Wednesday, July 29, 2015

QLVNCH Officer Beret ARVN

QLVNCH Tan Officer Beret with Metal Badge, 1960s-70s, RVNHS Archive.
            Army of the Republic of Vietnam officer berets came in either black or tan colors. Badges could be either bullion or metal. Officer badges were gold, while enlisted ranks were silver. The beret shown here is tan with a metal officer badge in gold. The pattern of the badge (eagle with Republic of Vietnam flag crest) was used from the mid-1960s through 1975. Such a beret was worn by any officer from the rank of second lieutenant through general. Officers from all branches of the regular army wore these berets, which included infantry regiments, logistical groups, artillery units, and regional and popular forces to name a few. The metal beret badge was of the same pattern, but smaller scale than the badge used on visor caps.
An army first lieutenant with bullion badge version of this beret (second from right) being decorated with the Police Merit Medal along with National Police personnel, 1960s-70s.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Thiết giáp: Republic of Vietnam Armor

A Republic of Vietnam tank crossing a river in Svay Rieng, Cambodia, May 27, 1970.
       When the Republic of Vietnam came into being in 1955, the armor branch was modest, consisting of only a small mixture of vehicles and equipment still in serviceable condition after the French departure. However, by the late 1960s, the armor units of the Republic of Vietnam had grown substantially, and played a vital role in nearly every operation conducted by the armed forces. Armor units served in support of operations against guerillas, main force enemy units, and tank-to-tank engagements.
An armor unit presenting for review, 1960-70s.
An armor unit aligned for equipment inspection, 1960s-70s.
       Personnel in the armor branch were trained at the armor school in Thu Duc. Many volunteered specifically for service in the armor, or were otherwise selected due to proficiencies with mechanics. From 1955 to 1975, tens of thousands would serve in Republic of Vietnam armor units.
An armor 2nd lieutenant with family (note the armor qualification badge above the name tape),
1968, RVNHS Archive.
        Armor crews typically wore Republic of Vietnam issue olive-drab green fatigue uniforms. A unique feature of armor uniforms was the black beret worn with the left side facing (berets in other branches of the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces were worn to the right). Level or rank was also more clearly signified on armor berets than any other branch of the military. Different beret badges existed for regular enlisted (recruit to senior corporal), non-commissioned officers (junior sergeant to warrant officer), company level officers (2nd lieutenant to captain), field officers (major to colonel), and generals. For other branches, if there were any distinctions in beret badges, it was usually only between enlisted and officers of any rank.
A sample of different patterns of armor beret badges as worn on berets. Top-left; field officer, Top-right; company officer, Lower-left; company officer (variant), Lower-right; enlisted.
RVNHS Archive.
Armor officers at Tan Son Nhut airport after returning from training in the United States, 1960s, RVNHS Archive.
Examples of armor unit insignia variants.
Top; 7th Armor Regiment - left, printed; right, silk woven,
Bottom: 17th Armor Regiment - left silk woven colored ; right, silk woven subdued.
RVNHS Archive.
Armor unit on parade, Saigon.

Friday, July 17, 2015

51st River Patrol Group Patch

51st River Patrol Group patch, handmade, RVNHS Archive.
    The 51st River Patrol Group was formed in June of 1968, and was the first Vietnamese navy unit to be outfitted with PBR (Patrol Boat River) vessels. The initial complement for the 51st was eight boats. The river patrol units were responsible for protecting the many waterways that run through Vietnam.  The PBR vessels they operated typically had a four-man crew. The PBR vessels were fast, and their small draft allowed them to move through shallow water passages where most other vessels couldn’t go. Units not only engaged in regular patrols in their respective areas, but also were frequently called upon to provide support for land military operations. Causalities for sailors in the river patrol units were among one of the highest branches of the Vietnamese navy. Shown in this post is a patch for the 51st River Patrol Group from the RVNHS Archive.
A Vietnamese Navy River Patrol Force PBR (Patrol Boat River) vessel 1960s.
Vietnamese Navy River Patrol Force PBR vessels, 1960s.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

State of Texas VNAF Officer ID

Texas state ID for a VNAF officer receiving training at Lackland Air Force Base,
RVNHS Archive.
       This identification card was issued by the State of Texas for a Vietnamese Air Force (VNAF) officer undergoing training at Lackland Air Force Base. Lackland was home to the Defense Language Institute, and during the 1960s-70s thousands of Vietnamese military personnel were trained at the base. Training at Lackland was often supplemented with additional programs at different bases in the United States.
Reverse of Texas state ID for a VNAF officer receiving training at Lackland Air Force Base,
RVNHS Archive.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

VNAF vs ARVN Officer Ranks

        We often come across instances where officer rank is misidentified as belonging to either the Republic of Vietnam Air Force (VNAF) or the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). In some cases, it is impossible to tell. One example being a metal gold-colored second lieutenant rank, which would be equally appropriate for a member of the air force or army to wear. However, in some cases there are differences, and it was with this in mind that we decided to make a post explaining just three of the tell-tale signs that can be encountered.
VNAF First Lieutenant colored cloth rank with black backing, RVNHS Archive.
ARVN First Lieutenant colored cloth rank with olive-drab green backing, RVNHS Archive.
      First, while subdued cloth rank insignia invariably had a black on olive-drab green scheme that for colored cloth officer rank was different. VNAF officer colored rank on cloth had a black backing, while ARVN officer colored on cloth was olive-drab green. Some examples can be found in period photos of VNAF officers with colored cloth rank insignia with olive-drab backing, but this was not standard practice, and photos of ARVN officers with black backing on colored cloth rank insignia are not to be found. Thus, officer colored cloth rank insignia with a black backing can be distinguished as VNAF and not ARVN.

VNAF Captain metal and colored cloth ranks with blossoms arranged in a triangle,
RVNHS Archive.
VNAF Captains with triangular arranged blossoms
(colored cloth insignia - left, subdued cloth insignia - right), 1960s.
VNAF Colonel rank in triangular arrangement worn by Nguyen Huy Anh (center)
with General Tran Van Minh (left) and General Ngo Quang Truong (right).
ARVN Captain metal rank, RVNHS Archive.
ARVN Officers with three blossoms in a single row arrangement,
captain with metal rank (far left) and colonel with subdued cloth rank with blossoms in a vertical row (second from left), 1960s.
ARVN Colonel with three blossoms in single row arrangement,
 horizontal (on cap) - vertical (on lapels), 1969.
      Second, the arrangement for ranks with three blossoms (captain and colonel) differed between VNAF and ARVN. For VNAF ranks, the three blossoms were arranged into a triangle shape. For ARVN ranks, captain was arranged in a single row of three blossoms, while colonel could either be a single horizontal row or a single vertical row – both mounted atop the bar that appeared on ranks from major to colonel. Some period photographs exist showing VNAF captains with single-row style blossoms, but there were the exception, and similar photos of ARVN captains with triangle-style blossoms do not appear.
VNAF Major metal rank, RVNHS Archive.
ARVN Major metal rank, RVNHS Archive.

        Third, the lower bar appearing on officer ranks of major to colonel from the mid-1960s, differed between VNAF and ARVN. The VNAF version of the bar was silver with arrows pointed inward. The ARVN version was gold with a branch with leaves and additional blossom(s) making up the design.
Example of a fake rank currently made in Vietnam for the tourist / collector market.
Aside from the inaccuracies with the manufacturing methods and material quality
that determine it as a forgery,
the triangle arrangement of the three blossoms is VNAF pattern, but the bar is ARVN pattern.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

RVN Presidential Guard Insignia VNCH

Republic of Vietnam Presidential Guard insignia, mid-1960s-70s, RVNHS Archive.

            The primary responsibility of the Republic of Vietnam Presidential Guard (Lữ đoàn Liên binh phòng vệ Phủ Tổng thống - 1955-1963, Liên Đoàn An Ninh Danh Dự - post-1963 ) was the protection of the nation's head of state. However, the Presidential Guard served many other functions, which included the escort, reception, and protection of other governmental leaders as well as foreign dignitaries. The members of the Presidential Guard were drawn from units in all branches of the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces. Candidates for the guard were chosen as a result of exceptional qualities and performance. Serving in the guard was considered to be a great honor. The insignia shown here from the RVNHS Archive was the shoulder patch worn by members of the guard from the mid-1960s to 1970s, and bears evidence of having been removed from a uniform. Most photographs show this insignia in use on the white parade uniforms typically worn by the Presidential Guard, but it could also appear on fatigues, camouflage, or other dress uniforms worn by guard members.
Members of the Republic of Vietnam Presidential Guard, 1960s.
A member of the Republic of Vietnam Presidential Guard on sentry duty, 1960s.