SGM Herb Friedman (Ret.)
The bi-weekly Vietnamese magazine “Chien Si Cong Hoa” (Warriors of the Republic) reprinted portions of this article translated and edited by Michael Do, Chairman of the Board of Directors of The Vietnamese American Community of the USA in its issue of July 2020, number 131.
Vietnamese Political Warfare Insignia
The six arrows represent the six great warfares first espoused by Nationalist Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek: Ideological warfare, Stratagem warfare, Mass warfare, Intelligence warfare, Organizational warfare and Psychological warfare.
The Political Warfare Badge
The Political Warfare insignia is a badge, worn above the right breast pocket, which consists of a silver star symbolizing leadership, surrounded by a hexagonal design symbolizing Chiang Kai-sheks Six Great Warfares, superimposed on a sword, anchor, and wings which symbolize the role of the Army, Navy, and Air Force in the carrying out of the six warfare missions.
Image attributed to Michael Do
The PSYOP/POLWAR Newsletter of 1968 says about the shoulder patch:
The red symbolizes bravery and determination; the blue symbolizes love, peace, and tranquility; the white symbolizes honesty and purity; and the yellow torch symbolizes guidance. The arrows of the hexagonal design symbolize the same political missions as those of the new POLWAR badge. The star is symbolic of leadership and is found only on the patch warn by staff members of the GPWD and the Security Department.
First Lieutenant William J. Pollock
During the Vietnam War, United States Army First Lieutenant William J. Pollock was assigned to the Psywar Department of the General Political Warfare Directorate (GPWD) in Saigon as a printing and publication advisor from 1969 to 1970. He had obtained a masters Degree and taught graphic arts and was a member of the U.S. Army Reserve's 351 PSYOP Company in the Bronx, New York City. His specialty was in the field of Graphic Communications, Print and Banners. Besides the print facilities, the GPWD had a movie studio, radio station, and TV studio in their compound in Saigon. It also housed the Vietnamese Army chaplains: Roman Catholic; Buddhist; and the Entertainment units. He told me:
When I was in graduate school in 1966-1967 I had already received a commission from the ROTC. I signed on to the 351st PSYOP Company in the Bronx to make good reserve time and to attend summer camp at Ft. Devens and the commissioned officers Special Warfare Schools Psychological Operations Course at Ft. Bragg. I got orders in spring 1968 to report to Ft. Benning and Ft. Bragg. The 351st had a permanent duty station Ft. Bragg from 1968 to 1969 and as a newly minted 2nd Lieutenant I did some Project Jilli leaflets for North Korea there. We printed many pallets of them as I recall. We used the two color web presses as well as a few larger presses and the old standby Multilith. Much of the technology we used is obsolete now.
1LT Pollock shooting in the field
Pollock enjoyed shooting pictures in the field, both for personal growth, love for Vietnam and for his job as advisor. He could shoot 35mm transparencies and process them in the GPWD's photo lab. He took many "stock" photographs, developed them himself, filed them and made them available in case the unit propagandists needed images for PSYOP projects. It was a great way to mix business with pleasure.
The Official Pocket badge
Pollock told me:
There were a few times when we would go out on a photo shoot to Flower Shows, Art Exhibits, Vietnamese Army unit Public Relations affairs, various embassy events, street scenes, pacification scenes, or just to take stock photos for upcoming publication and for our own personal access to places. As I seem to recall we would wear the pocket badge on the pocket under our name tag or a button in the middle of a white dress shirt. The fabric patch is printed on what looks to be cotton in between two clear plastic sheets sewn around the edges with white thread.
A Patriotic Image Smiling ARVN with White Dove of Peace
This is a wonderful propaganda image. It depicts a smiling soldier with his rifle showing that he is ready to fight to protect his nation, and yet he also holds a white dove representing his desire for peace and not to have to fight against his fellow Vietnamese. Years after I added this photograph I discovered that the same image had been used on a 1971 pocket calendar. See below…
The Political Warfare (POLWAR) concept, as introduced to the Republic of Vietnam in 1960, was copied from the Nationalist Chinese system. At that time, President Diem traveled to Taiwan where President Chiang Kai-shek explained the Nationalist Chinese concept. At President Diem's request, a team of Chinese POLWAR Officers was sent to the Republic of Vietnam to teach courses in POLWAR to selected RVNAF officers. On 5 May 1965, the Political Warfare Advisory Directorate was established as a separate element of the Military Assistance Command-Vietnam (MACV) staff to advise and support the General Political Warfare Department. After several reorganizations, the POLWAR advisory function was performed by the Political Warfare Advisory Branch, Psychological Operations Division, J3 (Operations), MACV.
There was already a POLWAR Cadre Training Center in Saigon created in 1961 with a capacity of 400. Lieutenant General Dong Van Khuyen wrote a monograph on the Vietnamese Armed Forces for the U.S. Army Center of Military History in 1978 that mentions POLWAR. He says in part:
In 1966, by Decree No. 48/SL/QP dated 18 March 1966 of the Chairman of the Central Executive Committee, the Political Warfare School was redesignated Political Warfare College with the responsibility of “providing POLWAR Officers for the RVNAF with a university education and a comprehensive military background.” The decree also determined that the basic educational program for POLWAR Officers would be the equivalent of a university-level political science curriculum.
The GPWD patterned its organization after the Nationalist Chinese; it consisted of five functional departments: Psychological Warfare, Political Indoctrination, Military Security, Social Welfare, and Commissary, and three chaplain directorates: Roman Catholic, Buddhist, and Protestant. Under its control and supervision, there were the Political Warfare College and five POLWAR Battalions, one for the JGS and one for each Corps area. POLWAR staffs were also incorporated into service commands, technical services, and Corps, division, and sector headquarters.
The Subdued Vietnamese GPWD Patch
The Vietnamese Army members of the unit wore this patch on their fatigues on the left side shirt pocket under their name. The Americans generally did not wear it. If they chose to do so it would be placed under the subdued MACV patch on their sleeve.
The General Political Warfare Department is responsible for developing and implementing POLWAR programs within the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces (RVNAF) to accomplish the POLWAR missions as follows: The first mission of the GPWD was to create and maintain the loyalty of the RVNAF to its leaders, nation and national ideology. The second POLWAR mission was to gain and maintain the support of the civilian populace. The final mission of political warfare is to break down the loyalty of the enemy to his leaders and cause him to desert the enemy or rally to the government side.
My pal Sergeant Derrill de Heer was a member of the Australian 1st PSYOP Unit. He mentioned the Vietnamese POLWAR organization in his Masters dissertation: Victoria per Mentum: Psychological Operations conducted by the Australian Army in Phuoc Tuy Province South Vietnam 1965 1971:
The POLWAR Department produced radio programs, motion pictures and television programs. The Cultural Office used artists and writers in assisting to raise the morale of the RVNAF and the civil populace by sponsoring contests for the best poems, songs, musical arrangements, short stories and skits that would undermine the efforts of the communists. The POLWAR Battalion Cultural Platoons conducted activities to bolster the morale of the people and the military. The American Political Warfare Advisory Division worked with the Republic of Vietnam National Armed Forces (RVNAF) General Political Warfare Department (GPWD) in the areas of propaganda, troop indoctrination, and social welfare, as well as discharging a variety of staff responsibilities for American psychological warfare and civic action.
More about the mission is mentioned in the minutes of the Combined PSYOP/POLWAR Conference of August 1969:
Unlike the U.S. concept of psychological operations, the primary target audiences of the Vietnamese Political Warfare are the ARVN soldier and his family, the civilian population, the common enemy (the VC and NVA troops), and the Free World Military Forces and their allies. The main objective is to obtain voluntary support for the Government of Vietnam. To meet the POLWAR objective, social service support is provided to military and civilian personnel subordinate to the Ministry of Defense and their dependents. The end goal of this support is to create the conditions under which a soldier will desire to be loyal.
When the GPWD needed help with printing, planning, or technical advice they had a number of U.S. PSYOP units ready to help them. Their major asset was the 7th PSYOP Group on Okinawa. The 7th PSYOP Group was organized and staffed for tactical and strategic PSYOPS.
The 14th PSYOP Battalion was the tactical deployable element and included mobile printing capability, mobile radio capability, and tactical loudspeaker and audio-visual teams. The Battalion controlled the 7th PSYOP heavy printing facility. However, approximately 50% of the 7th PSYOP printing production was accomplished by United States Information Agency printing facility, RSC, Manila.
The 15th PSYOP Detachment (A battalion-sized organization) was the strategic element. This unit provided planning, analysis, research and intelligence, and assessments of all countries throughout the PACIFIC. This element was involved in the Psychological Automated Management Information System which is a computerized quantitative data bank of communist country propaganda output. On a trial basis the GPWD output was being included to assess, hopefully, the effectiveness and provide information concerning GVN propaganda output.
The 244th PSYOP Detachment (would later become a company, and then a battalion) was a small local unit responsible for Southeast Asia propaganda production. This Detachment was staffed by writers and illustrators from SEA. The majority of the Vietnamese staff served formerly with the Joint United States Public Affairs Office. This unit obtained support from the 15th PSYOP Detachment and produced operational propaganda material with current emphasis on printed matter for Cambodia.
The GPWD Compound
The POLWAR compound was made up of many French-era buildings housing the headquarters, various media outlets and services facilities. The compound was surrounded by a concrete wall and sandbagged containers and gun positions. 1LT Pollock stands to the left in front of the printing facility. A patriotic statue in front of another building displays a South Vietnamese soldier raising the flag while a second soldier works at rebuilding the country.
The PSYWAR Department where 1LT Pollock was assigned engaged in activities contributing to the accomplishment of all three General Political Warfare Department missions. The Press and information office was responsible for writing and editing the RVNAF Magazine Tien Phong (Vanguard), Chien Si Cong Hoa (Republican Fighter), Chien Si Tim Hieu (The Fighters Information Booklet) and Tien Tuyen (the newspaper Front Line).
The Reproduction Office could produce 30,000,000 leaflets, 800,000 posters, 600,000 booklets or pamphlets, 100 banners, 600,000 Tien Tuyen newspapers and 10,000 miscellaneous documents a month.
The young Vietnamese women depicted are part of the Cultural Drama teams sponsored by both the U.S. and Vietnamese governments. These girls are on the Vietnamese-Cambodian border in December 1971, on their way to entertain the troops during the Tet holidays.
The Cultural Office assisted in the preparation of plans for entertainment and promotion of cultural activities and education within the Armed Forces by writing short skits, poems, dramas and songs, and by composing music for use by the POLWAR Battalion Cultural Platoons, for presentation on television, and for use on RVNAF radio.
Training at the South Vietnamese Political Warfare Academy
In 1969 while Pollock was in Vietnam, the GPWD received 62 slots for offshore political warfare training in the United States. Among the courses offered were: Psychological Basic Course, Information Operations Officer Basic Course, Chaplain Officer Basic Course, and a number of skill courses such as lithographic plate making, process photography, and similar technical courses. The purpose of this training was both to provide skilled technicians and to provide a base for the beginnings of similar schools in Vietnam. In addition the GPWD had liaison with the 4th PSYOP Group for special needs and training.
By sheer coincidence I sent this article to an old friend who ran a top secret section for MACV. From July 1968 to August 1970 he was Team Chief in the MACV J2 Think Tank. His 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. He also had additional details available from the RVN National Police files. This is a fellow that forecast Tet 1968 while the Generals believed that the Viet Cong could be trusted to uphold the holiday ceasefire. Why do I mention this? He told me:
I do remember Lt Pollack! He was coming in for some intelligence on certain areas to learn the identification of the enemy units in it and then they would develop leaflets addressed to those units.
The government of South Vietnam established the General Political Warfare Directorate as their propaganda organ but there were problems from the start of the war. This was mainly due to differing priorities between South Vietnam and the U.S. Between 1964 and 1971, there were 12 different Vietnamese Ministers of Information and that created considerable problems with maintaining stability within the organization. The Directorate was tasked with producing patriotic war songs, and anti-Communist plays and literature which depicted the heroic fighting spirit of the Vietnamese people.
The GPWD controlled five POLWAR battalions. The mission of the Political Warfare Battalions was to provide POLWAR support to the RVNAF. This includes troop education, motivation and indoctrination, civic action, and PSYWAR support of tactical operations. The POLWAR battalions were composed of a battalion headquarters, an administration and technical company, a cultural platoon, and four POLWAR companies.
The four POLWAR Companies were identically organized with a company headquarters, a POLWAR intelligence team, a political indoctrination platoon, and four psychological warfare and Civic Action teams made up of eight men each.
U.S. forces were advised that because of the peculiar Vietnamese system, a POLWAR Battalion was not to be considered the equivalent of a PSYOP Battalion. Each Battalion worded in a different combat zone. For instance, The Vietnamese 10th Political Warfare (POLWAR) Battalion worked in I Corps with the U.S. 7th Psychological Operations Battalion. They shared the same compound in Da Nang and their printing facilities were integrated. The 20th Battalion was in II Corps at Pleiku, the 30th Battalion was in III Corps at Bien Hoa, the 40th Battalion was in IV Corps at Can Tho. Each of the four front-line battalions was tactically under the control of the Commander of the Tactical Zone they were assigned to. There was a 50th Battalion was held in Saigon in reserve.
Problems in the POLWAR system
Michael Do presented a paper at the 4th Triennial Symposium on Vietnam, held at Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas on 11-13 April 2002. He mentioned problems with the system
One of the main problems with Vietnam’s POLWAR system was the lack of support from the United States. Since POLWAR had no equivalent in the U.S. Armed Forces structure, there was little money allocated to the Vietnamese POLWAR General Department from U.S. military assistance budgets for PSYOP. That was why the Vietnamese army incorporated the PX and Commissary into POLWAR in order to get more financial support. The differences in cultures prevented the U.S. advisors from understanding what was going on in the so-called “people’s war” invented by Mao and Giap. Lacking financial and advisory support from the big ally made POLWAR inferior to other branches in the armed forces and prevented it from implementing many important projects.
In the North Vietnamese Army, the political officers were Communist party members and had power that superseded the authority of the unit commanders. In the South Vietnam Army POLWAR officers were not affiliated to any party and thus had no authority. At company level, they were second to the commanders: but at higher levels, their voice was the weakest one in the staff. Most of the commanding officers were not aware of the importance of POLWAR activities.
A Singer and Traditional Dancers attached to the GPWD
The Psywar Department had entire troupes of entertainers that were sent into the field to amuse the people and build their patriotism and remind them of the benevolent nature of the Government of the Republic of Vietnam. Besides singers, they had musicians, dancers, and even magicians.
The American Advisor's Commander Colonel Ruth
Pollocks Commanding Officer was Colonel Ruth. He is shown above with a Major from Nationalist China; also an advisor, as they watch and perhaps critique one of the musical shows put on by the GPWD entertainment troupe. The Chinese had two POLWAR advisors in each of the four combat zones, three at the Political Warfare College at Dalat, and three at the GPWD in Saigon.
Pollock said about Ruth:
Colonel Ruth was among the best officers I ever came across in my life. His leadership style taught me a great deal. That led to my future success.
The United States assigned about 18 advisors from the Army, Navy, and Air Force. There were also a number of Nationalist Chinese and Republic of Korea officers; but no enlisted personnel. The advisors lived off the local economy; first in small houses, and later when credible security threats were received, they were billeted in small bachelor officer quarters all over Saigon. They were expected to blend in."
Captain, 20th Air Force Tactical Base (2nd Air Division), 1974
I would like to stop here for a moment and talk about that POLWAR College. Michael Do was a graduate of the college but switched his classification from POLWAR Officer to Combat Officer and served as Rifle Company Commander in the 5th Infantry Division. He told me about the college:
In 1966, due to the urgent need for a new generation of young cadres to take charge of the morality of the soldiers, the RVN Armed Forces established the POLWAR College in Dalat, one of the most beautiful cities of Vietnam. The POLWAR College offered a two-year curriculum to candidates who volunteered and passed tough assessment tests and the physical examination.
Conditions for admission: Be of Vietnam Nationality; Be between 18 and 24 years old; Have no previous convictions; Have a baccalaureate diploma (equivalent to U.S. High School graduates); Be unmarried and pledge not to marry during the period of training.
Training Programs in two years:
Military: (1050 hours); 96 weeks of training at The Vietnam Military Academy in Dalat with basic and advanced military trainings.
Academic: (1504 hours); Laws and Economics; Humanities. Political Sciences; Modern Languages.
POLWAR and Techniques of POLWAR: (804 hours); Revolution in Theory and Study of Enemy Situation; POLWAR Activities; POLWAR Techniques.
Ethical Training (312 hours); Calisthenics and Sports: (254 hours); Miscellaneous (372 hours).
I would like to mention some of the classes they were taught. Can you image learning this at a U.S. Military school?
Religions: Buddhism; Catholicism; Cao Dai Religion; Hoa Hao Religion; Ba Hai religion.
Education: The Position of Literature in spiritual life; The History of Oriental Philosophy; Ancient Greek Philosophy.
There are dozens of such courses, and you can see where a graduate is a well-educated officer ready to understand every phase of the soldier’s basic needs.
AwardsThanks to the successes of the graduates, the POLWAR College was twice awarded a Citation at Armed Forces level, along with highest Gallantry Cross with Palm. All servicemen and women of the college were proud to wear the Yellow Fourragere (first adopted by France, a meritorious awad in the form of a braided cord usually worn around the left shoulder.
Production of the Newspaper Tien Tuyen (the Frontline Daily).
This Vietnamese printer hand-set type each day and then hand-fed the paper into old French era letter presses. The newspapers were then put together for distribution and the type was cleaned and the process repeated. The unit had reporters and editors in Saigon and in the field. One of Pollocks duties was going out in the field armed only with his military issue .45 caliber pistol and paying the staff from a bag of cash. He was warned to be cautious; the Viet Cong had placed a bounty on his head.
Pollocks mission was to provide technical and logistical support to the Vietnamese. The GPWD printed several daily newspapers, a magazine, numerous flyers, aerial leaflets, pamphlets and the large publicity banners strung up for various events.
GPWD Painters Prepare Large Propaganda Banners
The banners were made for various patriotic celebrations and ceremonies, such as when President Nixon made an unscheduled five-and-a-half hour visit to South Vietnam on 30 July 1969.
Their compound contained a TV studio and 16mm movie processing lab, editing and dubbing rooms and a radio studio. The Vietnamese did black (secret), white (acknowledged) and gray (no markings but obvious as to the source) propaganda and the Americans supplied technological support and liaison. Viet Cong prisoners-of-war were interrogated for information and encouraged to defect to the government through the Chieu hoi (Open Arms) program.
GPWD artisans take part in Temple Building
In the United States, politics and religion are kept far apart and it would be unheard of for a U.S. Army unit to make a statue of the Virgin Mary for a Catholic Church. In Vietnam, the monks, priests, churches and temples were part of the mission of the GPWD. The Government of South Vietnam had no restrictions of aiding religion. Here a military artisan carves a statue to go into a Buddhist temple. The GPWD had three Chaplain Directorates (Catholic, Buddhist and Protestant). The chaplain directorates were entirely dependent upon their own resources to organize, build and operate schools. The Government provided only the land.
Chief Artist - Army First Lieutenant Hoa
Speaking of artisans, the Vietnamese had excellent painters. Above we see the Chief Artist, Vietnamese Army Lieutenant Hoa. Above, we see him painting a Saigon public park scene about 1970. He was a classically trained artist and a master of oil paint, graphics and calligraphy who also dabbled in sculpture. He belonged to the Association of Serious Artists and exhibited his works with them. I have known several psychological operations artists and they all had classic training and had sold their painting and drawings as civilians. Above he works with oils and paints a beautiful Vietnamese scene featuring a home and surrounding landscape.
The Remembrance Army Second Lieutenant Hai
Lt. Hai was a classically trained artist who specialized in oil paint, graphics, calligraphy and dabbled in sculpture. He also belonged to the Association of Serious Artists and exhibited his works there. Lt. Hai taught Pollock Chinese Calligraphy and invited him to visit his studio on special occasions. The painting above is called The Remembrance. Lieutenant Hai painted it in 1969 and gave it as a gift to Lt. Pollock before he went back to the United States. The painting is in a Vietnamese stylized format of three women, the grandmother, mother and wife or girlfriend of the young man at war. They remember him, but do not know where he is; his current condition, or if he is alive or dead. The young male is shown outside the window; away from his family, a very young androgynous figure with a short neck and male military collar. We dont know what side he is fighting for.
We mention above that Vietnamese Army Second Lieutenant Hai taught Pollock calligraphy. Here is a finished work by Pollock. His "chop" is at the lower left. Lieutenant Hai has added a comment at the lower right. Hai had the work mounted so Pollock could take it home.
Pollock receives the Vietnamese Technical Service Medal
First Lieutenant Pollocks Bronze Star Certificate
Pollock was awarded the Bronze Star and the Vietnamese Technical Service Medal awarded for outstanding initiative and devotion by individuals assigned staff duty. He said that the Vietnamese gave him a wonderful ceremony and reception along with the award.
Vietnamese PSYWAR Products
This patriotic photograph depicts Vietnamese Marines attacking a beach. In the background we see flames reminiscent of the napalm scene in the war movie Apocalypse Now. Pollock told me that it was a composite made from two 35mm slides mounted together to get the effect. This is a very impressive photo and sure to build up South Vietnamese pride in their military forces.
This banner has just been painted by the staff of the GPWD. It has been placed outside to dry before being hung over the street. 1LT Pollock took the picture and told me that although it is difficult to read, the banner says:
The People and the Armed Forces of the Republic of Viet Nam Welcome President Nixon
This Vietnameselanguage banner measured 20-feet from end to end. The message basically tells the people that if they are united, anything is possible. The text is:
If the Military and People are one, we can drain the East Sea dry
This is a modified version of a Vietnamese proverb, which said Man and wife when of the same mind can bail the East Sea dry!
The Handbook for Company Level Political Warfare Officers adds:
PSYWAR Cadre must exploit current subjects by preparing rudimentary banners which point out the policy and announce the victories of our Army and the defeats of the enemy. The materials used to make banners can be any available materials such as charcoal, lime water, colored powder and paint etc... These are used to letter banners on walls, stones, or tree-trunks.
Some suggested slogans for propaganda banners are:
The Army is one big family.
He who has an ideal will be always young.
Use individual life to prolong the national lives.
Welcome to the GIs
Of course, it was not only the Americans who prepared propaganda banners in English and Vietnamese. This 24-foot long Viet Cong banner is being held by several American soldiers who found it just outside the wire in December, 1968, at Fire Support Base Washington, two and one half miles north of Tay Ninh City. The unit is A Battery, 7/11 Artillery, assigned to the 24th Infantry Division. The picture was given to me by Sergeant John Clark and Specialist 4 Chris Woelk. The text is:
Welcome to the GIs opposing the U.S. imperialist aggressive war in South Vietnam and demanding the withdrawal of U.S. troops Home!
American Troops and their vassals
This Viet Cong banner was found in the Delta in 1968 by artilleryman Jim Sprague of the 9th Infantry. It targets the South Vietnamese troops and the translation is:
American troops and their vassals must leave the South and then there will be immediate peace.
Note: There was some debate about the word vassals. Some saw it as allies and others saw it as those who follow. There was no consensus so I have elected to use vassals.
Dont Die in Vain
This banner was found outside an American base in Vietnam by Sergeant Paul Viser of the 4th Infantry Division. Because the banner was not tied up very well allowing the wind to flip up the bottom, it is impossible to know the whole message. I asked Paul if he remembered the entire message, but he did not. What we can see seems to be:
Dont die in vain Welcome to the American people who Opposing the U.S. Aggressive war
1969 - The Army of South Vietnam on the Attack
Calendars are a wonderful propaganda product. A leaflet might be picked up, glanced at quickly and then thrown away. A calendar, if attractive and eye-catching, will be brought into a home and looked at for an entire year. Here a brave ARVN moves forward into flames and destruction.
1970 Vietnamese Troops salute their National Flag
Instead of one page there are 12 pages, so the propaganda message is reinforced daily for an entire year. In the picture above the ARVN troops salute the flagpole of the Citadel in Hue. Hue was lost to the Viet Cong in Tet 1968 and now the government has taken it back. The text at the left side of the actual monument is:
Hue in the Dawn of Total Victory
Many years after I wrote this article I heard from a friend of Nguyen Ngoc Hanh, the legendary Vietnam War photographer who took the picture. Hanhs obituary was in the 16 April 2017 San Jose Mercury News. Some of the comments:
Hanhs work represented the perspective of the South Vietnamese army, whose involvement in the war often was ignored by Western media. Hanh was an officer in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam who rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel. His duty was to portray the heroism, courage and sacrifices of his fellow soldiers.
When North Vietnamese tanks rolled into Saigon in April 1975, rather than fleeing with other officers, he took photos of the South Vietnamese soldiers left behind. Hanh was sent to a reeducation camp along with tens of thousands of other South Vietnamese officers. At one point, he was forced to live 16 months in a metal container in which he couldnt stand up or lie down. He was allowed out for only two hours a day but was forced to kneel on broken glass and stare at the sun. Hanh arrived in San Jose in 1989 as a refugee after fleeing Vietnam by boat four years earlier. Hanh once said: Mountains may erode, rivers may run dry, the sky and the moon may change, but Ill never forgive the communists.
Sometimes the calendar was printed on a plasticized card that could be carried in a pocket or a wallet for an entire years and not tear or wear out. This one depicts two South Vietnamese soldiers fighting, one firing his M-16, the other about to pull the pin on a grenade with his teeth always a bad idea. The text at center and bottom left is:
Distributed by the General Political Warfare Department
Here is a second POLWAR calendar for the year 1971. The backs are basically identical but this one depicts a Vietnamese soldier holding his M-16 in one hand and a dove of peace in the other. The title is:
A Soldier and a white dove
My Vietnamese translator was unaware of the use of a dove for a symbol of peace and called it a pigeon. I explained that the United States often uses the white dove as a symbol of peace. An interesting problem is that not all people understand the same symbols. When leaflets with a white dove were dropped in Afghanistan the people came to the Americans thinking they had won a free chicken and were ready to take one home.
A Cultural Team performs the Trung Sisters Opera March 1970 Page
Looking through the three calendars my favorite page is this one. Both the North and South Vietnamese sent entertainment teams into the field. That makes sense because both the North and South Vietnamese learned their propaganda methods from the Chinese. The singers and dancers told stories, sang patriotic songs and performed some operas that were meaningful to the people.
This South Vietnamese GPWD team is performing an opera about the famous Trung sisters. The Trung sisters were Vietnam's first real national heroes. The husbands of the Trung sisters were Vietnamese nobles who opposed Chinese rule. After the Chinese executed the husbands, their widows took over leadership of the rebellion. Legend says that in 39 AD they gathered an army of 80,000, led by 36 women generals and within a year drove the Chinese occupiers from 65 cities. Because they had liberated their country, they were named co-queens. The Chinese returned with a huge force and after defeat on the battleground the sisters committed suicide by drowning themselves in 43 AD. The title of this photograph is:
Revenge for our husbands and our Debt to the Nation
The title is intended to stimulate feelings of Vietnamese patriotism and opposition to outside aggression. At the time the Republic of Vietnam accused the North Vietnamese of being puppets of the Chinese Communists. The photograph was designed to boost military and public morale.
The American Trung Sisters Propaganda Poster
Because the Trung sisters were national heroes in Vietnam, they were often placed on American PSYOP leaflets and posters. Many temples are dedicated to them and their death is commemorated each year. A Fifteenth Century poem says about the sisters:
All the male heroes bowed their heads in submission; only the two sisters proudly stood up to avenge the country
The text on the poster is:
Oppose the Communists' aggression in defense of our liberties as descendants of the Hong Lac race.
Do as the two Trung sisters of the Trieu family did.
Note: The sisters renamed their country Hong Lac during their reign.
A Viet Cong Happy New Year 1969 Pocket Calendar
Like the Government of South Vietnam, the National Liberation Front also produced handy wallet-sized cards and calendars. One calendar has "Happy New Year 1969" on the front. The back has the twelve months and text:
Let the Vietnamese settle their internal affairs themselves. How many more days for you? Give yourself a chance. Get out now - alive!
1LT Pollock brought no leaflets back from Vietnam. I did have several Vietnamese military leaflets and depict them here. This leaflet features some prisoners-of-wars and defectors who were now on the government side. The text is very long on both sides of the leaflet and says in part:
This is a picture of soldiers from the 66th and 101st Regiment taken together with officers of the Republic of Vietnam and Headquarters, II Corps officers.
In seeing this picture, you will know clearly how the armed forces of Vietnam behave with prisoners and ralliers.
Here is what they wrote to their comrades:
When the unit moved, we were sick and unable to follow the unit so we were left behind. We were then captured by the Vietnamese and U.S. helicopter troops. It was awful; we thought we would die immediately because our leaders have always stated: If they catch you, the American and Vietnamese soldiers will savagely torture you, feed you rice mixed with lime, then send you to Saigon to be shot.
But, how strange!!! In surrendering we were never beaten, we were given adequate food, drink, and medical care We are fairly treated everywhere These confidential words are from the bottom of our hearts. We hope that you awaken very soon and not be afraid of anything. Take this paper and report to the Vietnamese armed forces or their allies, or any other governmental agency. You will be warmly received."
This leaflet is all text on the front and back and is in regard to the Tet uprising of 1968 when the Viet Cong believed that the people of the Republic of Vietnam would rise up and join their insurrection. That never happened and the Viet Cong were almost wiped out as a fighting force. 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
An ARVN Chieu Hoi Leaflet
We know by the code on this leaflet that it was created by the Vietnamese Army. The text is:
TO COMMUNIST TROOPS
Your commanders are currently completely confused because:
- Your supply bases and safe places in Cambodia have been destroyed.
- The supply line from the North via the Port of Sihanoukville is no longer usable.
- On 8 February 1971, the ARVN conducted operations that destroyed Communist bases along the Laotian-Vietnamese border and cut off the Ho Chi Minh Trail; your only remaining supply line.
How much longer can you survive in isolation, understrength, low on ammunition, rations and medicine?
To return is the only way to save your life and your honor.
THE CRIMES OF SOLDIERS JUST MAKE THE UNITED STATES RICH
As I have done in several places in this article, I like to show a Communist item to compare with the South Vietnamese products. Here we show a Viet Cong leaflet, also all-text, but a bit long-winded. The text says in part:
THE CRIMES OF SOLDIERS JUST MAKE THE U.S. RICH
What do the Popular Forces and Regional Forces soldiers do every day?
-They establish outposts to take away the people's land
-They arrest people, beat them up, forcibly draft men into the army, flatten the people's homes, and force the people to move into strategic hamlets.
-They steal money, steal property, and collect taxes to make money illegally, thereby hurting the people's livelihood.
-They recruit spies to infiltrate the liberate zone and serve as informants to attack and destroy revolutionary organizations.
-They suppress the people's just struggle demonstrations and protests.
Therefore, to be a soldier is to help the American pirates and their lackeys commit crimes against the people and against our country. So, dear soldiers, you are hurting yourselves, you are hurting your own wives and children, and you are hurting your own relatives and family members. You get no benefit at all from this, because all of the profits from your activities flow straight into the hands of the American bandits and the Thieu-Ky clique who are now living lives of luxury and pleasure in the cities.
Do not participate in sweep operations to force the people to move out of their homes; to do so would not be to your benefit and would instead hurt you greatly.
No matter how much salary they pay you or how high a rank they bestow upon you it would be better for you to kill the Americans and kill the thugs
Your own families and our Fatherland are now longing for patriotic soldiers to perform feats of arms for the revolution and to return to the waiting arms of the people.
The Free World in Vietnam
The GPWD printed a number of publications for the people to read. 155,000 copies of The Gioi Tu-Do Tai Viet Nam (The Free World in Vietnam) were printed monthly. This was a general interest magazine, edited for educated adults and students. It is printed in both Vietnamese and English. This 82-page 1969 issue of the magazine features the role of Free World forces in Vietnam. It mentions and shows numerous photographs of American, Australian, Republic of China, Korean, New Zealand, Philippine, Spanish, Thai and finally Vietnamese forces in action.
The magazine mentions each nation that helped Vietnam and says such things as:
Republic of China - A combatant of peace and freedom must be armed with strong thought. In early 1960, the Republic of Vietnam requested a Political Warfare delegation from the Republic of China to assist Vietnam. In 1964, the Republic of China sent a POLWAR group to Vietnam. The mission of the group is to assist the Vietnamese armed forces to develop and improve their political warfare organizations in political indoctrination, psychological warfare, social welfare, etc.
The PSYWAR Directorate also published a monthly magazine aimed at indoctrinating its soldiers called The Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces. The magazine would focus on specific themes such as Communism in South Vietnam. The magazine was published in Vietnamese, English and French language editions.
Vietnamese residing in Laos Return to Fight
My favorite article was this description of a group of Vietnamese boys that lived in Laos but returned to fight in the war. The magazine says:
MAY VIETNAM LONG LIVE! This was the sincere cry of 5 youths when stepping on their loving nations soil. The images were captioned:
Coming back to the beloved nation.
A small gift before starting the military life.
A little bit loose but it seems alright
Photographs sent to the Magazine
As you might imagine, all of the Allied forces helping the Vietnamese wanted to have regular features in their propaganda magazine. Pollock had a stack of photographs sent by the Australians for use in the The Free World in Vietnam. Many of them are military in nature, showing Australian troops behind machine guns or artillery or even in armored vehicles. This is a story about winning hearts and minds, so I chose one that depicted civil affairs at its best.
Clothes for the Vietnamese
Australian Warrant Officer Sonny Phillips issues clothing to a Vietnamese mother and her child in the village of Ap Dong in Phuoc Tuy Province in December 1968. The clothing and food was collected for Operation New Life by the Returned Servicemans League. The Returned Services League (RSL) collected items for distribution in war zones. They also sent Care parcels to soldiers at different times of the year such as Fathers Day, Christmas and Easter. Every soldier received a parcel. It is also an organization that contributed cash to the family of a serviceman for his funeral and normally someone would attend the funeral and read the Ode of Remembrance:
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
It is said that the RSL was not happy when the Vietnam servicemen and women returned and wanted to join their organization. They thought that the only real wars were WWI and WWII. Those wars were won. Korea and Vietnam were not real wars in their eyes. And, they were not victories.
This your war was not a real war belief was not unknown in the United States. I joined the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars in the early 90s when I finally retired and rose to command both local posts. When I approached Korean War and Vietnam War veterans they told me that they had been barred from joining in the past because they didnt win their wars. I made them feel welcome and brought many in, but it was shocking to hear that some of the old WWII vets and banded together to keep those young veterans out. I found it hard to believe that one veteran could treat another that way.
Printers of the GPWD set the type in the old French press. This was a time-consuming daily job for the printing staff.
The GPWD printed 25,000 copies of the newspaper Tien Tuyen (Front Lines), each day for soldiers and civilians. They were free to all military personnel. It was considered the unofficial voice of the Vietnamese armed forces and was usually pro-United States. It generally covered Premier Thieu in greater depth than the other newspapers.
Besides printing newspapers, the POLWAR officers were also expected to read them to the troops on occasion, perhaps because some were illiterate. The Handbook for Company Level Political Warfare Officers adds:
Assemble the company to listen to the reading of newspapers, but choose favorable occasions to read. Each reading should not exceed 15-minutes. The articles are chosen by POLWAR Officer for reading. Loudspeakers can be used for the reading of newspapers if the unit has a sound system. In case the unit is divided into small groups the POLWAR Officer will assign assistant cadres to read newspapers to each group. POLWAR Officers should organize a brief analysis of important events once a week or every two weeks. Conduct a test on current problems using simple questions and answers, or puzzles; and give prizes to soldiers who have correctly answered the questions. This will sow enthusiasm among the soldiers.
The four postcards depicted here were made from Tran Buu Khanhs photographs. He was a Vietnamese Army enlisted man and combat photographer and part of General Political Warfare Directorate's still photo lab. They were also used in the full color calendar pages showing quality of life scenes to boost military and public morale. In the above photograph two young women give a soldier a Tet gift of flowers and a box wrapped in red cellophane and gold foil. This was used in the January 1970 calendar page. Each card has the title in both English and Vietnamese on the back, the photographers name and a code number, in the case of all four cards the same: 910-2-5. The cards are rather small by current American standards, about 138 x 88mm.
Welcome Home, Father
This postcard depicts an ARVN soldier giving a decorated red balloon to his child in his mothers arms. It shows the kindness and generosity of the soldier and his love for his family and the people he protects. By the way, notice the graffiti on the Vietnamese soldiers helmet. This photograph appeared on the October 1970 calendar page.
Thank you, Santa Claus!
This picture depicts Santa Claus, who looks suspiciously like a black American soldier, holding the flag of the Republic of Vietnam and a young Vietnamese child. In the background you can see ARVN soldiers and their children and bags of gifts and fruit which will certainly be given to the children.
The last postcard in the four-card set shows Vietnamese troops marching on their National Day. This is the only image that is patriotic in nature rather than showing the friendship between the ARVN and the people of Vietnam. National Day was a national holiday in Vietnam observed on 2 September, commemorating the Vietnam Declaration of Independence from France on 2 September 1945.
A Christmas card for the Allied troops
1LT Pollock was asked to print patriotic Christmas cards for the Allied troops by President Thieu. The card depicted a Catholic Church at the front of a Vietnamese village. At the left is a Vietnamese family, at the right three armed soldiers. The card has a message in English and Vietnamese:
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 1970
On behalf of the government and people of the Republic of Vietnam, I sincerely extend to all our Allied comrades-in-arms my best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. The people of the R.V.N are deeply moved by your supreme sacrifice for you have had to leave your loved ones and Fatherland to help the R.V.N. in its fight against Communist aggression and to preserve its freedom and independence. I believe that the joint efforts of the Allies and the R.V.N will soon bring peace to Vietnam.
The President of the Republic of Vietnam
Nguyen Van Thieu
Pollock said that he did not remember a large quantity of these huge Christmas Cards and envelopes being printed. He was surprised to get one since he was only a 1st Lieutenant. He thought that all the Military Assistance Command - Vietnam leadership at Headquarters and the U.S. Embassy staff got them as well. The card was quite large at about 9.75 x 14.75 inches when folded.
The King-sized Envelope
When fully opened the card was about 19.25 x 14.75 inches. That is by far the largest Christmas card I ever saw, about the size of a large college diploma. The envelope that it was mailed in was an enormous 15.5 x 11.5 inches in size. The President of Vietnam did nothing in a small way. The card was king-sized and determined to get your attention.
I had hoped that 1LT Pollock would have saved some well-illustrated posters showing patriotic scenes. Unfortunately, the ones he saved were all text, almost looking like banners. Still, nobody has ever depicted a GPWD poster to my knowledge, so I am happy to show these two.
The first poster asks every soldier to be an agent for the Chieu Hoi campaign. Each of them should approach any Viet Cong that they know and appeal to him to return to the government side. The code on both posters is DBV 328 AH 9669.The text is:
Actively Participate in Appealing to Communist Cadres and Soldiers to Return to the Nationalist Cause
The second poster has the same general theme. It reminds the average Vietnamese soldier that he is expected to be a salesman for the Open Arms campaign. The text is:
Every Soldier and Every Citizen Must Be a Chieu Hoi Cadre
The Vietnamese PSYOP troops were taught that the contents of information posters must be in accordance with political educational subjects; the content could be divided into these topics: mission, education, enemy situation, praising good personnel and good jobs, explanation of questions, introduction of new music and cartoons, etc. There are many forms of information poster, but they can only correspond to the units ability. They must also be good looking and concise.
Why do you use the American Weapons
Of course, the Viet Cong also produced posters. Some posters were just hand-written on whatever paper the Viet Cong could find. Here, the propaganda message is written on writing paper. This poster to South Vietnamese troops was found in December 1965 and is similar to the South Vietnamese pair we show; a short all-text message:
Why do you use the American weapons in order to shoot and kill your father, mother, relatives and your people? Every month, with the insignificant salary you are paid, why are you sent to the battlefield?
A second hand-written poster, almost identical in appearance, was found at the same time and says:
Laborers, farmers and soldiers unite in order to fight against the American terrorism. Soldiers; you should not oppress the people. What fault, what mistake did our people commit so that they were shot and killed?
Buddhist Temple Statue
Second Lieutenant Hai sculpting a clay bust at the General Political Warfare Directorate studio in 1969. Normally I would not place this in the Product category, but upon completion, the clay sculpture will be cast in Bronze salvaged from the brass of expended artillery shells. The statues will then be placed in Buddhist Temples being built and repaired by the GPWD as part of their religious mission.
General Tran Hung Dao
Lt. Hai also did a small sculpture of Madonna & child about 1970, Cast in concrete from clay with a black printers ink patina. I assume that was for the Catholic Chaplain. Hai also did a very large statue of a sitting figure that appears to be Vietnamese General Tran Hung Dao. He commanded the Vietnamese armies that repelled three major Mongol invasions in the 13th century. His multiple victories over the mighty Mongol Yuan Dynasty under Kublai Khan are considered among the greatest military feats in world history. Tran Hung Dao is regarded as one of the most accomplished military tacticians in history. This is a fitting memory by Hai.
The reader must understand that as part of its mission to lift the morale of the Vietnamese soldier, the Chaplain Directorates are three separate, autonomous entities responsible directly to the Chief, GPWD. The Directorates are Buddhist, Catholic and Protestant. They are responsible for providing for the spiritual welfare of the service members and families, providing educational facilities by organizing, building, and operating schools, and providing social welfare services to military personnel and their dependents.
An American Propaganda Leaflet Depicting Tran Hung Dao
Just as the Vietnamese respected their national hero, so did the Americans. This leaflet-Postcard depicts Tran Hung Dao, the legendary hero of Vietnam. He stands with sword while behind him we see both soldiers from his own era and the present era marching with the flag of the Republic of Vietnam. The text is:
FOLLOWING THE EXAMPLE OF TRAN HUNG DAO
All the people unite to fight against Communism to save the nation
One Vietnam trooper stated that the ARVN 10th Political Warfare (POLWAR) Battalion distributed these leaflets to the Vietnamese people in 1968.
When First Lieutenant William J. Pollock finished his tour with the Psywar Department of the General Political Warfare Directorate in Saigon as a printing and publication advisor in 1970, the Grateful Republic of Vietnam awarded him several certificates. Because they are so seldom seen in the United States, I thought we might show some of them. This first certificate is rather large at 13 x 10.5 inches.
Certificate of Commendation
The first certificate is from the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces Chief of the Psychological Warfare Department. It says:
The Chief of the Psychological Warfare Department highly praises 1st Lieutenant William J. Pollock, an outstanding and devoted officer. As advisor to the printing office from 22 May 1969 to 16 May 1970, Lt. Pollock has actively assisted the Psywar Department to improve and develop its printing branch by contributing useful ideas and providing technical guidance to the Vietnamese printing specialists.
1st Lieutenant Pollock has contacted other U.S. agencies to request support in needed agencies to assist the Psychological Warfare Department obtain desired results in the field of printing.
Pollock told me that the real meaning of that second paragraph was because his best friend from High School was the officer in charge of the Bachelor Officers Quarters in Long Binh and he was able to run up there a number of times with a convoy of deuce and one half (two and one half ton) trucks to pick up excess material for the General Political Warfare Directorate. He would bring back their excess broken bags of concrete, bed frames, mattresses, and other items that were destined for the junk yard. It was helpful with housing refugees and families of ARVN and the local Buddhist Monks rebuilding their temple. The certificate writer was very diplomatic in his writing. In other words, Pollock was able to get a lot of needed extra things done.
Certificate of Commendation
A second 13 x 10.5 inches certificate reads:
ARMED FORCES OF THE REPUBLIC OF VIETNAM
The Director of the Psychological Warfare Department
First Lieutenant William J. Pollock
An outstanding advisor with outstanding abilities and professional experience, Advisor to the Psychological Warfare Departments Publications and Illustrations Office, First Lieutenant William J. Pollock enthusiastically and whole-heartedly helped the Psychological Warfare Department in its work of producing printed materials. As a result of his efforts, the work of providing printed materials for use to support the plans and campaigns of the Psychological Warfare Department has produced excellent results.
KBC 3168, 04 February 1970
Colonel Hoang Ngoc Tieu
Some POLWAR Troops in the field
This is not a publicity or propaganda photo. It was sent to me by a member of the U.S. Army Special Forces who was in Vietnam as part of camp A-341 of the 5th Special Forces in 1968. He had a POLWAR squad of 5 or 6 men assigned to his camp. The picture was taken in Boduc Market. The POLWAR troops had leaflets and other printed material that they would pass out locally. Some of them would go on operations with the Americans. The Special Forces sometimes prepared leaflets, but just for training purposes.
By 1972 the U.S. was almost out of Vietnam and for all general purposes would be totally gone by 1973. There was still some US propaganda being used. Some leaflets mention the peace proposals, some leaflets offered rewards for locating and assisting Allied prisoners of war. Leaflets to demoralize the enemy and Chieu Hoi leaflets were stocked in the country to be used once the US was gone. Two C-47s were left behind to drop leaflets and play tape at Tan Son Nhut Airbase.
But, what about the General Political Warfare Department. What were their tasks as the Americans left?
On 15 April 1972, the GPWD initiated the “Everything for Victory Campaign.” This campaign had five goals:
Establish civilian blood donation centers, collect clothes, food and money for civilians, refugees and soldiers, more centers to care for wounded soldiers, encourage the people to increase their support for the front-line soldiers, and increase military recruitment to replace combat losses.
In addition, military victories would be emphasized in all media. Three officers were sent to the Hue radio station to assist with military news. Military photographs would be given to news agencies and military “shorts” given to movie theaters. Military reports would be added to TV broadcasts. The military newspaper TIEN TUYEN would add a 3-page supplement of battlefield pictures and victories. More military victories would appear in the military magazines REPUBLICAN FIGHTER and VANGUARD. Although most actions were political in nature, 2,000,000 leaflets were dropped on the enemy on 4 April, and another 16,000,000 on 7 April. Although the departure of the Americans was a terrible blow, the POLWAR forces continued to work for an ultimate victory against great odds.
The author encourages readers that wish to comment on this article to write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dated: 19 November 2016