TET 1968 Uprising PSYOP

SGM Herbert A. Friedman (Ret.)

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There are dozens of books and probably millions of words written on the Viet Cong attempted uprising in the Republic of Vietnam (RVN) in 1968. I am not going to discuss the uprising in any depth except to give some background. I have already written an article on the Tet holiday in general, and any reader can find that using this link

As most historians know, the Viet Cong decided to attempt a general uprising in 1968, hoping that the Vietnamese people in the South would rise up and join them. That did not happen. The people wanted no part of the insurrection and the Viet Cong were beaten so badly that they never became a major fighting force again. However, this did not help Vietnam and the United States in any way, since North Vietnam was then forced to send trained professional troops down the Ho Chi Minh Trail in greater force.

These In-country cartoons by Fehrenbacher also seem to catch the truth of Vietnam. Here he shows a soldier, probably
a 71L Clerk, who usually works with a typewriter being tossed an M-16 during the Surprise Viet Cong Tet offensive.

Tet seems to have been a complete surprise to American forces. The Communists had offered a cease fire and the Americans and South Vietnamese believed them. They accepted. Staff Sergeant Don Fieler told me a story that he finds funny now, but not in 1968:

On 31 January 1968, at about 2200, I was on the latrine sitting on the opening next to the Sergeant in charge of intelligence. I asked him how it looked for the TET cease fire and he said that everyone believed that all was going well, and it would be peaceful during the TET holidays. Three hours later that latrine took a direct mortar hit as the TET offensive started. Since then I have had little faith in intelligence.

On the other hand, friends of mine who were high in the ranks of Intelligence knew something was up and warned their headquarters, but apparently, nobody was listening. One analyst who shall go unnamed told me that he was putting pins in the maps from recon units and soon had all the major cities surrounded by pins. He had no doubt something big was about to occur but nobody cared to listen. I wrote this about 20 years ago. I never went into detail on this in the past but now it seems that some of the stories are getting out so perhaps I should tell more with a lot of OPSEC and editing.

I was a section chief at MACV. I was not the only one predicting Tet 1968.  Everyone from Lieutenants and captains to senior NCOs were forecasting it but the higher ups did not want to believe it or were told not to believe it. We had a VERY difficult time getting them to believe the VC strength numbers and they would not allow the intelligence analysts to add many NVA units because enemy strength levels could not be increased for political reasons. My very sensitive intelligence files were fully detailed about enemy military and civilian personnel, to include their families (if they had them) and their addresses and their names. I also had additional details available from the RVN National Police files. Unfortunately, the Generals believed that the Viet Cong could be trusted to uphold the holiday ceasefire.

There were more details available to us within the RVN National Police files!  By the way, I believe the National Police were the least infiltrated RVN government group in-country! We could and did combine our files with the Vietnamese and had very detailed information about many of the southern communists so we could have air or ground dropped leaflets and/or fake documents that sent them home to check on their families. Then we could have the police and/or our special operations people go get them. And very few of the very sensitive intelligence reports went more than one or two hands from me. The Australians and New Zealanders worked very closely with us from collateral to very sensitive intelligence operations and the gathering of the intelligence too. It was a pleasure to work with them, and to supply them with reports from my MACV and Combined Intelligence Center, Vietnam files.

Richard H. Dick James was a staff sergeant in 1968 assigned to an A-Team in the 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) as its Intelligence Sergeant. He said about the Tet offensive: 

None of the allied forces should have been surprised. In August of 1967 an agent turned in the plans for the 1968 Tet Offensive. The Special Forces officer commanding Project Oak, in Detachment B-57, personally delivered the report to the MACV J2 (Intelligence) commander, a general, who instructed the SF officer to turn it over to the Collections Officer, a colonel who hated SF. He told the officer to get the report out of his office, saying that General Westmoreland didn’t believe the enemy capable of conducting such an offensive. The SF officer reminded him that they had been reporting large VC gatherings for months, appearing to be assembling for just such an attack.

The SF officer then appealed to the MACV J2 general, who reiterated what the colonel had said about General Westmoreland’s belief. The SF officer proceeded to give the report to the 5th Special Forces Group S-2 (Intelligence), telling him about what had happened at MACV headquarters. The 5th Group S-2 disseminated the information to all Special Forces units.

Martin J. Manning and Clarence R. Wyatt edited the 2-volume set titled Encyclopedia of Media and Propaganda in Wartime America. They wrote about the various wars that the United States was involved in and I have added a brief part of what was written about the Tet Offensive of 1968 in the Vietnam War in this article (edited for brevity):

The war had not been going well for the Viet Cong and People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN), who were unable to compete with U.S. military firepower and mobility. DRV Defense Minister General Vo Nguyen Giap favored trying to end the war in one master stroke. Giap’s plan borrowed from Chinese Communist doctrine’s concept of the "General Offensive," to which the Vietnamese added the idea of "General Uprising, " a one-two punch during which the people of South Vietnam would rally to the Communist cause and overthrow the Saigon government. The success of Giap’s plan depended on three key assumptions: The Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) would collapse under the impact of the General Offensive, the people of South Vietnam would follow through with the General Uprising, and American will to continue would crack in the face of the overwhelming shock.

At 1:30 in the morning on 31 January, the Presidential Palace in Saigon was attacked. By 3:40 a.m., the city of Hue was under attack and the Tet Offensive was in full swing. Before the day was over, five of six autonomous cities, 36 of 44 provincial capitals, and 64 of 245 district capitals were under attack. Except for Khe Sanh, the old capital of Hue, and the area around Saigon, the fighting was over in a few days. Hue was retaken on February 25 after urban warfare reminiscent of Europe in World War II. The Cho Lon area of Saigon was cleared on 7 March, and by March 20, PAVN units around Khe Sanh began to melt away in the face of U.S. firepower. The Tet Offensive was a tactical disaster for the Communists. More than 58,000 VC and PAVN troops died in the offensive, with the United States suffering 3,895 dead and the ARVN losing 4,954. Non-U.S. Allies lost 214. More than 14,300 South Vietnamese civilians also died. Giap also had been wrong in two of his three key assumptions. The people of South Vietnam did not rally to the Communist cause, and the General Uprising never took place, even in Hue, where Communist forces held the city for the longest time. Nor did the ARVN fold.

John Morello, Ph.D. says in Open Arms, Closed Minds and Eyes: Chieu Hoi, PSYOP, and the Intelligence Failures in the TET Offensive about the signs of the coming offensive missed:

There were also material indications that something was in the wind. Fighting may have tapered off in the latter half of 1967, but the number of trucks coming down the Ho Chi Minh Trail had increased. On any given month that year the average truck traffic coming out of North Vietnam was around 480. But in October more than 1,100 trucks were seen making their way south. In November, the number climbed to 3,823, and in December the figure was over 6,300. The trucks carried troops, medical supplies, food and weapons. Some of those weapons were stashed in locations near South Vietnam’s major metropolitan areas. In October, allied units operating east of Saigon unearthed one of those caches after routing a VC unit assigned to protect it. Howitzers, recoilless rifles, mortars, machine guns plus ammunition and medical supplies were recovered.

Let me end this part of the story with comments found in The United States Joint Chiefs of Staff Official History. Although they appeared to be caught with their pants down, in their final report they seem to indicate that they knew all about it. If they did, it is surprising that more action was not taken. For instance, call back all the US and ARVN troops on leave:

The Viet Cong Liberation Radio announced that its forces would respect a ceasefire for a seven-day period for Tet (27 January to 3 February) 1968, beginning at 0100 Saigon time. the United States and the Allied governments agreed that the ceasefire would be limited to 36 hours. Before it took effect, however, General Westmoreland concluded that the situation in the I Combat Tactical Zone where enemy forces were known to be concentrating, was so threatening that this region should be excluded from the ceasefire. The administration agreed with General Westmoreland’s views.

The U.S. command was fully aware that the enemy could attack at any time and that he probably intended to do so soon. The Military Assistance Command Vietnam in an appraisal of communist intentions that proved to be highly accurate, had forecast that the enemy seeing that the trend of events was running against them would undertake an intensified country wide effort, perhaps a maximum effort, over a relatively short period. The Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet Headquarters, in summing up the course of the war during 1967 and outlining plans for the coming year noted on 1 January 1968 that the tempo of enemy bombardments was rising and the enemy forces were showing increased willingness to engage in some sustained combat.  Enemy strength on the eve of the Tet Offensive, according to estimates accepted by United States Army Pacific, total 114,866, of which 55,349 were North Vietnamese regulars and 59,517 were members of the VC main and local force units.

On 1 February, General Westmoreland was able to report that the attack and passed its peak and that the enemy was losing the initiative. The attackers had only local success, and they had not succeeded in capturing a single city in entirety, although they still held parts of Saigon six other cities. At its height, the Tet Offensive had involved and estimated 67,305 enemy troops, of which 44,990, or almost exactly 2/3s, were Viet Cong forces. Evidently the enemy strategy had been to launch the attack with Viet Cong forces and hold back the major North Vietnamese Army units to exploit any later openings that might be gained.

The enemy dead were estimated at 33,875. US losses were 670 dead. The enemy offensive was largely a failure. He had achieved none of his major political or military objectives. The government in Saigon and its administrative structures throughout the country were shaken but intact. No cities have passed under enemy control. There was no evidence of large-scale rallying to the National Liberation Front. Vietnamese forces did not defect or dessert in large numbers. US advisors rated their performance as up to, or beyond, expectations, even in those units that were seriously understrength because of leave granted for the holiday.

The U.S. and Vietnamese Tet 1968 PSYOP Campaign

Since this article is about leaflets, I think it is fair to start by showing the leaflets that American PSYOP units prepared for the Tet 1968 campaign.

Because the Tet PSYOP campaign of 1967 had been so successful, with double the usual number of Viet Cong going Chieu Hoi, Tet 68 was planned to be even bigger and better. Unfortunately, people were not able to read the many leaflets. The JUSPAO guidance for the Tet campaign is quite long so I will just quote a few small parts of it. The documents probably number 100 pages:

The media used will be: leaflets, both air-dropped and hand distributed by civilians, military, RF/PF, police, RD Teams, and Armed Propaganda Teams; Saigon and affiliated radio stations; VOA and VOF; all TV media; stationary and mobile loudspeakers (ground, water and air borne); provincial newspapers; district and other news bulletins~ other suitable printed media; face-to-face contacts; hoi chanh letters; drama teams; films; and where feasible, public meetings and gatherings. Maximum use will be made of National Safe Conduct passes in all leaflet mixes and separate leaflet drops.

Printed media in support will be developed by Field Development Division Joint U.S. Public Affairs Office and Military Assistance Command Psychological Operations Directorate. JUSPAO will print 500,000 copies of each of 17 leaflets for direct shipment to and dissemination by the CORDS Province Representatives PSYOP. Bulk printing will be by the 7th PSYOP Group in Okinawa, which will produce 20,000,000 copies each of 13 leaflets addressed to the Viet Cong, and 15,000,000 copies each of four leaflets addressed to North Vietnam Army personnel in South Vietnam. Leaflets printed by 7th PSYOP Group will be shipped to the 244th PSYOP Company at Danang, the 245th PSYOP Company at Nha Trang, the 245th PSYOP Detachment at Pleiku, the 246th PSYOP Company at Bien Hoa, and the 19th PSYOP Company at Can Tho. CORDS Assistant Province Representatives for PSYOP may draw on these supplies of leaflets or, through the Deputies for PSYOP in the Combat Tactical Zones, designate preferred targets for airdrop.

JUSPAO will produce the following tapes: A series of five tapes intended for use with mobile and stationary ground loudspeakers operated-by the Vietnamese Information Service and other agencies, for placement by CORDS Province Representatives for PSYOP. A tape recording of the 1968 TET Chieu Hoi song, for placement with radio stations and mobile and stationary ground loudspeaker systems. Tapes with a recording of the TET Song (a girl’s voice with guitar accompaniment) will be shipped to all provinces. All tapes will be produced by the Field Development Division with the assistance of the Information Division. Loudspeaker tapes will be: Tet poetry 99 copies, Tet Chieu Hoi Song 78 copies, 8 Tet messages 848 copies, 3 special entertainment tapes 252 copies for a total of 1,277.

The newspaper Free South will emphasize TET themes beginning with Issue No. 10 of Volume II, which should be in the field around 4 January 1968, and continuing through Issues 11 and 12, which should reach the field around 18 January and 1 February, respectively.

The Information Division will produce special TET radio programs for broadcast over the facilities of the Voice of America. National television will be utilized to broadcast programs specifically related to the TET season and TET, Chieu Hoi, Dai Doan Ket themes.

The Chieu Hoi Tote Bag, of which 50,000 are being produced, is intended exclusively for distribution by hand to families known to have Viet Cong connections. The bags and contents will be shipped separately to the Combat Tactical Zone Deputies for PSYOP for allocation to provinces. The following materials should be placed in each bag: A Chieu Hoi Cartoon Book, a TET Chess Game, a 1968 Astrological Forecast, a 1968 Calendar, a TET Photo Insert, a TET postcard, and a School Ruler. Small bars of soap with a TET/Chieu Hoi message on the cover and matches with a message on the box will also be made available in quantities sufficient for placement in each bag.

The 4th PSYOP Group, in coordination with Commanders and Senior Advisors, will produce Chieu Hoi exploitation leaflets and loudspeaker appeals to follow up the standard Tet leaflets and tapes and take advantage of combat operations and local intelligence.

Some of the Tet leaflets are SP-2244 - Return and enjoy Tet, 2245 - Water Pump, 2246 - We miss you, 2247 – Your family needs you, 2248 – Your family awaits you, 2249 – the Tet fortune teller, 2251- New Year, New Hope, 2252 – New Year Greeting number 1, 2253 – New Year greeting number 2, 2262 – NVA Poem to mother, 2226- Good treatment to prisoners, and several more, all printed in October 1967. The Vietnamese POLWAR unit also printed leaflets with their codes like 8-434 (1) and 8-423 (3). I depict some samples of the American leaflets below. Unfortunately. Most Viet Cong and NVA were too busy fighting to do much reading.

Leaflet 2244

200,400 leaflets were printed. I choose to print the more colorful side so let me mention the text on that side:

Your family will be very sad if you are not home for the Tet Season. We urge you to return and enjoy Tet and a Happy New Year with your family. The newly elected Government will welcome you through its Chieu Hoi Program.

The back of the leaflet shows some happy Hoi Chanhs having a Tet meal. The text is:

CHIEU HOI

The Hoi Chanh shown above are enjoying a Tet meal at a Chieu Hoi Center. As Tet is coming everybody wants to eat good food, to be Reunited with family and friends and live a happy life in a secure area of the Government of Vietnam. Your family needs you and sincerely hopes that you will return to your parents and wife and children. Tet will lack meaning and your family will be sad if you are not home.

Leaflet 2249

200,400 copies of this leaflet called “The Fortune Teller” were printed in October 1967. Fortune telling leaflets were very popular in WWII when both the British and the Germans prepared leaflets using Nostradamus, or astrologists to tell the enemy that they were going to lose. In Vietnam, the U.S. prepared many leaflets giving predictions of Viet Cong defeat or offers of good treatment for those that went Chieu Hoi. This one of them. The text on the front is:

THE TET FORTUNE TELLER

You might be unlucky soon. We suggest you consult the Tet Fortune-Teller.

The "Fortune-Teller Card" has nine items that are important to you. Mark X to the right of the items that are true, or you believe to be true. If you have the right number of marks, you might have good luck for Tet.

1. I want to enjoy Tet with my family.
2. I would like to have better food.
3. The Viet Cong will be defeated.
4. I am sorry that I joined the Viet Cong.
5. Chieu Hoi is a way to be reunited with one's family.
6. I would like to have better medical treatment.
7. ARVN and Allied Forces have better weapons than the Viet Cong.
8. I would like to be free from air and artillery attacks.
9. The people of Vietnam have selected a new government.

If you have more than 4 X's you are urged to turn the leaflet over.

The text on the back is:

If you have more than 4 (X) you will have good luck on Tet.
The Government of Vietnam guarantees every Hoi Chanh:

1. Good treatment.
2. Full citizenship in the Republic of Vietnam.
3. Medical treatment in the Chieu Hoi Center.
4. Permanent reunion with his family.
5. VN $30 daily for food for each returnee, his wife, and older children, VN $15 daily for younger children.
6. VN $200 monthly pocket money, VN $100 monthly for each member of family in Center.
7. Rewards for weapons brought in (From $500 to $75,000).
8. Two suits of new clothing or VN $1,000.
9. VN $1,000 per family for resettlement.
10. Help in finding a job.
11. Those who settle in Chieu Hoi hamlets will receive VN $10,000 to build a bouse, plus free cement and roofing, VN $2,000 to buy furniture, and six months rice subsistence.

Leaflet 2253 – New Year’s Greeting Number 2

This leaflet appears to show a happy grandfather with his two grandchildren, The text on the front is:

HAPPY NEW YEAR

The back is all text:

On the New Year the Government of Vietnam wishes you happiness and peace so you can return to your family and freedom. We wish that you enjoy a happy Tet with your family through the Chieu Hoi Program of the Government of Vietnam. The Chieu Hoi benefits are waiting for you. Your loved ones are waiting to enjoy a reunion Tet with you in a secure area of the Government of Vietnam.

Leaflet 2255

I chose to depict this leaflet because of the lovely color. The girl is very attractive, and I am sure that many a lonely Viet Cong or North Vietnamese soldier looked at her with great longing. The text on the front is:

NEW SPRING WISHES
[HAPPY NEW YEAR]

The back is all text:

On a new year, the Government of the Republic of Vietnam wishes you a peaceful year so you could promptly join your family.

We wish you could find your own escape path so you could benefit from the Chieu Hoi policy of the Government of the Republic of Vietnam, enjoy the spring, and reunite with your family.

Your loved ones are awaiting you for a reuniting Tet on the free side of the Government of the Republic of Vietnam.

An Interesting Viet Cong Tet Leaflet 

 

This leaflet was disseminated by the Viet Cong in 1967 and demanded that the Americans and South Vietnamese respect the Tet truce.  I add it only because of the irony that one year later the Viet Cong ignored their own 1968 Tet Truce and attacked all the major cities in South Vietnam. The idea was good, and they even got into the American embassy, but the South Vietnamese people did not rise up in support of the Viet Cong and the result was that the Viet Cong for a brief time was wiped out and no longer a military force. This led directly to greater numbers of North Vietnamese troops being sent south to take up the slack. 

General Cao Van Vien and Lieutenant General Dong Van Khuyen mention their Vietnamese view of Tet 1968 in an Indochina Monograph published by the U.S. Army Center of Military History, titled Reflections on the Vietnam War. The book was translated by Phillip Tran.

When the Tet General Offensive finally materialized, it came as a big surprise for the Government of Vietnam. We were surprised not because of the absence of telltale indications which our intelligence had picked up but primarily because of our subjectivity and complacency which totally misled our estimates as to the enemy's intention and calculated boldness. It was indeed a risky venture for the enemy, but he had accepted the inevitable heavy losses. It was a daring move because our enemy completely disregarded the traditional sanctity of the Tet and overly relied on theoretical popular uprising.

The Tet offensive did not help the enemy attain his strategic objectives. He temporarily regained some initiative but eventually lost it again and found himself in a military posture much worse than before. The Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces did not disintegrate; they became stronger and more aggressive. Popular uprisings, a key to quick victory, never materialized. U.S. forces did not bog down as expected, and finally the enemy's ploy of installing a coalition government was completely shattered. The enemy's subjectivity also brought him a big surprise. He had preconceived ideas about the weakness of the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces and the people's hostile attitude toward the United States and the Government of Vietnam. But the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces had fought gallantly and with confidence; they had fully demonstrated their combat capabilities and aggressiveness. Despite their criticisms of the Government of Vietnam and noncommittal attitude, the South Vietnamese people had resolutely refused to cooperate with the Communists. They were not deceived by such disguised stratagems of Communist domination as "coalition," "neutrality," and "peace."

South Vietnamese Colonel Hoang Ngoc Lung wrote a monograph entitled Intelligence for the U.S. Army Center of Military History in 1976. He mentioned the fact that the signal to start the general uprising was a "Happy Tet" poem by Ho Chi Minh broadcast from Radio Hanoi:

When North Vietnam was preparing to launch its General Offensive against cities in South Vietnam during the Tet holidays of 1968, it gave the order for preparation and attack under the form of a "Happy Tet" poem by Ho Chi Minh. This poem was broadcast by Radio Hanoi, intended for Communist troops in the South:

This Spring will be much different from previous springs
Because every household will enjoy news of victory
North and South will now forever reunite
Forward! Total victory will be ours.

The "Happy Tet" poem by Ho Chi Minh that Radio Hanoi repeatedly broadcast for some time before Tet was also a significant indicator that failed to draw the attention of our intelligence experts. For one thing, it had become a habit of the North Vietnam leader to address Happy Tet wishes to the North Vietnamese population every year. For another, words of exhortation to victory were nothing new in Communist propaganda jargon. What our intelligence experts failed to detect was the meaning that something new would happen this coming Tet and that it was going to be entirely different from previous years. The significance of Ho's short poem as a signal for preparations and attack was later confirmed by several enemy prisoners and returnees.

The first phase of the 1968 General Offensive also helped the Republic of Vietnam intelligence establishment to learn more about the enemy. Unprecedented numbers of prisoners, returnees, and important captured documents contributed toward deepening our knowledge on the enemy's strategy and policies. As a result, we knew well in advance every detail about the follow-up phase of his offensive, even the exact time of the first attack, which began on 5 May 1968. This was due to our agent sources within enemy ranks. In addition to information on the enemy campaign, these sources also divulged the difficulties that the Central Office for South Vietnam was facing, particularly the deteriorating morale of Communist units. At the same time, high ranking returnees contributed much invaluable information on the enemy's internal situation.

From a morale standpoint, the uprising was a major blow to the United States. They had been hearing rosy news for years of constant American victories and enormous body counts of dead Viet Cong and had no idea that the guerrilla movement could plan and wage such an enormous attack. For the first time, many Americans, including TV reporter Walter Cronkite, began to wonder if the war was winnable.

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The Viet Cong Tet Offensive – 1968

What motivated me to write this short report on the PSYOP of Tet 1968 was an illustrated book titled The Viet Cong Tet Offensive - 1968, part of a “Series of Combat History” that was written by a number of Republic of Vietnam Army officers and printed by their Printing and Publications Center. It was later translated into English by a group of Americans officers assigned to a Joint Staff Civil Affairs Translation Board. It is about 490 pages in length and tells the entire story of Tet 1968 in five detailed chapters. The last section of the last chapter is titled “Propaganda.” I saw that last chapter and thought that I had some Viet Cong leaflets and some Allied leaflets that mention Tet 1968 and perhaps I might do a short report using the Vietnamese book.

Even as the Viet Cong forces were being destroyed, they kept telling their own people that they were victorious everywhere. The report says in part:

The formation of the so-called "Alliance of National, Democratic and Peaceful Forces in the South" was announced. It was the NLF who acted as spokesman for the Alliance, calling for united action to restore independence, democracy, and peace to the South in view of later national reunification.

Although the general offensive failed the very day it was launched, the Communist radios kept claiming victories for more than a week, trying to boost the red soldiers morale...A communique issued by the Communist command in Saigon reported that offensive troops had occupied within ten days the ARVN General Staff headquarters, the American Embassy, the Tan Son Nhut air base, the Go Vap rear area, and had control on most of Saigon's 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th precincts while expanding their thrust into the other precincts.

It said that 10, 000 allied troops including 3,000 Americans had been killed, while tens of thousands of others had defected, and that the whole government machinery in Saigon had collapsed. The communique also claimed that 200 planes, over 600 military vehicles including 200 armored cars had been destroyed, and people from all walks of life in the liberated cities and villages had joined popular Self-Defense units with weapons captured from the enemy. It said tens of thousands of ARVN officers, soldiers, policemen and officials had joined the people's ranks; and all conditions were favorable for a final victory.

Another communique issued by the Command of the western area said:

From 3l January to 7 April 1968, simultaneous attacks were launched against the cities and towns of Can Tho, Soc Trang, Vinh Long, Bac Lieu, Ca Mau, and Rach Gia. The command headquarters of the IV Corps suffered heavy losses; the command headquarters of the 14th, 16th and 32nd Regiments were destroyed. 6,200 enemy soldiers were captured. 25,000 enemy soldiers and cadres were put out of combat.

All other enemy war communiques were of the same line. All claimed big victories, with particular emphasis on a final victory described as within reach to boost the red soldier's morale.

Leaflets were also prepared.

These groups started distributing Leaflets while speaking to the people through loudspeakers. Most leaflets were supposed to have been originated from the so-called Alliance of National Democratic and Peace Forces. Police reported later that a total of twelve different leaflets were distributed in Saigon.

I will not talk about the attacks in any detail; just add some of my Viet Cong leaflets and some of my American-South Vietnamese leaflets that specifically mention Tet 1968 to illustrate the story. I hope to hold this report to about 4,000 words, but my history is that the articles somehow all grow to a minimum of 10,000 words.

About a decade ago I wrote in an article about the casualties of the Vietnam War:

Young men in North Vietnam had a slogan: “Born in the North to die in the South.” They saw their friends marching off, never to return, and knew that if sent South, the odds were very good that they were going to die. During their great “victory” of Tet 1968, 32,000 Guerrillas were killed and another 5,800 captured. The Viet Cong was virtually put out of business in a single prolonged battle. During the course of the War, General Giap said that a total of 500,000 of his troops were killed in the fighting. In April 1995, Hanoi admitted that the actual number was 1.1 million men killed. The United States lost 58,209 men in the war. It would seem to be an American victory, except that South Vietnam did eventually fall so we must say that through patience, propaganda, subterfuge and the support of Russia, China and the Soviet Bloc, North Vietnam was the winner of the war.

Speaking of North Vietnamese General Giap, Colonel Harry Summers, the U.S. author and historian, once decided to provoke General Giap. He said “The North Vietnamese troops had never defeated the Americans on the battlefield.” Many American veterans of the Vietnam War will tell you “We were winning when I left.” General Giap replied: “That is true but it is also irrelevant.” In other words, it was never about the fighting; it was always about the will of the American and North Vietnamese people and governments to fight to the bitter end and win.

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Viet Cong woman with Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG)

The number of actual Viet Cong who died during Tet is still open to question. It started about 30,000 and a few years later rose to 40,000. The New York Times of 31 January 1988 said:

The number of enemy dead had climbed to more than 58,000. More than 14,000 South Vietnamese men, women and children also had died. Of all the battles that together are known as the Tet offensive, the longest, bloodiest and most destructive was fought over Hue, in central Vietnam.

The Second Indochina War Symposium was held at Airlie, Virginia on 7-9 November 1984, hosted by the Center of Military History of the United States Army. In regard to the Tet Offensive, historian Douglas Pike said:

In the Tet offensive of 1968 thirty-two of South Vietnam's major population centers were attacked simultaneously by 70,000 of General Giap's best forces. While the Tet offensive had enormous psychological impact abroad, particularly in the United States where it was a major factor in President Lyndon Johnson's decision not to seek reelection, it was a disaster for General Giap. He had begun his winter-spring campaign with 195,000 men. At its conclusion he had lost (killed or permanently disabled) 85,000 of his best troops with virtually nothing militarily to show for it.

The Viet Cong Tet Offensive introduces us to the uprising. I will edit and paraphrase some comments for brevity:

What did the Communists have to say through their propaganda machinery and both the Hanoi and National Liberation Front (NLF) radios during the Tet general offensive? First, they claimed a formation of so-called “Alliance of National, Democratic and Peaceful forces” in the South. The NLF claimed to be the spokesman of this Alliance, calling for united action to restore Independence, democracy and peace” to the south.

Curiously, the South was at peace already, but terrorized by Guerrilla bands that murdered people that did not follow their political beliefs. This would continue during the uprising when the “peaceful democratic forces” would kill thousands of innocent civilians.

The Viet Cong try to take the American Embassy but Fail

MPsEmbassyTet68.jpg (131587 bytes)

American military police kneel behind a wall as they fight for control of the U.S. Embassy compound.
In the foreground are two American soldiers who were killed in earlier fighting.
In spite of the dramatic attack on the U.S. Embassy, the Tet Offensive was a tactical defeat for the Viet Cong.

The Vietnam War Almanac

Although the general offensive failed the very first day it was launched, the Communist radios kept claiming victories for more than a week, trying to boost their soldier’s morale. A communique issued by the Communist Command in Saigon reported that their troops within 10 days had occupied the ARVN General Staff Headquarters, The American Embassy, the Tan Son Nhut Airbase, and control of four of Saigon’s districts…10,000 Allied troops including 3,000 Americans had been killed. Tens of thousands had defected. The Saigon Government machinery had collapsed. 200 planes, 600 military vehicles including 200 armored cars had been destroyed. And people were joining the popular self-defense units with weapons captured from the enemy. Tens of thousands of ARVN officers, soldiers and police had joined the people’s ranks. Final victory was in sight.

Vietnam Document and Research notes, Number 22, March 1968, discusses Tet 1968 in depth. Some of the comments are:

When the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army unleashed their attack against the cities of South Vietnam on 31 January their military offensive was accompanied by a propaganda offensive against the Government of the Republic of South Vietnam. At the most public and diffuse level, this "political struggle" took the form of radio broadcasts transmitted by Hanoi and the broadcasting station of the South Vietnam National Liberation Front. These broadcasts asserted that the Government of South Vietnam was being overthrown, that its authority in many localities bad been superseded by that of revolutionary organizations, and that the people should seize power and accomplish total defeat of the Government and its allies.

At the bottom level, amongst their forces on the ground, the Viet Cong propaganda took the fora of leaflets distributed directly to people on the streets or to families in their homes in those sections of cities penetrated or temporarily controlled by the Viet Cong or North Vietnamese Army military units.

So, why did the Tet offensive of 1968 occur? Mervyn Roberts mentions Tet in Propaganda and Influence: Russian and Chinese Targeting of America

Northern propaganda had some initial success in agitating rural southerners against perceived grievances. However, by 1967, the Northern program had lost trust of most southern people. Most National Liberation Front fighters by 1967 were northern invaders, not local guerillas, so a cultural split intensified the bad relationships. Villagers increasingly saw the NLF as bomb magnets who stole their resources and brought nothing in return. They did not necessarily love Americans, but polls, captured documents, and studies indicated they blamed the violence on the Vietcong and saw benefits with the Allies. Given that people were in a life and death struggle, they reacted critically to Northern propaganda. This collapsing situation was part of the motivation in the summer of 1967 for the Northern decision to gamble with the Tet Offensive in 1968. The DRV leadership knew they were losing, and that they needed to take risks to avoid loss.

The Time Opportunity

This leaflet depicts an advancing crowd of Vietnamese and Montagnard country people. The message on the leaflet states:

The time-opportunity has arrived! The entire people unite in a single mind to fight the Americans, overthrow the puppets, and seize the government for the people.

Note: There were certain terms used in many of the leaflets prepared for Tet 1968. Three of the most popular were: Time Opportunity (Now or never), General Offensive, and General Uprising.

 

Smash Control

The above leaflet, distributed in Quang Ngai Province, contains the statements:

The Liberation Armed Forces will attack repeatedly and continuously the military targets of the Americans and puppets, the government office of the puppet regime, the communication arteries, the pacification teams, the cruel gangs...Compatriots should take this opportunity to rise simultaneously to smash the machinery of control, to liberate yourselves and be masters of your own fate.

PROCLAMATION

PROCLAMATION OF THE REVOLUTIONALY ARMY COMMAND

Compatriot Citizen:

The general offensive against the Thieu-Ky clique which we are looking for has materialized. The Revolutionary Army, responding to the will and the anger of the entire people, has opened fire at the enemy with whom we cannot live under the same sky.

We wish to report to the compatriots that we are determined to overthrow the Thieu-Ky traitors' regime, destroy those who have been oppressing and beating the compatriots so far. Our struggle's objective is to win independence for the people, peace for the country, democracy, and happiness for the people.

We will build a power regime entirely of our own, a regime for the Fatherland and the people. To enable the Army to fulfill its sacred but very heavy responsibility, we demand that the compatriots:

1 - Give us a hand in attacking and pursuing the American and puppet forces.
2 - Help us arrest all the cruel henchmen of the Americans and puppets.

Being the children of the people, the Revolutionary Army pledges to do its utmost to win Victory for the Fatherland and the people.

January 31, 1968
The Revolutionary Army Command
Long An Province

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A Viet Cong Tet-themed leaflet

The Communists regularly lied and bragged about major victories and thousands of battles won and U.S. aircraft shot down. This is rather typical of their exaggeration and talks about Tet 1968. This Quang Nam Province National Front for Liberation leaflet claims that the Viet Cong:

Annihilated 62,000 enemy troops…24 battalions, 95 companies of US and puppet troops…1000 military vehicles…Tens of hundreds of aircraft…100 vessels…

The leaflet was found by former Sergeant First Class Don Peterson who was in Vietnam during the years 1968-1969. He told me:

I picked this up somewhere between LZ Baldy and LZ Ross. I don't recall the Road number or Highway between the two Landing Zones, but they called it Que Son Valley.

A second communique, issued by the Central Area Command said in part:

From 30 January to 4 April 1968, our forces smashed key military and administrative organs of the enemy in 21 cities. Six sub-area command headquarters and 4 operational commands were destroyed. 16,000 soldiers including 1000 American soldiers were killed, seven battalions including one American battalion was annihilated, 14 vessels and 155 military vehicles were destroyed and 13 planes shot down…400 enemy soldiers surrendered to our side. 6 Key highways were under constant pressure. We destroyed the Rach Mien Bridge and took over the My Thuan ferry.

A Second Viet Cong Tet-themed leaflet  

Whereas the first leaflet targeted the enlisted American troops, this leaflet targets both the officers and enlisted. Once again it is from the Quang Nam Province National Front for Liberation. Notice the exaggerated total has climbed over 100%. In the first leaflet they killed 62,000 enemy troops. That number is now 150,000 troops.

45 DAYS AND NIGHTS

This small 3 x 4-inch 5-page booklet is the alleged story of the Viet Cong victory over the Americans and the South Vietnamese during the Tet offensive of 1968. The title and text are:

45
DAYS AND NIGHTS
HEAVEN AND EARTH

From 30 January 1968 to 15 March 1968 - 45 days

- [Viet Cong] Soldiers and people of the South:

- killed, injured, and captured over 150.000 enemies including 45.000 Americans and vassals, many of enemy units were decimated or severely mauled, including 3 regiments, 1 puppet airborne brigade, over 60 battalions, over 200 companies.

- Disintegrated 200,000 enemies.
- Shot down, destroyed about 2200 airplanes.
- Blew to smithereens 3500 combat vehicles, 1750 armored vehicles.
- Destroyed 300 heavy guns.
- Sank and damaged 253 combat vessels.
- Leveled 823 garrisons, posts, and towers.
- Destroyed 300 depots of different kinds.
- 1,000,000 people have secured control in 100 wards, 600 hamlets have just been liberated.

All this in only 45 days of ground shaking that reached even The White House and The Pentagon.

More than 1/10 of the total number of American puppet and vassal troops were Destroyed. As the enemy deserted, 40% of the total number of puppet forces were eliminated from the battle. The puppet forces lost 50% of their troops or more, in which the reserve forces including paratroopers, infantry commanders, and rangers that they consider elite units have had up to 20 battalions (out of a total of 35 battalions) destroyed with heavy losses. Combat vehicles and enemy forces suffered very heavy losses, nearly 40% of the total number of aircraft of all types, 1/3 of the total number of armored vehicles were destroyed. The logistics reserve force suffered half of the damage.

Facing these true facts, who can still doubt the Americans will come to a complete defeat?

Retired U.S. Army Colonel Brooks A. Mick, M.D. was a Surgeon in Vietnam during the Tet uprising. He told me a bit about his actions at the time:

 

Chieu Hoi (Open Arms) Leaflet

A Huey, taking off from the airstrip at Kontum during Tet, was shot down and crashed with two of my medics from the 1/22nd Infantry on board, but both were uninjured.  They were under fire and sheltering under the wreck until the enemy fire was suppressed and they could bug out.  

I found the leaflet just after Tet, sometime in mid or late January, 1968, and I was with either the 1/22nd Infantry or 1/14th Infantry (I was moved around to fill in trouble spots) and we were operating mostly out of Fire Base Mary Lou or up at Dak To. I do recall this was near the Cambodian border, which was within sight across a small valley.I was on an overnight patrol and happened to spot this lying along the trail. I had a new Asahi Pentax 35 mm camera and so I just stopped, leaned over, and photographed this in somewhat poor light. I had no flash at the time, probably wouldn't have used it anyway. I did not pick it up.

[Author's Note]: I do not recognize that particular leaflet but of course, millions were dropped during the Vietnam War. For more information on the Chieu Hoi program, click here.

Treating a wounded North Vietnamese Soldier

I was a Battalion Surgeon, and aside from the two infantry battalions, I served with 5/16th Artillery, and in 4th Medical Battalion's C and D companies.

The Bunker-A Safe Place

The bunker was by highway  A14 at the south end of the bridge to Kontum

As I said, I was moved around a lot, sort of a trouble-shooter. I recall all my medics fondly. Some of us were dropped off at the bridge south of Kontum on highway A14. We started a bunker there, but took mortar and small arms fire during the first night, so I moved south a kilometer to a Special Forces C camp, and we set up there. Here are some further photos.

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Determined to Fight…

The Vietnamese often prepared leaflets in the Vietnamese language for their own civilians or the Army of Viet Nam, what they might call the "Puppet Army of the Americans." This leaflet was found in 1968 in the Mekong Delta. This leaflet depicts an American eagle with the face of President Lyndon B. Johnson pierced by three arrows. The Viet Cong propaganda on the arrows says:

Determined to fight, determined to win.

General Attack; general uprising --- All together. Kill Americans and Thieu

North Vietnam shot down 3,300 airplanes.

“Thieu” of course is the Republic of Vietnam’s President Nguyen Van Thieu.

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To: Officers and men…

This Viet Cong leaflet is interesting because it mentions several of the nations that helped the Republic of Vietnam; the South Koreans, Australians and Thai. The front is in English, the back in Vietnamese. It makes the same claims of a massive victory during the Tet offensive and tells the American troops to demand repatriation and let the Vietnamese settle their own problems.

A third communique issued by the Command of the Western Area said in part:

From 31 January to 7 April 1968, simultaneous attacked were launched against six cities. The command headquarters of the IV Corps suffered heavy losses; the command headquarters of the 14th, 16th and 32nd Regiments were destroyed. 6,200 enemy soldiers were captured. 25,000 enemy soldiers and cadre were put out of combat. Eight regular battalions were decimated as were the 43th and 44th Ranger Battalions. Our forces attacked 7 airfields…100 aircraft were shot down…

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Empty Saigon Streets usually packed with traffic
are guarded by two GIs during the Tet Uprising

Ho Chi Minh sends his Troops a Personal Tet Greeting in 1968

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Tet Greeting From Chairman Ho

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

Spring 1968
Ho Chi Minh

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The Remains of Civilian Dead at Hue

This official propaganda photograph was released by the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces Political Warfare Directorate and depicts the Americans and Vietnamese searching for remains of the dead at Da Mai Brook, Hue.

This two-sided uncoded leaflet seems to target the Vietnamese troops and civilians during the Tet uprising. Notice it mentions various cities that have been either attacked or taken. Interesting that it mentions Hue, where some of the worst atrocities occurred:

ALL THE SOUTH HAS INFLICTED A STORM OF FIRE UPON THE AMERICANS AND THEIR PUPPETS

In Saigon, Da Nang, Hue, and more than 40 cities, municipalities were either being attacked or were overrun by the people and National Liberation Front cadres. Many places have formed People's Revolution Government. Many soldiers of the Saigon Puppet Government have returned to the people and the revolutionary forces to fight against the people's government.

Many military bases have invited the people's representatives to their base to hand over their authority and to carry arms by the people's side. All their acts and deeds are welcomed by the people and the revolutionary cadres; others who oppose are severely punished. All Brothers! The sacred hour to save the nation is coming. The fate of American villains and those of Thieu and Ky is about to end. We call upon you to leave the enemy government and return to revolutionary force. Help the Revolutionary force liberate the last of military posts. Any government military units which leave with their weapons will be whole-heartily welcomed.

Do not hesitate. Take the glorious road with the people and fight against the Americans; it is a life-time opportunity.

The People's Revolutionary Committee. Sector I.

Hue was one of the worst crimes of the Viet Cong during Tet. They apparently killed thousands there while they held the city. A communique from the Commander of the Hue forces said:

From 31 January to 9 February 1968, we overran 53 enemy positions, and captured more than 10,000 soldiers including 1,800 Americans. The 7th Armored Regiment was annihilated as were 6 enemy battalions including 2 riot police battalions. The 1st Infantry Division was decimated with its 1st and 3rd regiments losing three-quarters of its men…118 planes of all kind were shot down, and 250 military vehicles including 60 tanks, 20 artillery pieces were destroyed. 10 war vessels and junks were sunk. 10 arms and ammunition dumps were seized, along with 2,000 weapons of all kinds. Tens of thousands of people welcomed the formation of a revolutionary government. The Americans have suffered heavy casualties and will certainly be defeated.

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The National Liberation Front Military Medal

The Viet Cong continued to issue such communiques, even as their people were pushed back from their temporary gains and crushed. A National Liberation Front news bulletin of 13 February said that the Command of their forces in the South had warmly praised the various units involved in the general offensive, with most of them being awarded the Liberation Military Medal.

The Americans Strike Back

American propaganda was fairly quiet during the general offensive because no one knew exactly how the battle would go. The same thing happened in 1945 when Hitler surprised the Allies with his Ardennes offensive. American PSYOP stopped for a brief while until the tide of battle turned and once it was sure that the Allies had won a victory, the leaflets fell with a vengeance. The same thing happened in 1968. Once it was clear that the Allies had won a great victory and the Viet Cong was on the run, millions of leaflets were prepared to tell the enemy just how bad their defeat had been. There was nobody else that was going to tell them, especially not Hanoi. You will notice that the number of Viet Cong dead differs in each American leaflet. This is because they were printed at different times and each leaflet would mention the most current number as of the day of printing.

JUSPAO Policy Number 56, dated 6 February 1968, was titled Restoring Civil Confidence; Popular Rejection of Call for General Uprising. The 4-page publications said in part:

To shore up the confidence of the civilian population in the Government of Vietnam and the Free World Military forces capability to blunt the enemy thrust, restore security, and get the country back to normal again in the shortest possible time. To drive home to the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese the peoples! rejection of the general uprising that was supposed to accompany the enemy terror offensive during the 1968 Tet period.

While the premediated, all-out attack in violation of the purported seven-day Tet truce announced by the Viet Cong, gave the enemy an initial psychological advantage at a staggering cost to them in casualties, loss of civilian lives and destruction of property, the general uprising to which their propaganda exhorted the people failed to materialize anywhere. The combined forces of the GVN and its free world allies broke the back of the communist offensive, killing over 14, 000 enemy soldiers in the first five days of fighting.

The rejection by the people of the enemy's call for a general uprising in support of his terrorist gamble should be stressed heavily in the output of PSYOP media directed to the North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong and the population at large. The population of Greater Saigon and its suburbs will be a special target of intensive GVN mass media output, assisted by JUSPAO. Maximum use of loudspeakers will be made.

To the remaining pockets or North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong infiltrators in the cities and to the enemy forces generally, PSYOP should stress: Primarily the total rejection by the people of South Viet Nam of the Viet Cong (NLF) call for a general uprising to accompany the Viet Cong effort to seize the cities. The complete failure of the North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong all-out attack in which the lives of the most experienced cadre have been sacrificed. The staggering casualty rate inflicted on the aggressor by overwhelming GVN and Free World military forces firepower. The ease with which North Vietnamese Army North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong holdouts bottled up in populated areas can rally or surrender to the allied forces by throwing down their weapons and waving a surrender pass or leaflet, or simply by coming hands up and unarmed out of their hiding places.

Bernard C. Nalty tells us more about the air war and the leafleting in Air War over South Vietnam 1968–1975:

The Tet attacks triggered a month of sustained aerial warfare in support of ground operations throughout South Vietnam. Besides the squadrons of the Seventh Air Force, tactical fighters, attack planes, and light bombers of the Navy, Marine Corps, South Vietnamese Air Force, and Royal Australian Air Force participated in the February fighting. The 10,000-odd attack sorties flown by the Air Force represented slightly more than half the monthly total for February. Marine aviators flew about 27 percent of the February attack sorties, Navy airmen 8 percent, the South Vietnamese 11 percent, and the Australians 1 percent. During the response to the Tet offensive, support of ground forces — whether with aerial transport, reconnaissance, dropping flares or propaganda leaflets, close air support, or aerial interdiction — served as the focal point for American air power.

The Vietnamese Answer First

I pointed out above that the Americans waited until the battle was over to count the bodies and write the leaflets. The Vietnamese seem to have felt differently. They printed a leaflet just as the battle started and told the people how many Viet Cong had been killed or captured to that point. They seemed to have rushed the leaflet, the front apparently used American type and the font didn't have diacritic marks, those were added by hand to make the text readable by the Vietnamese. The spelling of Saigon-Cholon-Giadinh without space between syllables looks more like American text. The back was printed on Vietnamese presses so that text is correct. We don’t know if this is a Government, ARMY or POLWAR leaflet. It bears no code. We do know the bullets were still flying when it was printed. The front of the leaflet depicts four dead Viet Cong on the ground. The text is:

In the city of Saigon-Cholon-Giadinh, up to this hour (9AM February 1, 1968), 660 Viet Cong have been killed and 57 captured.

The back is all text, and the font is Vietnamese printing. The text is:

Respectful Compatriots,

The plot to attack by the Viet Cong has been smashed by our security organizations. To this hour, 660 Viet Cong have been killed on the spot, and 57 captured with ample weapons of all kinds.

Respectful compatriots, since the first gunshot in the Capital of Saigon Cholon and Gia Dinh as well as in a few other towns, the Vietnamese Army has quickly reacted, timely destroying the traitorous Viet Cong who brought tragedy upon innocent compatriots during the Nation's most venerable Tet holiday.

Currently, there are remaining surviving elements hiding in populated areas. Please step forward, denounce them, or bring them to the authorities. The Government and the Vietnamese Army will always protect your life and belongings. Please be calm and faithful in the Vietnamese Army’s ability to crush any despicable plot of theirs.

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Leaflet 95T

During the Vietnam War American PSYOP had a number of different campaigns, all aimed at specific targets. The Ho Chi Minh Trail campaign had leaflets coded with the letter “T.” Leaflet 95T is the first leaflet dropped over the Trail to tell the soldiers coming South of the great defeat of the General Offensive. The front of the leaflet bears three photos of the fighting and the back a single photo of dead Viet Cong. The text says in part:

THE COMMUNIST TET OFFENSIVE FAILED

The Communist Party’s Tet Offensive in South Vietnam failed to achieve any of its military objectives. The Communist controlled Viet Cong forces attacked Saigon and 43 other towns and cities on the eve or Tet, violating the sacred Tet season. Many people were injured. Homes of innocent people were destroyed. The people did not rise to help their attackers; they did rise to help the forces of South Vietnam. The people of South Vietnam do not want to be liberated; they are already free.

Your Party-controlled government has been telling you that millions of people in the South rose to join the Communist ranks. That never happened. A free people cannot be liberated. During the Communists’ Tet Offensive, the Vietnamese Army and Allies killed more than 65,000 Communist troops and captured another 12,000. You are being sent south to replace them. Most of you will be killed far from home and buried in unmarked graves. Seize the first opportunity to leave your unit and come over to the ranks of the Republic of South Vietnam.

Leaflet 7-138-68

The communists attacked President Thieu in their Tet offensive propaganda leaflets. Here Thieu strikes back. This leaflet depicts him at the head of a group of soldiers, civilians, workers, and farmers. The implication is that Thieu is of the people, and a leader of the people. It appears that because of the fighting in the streets, the people were asked to stay inside for their safety. The text on the front is:

Compatriots, be united and support the Government of Vietnam, led by President Nguyen Van Thieu in a quest of peace for this land. Please duly observe this curfew order to ensure security for yourself!

The text on the back is:

Thanks to the unity of the entire Army and people, the Communists have suffered a humiliating defeat. Facing the Communists' suicide attacks, almost everyone in the cities participated in hunting down and chasing the Viet Cong.

Against the Communists' desperate and inhuman attacks, the people once again have shown their utmost disdain for the Communists. More than ever, the people have united with the Army to form a monolith to defeat all the Communists' attacks.

This unanimity should show the Communists that they must let the people of the South choose their government according to their own will.

Poster 10-147-68

This 17 February 1968 poster by the 10th PSYOP Battalion is titled "People Hate the Viet Cong." It depicts South Vietnamese veterans volunteering to defend their province against the Viet Cong offensive. The text is:

READY FOR FIGHTING

The Viet Cong are hated because they violated the truce of the last days of the sacred spring of the people. They destroyed the people's houses and caused thousands to become homeless.

Hundreds of young men of all elements, most of them ed-servicemen from Hao Hao, Don Xa, and everywhere in the province came to the city. They volunteered to destroy the enemy and secure the land without asking for pay. These ex-servicemen with much experience stand with the Army of Vietnam to protect the province from the destructive actions of the Viet Cong.

There was also a North Vietnam bombing campaign, usually aimed at convincing the North to talk peace or stop their aggressive tactics in the south. The campaign was known as Rolling Thunder, Field Goal, Fact Sheet, and Frantic Goat as time went on. The same general leaflet as “The Communist Tet Offensive Failed” was dropped on North Vietnam, but now coded just 95 without the “T” that connoted “Trail.” This version of the leaflet had two photos on the front and three on the back and some minor changes in the text. It might have been written earlier than 95T because it mentions 30,000 Viet Cong killed and ends with “Don’t believe your government’s lies. Listen to the Voice of Freedom for the true story.” The “Voice of Freedom” was an Allied propaganda radio station.

The Viet Cong Tet Offensive book says that a dispatch from Hong Kong on 14 February said that Mao Tse Tung was not pleased with the Communist General Offensive in Vietnam. It was not in accordance with his doctrine as it violated the principal rule of guerrilla warfare by attacking the cities. Mao regarded the Viet Cong offensive as a manifestation of adventurism which used to be the subject of Red China’s biggest ideological conflict before the Cultural Revolution.

That comment is odd because at the time of the offensive most political pundits believed that Mao had pushed the Viet Cong to rise up and take over South Vietnam.

COMMUNIST PROPAGANDA TAKES A HIT

Colonel Hoang Ngoc Lung talked about the sudden realization that the Communist propaganda about the South Vietnamese people wanting to be "liberated," were all lies in his monograph titled, The General Offensives of 1968-1969 for the U.S. Army Center of Military History in 1978:

After the two phases of the offensive which took place during the first half of 1968, the Communists had incurred total losses amounting to 170,000 casualties and 39,800 weapons of all types. This heavy toll seriously affected the morale of Communist troops and cadres in almost all units. A substantial number of enemy unit commanders had been killed or wounded; many others chose to rally to the GVN.

The enemy's propaganda apparatus, which had heretofore been considered effective, fell victim to an unexpected backlash. The outcome of the offensive thus far and the realities witnessed by enemy troops in South Vietnamese cities contrasted so much with Communist propaganda lines that the latter became outright lies. Southern enemy troops, for example, had been informed that they would receive an enthusiastic support from the urban population, which never materialized. NVA troops who were sent to the South to participate in the offensive had been led to believe that South Vietnam had been "liberated" and what remained for them to do was just go in and take over. The situation of South Vietnam had been represented to them as one of near collapse in which the exploited population was chafing under repressions and deprivations, longing for the day of liberation. But what Communist troops really saw for themselves during the short period they encountered South Vietnamese urban civilization had struck them as beyond imagination. NVA troops could not believe their eyes when confronted with the sophisticated amenities of westernized modern life. Their impression was one of awe and bewilderment.

Gradually, they came to suspect and disbelieve their own propaganda apparatus. Just as they were suffering from one defeat after another, for example, this apparatus continued to sing news of victory along with statistical results on "enemy" losses that had been so excessively falsified that even the most gullible Communist troops had to question their veracity. The truth finally dawned on them that what they had been told was simply hollow propaganda. And for the devout Communist, this affected his morale most seriously.

JUSPAO POLICY NUMBER 57

The Chieu Hoi Campaign to Capitalize on the Failure of the Communist General Offensive

The U.S. Joint Public Affairs Office prepared PSYOP Policy 57 on 8 February 1968 to seize the initiative with Chieu Hoi appeals based on the failure of the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong to achieve their objectives of their Tet Offensive.

It determined that there was every indication from captured documents and prisoner interrogations that the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong leadership intended to seize the cities and counted on the popular uprising against the Government of Vietnam in support of the Tet offensive. There were no plans for withdrawal, relief or reinforcements and the overwhelming defeat of their maximum effort was a severe psychological blow

Against this background of disillusionment and failure, a dramatic response to skillful desertion and surrender appeals was conceivable. These messages needed to be keyed to their present situation and should avoid the standard and generalized Chieu Hoi appeals and give heavy emphasis on the themes of popular rejection, total failure of the general offensive to seize any of its objectives, and unprecedented losses in men and weapons inflicted on their forces. Until further notice, all Chieu Hoi materials, such as leaflets, newssheets, loudspeaker/radio message should be based on the failure of the Communist offensive. The current inventory should not be used except with notable exceptions. The following five leaflets may still be used. SP-893 (Safe conduct pass), SP-2263 (NVA poem), SP-2266 (Government treatment of POWs), SP-2336 (Message to a NVA soldier) and SP-2393 (News of the victory).

I will add two of those special leaflets here:

Leaflet SP-893

This is one of the leaflets that still could be used after Tet 68. All the leaflet 893 flag safe conduct passes show a large flag of the Republic of Vietnam at center on the front and, in the earlier versions, smaller flags of allied nations participating in the war. The first was the five-flag pass, showing flags of the United States, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand, in addition to the flag of Vietnam. This leaflet and its variants were produced before 1967. In 1967, a seven-flag version was introduced, showing the additional flags of Thailand and the Philippines. Finally, in 1972, when Vietnamization became the focus of propaganda, all flags except that of Vietnam were removed. Several different forms of propaganda were used on the back side. The original leaflet was given the code 893. Subsequently, the letters "A" through "F" were added to distinguish some of the modifications.

Leaflet SP-2263

This leaflet has a long and sentimental poem, and we should point out that poetry was an important part of Vietnamese PSYOP. It is depicted in the JUSPAO November 1968 publication Communicating with Vietnamese thru Leaflets that says:

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

A JUSPAO document dated 18 September 1969 is entitled "Poem by North Vietnam Deserter." The document states that the poem was written for Tet by a Hoi Chanh who did not ask for money. The poem, written by Hoai Thanh was entitled "Take a husband my love." The letter says in part:

I suggest that this be considered for use on radio, television, magazines, newspapers and leaflets. This, after all, is a nation of poets. The single most effective leaflet dropped in the past was the soldier's poem to his mother.

A few lines from the six-stanza Tet poem:

Listen to me, my love.
Take a husband, my love, for my life is ebbing fast.
I must lie to myself when giving you this advice.
But my darling, I must think of your future...

I am committed and eternal bitterness is my lonely fate
Oh, listen to my aching heart and seek your ideas in love...

PSYOP Policy 57 continues:

Up to date products are now being developed. They must make the following points:

The NVA/VC leadership misled and betrayed their soldiers. Their shame cannot be forgiven. The Winter-Spring Offensive is a total failure. The call for a general uprising has been emphatically rejected by the population of South Vietnam. Losses inflicted on the NVA/VC are unprecedented. Thousands of soldiers have died needlessly. NVA/VC troops were promised relief and reinforcement with 48 hours, but no relief was forthcoming, and the men were abandoned to their fate. NVA/VC fighters were promised revolutionary new weapons, but no such weapons were distributed.

Some of the new leaflets that met these requirements are depicted below.

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Leaflet 2448

The Joint U.S. Public Affairs Office (JUSPAO) was one of the main proponents of Allied Propaganda in Vietnam. Leaflet 2448 depicts a major Communist officer who was killed during the Tet Offensive. The text is:

The Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces has completely crushed the Viet Cong's general offensive against the cities.

From 30 January 1968 to 15 February 1968, over 34,000 North Vietnamese Regulars and Viet Cong soldiers paid for their crimes. Among them was Major General Tran Do, who was killed in an action at 46th Street in Cholon in the outskirts of Saigon City.

The death of Tran Do, Tran Van Tra and Nguyen Chi Tranh proved that the Communist aggressive policy to take over South Vietnam has severely failed. It was not their inability or incompetence, but the Communist adventurous acts that cause their deaths.

Why do you still hesitate? Try to find an opportunity to return to the National Community and rejoin your families, as tens of thousands have already done.

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Leaflet 2556

Leaflet 2556 was all about the Tet defeat. I seldom show all-text leaflets but will show this one because of the message. It says in part:

WHAT DID YOUR LEADERS GAIN FROM THE TET OFFENSIVE?

On 31 March 1968 President Johnson said: “Even while the search for peace was going on, North Vietnam rushed their preparations for a savage assault on the people, the Allies and the Government of Vietnam.”

WHAT DID YOU GAIN FROM THE TET OFFENSIVE?

He final figures are in. The elected President of the Republic of Vietnam, Nguyen Van Thieu, has announced that, during the Tet offensive, the North Vietnam Army in the South and the Viet Cong: Suffered 57,293 killed; lost 7,555 captured; and lost 14,918 weapons.

In just two months, the casualties among the NVA and VC forces were the equivalent of half of your total casualties in the year 1967. President Thieu said: “The Communist Tet Offensive can be considered as having completely failed.

I should note that all-text leaflet 2549 also mentions the Tet Offensive, but just near the end of side two. Some of that text is:

THE HEYDAY OF YOUTH IS THE HAPPIEST TIME

The heyday of youth is something that is the most precious of your life. Thus, the leaders of the Communist Party have imposed on you the tragic consequences of the fratricidal war.

After unceasing failures, especially the bitter defeat of the so-called "general offensive" in the recent Tet, have you ever thought that you ought to live to meet your family again on a certain day?

To be sure that you are alive to meet the happiest time of the heyday of youth, be courageous and leave the Communist ranks and return to the Government and people of the South. The free and prosperous life of the South Vietnamese people will be your future life.

On 23 February 1968 JUSPAO published a supplement to PSYOP Policy 57. It stated that the term Hoi Chanh (rallier) will be used in all future Chieu Hoi appeals. It also said that to restore diversity to the appeals, 37 of the older leaflets and other products that had been banned could now be disseminated again. Once again, I will depict two of those items here:

Comic book 2078

Comic book 2078 is an example of a Chieu Hoi product. Its title is A Nightmare Passed - Chieu Hoi. This July 1967 booklet is 5 x 7-inches in size and 20-pages in length. The comic book presents, in cartoon style, the experiences and thoughts of a Hoi Chanh (defector or "rallier" from the Viet Cong) on the events which led to his decision to Chieu Hoi (return to the National Government). At the start of the book a happy young man is shown at school. Later he decides to join the Viet Cong. His group is first bombed by the Americans and then he gets sick but cannot be treated properly in the field. He is forced to take part in self-criticism and after a second American aerial attack he finds Chieu Hoi leaflets on the ground. He returns to the fold at the end of the book has returned to his old school.

Leaflet SP-2141

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

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

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

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

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Sergeant Jim Hoskin said in regard to his MACV Headquarters in Saigon:

On the morning of Tet 1968 what kept the MACV Headquarters Ton Son Nhut from being overrun by the armed local Viet Cong was a group of the 1st Cavalry seasoned combat soldiers who were passing through and lodged at our Headquarters compound for the night. They and our own Military Police held the perimeter.

Major Michael G. Barger wrote his Master’s Thesis on Psychological Operations Supporting Counterinsurgency: 4th PSYOP Group in Vietnam. He said about Tet 68:

The Tet Offensive, launched on 29 January 1968, was a simultaneous attack on most provincial capitals as well as the national capital intended to touch off the General Uprising that would lead to ultimate victory. Unfortunately for the North Vietnamese Politburo, the offensive failed to spark the hoped-for uprising and it cost the VC and North Vietnamese Army (NVA) attackers 14,000 killed in just the first five days of fighting. The total estimated number of casualties for the VC and NVA in the three major offensives of 1968 was 240,000 killed or wounded. Further, atrocities such as those committed in Hue caused Vietnamese public sentiment toward the VC took a sharp decline in affected areas.

The Joint U.S. Public Affairs Office (JUSPAO) issued policy guidance immediately following the Tet Offensive to take advantage of the changed situation. The policy directs all U.S. elements in Vietnam to emphasize to the Vietnamese population the staggering losses inflicted on the VC/NVA as well as the damage their attacks caused in heavily populated areas such as Pleiku. In PSYOP directed toward the enemy, the policy directed emphasis on the popular rejection of the call for a general uprising, the complete failure of all attacks and the staggering casualties suffered to no purpose.

What I found rather surprising in that looking through the 1968 issues of the PSYOP – POLWAR Newsletter, the U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, monthly publication for PSYOP troops, there was absolutely no mention of the Tet General Uprising. The American Command seems to have treated it as if it never happened. Since that was the major action of 1968 it is surprising that it was ignored.

I did find one mention that 500 sets of a photographic exhibit depicting the horrors of the Tet attack have been assembled for Public Affairs use. Each set is comprised of several large display boards and is considered ideal for use with Cultural Team performances, county fairs, MEDCAP etc. It is planned to send one exhibit to each district and province, and 100 sets for U.S. military units.

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Leaflet 6-131-68

The 6th PSYOP Battalion was the first PSYOP Battalion in Vietnam. When there was need for a PSYOP Group the 6th became the 4th PSYOP Group and another 6th battalion was authorized. In 1968 the 6th Battalion printed and disseminated about a half-dozen Tet Offensive leaflets. They are all old, faded and mostly text. So, I will mention the messages on a few of them here just to let the reader see what was being printed by the 6th Battalion.

6-118-18 is all text with the same message on front and back with a fancy design at the bottom. 50,000 copies of the leaflet were printed. Some of the text is:

The crimes of the Viet Cong during this Tet holiday period are unforgivable…The Viet Cong in fact are being defeated. The Army of the Republic of Vietnam, together with Free World military forces has killed over 21,300 Viet Cong since their aggressive acts began on 27 January 1968.

6-129-68 has a much longer text with the same message on front and back so I will just translate a small part of it. 25,000 copies of the leaflet were printed:

The people of the South were remembering their ancestors and welcoming the new spring when you burned and destroyed the land. The consequence of your ruthless attack on the South has been a great loss for you. You have lost 26,000 men who were killed, and 5,000 who were captured.

6-131-68 is all text with the same message on front and back. 50,000 copies of the leaflet were printed. It says in part:

Since the beginning of the Viet Cong offensive, over 26,000 VC and North Vietnamese Army soldiers have been killed by the Army of the Republic of Vietnam and its allies throughout the country. Do not let the VC bring bad luck to you. If you have a VC weapon, turn it in to the near government or Allied post.

You will be generously rewarded.

The Viet Cong Tet Offensive tells us that the defeat of the General Offensive was a great disappointment to the people of North Vietnam:

It caused much confusion among the Communist ranks in South Vietnam as they no longer hoped for either a military victory or a quick end to the war. In the face of American military might, they now realized that a victory would not be as easy as their Hanoi leaders had claimed…Communist soldiers from North Vietnam had to endure more suffering…They had been deceived by their leaders whose order was to “go and take over” the South as three-quarters of the land had been occupied by “our comrades in the South.” In short, the Communist general offensive brought about the collapse of the Red soldier’s morale.

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South Vietnamese Army Leaflet DV34AH8268

South Vietnam had their own Political Warfare units and were able to print leaflets for their own people. This leaflet is all text on the front and back and is in regard to the Tet uprising of 1968. This leaflet says in part:

Cadres and Soldiers of the Viet Cong 9th Division

Your friends failed in their plan to take Saigon. During the period 29 January to 9 February 1968, similar plans throughout South Vietnam also ended in complete failure. Almost 26,000 of your friends were killed and 5,000 more were captured. Your friends brought death and undying shame upon themselves when they inflicted pain and death on innocent mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and little children as they are joyfully greeting the sacred traditional Vietnamese Tet holiday.

Your friends mistakenly believed that the people of Saigon would support their plan of destruction and would help your friends to seize all of Saigon…

Before we end this short report we should mention that the U.S. Navy also did psychological operations in Vietnam during Tet 1968. The U.S. Naval Forces Vietnam After-action Monthly Reports tells us much more about what the Navy did:

The United States Navy also performed PSYOP missions using their PBRs. During the month of January 1968 The U.S. Navy made 94 hours of aerial broadcasts, 384 hours of surface broadcasts and distributed 293,334 leaflets. Their psychological operations personnel distributed food to refugees and other needy people, broadcast information in response to psychological operations guidance, issued elementary sanitation instructions, passed on information as to how members of the Viet Cong could defect and attempted to help the people solve minor problems.

Leaflet 95 was dropped on North Vietnam after the Tet offensive. My copies of this leaflet are too poor to show. I can barely make out four photographs of injured people and destroyed buildings. I thought the text might be interesting to the readers though:

The Communist Tet Offensive Failed. The Lao Dong Party's Tet offensive in South Vietnam failed to achieve any of its military objectives. The Lao Dong Party-controlled Viet Cong forces attacked Saigon and 43 other towns and cities on the eve of Tet, violating the sacred Tet season. Many people were injured. Homes of innocent people were destroyed. The people did not rise to help their attackers; they did rise to help the forces of South Vietnam. The people of South Vietnam do not need to be liberated; they are already free. The communist controlled forces of the north are now hated more than ever before.

Your Party-controlled government has been telling you that millions of people in the South rose to join the communist ranks. This never happened. A free people cannot be liberated. In defending the liberty of South Vietnam, the South Vietnamese forces and their allies have destroyed more than thirty thousand communist troops and wounded thousands more so that they can no longer fight. The communist Tet offensive was a total failure. Do not believe your government's lies. Listen to the Voice of Freedom for the true story.

Leaflet 10-045-69

This satirical leaflet depicts a Viet Cong political cadre lying to his troops about Tet. He tells them of the great victory they had in 1967 while he hides the truth of their defeat. They attacked again in 1968, an attack that led to their death and destruction. Now they want to continue their useless attacks. One million copies of this leaflet were printed and dropped by air. The text on the front is:

Tet 1967 "Viet Cong offensive fails" thousands of Viet Cong killed.
The Communist leaders tell you that you are winning but the truth is you are being defeated.

The text on the back says in part:

While preparing for the general attack at Tet, your leaders told you that the people in the cities and the ARVN troops would rally to your side, but the truth has proven to be the opposite. The people resisted you and the ARVN troops defeated you. Your leaders are now renewing their destructive attacks. Once again, your leaders are using their former arguments, as at Tet. Certainly, these arguments will only bring you heavy losses as at Tet. The truth is now clear. Why do you wait? Leave the Viet Cong ranks and immediately return home.

Tour 365

By 1970 American was deep into Vietnamization and troops were being sent home. American troop that once numbered 549,500, were now slowly being returned to bases around the world and those in Vietnam numbered just 334,600. The troops were issued this booklet as they left. The title of course is regarding a typical Army tour in Vietnam, 365 days. The tour varied with other services. The 60-page booklet gave a history of the entire war, and optimistically told the soldier that people would want to hear about the year he was there, and he should talk freely about it. There was an article on Tet 1968 and I quote some of it:

The Philippine Embassy residence had been destroyed by terrorists, the ambassador and his wife barely escaping death or capture. Tanks ringed the Saigon home of U.S. ambassador Ellsworth Bunker. Five thousand Reds had died in savage, confused fighting in the first of the Tet Offensive— that name was already burning itself into front pages and TV screens around the world. More than 650 enemy deaths occurred in Saigon alone. By Feb. 9, 920 U.S. soldiers had died in the Tet fighting; 4,561 were wounded. Newsmen were reporting that “countless civilians perished in the fighting”—the final count was almost 20,000 killed or wounded.

Who won the battles of the Tet Offensive? It’s a hard question to answer. Certainly, the Communists were deprived of every major goal, except for publicity. It was by no stretch of the imagination a military win—27,706 Reds died in the Tet fighting. For this, the Communist high command had not one single prize to show.

It was not a psychological victory. In no clearly defined instance did any of the civilians in the areas of fighting join or support the Reds—unless at the point of a gun. On the other hand, no one will deny that South Vietnam’s city populace suffered terribly. There are scars of destruction that will last a long time— and scars of the mind that will last longer. As Dean Rusk said, "This is a time of trial for the South Vietnamese and their Allies. It may well be the climactic period of the struggle in Southeast Asia."

In 1968, Don Rochlen, Chief of Special Projects for the Field Development Division of JUSPAO gave a talk that appears to be in reply to questions about Tet 1968. He does not mention it often, but reading between the lines he seems to be explaining the Communist’s early successes and the bravery and dedication of the Viet Cong fighters he had interviewed. I will paraphrase his comments.

He said that many Americans saw them attack through tremendous American fire, oblivious to the danger, and many of the American officers thought they were doped up to make them brave. No normal man seeing the danger would act as they do. They shouted slogans and charged over the bodies of their dead into certain death.  Rochlen later did 700 interviews of prisoners and defectors and never heard of drugs being used. He wished he could say the same of the American forces.

He mentioned one case where eight sappers in loin cloths had penetrated an American base that had advance knowledge of the attack and laid out mines, set up ambushes and had 500 men ready for the attack. The sappers got past the ambushes and mines, three rows of barbed wire, did their damage and escaped with two men wounded. He said that their dedication and bravery was beyond belief. He later met one sapper who had performed 54 similar missions over a nine-year period. He wondered how men accept orders to attack against such major odds.

He said one of the main powers was organization. He thought the two most organized bodies in the world were the Catholic Church and the Communist party. And the latter leaves the former in the dust. He said their second advantage was motivation. They are motivated from the very top to the very bottom.

The Communists are organized far beyond the Americans. 50 years of experience have taught them the power of control. The Communists at the lower ranks are watched carefully. They are forbidden to read leaflets, forbidden to listen to any broadcasts on the radio except those from Hanoi. The only ones who can listen are high-ranking officers in Intelligence and they listen solely to be able to counter the statements made on the radio.

Their second power is motivation. The are motivated all the way from the top down to the three-man cells. The Communists know us better than we know them. They use slogans like “Three fast, one slow.” Attack fast, get out fast, remove casualties fast. The one slow is plan slowly. They psychologically prepare their men for the task ahead. The Communists are political animals that do nothing without a plan and some advantage to be gained, while the Americans are military animals. He had never read a Communist document or plan for a battle that did not rely heavily on preparing the men politically and ideologically for the fight.

He thought that should have tipped us off before the 1968 Tet Offensive. The documents we captured showed that many cadres were being called back and reeducated and reindoctrinated on the necessity of some future attack. There was a massive reeducation and explanation of what was going to happen, why it was necessary, and the results expected.

When the Communist attack they call it a three-pronged attack. The three prongs are the military, the military proselytizing, and political. We all understand the military. We tend to ignore that second term, there is nothing exactly like it in the American Army. The Vietnamese give equal importance to the three prongs. What is military proselytizing? It means that in the South Vietnamese Army, there is not one soldier, regardless of rank, or civilian who works for the government or their dependents, who is not a target of some individual whose job it is to propagandize that person.

The Communists are so thorough that they have meetings before any action where they are told what the current situation is and what and why they will do to change it. They must understand why they are going to do it. They are told over and over and almost learn by repetition. Any new plans are argued and fought over by their Politburo, but it is forwarded as if all agree. It then goes to COSVN where it is studied and argued over again, even though some are excessively long. Resolution Nine was 92 pages long. The document is read and discussed for several days by very senior officials. They have 30–40 years’ experience. They then call regional officials and they go over it in depth. Then it is carried to the troops and each echelon studies it all the way down to the last squad.

Once everything is done, a series of directives will come down. They will make different arguments to the ARVN generals, the middle rank officers, and of course the soldiers in the field. The generals are told that they are smarter than the thieving politicians and they should overthrow them to save the country, the mid-level officers are told that the generals are hoarding money and about to flee to America or some other place of refuge, and the soldiers are told that the officers are stealing everything and are enemies of the people and should be shot. Each gets a completely difference message meant to turn them against each other. The Americans are often mentioned. They have hidden the fact that thousands more than reported have died and they are about to flee back to the United States.

Other documents mention special proselytizing unit that have broken the Vietnamese people down to 10 classes with special messages for each of them. This was designed to bring the people to revolt at the proper time. The most interesting anecdote is that the enemy had agents dressed as Vietnamese Rangers riding the bus between Hue and Danang that just sat and casually talked telling how awful it was and how they were being beaten everywhere and the Communists had an open path to Saigon. Several were arrested. However, it did sometimes work. During the Tet offensive the city of Quang Tri was abandoned although ARVN forces were not in contact with the enemy. They were being shelled and just retreated and gave the city away. One proselytizing team was told to spread 83 false rumors, another was told to distribute 647 leaflets.

There are some flaws in their system. We have got defections of about 200,000 enemy troops to our side. One was the leader of a province proselytizing team. We showed him a banner had had just captured that said "Puppet soldiers! The Americans are defeated and are leaving. Turn your guns around and come back and join the people" He got angry and said, "That was made by my men, I have told them never to use the word 'puppet' when you are talking to them, only when you are talking about them. "It proves that to them it is important to get the right message to the right target.

A good political officer knows how to take advantage of any situation. When the Americans prepared a morale leaflet for the Viet Cong showing young lady in a bathing suit, the political officer was ecstatic.  He called his men together, held up the leaflet and said to his men, "Do you see this? See how these depraved Americans have degraded Vietnamese women. Now I believe the story that every woman in Saigon is a prostitute. We must fight to stop this; we must save our women" The Communist political officers are as well trained as our PSYOP officers are and that is why they can take a leaflet we thought would be an advantage for us and quickly make it an advantage for them.

So how do we fight this, do we make political commissars, I think not. The Communists want to make Vietnam a learning lesson for all wars of national liberation. If we could start Vietnam all over again, I would fix our biggest error, the failure to inform and give our soldiers information, the kind that counts, the kind of information that would make our soldiers understand why they are fighting this war. Instead, before they came here, they got 24 hours of lectures, all but two telling them how to kill the Viet Cong and stay alive.

The last two hours was on Vietnamese culture. Did they talk about the Liberation front, the causes behind the uprising, the organization of the enemy, the difference between the various units, the infrastructure and what was going on in the villages, how the Communists appeal to the people and what their problems were? No, they hadn't. Far too many American soldiers came here not knowing the Vietnamese, suspicious of the Vietnamese, and a great many of our soldiers knew the Vietnamese only from the moneychangers and the prostitutes, and never really got to know the people.

We should have got groups of former Viet Cong to go around and talk to our troops down to the squad level to learn to know these people and find out what makes the enemy tick. Our commanding officers should have spent more time with senior Viet Cong defectors and learn how they think, what their thought processes are. It should be clear for any future conflict that we must know more about the enemy, the people and be prepared for the situation.

We were in the right war, the right time, the right place against the right people. We fouled up the process of trying to do it and did such a bad job of training those who had to do it, that we seem to have convinced most people in the world that the enemy wears white hats and we wear black hats.  We need to take care of the good PSYOP officers and not tell them they will never make general because they are not military men. In the future he will be the most important officer we have. The PSYOP officer must be brought in at the beginning of planning, the takeoff, not after the crash landing. You would think the lesson would have been learned by now, but as Voltaire has said, "The only thing we learn from history is that we don’t learn from history."

Let me end this part of the article with some comments on how the American were led to believe that the Tet offensive was a victory for the Viet Cong.

Nguyen Ngoc Chau wrote How did the 1968 Tet Offensive change American perceptions of the viability of victory in Vietnam? Some of his comments were about how the North Vietnamese changed the terrible defeat into a victory, in some cases using the gullible press.

The morale of the Hanoi regime was at its lowest. None of the goals it set out to achieve had been achieved. No one had risen, its army everywhere had been pushed back with many casualties and its network of secret agents seriously exposed and decimated.

North Vietnamese General Tran Van Tra who led the offensive made a self-criticism in 1982 in his book, THE END OF THE THIRTY YEARS WAR

We did not correctly evaluate our forces compared to those of our enemies. We did not fully understand that the enemy still had significant combat capabilities, that our capacity was limited and that the demands exceeded our strength.

This book was banned from publication and resulted in his being struck off by the Party that he joined in 1938, although he was Minister of Defense from 1978 to 1982.

North Vietnamese General Tran Do (1923-2002) who was Deputy Commissioner and Deputy Secretary of the Military Commission of the Liberation Army of South Viet Nam, wrote: "To be honest, we have not achieved the main objective, which is to stimulate the general uprising in the South. But we have inflicted heavy casualties on the United States and the puppet army. And it is a great victory for us. As far as creating a lot of unrest in the United States, that is not really our intention, but it came as a lucky and happy consequence."

Indeed, the negative psychological impact was very strong in America. Johnson's government failed to convince the Americans that the North had indeed been defeated. This military defeat was transformed into a political defeat of the South Vietnamese and Americans, as interpreted by the American press and television, through the way some American journalists and local correspondents interpreted this Tet offensive.

For example, Pham Xuan An, the local correspondent for Time magazine, who wrote for Reuters and the New York Herald Tribune, very close to Lansdale, head of the Saigon Military Mission, was a secret member of the Indochinese Communist Party (PCI) who died in 2006 as brigadier general of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam army. These communist secret agents aimed to influence the foreign media according to what the Party wanted them to believe, and they succeeded to do it fully, especially with the American media.

The 1972 Easter Offensive

When people talk about offensives in Vietnam, they usually think only of the Tet offensive, and there were several of those. There was also an Easter offensive in April 1972.

The Easter Offensive, officially known as the 1972 Spring - Summer Offensive by North Vietnam, was a military campaign conducted by the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN), against the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN), and the United States military between 30 March and 22 October 1972. The offensive was designed to achieve a decisive victory, which even if it did not lead to the collapse of South Vietnam, would greatly improve the North's negotiating position at the Paris Peace Accords.

Leaflet 4496

This JUSPAO leaflet specifies 30 March though it never says Easter offensive. It depicts a Soviet-built tank destroyed by ARVN forces. The text is:

One of more than one hundred North Vietnamese tanks destroyed in the Party's foolish attempt to invade the Republic of Vietnam.

Some of the text on the back is:

On 30 March 1972, the armed forces of North Vietnam launched an invasion across the demilitarized zone of the Republic of Vietnam, but they have been met by the full force of the of the armed forces of the Republic of Vietnam, and now, tens of thousands of North Vietnamese youths lie dead on the battlefield...

The U.S. high command had been expecting an attack in 1972 but the size and ferocity of the assault caught the defenders off balance, because the attackers struck on three fronts simultaneously, with the bulk of the North Vietnamese army. This first attempt by the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) to invade the south since the Tet Offensive of 1968, became characterized by conventional infantry armor assaults backed by heavy artillery, with both sides fielding the latest in technological advances in weapons systems.

The campaign can be divided into three phases: April was a month of PAVN advances; May became a period of equilibrium; in June and July the South Vietnamese forces counter attacked. On all three fronts, initial North Vietnamese successes were hampered by high casualties, inept tactics and the increasing application of U.S. and South Vietnamese air power. One result of the offensive was the launching of Operation Linebacker, the first sustained bombing of North Vietnam by the U.S. since November 1968.

Leaflet 4501

This all-text JUSPAO leaflet warns North Vietnam and its troops of President Nixon's plans to counter the attack. There are 14 points, but I will just mention a few:

Soldiers of North Vietnam

President Nixon announced on 8 May that the United States and the Republic of Vietnam would cut off North Vietnam from the weapons and supplies it needs to continue the aggression against the South. He said:

All entrances to North Vietnam posts will be mined. Rail and all other communications will be cut off. Air and naval strikes on North Vietnam will continue, you will have no means to continue fighting. Your leaders have been offered generous terms to stop the actions above. Agree to a ceasefire. Return all American prisoners-f-war. If these terms are not met, you will die needlessly. Without supplies you cannot continue to fight...

We know the general PSYOP plans of the North Vietnamese from the General Political Department: Formation, Organization, and Guidance of Party and Political Operations Within the Army (Chronology of Events and Documents), Volume II, Book (1965-1975). I have edited the document greatly for brevity. Some of the comments are:

Special Features of the Military Proselyting Operations Missions Guidelines

Our resistance war against the Americans to save the nation is growing developing better than ever before. Both our posture and our power are good. We are launching across-the-board attacks using our two legs [military and political] and our three spearheads [military attacks, political attacks, military proselyting attacks] throughout South Vietnam.

The enemy is losing: the U.S. is being compelled to continue to withdraw its forces, the puppet army has now entered a new period of collapse that cannot be reversed, and the enemy's "Vietnamization" plan is bankrupt. The primary target of our current military and enemy proselyting operations is the puppet army.

 

Leaflet 4503

Leaflet 4503 depicts an aircraft carrier off the coast of North Vietnam and the text in part:

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

United States action in mining the entrances to all North Vietnamese ports is directed against the military capability of North Vietnam and not against other nations...This action has been taken to shorten the war and stop the killing throughout all of Indochina.

[Some of the] missions of our military proselyting operations in this new situation are as follows:

Incite American troops and satellite [Allied] troops to oppose the war, to demand to be sent back home, to refuse to support the puppets, and to refuse to attack the revolution. The primary goal is to incite the puppet army to oppose the war and to revolt against the enemy. The entire civilian population and the entire armed forces will conduct military proselyting activities. We will conduct these operations both on the front lines and in the rear area. We will conduct these operations both in Vietnam and abroad.

For puppet army soldiers:

Provide guidance instructions to enemy soldiers both on the battlefield and in the rear area on opposing the war, on carrying out mutinies and insurrections and on seceding [breaking away from the army/s chain of command], on how to surrender on the battlefield, and on deserting their units or on joining civilians in carrying out uprisings.

For the civilian population and for the families of puppet army soldiers:

Propagandize [publicize] our victories; create confidence in the revolution's inevitable victory. Provide military proselyting guidance to the civilian population, paying special attention to the families of puppet soldiers. Promote struggles to protect youths, to protect husbands, children, and siblings, and to appeal to loved ones to return to the open arms of the revolution. Use the families of puppet army soldiers as the assault force in the struggle against the military draft and against upgrading troops [transferring RF and PF soldiers to the regular army], and to surround enemy outposts and conduct military proselyting attacks.

For our people's armed forces:

Provide guidance to people's armed forces personnel in how to conduct enemy proselyting on the battlefield, disseminate lessons learned from experience in combining enemy proselyting with combat operations and in carrying out our policies on enemy prisoners of war and deserters.

Slogans

Recognize the situation and quickly free yourself from the enemy's repressive bondage and return to the open arms of the revolution!

Rise in mutinies or insurrections, kill stubborn, recalcitrant thugs [commanders], return to the open arms of the people, and perform actions to help save the nation and save our homes!

The entire population must unite in a resolute effort to protect our families by refusing to allow the enemy to draft them or upgrade them and to crush the U.S.-Thieu "Vietnamization" plan!

Methods:

Use all our radio broadcasting stations to conduct military proselyting, using both the Voice of Vietnam and Liberation Radio. Make maximum use of enemy prisoners and defectors from the 1968 Tet Offensive, the Route 9-Southern Laos Campaign, the Central Highlands, etc. and new defectors to issue appeals and enticements to the enemy. Pay attention to using those from the same units, from the same military service, from the same native area, who hold the same ranks or position, to appeal to their peers. Use the Liberation News Agency and the Vietnam News Agency to issue military proselyting reports (both domestically and abroad). Make maximum use of our foreign channels, especially in Paris and Stockholm, to send propaganda into South Vietnam.

 

Leaflet 4505

This May 1972 leaflet features a portrait of President Richard Nixon and his promise never to desert the Republic of Vietnam. Nixon said in part:

...the United States will never abandon the 17 million South Vietnamese people to Communism and terror...The U.S. President stated in direct comments to the leaders in Hanoi: "You people have already suffered too much in your pursuit of conquest. Do not compound their agony with continued arrogance. Choose instead the part of peace that redeems your sacrifices, guarantees true independence for your country, and ushers in an era of reconciliation.

American Proselyting:

Propagandize our victories and publicize the defeats and collapses of the puppet army to make an impact on the Americans. Expose Nixon's plots and schemes to intensify the fighting, sabotage the Paris talks, and deceive the public to win votes during the upcoming Presidential election in the United States. Utilize the effects of our victories on the battlefield to support the Spring Struggle Movement in the United States. Encourage and provide guidance for conducting collective anti-war actions in various forms. Utilize English language broadcasts by our two radio stations.

Slogans

Do not be the last American soldier to die in Vietnam!

Do not risk your life to support the puppet army!

Do not allow Nixon to use your bodies and blood to prop up the rotten Nguyen Van Thieu regime!

Do not help Nixon to prolong this unjust, immoral war in Vietnam!

Destroy your weapons and equipment to avoid being sent into battle!

Organizational Tasks

Propagandize South Korean Soldiers. Step up our efforts to recruit penetration agents [agents inside the enemy's ranks], expand our network of military proselyting agents, strengthen, and consolidate old [former] agents, plant agents in the PSDF and in the different puppet army military services and military specialty branches. Pay special attention to establishing contacts with young officers. Boldly establish contacts with mid-level and high-ranking puppet army officers. Depending on the specific situation, arrange for the puppet army soldiers' organizations from the 1968 Tet Offensive to resume operations and issue appeals. Form new organizations appropriate to the new situation, that are adapted to meet our requirements and the special requirements of individual localities, individual enemy military services, and service branches, and that are adapted to the current political movements and political trends in South Vietnam.

Looking through my own files, the only mention I saw of the Easter Offensive was their using gas during their attacks:

CR Gas was used by the North Vietnamese forces in some battles like Hue in 1968 or during the Easter Offensive in 1972. Sometimes it was called "suffocating gas" and in sometimes "noxious chemicals."

This has been a short look at the Communist and American propaganda regarding the Tet 1968 General Offensive. It is written only to show some of the interesting propaganda leaflets that were prepared during and shortly after that battle. Readers with comments are encouraged to write to the author at sgmbert@hotmail.com..