Some 618 soldiers were among almost 3,000 Vietcong prisoners granted an amnesty to mark the inauguration of Nguyen Van Thieu as South Vietnam's President on Sunday (31 October).
SV ZOOM OUT Prisoners with guards (3 shots)
SV Prisoners in line being presented with papers (2 shots)
SV Prisoners led from hut, some with crutches (2 shots)
SV Prisoners helped onto lorry & lorry away(4 shots)
Initials SGM/0058 SGM/0036
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Background: Some 618 soldiers were among almost 3,000 Vietcong prisoners granted an amnesty to mark the inauguration of Nguyen Van Thieu as South Vietnam's President on Sunday (31 October).
The release was the largest of its kind in the decade-long Vietnam War. Of those to be set free, 2,284 are defectors, returnee soldiers who applied to join the South Vietnamese government ranks. Many of them are now expected to be eventually drafted into the South Vietnamese army.
Last week a military spokesmen explained that the men, who "were sincerely repenting" - would leave the country's six prisoner-of-war camps within a week of the inauguration. South Vietnam reportedly held some 40,000 prisoners of war, including 8,500 North Vietnamese before the amnesty.
SYNOPSIS: Saigon - where on Sunday hundreds of Vietcong prisoners were released to mark events taking place in another part of the city. They were among nearly 3,000 Vietcong freed under an amnesty to underscore Nguyen Van Thieu's inauguration as South Vietnamese President...and the country's national day. Last week a Defence Ministry statement said the men who had shown good behaviour and "were sincerely repenting" would be set free as defectors or "returnees" to the government side.
The defectors -called chieu-hoi or open arms - are mostly in their teens. They will be given some vocational training. Many are eventually expected to be drafted into the South Vietnamese army - reportedly at the level of regional forces of militia.
Others - namely the 618 Vietcong soldiers - were unconditionally released, though 176 of them are sick and disabled. All prisoners were issued with white Shirts and blue trousers. Yet many left barefoot.
Several of the men told journalists they had been in the Vietcong for only two or three months at the time of their capture. By the end of this week all those granted amnesty would - according to an official statement - be freed from the country's six prisoner-of-war jails. After that South Vietnam will hold some 37,000 prisoners - including 8,500 North Vietnamese. Some 462 American soldiers are currently held by communist forces.