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Saigon/ HCM City 1995

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I am not sure what this was doing in Vietnam, other than the fact it may have been made there... a mug commemorating service in the USAAF 8th Air Force during WWII.

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This is not a commemorative item, but rather it looks to be a spare tire cover such as you would see on the backside of a jeep or similar vehicle. Or it could have simply been a wall sign.

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Painted art.


There were a lot of "ideal" village scenes... this one has an RVN flag flying over it.

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And of course, black velvet...


This one features idealized home scenes of the various Allied Nations. I am guessing they were copied from post cards from each country. The US scene looks like a bus terminal near a college campus or municipal building. An interesting representative choice.

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Model airplanes. I half suspect the metal one was originally going to hold a cigarette lighter.

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Books, magazines and manuals.


If they had not been stored properly, the climate could age these items pretty severely. Still there were some worth bringing out.


I received a few that were advertising the ARVN service academies, as well as the Free World Forces Vietnam book you see here.

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One thing that the American military is good at is maps of far and distant lands. These sheets are from Nha Trang and Hue.

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This was an interesting manual that passed through my hands... it described the coastal vessels of Vietnam. I can't remember if it was this one or another that also included boarding and search procedures.

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One thing that I was very interested was period photographs, which at one time were available by the hundreds.


This stack here look like copyrighted press photos. Apparently they had come from one of the old regimes newspaper outlets. There were other photos that suggested they had come from the AP or UPI Saigon bureau.

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There were stacks of personal photographs as well, many apparently removed from private and family albums.


Many of these captured ARVN personnel in uniform, both off and on duty. I kept many of them for years as a reference for uniforms and insignia.

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This was an interesting set of photos, that along with his service records traced the career and rise through the ranks of a specific officer.


There were also dozens more certificates of all kinds for various individuals, tracing their service as far back as WWII and the colonial era.

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Money from South Vietnam, much of it in very good condition. The most popular were the 500 Dong tiger notes.

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Here is a set of US Military Payment Certificates dressed up all nice and ready to add to someone's collection... at a highly inflated price.


I suspect this was bait for a Japanese tourist.

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Cobra 6 Actual

Cool stuff, Gil --


Makes me wish I had spent that $300 in MPCs that I took with me on a three day leave in-country in Saigon in 1968 on patches and badges rather than on booze and ... um, never mind.


Thanks for posting these!

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The most personal and controversial thing that could be bought in Vietnam in 1995 were "lost" GI Dog Tags.


Probably, in the beginning, that is exactly what they were. Lost, misplaced, dropped, etc.


These are a uniquely American item, so they were popular in a weird way with foreign tourists.


They also spurred on additional myths about the fate of unaccounted for MIA's. There are stories of individuals buying dozens of these fruitlessly searching for ones belonging to our missing soldiers.


On a more benign note, other people brought out numbers of these hoping (and sometimes succeeding) in reuniting them with either the troops that lost them, or their families.


But there is a twist to this story...


Just like with the Zippo's, ersatz copies were made to keep up with market demand. All that was needed was a dog tag punch machine, several of which still existed in Vietnam. I also know for a fact that additional machines were exported to Vietnam from the US. Reproduction artists would patiently punch out additional copies made from a legitimate example. This lead to finding multiple dogtags throughout the market for the same individual.

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On one of Louis' trips, he sought out what remained of Phouc Hung's shop, the one generally known as "Cheap Charlie's".


The family had departed Vietnam at the end of the war and settled in Taiwan.


Of course, there was nothing left of the original shop. There were no patches still stuck on a display board, nor hidden under a counter or in a back room.


However, oddly, Louis did encounter a vendor who was occupying (or squatting) in the space who had a random handful of military insignia. None of it had been made by the previous owner.


Louis bought what he had, and later claimed to have made the last insignia deal in Phuoc Hung's shop!


(To those with an over active imagination, those are not patches on the board out front... they are sunglasses!)

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This is one of my favorite photos from Louis' buying expeditions. Somehow, I have misplaced my color copy.


The street photo shows how easily one could find a brand spanking new National Liberation Front flag, made with the same materials and dye as the wartime ones. The only question was, what size did you want?


We haven't discussed the NVA gear that was available in abundance, and there was plenty of that imported to the US to satisfy the collectors looking for those items for years.


There was even a company that specialized in NVA field gear called Sampan Imports. They are still online today, although with a much reduced inventory.


The great thing about this was that the collector could have authentic wartime gear at a reasonable price without having to pay high prices demanded for GI bring back items.


In this photo you see a selection of grenade pouches, all of them from the wartime period and the right shade of khaki brown. (The grenades are US made resin made museum quality reproductions that at one time were made by a friend of mine from Chicago. They are no longer available.)


The downside of this is today's collector has to think twice about whether an item is truly a wartime bring back or not.



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So, after days of hunting, it would all get packed into duffle bags, and shipped by air back to Louis' shop in Hong Kong.


Of course, it was not always easy. Louis had to get all of this past Vietnamese customs officials, and was even harassed by the police at one point.

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On a postscript... it turned out there were some stashes of period items in the country... just not where you expected them.


This is in the warehouse of a movie and theatrical production company in Hanoi. Along with the helmets were stacks of folded uniforms of every camo pattern you can imagine. If nothing else, movies made back in that period certainly had a reliable supply of authentic material.


Reportedly, the role of any Americans was played very awkwardly by Russians.


As with Long Binh, it took years for my friends to make the connections to visit this place.


How much of this is still there today is unknown.

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As a closing photo, these are ARVN beer bottles. These proved to be quite popular with the collectors who received them.


I hope you have enjoyed this trip back in time. As said, this is just a sample of the photos sent to me, although probably the best of the lot.


What was, certainly is no more. Thanks for reading!

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In addition to ARVN and US items, there were of course French Indochina badges to be found as well. However, these had to be approached with caution.


What we see in this photo is a supposed collection of French badges that had been "hidden away". The vendor wanted $30 each for them, which was top of the market at the time.


It was later found that some of the French badges that were being found in Saigon in 1995 were actually restrikes! The only way they could have gotten there was if they had been imported at some point from France. It became evident after a point that some of the vendors were actually importing militaria in order to sell it to the tourists as "still found in Vietnam"!


Gil there are many Vietnamese today that buy from me and these items end up in the War Mart as "just found"

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