Jump to content

Angry Birds: A selection of questionable Vietnam era 101st patches


Recommended Posts

One of our Forum members is working to break up an old collection on the part of the estate. As will happen with large collections from the last thirty years, there were a number of fake and reproduction Vietnam era patches. Over a dozen of these were for the 101st Airborne. While cataloging them, I decided to combine them with some of the ones that I already have archived.


Certain units just seem to catch the attention as well as the wallets of patch collectors. That of course also catches the attention of the reproduction artists. The 101st, as you will see, is one of those units.

101st set 1.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

First up is a version from the short lived and rarely seen Carolina Series. I never fully pinned down exactly where these were coming from. There was always rumor of shops in the Ft. Bragg area that employed refugee Vietnamese seamstresses that for a fee would make patches "the old way".


These are hand embroidered and feature a lot of loose surface threads. While nicely crafted, they do not look sturdy enough for actual field wear.


The backside had an odd, and very loose mesh material.

Carolina 101 4.jpg

Carolina 101 4b.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is from the Monterey series, named for the area of California where these originated.


These are very richly embroidered, as you can see by the border stitch.


The "tell" on these patches is the dot pattern you see on the reverse side of the securing threads.


This one tricks the collector with having multiple tabs attached, making it the proverbial rare variation.

Monterey 101 9.jpg

Monterey101 9b.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

And a third Monterey Eagle. At first glance, the embroidery work is different from the first two, and the dot pattern on the back is not as pronounced. But the reverse threads of the lettering is almost identical to the first one. The thread used for the border stitch is also identical to that used by the other two.


This just goes to show that a really clever repro artist will vary their style.

Monterrey 101 28.jpg

Monterrey 101 28b.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

And now some selections from the ever popular Southwest series, produced in the US in the 1980's.


This is actually a color photo. I am not sure why the eagle and lettering are done in white/ grey, but perhaps it was too literal of an interpretation of a black and white reference photo.


Note the relatively loose border stitching and lettering, and the use of an applique for the central design.


As normal for this series, the overall shape is a bit off, as well as various angles and curves in the design. These were sold along with the myth that Vietnamese patches were made with little regard to quality.

PITZ 101 3.jpg

PITZ 101 3b.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Another Southwestern series bird. This one demonstrates what I call a loose basket weave pattern on the main design.


Note the evidence of a paper backing used for the original stitching of the patch.

PITZ 101 7.jpg

PITZ 101 7b.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Another demonstration of the basket weave technique.


One tip about buying patches made on camouflage cloth... take a careful look at the pattern. This appears to be post-Vietnam ripstop BDU cloth.

The backside is actually olive green, but I could not convince my scanner of that.


The backside of this patch very nicely shows the offset bobbin of the reverse threads that is often seen with patches from this series.

PITZ 101 14.jpg

PITZ 101 14b.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A larger patch for the 101st Support Bn from the Southwest series. There were a number of large, jacket sized patches made by this repro artist. I am not sure why the Support Battalion was selected for this honor, other than it is a very striking design from the Vietnam period.


The overall shape of the patch and proportions actually seem to work better on the larger patches.


Note that the eagle's beak again shows that basket weave stitch on the reverse side, while the remainder of the head is an applique, as are the stripes.


The lightweight olive green material is a common backing seen on the Southwest series patches.

PITZ 101 18c.jpg

PITZ 101 18b.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Next is the Rocky Mountain Series. I encountered these at a militaria show in the early 1990's.


These sometimes get confused with the Southwest series, especially with the similarity in lettering style.


But the often odd choices for the reverse threads, in this case red, is almost a signature on these. The central design is more densely embroidered, and for some reason, the patches in this series often look to have been flattened with a steam iron.


Typically, patches from this series do a poor job of depicting the original design. Note how elongated the neck of the eagle is in this example.

Rocky Mt 101 8.jpg

Rocky MT 101 8b.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Another Rocky Mountain series 101st patch, this time reversed.


Again, the threads are flattened from a steam iron.


With both of the Rocky Mountain patches, grey thread was used instead of white for the eagle. I am not sure if this was an oversight, or an effort to make the patch look aged and used.

Rocky MT 101 24.jpg

Rocky MT 101 24b.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This series comes from the US West.


If the lettering looks a bit poorly defined, that is because it is. Also, you can see where the letters were sketched out before they were embroidered.


This was made on a very soft material, almost like a velvet.


The eagle is an applique of white cotton material with a stitched beak.


You can see traces of a brown paper backing.

TX 101 22.jpg

TX 101 22b.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Another patch from the same series, done on US fatigue cloth.

For some reason this patch is done in very washed out, pastel shades. The pink thread may have left over from a dress that was a previous project, may have been still loaded up on a bobbin and ready for use.

TX 101 23.jpg

TX 101 23b.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am not sure where these are coming from, but I am reasonably sure they are being made in the USA. These popped up in the last year.


When computer guided sewing machines became available for home use, there was a lot concern among the collecting community that fake patches would come pouring onto the market from every nook and cranny.


The problem with this theory is that computer controlled machines just do not capture the look of either hand embroidered patches, or patches that were embroidered using a hand guided sewing machine.


As you can see, while this captures the design very nicely, it is just a bit too precise to be convincing.

USA 101 30.jpg

USA 101 30b.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Looking overseas... the first stop is Korea.


When looking at Korean made patches for units that served in Vietnam, one has to place these in a proper context as to whether they are "fake" or made for use by troops in Korea.


When troops rotated in a subsequent tour to Korea, they often bought locally made patches to wear on their right shoulder as a "combat patch". They also used them to decorate flight helmet bags, windbreakers, etc.


With that said, some of the patches coming from Vietnam look more like they were made for the benefit (or to fool) collectors.


I am on the fence about this one. As has often been stated, the 101st generally wore color patches in Vietnam. However, when they rotated to Korea, they probably were prevailed upon to wear a subdued version. I suspect that this is what this one might be... Korean made for use as a combat patch before subdued US factory made patches were available. However, unless someone turns up a uniform with one actually used on it, this is just speculation.


This is made on US fatigue cloth, has a brown paper backing, further reinforced with a gauze material.

Korea 101 11.jpg

Korea 101 11b.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Other Korean made patches, however, look to have been made specifically for the collector's market.


This one is done on a soft, velvet like material. The lettering and border stitch look to have been done by hand guided sewing machine.


The skyward looking eagle's head looks to have been done by a combination of hand embroidery techniques. The embroidery style matches other patches that have been made for the collector's market


The white threads look to have been artificially aged.


The overall shape is grossly misaligned.


There is no backing material.


These were probably made in the 1980's or 1990's, when such handiwork was still common in Korea. Today's locally made patches are generally made on modern computer controlled machines, looking very similar to what is made in the US or Taiwan.

Korea 101 5.jpg

Korea 101 5b.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Another Korean made souvenir patch, similar to the previous one, and most likely from the same source.


This one is made on a black cotton base cloth, with a thin white synthetic backing material.

Korea 101 6.jpg

Korea 101 6b.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is one I had originally thought to be a Southwest series patch made in the US. However, the AIRBORNE lettering is done with a bright synthetic yellow thread that probably would have been avoided by the Southwest repro artist. Also, the border stitch is much denser than that seen on the Southwest series.


This is done on a black cotton cloth. Note the lean to one side of the design. This is a sign of rapid and hurried production. It would be surprising if a serviceman would actually wear a patch that was this far off. However, it is sturdy enough for actual wear.


All of the embroidery is done by hand guided sewing machine.

Korea 101 25.jpg

Korea 101 25b.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I had also suspected this patch of having been made as part of the Southwest series, along with dozens of other similar variations of combined tabbed and scrolled variations.


But again, the bright synthetic thread used here, as well as the orange color for the beak, suggest this is from Korea.


Experienced collectors will recognize that the scroll is similar to a number of Aviation and Recon scrolls that have also originated in Korea.


This features a black cotton base, with no backing material.


I am guessing these were definitely made as collector bait. It is just too easy of a story to sell, although most of the scrolls that I have seen from the period were made separate from the unit patch.

Korea 101 16.jpg

Korea 101 16b.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Another Korean made patch similar to the previous one, again betrayed by the bright synthetic thread.


Note the brown paper backing, often seen on Korean made patches.


All of the embroidery is done by hand guided sewing machine.


Note the extended neck on the eagle, and how the head "bumps" into the border stitch above it.

Korea 101 15.jpg

Korea 101 15b.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is a small patch, about 2 inches tall, using the "fuzzy white stuff" that is common to Korean made patches, as well as Taiwan and the Philippines.


Although well made, this was most likely made for a piece of kid's clothing or other fashion item.

Korea 101 17f.jpg

Korea 101 17.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Now moving on to Pakistan, which seems to be an unending source of reproductions.

This is a very old reproduction, dating back at least to the early 1980's. It was even included in a well known reference book.

This example appears to have been sewn onto something, washed and worn.

It has a black cotton base material, and is cut edge with a thin border stitch.  The central design is heavily hand embroidered and for some reason overly detailed.

Pakistan 101st Eagle.jpg

101st Eagle b.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A recently made example from the Philippines that shows every sign of having been made on a large scale, computer controlled machine.


This one is slightly undersized compared to a standard patch.

PI 101 21.jpg

PI 101 21b.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Another recently made Philippine manufactured patch.


This should fall into the category of "it shouldn't fool anybody", but I thought I would include for less experienced collectors.


Again the hook on this one is having the additional scroll attached...

PI 101 20.jpg

PI 101 20b.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...