Sunday, June 28, 2015

Early Army of the Republic of Vietnam / QLVNCH Cap Badge

Early Model Army of the Republic of Vietnam Officer's Cap Badge,
RVNHS Archive.
      This cap badge was first adopted by the Army of the Republic of Vietnam in 1955. It was briefly replaced officially with a different design in 1963, but following the removal of Ngo Dinh Diem later that year, the 1955 design once again became the standard issue. It was ostensibly phased out in 1967, and replaced by a badge featuring a larger eagle surrounded by a wreath. However, the transition was not immediate. Period photos can be found showing both the new badge in use before 1967, and this earlier badge occasionally in use after 1967. The basic design was virtually identical to that used by soldiers of the State of Vietnam (1949-1955), with the major change in 1955 being the replacing of Quốc gia Việt Nam (State of Vietnam) with Việt Nam Cộng Hòa (Republic of Vietnam).

An army 2nd Lieutenant with early officer cap badge,
 Saigon, 1964, RVNHS Archive.

      The badge came in two colors - gold for officers and silver for enlisted ranks. The badge mainly appeared on visor caps, but photographs of the badge on berets (usually bullion versions) exist. However, use of this badge on berets was more an exception rather than the norm.

General Pham Van Dong with bullion version of the early cap badge on a black beret, 1965.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Chân Trời Mới - Vietnamese Refugees on Guam Newspaper 1975

Chân Trời Mới , Issue 8 - May 12, 1975 (left) and Issue 9 - May 13, 1975 (right),
 RVNHS Archive.

         In April, 1975, Guam became one of the main staging areas for receiving refugees from Southeast Asia. It was called Operation New Life, and ran from April 23rd to November 1st, 1975, although the last camps were officially closed on October 23rd. Well over 100,000 refugees would pass through Guam. The vast majority were Vietnamese, nearly all of them former soldiers or civil servants of the Republic of Vietnam and their families. The new arrivals on Guam had just escaped from the chaos engulfing Southeast Asia, and the need to develop a means of circulating information among them was essential. A group of Vietnamese refugees with experience in journalism and writing put together a volunteer newspaper called Chân Trời Mới (New Horizons).

Editorial information printed in each Chân Trời Mới issue, 1975, RVNHS Archive.

       The first issue of Chân Trời Mới was on May 2nd, 1975, just two days after the fall of Saigon. The newspaper was a few pages, and printed on Guam with printing supplies donated by charities, local newspapers, and the US Government. Chân Trời Mới served a vital role in the life of the refugees. It not only provided daily camp news to the ever-growing numbers of arrivals, but also gave important announcements on the asylum process and where refugees could expect to head to after Guam.
Interior fold-out view of Chân Trời Mới Issue 9, showing Vietnamese refugees
onboard the USS Midway, 1975, RVNHS Archive.

     Perhaps most importantly, the newspaper served as a means for individuals to get in contact with one another. Each issue was filled with lists of names and contact information for displaced families and friends to attempt to reunite.
One of many notices in Chân Trời Mới seeking lost relatives,
in this case Lieutenant General Tran Van Trung inquiring after his wife,
Chân Trời Mới Issue 8 - May 12, 1975, RVNHS Archive.
General Tran Van Trung, pre-1975. He was reunited with his wife, and later settled in France.
     Chân Trời Mới would continue to be published up until the camps were closed. In this posting, RVNHS would like to focus on the events of forty years ago this summer in Guam, and the struggle of the recent refugees from Southeast Asia. To this end, we would like to share two original issues of Chân Trời Mới , Issue 8 - May 12, 1975, and, Issue 9 - May 13, 1975, from the RVNHS Archive.
Each issue of Chân Trời Mới included a tally of the day's refugee statistics.
 Left is from Issue 8, and Right is from Issue 9.
The increases between these two days demonstrate the enormity of the
refugee influx on Guam with 8,000 arrivals within a 24-hour period, 1975, RVNHS Archive.
Camp Asan on Guam, at the start of Operation New Life, and before the arrival
of the first refugees, April 23, 1975.
Refugees on Guam receiving food supplies, 1975.
Refugees forming a line to thank Guam Governor Ricky Bordallo
for the hospitality of Guam, September 8, 1975.
A 1980 first day cover commemorating one of the refugee camps on Guam
during Operation New Life.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

43rd Infantry Regiment - TRUNG ĐOÀN 43

43rd Infantry Regiment patch, silk woven, RVNHS Archive.
                 The 43rd Infantry Regiment was first known as the 404th Regiment of the 5th Light Division. It was formed on August 1, 1955, and first raised at Ninh Hoa. The regiment was re-designated the 43rd Regiment when it was transferred to the 23rd Division. When the 23rd Division was relocated, the 43rd Regiment was separated from the division, and made an independent regiment, before later being assigned to the 18th Division. '
Soldiers of the 43rd being decorated by the then 18th Division commander,
General Lam Quang Tho, 1970s, RVNHS Archive.

       The 43rd Infantry Regiment remained with the 18th Division through 1975. The 43rd participated in every major engagement of the division, including at Xuan Loc in 1975. The 43rd suffered great losses as it fought to delay the Communist forces heading towards Saigon. By making the stand at Xuan Loc, the 43rd Infantry Regiment was one of the units that sacrificed itself, so that others may have time to escape the coming Communist invasion. Nearly all members of the 43rd Infantry Regiment, including the unit's commander, Nguyen Ba Manh Hung, were either killed or captured. In this posting, RVNHS would like to highlight the history of the 43rd Infantry Regiment by sharing some photographs from the RVNHS Archive.

General Lam Quang Tho decorating soldiers of the 43rd,
regimental commander Nguyen Ba Manh Hung can be seen in center,
1970s, RVNHS Archive.
Officers of the 43rd Infantry Regiment in Cambodia,
(unit commander Nguyen Ba Manh Hung - fourth from left),
January 17, 1971, RVNHS Archive.
Officers and soldiers of the 43rd Infantry Regiment in Cambodia
enjoying a performance for morale boosting,
(unit commander Nguyen Ba Manh Hung - second from right)
January 17, 1971, RVNHS Archive.
Officers of the 43rd with General Lam Quang Tho standing at attention
during an awards ceremony (unidentified US general in the background),
1970s, RVNHS Archive.
Soldiers of the 43rd being decorated by General Lam Quang Tho,
1970s, RVNHS Archive.
Soldiers of the 43rd being decorated by General Lam Quang Tho,
1970s, RVNHS Archive.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Military Academy Medical Officer Cadet Shoulder Boards

Republic of Vietnam Medical Officer Cadet Shoulder Boards, RVNHS Archive.
           Nearly all practicing medical doctors in the Republic of Vietnam served in the military to some degree. Many were directly educated in medical science at military academies. This set of shoulder boards is for a medical officer cadet who was nearing the end of training. Each horizontal bar signified one year completed, with this set showing a cadet who has finished four years (four bars). The military doctors who graduated from the academies would go on to provide essential medical services, not only for the fighting men and women of the Republic of Vietnam, but also to countless civilians, who were often treated at military facilities.
Officer Cadet with four years of training completed, note the addition of a four-bar insignia to the lapels, the ranger qualification badge with jump wings just visible on the opposite side,
 and what looks like a National Military Academy patch on the right,
Dalat, 1960-70s, RVNHS Archive.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Football in the QLVNCH / ARVN

Players parading before assembled officers and officials on stage prior to a game,
June 14, 1970, RVNHS Archive.
  Soldiers in the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces enjoyed participating in recreational sports activities as much as those in any other military around the world. One of the more popular sports was football. The sport's games ranged from national level teams to amateur clubs throughout the country. At a time when nearly every able bodied male served in the armed forces to some degree, military football clubs were leading sports groups.
Football team of an airborne unit, 1969, RVNHS Archive.
    Some of the strongest clubs were from the Army General Staff Club and the National Police Club. However, the sport was most commonly played on a purely recreational basis, composed of competing teams from different military units or different sections within the same unit. Many soldiers were posted in locations far from entertainment venues or large cities. Thus, during rest days, playing or watching matches between other units in the area was a popular event.
Army Football Game Award Guidon, 2nd Supply and Security Battalion
(Army Transportation Branch), ca. April 25, 1971, RVNHS Archive.
  Competition was encouraged as a means of helping to boost morale. Trophies and other awards (such as the guidon shown above) were given to winning teams. But, further incentives, such as cash prizes, alcoholic drinks, or extra leave time for the members of triumphant teams were also common. For soldiers faced with the constant danger of war daily, such outlets as football matches provided much needed relaxation.
Members of the Republic of Vietnam team at the Southeast Asian Peninsular Games
(SEAP) in 1959 with game guidon.
Announcer covering a military football match, June 14, 1970, RVNHS Archive.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

In Memoriam: Đào Hồng Phát (1947-1974)

Second Lieutenant Đào Hồng Phát, 1970s, RVNHS Archive.
           Đào Hồng Phát was a second lieutenant in the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces. He was born on December 17, 1947, and killed in action on June 1, 1974. He was twenty-six years old at the time of his death. This photograph has been in the RVNHS Archive for some years. It is believed to have been a portrait used during Đào Hồng Phát's funeral. Other documents accompanying the photo include condolence letters from friends and fellow soldiers to his family. However, unfortunately, none of these documents provides information about his particular unit nor the circumstances or location of his death. He is simply described with sorrow as having fallen on the battlefield. If anyone reading this post has information about Đào Hồng Phát, we would be interested to know more. Today, it has been forty-one years since this soldier's death, and in honor of the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces Day (June 19th), we wanted to reflect on the many soldiers, like Đào Hồng Phát, who gave the ultimate sacrifice for the Republic of Vietnam.