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Fake Vietnam Uniforms

Started by gwb123 , Sep 29 2007 09:22 PM

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#1 gwb123

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Posted 29 September 2007 - 09:22 PM

Since we have a thread for fake Vietnam patches, I thought I would post a few fake Vietnam uniforms.

Feel free to post something here only if it is a CONFIRMED fake. For others that require extended discussion we can open a specific thread just for that item.

When looking these over, please do not assume that there are any hard and fast rules for detecting a fake. In many cases suspicion just starts with plain common sense. The fakers, on the other hand, will use every trick they can think of to sell their phony wares.

Uniforms are usually faked for 1 of 3 main reasons:

1) For money and for profit. This is the most common reason.

2) For the ego trip of "fooling the experts".

3) To falsify credentials for themself or someone else. In other words, to claim credit for combat service and experiences they did not have.

With that in mind, let's start the tour!

#2 gwb123

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Posted 29 September 2007 - 09:37 PM

As mentioned in other threads, I collected post WWII field uniforms from about 1984 to 1994. I had some great stuff in my collection, but I had some clunkers as well.

Here is one of my first suspect items. At first I thought it was a legit Fatigue Jacket for an advisor to Military Region IV. But as time went on I became wary of it. This was bought from a Dallas dealer who also happened to have some exceptional sewing skills. I believe he also had some extra MR IV patches, but he never offered that they had come with the uniform.

What finally got me to suspect this uniform was the MACV shoulder patch. The uniform was significantly worn and faded. It had quite a bit of red dirt worn into it. This was consistent with uniforms worn in many parts of Vietnam. But the patch, while apparently worn, was not weathered with the same red dirt. It just stood out like a sore thumb.

I later realized that the patch had been darkened, somewhat the opposite of the fading you would expect with a field warn patch. My conclusion is that when it was sewn, a light grey thread was used to simulate washed out black thread. When it didn't look quite right it was "dirtied" with something black like a marker pen. This gave the blackened portions a shiney appearance.

It was not unusual for troops to darken faded insignia with black marker. I saw it done during my military service. But I finally concluded this was a fraud. The shirt may have been worn in Vietnam. The red dirt in the shoulder would match where the straps of a back pack would grind dirt into the cloth. But I doubt this was worn by an advisor.

Also, while it is possible, the heavily embroidered US Army Tape was not consistent with the stenciled name tape. If a soldier was going to pay for embroidered tapes, they normally paid for name tapes to match. This is not a hard and fast rule, but this was one more thing that was not right.

As I recall I stripped the patches off this uniform and sold the parts.

Attached Images

  • Fake_2_small.JPG
  • Fake_2a_small.JPG


#3 gwb123

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Posted 29 September 2007 - 09:53 PM

Here's another favorite. I believe I also obtained this in Dallas.

This is where a worn Jungle Fatigue jacket was adorned with numerous insignia. It was a nice mix of colored and subdued. Such uniforms were not uncommon during the war. Shelby Stanton's book on US Army Uniforms from the Vietnam War has a great photo showing just such insignia wear.

However there are inconsistencies. The US Army tape is sewing machine stitched in a manner more common to Korea. (Korean made tapes are often substitued onto fake uniforms.) Meanwhile the name tape had produced by an embroidery process more common to the US well after the war, and well after the time that color insignia were worn.

The Airborne tab and SF Arrowhead, while interesting, did not seem to match any known period made example. It was produced by a hand guided sewing machine. While the Arrowhead was passible, the Airborne tab was terribly off center. I am not sure if this was just sloppy work, or some attempt to imitate the mythical "poor quality" Asian workmanship. (Most of it was actually quite good).

The rank and infantry rifles are standard PX issue. The CIB and jump wings may have been Asian made... its hard to tell from the photo. The 4th ID patch is standard US issue.

The RECONDO badge was very oddly constructed and had a lot of excess material folded beneath it. This would be contrary to the frugality normally seen in such patches.

The nail in the coffin was the ARVN Airborne Wing. During the 1980's there was a very large run of reproduction ARVN jump wings. The telling point was an excessive amount of yellow waste thread on the back side. (There is some on wartime examples, but it is better trimmed.) I took a chance and removed the wing, and those gold threads were there clear as day.

This uniform was also stripped.

Attached Images

  • Fake_8_small.JPG
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Edited by gwb123, 29 September 2007 - 09:55 PM.


#4 gwb123

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Posted 29 September 2007 - 09:56 PM

And the suspect patches from the above uniforms...

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  • Fake_8_b_small.JPG
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#5 gwb123

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Posted 29 September 2007 - 10:10 PM

Here's one that was once the pride of my collection... and later made me cry.

I believe I obtained this through a large mid-western military auction. The listing promised a second pattern poplin jacket for a Sp/4 in the 1st CAV. Who wouldn't be excited! I bid and won.

When I got it, I noticed that the uniform had stitch shadows for numerous insignia. It looked to have been worn by an officer with a Senior or Master jump wing. The shoulder had also showed signs of some form of tab.

At first I convinced myself that the uniform had been turned into supply, and then worn by the enlisted man whose name it bore.

To be honest, I do not fully recall what made me suspicious of this one. For one thing, while both the uniform and the insignia were worn, the wear did not match. Look how the 1st CAV patch does not conform to the sleeve it is sewn on. It should be lying flatter and with the folds of the cloth. The SP/4 patches looked to have been resewn. This was possible but unlikely... rank patches are cheap. Why not start off with new ones? Also, there was something about the color that suggested that they had been starched and worn on a Khaki uniform. Starching discolors both the gold and the green background to a particular shade. This field uniform did not look like it had been starched lately.

The new name tape was plausible, but the US Army tape was funky. This is the type of name tape that was issued with these jackets. But this one was resewn. Very rarely were these used as replacement items, and this one had previous hard use as well.

I believe that I finally turned the uniform inside out. The patches, for all of their apparent wear were not worn into the cloth of the uniform. There should have been an impression where the backside of the patches pressed into the sleeve. The patches were merely riding on top of the cloth.

This one was also stripped. It revealed the stitch patterns of the insignia of the officer who had previoulsly worn it. That would have been a much more interesting find. As it was, the person who bought it was quite happy to have a 2nd pattern poplin jacket.

Attached Images

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Edited by gwb123, 29 September 2007 - 10:12 PM.


#6 guillaume le ouf

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Posted 29 September 2007 - 10:18 PM

hello,

there is the same problem in europe:

collection + money= not good deal...

I prefer to make exchanges to buy piéces too expansive.
it is in my opinion a return at the origins of the collection as in the courses of school!

cheers!

#7 gwb123

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Posted 29 September 2007 - 10:26 PM

The next series of uniforms have a good story that go with them. I will call them the "Rhode Island Red Herrings", as that is where the story begins.

Back before eBay, collectors relied on printed (and sometimes hand written) price lists to find out what was for sale. I believe I answered an ad and recieved back what I thought was the Mother Lode. Among other things it had at least 40 badged Vietnam uniforms! Holy Moly! Back in those days, you had to send your order quick before you were beat out by other collectors. I selected what I thought were the 15 best and fired off a check. About 10 days later I received a box with 13 of them. So sad, too bad, a couple had been sold.

But I still had a treasure trove. It was an instant collection of the highest quality. After laying them out side by side, the alarm bells started ringing.

The first bell to go off was that I had two shirts with the exact same nametape, but with two different units and two different ranks. And the wear on the nametapes matched. Not completely impossible, but then other things started popping up.

To make a long story short, what sealed the fate of this lot was a very simple mistake on the part of the repro artist. He had used the exact same sewing machine with the exact same stitch setting on all of them. I got out my stitch gauge and about fell over when the first four matched exactly. With all of the different sewing machines in SE Asia, this was too much of a coincidence.

Looking back, there were some other more obvious signs as well.

I concluded that anyone so brazen would not be sending my money back. I also assumed that if I did sent them back to him, he would merely rip off somebody else. But as it turned out, when everything was finally stripped down, I was able to get more than my money back by selling the uniforms and the good patches separately.

I did however, send him a letter. I informed him I was connected to every influential Vietnam dealer and collector in the business at the time and that I would be all over him if I ever saw him advertise so much as a thread again. I am not sure how impressed he was with that, but I never heard of him again.

One curious note on this lot... the fake artist did take the extra step of having these laundered and pressed. However, this still failed to press the patches into the uniform cloth to the extent that they look like they had been worn for a long time.

Please enjoy the following rogues gallery from Rhode Island:

Edited by gwb123, 29 September 2007 - 10:55 PM.


#8 gwb123

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Posted 29 September 2007 - 10:38 PM

Rhode Island Red Herring #1

Why not start with something spectacular? When I pulled this out of the box I thought I was in collector heaven!

As I recall this was a 1950's Mitchell Pattern HBT camo shirt. I am not sure where all this shirt actually had been, but it very possibly may have seen a war somewhere. The sleeves were shortened.

As you can see, this was made up for one bad-rump super soldier. A combat patch for the 2nd ID, a multiple award of the CIB, a master jump wing, an SF ABN tab and Arrowhead and a pocket patch for the ARVN 77th Special Forces Bn. Obviously what we had here was a bonafide advisor's uniform.

One thing that puzzled me that for all of the badges that were on this, why weren't there more? Specifically, why no ARVN jump wing. And if you have everything else why not rank and branch.

This uniform had the same stitching as the rest of the lot. When everything was stripped off, there were absolutely no shadows where the patches had been. The patches also had not been worn into the cloth.

Years later I wished I had kept the shirt. I sold it to a dealer, and the last time I saw it was adorned with French Indo-China period insignia. For all we know, that actually might have been accurate.

Attached Images

  • Fake_1_small.JPG

Edited by gwb123, 29 September 2007 - 10:41 PM.


#9 gwb123

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Posted 29 September 2007 - 10:40 PM

Rhode Island Red Herring #1 continued...

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  • Fake_1b_small.JPG
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#10 gwb123

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Posted 29 September 2007 - 10:52 PM

Rhode Island Red Herring #2

Onto something a little more mainstream.

Red flag on this one was resewn 173rd combat patch. This was just a standard issue subdued fully embroidered US made patch. Now it was not unusual for soldiers to take old patches and move them from one shoulder to the other. But usually this was only done if the old patch was in good condition, or if was of special significance, like a local made patch. This one was really beat up.

The left shoulder on this uniform was very interesting. There were shadows of at least two other patches that had previously been there. But none of them was a 173rd patch.

When the patches were removed, there were no shadows on the uniform. I believe the patches were also not worn into the uniform.

The 8th TAB/ 26th ARTY pocket patch looks to have been an original, although fakes of these were made in New York during the 1980's. Either by knowledge or by accident, that unit does match the I FFV shoulder patch.

Curiously the name and US Army tape appear to have been original to the uniform.

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  • Fake_3_small.JPG


#11 gwb123

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Posted 29 September 2007 - 11:03 PM

Rhode Island Red Herring #3

This is an example of simplicity in fakery. This is an imitation of a 1st Pattern Jungle Fatigue Jacket that would have been worn by a 1st Sgt in the 101st ABN.

How cool is that!

Everything was right on this uniform, right down to the cut edge 101st Screaming Eagle.

And one nice thing about faking a uniform that has seen little or no use: you can use brand new patches and nothing looks out of place. It is the easiest story to sell... it was put together and never worn!

As with the others, the stitch patterns proved that this was done by the same sewing machine.

I carefully removed the insignia from this uniform and gave it a very gentle laundering. This removed the stitch holes. The next owner was quite happy to have a nearly mint 1st Pattern Jungle Fatigue Jacket in a large size. The 101st patch also went to another pleased collector.

Attached Images

  • Fake_7_small.JPG


#12 craig_pickrall

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Posted 30 September 2007 - 04:18 AM

Thank you Gil. A great start to an informative thread.

#13 VMI88

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Posted 30 September 2007 - 09:56 AM

This is a good lesson -- thanks! Another big red flag for me is a dealer with a seemingly endless supply of really cool uniforms covered with Vietnamese-made elite unit patches. Yes, this stuff is out there, but not in great numbers. Look at original photos -- most of the guys in Vietnam wore minimal insignia or even unbadged uniforms, NOT fatigues with big colorful in-country made patches on both shoulders and every pocket.

In many years of searching flea markets, thrift stores, and hole-in-the-wall antique stores, I've only found a handful of uniforms with mostly in-country patches. It used to be fairly common to find jungle fatigues with Vietnamese-made name and US Army tapes, or a divisional patch, or maybe a CIB or jump wings, but it was almost always common insignia. I've found four or five tiger stripe shirts over the years, and none of them show any signs of ever having been badged. If I sold them on the open market, how long do you think it would be before they reappeared covered in SOG patches and Vietnamese jump wings?

You can say the same thing about other popular collector's items, painted helmets for example. There are just too many around today for most of them to be original. My bottom line with high-end items is that unless it comes out of the woodwork, it's suspect.

Bill

#14 Andrei

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Posted 30 September 2007 - 10:01 AM

Gil, boo-koo thank you for sharing with us your unlimited knowledge about uniforms and the patches - fake as well as genuine - that go with them. I mean it !

Andrei

#15 gwb123

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Posted 30 September 2007 - 03:10 PM

Thanks to all. I hope I am not boring anyone with all of this, and I hope to pass along a tip or two that might save someone some grief.

I also hope no one gets the idea this is all I had in my collection! These are just the rejects folks...

#16 gwb123

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Posted 30 September 2007 - 03:36 PM

Rhode Island Red Herring #4

The saga continues... This one should actually give you a chuckle.

On the surface it looks like a really neat Jungle Fatigue Jacket of an Airborne trooper of the 173rd. This had the desirable feature of a battalion unit pocket patch, which you sometimes see on the formation uniforms that some of the troops kept back at the base.

On the surface, it all made sense.

Little issues came up with this one at first. The collars had pin holes where metal insignia would have been worn, yet we have sleeve rank on the uniform. Yet this uniform showed no sign of being reissued, plus sleeve rank predated the metal pin on rank.

The 173rd patch had a merrowed edge indicating a late war issue. The US Army tape is commercially produced. I wore the same tape on my fatigues while in ROTC during the late 1970's, but it was always my impression that they were produced after the Vietnam war, or at least very late in the period.

The name tape is made by hand guided sewing machine; possible for Vietnam but more likely from Korea. It had also been resewn, as evidenced that all too visible white thread.

We'll just stop here for a second to mention that we now have more numerous resources available for researching unit insignia. That unit pocket patch that looked so impressive is actually that of the 15th Cavalry. From what I can determine the 15th had a very short duration in Vietnam late in the war, and seem to be tied to the 199th INF rather than the 173rd.

Of course, when this uniform was stripped, none of the patches had been on there to leave an imprint or a shadow. These patches were sewn with the same stitching and thread as used on all of the other Rhode Island suspects. The only good news is that the RECONDO patch looked to be Thai made. This uniform was duly removed from circualtion with the aid of my trusty seam ripper.

Attached Images

  • Fake_6_b_small.JPG


#17 gwb123

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Posted 30 September 2007 - 03:47 PM

Rhode Island Red Herring #5

Here's another one I had high hopes for. I always like collecting officer's field uniforms simply for the fact that they included the branch insignia. This appeared to make sense, for an Infantry Captain who had served a combat tour with the 1st CAV and then transferred to / or did a second tour with II FFV. That was another attraction.. a uniform that may have been worn twice in theater.

This was a nice story I had interpretted for myself. One thing that made this uniform convincing is that the level of wear seemed to be consistent for both the uniform and the patches. The insignia were also both subdued on twill, so no conflict as far as date of issue.

One thing that first puzzled me was the difference in color between the name tape and the US Army tape. Usually these would be procured at the same shop, and made at roughly the same time. Now it is possible that a shop may stock up on a batch of US Army tapes made with a different thread, but most of the time such insignia were made to order.

Of course, this one was sewn with the same thread and stitch as the rest of them. Once I started removing patches, the right shoulder was blank, but the left one had a very distinctive shadow for US ARMY Thailand. When the rank was removed, there were pin holes which suggested EM insignia (Officers use pin on rank as well, but the holes line up differently).

This one was also removed from the market.

Attached Images

  • Fake_4_small.JPG


#18 Andrei

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Posted 30 September 2007 - 03:49 PM

Gil,

dont you think that is possible that a NCO could go back to sleeve ranks for a better outlook of his dress jungle jacket ?
I had one SF jungle jacket, clearly reissued to a second legit owner with sleeve E-6 ranks but with obvious pin holes on the collar. It has always puzzled me and even if the original owner, the SF NCO was IDed, I sold it.
Let us know what you think.

Andrei

#19 gwb123

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Posted 30 September 2007 - 04:07 PM

Rhode Island Red Herring #6

Maybe I had already started getting wise to what was going on, but this one looked odd from the beginning.

The biggest red flag were the sleeve chevrons. They were just brand new while everything else at least looked somewhat worn. Were the patches added after a promotion? Perhaps, but usually you would see a shadow of the previous rank or remaining stitch holes on the inside of the sleeves.

Speaking of holes, clearly visible on the collar again were the pin marks for metal insignia. Once those were authorized, there should not have been sleeve insignia.

The SSI were just wrong. They were both made of a bright synthetic thread, very likely from Korea. I believe the 23rd ID had a synthetic base material as well. Possible for the period, but less likely. Also, the colors of the Airborne Pathfinder scroll bothered me. To my eye, it should of had a black background rather than green.

Once again the name and US Army tape did not match. Not a fatal flaw, but a signal to look further. They were both worn, but not to the same amount.

The RECONDO badge again turned out to be Thai made, and was sold as such. I also made another collector very happy by providing him with a very clean ERDL uniform after I had removed everything.

******* BIG NOTE: I just found this in my notes. Please try not to laugh too hard, but earlier I had stated that the repro artist had gone to the trouble of having these laundered, pressed and starched. I forgot, but these all had tags from the same laundry! Talk about a clue.... The lesson here, of course, is if you have someone suddenly appear with a batch of killer uniforms, take a look at ALL of them. If they all have something in common, that could be a sign of a problem. *****

Attached Images

  • Fake_11_small.JPG
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#20 gwb123

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Posted 30 September 2007 - 04:26 PM

Gil,

dont you think that is possible that a NCO could go back to sleeve ranks for a better outlook of his dress jungle jacket ?
I had one SF jungle jacket, clearly reissued to a second legit owner with sleeve E-6 ranks but with obvious pin holes on the collar. It has always puzzled me and even if the original owner, the SF NCO was IDed, I sold it.
Let us know what you think.

Andrei


Without digging too deep on this, I am willing to bet there was a cross over period not only based on regulations, but also on the supplies that were available.

There's a picture I keep referring to in Stanton's US Army Uniforms of the Vietnam War, on page 231. It was supposedly taken on February 1970. It shows SF soldiers of A-502 wearing just about every combination of insignia that was available during the Vietnam War. In the same picture you can clearly see both pin on collar rank being worn at the same time as sleeve ranks both in color and black and white.

This is the kind of stuff that drives collectors crazy. I would not rule out sleeve rank being added to a uniform by a second owner. And I did not mean to imply that you could make a "rule" about that. In collecting from the Vietnam period, as soon as you set a rule, you will find an exception.

I am attaching a copy. In the close up, if you look close, you will see the pin on rank on the NCO that is standing to the right. The NCO sitting in front of him has color sleever rank. On the larger photo, on the far left, is a gentleman with subdued SP/5 sleeve rank.

Attached Images

  • A502.JPG
  • A_502_b.JPG



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