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PROSELYTIZING THE ENEMY (Địch Vận)

Refers to the branch of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam’s (DRV) armed forces in charge of mobilizing, propagandizing, and rallying enemy soldiers and officers throughout the Indochina War. Dich Van propaganda underscored the “righteous” cause of the DRV’s struggle in an attempt to sow doubts and dissension within the enemy’s ranks. These propaganda teams relied on pamphlets, papers, tracts, and loudspeakers. To be more effective, they also turned to deserters from the French Union forces, especially North African and African troops, to entice in their native languages colonial troops and Germans from the Foreign Legion. European crossovers such as Erwin Börchers, Kostas Sarantidis, Ernst Frey, and Georges Boudarel conducted propaganda courses in a cacophony of different languages among European prisoners taken by the DRV forces. While there were some notable defections, the proselytizing missions were much less successful than Vietnamese propaganda and many French theoricians of “revolutionary war” suggest. The most important targets for the DRV were the Vietnamese troops being recruited by the Army of the Associated State of Vietnam. As the Associated State came to life and General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny pushed it to mobilize in order to win, the DRV countered with its own general mobilization. This meant that there emerged a real competition for young peasant recruits. As a result, not only did the DRV do its best to control territories and the manpower they held, but the government also stepped up its efforts to win over those soldiers drafted into the enemy Vietnamese army. Vietnamese communists behind this strategy were also betting that their regime’s defense of the poor, soon to be backed up by land reform, would win over soldiers from the Associated State of Vietnam via Dich Van. See also INDOCTRINATION; PSYCHOLOGICAL WARFARE; REVOLUTIONARY WARFARE; TORTURE.