120.251G/12–854: Telegram

The Chargé in Vietnam (Kidder) to the Department of State


2167. Repeated information Paris 680, Vientiane, Phnom Penh unnumbered. From Collins. Re Embtel 2004, repeated Paris 643.1

[Page 2355]
Fifth and last of series of meetings with Ely on major programs cited in reference telegram held 6 December. Subject of discussion: Information, propaganda, and various measures to strengthen Diem Government. French outlined current propaganda techniques being used by Viet Minh and suggested general lines of program that should be followed by Vietnamese, French and US propaganda effort:
Vietnam propaganda activities should be united and not fragmented as they now are among sects, army, and special interest groups.
French and US assistance to Vietnamese propaganda effort should be mainly in form of financial support and French and Americans should remain in background. Thorough coordination among efforts of three parties essential.
Propaganda should be tailored to specific target areas, not uniform for all Vietnam.
Effective theme in north would be denouncing Viet Minh regime by showing divergence between promises and reality; significance of refugee exodus; conscription of forced labor; unemployment; heavy taxation. Clandestine propaganda workers would be effective if directed by secret service under experienced Vietnamese. Certain existing groups and networks in north could play helpful role.
In south effective propaganda can derive only from positive accomplishments of government in such fields as raising living standards and effecting land reforms. Government must promptly organize effective administrative machinery down to village level, play up spectacular examples of its achievements, and present self as protector of people. Example cited of Magsaysay’s flair for dramatizing his role as friend of common man.
I stated that basically we were in accord on kind of program that needed to be carried out, but that key problem was how to get it started. Present Minister of Information, Thai, is Cao Daist whose first loyalty is to his sect, not National Government, and Diem is reluctant replace him for fear of alienating Cao Daists. Immediate problem is to get effective Minister of Information who can start program and with whom French and US can work. Also necessary to get army out of political propaganda field and bring all government activities under Ministry. Ely then provided brief list of possible candidates for post of Minister which I turned over to PAO for study. I volunteered to speak to Diem about appointing person who we would agree had promise.
In connection with discussion of basic appeals effective with Vietnamese, I stressed importance, in my judgment, of constant repetition by the French of the fact that Vietnam had been granted independence. I cited fact that Magsaysay did not know when or if French had granted Vietnam independence. Viet Minh are able to achieve major psychological advantage by charging that Vietnam is not free but that it remains under French domination as indicated by Magsaysay.
Discussion served as useful exchange of views and resulted in general agreement on desirable lines of proceeding in public information and propaganda field. It was recognized no substantial progress can be made until government organizes an effective Ministry of Information and makes some tangible achievements in social and economic fields which its propaganda can exploit.
  1. Dated Nov. 29, p. 2315.