Below is a reprint of PSYOPS POLICY No. 59, dated 20 February
1968. This mission psychological operations policy and guidance was prepared by the Joint
United States Public Affairs Office (JUSPAO), the military agency that directed U.S.
propaganda efforts from Saigon in accordance with US mission directives, and was to be
implemented as pertinent by all U.S. Elements in Vietnam.
THE NVA SOLDIER IN SOUTH VIETNAM
AS A PSYOP TARGET
To focus psychological operations (PSYOP) more effectively on the North Vietnamese
Army (NVA) soldier in South Vietnam; devise surrender or defection appeals for
dissemination to NVA units in South Vietnam; and provide field personnel with information
on the most recent vulnerabilities and deterrents to surrender or defection in the
psychological makeup of the NVA soldier.
The North Vietnamese soldier in South Vietnam presents a particularly difficult target
for Government of Vietnam (GVN)/United States (US) PSYOP aimed at inducing surrender or
defection. He has a relatively high state of indoctrination, reinforced by a range of
psychological controls wielded by the cadre which include self criticism sessions, the
three-man cell and the endless repetition of communist themes. A contributory reason for
the resistance of the NVA soldier to Chieu Hoi inducements is that unlike the Viet Cong,
(VC) defection for most does not hold the promise of an early family reunion.
Moreover, unlike the VC guerilla who may be a teenager conscripted from his hamlet
environment by the VC "recruiters" and sent into battle without much party
schooling and political indoctrination, the NVA soldier is the product of a closed,
totalitarian society, subjected to communist indoctrination from his earliest school days.
This makes him more resistant as a PSYOP target . Unlike the VC, he finds himself fighting
in a region unfamiliar and semi-antagonistic to him, usually in relatively uninhabited
areas and with little chance for contact with the civilian population.
There are three options that should be pointed out to him in US/GVN PSYOP messages:
The first is to rally, take advantage of the Chieu Hoi program and in short order
become a free citizen of the Republic of Vietnam (RVN).
Second is to surrender as a prisoner of war and await repatriation at the end of the
war in the safety and relative comfort of a prisoner of war camp.
As a third alternative, until the opportunity of either rallying or surrendering may
present itself, NVA soldiers should be counseled to devote all their efforts to individual
survival rather than getting killed or maimed for an unjust cause. Malingering, the
avoidance of risks, passive resistance to the exhortations of the cadre should be stressed
as a way to survive the war. Even a partial success in this PSYOP effort will contribute
to shortening the war by reducing the combat effectiveness of the NVA units.
While decisions to rally will be personally more advantageous to the individual, it
may involve too direct a renunciation of country, family and all past training to form the
substance of a viable PSYOP appeal in every instance. Whichever of the alternatives
offered to the NVA soldiers in our PSYOP messages, the vulnerability which they exploit
remain the same.
The NVA As A PSYOP Target
Chieu Hoi statistics bear out the reluctance of the NVA as a PSYOP
target. During 1967 only 146 NVA military personnel rallied to the GVN of an estimated
total of 54,000 NVA personnel serving in all-NVA units and another 7000 assigned as
fillers in VC main and local units. There were nearly 1700 prisoners of war in GVN custody
at the end of 1967. The NVA rallier total for 1967 is just slightly more than .2% of the
NVA infiltration forces as against an approximate 12.2% ralliers among the VC in 1967.
(About 27,000 Hoi Chanh in 1967 of an estimated 220,000 VC in all categories, exclusive of
the NVA). Some recent administrative developments in the NVA infiltration force may be
partly responsible for widening the chinks in the psychological armor of the NVA soldier
that promise greater rallier totals and pose an increasing challenge to US/GVN PSYOP.
The more recent study shows that the age of infiltrators has dropped significantly.
Prior to 1960, the most frequent age at infiltration was 22 years, with a lesser age peak
for cadre at 25. By mid 1967 the age distribution had changed to a very sharp
concentration at 19 with a much lesser age peak (again cadre) at 26 years. Further age
drops are indicated. For instance, prisoners captured in July 1967 stated that 60 NVA
replacements received by the battalion in June had all been 16 or 17 years old.
Moreover, the composition of the NVA force has undergone a change from a majority of
volunteers to over 70% draftees or former servicemen recalled to duty.
There is also some indication that soldiers with relatives in the South were included
for the first time among the infiltrators, by mid-1967, although no estimate of their
number is available. Previously, the NVA avoided sending to the South men whose immediate
families regrouped to the south in 1954.
The above three factors would appear to reduce to some degree the responsiveness of
the latest NVA infiltrators to cadre propaganda and provide greater opportunity for
exploitation of vulnerabilities by US/GVN PSYOP techniques.
The vulnerabilities themselves have not changed significantly over the past two years,
but they may have been intensified somewhat due to the change in the makeup of the force.
Separation from families, the hardships of infiltration. Fear of allied arms and
perhaps most significantly, the contrast between what they have been told by the cadre and
what they experience themselves, are major exploitable weaknesses. For example:
NVA soldiers, told that most of South Vietnam is already "liberated" come
south and find that they must hide in the jungle and are stalked continuously by the heavy
weapons of their adversaries.
They have been told by the cadre that the side which controls the people will win
the war and that the VC have already won the support of more than two-thirds of the people
and control four-fifths of the land. But instead of being welcomed by the people , NVA
soldiers find that they must live in hiding, cut off from the people, who are sullen and
seek to avoid contact with them. The recent NVA/VC Tet offensive which failed in its aim
to induce a general uprising reinforces this vulnerability.
They have been force fed in training and throughout the constant indoctrination
sessions with tales of NVA/VC victories and GVN/US defeats. According to the cadre,
Americans have low morale and fighting skill, cannot stand the climate, and think only of
going home. ARVN troops are reported to be poor fighters who are despised by the people.
In the face of these optimistic forecasts, NVA soldiers find that they are subjected to
incessant pounding and that the VC units to which they are attached or with which they
operate are forever withdrawing from areas or hiding in the jungle.
They are told that the Americans, like the French before them, have enslaved the
people, who are living in misery, exploited by the colonialists and landlord class. These
are the lackeys of the Americans and compose the puppet government of Saigon. Instead, on
the rare occasions that NVA troops come in contact with the civilian population, they find
them relatively well off, in possession of more material goods then are available in the
North and not interested in being "liberated". Though US/GVN media messages are
in part discounted because of the training and indoctrination of NVA soldiers, our PSYOP
products with which they come in occasional contact (leaflets, radio broadcasts, posters)
may also give them pause for thought if they project convincingly an image of SVN
well-being and confidence.
The party’s concern for the soldier is a standard indoctrination topic, the
gist being that the party and the country are proud of the fighter who will be given a
hero’s welcome when they return after the Americans are driven out, or if wounded
along the way, they will be well taken care of, or if killed in battle, they die a
hero’s death and will be buried with honor and live forever in the grateful memory of
their countrymen. But NVA soldiers fear that they will get little care if wounded, might
even be left behind on the battlefield, and if killed, might be hastily buried in unmarked
graves which their families will never find. They have this fear because they know that
this is what has happened to some of their comrades, contrary to what they had been taught
There is almost no mail connection with their families in the North. While several
years ago letters could be sent to immediate families without limitation, latest
interrogation state that only one letter on a single sheet can be sent North every six
months, and mail from the families is similarly sparse, censored and uncommunicative. This
deprivation is intensely felt by the soldiers, most of whom despair of ever seeing their
The endless repetition of the same communist themes by the cadre, by official
publications and training documents and in the cadre-managed self-criticism sessions sets
up near automatic responses along the lines desired by the party, irrespective of
objective reality. Because of this pattern , there is a tendency to reject allied
arguments out of hand. It is hard to break through to the nVA soldier with PSYOP messages
because of this mental conditioning.
An example is the GVN Chieu Hoi program. Cadre drill soldiers into automatic fear and
rejection reactions. Chieu Hoi is described as a contemptible hoax to make the soldiers
betray their country and then be tortured and executed. The effectiveness of this
indoctrination can be seen in a mid-1967 study during which of 100 former NVA interviewed,
55 mentioned the fear of torture and execution as a deterrent to rallying.
The capability of the party cadre to instill a spirit of self-sacrifice in the minds
of the troops is another of the strengths of its propaganda. To endure hardships, to be
wounded or die for the just cause and live forever in the memory of the people as a hero
of the revolution is a potent theme in talking to the young. By the time the trail and the
hardships in the South have ground them down, they go on automatically. Each successive
disillusionment alienates them further from the cause but these doubts cannot be expressed
to anyone and with all the suffering and blood spilled for the cause, it is difficult for
an NVA member to rationalize himself into defection.
A powerful cohesive element is the three-men cell system present throughout the NVA,
by which political and disciplinary control is maintained. Though detested as a device to
prove the cadre right most of the time, it serve s the function of letting off steam,
improving survival chances in combat and responding to emotional needs as a kind of family
substitute. But just as in the family grouping a totalitarian state, inner-most thoughts
are kept to oneself.
While vulnerabilities among the NVA in South Vietnam appear to be on the increase,
units continue to show a remarkable degree of cohesion, largely due to the psychological
controls and continuous group therapy (cell system, self-criticism sessions) to which they
are exposed. However, according to the available evidence, NVA units and individual
infiltrators are now younger and less conditioned than ever before. The effects of war
weariness, disenchantment, and nagging deprivations on these less seasoned troops should
serve to make them a more promising PSYOP target than in the past.
In devising a PSYOP program aimed at NVA units and individual NVA infiltrators, both
the elements of cohesion and the psychological vulnerabilities of the target audience will
have to be taken into account. Whittling away at the indoctrinated response might be less
productive in the short run then exploiting obvious vulnerabilities, but in the long run a
weakening of the soldiers psychological defenses laboriously built by the cadre, may cause
their entire world view to crumble. At any rate our approach should be in tandem. We deal
here with the cohesive elements first, as they are harder to tackle.
Attacking Elements of Cohesion:
The endless repetition of communist themes of colonial oppression, liberation and
revolutionary duty must be countered by patient, reasoned and repetitive efforts to
explain American policies and intentions in Vietnam simply and convincingly. That we seek
no colonial status, no bases or special privileges, that we have solemnly stated we will
withdraw when the Vietnamese people themselves have had a chance to decide their own
future without foreign pressure or interference, that the people of South Vietnam need no
liberation, that they are already free with institutions chosen by majority rule, these
are the points that need to be made continuously and persuasively.
The myth of cadre and party infallibility must be attacked over and over again by
contrasting word with deed or fact. We must ask insistently whether the NVA soldier knows
the real purpose of the three-man cell and the constant self-criticism sessions, namely to
make him into a tool of his leaders and trick him into casting aside those doubts and
hopes that do not correspond with the aims of the party. We must reassure him that his
doubts and hopes are right, that they are shared secretly by the majority of his comrades
and openly by most of the world, and that the goals of the party are wrong, disruptive of
harmony, destructive of family, cruel, unjust, and therefore doomed to failure.
We must counter the mental conditioning against surrender or defection as a
dishonorable act and the concomitant fear of mistreatment at GVN/US hands, which have been
drilled into NVA troops by their cadre. To do this effectively, we must provide potential
ralliers both with a framework of sound rationalizations and detailed instructions on
giving up the fight. We must persuade the NVA soldier that to surrender or rally will be
neither dishonorable nor personally detrimental to him, on the contrary, that ending the
bloodshed and suffering both individually and collectively, can only benefit the
Media products should also point to the constructive and responsible jobs held by
regroupees and former VC of northern origin in South Vietnam. Ex VC Lieutenant Colonels Cu
and Chuyen are examples. Efforts should be made to obtain and use NVA Hoi Chanh success
The same detailed information on the reception, care, resettlement and educational
opportunities of the Chieu Hoi program that is directed to the VC, should be aimed at NVA
units and individual NVA rallier prospects through leaflets addressed to NVA members
serving with the VC.
An effort should be made to develop quickly, in a tactical level, PSYOP messages to
NVA units in contact, using whatever personal, positive and convincing comments about the
Chieu Hoi program NVA Hoi Chanh can be permitted to make.
As an alternative to rallying if they do not have the opportunity or do not wish to be
known as ralliers; a series of leaflets should offer NVA members the option of permitting
themselves to be captured.
Good treatment in PW camps , scrupulous GVN observance of the "Geneva
Convention on the Treatment of Prisoners of War" with appropriate quotations
from the Convention cited. Daily individual food rations in the camps, medical care, and
vocational training available should be stressed. Leaflets should include group photos of
contented-looking and well fed PWs, eating, smoking, engaged in sports or receiving Red
Cross packages. A caution in this type of material is that no single individual’s
features should be highlighted. (A forth coming PSYOP policy will deal specifically with
restrictions on the use of PWs in PSYOP).
Another kind of appeal should link the betrayal of the NVA fighters’ ideals by
the party and their cadre with the counseling of individual survival of the war as the
prime objective of the disillusioned servicemen. The squandering of soldier’ lives by
the leadership in recent attacks should be emphasized. Malingering, avoidance of risks,
non-volunteering for missions, passive resistance to cadre exhortations, minimum
performance should be stressed as techniques. If the cadre organization responds by
tightening discipline, additional friction and morale problems will be created.
The vulnerabilities to be exploited are covered in some detail by the individual
themes given below. In general, they include separation from families, lack of mail, the
daily hardships and risks which are particularly harsh on the unseasoned young troops now
being brought into battle, poor or non-existent medical care, and the wide contrasts
between what they are taught to believe by the cadre and what they experience or see for
Now that there are indications that soldiers with relatives in the South are beginning
to appear among the infiltrators, our range of PSYOP appeals should include some message
assuring reunion with these family members. A concerted effort should be made to identify
NVA Hoi Canh with relatives in the South and to obtain family reunion photos for use with
Different approaches should be used for PSYOP messages along the infiltration route
and those to NVA units within the RVN. Trail leaflets might suggest ways to avoid service
such as symptoms of grave sickness, straggling and desertion while still in NVN.
Sympathize with the NVA soldier on the hardships he must undergo in the South, give
him credit for his courage and steadfastness, but prove to him that he has been misled,
that the cause for which he is fighting is not just and not deserving the sacrifice of his
young manhood. Couple with Chieu Hoi messages.
Illustrate that NVA forces in the RVN face a formidable RVNAF defense force, highly
motivated because they are not attacking anyone else’s territory, but defending their
own, equipped with the most modern weapons, aided by the most powerful nation in the world
in an unbeatable combination. To avoid the death or mutilation, which will become
inevitable the longer he remains with the NVA or NC, offer the NVA soldier the advantages
of the Chieu Hoi program.
Convey as often and as persuasively as possible the story of defeats suffered by NVA
units in South Vietnam. Give credible details of these defeats and ask the recipient of
the leaflet to reflect on his own whether or not the cadre are lying to him. Again, couple
with surrender or Chieu Hoi appeals.
In case NVA soldiers do not have the opportunity to surrender or rally in the heat of
battle, suggest that they permit themselves to be captured and provide full information on
the treatment of PWs by the GVN, including scrupulous observance of the Geneva Convention
, ample food and medical care, educational and sports programs, mail privileges, Red Cross
inspections and gifts, eventual repatriation.
Remind the NVA soldiers that they are wasting the best years of their lives away from
families and friends in North Vietnam. Recall that the first NVA infiltrators were told in
1963 that South Vietnam would be liberated in that year. Pose the question whether their
sacrifice is justified and offer the Chieu Hoi program as an alternative.
The GVN and the US have tried every possible way to get Hanoi to the conference table,
but Ho Chi Minh and his government have not responded.
RVN prosperity and the development of representative institutions which give man an
opportunity to work, learn and earn according to his free will and his personal ability
instead of forever being told what to do, should be emphasized over and over again with
photo illustrations where appropriate.
Repetitive use of messages showing plenty of consumer goods in the hands of the RVN
people, such as private vehicles and appliances, plentiful food, entertainment and
educational opportunities instead of the deprivation and drastic controls that are the
rule in North Vietnam, should raise the question of which system performs better for the
Examples of the SVN national assembly taking independent steps, reprimanding the
government, or causing changes in government plans, can be used to drive home odious
comparisons with the totalitarian institutions of North Vietnam. Again we should ask and
answer: "Which regime serves the people better?"
North Vietnamese military personnel in South Vietnam can be reached by the following
- Air dropped on NVA units and on VC units containing NVA personnel.
- Distributed by patrol
- Delivered by ordnance
- Airborne loudspeakers
- Ground loudspeakers, in close situations particularly speakers at outposts.
- Radio Saigon
- Provincial radio stations
- Voice of America (VOA)
- Voice of Freedom (VOF)
- - Posters placed in areas likely to be visited by NVA personnel.
Others are in preparation.
The following JUSPAO-produced tapes are addressed to NVA
soldiers or jointly to NVA and VC military personnel:
The following standard leaflets; available for reprinting; are maintained in the
SP-1415 Who Is Your Enemy
SP-2263 NVA Poem
SP-2266 Good Treatment for NVA PWs
SP 2267 To Soldiers of the NVA (a Tet greeting)
SP-2273 Soldiers of the NVN People’s Army (Tet Greeting)
SP-2277 The GVN Invites You
SP-2236 NVA PWs Live Peacefully>
No. Dialect Target
25-A N NVA
26-A N NVA
30-A N NVA
32-A N NVA
33-A N NVA
34-A N NVA
54-A N NVA
69 N NVA
70 N NVA
71 N, C&S NVA&VC 72 N NVA
75 N NVA&VC
117 N, C&S NVA&VC
119 N NVA
121 N, C&S NVA&VC
125 N NVA
126 N NVA
127 N NVA
JUSPAO PLANNING OFFICE