My short bio: I do not speak English, so my son Kenneth will be helping me with this AMA. Originally this was a 5 star Ask/Tell thread on SomethingAwful in 2009. My name is Luong Tran, and I was a Captain stationed in the headquarters of South Vietnam which was nicknamed "The Pentagon". My brother-in-law, and Kenneth's uncle is General Le Quang Luong (who served with General Westmoreland), the commander of the elite airborne special forces (or red berets). I served during the entire Vietnam war and spent 8 years in re-education camps after the war. I was active even before the war as a political activist. As Captain, I was the highest ranking officer in the Psychological Techniques Division. An interesting fact about me, I helped plan the rescue of American special forces from a Viet Cong prison. Ask me anything about the Vietnam War!

My Proof:

Comments: 81 • Responses: 19  • Date: 

coryrenton24 karma

What is the strangest tactic you used that worked and what is the strangest tactic that didn't work?

alwaysvip23 karma

You cannot say that strategy or tactics were used during the Vietnam War, because it was a war of politics. So political tactics were used. The strangest tactics used that didn't work was that if a bomb landed in the North, then the Communists would have to say that the Americans were bombing the North mainland. They would have to make that claim. The strangest tactic that did work was if that if the American forces withdrew, then the US and China, which backed the North, could then conduct trade ala Henry Kissinger.

pinata_penis_pump213 karma

What was the sentiment among the ARVN after the Tet Offensive? From a tactical standpoint the Viet Cong were all but destroyed, but the political pressure in the United States turned against the war effort despite the overwhelming US/ARVN victory. What was the mood like amongst the ARVN after Tet?

alwaysvip15 karma

Let me tell you about the Tet Offensive, what it was was the American-allied forces wanted to test to see the sentiments of the Vietnamese people. Not to gauge the strength of the Viet Cong, but to gauge the fighting will of the Vietnamese people. For example, the Viet Cong would round up the Vietnamese villagers and put them at the front lines between the South and North forces. Many terrible tactics were used during what was supposed to be a peacetime for the Vietnamese people.

Barleynots10 karma

At any point in time, did you ever encounter Captain Hugh Thompson Jr. while he flew civilians away from close encounter massacres?

Did the shock and awe or rapid dominance warfare techniques of US forces ever contradict the goals of the Psychological Techniques Division?

alwaysvip6 karma

Don't recall meeting Captain Hugh Thompson Jr., but will double check.

Actually at the Psychological Techniques Division, we were never in shock and awe of the US forces. I was actually invited, along with my best friend, to come to the United States to do an exchange training program. We declined the offer because we weren't too fond of Americans at the time.

We considered the warfare techniques of the US forces to not be superior to ours. For example, when we had to assault a base, the Americans would always not want to attack the base head on. They were too scared to go in from the front. That job we always had to assign to Vietnamese forces. The Americans always wanted to attack from the side. We were not as afraid as they were.

MisoryMisory27 karma

How did you end up in a re-education camp, and what were the conditions like?

alwaysvip24 karma

Everybody in the South Vietnam army was rounded up and sent to re-education camp after the war ended. The length of stay varied, from 2 months for lower ranking military personnel up to 10 years or so for high ranking generals. I stayed for 8 years. The conditions were the worst you can imagine. We were subject to torture and forced labor. I have many stories of all the various torture tactics used in the re-education camps. One tactic they used was to issue us clothing only once per year. This lead to a lot of theft of clothing. One year I had my clothes stolen, and I said "who here dares to steal my clothes?!".

gritsan7 karma

What psyop measures did you take against other other critical ideological crisis that occurred during the war such as the Buddhist uprising? Did you find it more difficult to sway someones beliefs in matters of religion than the interest of politics?

alwaysvip21 karma

In Buddhism, the Buddha is not number 1. There is no number 1 person or being. Anybody can become a Buddha. In Catholicism, God or Jesus is number 1. And the ruler designated by God or Jesus is number 1 in the hierarchy. In Communism, there is a number 1. The Communist leader is number 1. So because of these belief systems, Communists and Buddhists will never see eye to eye. The Communists beliefs are more aligned with the Catholic beliefs of there being a number 1.

theflamingskull5 karma

An uncle told me he saw more ARVN rifles dropped, than fired. How much truth is there behind that?

pinata_penis_pump25 karma

That was kind of a running joke in the war. "Never been fired and only dropped once!".

alwaysvip4 karma

I never carried a gun during the war, only during training. I had unit assigned to bodyguard me during the war, both while in active duty and on my days off. My bodyguards were armed.

alwaysvip2 karma

I would have to say: "I don't know".

LeeKom5 karma

Were you familiar with the Hmong guerilla fighters? If so, what were your experiences with them?

alwaysvip14 karma

Yes. The Hmong fighters were known to be very anti-communist, although they were not part of the Vietnam armed forces. So the Americans knew that where you found Hmong guerilla fighters, you could find Viet Cong.

ethicalgenius4 karma

What are some of the most useful psychological techniques used at ARVN that can be applied in everyday life?

alwaysvip7 karma

There are many techniques that can be applied to everyday life. One of our functions at the Psychological Techniques Division was to determine what job a person was best suited for in the military. So our role was partially to assign soldiers to the right job based on what they're good at, what they're skilled at. For example, we would determine if someone was afraid of fire, or if someone was suicidal or gave up on life. We would then make the appropriate assignments based on those factors. In everyday life, you can use these techniques to determine what a person wants. And then appropriate a course of action based on their desires, their fears, and their skills. In the military, that was one of my jobs.

steve_o_mac4 karma

From all of my study of the Vietnam war (from American sources, so inherent bias) the ARVN was completely infiltrated. In your opinion, how accurate is this statement?

alwaysvip7 karma

I wouldn't say it was completely infiltrated, but it was infiltrated. What's even more interesting, is that we actually sent units to infiltrate the Viet Cong too. They infiltrated us and we infiltrated them. We had entire units deployed that would build complete bases for the Viet Cong.

steve_o_mac3 karma

A follow up if I may. How closely linked were ARVN's black / psy ops to those of SOG's?

alwaysvip3 karma

My brother-in-law lead the special operations, although this is contentious because that there were two claims to the special ops groups. The ARVN army rangers was lead by my brother-in-law's rival. Some say black ops was the army rangers, and some say black ops was the red berets. The black ops (army rangers) and special ops (airborne) were closely linked. Psyops, however, was not closely linked. We were mainly stationed at The Pentagon while they both went out on suicide missions. Occasionally we would have to coordinate, for example, rescuing US Special Forces from the Viet Cong prison.

followcat3 karma

You said in a reply that American forces never wanted to attack head-on, and so Vietnamese forces were sent to do this. What were some other differences between the techniques of the two groups?

I'm wondering if these differences may have something to do with differences in culture or if they were an effect of the Americans fighting in a place that was very unfamiliar to them. Do you have any insights?

alwaysvip2 karma

Ah I need to clarify. American forces never wanted to be the first ones to attack head-on. They were willing to attack head-on, but not be the first ones in line. Like with Afghanistan, would they prefer to be the first ones to attack or the Afghan forces to attack first?

dog_in_the_vent3 karma

I helped plan the rescue of American special forces from a Viet Cong prison

Is this referring to the Son Tay raid? I'd love to hear more about this either way!

alwaysvip3 karma

I cannot comment on the Son Tay raid. But yes, I am aware of it.

tpetty443 karma

Are any of the techniques you used in Vietnam still being used today? And as a follow-up, were any of them your design?

alwaysvip3 karma

Yes center had many functions aside from PSYOPS. The techniques were classified as "biology" or similar function. At the center, they also called it as the "aptitude" and "mental health" center. What I developed by my design was the A, B, C, D tests that soldiers had to take in the military. This was the equivalent of the incoming new recruit aptitude tests which was then administered by the Psychological Techniques Division. We essentially determined what job and rank you were in one sense, and one function.

TheLostLittleCamera3 karma

Good evening. I hope this line of questioning is not taboo.

Thank you in advance for any details you can share and apologize for such the inhumane treatment at the hands of the powers that be.

Can you go into detail on Agent Orange?

Was it more affective as a weapon against humans (chemical warfare) or against plants/insects (pesticide/herbicide)?

Were any tactics set in motion to mitigate the aftermath of its usage?

What lasting lessons should we take away from the end result of it being used?

Seeing you so open about other questions, Is there anyway to rationalize how anyone could possibly allow/rationalize such a thing to be used?

How did you treat the plants and land that it was used on?

How did you treat the humans and animals that were exposed and were any plans setup for this?

Are the effects still visible?

I humbly thank you for your time.

alwaysvip8 karma

I cannot say much about Agent Orange, because this is still a contentious issue in ongoing US-Vietnam relations. There are still many things up for debate regarding its usage.

Was I aware of its usage during the war? Yes. But it was only supposed to be used on the forestry, and not on people.

I apologize for not being able to answer all of your questions on Agent Orange.

eyewhycue23 karma

Were you there in the early 60s by chance?

alwaysvip4 karma

In the 60s I had to hide from the police for a time. They suspected that I was a Communist so I had to go away for a bit. Before the war started and before I was drafted, I was arrested many times for my involvement as a political activist.

Barleynots2 karma

What kept you sane in the re-education camps after the war?

alwaysvip7 karma

You had to remember that they were not your enemies. The guards. If it was them in the camp and the roles were reversed, then we would have done the same thing to them.

sn01no2 karma

Who had the better brigade, Bushrod Johnson or States Rights Gist?

alwaysvip5 karma

I'm not familiar with those brigades unfortunately.

jimthesoundman2 karma

What did you think of President Thieu & President Diem?

Were they good men in a bad situation or were they just bad men?

alwaysvip3 karma

You need to differentiate between Presidents during wartime and Presidents during peacetime. In wartime, they were good men although their paths were different. In peacetime they may be seen differently.