Spotted: A Safe Conduct Pass

5 09 2008

When Manny was found dead, he has a piece of printed paper nailed to his chest:


From Wikipedia: Safe Conduct Pass

The Chiêu Hồi Program (pronounced ‘Choo Hoy’, literally translated as “Open Arms” was an initiative by the 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 be discovered by enemy troops who would read the text and consider defection.

However, in practice this method was of little value as littering the jungle with these bags would signpost the movement of US troops to the enemy, and Viet Cong would not be keen to retain them as it would indicate their intentions and indict them as traitors; and according to the testimony of Sergeant Scott Camil during the 1971 Winter Soldier Investigation, the passes were sometimes rejected anyway, and their holders shot.

Overall, 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. 


A detailed background of the leaflet and the whole operation, from a PSYOP expert.

Charlie, Come Home! an article from TIME MAGAZINE, Feb. 10, 1967

Of course in the movie we could clearly see what the VC thought of the programm…

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