24. Memorandum From the Director of the United States Information Agency (Rowan) to President Johnson 1

SUBJECT

  • Rural Opinion in Viet-Nam

USIS conducted a study in April and May, 1964, to determine psychological attitudes in the rural Vietnamese province of Binh Hoa.2 Despite the fact that Binh Hoa is not typical of all rural Vietnamese provinces, findings proved surprisingly consistent with less detailed but significant data taken previously from other areas, and are probably indicative of rural thinking throughout much of the country.

The following summary of findings from the study may interest you.

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1. Villagers prefer the central government over the Viet Cong. Viet Cong influence was significant in only two of the fifteen villages surveyed. Only in the face of threats did villagers tend to support the VC. Left alone, they looked to the central government for any real help.

2. There is confidence in the Khanh3 government, but it can only be maintained by fulfilling villagers’ desires. Khanh has achieved a considerable measure of respect by meeting certain village demands such as relaxation of taxes and elimination of forced indoctrination sessions. Even among Catholics who felt that Diem4 gave them preferential treatment, the old regime is no longer mourned.

3. The most common aspiration is for government credit and material aid. Financial and technical help is everywhere sought and needed for construction of public works such as hospitals, schools, and irrigation projects and for private assistance in agricultural developments.

4. Success of the strategic hamlet program is dependent upon several factors.

a. Adequate and well-behaved security forces.

b. Prompt payment of resettlement costs.

c. Free elections.

d. Honest, energetic, and socially-responsible government officials and district chiefs.

5. The presence of U.S. advisors is not resented. Generally, people “do not care whether U.S. officers act as advisors or commanders as long as they help in winning the war.” Despite some unfavorable comparisons with the French who “got closer to the people,” U.S. advisors are judged as “better disciplined.”

6. Villagers’ uncertainties about their prospects can be reduced by still further improvement of the Vietnamese Information Service. Common complaints were that publications do not reach the people, movie showings are too infrequent, and Vietnamese information officers do not exert themselves enough. Thus, uncertainties about the government can result from lack of information about so uncomplicated a subject as “People wonder what happened to the savings they have poured into the Agricultural Credit Service fund for the last years.”

The overwhelming need is for reassurances of physical security.

For your more detailed information, a fuller report is attached.

Carl T. Rowan 5
  1. Source: Johnson Library, White House Central Files, Subject Files, Countries, CO 312 Vietnam, Box CO–79, CO 312 Viet Nam, 6/15/64–9/30/64. No classification marking.
  2. Attached but not printed is the undated study entitled “Rural Opinion in Binh Hoa Province.”
  3. Reference is to the Army of the Republic of Vietnam military commander, Major General Nguyen Khanh, who led the January 30, 1964, coup. Khanh served as Prime Minister of South Vietnam from February 4 to October 30.
  4. Reference is to Ngo Dinh Diem, President of the Republic of Vietnam until November 1, 1963, when he was deposed in a military coup.
  5. Rowan signed “Carl” above this typed signature.