By David Langbart
“This is an American soldier – he is your friend.” So read the leaflet prepared by the United States for use in Vietnam. Underneath that caption, it pictured several American infantrymen advancing into combat.
The time, however, was not the 1960s; it was mid-1945 and World War II in the Pacific was drawing to a close. To speed the war’s conclusion, the United States needed the cooperation and assistance of those populations still under Japanese occupation.
Even as the victorious allied powers discussed high policy for the region, often contentiously, action on the ground continued. In what has to be considered a great irony, given later events, in July 1945, the Psychological Warfare Officer in the U.S. Army command known as the China Theater and the China-based office of the Office of War Information (OWI) – the American World War II-era propaganda agency – developed this leaflet when it appeared that U.S. armed forces might enter the territory that is now Vietnam in order to liberate what was then part of the French colony of Indochina from Japanese occupation. The leaflet identified American soldiers, explained their presence in Indochina, and requested the assistance of the local population.
Unfortunately, it is not clear from the records if this leaflet was ever used. It, nevertheless, remains an interesting artifact of the time as do the other leaflets and records of the China Theater Psychological Warfare Officer.
File: “LS Annamite French Action, Nov 44-July 45,” (National Archives ID: 67533246). Series: General Records, 12/1944 – 9/1945 (NAID 6741113). Creator: War Department. U.S. Army Forces, China Theater. Theater Psychological Warfare Section. [(Entry UD-UP-340), Rear Echelon Headquarters]. Record Group 493: Records of U.S. Army Forces in the China-Burma-India Theaters of Operations, 1942 – 1947