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Fake Vietnam insignia


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A less refined version of MLT-1. Depending on which variation you compare it

to, the yellow shell burst is just a bit squared off. The right eye is definitely askew, the beret flash has a star to simulate an SF crest, the beret looks like a pickle and the blood dripping from the jaw more closely resembles a bunch of cherries. Typical of repro work, the scroll beneath the design has lost much of its character. The repro artist found that folding the edges on this piece did not work very well, and the overall effect is rather clumsy.


The reverse shows a medium weight mesh cloth used for backing. Note the abundance of excess threads.



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  • 2 weeks later...



Like the previous Thailand Type 1 series, it appears that some of the shops outside of Udorn RTAFB were also still in operation as late as the



The common feature on these patches is a loose weave, white mesh backing.

Curiously, some collectors have noted a striking similarity to the backing used on a

number of WWII Army Air Corps insignia, leading to speculation that the manufacturer may have been using similar or retooled equipment.


One of the most notable characteristics of these patches is their very narrow borders, about 1.5 mm wide. Although direct embroidered, these patches make very sparse use of thread. However this is compensated for by the use of very bright colors and well thought out designs, giving these patches a very appealing appearance. These appear to be Vietnam era designs, probably made by the same shop that made them during the war. The question for the collector is are they old or simply well done remakes?


Below 1) A very striking USAF SPS patch with a very glaring spelling error for Air Base. The body of the tiger is done with what might be a silk embroidery thread, giving it the look of wartime examples. To save money, the remaining threads appear to be synthetic. This patch has been coated with plastic on the back, making it very stiff.


Below 2) Additional USAF SPS based on designs worn a Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base.



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Below 1) A pair of patches demonstrating a slightly thicker lettering style, and pronounced cut edge borders. The CCINC lettering appears slightly distorted because the letters are traced out in ink on the base material. Note the attention to

detail on the elephants toes and head pieces. The only real flaw is that the

central design is bent slightly to the right. Is this a remake or something

that was left in the shop because it didn’t quite meet the customer’s standards? Udorn may have been a staging area for USAF advisory teams in Laos and Cambodia, and that would explain why these were made there.


Below 2) Just about everywhere that the US sends troops we use our medical teams to help win the hearts and minds of the local population. Note that the Thai script is carefully done, a detail that would have been reduced to gibberish in the hands of any repro artist outside of the country. The backside features a loose woven white mesh backing that is common to all of these patches. Although coating with a stiffening agent, this backing typically was not very durable after a washing or two.



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Below 1) For those who want a truly comprehensive collection, the US Coast Guard

LORAN Station Thailand. The black background is fully embroidered with the same texture as seen on the Security Police patches. The lettering is rich enough to actually present a raised surface. Curiously this patch did not have the white mesh backing, but was coated with some kind of stiffening agent. A similar patch exists with a “Last of the Railroaders” tab.


For some reason, there are a lot of reproductions of this particular design.


Below 2) This is the most questionable item of the lot. It is a grossly undersized Mike

Force patch, barely 3 1/4 inches tall. The embroidery is very fine and provides a good rendition of the design. However someone has attacked this poor thing with multiple staining agents making it look as old a parchment. As usual to contradict such aging efforts there is no sign that this was ever sewn or worn. This particular patch appears to have been made specifically to fool the collector.



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These patches look similar to the Thailand Type 2/ Udorn Series A, but with slight variations. The borders are noticeably flatter and wider, and the white mesh

backing is from different source. Most likely they were produced by another shop

in the local area, or at least with a different machine process.


What is interesting about these patches is that they are very similar to examples of Thai made USAF 432nd TFW/TRW patches from the wartime period. The chief difference is the thread and background material has a higher synthetic content, and is much shinier (giving an appearance very close to current Taiwan made patches.) The design details on the wartime patches are noticeably sharper.


Below 1) This patch was a bit of a surprise, in that the 222nd was an Army Aviation

unit stationed in Vietnam. Possibly it was made originally as a reunion item.

The wrench and the rifle being held by the eagle are supposed to be black


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Below 1) Post war copy of an AC 130H crew patch. While there is a richness to some of the embroidery work, the design details are somewhat mangled. Specifically the face of the Spectre is barely distinguishable. Also note the overall shape of the patch bulging to the right. The base cloth is a modern synthetic, as is the glaring white thread.


Below 2) A black and white photo of the backside of this patch which clearly shows the white mesh material used for backing on the post war made patches. Also note the excess threads and the fraying of the synthetic base material around the edges.



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Below 1) Another classic design remade using highly synthetic cloth and thread. The upper panel is fully embroidered. The black River Rats shield is a separate applique. This particular patch did not have a mesh backing, but was coated with a stiffening agent. Note that the threads around the left side have been easily broken and are fraying.


Below 2) The backside of this patch does not use backing material, but is covered with a layer of white glue to secure the threads. The pricetag is from the late 1980's and corresponds with those seen on other reproductions.



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UPDATE: The following series has more recently been identified as originating in Monterey, California. It has been the bane of West Coast collectors for at least the last 15 years.





This series is named for the appearance of individual dots of thread on the backside of the patch. The embroidery technique uses occasional stitches to anchor or secure the threads that form the design. This gives the appearance of a “connect the dot” outline of the design, rather than a full or partial reverse image.


It is important to note that a similar stitching technique was used on period made items made in Vietnam. Hand stitched patches from "Cheap Charlie's" shop in Saigon showed "dot back" securing threads. However they were done with a much thinner stitch and thread. This makes these reproductions very convincing and easily confused as originals. It is believed that these were imported into the US in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.


Below 1) A very finely embroidered 1st Aviation Bde with an attached Airborne tab. An original patch would be rare and highly desirable to a collector. This one was made well after the war and is part of the Thailand Type 4 “dot back” series. The backside shows the typical folded edge and elongated securing stitch that is typical of these.


The base material is a very fine cotton that is so thin that light will pass through it when held up to a lamp. Note the chain stitch used for the lettering. The top part of the arc for the shield is higher on the right then on the left, which in turn offsets the alignment of the tab. The border is done with diagonally done stitching, and the thread is also a natural cotton. This is a very well made reproduction, but overall it looks too frail for actual field wear.


Below 2) An imitation 7/1 CAV Blackhawk patch featuring a very densely embroidered front side. The yellow background cotton threads appear a bit loose, as does the border stitch. This patch looks like it could pull and fray very easily.

Curiously the border and lightening bolts have been done in pastel pink,

either to simulate the fading seen on original patches or simply as a goof by the tailor. The blackhawk profile is not quite as menacing as the original and the border stitch is too wide. This patch has been aged with a black substance to tone down the colors.


Although I always believed this to have been made in Thailand, I will freely admit that I was hard pressed to fully classify this patch for years. For one thing, it did not

feature the folded edge seen on other patches from this series. Then one day, after reviewing other patches for this chapter, I recognized the same dot back pattern on the backside. The difference is that it was harder to spot with yellow thread on a yellow background cloth!




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Below) This is a very convincing Thai made reproduction RT California. Yellow

has been substituted for the gold trim and highlights of the eagle. The shape of the

head is more angular on the original patches. The patch should be narrower

and longer, and the legend “California” should not be in quite as much of an arc

as is shown on this example. The thread also appears to be thicker and looser than

that seen on the originals.


The backside of this patch features the typical “dot back” pattern of securing threads seen in this series. There is also a significant amount of excess thread behind the fully embroidered portions.



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UPDATE: The following series has also more recently been identified as originating in Monterey, California. It has been the bane of West Coast collectors for at least the last 15 years.






A very colorful rendering of what is tentatively identified as B-53, USSF. This version features a bright yellow thread substituted for the gold of the original. The skull is too small for the size of the patch and the “scars” are less than convincing.

Still, the workmanship is excellent, and that alone is enough to sell the patch as an “original”. Once again, this patch features a folded edge with a dot pattern on

the back.



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UPDATE: The following series has more recently been identified as originating in Monterey, California. It has been the bane of West Coast collectors for at least the last 15 years.





On the surface these are identical to the Thailand Type 4 Dot Back series. The

materials, threads, colors, and folded edge construction are all the same. However,

the backsides of these patches have an excess of embroidery thread that would

almost make one conclude that these were made by a different hand. But if one takes a close look, many of these patches show the same anchoring threads that give the Dot Back patches their unique appearance. Often though, these anchoring

threads are buried under an excess of back threads that looks more like a bird’s nest or a woven rug.


Most likely these were made by the same shop as the Dot Back series, and were

either made by a different craftsman or were part of a later order.


Below) A truly impressive repro that is hard to debunk simply because there were

multiple versions of this design known to exist. One immediate criticism

is that the lettering, while well done, is not as robust as the original.

Original versions show lettering that is proportionally twice as large. The feathers at

the edge of the wing should be more rounded. This patch also used the same bright

yellow thread seen in others of this series.


Backside of the same patch showing an incredible amount of excess thread. This would not be expected on Vietnamese period made patches, which typically

made very economical use of thread. Note that the folded edge is very slight; at least not a lot of the dark blue cotton base material was wasted.



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A sharp looking RT Montana. The first problem is that the tab is too narrow and not

properly aligned with the rest of the design. The tiger looks more like an eyeless demon with exaggerated whiskers. The lettering is askew and the winged skull is less than menacing. Again the wings are missing much of their detail, and the

patch shows a considerable amount of wrinkling.


Backside of the same patch showing the folded edge technique. Also the basic embroidery technique is somwhat different than the Dot Back series producing a

smoother set of reverse threads.



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A repro of USSF Detachment B-55. The overall patch seems to lean to the right.

The gold area behind the parachute is more rounded than on the original. The parachute itself is missing some of the finer details around the edges. The skull has lost some of its details and is less mournful than the original design. The maroon border is done in a brighter shade of red. The black base mater is very thin and can be seen through when held up to a light. The back again shows quite a bit of excess thread.



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I posted the USAF MEDTC patch earlier from this series. However, these seem to pop up in auctions on a regular basis, so I thought I would add this.


Design details: Fair. While lettering is good temple or map details are a bit

poorly defined. The sword blades are triangular, looking more like a dagger on

some of the patches.


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These patches were reported in various issues of the VICN (Vietnam Insignia Collectors Newsletter). They were one of the first serious attempts to copy ARVN unit

patches. They all featured very heavy full embroidery, were generally oversized and

all had flaws in their design details when compared to the originals. As noted in the VICN several came with the story that they had been made for a GI in visiting Thailand during the war. As Clem Kelly, the editor, pointed out this made very little sense because hand woven patches were selling in Vietnam for 50 cents each while patches such as these were going for $2 to $5 in Thailand. These seemed to stop appearing in any large numbers soon after they were covered in the VICN.


Below 1) ARVN 1st INF RGT with errors including a black border that should be

white, and incorrect accent marks on the lettering. Per the VICN, the upper portion of this patch is a bright crimson when it should be a dull red, and the lower portion also being a yellow that is too bright.


Below 2) Grossly oversize VNMC patch both for the Medical Battalion. These were roughly twice the size they should have been. It had the added touch of Vietnamese language newspaper covering the back.



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Dong-Tre Mobile Guerilla Force rendered in a heavily embroidered style.

Originals were known to be done as silk woven patches. The background is dark

green when it should be a bright green, the tiger’s eye is red when it should be a gold yellow.


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These look very similar to the Thailand Type 2 series that was previously discussed, and may be the product of the same shop. The overall differences are that the base materials have a much more synthetic look to them. Where the previous series had some resemblance to wartime patches, these have a very commercial look to them. Still, there is enough richness and color that they stand apart from other machine made patches.


Below 1) An 82nd ABN Sniper repro made on a red synthetic base material. Note that the thread on the tab and the background of the AA are oriented vertically, while the thread in the filler space between the tab and the patch is oriented horizontally. The overall shape is asymmetrical . The border is made with a

straight stitch. The rifle is lacking in fine details.


Below 2) Although made on a glaring synthetic white material, this copy stood

out from the other machine made surplus store patches it was found with.

The center section had the same stitch pattern as seen on other patches in this

section, and it also had the added layer of white backing material with the

typical Thai coating. Note the continuation stitch between the letters. It is doubtful that the original of this one was made in Thailand, so this one was very likely commissioned by a repro artist for sale to collectors.



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Below 1) A USAF SOS "vulture" patch are notable for its loss of detail from the original design. The menacing birds have now become almost shapeless lumps.

This example did not use a backing material, but it did feature a coating to secure the reverse threads.


Below 2) This post war copy of the USAF Credible Chase is quite credible itself. It is fully embroidered on top of a red base material. The back is coated with a transparent stiffening material, making the entire patch stiff. The original design was

more elongated. Note the narrow border. This copy appears to be deflated by comparison.



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Below 1) The Battle Damage Qualified repro features a central design that is almost

obscured by the machine embroidery process. It is backed by a white, dense

woven synthetic cloth again coated with a plastic to secure the threads.


Below 2) In some respects they look very close to the Thai Type 3 patches

described elsewhere, especially the embroidered panel at the top of the patch. But the manufacturing process is noticeably different, especially the broader flat stitch used for the edges. The details do not seem to be as well defined. These patches are large, being 4 x 4 1/2 inches. The base material is a dense woven synthetic, the back looks to be a white cotton or blend coated with a stiffening material. The upper panels are fully embroidered with a vertical background stitch. The lettering is done by a programmed machine



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Much like what happened in Japan, these patches were made in the early 1990’s in

Hong Kong for the benefit of local reenactors as an inexpensive alternative to

vintage US insignia. The first group of these appear to have been made on a hand guided sewing machine. While there is a certain richness to the embroidery all of them appear to have suffered from improper cloth tension while they were being made. This results in them being very wrinkled. An unknown number of these were imported as trade items to the US. A few are known to have been resold as originals.


Below) This series of patches have a definite “homemade” appearance to

them. This item has the design clearly drawn out on the base cloth. Despite

that there is an overall lean to the right. The tabs are misshapen and the

lettering is uneven. The sword is placed too far to the left on thearrowhead. Still, the ERDL cloth gives the item a certain air of legitimacy. Presumably this was made

to sew onto a uniform, but the tailor did not leave enough material around

the sides to fold over. The backside features a lot of loose excess threads

behind the lettering, and it once was covered by white newsprint.


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Perhaps the most convincing items in this series were the 173rd ABN patches.

Although new, they were made on recycled cotton cloth, and the mind’s eye could easily be tricked into believing this was a used patch. They were proportionally accurate, although the Airborne tab dips to the left. The Vietnamese language newspaper on the back added to the deception. These were also seen in a very sharp looking ERDL version.



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This series was produced by the same shop that made Type I patches. While they still bear many of the same design characteristics, it is obvious that they are embroidered by a computer programmed sewing machine. This was an advanced technique for the time. The lettering, border and design details are fairly precise, giving them a sharp appearance. That said, they have a striking resemblance to period US made subdued on twill insignia.


Below: Squared away and ready for service, a subdued on twill 82nd ABN. The faults are barely noticeable, such as the alignment of the “AA” with the outer border. The border stitching and design details are not a crisp as the mass produced originals, but it comes close. Sewn onto a uniform and washed a few times,

this example could be very convincing. However, unmounted the give away on this patch is the use of a bright white mesh material on the back, with a lot of

excess threads. Also note the unevenness of the white back stitch threads on the border.



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These patches were commonly found in Japanese surplus and patch shops in 1986.

They were odd for their dense machine weave, producing a very flat appearance.

The MACV example had a very heavy coating of plastic on the back.


Despite their heavy use of thread, they appear to fray very easily. Most likely these

would have been too fragile for actual field use. Most likely these were intended for



Below: Both of these patches were purchased in Japan in the mid-1990’s. They

are the product of a machine process and are curiously thin for a fully embroidered

item. The MACV features a border that is about twice as wide as it should be. This

contributes to the patch looking to be more elongated than the original design. The back was plastic coated and it features a cut edge.


The 25th ID was a slightly darker shade or red, but otherwise a good match to the

original. It even features a green cut edge simulating those manufactured in the US in the 1950’s, What appears to be a backing is actually white threads which have been cross woven horizontally with the threads of the main design. This was available both in colored and subdued versions.





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  • 1 month later...

I haven't had time to add information about the numerous US made fakes, but here is one that recently popped up in an eBay auction.


Even though these were made in the 1980's and 1990's, they still come back to the market when old collections are broken up.


For the full discussion on this please see the link and add comments at




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Gil...The 173rd airborne subdued insignia looks so authentic it is scary. Are these making the rounds through e-bay? who is selling those repros(not saying they are re pros) so buyers can be aware of the farce?



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