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U.S. Military Pocket Cards Describe the Rules of War

Throughout the war, the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) distributed information on the treatment of civilians to American soldiers serving in Vietnam. Officers and enlisted personnel received a wallet-sized card entitled "Nine Rules for Personnel of U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam." Another handout, "The Enemy in Your Hands," was also distributed widely among the military during the war.

Pocket Card, "Nine Rules"

Rules: The Vietnamese have paid a heavy price in suffering for their long fight against the communists. We military men are in Vietnam now because their government has asked us to help its soldiers and people in winning their struggle. The Viet Cong will attempt to turn the Vietnamese people against you. You can defeat them at every turn by the strength, understanding, and generosity you display with the people. Here are nine simple rules:

1.) Remember we are guests here: We make no demands and seek no special treatment.
2.) Join with the people! Understand their life, use phrases from their language and honor their customs and laws.
3.) Treat women with politeness and respect.
4.) Make personal friends among the soldiers and common people.
5.) Always give the Vietnamese the right of way.
6.) Be alert to security and ready to react with your military skill.
7.) Don’t attract attention by loud, rude or unusual behavior.
8.) Avoid separating yourself from the people by a display of wealth or privilege.
9.) Above all else you are members of the U.S. Military Forces on a difficult mission, responsible for all your official and personal actions. Reflect honor upon yourself and the United States of America.
DISTRIBUTION -- one to each member of the United States Armed Forces in Vietnam (September 1967).  

MACV Pocket Card,  "The Enemy In Your Hands"
As a member of the U.S. Military Forces, you will comply with the Geneva Prisoner of War Convention of 1949 to which your country adheres. Under these Conventions:

•    Disarm your prisoner.
•    Immediately search him thoroughly.
•    Require him to be silent.
•    Segregate him from other prisoners.
•    Guard him carefully.
•    Take him to the place designated by your commander.

•    Mistreat your prisoner.
•    Humiliate or degrade him.
•    Take any of his personal effects that do not have significant military value.
•    Refuse him medical treatment if required and available.


Source | [William Peers], Report of the Department of the Army Review, of the Preliminary Investigations in to the My Lai Incident, vol. 4, exhibits M-2, M-3, ([Washington, D.C.]: The Department, 1970), 9-11; James S. Olson and Randy Roberts, My Lai: A Brief History with Documents, (Boston: Bedford, 1998), 38-41.
Creator | U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam
Item Type | Government Document
Cite This document | U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, “U.S. Military Pocket Cards Describe the Rules of War,” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed April 21, 2021,

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