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Philippine Made Belt Buckles


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I started collecting Philippine made belt buckles in 2010 and they are the only Militaria item I am collecting. This is my first of hopefully many posts to this forum.

 

While I never made it to the Philippines, I am fascinated by the buckles that Philpino artisans made for US Service Men and Women. Based on ebay sales, belt buckle engraving exploded in 1945 as the Philippines was liberated and served as the forward base as the US prepared for invasion of Japan and then for the demobilization and return to the US. While there are some Army, Air Force, and USMC Philippine made buckles, they appear to have been mainly made for USN (and Coast Guard) personnel from 1944 to the 1970s. Starting in the 1970s, Marines started to have (non-uniform) buckles made for themselves too. But when the US pulled closed down its last base in the Philippines in 1992, the period of Philippine made buckles essentially ended.

 

I'm going to use this thread to share some of my buckles and hopefully learn from many of you more about your stories of having custom made buckles made for you. If you have pictures of you wearing Philippine Buckles, please share. I've seen some pictures of people wearing them while in uniform, but I'm always still looking for more examples.

 

What I find really interesting is that the Philippine Belt Buckle "industry" started before WWII. Back when I first started collecting in 2010, I saw a Fort Mills buckle sell on ebay but I was outbid. I have since then realized the rarity of these pre-WWII buckles, and have been patiently waiting for another to be listed. Long story short, another one was finally listed and arrived in the mail today.

 

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I'm finally coming out of the collecting closet (although I'm still actively collecting) and am looking forward to sharing my passion with you!

 

Best Regards,

Bill

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I finally was able to land a Fort Mills PI belt buckle.  These late 30's / early 40's rarities seem to be some of the most detailed of the Philippines belt buckles out there.  This one is very similar

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Welcome Bill.

 

You have a unique collecting area, I also collect these buckles and I believe we have probably bid against each other many times on eBay. LOL?

 

I look forward to seeing more of your collection.

 

Here is a terrible picture of some of my buckles.

 

Chris

 

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A sketch of the one I had made in Olongopo, PI.. It had a white and black cloth belt that snapped around the bail and had a brass cap at the bitter end of the belt. A standard cotton web belt would not fit through or fasten to the bail. You had to remember to buy spare belts...

 

 

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Aloha Bill,

 

We've posted quite a few PI made belt buckles on this topic. http://www.usmilitariaforum.com/forums/index.php?/topic/248273-post-your-buckles-with-or-without-the-belt/

 

Thanks for starting up one solely on PI made buckles.

 

Welcome Aboard

 

Photo: 1946 USN Combat Cameraman

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Man, these are GREAT! I love them. Beautifully done. Thank you for showing them.

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Specific areas of collecting and buying interest:

WWI/WWII 40th (Sunshine) Division, Camp Kearny, Camp Harry Jones, WWI/WWII 158th Infantry, USS Oklahoma, USS Swordfish (SS-193), Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, Mexican Border (1916),

Norman Air Technical Training Center (NATTC) Norman, OK, Tinker Field or AFB, Submariner Items, Knives, Bayonets, Sweetheart Jewelry, other unique

or odd items with interesting stories.

 

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@hink441 – Hi Chris! Thanks for the welcome! I’m glad to have finally (electronically) met you. Yes, you are my ebay nemesis. Joking aside, hopefully we can become friends over time. I know you have a great collection of Philippine buckles (based solely on everything you’ve outbid me on) which your picture of 32 buckles above and all the other buckles you have posted to this site attest to. As my initial post and my chosen forum name indicate, I have set myself a (lifetime) mission of building awareness and understanding of Philippine Buckles and sharing it with the world. I’d love to collaborate with you along with everyone else on this forum who is interested. Eventually this may include a dedicated website and/or reference books to permanently share and document Philippine Belt Buckles; but for the time being though, this forum is a great place for mission planning where the larger community can help educate me and participate in this project.

 

@MastersMate – Thank you for taking a picture of your 1967 buckle and sharing it. I had seen in the past where you posted the sketch of it in another thread. It is great to now see the actual buckle. Do you remember any details on where in Po City you had it made? I have so many questions like… Were the engravers in a formal store/building or did they have a street stand? Did they have sketch books or example buckles set out for you to choose from? How long did it take them to make a buckle? How much did they cost? Then I questions like when did you choose to wear the buckle, like were these custom buckles reserved for special occasions like going out on liberty? Or were they used as an everyday buckle to wear with work uniform dungarees? Or with khakis or whites for chiefs and officers? I know the answer will depend on each sailor as I have seen pictures of them being worn in all three types of uniforms. I’m interested in understanding what different sailors thought about their buckles.

 

@Salvage Sailor – What a great Combat Cameraman buckle. Thanks for sharing. 1946 was maybe the best year for artistic engraving. The war was over and the volume of buckles being engraved was less than in 1945 which may have meant engravers had more time on their hands plus all the engraving they did in 1945 had given them a lot of experience. Higher quality of engraving potentially would have been a way for engravers to compete against each other and win business. Thank you for pointing out and giving the link to the Belt Buckle thread. I had not seen this thread, I’ll need to post some of my miscellaneous non-Philippine Buckles there.

 

@hink441 – I love the PCF-24 swift boat buckle!

 

Here is an earlier but somewhat similar U.S. Army Air Sea Rescue Boat buckle which is one of my many favorites: 1946 P441 A.A.F. Rescue for Charlie Ellis. For those interested, here is a link to a list of over 600 WWII US Army Air Sea Rescue boats that were built http://shipbuildinghistory.com/smallships/armypboats.htm

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If I recall, it was a street stall located just up Magsaysay not far from the bridge. Took an hour maybe and the craftsman sat there with the blank and started tapping away with a small mallet and chisel. He had some samples to work from.. Do not recall the price but it did not break the bank. Wore it with the tropical white uniform and with watch standing dungarees.. Was able to wear it while attached to that cutter, When transferred the next duty station did not allow those overseas trinkets. Wore it with civvies for a while then into the junk drawer for years. With the nylon web belts now available I was able to heat cut the material and sew a narrow tab to the buckle end, Now get to wear it with dungarees. It is back in daily use.

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Bill,

Glad you are on the forum. I look forward to seeing more of your collection. I know I have been outbid on many a good buckle over the years. I bet we have cost each other some serious cash. LOL

 

I have never been to the PI either. I did have a buckle made in Pusan Korea by an old PI buckle craftsman. He made it for me on the pier and it was ready for me when I came back from Liberty. I think it cost me around $20.

 

Chris

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I have 4 that I had made over the years. My first one in 1973, was for my first rate(AS) and came with a blue cloth belt. It would not fit a standard dungaree belt. I then had a Civilian buckle made, large rectangle with sailingbship and my name. It came on a wide brown leather belt. First trip to Subic after changing rate to SM, got an SM buckle made (and watch band), and another Civilian buckle with my wife's name on it for her.

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@Hink441 - What year did you have your buckle made in Korea? Do you still have it? It's interesting that a Philippine buckle craftsman set up shop in Korea. Not a bad business idea to set up shop in another port of call.

 

Here are three custom buckles for John Ferrante who was the commanding officer of the USS Ingraham DD-694 from I believe 1962-1964. The buckle on the left is the classic Philippines buckle style except that it is engraved along the top edge indicating it was a present from (Fr.) Luna E. Engraving on the edges is uncommon but is seen every now and then. Another uncommon feature is a maker's mark (in this case "Cavite Engraving") on the back.

 

I suspect that the two brass buckles on the right were not engraved in the Philippines. While the engraved USN Officer's Eagle is similar in style to Philippines made buckles, the top right buckle has some Asian characters engraved under John Ferrante's name.

 

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Actually there were two buckles made. One was a squadron buckle (VF-211) and one was a larger civilian style buckle. I lost my VF-211 buckle somewhere years ago. I still have the civilian buckle somewhere. I will try and get a picture. These were made in Pusan around 1997 during a USS Nimitz port visit.

 

Chris

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Here is my collection along with a photograph I found on the Internet with them being worn with duty uniforms. All are Philippine made except maybe the Force Recon buckle. I know that there is either a really good copy of the Force Recon buckle being made in Korea or it might be their version of this buckle for their own South Korean force recon soldiers as it is slightly different from this one.

 

 

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What a cool mniche item to collect. Will have to keep my eyes open when I'm out hunting!

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I "primarily" collect Gulf War 1 patches. All branches (USA, USAF,USN, USMC & USCG) and ALL Countries..
US - Op.'s Desert Shield / Storm / Provide Comfort /Some Southern Watch - F-4G's Wild Weasels
UK - Op.'s Granby / Sabre / Warden
Canadian - Op. Desert Storm / Op. Friction
French - Daguet / Aconit
Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, South Korea, etc.
Looking for the oddities, including unfinished & flaws
I HAVE EXTRA's!! Will trade as well.

 

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@hink441 - You surprised me saying that your Korean made buckle was post 1992. That said, it definitely makes since that a skilled Philippine's belt buckle engraver would have moved to another USN port of call when the US closed down the last of its bases in the Philippines. I look forward to you posting a picture of the Civilian buckle you had made and seeing if it looks any different than 1992 or earlier buckles.

 

@Tonomachi - Thank you for posting your collection of Seal buckles and I love the picture with Seal members wearing them in their Summer Whites is great!

 

I don't have any SEAL Trident buckles nor UDT buckles in my collection. I do have one "Civilian" First Class Diver oval buckle (left below) and on the right is a Master Diver buckle that sold on ebay in 2015 for Bob Driscoll and it's special in my opinion because it is the only composite Philippine's buckle using two materials (i.e. metal and the black "plastic" backdrop) that I've ever seen.

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