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Vietnam war era Phoenix Program patch


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Patchcollector

Here is an incountry made Phoenix program patch from my collection.This gem is a work of art,

beautifully embroidered,probably the loveliest patch that I own.During the war,you would'nt want people

wearing this showing up at your door,as you would probably never be seen again.

I hesitate to use the word "rare"when I describe collectibles such as militaria,but this patch is seldom seen.Enjoy!

post-13386-1293939673.jpg

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Here's a little info on the Program that I found online:

 

The Phoenix Program (Vietnamese: Chiến dịch Phụng Hoàng, a word related to fenghuang, the Chinese phoenix)

 

Background

 

In South Vietnam during the 1960s and early 1970s there was a secret network of the Vietnam People's Army which the U.S. intelligence services called the Viet Cong infrastructure (VCI). This network provided the political direction and control of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam's (NLF) war in the south.

By 1967 this network numbered somewhere between 70,000 and 100,000 members throughout South Vietnam. Almost every village had a cell made up of a Communist Party secretary; a finance and supply unit; and information and culture, social welfare, and proselytizing sections to gain recruits from among the civilian population. The members reported up the chain of command, which, in turn, took orders from the Lao Dong Party Central Committee in North Vietnam. A preferred NLF tactic was to kill carefully selected government officials in order to drive the Saigon regime out of power.[1]

The NLF laid down caches of food and equipment for regular force troops coming from border sanctuaries; it provided guides and intelligence for the North Vietnamese Army; it conscripted personnel to serve in local force (militias) and main force mobile combat units of the NLF, and levied taxes to facilitate the administration of a rudimentary civil government.

In areas loyal to the Saigon government, protection against the North Vietnamese forces, or even NLF guerrillas, was often compromised because village chiefs were assassinated, bombings took place, or supporters of the government would be executed. During 1969, for example, over 6,000 South Vietnamese people were killed (over 1,200 in selective assassinations) and 15,000 wounded. Among the dead were some 90 village chiefs, and 240 hamlet chiefs and officials.

[edit]History of the program

 

In 1967 all "pacification" efforts by the United States had come under the authority of the Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support, or CORDS. CORDS had many different programs within it, including the creation of a peasant militia which by 1971 had a strength of about 500,000.[1]

As early as 1964 the Central Intelligence Agency used "counter terror" teams to find and kill NLF cadres hiding in the villages. In 1967, as part of CORDS, the Intelligence Coordination and Exploitation Program (ICEX) was created. The purpose of the organization centered on gathering information on the NLF. It was renamed Phoenix later in the same year. The South Vietnamese program was called Phụng Hoàng, after a mythical bird that appeared as a sign of prosperity and luck. The 1968 Tet offensive showed the importance of the NLF infrastructure, and the military setback for the US made it politically more palatable for the new program to be implemented. By 1970 there were 704 U.S. Phoenix advisers throughout South Vietnam.[1]

Officially, Phoenix operations continued until December 1972, although certain aspects continued until the fall of Saigon in 1975.[2]

[edit]Operations

 

The chief aspect of the Phoenix Program was the collection of intelligence information.[citation needed] NLF members would then be neutralized (captured, converted, or killed). Emphasis for the enforcement of the operation was placed on local government militia and police forces, rather than the military, as the main operational arm of the program.[1]

Neutralization was not arbitrary but took place under special laws that allowed the arrest and prosecution of suspected communists, but only within the legal system. To avoid abuses such as phony accusations for personal reasons, or to rein in overzealous officials who might not be diligent enough in pursuing evidence before making arrests, the laws required three separate sources of evidence to convict any individual targeted for neutralization. If a suspected NLF member was found guilty, he or she could be held in prison for two years, with renewable two-year sentences totaling up to six years.[1]

According to MACV Directive 381-41, the intent of Phoenix was to attack the NLF with a "rifle shot rather than a shotgun approach to target key political leaders, command/control elements and activists in the VCI."

Heavy-handed operations—such as random cordons and searches, large-scale and lengthy detentions of innocent civilians, and excessive use of firepower—had a negative effect on the civilian population. It was also acknowledged that capturing NLF members was more important than killing them.[2][3][4]

[edit]Measures of success and failure

 

According to one view, Phoenix was a clear success. Between 1968 and 1972, Phoenix "neutralized" 81,740 people suspected of NLF membership, of whom 26,369 were killed. This was a large proportion of the NLF and, between 1969 and 1971, the program was quite successful in destroying NLF infrastructure in many important areas. By 1970, communist plans repeatedly emphasized attacking the government’s pacification program and specifically targeted Phoenix officials. The NLF also imposed quotas. In 1970, for example, communist officials near Da Nang in northern South Vietnam instructed their assassins to “kill 400 persons” deemed to be government “tyrant” and to “annihilate” anyone involved with the pacification program. Several North Vietnamese officials have made statements about the effectiveness of Phoenix.[1] According to William Colby, "in the years since the 1975, I have heard several references to North Vietnamese and South Vietnamese communists who account, who state that in their mind the most, the toughest period that they faced in the whole period of the war from 1960 to 1975 was the period from 1968 to '72 when the Phoenix Program was at work."[5]

Others view the program less favorably, arguing that ultimately, the entire counterinsurgency in Vietnam was a failure for a variety of reasons: clearly, one critical factor was that the communists had established a large and effective support cadre throughout South Vietnam before a coordinated effort was undertaken to eradicate it. While indications are that Phoenix achieved considerable success in damaging that infrastructure, it was too little and too late to change the war’s overall course.

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Wow! I mean WOW! I've read a little about this, but dreamed there would have actually been a patch. Stunning!

Thank you for posting this!!

G

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Wow! I mean WOW! I've read a little about this, but dreamed there would have actually been a patch. Stunning!

Thank you for posting this!!

G

 

 

Thanks G,I agree with you,when I first received this patch,years ago,my jaw dropped,and I am still

blown away by it. :w00t: The person who sold this to me had two,with very slight variations,and I tried to get

both,but,alas,it was'nt to be..I am going to post some close ups of the incredible embroidery work,

as soon as my rechargeable batteries cooperate! :dunno:

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Detail,this is just a crop of a previous image.Tomorrow,I'll try and get my battery situation worked out,and my camera up and running again,

and I'll take some very close up macro shots of the embroidery.

post-13386-1293949367.jpg

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Here is my red variant. Patchcollector....Is the base material on your patch extremely thin? Can you see through it if you put it up to light? Mine is like that, and its very odd for most VN patches. But once again, the embroidery really is extraordinary, and pictures simply do not do it justice.

post-2063-1293978863.jpg

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Beautiful patches...thanks for posting and for the detailed background info.

 

Sabrejet :thumbsup:

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I have to ask if there is any evidence that these were actually made during the war itself? It's certaily not my area of expertease, but it just kind of strains credibility.

 

On one had they are really stunningly nice patches that don't look much like the average Nam made quality, but Phoenix was so super secret that I just can't being to think of anyone actually involved with the program even having such a thing made-and never ecer wearnign it. I mean its well known program now, but back then it was seriously classified, and to even draw such a design would have led to some serious recriminations from the chain of command.

 

I'm trying to remember when it first become public knowledge, but even then those involved would ot be able to talk about it

 

In WW2 terms it would be worse than walking around London wearing a "Bigot" tab on your uniform.

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I was in the Phoenix program (1970-1971, I ctz) and NEVER -- say again, NEVER -- saw any emblem, insignia, patch, badge, etc. etc. worn. Great pains were taken to stay covert.

 

I was an MI officer but was TOLD to wear "Infantry or anything else, except WAC, IG or Chaplain" BOS insignia. We were not even to wear a Natl Police black beret or their duckhunter camo, or black-dyed fatigues.

 

Even the offices were checked for plaques or training materials on the walls or coffee mugs and nameplates. Anything related to Phung Hoang or MI branch was strengste verboten.

 

I was amazed to find the same applied at the in-country PHX school at Vung Tau. The staffers wore nothing with The Bird and no NPFF or MI items. Signage was likewise "sterile".

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What do you make of this? It's a reverse painted plastic plaque piece, and there is no doubt in my mind it is original to the period..Even has the brown glue residue on the back. Could they have been issued at the end of the program?

post-2063-1294024201.jpg

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Here is my red variant. Patchcollector....Is the base material on your patch extremely thin? Can you see through it if you put it up to light? Mine is like that, and its very odd for most VN patches. But once again, the embroidery really is extraordinary, and pictures simply do not do it justice.

 

 

Nice patch Bull! :twothumbup: I never saw the red background,and yes,mine is pretty thin,but no thinner than some of my other incountry made patches.

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What do you make of this? It's a reverse painted plastic plaque piece, and there is no doubt in my mind it is original to the period..Even has the brown glue residue on the back. Could they have been issued at the end of the program?

 

 

Hard to date,Hmm, :think: I'm wondering what it says,maybe it can be translated?

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I can't say if these are vintage or not. However, a number of them suddenly appeared in the collector's market about 7 years ago with no previous documentation. We have a black one and a red one here. I believe I have seen a white one as well. When something like this seemingly comes out of nowhere, it's a cause to ask questions.

 

The plaque pieces have been previously documented, I believe in the old VICN. (Vietnam Insignia Collector's Newsletter).

 

However just because an insignia was used on plaques, unit letterheads, etc. does not necessarily mean it was ever made as an embroidered insignia.

 

I never could come to a solid conclusion on these one way or another. If one goes with the theory that they are post war made, where would they have been hand embroidered with this level of skill?

 

With respect for J_Andrews comments, I am sure these observations are accurate for the time he was there. But policies could change with new commanders.

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Quite a beautiful patch, no matter what.

 

Thanks Hawk,and everyone for the great positive comments. :) As for the "experts",I'm learning just to ignore them. ;)

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I think, very roughly, the plastic patch is indicates that it's for the Hoa Vang Force Coordination Center HQ. As far as the patch goes from what very little...and I freely admit to knowing very little...I'm aware that some RVN police units affiliated with the program may have worn patches...and perhaps that's what these are, but the American involvement was "advisory" and the true nature of the program was very unknown even to many involved in it. The hit squads were indiginous. It may well be that the patch is real...and I know that a lot of times it can just come down to what one wants to believe...and probably if I whipped out my uniforms from the period no one would believe them either... I dunno, maybe an advisor had it and brought it home (I'd just be surprised if he wore it, I think the VC would have made him a prime target.) It had to be the most unregulated patch war in history.

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I think, very roughly, the plastic patch is indicates that it's for the Hoa Vang Force Coordination Center HQ. As far as the patch goes from what very little...and I freely admit to knowing very little...I'm aware that some RVN police units affiliated with the program may have worn patches...and perhaps that's what these are, but the American involvement was "advisory" and the true nature of the program was very unknown even to many involved in it. The hit squads were indiginous. It may well be that the patch is real...and I know that a lot of times it can just come down to what one wants to believe...and probably if I whipped out my uniforms from the period no one would believe them either... I dunno, maybe an advisor had it and brought it home (I'd just be surprised if he wore it, I think the VC would have made him a prime target.) It had to be the most unregulated patch war in history.

 

 

It may have been "secret" to the American people,(at the time)but the Vietnamese people were well aware of what was going on.Each side had their own version of this.Please read the article that I

posted here with the patch. :thumbsup:

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1. You're welcome for the translation, primitive though it is. I'm sure that in your rush to put me in my place you just overlooked the courtesy of saying thanks for replying to your request for a translation.

 

2. Regarding ignoring experts. OK, that's fine. But you put the thing up and this is a forum, not a display case. By definition a forum forum is:

 

1. a meeting or assembly for the open discussion of subjects of public interest

2. a medium for open discussion, such as a magazine

3. a public meeting place for open discussion

4. a court; tribunal

5. A public meeting or presentation involving a discussion usually among experts and often including audience participation.

 

...so you've got to expect both some discussion and some input from the experts, and there are some true experts on this forum, when you put up anything. It's happened to me, it's happened to all of us. One of the experts you chose to blow of identified himself as a member of the program.

 

3. The "Vietnamese people" were not well aware of the Phoenix program. It was not a broad reaching or wide spread program. Vicious yes, even evil and it certainly got out of hand, but they were no more aware of the Phoenix Program than they were of any other VC, NVA, MACV, CIA or other specific covert operation. That's sophistry my friend.

 

4. Rather cleverly, although you've put this thing out there, you have not really said one thing about it beyond what it written on the bottom of the patch and that it was made "in country." All of the questions have been reasonable and could easily have been answered with dates, places or provenance - all things that folks are usually more than happy to provide. People on this forum adore rare patches and the more they can find out the happier they are and the more accolades they heap on the owner. And usually the owner is happy to either provide or get the info.

 

5. I'm not sure why you put quotes around the word secret when referring to the American public's knowledge of the Phoenix Program, or when you were in Viet Nam, but when I was there -and while I was with MI - at my level anyway, it was "secret." Perhaps at yours it wasn't.

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" As for the "experts", I'm learning just to ignore them"

 

I think that this is not a terribly healthful attitude. I askedif tyhere was any evidence it was actually used as implied, as it doesn't really make sesne that it would be.

 

You present a patch implying it is original. There is reasonable doubt that it was wartime made- and yet you can't provide any evidence it is real other than you own it. Which is fine, but to just brush off a legitimate question like that baffles me. If I presented a 3rd Army patch and said it was Patton's, people would naturally ask me how I knew that.

 

Maybe there is an intersting story behind these. Maybe it's just a Fake. Unless people ask questions and do research we will never know. And the funny thgin is that quite often the "experts" actually know something.

 

Phoenix was only around a few years, and the whole super secret thing of it never changed. The Military took this kind of secrecy REALLY seriously, and if the locals knew someone was going around popping people, that darn sure was no excuse to allow anyone to make this design. As an example look at the AF guy who just got a MOH so many year later as he was involved in a clandestine listening post on a mountain.

 

Back then if someone did somethign like this the military could very easily send them to some god-forsaken remote post where they got shot at everyday. or a weather station in Alaska, or a remote pindot island in the middle of nowhere, or (giving the program itself), possibly just not come back from a mission. This stuff was and is taken really seriously. We don't know what similar programs are going on today, and part of that is that no one is wearing insignia to advertise it. Some of my friends won't even hint at what part of the world they are being sent to, as its just the way these things work.

 

Think of it- would you want to walk around with a patch on that essentially said "I break into people's homes at night and kill them without mercy because we think they are VC?" Don't you think the VC were smart enough to make it a number one priority to get these guys before they killed more senior VC leaders?

 

'IF' they actually made such a patch at that time, this would change what we think we know of the high secrecy of the program, and make history a little different. Which is why it needs to be documented.

 

I will fully admit it is a very nice looking and well made patch (which in itself is unusual), but that does not make authentic (as in: actually connected to the program). To me it looks like a $5 recent made fantasy patch. Paying more for it, or wishing it to be real doesn't make it so. Evidence and documentatation does.

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