Monday, February 8, 2016

Happy New Year! - 23rd Infantry Division Flag: Chúc Mừng Năm Mới - Sư đoàn 23 Bộ binh

Early Republic of Vietnam 23rd Infantry Division Flag, front side,
1950s-60s, RVNHS Archive.

              In honor of the new year, RVNHS would like to share this recent acquisition to the archive. We have been working towards acquiring this one of a kind artifact for years out of a private collection, but it is with great joy that it is now the center-piece of the RVNHS Archive. This is an original superbly made example of a Republic of Vietnam army division flag. It dates from the early years of the republic, and to the best of our knowledge there are no comparable divisional flags in existence.

Early Republic of Vietnam 23rd Infantry Division Flag, reverse side,
1950s-60s, RVNHS Archive.

              The flag is for the 23rd Infantry Division ( Sư đoàn 23 Bộ binh ). The division was founded in 1959, and this flag dates to that early period. Each division had one official flag at any given time, which was carried by the division's color guard. Each flag would be periodically retired and replaced with a new flag over time. Often these retired flags could be found mounted on the walls of divisional headquarters and officers' messes. This flag bears such markings of having once been mounted for display.

Emperor Bảo Đại, head of the State of Vietnam, reviews a military graduation ceremony.
Note the design of the flag, early 1950s.

             The flag displays exceptional bullion work, and it is constructed in two pieces with different bullion design on each side. The flag features the early style for divisional flags, which consisted of the national flag with division numerals surrounded by wreaths in each corner. This style began appearing during the State of Vietnam (1949-1955), and continued to be used in early flags of the republic through the mid-1960s. In later years, divisional flags were usually designed with the division's insignia in the center, surmounted against a red backdrop with the name of the division in gold.

Close-up view of the flag of the Republic of Vietnam 7th Infantry Division, 1960s. Note the similar design and bullion work as the 23rd Infantry Division flag.

              The lineage of the division began with the formation of the 5th Light Division on August 1st, 1955. Three months later, on November 1st, the division was renamed the 15th Light Division. On April 1st, 1959, the 15th Light Division officially was redseignated the 23rd Infantry Division, the name it would carry through 1975. The division was located in the central highlands, and participated in every major campaign in the region through its existence. It also participated in cross-border operations into Cambodia. The division achieved particular fame for the defense of Kontom against the Communist offensive in 1972. In 1975, the division met its end when it was overwhelmed by superior numbers in a final defence of Buôn Ma Thuột at the cost of great casualties.

              By sharing this rare artifact during this new year, we would like to reflect on the brave soldiers of the 23rd Infantry Division, and the sacrifices they made to defend the nation of the Republic of Vietnam.

Shoulder patch of the Republic of Vietnam 23rd Infantry Division.

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