bought my first Zippo in 1968 and since then
some of my relatives offered me a Zippo for
my birthday. I started to collect Zippos in
1999 when a colleague gave me a 1962 advertising
Zippo engraved as a gift. An nice, Mac Louth
Steel slim model Town & Country.
Puzzled about the engraving on the bottom of
the lighter, I decided to learn more about Zippo.
I found the Zippo catalogue with the code table
of the year of manufacture.
I picked up the address of the company on the
guarantee leaflet and I decided to write to
the Old Lady of Bradford. I received the collector
guide and during the week I ate up the whole
content, reading some parts until I engrave
them in my mind.
I was irresistibly attracted by the famous black
crackle that had accompanied the American soldiers
during the last world war, which is nowhere
to be found!! Since then I have bought both
the 1942 with the 4 barrel hinge and the 1943-45
famous 1942 Black Crackle mint.
walked from the garage stores to the flea market
and found an engraved lighter "VIETNAM
CU CHI 66-67." It was as if the sky fell
on my head. I decided to learn more about Vietnam
Zippo lighters. These are the spiritual grandsons
of the Black Crackle.
I have met a few actors of this great adventure,
Vietnamese engravers, Vietnamese sellers of
Saigon and American veterans. Without each of
them this web site would not have come to light.
This doesn't concern all the Zippo categories
used in Vietnam during the war but only Trench
art. A term from the World War I refers to items
made from the rubble of war on the field of
battle, in trenches. When soldiers made items,
engraved ammunition socket cases manufacturing
lighters or knives to never forget what they
This term of "Trench art" is a little
bit misused because the soldiers had time to
make item souvenirs, whereas in Vietnam not
many soldiers have engraved their own lighter.
a Vietnam Zippo looks like?
1959 and 1975, nearly two and half millions
of American soldiers sojourned in Vietnam and
most of them have a lighter. According to the
Zippo's collectors, only 200 000 lighters were
engraved in Vietnam. About height per cent have
their personalized lighters. The most common
lighter is the regular brush without distinctive
marks. Some have only added their first name
and the date of their tour or the Vietnam map
without anything else.
They wanted to leave their name behind on something
beside a headstone. Some put in their hometowns:
"Meanest son of bitch
in Burns, Tenn."
A few Zippos, probably from early in the war,
wear patriotic themes. As time passed and the
anti-war movement at home intensified, that
patriotism could become belligerent. Some engravings,
surely of later vintage, are pacifist, bearing
peace like those carried by protesters. However,
for the most part the messages are sexual, explicit,
and nihilistic. "Fighting
for peace is like screwing for virginity"
Others have engraved the place where they fought
and wanted to say, "I have been there!
Particularly there!" And then some have
recuperate the buddy's lighter before he leave
Viet-Nam and added their name promising to get
later the Zippo back.