Leaflet dropped in North Vietnam in February 1966 by the 469th Tactical Fighter Squadron. The leaflets were primarily intended for the general population of North Vietnam and emphasized how the people of North and South Vietnam could peacefully coexist and prosper if the North would cease hostilities directed towards the south. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Example of a 500 Kip note dropped by the 469th Tactical Fighter Squadron during its leaflet drop mission in early 1966. Note the front side (top) depicts antiaircraft artillery shooting down an American plane. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Psychological operations were an important part of the plan to eliminate the aggression of North Vietnam against South Vietnam while attempting to minimize civilian casualties. Beginning in the spring of 1965, the U.S. Air Force and South Vietnamese Air Force flew leaflet drop missions. Several million leaflets were dropped each month.
The 469th TFS regularly participated in leaflet drops. One particular mission was flown on Feb. 6, 1966, and included a flight of five F-105Ds -- four mission aircraft and a camera aircraft to record the dispersal of the leaflets. The pilots involved were Maj. Philip Bradley, Capt. John Bailey, Capt. Bud Millner, Capt. Bob Chastain and Maj. Bob Krone (camera pod aircraft). The mission was flown in the Route Package IV area (see map) along the highway and railroad midway between the cities of Thanh Hoa and Thai Binh about 50 kilometers south of Hanoi, North Vietnam. On this mission, the canisters contained informational leaflets and 500 Kip notes (both pictured at left) -- Laoian currency worth less than one U.S. dollar (worth approximately 7 cents as of January 2001). Interestingly, the actual note dropped shows an American aircraft being shot down by antiaircraft artillery and small arms fire from the ground.
The informational leaflets were primarily intended for the general population of North Vietnam and emphasized how the people of North and South Vietnam could peacefully coexist and prosper if the North would cease hostilities directed towards the south. The leaflet dropped on this mission is translated (literally and very roughly) as follows:
Front Top: If the Communist North areas break off the destructive warfare in the South areas, then the land will be peaceful and prosperity will be achieved in both the South and North areas.
Front Left: Moreover, there will be improvements and prosperity everywhere.
Front Middle: It will allow every young man and woman to be well educated.
Front Right: It will permit everybody to be well provided with food throughout the year.
Back: Countrymen of the North still looking to conquer by moving from north to south to threaten should realize: if Communist North Vietnam continues war actions to invade the south region then there is only a situation to destroy what is left located in the north region.
Several psychological warfare operations were planned and/or implemented during the early years of the U.S. involvement. Operation Fact Sheet was one of the earliest programs and Operation Fast Buck was an idea based on a successful Korean War program; however, it was not actually implemented.
"FACT SHEET" - Leaflet Drop Operation An integral part of the Rolling Thunder operation was Operation "Fact Sheet," a psychological warfare program calling for the dropping of some four million leaflets weekly over North Vietnam by USAF and VNAF (South Vietnamese Air Force) aircraft, with VNAF participation on a limited basis. The first "Fact Sheet" missions were launched on April 14, 1965, when VNAF A-1 aircraft dropped one million leaflets on the cities of Dong Hoi, Ha Tinh, Vinh and Thanh Hoa. USAF F-105 aircraft made their first "Fact Sheet" mission on April 19, 1965, when they dropped 1,200,000 leaflets on Bai Thung, Ha Trung, Thanh Hoa, Phu Qui, Phu Dien Chau, Vinh and Ha Tinh. The leaflets warned civilians to stay away from military installations, compared life in the south with life in the north, and explained the reason for the strikes against the DRV [North Vietnam].
On April 28, 1965, one million leaflets were dropped by USAF aircraft over Cua Rao, Khe Bo, Muong Sen and Cong Cuong. Missions were also flown on May 20 and 23 by USAF aircraft and on May 22 by VNAF aircraft, with a total of 1,494,000 leaflets dropped. During June 1965, the tempo of leaflet operations increased when 4,800,000 leaflets were dispensed.
In July 1965 USAF aircraft made leaflet drops on the first 14 days, dispensing a total of 9,888,000 leaflets on impact areas ranging from Dien Bien Phu and Haiphong in the north to the DMZ [demilitarized zone] in the south. On July 20, Hanoi was targeted with 960,000 leaflets and Haiphong with 320,000, using the wind drift method, because of the 40 mile restricted area imposed around Hanoi for leaflet operations. The VNAF conducted leaflet drops on July 20 and 30, dispensing 800,000 leaflets in the south half of the DRV. The first months of leaflet operations were considered to have produced successful results. Intelligence reports and numerous transcripts of DRV press reports and radio broadcasts attested to the success of the program.
Another operation was proposed to attempt to acquire examples of North Vietnamese (Soviet) aircraft for study. The program was based on the successful program from the Korean War era resulting in the defection of a North Korean pilot and the acquisition of a MiG-15 (this aircraft is on display at the museum). The program was not implemented because of concern over possible reprisals against American POWs. An outline of the program proposal is interesting in any case:
Operation FAST BUCK, an operation proposed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) in November 1966, was for the purpose of inducing the defection of North Vietnamese pilots. It was to be patterned after Operation Moolah used during the Korean War when the U. S. offered $50,000 to any Communist pilot who would deliver a MiG to UN forces plus a $50,000 bonus for the first pilot to do so. The program also offered the pilot political asylum. As a result of the offer, all Communist MiG aircraft were grounded for eight days, ostensibly to verify pilot reliability. After the grounding, fewer MiG aircraft took to the air and engaged in air operations against U. S. aircraft. JCS suggested a similar program for North Vietnamese pilots for the purposes of:
1. Securing aircraft, particularly the MiG-21 and the "Hook" helicopter.
2. Acquiring pilots for intelligence exploitation.
3. Causing North Vietnam air force to evaluate loyalty of pilots.
4. Reducing MiG radius of operations an number of sorties.
5. Psychological exploitation of pilots in Vietnam and other countries.
In order not to alert the Soviets to the priority of U.S. requirements, the leaflets were to emphasize "defection" rather than "aircraft."
In evaluating Operation FAST BUCK, CINCPAC (Commander IN Chief, PACific) considered in both feasible and desirable and suggested the offer be a combined US/GVN (Government of South Vietnam) undertaking to include other free world countries, if they so desired. No difficulties were expected from Thailand in carrying out the program. In-flight and landing procedures had to be uncomplicated and coordinated by all air traffic control agencies involved. CINCPAC suggested that all available media be employed to disseminate the information overtly and that covert means also be used. He felt the offer should include all aircraft, without distinction, to conceal priority of U. S. requirements for specific aircraft. He realized this might result in paying for low performance aircraft, rather than the desired MiG-21, but felt the publicity would warrant overpayment. Subsequent offers could then be modified to stipulate MiG-21's. CINCPAC recommended offering $100,000, plus a $50,000 bonus, for the first aircraft and $25,000 for the second. The suggestion was based on a study of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) Registry of Foreign Material Requirement List. He also recommended offering a reward of $25,000 to pilots who defected by parachuting at sea and who were rescued by U.S. forces.
Sources: Rolling Thunder, Project CHECO, 28 Mar 66 [Fact Sheet], Rolling Thunder, Project CHECO, 15 Jul 67 [Fast Buck] & Col. Robert Krone
Photos: Col. Robert Krone