Control and Polarization of the Populace
Courtesy: Le, Thanh Nam
Repression also serves as a means of establishing control in areas which
the Viet Cong seek to "pacify," and as a major instrument in the
consolidation of Communist control over already "liberated" areas.
Captured documents often refer to this process as the "purifying" or
"cleaning up" of an area (removing all "spies," "tyrants," and other GVN
remnants), and "purging" the local hostile to the Revolution or whose
loyalties are suspect). Consider, for example, the following captured
plans and directives, all issued in 1968:
"Active plan prepared by the Dai Loc District Party Committee of
Quang Da Province on May 25, 1968, directed subordinate units to
"liberate all hamlets and villages in the vicinity of the District seat,
seize political power, establish a revolutionary government, overthrow
the enemy's village or hamlet administrations, eliminate hamlet spies
and local administrative personnel, weed out undesirable elements
among the people, and continuously pursue village and district local
administrative personnel to liberate the masses from their grip and
Another activity plan, dated December 22, 1968, and attributed to the
Binh Dinh Province Party Committee, described the Communist mission
in newly "liberated" areas in these terms: "We should immediately get
down to consolidating and maintaining the areas just brought under our
control as part of our expansion program. Reorganize the people, wipe
out the last spies, and purge the people's ranks of elements held to be
undesirable. . . (15)
A third activity plan, issued by an unidentified village security section
in the spring of 1968, directed armed security elements to annihilate
local government personnel and to clear the village of all suspects and
reactionaries so as to make it safe for troops from higher headquarters.
A directive dated October 5, 1968, and attributed to the Political
Section of Gia Lai Province stated that "it is necessary to weed out
undesirable elements in areas where the troops will stop . . . and in areas
which are prepared as stepping stones and troop-advance corridors of the
Once the Viet Cong establish a strong presence in an area, they try to
seal off the local population both physically and psychologically from
any further contact with the GVN. They are particularly intent on
denying the government all intelligence on Communist troop
movements, bivouac sites, supply caches, and information relating to
those who serve in their local military and political infrastructures. To
inhibit intelligence penetration and collection in Communist-controlled
or contested areas, the Viet Cong not only systematically identify and
neutralize anyone suspected of being a GVN spy or informant, but they
also impose and enforce very stringent regulations governing travel
within the villages and hamlets and proscribing all unauthorized contact
with GVN persons, including immediate relatives. Any villager found
violating these local regulations is subject to disciplinary action and runs
the risk of being thought a GVN spy, a most serious charge, as even
faintly "suspected agents often are incarcerated in thought-reform
camps. Proven spies are harshly dealt with, and most are executed.
Captured documents suggest that, in at least some localities, Communist
security cadres have standing orders to "kill without mercy" any GVN
intelligence or reconnaissance agents attempting to penetrate the area.
(18) From time to time, captured "spies" are given public trials before
"People's Courts" as a way of impressing the local population with the
Revolution's firm attitude in the face of such activity. (19)
The local people also are subjected to constant and intensive
indoctrination by security cares regarding the importance of the
"security maintenance mission," and are instructed to keep watch over
the activities and contacts of their fellow villagers and to report
immediately the presence of any strangers in their areas. (20) Part of this
indoctrination is an attempt to imbue villagers with deep hatred of all
GVN intelligence personnel. One plan urged local cadres to "motivate
the people to engage in security maintenance activities arouse their
hatred of enemy spies and intelligence personnel, and make them
uncover the latter. (21) And a letter to local Security Section in the
Saigon area said that the main purpose of this mission was "to unmask
the enemy's cunning schemes to the people in order to increase their
deep hatred towards the enemy, especially the security agents,
policemen, intelligence agents, spies and informants." (22)
The fomenting of hatred and vindictiveness is by no means limited to
GVN intelligence personnel; indeed, all repressive activity is cloaked in
a highly emotional propaganda designed to arouse the people to a deep
hatred of, and a desire for revenge against, the military and civilian
officials serving the government. According to captured documents,
Communist cadres are called on to "deepen the people's hatred" toward
the GVN, the "incite" their "wrath," to "arouse" their "hate against
Thieu-Ky puppet government," and to "heighten their concept of
revenge." (23) For example, in guidelines for a propaganda campaign in
Ben Tre Province for the period October 1968 to March 1969, the Viet
Cong directed cadres to "make the people feel a profound hatred of [the]
enemy's savage crimes and incite them to avenge their compatriots and
kinfolk by enthusiastically and actively taking part in combat activities
to heroically annihilate the enemy and achieve great merits." (24)
Another propaganda directive, covering the same period but issued by a
Region headquarters, urged them to "intensify [the people's] deep hatred
for the enemy, [and] strongly and continuously denounce the savage and
brutal crimes committed by the Americans and their lackeys towards our
Frequently, these hate campaigns focus on specific targets of repression,
as evident from a security directive, captured in Mart 1968, which
outlined the types of propaganda that should accompany the repression
of "counterrevolutionary elements":
"While motivating the people to deepen their resentment of the enemy,
we must so propagandize them that they can see the enemy's deceitful,
demagogic, pacification schemes, and that the hamlet and village
[RVN] administrative personnel, pacification cadre and "people's
aspiration" cadre, etc. . . . . are but traitors, henchmen of the US
Imperialists. They entice the people with mellow words while trying to
deceive and exploit them. The theme our daily propaganda must be
based on is concrete on-the-spot examples of enemy crimes." (26)
In expounding the various crimes of government personnel, Viet Cong
propagandists dwell on the many "inhuman" and barbaric atrocities"
allegedly committed by the Americans and their "GVN henchmen," the
wanton destruction of homes and property, and the "rape," "murder," and
"torture" of innocent men and women. Government officials are
characterized as "Vietnamese traitors" who fatten their lives on our
That the Communists have continued to give high priority to their "deep
hatred for the enemy" movement is illustrated by this passage in a Secret
directive concerning security activities issued by an agency of the Can
Duoc District Unit, Subregion 3, on May 18, 1969:
"We must motivate the entire army and people to join the "deep hatred
for the enemy" movement waged by us and be determined to sweep the
enemy. We must seek all means to destroy people who surrender, traitors
and pacification personnel." (28)
Such hate campaigns apparently have several objectives. One is to
justify the most severe measures (assassinations and executions) taken
against some government servants: indeed, the killings of "tyrants" is
made to appears as a heroic act deserving special recognition and award.
(29) The other is to warn any member of the general populace who
might be tempted to treat with or join the GVN.
The central purpose of this hate propaganda is to polarize the
population, to divide it irrevocably from the GVN, and to mobilize it for
service and sacrifice in support of the Revolution. The people are to
learn to view the war in black and white terms, to accept no coexistence
with the GVN, and to fight the enemy without compromise. They must
acquire "a clear-cut antagonistic attitude" toward the government, such
as that described as follows in a report of the Military Affairs Party
Committee of Area 3:
"Attitude of the population: The people did have a clear-cut antagonistic
attitude toward the enemy. They only wished the Revolution could
emerge victorious as quickly as possible. This attitude reflected itself in
the fact that they gave us information about the enemy police and spies,
guided us to destroy cruel elements, sheltered us in their houses or
showed us good positions in which to station our troops, provided us
with material supplies and fed us." (31)
The ultimate aim of hate campaigns is to raise popular animus to such a
pitch that the people will themselves participate in the liquidation of
"spies," "tyrants," and "reactionaries." This objective was pressed hard
during the General Uprising and General Offensive phase, which began
during Tet of 1968, when Viet Cong propagandists and other political
cadres were repeatedly urged to "promote the people's determination and
enthusiasm in killing and capturing the tyrants." (32) More will be said
of this later.
(14) Doc. Log No. 10-1004-68 (Confidential), dated November 10,
1968 (emphasis added). Translation of a "Resolution" (activity plan)
prepared at the Dai Loc District Party Committee Conference, Quang
Da Province, which was held from May 24 to May 28, 1968. The
Resolution was dated May 25, 1968, and was classified Secret.
Captured by the 1st USMC Division on September 14, 1968.
(15) Doc. Log No. 01-2311-69 (Confidential), dated January 31, 1969
(emphasis added). Translation of a "Plan for Political Struggle and
Armed Uprising. . .," dated December 22, 1968, and attributed to the
Political Struggle by the Capital ROK Infantry Division on January 4,
(16) Doc Log No. 05-1385-68 (Confidential), summarized in MAJ2
Bulletin No. 12,150, dated May 7, 1968 (emphasis added). Summary
of an activity plan of an unidentified Village Security Section for the
period of April 15 to June 30, 1968. Captured by the 7/1 Cavalry
Squadron, II FFV, on April 24, 1968.
(17) Doc. Log No. 10-2095-68 (Confidential), dated October 31, 1968
(emphasis added). Translation of a "Directive on Political Tasks for
Winter 1968," dated October 5, 1968, and attributed to the Political
Section, Gia Lai Province Unit, B-3 Front. Captured by RF, 24th STZ,
RVNAF II CTZ, between October 18 and 20, 1968. Similar statements
may be found in numerous other captured documents, such as Doc. Log
No. 01-1999-68 (Confidential), and Doc. Log No. 05-1947-68
(Confidential), summarized in MACJ2 Bulletin No. 12,415, dated May
(18) Example appears in Doc. Log No. 02-2050-68 (Confidential),
summarized in MACJ2 Bulletin No. 9769, dated February 25, 1968,
and Doc. Log No. 04-3157-68 (Confidential), summarized in MACJ2
Bulletin No. 11,901, dated April 30, 1968.
(19) Doc. Log No. 11-1520-68 (Confidential), dated December 26,
1968. Translation of a plan prepared by an unidentified enemy unit
concerning military and political operations against Allied targets in
Ben Tre Province in 1968. Captured by 5th U.S. SFGA on November 6,
(20) Doc. Log No. 01-2268-69 (Confidential), dated February 17, 1968.
Translation of a "Directive" dated October 4, 1968, believed to have
been issued by the Current Affairs Committee, COSVN, concerning the
intelligence activities of the GVN's "Phuong Hoang" (Phoenix) program
and the measures necessary to counter that organization. Captured by the
C/K/RAR, 1st ATF, on January 19, 1969.
(21) Doc. Log No. 11-1520-68.
(22) Doc. Log No. 02-1076-69 (Confidential), dated February 20, 1069.
Translation of a Secret letter, dated October 24, 1968, believed to have
been prepared by an agency of Subregion 2 and addressed to the
Security Section of Precinct 6 (Saigon) and five other districts in
surrounding areas of Subregion 2. Captured by the 25th U.S. Infantry
Division on January 26, 1969.
(23) Examples were found in the following: Doc. Log No. 01-3001-67
(Confidential), dated December 12, 1967; Doc. Log No. 05-2047-67
(Confidential), dated February 12, 1968; Doc. Log No. 12-1739-67
(Confidential), dated December 29, 1967; Doc. Log No. 03-1120-68
(Confidential), summarized in MACJ2 Bulletin No. 9986, dated March
2, 1968; Doc. Log No. 04-1228-68 (Confidential), dated May 16,
1968; and Doc. Log No. 10-1399-68 (Confidential), dated October 27,
(24) Doc. Log No. 11-1020-68 (Confidential), dated January 15, 1969.
Translation of a directive pertaining to a six-month propaganda
campaign (from October 1968 to March 1069), believed to have been
issued by an agency of Ben Tre Province on October 17, 1968.
Captured by the 9th U.S. Infantry Division on October 29, 1968.
(25) Doc. Log No. 10-2137-68 (Confidential), dated November 17,
1968. Translation of a directive dated September 23, 1968, entitled
"Policies, Subjects and Requirements of Propaganda Mission (from
October 1968 to March 1069)" and attributed to the Political Staff of
Military Region VII. Captured by the 1st RAR Battalion, 1st ATF, on
October 8, 1968.
(26) Doc. Log No. 04-2435-68 (Confidential), dated May 31, 1968.
Translation of a letter which sets forth security procedures for the
Security Section of an unidentified province in line with COSVN and
Military Region resolutions. Captured by the C/3/RAR, 1st ATF, on
March 30, 1068.
(27) Doc. Log No. 12-0503-67 (Confidential), dated January 23, 1968.
Translation of a propaganda leaflet addressed to "all people of
province," issued by the Saigon-Gia Dinh Region National Front for
Liberation Committee in late 1967. Captured by the 5th ARVN Ranger
Group, Gia Dinh Sector, on December 8 and 9, 1967.
(28) Doc. Log No. 06-1939-69.
(29) "Liberation Medals" are awarded to units or individuals who show
outstanding courage in liquidating "tyrants." The Special Action element
of the Quang Da City Unit, for example, was awarded a Third Class
Liberation Medal for the high fighting spirit and courage displayed in
killing three "tyrants" in Nhan Bien hamlet on August 3, 1967. Doc.
Log No. 10-1915-68 (Confidential), summarized in MACJ2 Bulletin
No. 17,356, dated October 19, 1968. Captured by the 1st U.S. Air
(30) An example is Doc. Log No. 01-1142-69 (Confidential)
summarized in MACJ2 Bulletin No. 19,243, dated January 3, 1969,
which summarizes notes taken at a political reorientation training course
held in Military Region V during December 1968. Captured by the
Americal Division on December 18, 1968.
(31) Doc. Log No. 02-1922-68 (Confidential), dated February 29, 1968.
Translation of minutes concerning a meeting of the Military Affairs
Party Committee, Area 2, which reviewed the combat achievements of
Area 3 during the Tet Offensive. Captured by CMD, RVNAF III CTZ,
on February 12, 1968.
(32) Doc. Log No. 09-2102-68 (Confidential), dated October 15, 1968.
Translations of a directive dated August 5, 1968, concerning "Political
Struggle and Armed Uprising," believed to have been issued by the
Current Affairs Committee of a district in Binh Dinh Province. Captured
by the 5th U.S. SFGA on September 11, 1968.
ARVN: Army Republic of Vietnam
CDEC: Combined Document Exploitation Center
CIO: Central Intelligence Organization
COSVN: Central Office of South Vietnam
GVN: Government of South Vietnam
MP: Military Police
MPS: Ministry of Public Security
MR: Military Region
MSS: Military Security Service
RVN: Republic of Vietnam
RVNAF: Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces
SVN: South Vietnam
USMC: United States Marines Corp.
VNQDD: Vietnam Quoc Dan Dang