Efforts to destroy the National Liberation Front (NLF) included the “Chieu Hoi” (Open Arms) amnesty program begun at the insistence of American and British advisers, including Sir Robert Thompson.
The program, like all others in Vietnam, generated remarkable statistics—almost 160,000 deserters and 11,200 weapons turned in—but only meager results. The program was conducted in classic American fashion with leaflets dropped from the air in NLF-controlled areas and Vietnamese psyops (psychological operations) personnel haranguing peasants via bullhorn from hovering helicopters.
Those who rallied to the government were usually low-level personnel, many of whom may not have been keen about the NLF program to begin with. The program, in part because of its failure to develop face-to-face contacts, attracted few members of the NLF political or military cadres. In fact, critics charged the program was an “R and R” for the NLF, allowing NLF soldiers to “rally” temporarily to recuperate themselves and then return to the NLF.
Evidence shows that some may have “changed sides” as many as five times. Of those who rallied, however, were some who sincerely changed sides and were recruited into the GVN military, often as Kit Carson Scouts. Good Kit Carson scouts were highly prized by American military units because of their familiarity with guerrilla movements, tactics, and booby traps.
Regrettably, far more of the Chieu Hoi deserters also infiltrated American and ARVN military units and caused grave problems.