Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Early Republic of Vietnam VNAF Rank Insignia

In the mid 1960s, many regulations in the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces were altered. These changes followed the end of Ngo Dinh Diem's presidency. For this reason, today, the earlier and later regulations are sometimes referred to as "Diem Era" and "Post Diem Era." One of the regulations changed was the identification of rank. The rank display change became fully official in 1967, with the publication of the army quartermaster manual for that year. However, photographs from the period show the "newer" rank versions were already in use to some degree before that time.

   Gold and silver colored blossoms began to be used to denote officer ranks from second lieutenant to colonel in the early years of the republic. Gold signified junior officers (second lieutenant to captain), while silver identified senior officers (major to colonel). Aside from color, the gold blossoms were usually smaller in size than silver ones. But, the basic shape and design of the blossoms were the same. In practical terms, this sometimes caused confusion. It could, at times, (for example) be hard to tell if an officer was a second lieutenant (one gold colored blossom) or a major (one silver colored blossom). A faded silver colored blossom could often look identifical to a faded gold colored one (not to mention the difficulty of determining rank through black-and-white photographs, where the color differentiations could not be seen). Thus, a major change undertaken (in the new regulations) to clarify rank identification was to add a bar at the base of major to colonel ranks. This change occured in both the Vietnamese Air Force (VNAF) and Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN).

               Most of the insignia featured in this post was recently acquired by RVNHS. All of these insignia date to the Diem Era, and are for the Vietnamese Air Force. The ranks range from airman (private first class) to colonel. The shoulder boards were attached to loops on the epaulettes of shirts and jackets, and worn as matching pairs. The rounded pentagon-shaped insignia was worn as a single piece, either on the left sleeve or the chest. All of these insignia could be worn both during field / combat duty, as well as on parade.

(Photo: Nguyen Xuan Vinh as a colonel with three silver blossoms, early 1960s).

VNAF Enlisted Ranks (Worn on Left Sleeve or Chest): Senior Corporal, Corporal, Airman.


1962 Dated Photograph of a Senior Corporal, Insignia on Left Sleeve.

Shoulder Boards for Sergeant (Left) and Master Sergeant (Right)

VNAF Sergeant and His Wife, Photograph Dated 1963.

        Shoulder Boards for Warrant Officer (Right) and Senior Warrant Officer (Left)

                                                            Shoulder Board for Aspirant

Shoulder Boards for Junior Officer Ranks: Second Lieutenant (1 Blossom), First Lieutenant (2 Blossoms), and Captain (3 Blossoms).

Shoulder Boards for Senior Officer Ranks: Major (1 Blossom), Lieutenant Colonel (2 Blossoms), Colonel (3 Blossoms).

Thursday, June 14, 2012

1972 Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces Catholic Chaplaincy History Review

    The Catholic Chaplaincy Branch of the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces was created with the official founding of the republic's army in 1955. Its origins can be traced back to the army of the State of Vietnam, and, prior to that, the Vietnamese chaplains who served in the French colonial army. The headquarters of the branch was the main military Catholic church at Dong Tien (pictured on the cover of the book). The book shown here is a review of the history and activities of the army's chaplaincy branch from 1972. RVNHS is very pleased to have recently acquired a copy of this rare book, one we have never seen before. The book is 64 pages, and is filled with many photographs and information relating to Catholic military group and chaplain activities throughout all branches of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Vietnam.
      The text was prepared by (then) Colonel Le Trung Thinh (pictured at right), who was the First Chaplain of the Catholic Chaplaincy Branch in the pre-republic period (State of Vietnam), 1951-1953 (he subsequently served in the army of the republic). This particular copy is also signed by him, with a "Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 1973" note in English. This book is believed to have come from the estate of a US Army chaplain who served in Vietnam. The text of the book is in both English and Vietnamese.
    A sampling of the photographs from the book (with their captions, as written in the book) are shown below. There are also lists of Catholic chaplains who fell in service of the Republic of Vietnam (their names are also listed below). Catholic chaplains (as with their Buddhist, and other religion colleagues in the chaplain branches) could be found everywhere the soldiers of the republic saw service. They organized civil work projects for local populations in their areas, administered relief and entertainment activities for soldiers, offered literacy and other education programs to soldiers, as well as attending to wounded, ill, and fallen soldiers of the republic's army, among other duties.

The following is a list of Catholic chaplains who died in service of the Republic of Vietnam.
Below is an English translation of this text:

"Father Stephen" Nguyen Quy Trung. Chaplain, 1st Infantry Division. Deceased on 26 December, 1958.

"Father" Nguyen Quang Trong. Chaplain, Hue. Deceased in 1959.

"Father Paul" Vu Van Quynh. Chaplain, 31st Infantry Regiment. Deceased on 15 July, 1961.

"Father Joseph" Nguyen Chu Tuynh. Chaplain, 7th Infantry Division. Deceased on 26 April, 1964.

"Father Joseph" Nguyen Huu Dinh. Chaplain, Dalat National Military Academy. Deceased on 6 October, 1966.

"Father Maxmillian" Nguyen Van Vinh. Chaplain, Thu-Duc Infantry School. Deceased on 13 March, 1967.

"Father Dominic" Mai Trung Hieu. Chaplain, Gia-Dinh Military Sector. Deceased on 25 June, 1969.

"Father Luke" Nguyen Phuoc Quan. Chaplain, 25th Infantry Division. Deceased on 1 April, 1970.

"Father Dominic" Ha Ngoc Chau. Chaplain, Ba-Xuyen Military Sector. Deceased on 1 April 1970.

(Of note, these are not all the Republic of Vietnam military Catholic chaplains who fell during the war. This is just the official list as of this book's publication in 1972.)

These are some samples of the photographs from the book:

Caption: "Communion given to Catholic Soldiers by Chief Chaplain of Corps 4 and MR 4."

Caption: "Father Director visiter of the Wounded of War at the Nguyen-tri-Phuong Military Hospital in Hue."

Caption: "Under Direction of the Ranger Catholic Chaplain, Members of the Central Association for Support to Military Families visited and consoled the Widows of the 39th Ranger Battalion."

Caption: " The Saigon Archbishop and visiting Party entering the Tran-ngoc-Minh Military Hospital."

Caption: "Chief Chaplain of Corps 4 and MR 4 in a Tour of Visitations to Catholic Soldiers on Outsposts in U Minh Forest Area."

Caption: "Communion given to Catholic Navymen by Father Director."

Caption: "Catholic Chaplain of Marines distributed Food to Refugees from Tri Thien Battle Areas."

Caption: "A picture of the Patron's Day of the Airborne Division."

Caption: "Visitation and Consolation to Widows and Orphans by Catholic Chaplain of the 9th Infantry Division."

Caption: "Inauguration Ceremony of the 1st Ranger Group Chapel."