Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Happy Holidays !

Christmas trees on sale in Saigon, December 14, 1967.
                  We at RVNHS would like to wish everyone a happy holiday season! We would like to thank all of our Facebook followers and friends for all of their support, and hope all of you can enjoy a pleasant holiday. To highlight this time of year, we would like to share once more this 1969 personal Christmas card from Republic of Vietnam Marine General  Bùi Thế Lân, which we acquired earlier this year. The card is from 1969 when the general was still a colonel. The card was signed by him, and was given to advisors and others who were celebrating the Christmas holiday.
1969 holidays card from then Colonel Bùi Thế Lân, RVNHS Archive.
1969 holidays card from then Colonel Bùi Thế Lân, interior view with signature,
RVNHS Archive.
Bùi Thế Lân as a brigadier general, 1970s.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Nhân Dân Tự Vệ - People's Self Defense Force - VNCH

Postage stamp promoting the People's Self Defense Force, RVNHS Archive.
           The People's Self Defense Force (Nhân Dân Tự Vệ / NDTV) was established in June of 1968. The force was created as a means to arm civilians for self defense against enemy attacks in the wake of the Tet Offensive. People's Self Defense Force units were created throughout the Republic of Vietnam in both rural villages and large cities. The members of the these groups comprised those who were of age, but not currently in military service. A large number of women served in the force as armed combatants alongside male counterparts.

Members of the People's Self Defense Force on patrol
(note the force's insignia on the chest), 1960s.

Female members of the People's Self Defense Force, 1960s.
Postage stamp depicting male and female members of the People's Self Defense Force,
 RVNHS Archive.
           Members of the force received military training, and were given arms and equipment by the armed forces. Some members had previously served in the military, others had not. The precise size and scope of each People's Self Defense Force unit varied depending on the needs of the particular district.
A People's Self Defense Force unit on parade, image courtesy of VNAFMAMN.
Saigon Mayor Do Kien Nhieu presenting arms to newly trained female
People's Self Defense Force members, 1960s.

            Hundreds of thousands of citizens would serve at one point or another during the eight year history of the organization. Some served full-time in the force, others part-time. The nature of the force's activities was defensive. Patrols were mounted by local groups, and security posts on roadways and population centers were operated in support of the regular military forces. However, in times of emergency, People's Self Defense units were mobilized in full and could operate offensively.

Front cover of a People's Self Defense Force member's identification booklet, 1975,
RVNHS Archive.
Interior of a People's Self Defense Force member's identification booklet, 1975,
RVNHS Archive.
A People's Self Defense Force unit on patrol, February 1974, Kien Phong Province.
Postage stamp showing a member of the People's Self Defense Force, RVNHS Archive.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Early Army of the Republic of Vietnam Collar Rank 1950s-60s - QLVNCH

Ngo Dinh Diem with officer at back with early army collar insignia, January 1, 1960,
 courtesy of Getty Images.
            In the early years of the Republic of Vietnam, 1950s to the early 1960s, a collar insignia was worn as part of the dress uniform by soldiers. The insignia consisted of a crossed rifle and sword surmounted by a helmet. It was a standard army branch insignia, and was worn on formal dress uniforms with high standing collars, as well as occasionally on khaki shirt collars. In later years, the formal dress uniform would become a different pattern with a flat lapel collar and no collar branch insignia. In this post we would like to highlight this early insignia by showing examples from the RVNHS Archive.

Early period Army of the Republic of Vietnam collar insignia. Left- bullion, Right- Metal. Circa 1950s-early 1960s, RVNHS Archive.


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Quân Trường Đồng Đế - Dong De Military Academy - QLVNCH

Graduation day at the Dong De Military Academy, 1970s.
              The Dong De Military Academy was located in Nha Trang. The academy provided training to non-commissioned officers as well as officer cadets. Specialized training courses were also offered. During its history, thousands would pass through the academy's gate to receive commissions in the military of the Republic of Vietnam.
Dong De Military Academy cadet visor cap and period photo, circa 1960s-70s,
RVNHS Archive.
A cadet at the Dong De Military Academy in formal uniform, 1970s.
             The uniform and insignia worn by cadets at Dong De was similar to that of those at other military academies in the country. The school had a unique shield-shaped insignia, which was worn as a patch on the sleeve in addition to as a badge on visor caps. Formal shoulder epaulettes were black with green fringe, similar to those worn at the Thu Duc Military Academy. The academies of Dong De, Thu Duc, and Dalat together provided the mainstay for the training of officers and non-commissioned officers for the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces.
Dong De Military Academy material: School shoulder sleeve patch, textbook, and diploma,
 circa 1960s-70s, RVNHS Archive.
Portrait of cadets of class 10 at the Dong De Military Academy, 1972, RVNHS Archive.
A veteran alumni color guard for the Dong De Military Academy, 2015.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

48 Years Ago Today - Battle of Đắk Tô - ARVN Capture of Hill 1416

Artillery during the Battle of Đắk Tô, November 1967.

            The Battle of Đắk Tô (November 3rd to 22nd, 1967) is considered one of the major engagements of the Vietnam War. The battle involved both US and Republic of Vietnam military forces, and saw several Communist units virtually destroyed. Today, the battle is considered to have been a prelude to the Tet Offensive, which occurred just a few months later. In this post, we would like to highlight the role of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) forces in the battle, and in particular the seizure of Hill 1416 that served as the climax for the ARVN forces.
Map showing the location of Đắk Tô.
Patch of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam 3rd Battalion of the 42nd Infantry Regiment, the unit which encountered the enemy forces on Hill 1416, RVNHS Archive.
           Forty-eight years ago, on November 18th, 1967, the 3rd Battalion of the 42nd Infantry Regiment (ARVN) encountered the entrenched North Vietnamese 24th Infantry Regiment on Hill 1416, which was northeast of Tan Canh. The ARVN airborne 3rd and 9th Battalions entered the action to seize the hill along with the 3rd Battalion of the 42nd Infantry Regiment. Together, they managed to capture the hill on November 20th, 1967. The fight was costly, and the Republic of Vietnam forces suffered sixty-six killed taking the hill. The Communist forces suffered several times as many casualties. Along with the capture of Hill 875 by US forces, the enemy was ultimately routed. Both the US and Republic of Vietnam units involved were commended for their gallantry.

Nguyễn Thế Nhã who commanded the 9th Airborne Battalion during the Battle of Đắk Tô, shown here in a 1970 photo from training at Ft. Benning.
Company guidon of the 9th Airborne Battalion, 1960s, RVNHS Archive.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Thủ Đức Infantry School

Thủ Đức Academy honor guard, 1975.
               The Thủ Đức Infantry School was initially established on October 1, 1951, under the State of Vietnam. The school was located in the Thủ Đức district of Saigon, but in 1974 was also located in Long Thành. The mainstay of the school was infantry officer training, but other specialized instruction was also offered. Throughout its twenty-four year history, the academy would produce roughly 40,000 officers for the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces.
The ceremonial shooting of an arrow accompanied official class graduations for Republic of Vietnam cadets at different academies, as seen here in this photo from the ceremony for class 10A, 1972, at the Dong De Academy in Nha Trang.
           Graduates of the Thủ Đức Infantry School could be found in all branches of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. Many high ranking generals were among the school's alumni, and the connections formed between classmates remain strong in the veterans' community today.
Thủ Đức Academy cadet visor cap and period photo, circa 1960s-70s, RVNHS Archive.
       Cadets at the school wore distinctive insignia. The basic emblem for the school was a sword through a flame surrounded by a wreath. This insignia could be seen on visor caps, berets, and shoulder patches of the academy. As with other Republic of Vietnam military officer schools, trainees were given the rank officer cadet, Sinh Viên Sĩ Quan (SVSQ). A single bar was added to the rank to denote each year's worth of training to completed. Formal khaki and white colored dress uniforms were worn on ceremonial occasions, such as graduation ceremonies, parades, and memorial services at the National Military Cemetery at nearby Bien Hoa.
Thu Duc Academy cadet headgear insignia: Top, visor cap badge - Bottom, beret badge, circa 1960s-70s, RVNHS Archive.
Thu Duc Academy cadet beret and period photo of cadet Nguyen Huu Thang, circa 1960s-70s, RVNHS Archive.
Thu Duc Academy cadet epaulettes with one bar denoting one-year's training completed with period photo of Tran Van Qui, circa 1960s-70s, RVNHS Archive.
Thu Duc Academy alumni honor guard at a veterans' reunion, 2012.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

ARVN Officer Visor Cap - QLVNCH

Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) junior officer dress visor cap,
1960s, RVNHS Archive.
                  This officer's visor cap was recently acquired by RVNHS. The gold eagle device and chinstrap denote it as a cap for junior officer ranks (2nd lieutenant to captain). Officers from major and above would have had gold embroidery on the brim of the visor. Two basic versions of army dress uniforms existed. One was khaki, and the other a darker brown (like this cap). On special occasions, white uniforms also existed, but for the most part officers only wore either khaki or dark brown uniforms.
Instructor at the Thu Duc Academy (Captain) with dress visor, late 1960s, RVNHS Archive.
               This particular cap was tailor made in Saigon, and is named to the original owner. Research has determined this individual was promoted to major in 1970, thus making this cap date to the 1960s. Republic of Vietnam military visor caps are much less seldom encountered than berets, and this piece comes as a welcome attention to the RVNHS collection.
Republic of Vietnam officer sightseeing at Arlington Cemetery while training in the US, 
 note: junior officer visors, 1960s.
Vietnamese officers at a graduation ceremony alongside international military observers, note: selection of junior officer visors in wear, February, 1975.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

QLVNCH Armor Qualification Badge - Thiết giáp Việt Nam Cộng hòa

Republic of Vietnam armored vehicles on parade, 1960s.
                      Like many other armed forces around the world, the Republic of Vietnam military awarded qualification badges for particular areas of specialization. Examples include qualification badges for signals, transportation, ranger, and armor. These qualifications were awarded to personnel who completed training in these specific fields and undertook service in these areas. In this posting, we would like to look at some examples of the armor qualification badge.
Republic of Vietnam armor qualification badge, metal, RVNHS Archive.
Republic of Vietnam armor personnel with qualification badges, 1969, RVNHS Archive.
                    Qualification badges were worn on the right side of the chest above the pocket. They could take the form of either metal, embroidered, or cloth or silk woven insignia. The qualification badges demonstrated proficiency in a specialized area, and the recipients wore these badges with great pride. The armor qualification badge design also doubly served as the emblem for the armor branch.
Republic of Vietnam armor qualification badge, silk woven, RVNHS Archive.
Republic of Vietnam armor personnel,
note the silk woven qualification badge on the soldier at far left, 1967.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

60 Years Ago - One Million Northern Refugees Arrive in the Republic of Vietnam

Northern refugees traveling from Haiphong to Saigon, 1954.
      Following the Geneva Conference in 1954, Vietnam was partitioned at the 17th parallel between the Republic of Vietnam and the Communist north. The conference stipulated that the population of Vietnam would have freedom of movement across the 17th parallel for a period of three hundred days to allow citizens to choose under which government they would like to live. However, shortly after the results of the conference were made official it became clear that the principal movement would be a massive exodus from the north to the south as roughly a million northerners (the vast majority civilians) choose to become refugees rather than live under the Communist government. In contrast, there was no comparable movement of civilians from the south to the north.

Ngo Dinh Diem visiting a northern refugee resettlement camp, May, 1956.

      Most traveled south by ship where the northern refugees were resettled by the Republic of Vietnam. Sixty years ago today, on October 31st, 1955, it was announced nearly a million had arrived in the south. In time, many of them would come to form a central nucleus in the military and government of the country. The experience of lost homes in the north, and having to build new lives in the south as refugees was not far from their memories. However, just twenty years later many would be forced to relive the same experience on a greater scale after 1975.

Northern refugees onboard the HMS Warrior, 1954.


Monday, October 26, 2015

The Refused Handshake 1973

The Refused Handshake, a Vietnamese ranger and North Vietnamese colonel, Saigon, 1973.

                The "peace talks" of 1972-73 were fraught with unease by many in the Republic of Vietnam who were weary of the true intentions of their Communist foes. Among the many facets of the talks was the establishment of the International Commission for Control and Supervision (ICCS). The commission was established on January 27, 1973, and its aim was to supervise the implementation of the cease-fire agreements. However, its task proved ultimately unattainable. Between January and July of 1973 there were an estimated 18,000 separate violations of the peace talks agreements.
          On February 5, 1973, roughly a week after the creation of the ICCS, a meeting was held between the ICCS and the Joint Military Commission in Saigon. The meeting included military representatives of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam). The entrance to where the meeting was taking place was filled with reporters from around the world. Despite the peace agreements, the Communist forces in Vietnam were already openly violating them, but were keen to try and convince the world's press otherwise. As he passed through the entrance, a North Vietnamese colonel eyed a potential photo opportunity to downplay the ongoing aggression of his government by shaking the hand of a Republic of Vietnam ranger on guard duty.

The awkward scene, a Vietnamese ranger and North Vietnamese colonel, Saigon, 1973.

            However, the ranger made no response other than a tense glare. Recognizing the failure of his gesture, the North Vietnamese officer changed tactics by awkwardly patting the ranger on the back and giving a few quick remarks, which elicited a humorless grin from the ranger.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Vietnamese Ranger Berets - Biệt Ðộng Quân QVLNCH

Vietnamese ranger with beret, RVNHS Archive, 1966.
            The Republic of Vietnam Rangers ( Biệt Ðộng Quân ) were a backbone of the republic's armed forces. Ranger units served throughout the country, and fought in most of the republic's military operations. Over the course of nearly twenty years, thousands of individuals would serve in the ranger force and don the ranger's maroon beret.

Vietnamese ranger beret with bullion badge, RVNHS Archive.
Vietnamese ranger in beret, 1960s.
Vietnamese ranger beret with metal badge, RVNHS Archive.
             As with other branches of the Republic of Vietnam military, ranger berets were produced by a wide array of tailors in different cities across the republic. Different manufacturers had their own idiosyncrasies, but some general elements were in common. Berets were shades of brown-maroon colors, and the badges could either be bullion, metal, or handsewn. Most period photos show berets with bullion flashes.
Examples of different styles of Vietnamese ranger beret badges, RVNHS Archive.
          Officers' berets were often of better quality, but many enlisted personnel also wore finer quality berets. Thus, the same beret could be worn by either officer or enlisted members. Rank was sometimes added to the berets near the area surrounding the badge. This typically would be a regular metal rank pinned onto the beret, but instances of embroidered rank insignia can also be encountered in period photographs.
Vietnamese rangers in discussion with an American advisor. Note the clasp-style rank normally worn on the chest, being worn by the Vietnamese ranger officer third from left
below his beret badge, mid-1960s, RVNHS Archive.
A general's rank Vietnamese ranger beret, RVNHS Archive.
Vietnamese rangers in berets with family at the Saigon Zoo, 1970s, RVNHS Archive.
Vietnamese ranger veterans at an event in San Jose, California, 2013.