“Chieu hoi, chieu hoi, chieu hoi.” It is a scream so sudden and frightening that I involuntarily say it aloud myself: “Chieu hoi.” I have brought my rifle down and stand there now with it pointed at two small men who throw their guns down in front of them. The flare casts a light like the light from a sparkler, and twelve steps away from me are two faces. The faces are all I see. My finger tightens on the trigger and I gasp for air. These poor sonofabitches are alive and more scared than I am. I, Gabriel Sauers, have eighteen rounds in my finger and two enemy prisoners now on their knees.
“Hey,” Hardon shouts, “get to them before the flare burns out.”
But it burns out before I can, or do, take a step. The next five seconds are an hour. I honestly don’t know what to do. I know if I hear them move I will burst the darkness with eighteen quick sparks, but that is all I know.
“Chieu hoi, muthafuckers,” I order, although it doesn’t mean anything. But I don’t hear them move. Then they are exposed by a tiny bit of red light that comes from Hardon’s flashlight as he comes walking carefully toward them, and me.
This U.S. Marine Corps film from the Vietnam War in 1968 documents the Chieu Hoi Program (loosely translated as “Open Arms”). Chieu-Hoi was a psychological operations initiative by the USMC and South Vietnamese to encourage defection by the Viet Cong and their supporters to the side of the Government during the Vietnam War. Defection was urged by means of a propaganda campaign, usually leaflets delivered by artillery shell or dropped over enemy-controlled areas by aircraft, or messages broadcast over areas of South Vietnam, and a number of incentives were offered to those who chose to cooperate, along with psychological warfare to break enemy morale.
To further this aim, invitations to defect, which also acted as safe conduct passes, were printed on clear plastic waterproof bags used to carry ammunition for the US soldier’s M16 assault rifle. Each bag held one magazine, and was sealed up to prevent moisture from the jungle’s humid climate from damaging the contents. When the magazine was needed during a firefight with the enemy, the bag would be torn open and discarded, in the hope that it would later be discovered by enemy troops who would read the text and consider defection.
By 1967 approximately 75,000 defections had been recorded, but analysts speculate that less than 25% of those were genuine. The program had some difficulty catching on, due in part to the culture gap, such as misspellings and unintentionally offensive statements and worsened by communist reprisals against defectors and their families. To make matters worse, as testified by Sergeant Scott Camil during the 1971 Winter Soldier Investigation, the passes were sometimes ignored by U.S. forces, their holders shot while surrendering
Overall, however, the Chieu Hoi program was considered to be successful. Those who surrendered were known as “Hoi Chanh”, and were often integrated into allied units as Kit Carson Scouts, operating in the same area where they had been captured. Many made great contributions to the effectiveness of U.S. units, and often distinguished themselves, earning decorations as high as the Silver Star. The program was relatively inexpensive, and removed over 100,000 combatants from the field. We encourage viewers to add comments and, especially, to provide additional information about our videos by adding a comment!
This film is part of the Periscope Film LLC archive, one of the largest historic military, transportation, and aviation stock footage collections in the USA. Entirely film backed, this material is available for licensing in 24p HD, 2k and 4k. For more information visit http://www.PeriscopeFilm.com