 to make it part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail program. Finally, a third leaflet was added. This was a Joint U.S. Public Affairs Office (JUSPAO) leaflet coded 2600. This had nothing to do with the North Vietnam Program and they added a “T” to the code to show that it was aimed at the Ho Chi Minh Trail. These are so rare that I cannot show one.

According to an unsigned Army document dated 21 August 1968, the PW List Leaflet program is designed to propagandize the status and situation on the North Vietnam Army prisoners of war captured and held in the South. The program has several purposes and is targeted to both North Vietnam and enemy forces on the Ho Chi Minh Trail and in the South, primarily the North Vietnam Army (NVA), but also the Viet Cong. The program calls for the systematic publication of a series of leaflets telling of the fair treatments of prisoners of war, extending sympathy to the less fortunate who have been killed and listing the name, date of births, place of births, and parents’ names of the prisoners of war. The program against the North consists of 10 different leaflets per series (330 names) and the program against the South contains 14 leaflets per series (294 names). The difference results from two sizes of leaflets used in the programs. Each leaflet is numbered 1 of 14, series 2, etc., and urges the people to collect the entire series to let friends and relatives know of the status of loved ones.

This program is designed to accomplish the following (edited for brevity):

Create the idea in the North Vietnam Army soldier that if he is captured, he will not be killed, thereby reducing his will to fight to the death. Enhance the Chieu Hoi program. Establish credibility in our leaflets. Create apprehension in NVA recruits. Induce troops sent south to defect or allow themselves to be captured. Create a defeatist attitude among enemy troops.

Lieutenant Colonel David Underhill – The “Father” of Vietnam Leafleting

Another Army document signed by Lieutenant Colonel David Underhill who probably conceived of this program and had the leaflets printed states that the following leaflets were prepared:

Leaflet 113A

Leaflet 113 (A through K, the letter I not used), is a series of 10 different leaflets dropped together as a mix. Each leaflet contains 33 names for a total of 330 names. These leaflets were all dropped on North Vietnam. About 63,354,000 leaflets were dropped on North Vietnam from 23 March 1968 to 25 June 1968 by C-130s and C-47s. The leaflet measures 8.5 x 2.8-inches, on 16-pound paper.

The opening text on all the 113 and 121 leaflets is about the same on the front with the exception that the 121 series say that 2,650 prisoners are held:

The Government of Vietnam kindly informs that a number of North Vietnamese soldiers have been held as prisoners of war in the South. In accordance with the Prisoners of War International Convention [There was a belief this term would be more understandable to the North Vietnamese than “Geneva Convention”] these men are being cared for by the Government of Vietnam. They will be returned to their families when the war ends. The following is a list of some of the more than 1,700 North Vietnamese prisoners of war held.

I have no interest in translating all the names on the leaflet but to give an example of what each entry says, here is the first name:

Nguyen Van Tien, private first class, born 1942 in Tan Huong, Vinh Luu, Thach Ha, Ha Tinh. Father Nguyen Van Chi. Mother Bui Thi Con.

There is additional text at the end of all the leaflets:

Besides the above-mentioned lucky men, many others have been killed on the battlefield. The Government of Vietnam sincerely offers condolences to the families which whose sons have been killed in the South.

This is list number ___ of ___ different lists. Pick up the entire number of lists to help other families whose sons have been killed in the south.

Leaflets 113a-k: 10,000,000 dropped by C-130 on Thanh Hoa and Haiphong, 22 March 1968.
Leaflets 113a-k: 9,250,000 dropped by C-130 on Thanh Hoa, 23 March 1968.
Leaflets 113a-k: 10,000,000 dropped by C-130 on Ha Tinh and Vinh 30 March 1968.

Leaflet 121A

Leaflet 121 (A through J) is a series of 14 different leaflets dropped together as a mix. Each leaflet contains 33 names (except for leaflet 121J which contained only 13 names plus a message concerning the Voice of Freedom radio frequencies which was reproduced from leaflet 96) for a total of 310 names for the series. These leaflets were all dropped on North Vietnam. Leaflet 121 and 121T measure 8.5 x 2.8-inches, on 16-pound paper, and 6 x 3-inches on 20-pound paper. The smaller size results in a faster descent rate for Ho Chi Minh Trail and in country use.

The 7th PSYOP Group says about this series:

Under the title ‘News of Relatives,” lists the names of some NVA soldiers who are being held as prisoners of war in South Vietnam. It says that they are being cared for in accordance with the Geneva Convention and will be returned to their families when the war ends.

A 21 August 1968 U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam letter titled Prisoner-of-war List Leaflet mentions some of the desired results of this leaflet:

a. Create the idea in the NVA soldier that if he is captured, he will not be killed, thereby reducing his will to fight to the death.
b. Enhance the Chieu Roi program by causing the enemy to feel if he is captured and permitted to live, his status as a Hoi Chanh will be one of acceptance.
c. Establish credibility in target member where names are recognized. This would assist in gaining acceptance for other leaflet messages and PSYOP programs.
d. Create apprehension on personnel who are drafted and sent south. Reference to many deaths might induce some to desert prior to or enroute to South Vietnam.
e. Induce personnel who later are drafted and sent South to defect or permit themselves to be captured
f. Create a defeatist attitude among the enemy troops.

121a-j: 10,670,000 leaflets dropped by C-130 in Ha Tinh and Vinh, 20 June 1968.
121a-j: 20,000,000 leaflets two standard loads at Ubon.

Leaflet 121Tc

Leaflet 121T (A through N) is a series of 14 different leaflets dropped together as a mix. Each leaflet contains 21 names for a total of 294 names for the series. The names were taken from leaflet 121A through 121J. These leaflets were all dropped along the Ho Chi Minh Trail and in South Vietnam. About 90,000,000 leaflets were dropped on the Ho Chi Minh Trail and other targets on 20 August 1968. Another 10,000,000 leaflets were dropped on the Ho Chi Minh Trail on 15 September 1968.

121Ta-n: 2,500,000 printed by the 4th PSYOP Group, 16 June 1968.
121Ta-n: 384,000 leaflets dropped by C-47 on the HCM Trail, 21 June 1968.
121Ta-n: 550,000 leaflets dropped by C-47 on the HCM Trail, 25 June 1968.
121Ta-n: 10,000,000 leaflets for distribution on the HCM Trail, about 15 September 1968
121Ta-n: 90,000,000 leaflets for distribution on the HCM Trail and Da Nang, Pleiku, Nha Trang, Bien Hoa, Can Tho, and in-country about 20 August 1968.

Leaflet 2600a

Leaflet 2600 (A through O, the letter I not used), consisted of 14 different leaflets dropped as a mix. Each leaflet contained 21 names for a total of 294 names. Most of these names were also on leaflet 113A through 113K above. These leaflets were all dropped on South Vietnam. About 35,000,000 leaflets were dropped on South Vietnam on 20 June 1968. This leaflet was also produced in the two sizes mentioned above for drift characteristics appropriate to the leaflet mission. Leaflet 113 was printed on 16-pound paper, size 8.5 x 2.83-inches. It was remade into 6 x 3-inch leaflets on 12-pound paper and renumbered 2600. Leaflet 121 and 121T were also made I these two sizes for drift characteristics appropriate to the target leaflet mission.

2600a-o: 20,000,000 leaflets to Da Nang, 10,000,000 to Nha Trang, and 5,000,000 leaflets to Pleiku, 20 June 1968

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Leaflet 116

Leaflet 116 is printed in blue on the front and depicts a peaceful scene of farm life in North Vietnam. A farmer sits on a water buffalo. Homes and a small fishing boat are in the background. There is a long poem on the back. We translate the first and last stanza:

Bring back the peace of yesteryear

The early morning bursts with streaks of red.
The evening rain drops crystal droplets.
The gusting breeze softly sings a lullaby.
The mist lingers by the river side.
Bring back peace to our country.
Return the old happiness to the people.
Don't send Northern lives to die in the South.
What victory is this? We see only slow death.

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Leaflet 119

Leaflet 119 is all text and not one I would normally depict, but it is interesting because it calls the leaders of North Vietnam liars. The text is:

Where are yor loved ones now?

Representatives of the North Vietnam regime participating in the official talks at Paris with U. S. representatives have announced to the world press that there are no Northern troops in the south.

Do you believe that?

Where have your husbands, brothers, sons, relatives, and friends disappeared to?

If they are not in the South, what have the cadres done with them?

Ask the cadres where they are now.

Why continue to allow your loved ones to go to the South to sacrifice themselves for a regime that will not even acknowledge their whereabouts?

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Leaflet 120

This leaflet depicts a peaceful Vietnam scene. The text is interesting because it offers a carrot and a stick. No bombing to areas that are good, B-52s where the areas are bad. The text on the front is:

To Our Beloved Compatriots in the North

The bombing halt north of Thanh Hoa Province is an action to prove the peaceful goodwill of the Government of Vietnam and its allies. The bombing in Thanh Hoa Province in Vinh Linh still continues because the Lao Dong Party continues to send troops and weapons to the South.

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Leaflet 122

Leaflet 122 is an all-text leaflet but interesting because it mentions U. S. President Johnson by name and gives the North Vietnamese news that they would never hear from their own leaders. The text is too long to translate in full. The opening paragraphs are:


On March 31 President Johnson said “Tonight I have ordered our aircraft and naval vessels to make no attacks on North Vietnam except…where the continuing enemy build-up directly threatens Allied forward positions and where the movement of their troops and supplies are clearly related to this threat.

Even this very limited bombing of the North could come to an early end – if our restraint is matched by restraint in Hanoi…Whether a complete bombing halt becomes possible in the future will be determined by events.”

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Leaflet 124

Leaflet 124 depicts a Viet Cong Colonel on the front and the text which says in part:

Viet Cong Colonel admits communists suffered bitter defeat.

Colonel Tran Van Dac infiltrated into South Vietnam with regular North Vietnamese Army units in March 1962. He commanded some of the Communist units that attacked Saigon at Tet. Rather than lead his men in further suicidal attacks, he rallied to the national cause of 19 April 1968.

There are two photographs on the back depicting a number of Prisoners of war and text which states in part:

Lao Dong Lies

The Lao Dong Party is trying to conquer by force. To hide its failures and delude the people, it has falsely been claiming great victories in the South.

The Truth

The photo shows 121 communist soldiers who surrendered in the Gia Dinh area of Saigon on 18 June 68. The 121 are all that remained of the Quyet Thang Regiment that now has ceased to exist. 57 of the 121 were soldiers of the North Vietnamese Army.


Leaflet 125T

I had no interest in adding this all-text leaflet, but then I read its story of it and found it very interesting. The leaflet reprints an article titled “Letter addressed to Uncle Ho,” signed by 55 North Vietnamese soldiers who rallied to the Government of Vietnam outside Saigon on 18 June 1968. They were members of the Quyet Thang (Determined to Win) Regiment, which was eliminated during the second Communist Offensive of 1968. They tell Ho about their disillusionment with the Party policies and ask him to “think” and have mercy on the young generation; and ask Ho not to force them to make any more sacrifices for him and for the Party. The 55 soldiers who signed the letter were part of 152 soldiers who surrendered that day. The letter is long so I will just translate a few lines:

With an absolute zealous patriotism, we responded to your appeal by energetically volunteering to go to South Vietnam, kill Americans, and save our Fatherland and our people from the domination of Imperialism. We remember your advice well. That advice was that when arriving in South Vietnam, we would be heartily welcomed and supported by the people, and that the troops of South Vietnam were badly demoralized, and that if we were captured by them, we would be killed immediately. But, oh dear Uncle, your advice is contrary to the reality that meets us here. When our troops came anyplace here, the people abandoned their houses and properties, and carried their children and evacuated. They ran from us. They refused to give us food and supplies. The soldiers of South Vietnam have a very high fighting spirit but were very kind. The defeated us but treated us with humanly. They cared for our wounds and gave us food and recreation and let us watch TV, movies, and exercise in sports….

This leaflet was coded 125 for the NVN Campaign. Because the U.S. needed more leaflets quickly to reach those NVA coming down the Ho Chi Minh Trail, it was one of a group of leaflets that had a “T” for “Trail” added and dropped over the Ho Chi Minh Trail. These were selected by Major David Underhill of the 7th PSYOP Group and mentioned in a memorandum dated 4 October 1968. Notice the one we depict above is the trail version.

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Leaflet 127

Leaflet 127 is colored bright red on the front and contains three photographs. The text says in part:

The Black Panthers arrive

To help the South Vietnamese people defend against the aggression from the North led by the Communist regime in Hanoi, Thailand’s Black Panther Division began arriving in Saigon in July 1968.

The back is in black and white and depicts three pictures of Thai soldiers meeting with the people of South Vietnam. The text is:


A Thai soldier is introduced to a Vietnamese family by Pham Troung Thang, a former Communist soldier who rallied to the national cause.

A Thai soldier has found a little friend at a playground built by Thai troops.

The South Vietnamese actively help the Thai soldiers by informing on the Communist aggressors.

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Leaflet 129

These later leaflets have much too much text to translate in depth. As a result, I will just send a synopsis of this leaflet which depicts a bunch of happy former People’s Army of North Vietnam troops in a swimming pool. The leaflet tells of 55 North Vietnamese survivors of the Quyet Thang Regiment just outside of Saigon on 18 June 1968. They went Chieu Hoi and surrendered to Vietnamese Army soldiers. They were tired, hungry and wounded. They were warmly welcome by their brother Vietnamese. At the left of the leaflet is a letter the 55 soldiers wrote to Ho Chi Minh and signed.


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Leaflet 131

We mentioned Nguyen earlier in this story. He appears once again on leaflet 131. He is depicted meeting an old friend. The text is:

Nguyen Van Be and Platoon Leader Nho.

This photo, take in Saigon in July 1968, shows (on left) Tran Huy Nho, of Viet Yen, Ha Bac, leader of Platoon 1-C2, 2nd Battalion, Quyet Thang Regiment, who rallied to the national cause at Gia Dinh, near Saigon, 18 June 1968. Platoon leader Nho and 54 NVA soldiers who rallied at the same time have addressed a letter to President Ho expressing sorrow that they had been misled by Lao Dong propaganda and stating that, in reality, the South is free, independent and more prosperous than the North. Platoon leader Nho was surprised to find that Nguyen Van Be, with whom he is shown chatting, is alive and well and a supporter of the national cause. Nho now understands that Lao Dong propagandists invented the story of Be's martyrdom for the purpose of encouraging other soldiers to sacrifice themselves.

The back of the leaflet depicts Be showing a group of Vietnamese the newspaper that told of his heroic death. The text is:

Nguyen Van Be Exposes Lao Dong Propaganda. Two years ago Lao Dong propagandists were seeking ways to encourage young men to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the Party. Believing Nguyen Van Be had been killed at the Cai Beo Canal, they invented s story saying that he had been captured, tortured, and had killed himself and 69 allied soldiers by exploding a detonator against an armored vehicle. Even when it was revealed that be was alive and their story false, they insisted he was dead to cover their embarrassment. Nguyen Van Be is shown in the photo exposing the Lao Dong lie to some members of the Quyet Thang Regiment who rallied near Saigon on 18 June 1968.

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Leaflet 132

Allied radio stations were mentioned when leaflets were dropped over North Vietnam telling them the true news of the status of the war. Robert W. Chandler mentions this in War of ideas: The U.S. Propaganda Campaign in Vietnam, Westview, Boulder, CO, 1981:


The bombing of your area continues because the Lao Dong (Communist) Party leaders are using your land as a road to send North Vietnamese troops to attack the people of the South. Will the Peace Talks in Paris bring an end to the bombing? Do Lao Dong leaders care what happens to you? You can keep yourself informed about the progress of the peace talks by listening to radio broadcasts in the Vietnamese language. News schedules are listed above.

The schedules for Radio Saigon, Voice of Freedom, Voice of America, and the British Broadcasting Corporation are all listed.

Leaflet 134

This is a very small leaflet. Its size is 2 x 6-inches on a very light paper. I suspect the formula for dropping it is very intricate. The text on the front is:


Are there any South Vietnamese troops in North Vietnam? No!

Are there more than 100,000 North Vietnamese troops in South Vietnam? Yes!



The text on the back is:


Whereas the Government of Vietnam and its Allies have stopped the bombing on most of the territory of North Vietnam so as to make possible a peaceful settlement through the Paris peace talks, The Lao Dong Party has intensified the sending of troops and weapons to the South in an effort to gain control of South Vietnam through the use of force. The Government of Vietnam and its Allies hope that the Lao Dong party will stop sacrificing the young men of Vietnam for its own gains and will agree to a useful settlement. The Government of Vietnam and its Allies will, however, fight just as long as necessary to defeat the aggression directed by the Lao Dong Party. Peace will never be possible as long as the Lao Dong Party continues to use force. 

Leaflet 138

In my article on the Allies of Vietnam I show many leaflets where the South Vietnamese tell about all the various countries that have come to help them fight the war against the Communists. Leaflets 138 and 139 use this same theme. Leaflet 138 is titled “German Medics Aid Vietnamese” and the text and pictures show the German doctors and nurses treating South Vietnamese villagers.


27 men and women from West Germany continue their humanitarian work among the South Vietnamese people despite Communist terrorist threats to their lives. Tens of thousands of South Vietnamese villagers near An Hoa, Danang and Hoi An have profited from the German medical teams’ presence.

Leaflet 139 goes a bit further and shows medical personnel from Japan, Great Britain, Korea and New Zealand and mentions that 43 nations are helping South Vietnam.

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Leaflet 140

Leaflet 140 depicts two photos on the front and two on the back. The front has four news stories as does the back. The text is long so we will just quote the titles of the stories:

Saigon proposes postwar exchanges
Farmers receive land grants
Hopes for serious moves toward peace
New type of store
Prepared to stop bombing
New vegetable program
India denounce soviet invasion
Civilian self-defense corps

We should note that something strange happened starting with leaflet 140. Instead of each leaflet being different, all of the leaflets became Ban Tin Tuc (“News Bulletin”) starting with number 500. The leaflets still had their old number at the lower right, but now also bore a News Bulletin number. As a result, Bulletin 504 is also leaflet number 144, etc. Apparently it was believed that the peace talks and American pull-out would go smoothly and there was no more need for more aggressive leaflets.

There was one exception. Leaflet 149 was a Contingency leaflet dated June 1969 that was for use in Vietnam in the event that leaflet operations were resumed there. The message stated that the North Vietnamese had walked away from the peace talks and the war would resume. The leaflet was to be kept in stock by MACV Operations until needed.

The last leaflets dropped over North Vietnam were all called “News Bulletins” and they were coded 144-151 except for 149 which was a leaflet to be stocked in case the leaflet campaign was reopened. The Bulletin numbers ran from 504 to 510. Each bulletin had about six stories. The lead story in the first few leaflets is: Paris Talks Breakthrough; President Thieu affirms: Do not yield to the Communists; The re-opening of the Nha Trang Railroad and The terms used in the Paris talks.

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Leaflet 151

The last official leaflet dropped during the North Vietnam Campaign was News Bulletin 510, Leaflet number 151. It has three stories on the front and three on the back. They are:

President Thieu announces RVN troops to replace 25,000 U.S. troops
US Artillery transferred to RVN troops
Results of RVN elections
The Chieu Hoi program receives its 100,000th rallier
Saigon’s port is the busiest in SE Asia
Communist food and arms found near Khe Sanh

Although Allied leaflet SP-2538 is not part of the campaign, it was dropped to let the people know that President Johnson had decided to limit bombing of Vietnam while offering a total halt. It is a very long all-test message so I shall just mention a few highlights:


On 31 March, in a speech to the American people, President Johnson again asked the government of North Vietnam to come to a meeting to discuss peace. He said in part:

“…tonight I renew the offer I made last August – to stop the bombardment of North Vietnam…Tonight I have ordered the aircraft and naval vessels to make no attacks on North Vietnam, except in the area to the north of the demilitarized zone where the continuing military buildup threatens allied forward positions and where movements of troops and supplies are clearly related to that threat…Even this limited bombing of the North could come to an early end – if our restraint is met by restraint in Hanoi…”

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Leaflet X-3

I mentioned at the start of this article that all the leaflets dropped up North were numbered from 1 to 151. So, why then do I show leaflet X-3? The X series has a very interesting background. American PSYOP troops were pressed to get the most bang for the buck; that is, the most leaflets possible printed on a standard printing sheet. The leaflets were often mixed so there could be leaflets of different sizes and languages on a sheet, anywhere from a dozen to perhaps several dozen. There would always be some blank spots. In order not to waste an inch of the paper, a series of small and different sixed “X” leaflets were prepared and actually called “scrap” or “waste.” They were to be fitted wherever possible on a sheet and sent along with any leaflets to be dropped on a mission. I have seen about six different ones and most mention the Paris Peace talks or the people’s demand for peace. All of the leaflets seem to be either 6 x 2-inches or 4 x 2-inches in size. This leaflet was in a group of about 20 North Vietnam PSYOP campaign leaflets sent to me by an Air Force veteran who flew the missions. Clearly, it was dropped over the North. The text on the front this “scrap” leaflet is:


For so many years the people of the North have listened only through the ears of the Party and seen only through the eyes of the Party.

In that case, how can they know the things that they want to know?

If you want to know the real truth, to hear news, both good and bad, about the Vietnam conflict and the world situation, listen to:


The text on the back is:


Daily broadcasts, Hanoi time:

Vietnamese language: On 650 KHZ from midnight to 7:00 a.m. and on 650 KHZ and 9670 KHZ from 1:00 p.m. to midnight.

Cantonese language: On 9580 KHZ from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.


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North Vietnamese General Pham Phu Thai

During WWII, in order to get the German pilots to come up and fight and be killed, the U.S. printed leaflets saying “Where is the Luftwaffe?” It ridiculed the Japanese by dropping leaflets on them saying “Your planes are falling like sick ducks.” In Korea the U.S.A. offered $100,000 for a MiG. That led to untrustworthy pilots being grounded by the Communists and only good Party members being allowed to fly. That led to a 13-1 kill ratio in favor of the U.S. pilots. I do not remember any specific leaflet during the Vietnam War where there was a challenge for the MiGs to come up and fight.

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Pham Phu Thai’s Personal MiG-21

And yet, North Vietnamese General Pham Phu Thai says in his 2017 book entitled Lính Bay 2 ("Just a Pilot - Part 2"), that on 11 May 1972 (at Yen Bai Military Airbase), and 12 May 1972 (no airbase is mentioned), the U.S. dropped propaganda leaflets to challenge the MiG pilots to come up and fight. I have heard nothing about these challenge leaflets but they would have been requested through the U.S. Air Force command to whatever Army PSYOP unit was supporting them. Thai says about these two leaflet drops:

The Morning of 11 May 1972 - from 0940 to 1110 there were 20 planes of the US Tactical Air Force that flew to Yen Bai to challenge the MiG-19s to air combat. Later I’ve been told that USAF dropped leaflets for the challenge.

On 12 May 1972 - F-4 Phantoms flew down close to our runway in order to drop leaflet to challenge air combat. However, our intelligence service collected and destroyed them.

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Pham Phu Thai (right) Describes a Dogfight in a North Vietnamese Propaganda Photo
Photo: Dr. Sy Hung

I suspect the General knows what he is talking about: he joined the Air Force in 1965 and was sent to Russia for MiG-21 training; he had four confirmed kills of American aircraft; he was a Lieutenant General and Hero of the People's Armed Forces; a senior officer in the Vietnam People's Army; a former Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force and Chief Inspector of the Ministry of Defense. He retired in 2010.


I interviewed retired Colonel Charles V. Nahlik who was heavily involved with leafleting both Vietnam and North Korea as a member of the 7th PSYOP Group while a Captain from 1966-1968. He told me:

During my time on Okinawa, I had some dealings with the Department of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff as a mere Captain.  I was asked to consider alternate ways of getting leaflets into mainland China.  I came up with two methods, both of which were eventually rejected:

B-52 Leaflet Drops: Fill the aircraft with leaflets and drop them up and down the coast when the prevailing winds are blowing inland. The study involved examination of some sort of box compartment within the bomb section and attempting to get leaflet boxes of some sort in there that would release the leaflets and not have any straps remaining outside the plane. The concept was rejected because they could not have loose material inside and because we could not come up with a way to eliminate the static lines that would pull the boxes of leaflets inside out.  I don't know if anything was done about this after 1968.

The second method was workable and liked but rejected by the Joint Chiefs of Staff because it would enable the Chinese, if they used their smarts, to determine where our submarines had been patrolling by doing backward current studies. The leaflets would be put into the torpedo ports and discharged when in the area where current would be flowing towards the mainland. 

Other plans which were successful in Vietnam and North Korea:

Dropping radios by small parachutes.The radios would be tuned to a specific channel that could not be changed.  The only problem was battery life was limited even though the volume was not loud but could be heard if the radio was held to the ear.  This was approved and used but I never knew to what extent as that was more in the CIA arena.  I just heard recently that something like this was being done in either Iraq or Afghanistan. [Authors Note]: This was done in Vietnam and North Korea. Small radios were dropped by aircraft or floated ashore by floats. The radios could only hear one station. Thousands were bought cheaply in Japan and used in this campaign.

Most of the leaflets to China came through Chinese forces on Matsu and Quemoy backed by the 7th PSYOP Group. I know this program well as I was there on temporary duty giving leaflet classes.  They also did the program of floating leaflets and gifts in small bags.


Was there a possibility that the American bombing and leafleting of North Vietnam could have forced the Communist government to the peace table? That question has been argued for three decades and the answer is probably “no.” As many American leaflets stated, Ho Chi Minh was willing to fight for 100 years and it was clear that the United States was not. The concept is discussed in a 3 August 1995 interview by Stephen Young in The Wall Street Journal entitled How North Vietnam Won The War. The author interviews Bui Tin, a former colonel who served on the general staff of North Vietnam's army and received the unconditional surrender of South Vietnam on 30 April 1975. He later became editor of the People's Daily, the official newspaper of Vietnam:

Q: What of American bombing of North Vietnam?

A: If all the bombing had been concentrated at one time, it would have hurt our efforts. But the bombing was expanded in slow stages under Johnson and it didn't worry us. We had plenty of time to prepare alternative routes and facilities. We always had stockpiles of rice ready to feed the people for months if a harvest were damaged. The Soviets bought rice from Thailand for us.

North Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap told historian Stanley Karnow in a 1990 interview that the war was a psychological one:

We were not strong enough to drive out a half-million American troops, but that wasn't our aim. Our intention was to break the will of the American government to continue the war.

In 1975, Army Colonel Harry Summers went to Hanoi as chief of the U.S. delegation's negotiation team for the four-party military talks that followed the collapse of the South Vietnamese government. While there, he spent some time chatting with his North Vietnamese counterpart, Colonel Tu, an old soldier who had fought against the United States. Summers told Tu:

You know, you never defeated us on the battlefield.

Tu replied, in a phrase that perfectly captured the American misunderstanding of the Vietnam War:

That may be so, but it is also irrelevant.

The bottom line would seem to be that in the Vietnam War the will of the people of North Vietnam was greater than the modern weapons and industrial strength of the United States. Their internal PSYOP told them daily that they were fighting a war of liberation to free their comrades in the south from foreign domination. American propaganda leaflets and radio told them that they were not wanted in the peaceful and bountiful south and were instead interlopers and terrorists killing women and children. They had Ho Chi Minh, the old revolutionary who had defeated the Japanese and the French; the Americans had a foreign presence and a succession of South Vietnamese presidents who appeared to be tools of the West. Their propaganda was everywhere, seen and heard day and night; American propaganda was curtailed by the control of radios in the north and the ability to send out teams to pick up and destroy airdropped leaflets immediately after a raid. They emptied their major cities of old people, children and non-essential workers cutting the population of Hanoi and Haiphong in half. They decentralized their industry, moving entire factories to huts and caves. Like the people of London during the “Blitz” they endured, believing that the United States would eventually weary of the cost of the war and the loss of air crews that were shot down over North Vietnam. They turned out to be correct. As General Giap forecast, they broke the will of the American government to continue the war.

The Left looks at the Bombing of North Vietnam

During the war, many left-wing booklets mentioned the bombing of the North. Malcom Salmon wrote NORTH Vietnam, A first-hand Account, for the Australian socialist newspaper, Tribune. It is interesting that he compared the bombing with the Nazi blitz of London in WWII. Some of his comments are edited for brevity:

We Australians tend to look at North Vietnam as depicted by the information media as an aggressor state, that the National Liberation Front (Viet Cong) is an arm of North Vietnam, and that the government in Saigon is a legitimate one. This three-fold fiction is costing our country dear.

North Vietnam under the American blitz is not a miserable place to be. It is an exciting place. It is exciting because of the human qualities displayed by the Vietnamese in the process of their resistance. Social development is proceeding under a rain of hundreds of thousands of tons of American bombs a year. I visited a school in the countryside near Nam Dinh. The children with their thick rice straw hats within reach to protect them from American steel pellet bombs sang me a song about fighting South Vietnan....

The Most Famous Urban Legend of the Vietnam War.

I would be remiss if I did not mention a very famous alleged quote by North Vietnam military leader General Vo Nguyen Giap on the subject of the bombing of North Vietnam. I have heard several variations of this urban legend, which claims that Giap wrote it in either a 1976 book entitled: How We Won the War, or in a Vietnamese-language 1985 memoir. In some versions John Kerry and the Vietnam Veterans Against the War are mentioned; in others the Democrats or anti-War demonstrations are blamed.

What we still don't understand is why you Americans stopped the bombing of Hanoi. You had us on the ropes. If you had pressed us a little harder, just for another day or two, we were ready to surrender! It was the same at the battles of TET. You defeated us! We knew it, and we thought you knew it. But we were elated to notice your media was definitely helping us. They were causing more disruption in America than we could in the battlefields. We were ready to surrender. You had won!

The quote actually came from Sir Robert Thompson, the noted British counterinsurgency expert, and first appeared in the book: The Lessons of Vietnam edited by W. Scott Thompson and Donaldson D. Frizzell. The comment was made by Thompson in a discussion panel held at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and was later transcribed and printed in the 1977 book.

Vietnamese experts have all stated that Giap would have never implied in any manner that the North might have lost the war. They always believed they were destined to “liberate” the south and make Vietnam one nation.

This article is just a brief look at the three-year PSYOP campaign carried out against North Vietnam from 1965 to 1968. It is not a history of Operation Rolling Thunder. We have selected and depicted a few leaflets that were particularly interesting. If any of our readers have additional leaflets that they think should be included in this article, they are encouraged to send them to the author. We are also interested in hearing personal narrations of their operations “up north” from our readers. You are invited to write to the author at