231. Memorandum From the Director of the United States Information Agency (Rowan) to the President1
- 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. 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.[Page 545]
- 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.
- There is confidence in the Khanh 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 Diem gave them preferential treatment, the old regime is no longer mourned.
- 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.
- Success of the strategic hamlet program is dependent upon several
- Adequate and well-behaved security forces.
- Prompt payment of resettlement costs.
- Free elections.
- Honest, energetic, and socially-responsible government officials and district chiefs.
- 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.”
- 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.2