Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Laos MMFI cover

This cover, sent from Laos to France in early 1966 has a return address of 'MMFI'. The Mission Militaire Francaise d'Instruction
assisted American Special Forces training Hmong troops in Laos and later flew them to the Vietnam border for fighting. The MMFI reportedly left Laos in 1962, but I noted accounts of MMFI operating between between 1964 and 1975, so the hiatus was apparently a short one.


Philippe Drillien responded to this post based on his personal experiences with the MMFI:

According to the Genova agreements in 1962, France was the only foreign country allowed to have soldiers in Laos. The aim of these soldiers (MMFI) was to help the Laotion Government in instructing the Laotian soldiers.

When I arrived in Laos, in 1969, the MMFI was still operating in Laos. If I remember well, only 6 French military instructors helped instruct the Laotians: one (or two) in Paksé, two or (three) in Luang Prabang; the remaining were teaching French and mathematics in the military Chinaimo school (near Vientiane).

Besides these six instructors, the MMFI included at least 30 or 40 other military personnel because the MMFI ruled a Bureau Postal Militaire (BPM), a hospital for the French living in Laos, a mini supermarket and even a place for movies. This mission was housed in Wat Tay (close to the airport).

In 1975, the MMFI was asked to close by the Laotian Government. To the best of my memory, the communique that has been published stated, "The situation has changed; the MMFI does not correspond to the new situation. Laotian and French Governments agree to make an end to the mission. The end of the mission does not alter in any way the excellent relationships between the two countries."

The mission definitively closed in October 1975 (I shall try to find the exact date in my archives). The same day, Soviet people (civilian? militarians? KGB? I do not know) entered Wat Tay (ex-French campus) and replaced the MMFI. The merchandise of the mini-supermarket was sold within a few days to the members of the different Embassies. I remember that I met there, for the first time, the American "Charge de Mission" as there was no longer a US Ambassador.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Ban Me Thuot Bungalow 1964

In 1964, the MACV Advisory team to the ARVN 23rd Division was stationed in Ban Me Thuot, operating out of a set of wooden structures known as the Bungalow. The buildings were said to be a hunting lodge of Bao Dai, modeled after Montangard long houses. Local legend said that Teddy Roosevelt stayed there while hunting tigers. It burned to the ground in December 1969.

The senior adviser of the 23rd Division at the time was Lieutenant Colonel Irving Wendt, whom I wrote about back in June in his role with the War Graves Registration.

This registered cover was sent 0n 11 November 1964 by von Jena from the German Office of the Military, Naval and Air Attache in Saigon.

"Dear Colonel," writes Jena. "Back in Saigon after a smooth flight I wish to thank you very much for your hospitality. I reallly enjoyed your comfortable bungalow. I also wish to thank all the officers of your staff as well as Lieutenant-Colonel Bringham, Chief Adviser to the Province Chief, and his men who looked after me so well. Banmethuot has been a real success for me, and I am particularly happy that right at my first visit I could establish good contacts everywhere.

Would you also remember me to General Lu Lan, Commander of the 23rd Infantry Division, and give my regards and best wishes to the Province Chief, Major Nguyen Dinh Vinh through Lieutenant-Colonel Bringham.

Last but not least, please convey my thanks to Captain Hickman under Lieutenant-Colonel Bringham for having accompanied me to the artillery positions and for his efficient explanations.

I do hope I'll be able to come back again and perhaps have a look at one of the Special Forces Camps."

Saturday, October 27, 2007

South Vietnamese Naval Post Card

Picture postcards like this one were given out for free on the ship HQ 04, the Tuy Dong in the early 1970s. They may have been available on other ships as well.

The postcard depicts the Tuy Dong and HQ 07, the Dong Da II. It was sent by a First Lieutenant on board HQ 09, the Ky Hoa, on 26 Feb 1972 operating from KBC 6678. It is stamped with a nice HQ 09 cachet.

Ministry of Defense Draft Notice

This document was sent without an enclosure in September 1973 by the Ministry of Defense, Joint Chief of Staff, Administrative Department, Recruitment (KBC 4211).

The document informs the recipient of a change in his draft status. He was previously exempted from the draft for health reasons, but the review board has determined that he is fit for duty. H
e will soon receive a request to report to the draft center for review.

Friday, October 12, 2007

New SVN Military Insignia Added to Web Site

I just made some updates to the military insignia section of my web site. Click on a thumbnail to go directly to the page for that insignia. I still need to fill in some detail about these covers.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Unified National Assembly Hand Stamp

In 1976, a hand stamp was produced to announce the elections for a "Unified National Assembly" to take place on 25 April. The result of this first assembly was the creation of a single country in July under the banner of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

The hand stamp is typically found in red ink on commemorative covers franked with Mien Nam (MN) stamps as shown in the illustration above. The text reads, "Vietnam Independence, United Socialist Ideology, 25-4-1976, Ho Chi Minh City." A variation, from Hanoi, is found on commemorative covers franked with North Vietnamese stamps.

The second cover (below) shows a postally used military cover with the hand stamp applied in black ink, which is unusual. The marking was applied in transit, ostensibly on April 25th (the cover is backstamped a couple of days later).

The red, boxed marking says, "Every voter go vote." This is the first example I have seen with either marking on a commercial military cover.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Purple Flower Parachute (Airborne) Cover

I plan on working up an article on the Vietnamese Airborne Division (Nhay Du) with a complete list of related KBC numbers when I have time. I cannot believe how busy I have been this summer.

This cover is a new acquisition. The sender is from the "Purple Flower Parachute" company (DD Hoa Dzu Tim) of the 2nd Airborne Battalion serviced by KBC 4247. I can only imagine what they must have looked like dropping from the sky if the company name was a reflection of reality!

The recipient was a member of the 1st Airborne Battalion (KBC 4563). Who could resist the linked dog tags outlining the addresses on this cover? The cover was sent in June 1974, postage free as was allowed for mail between military units.


I will be at the APS StampShow in Portland, Oregon on Thursday August 9th.

Friday, June 22, 2007

US Army War Graves Registration, Saigon 1946

In August, 1946 the US Army sent the War Graves Registration to Saigon. Lieutenant Irving Wendt and his team were on assignment in SE Asia looking for the bodies and graves of downed pilots and other victims of World War II.

The only military personnel killed in action during this period that I am aware of was Lt. Colonel Peter Dewey of the OSS. Dewey had been in Vietnam only three weeks as part of project Embankment. He was killed at a Vietnamese checkpoint in an unmarked vehicle while waiting for a his delayed flight to Ceylon.

The first cover was sent by Lt. Wendt in Saigon 20 August 1946. The second, a post card, was sent by him from the Netherlands Indies the following February. On the reverse he talks a bit about his work - and suffering a dog bite as an occupational hazard.

Hua Hin Airfield Construction Company 1956

In 1956, a US Army Engineer Heavy Construction Company was tasked with constructing and expanding the Hua Hin Airfield in Thailand in anticipation of build up in Indo-china. The airfield was later used for covert flights into Laos. This cover was sent by Captain John T. Myers at APO 74, Box "B" (Bangkok) to Corvalis, Oregon.

Thanks to Bob Munshower for the background information on this cover.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Crab Insignia cover - update

Back in December I posted a request for more information about a cover with a crab insignia. Here is a quick summary of what I have learned.

The cover is related to the Phoenix program. It was sent from the "Rung Chi Linh" training facility in Vung Tau built for the Binh Dinh Nong Program. Paramilitary police also trained here. "Rung Chi Linh" is printed on the inside of the letter sheet, so the crab is definitely the program's insignia.

As you can tell from some of my posts I am spending time focusing on US Forces, especially early involvement (1945-1964) and material related to covert operations - both US and Vietnamese. If you have interesting items to sell/trade, let me know.

Special Operations Augmentation

Special Operations Augmentation (SOA) provided cover for the clandestine Studies and Operations Group (SOG). The recipient was a member of SOA Command and Control South, 5th Special Forces Group Airborne. This group formed the core of SOG ground missions. SOG ran highly classified sabotage and psychological and special operations in North and South Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and southern China.

The cover was sent Registered mail from Thailand in September 1970. The rubber stamp marking on the cover front simply reads "Air Mail" in English and Thai script.

Friday, June 8, 2007

ROK White Horse Registered Cover

The Korea Philately journal apparently hasn't been published in a while, so my request for assistance identifying ROK covers is still with the editor. I will try some other avenues to get info. In the mean time, I picked up some new ROK forces covers at NAPEX. I will add them to my web site when I have a chance.

The illustrated cover has what I assume is a registry label affixed. I haven't seen this before.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Naval Officer Training Center in Rhode Island

Selected officer candidates in the Vietnamese Navy attended the Naval Officer Training Center in Rhode Island. This cover was sent in 1973.

A typical training program went like this: Quang Trung Training Center for basic training. If you tested high for English aptitude, you were sent to the Boat School in Saigon where you were taught English by U.S. Navy and civilian contractors. Some Finns even taught English here. Students were housed in two large ships anchored in the Saigon River in front of the Vietnamese Naval Headquarters. Those who did well at Boat School went on to train as officers. During the "Vietnamization" period, the high number of candidates resulted in some being trained in Australia.

VNNOC = "Vietnam Navy Officer Candidate"
IOCS = "International Officer Candidate School"

Thanks to Vinh Nguyen for this information.

Monday, May 14, 2007

KBC 4304 Soc Trang Airbase Cover 1953

This cover was sent from the sergeant in charge of personnel at Soc Trang Air Base southeast of Can Tho on 24 November 1953. The fledgling Vietnamese Air Force was still under French command at this time.

The red unit cachet carries the abbreviation "S.P." or Sector Postal in French. A Sector Postal was the equivalent of the American A.P.O. address and had five digits. The number on this cachet has four digits (4304), reflecting the new Vietnamese KBC numbering system.

Note the sender used the abbreviation "KBC" in the return address. Four-digit Sector Postal hand stamps were in use for only a couple of years.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Vietnamese Merchant Marine School Cover

The date on this cover appears to be 1953. It is definitely from the French period during the early 1950s. The printed return address on this cover reads:

State of Viet Nam
Education Ministry
Vietnamese Sea Transport/Merchant Marine School

According to Vinh Nguyen who served with the Vietnamese Navy:

"This school is where the French trained the Vietnamese to serve in various functions on their ships. This school was later turned over to the Vietnamese and in operation for many years. After the French left Indo-china the South Vietnamese Navy was founded and inherited a number of warships from the French. In order to build up the Navy the government began recruiting mariners from this school."

The recipient was a second mechanic aboard the French ship Pigneau De Bihaine. The address is appended, "Saigon."

The French abbreviation S.M.E.O. means
(thanks Philippe):

S means "Service" (or Society)
M means "Maritime"
E.O means "Extrême Orient"

The red hand stamp reads:

Quoc Gia Viet Nam: "State of Viet Nam"
Hang Hai Hoc Hieu: "Merchant Marine School"
Hieu Truong: "School Principal" (office of).

Sunday, April 29, 2007


I have a backlog of material to research, post to this blog and write up for the Indochina Philatelist, but spring is here and I just can't seem to stay out of the yard. I'll post some more things soon.

In the meantime, I wanted to mention that I will be at NAPEX on Saturday, June 2nd in time for the SICP annual meeting. I look forward to seeing everyone who can make it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Registry and Urgent Delivery Rates on Military Covers

An "M3" style letter sheet with a Registry label is shown front and back. The cover was sent on 15 Nov 1972 franked with 24 dong in stamps - in addition to the military free-frank stamp printed on the letter sheet.

The registry rate was 15d through November 1972. How to account for the additional 9d in postage? In this case, the free-frank stamp apparently did not cover the basic letter rate. The military letter rate was 5d and the civilian rate was 10d. The domestic air mail rate was 18d. Any ideas how the 9d was calculated - or was the amount paid simply incorrect?

The second cover, sent express or for "urgent" delivery was sent from the Vietnamese 8th Marine Battalion at KBC 6618 on 9 August 1973. The cover is franked with 50 dong in postage, covering 10d for the civilian letter rate and 40d for express service.

Thanks to John Carroll for the updated rate tables.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

2500 Planes Shot Down FDC

There is nothing subtle about a lot of Communist Vietnamese propaganda produced during the American war. A series of "plane shot down" stamps commemorate, over the course of several sets, the mounting tally of American and allied planes brought down. According to the propagandists, by the time these two stamps were issued on 6 November, 1967 2,500 planes had met their fiery demise.

The hand-stamped cachet/cancel, shown in both red and black, depicts a B-52 bomber with the tail aflame.

I have not previously seen a First Day Cover of this issue.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Aviation Investors

Aviation Investors was a civilian front for the CIA and its operational company, Vietnam Air Transport, was used to conduct Operation Haylift. More on this later, but here is a cover from 1962 from an R.F. McGrath "Aviation Investors, Inc."

Helgoland Cover with German Stamps

I have an article in the current Indo-china Philatelist Journal (#177) on the German hospital ship Helgoland that served in Vietnam during the war. The covers illustrated in the article are franked with Vietnamese stamps. Here is one franked with German stamps - or more accurately, "has German stamps affixed and canceled" as it is completely philatelic in nature. The cachet also differs from the ones shown with the article.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Mien Nam Military Cover with Red Postmark

The abbreviation "M.N." on this postmark stands for Mien Nam, as the Communist regime referred to the "southern region" or liberated areas of South Vietnam.

The use of red ink is unusual, but the main appeal to me is its use in conjunction with a military stamp. Mien Nam postmarks typically canceled Mien Nam stamps, such as the ones depicting Ho Chi Minh watering a tree. Military stamps and M.N. postmarks are not often found together.

Tuy Phuoc is near Quy Nhon, and near the site of Champa towers built centuries ago.

UPDATE: This cover is a fake. For whatever reason I was only paying attention to the postmark and the fact that it was applied to a military stamp, but I didn't recognize the obvious - that the stamp was issued in 1982. Thanks to Ta Phi Long and John Carroll for noticing and calling it to my attention.

Friday, March 2, 2007

1947 Cover to Colonel Gardet from Laos

I am looking for some feedback on the return address of this cover. Postmarked April 1947, the cover was sent to Roger Gardet in France, who later served as a general in Indo-china.

From what I can decipher, the return address reads:

Adjunct Chef (Chief Warrant Officer) Maurgouet(?)
Transmission (signal)
Forces du Laos
S.P. 54.035
B.P.M. 411

Any corrections to my interpretation?

What units were operating in Laos at this time that could have been the source of this correspondence?

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

South Vietnam Military Postal Rates in 1972

This cover has several aspects that set it apart from typical ARVN training covers of the period.

It was sent by a soldier training at the Thu Duc Infantry School (KBC 4100) in 1972 on a piece of United Nations stationery. He was in the 5th class of 1972 (Khoa 5/72). I am guessing that TBTX is an abbreviation for "Tham Bao Thien Xa" or Recon Unit Sharpshooter. Tell me if you think I am completely off the mark.

Despite the western (or at least American) style lines in the upper left corner for a return address, the sender created a triangle in the lower left corner typical of Vietnamese military correspondence.

The stamp, a coil version of the King Quang Trung stamp (Scott 411a) pays a 6d rate from a military personnel to a civilian address. A Quan Buu machine postmark cancels the stamp.

The sender wanted to make sure the return correspondence was properly addressed, so inside he drew up what the envelope should look like, including the addition of 10d postage.

Based on this cover, postage rates in August 1972 were 6d from military personnel and 10d sent to military personnel. The 10d rate is common, but I don't recall seeing a 6d rate. I need to dig through my covers to see if I have others I have forgotten about. Or of course the sender might have just gotten away with using a cheaper stamp.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Jim G. Lucas - Journalist

A 25-year reporter for Scripps-Howard as a Washington and foreign correspondent, Jim Griffing Lucas won the Pulitzer prize for journalism in 1954. He was selected for Ernie Pyle awards during the Korean War in 1953, and the Vietnam War in 1964. No stranger to adventure, he was a member of Admiral Richard E. Byrd's 1947 Expedition to the South Pole. Mr. Lucas was buried in Oklahoma in 1970 and honored in his hometown of Checotah with the library named in his honor.

This cover was sent from Hanoi on 12 May 1954 by Jim Lucas as a member of the "Camp de Presse". Presumably Lucas was reporting on the Battle of Dien Bien Phu. The French had fallen to Vo Nguyen Giap's forces less than a week before this cover was posted.

The recipient, Clark H. Getts, was a public relations counsel and booking agent.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

National Police Training Center

Sent in 1960, this cover contains a love letter from a woman in Khanh Hoi to her boyfriend at the National Police Training Center in Vung Tau.

The Rach Dua training center, under Colonel
Nguyen Van Be trained police (Canh Sat Quoc Gia), undercover police and youth member forces.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Garde Nationale Thai Binh

This cover sent in 1952 by a sergeant, "Le Commandant" of the Thai Binh, National Guard ("Garde Nationale") Nord-Vietnam. Thai Binh is located about 20 miles from the Gulf of Tonkin and not far from the Red River, Southeast of Hanoi.

The cover is from a group of covers sent to a language institute in Paris that I picked up at the Washington 2006 show.


Saturday, February 3, 2007

NVN Military Stamp Wanted on Cover

I am looking for a copy of the brown "invalids on water wheel" North Vietnamese military stamp postally used on cover with a clear cancel. Ideally it will be used around the time the stamp was issued, but anything before April 30, 1975 would be okay. Please contact me if you have one to sell or trade.

Very Early BDQ (Ranger) Cover

The South Vietnamese Ranger organization (Biet Dong Quan) was officially formed in July 1960. The depicted cover is the earliest Biet Dong Quan cover known to me. It was sent on Sept 21st, 1960 to a sergeant on the training staff of the Ranger Training Center (Huan Luyen) in Dong De, Nha Trang.

The Thu Duc registry label and clear postmark make this a nice cover from a philatelic standpoint as well.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Letter from Major in the VNAF

This cover was sent in November, 1974 by Tran Thanh Tung, a Major in the Vietnamese Air Force (VNAF) 3rd Division stationed in Bien Hoa approx 15 miles north of Saigon. The air base was served by KBC 3004.

Bien Hoa was also known as Air Base 23. The number "2" indicated that it was the second air base to be established for military use. The first was in Nha Trang. Bien Hoa became the VNAF logistic support base on 1 Jun 1955. The number "3" indicated the military region.

Typically, the Vietnamese Air Force was referred to as "Khong Quan", but the
return address uses the term "Khong Luc."

"V.N.C.H." is Viet Nam Cong Hoa.

"DT" or "dien thoi" is telephone number.

"Hoa Tieu" means pilot - perhaps "Lead Pilot"?

The enclosure is in regards to purchasing a used Fiat from an older gentleman on Pasteur Street in Saigon.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Viet Minh Commem Covers on eBay

Covers from the First Meeting of the Vietnam General Assembly in 1946 are being offered on eBay by a French seller (click here). The interesting thing to me is that he has a stack of these things.

Also offered are unaddressed covers with the Viet Minh cathedral stamps affixed and canceled, as well covers with the 1953 Telecommunications Festival stamps with red cachet (Richard Aspnes lists the cachet in both red and blue on his Commemorative Markings CD). Again, small stacks of these covers are shown, but only a single set seems to be offered.

I'm not planning on bidding, but I contacted the seller out of curiosity to see whether he accepts PayPal and ships to the United States. His reply, "Hello, bonjour. I don't accept paypal, but you can pay me with dollars and shit off paper in envelope - merci. BRUNO."

If you've been looking to pick up examples of these covers, the opening bid price is right (9 euros) although dealing with the seller might be interesting. Let me know how it goes.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Fake Postmarks on NVN Millitary Covers

Be alert to bogus postmarks on North Vietnamese military covers. This post illustrates two examples with different levels of sophistication.

I obtained these covers at different times from a trading partner in Hanoi, whom I don't think realized that these were bogus. We exchanged want lists and acquired items for each other. I am convinced that these and other covers were custom made for me from a faker in North Vietnam.

In other words, my trading partner asked a stamp dealer for a particular stamp on cover and was told to check back in a couple of weeks at which point, lo and behold, the seller had come up with the stamp on cover. These particular stamps are not at all easy to locate used on cover, however they are readily available in mint condition. The seller could remove the stamp from a genuine cover or create one from scratch.

The first cover is a simple fake featuring the orange military stamp depicting a soldier with outstretched rifle. It is meant to be an adversity envelope made from a piece of notebook paper due to the lack of paper during the war. In reality, the paper is clean and nice smelling(!) so definitely not genuine. More obvious is the cancel, which looks to be hand drawn with a pen. It is not quite round and you can see the individual pen strokes.
The second cover is "better" in that the faker went to the trouble of soaking the original stamp and postmark off the cover. Unfortunately, he got a bit zealous with the water, leaving water stains and smearing the ink in the address. But we've all seen Vietnamese military covers in much worse condition, so this is not an immediate tip off.

The benefit of this approach is the faker has genuine postmarks on the reverse to lend credence to the cover

The postmarks on the front of the cover were then applied, again apparently drawn with a pen. At least the forger knew enough to make these an earlier date from the receiving marks on the back. But how many NVN military covers apply an additional cancel to the decorative cachet?

I have a dozen or so examples of fake covers like these, so let me know if you are interested in seeing more (and yes, my trading partner provided enough genuine material to make it worthwhile maintaining the relationship).

Some of the fakes have hand-stamped postmarks making them more difficult to identify, and some appear to have been made by another person with a different "style", but all have the same pleasant smell (Vietnamese military covers don't smell nice!) and all have a random splash of something on them that glows brightly under black light that leads me to conclude that they all came from the same source.

Vietnamese Recon Unit Cover

Here is a cover sent in April 1966 from a member of a Vietnamese Recon company (dai doi tham Bao) operating from KBC 3338. Based on the enclosed letter, the sender is writing to a girl in Saigon whose address he got from a buddy in his unit. This is his first attempt to befriend her.

"Tien tuyen" in the upper right corner is a term used to indicate the sender is in the front line, and "hau phuong"means in the rear or city, so "tien tuyen goi hau phuong" literally means "front line to the rear."

Thanks to Vinh Nguyen for the translation.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Korean Forces in Vietnam

I am planning on writing an article on military mail from Republic of Korea (ROK) forces operating in Vietnam. My goal is to provide a basic reference for identifying this material, showing how to determine the military unit, approximate usage date and that a cover originated in Vietnam.

I have reached out to the members of the Korea Philately Society for assistance and have gleaned some information from several web sites and publications, including Allied Participation in Vietnam, published by the Department of the Army.

If you have information on this topic, please contact me.

Click here to view the ROK military covers on my web site.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

River Assault Group to Phu Quoc Prison

River Assault Group 23 (GD23XP in Vietnamese) was stationed in Vinh Long province in the delta. The cover was sent from patrol boat 1533, according to the letter's contents.

The cover received a nice Hai Quan Viet-Nam (Vietnamese Navy) military mail hand stamp on sending from KBC 3323.

The cover was also hand stamped with a military police insignia, depicting crossed pistols over a star. The recipient was a military policeman from Company D7 on Phu Quoc Island, served by KBC 4286.

The handwritten note at the bottom of the envelope,
“thu 0 nguoi nhan xin hoan lai kbc 3323," means “unknown recipient, return to sender”. The MP insignia handstamp was probably applied as part of the return routing.

Friday, January 5, 2007


USARPACINTS stands for United States Army Pacific Intelligence School, which was located in Okinawa and serviced by APO 331. Below are two covers, one sent to a Vietnamese Lieutenant training at the school, the other from a Vietnamese Lieutenant to Saigon.

Below are two citations that comprise the extent of the information I have been able to locate online about the school.

One unique feature of the Pacific theater was the existence of the U.S. Army Intelligence School, Pacific. Unlike other Army intelligence training facilities overseas, the Pacific intelligence school, set up on Okinawa in 1958, trained foreigners, not Americans. The students from seven different countries bordering the Pacific basin took courses in combat intelligence and counterintelligence techniques until the reversion of Okinawa to Japanese sovereignty brought operations to a halt in 1975.
More tantalizing are the following excerpts that school was linked to "Project X" and potentially the Phoenix program.
Until the early 1980s, the U.S. military ran an intelligence training program in Latin America and elsewhere using manuals that taught foreign officers to offer bounties for captured or killed insurgents, spy on nonviolent political opponents, kidnap rebels' family members and blackmail unwanted informants, according to recently declassified Army and Defense Department documents.

The manuals, known as Project X, were written by U.S. Army experts starting in 1965 for use by the U.S.-funded Joint Foreign Intelligence Assistance Program. Portrayed by the Army as instructional materials to help friendly governments fight Cuban- and Soviet-inspired rebels in Latin America, the manuals were "in fact a guide for the conduct of clandestine operations" against domestic political adversaries including peaceful ones, according to a panel of Army experts that later reviewed some of the material.

Army officials were unable to provide details about the intelligence assistance program, such as the date it ended or the countries where it operated. It's also impossible to tell how the use of the training manuals may have influenced the actions of foreign militaries.

The intelligence assistance program was first used in 1965 to train Vietnamese and other foreign nationals at the then-U.S. Army Pacific Intelligence School on Okinawa, Japan, and also operated in Iran in the late 1970s, according to the records.

"This school is in an excellent position to meet requests for intelligence training submitted by" military advisers and attaches in "the Pacific and Southeast Asia area," a 1965 informational brochure on the program states.

One counterintelligence official told Army officials in 1991 that she believed the program might be linked to the Phoenix program, a U.S. military and CIA undertaking that resulted in the assassinations of thousands of South Vietnamese suspected of disloyalty. Some of the Project X materials appeared to be the same as the Phoenix lessons, and the Army intelligence school was teaching a course on the Phoenix program at the same time that the Project X manuals were being written, she noted.

During the mid-1970s, after the intelligence school moved to Fort Huachuca, Ariz., the school "began exporting, on request, Project X material to MAAGs, MILGROUPS, defense attaches, and other U.S. military agencies participating in the U.S. advisory-training effort in friendly foreign countries," according to a short history of the program prepared in 1991.

The program's history is difficult to trace in part because Defense Department intelligence oversight officials, after seeing what the manuals contained in 1991, ordered that the original documentation be destroyed. The ostensible reason was so the materials could never be used again.