Repaired Zippos

Many lighters were lost on the battle field in Vietnam. A soldier would usually carry a Zippo in the chest pocket of his jungle fatigue. Some would fasten one onto the camouflage band of their helmet or put it into the magazine pouch of their M16. Vietnamese cultivating their paddy fields found those lighters. In general they are in bad condition, chromium doesn't resist to the wet and very hot climate.

Others were found in the military trash of the old American bases. A wretched army scrapes the ground, carves the old GMC carcass and is sometimes victim of the explosion of a phosphoric shell forgotten into the ruins. The Saigon Buyer's are looking anywhere in south Vietnam provinces to buy those lighters to the farmer. They are repaired, the rest of chrome scratched, and the insert put in new condition.

Replaced hinge ( this job was done in country)

If the hinge is broken, bodies and lids are drilled so as to be welded with pewter. The lost pins are replaced. The came spring is the more sensitive part. A broken came spring is often replaced, the came rivet is removed, and the wick eyelet exchanged with an aluminium one. Frequently only the body is in good condition, a new lid from new chrome brass lighter is added. The finish of the lighter is destroyed to have the "been there" look.

Sometimes reals lids are fitted on the old lighters, this gives hybrids neither totally fake nor correct. Dates and place engraved on the lid doesn't match, of course, unit insinia engraved onto the body

The lid of this lighter was changed.

If the insert is in too bad condition, another one from the stock that soldiers left when they left in 1973 replaces it, or it is repaired. Vietnamese changed the flat spring drilling out the cam rivet. They also changed the flint well, the wick and the felt pad.

The patent number 2517191 has been engraved on the insert until August 67. You can find lighters with later date code with this kind of insert. Sometimes the lighter is fully destroyed and only the bottom with the italicized zippo mark is rescued. Craftsmen rebuild a complete lighter around this base using a sheet of brass bent, cut and pewter welded.

With the fully rebuilt lighter from a zippo base, look at the welded lines.

"Short model"

Contrary to the generaly accepted ideas, the soldiers didn't shortened their lighters when they were sort (they finished their duty tour in Vietnam)

Some were this way because the lighter was shortened and made smaller Not because soldiers wanted shorter lighters but because the lighter was damaged when left in Vietnam, it probably got lost or buried and then it rusted and the Vietnamese modified it to be able to sell it. That is why you find many "shorter" versions of the zippo. When the lid was damaged a new one from Japanese copy replaced it or another zippo was scraped.

The Lighters from 1968/69/70 were shortened. The lids are from another zippo and from Vulcain (The engraving on the LAI KHE was done in 1992).

Kill Notches

I have seen on the web, information about kill notches carved into a zippo. It seems that it is a body count. I was not aware with. I have contacted many Vets and everyone does believe some soldiers kept a body count of their own or within their individual unit. About this practice, I think it's bullshit… something left over from cowboy and country western movies, where the bad guy notched the pistol grip of his six shooter. I am going to learn more about this practice but if you have any information, I will be happy to receive them.


Some lighters had notches carved around the body. When a GI was short, or about to go back home, he carved his zippo to count the days still to be spent in Vietnam. When soldiers were at the end of their tour, they were short or FIGMO (finally I got my orders) it correspond to the "père cent "of the French army. The short-timer calendar or FIGMO chart with 90 removable parts, were used to count the last days in Vietnam. Some lighters have the word FIGMO engraved, generally a dog in love with its wooden friend.


I have received many emails about "FIGMO" mainly from Phillip who served with the Big Red One and then with the 34th General Support, and Larry from the 6th Bat 31st Infantry

I noticed a couple of thing on your site. First FIGMO does not mean "I finally go my orders.", it means "Fuck it, got my orders." The symbolysim of the picture is "Fucking the dog." Which in G.I. meant taking it easy and not doing anything. In other words "I've got my orders to go home and I am no longer going to do any work or perform any tasks.
Perhaps you were just trying to be polite. In one picture you had a lighter that said Lai Khe, 69-70. I was there then.

Phillip. M.

"FIGMO" was a soldier saying when they were short time to going home and where given a dangerous order in this short time so they said "FIGMO = F**KU I GOT MY ORDERS." To the sergeant or whoever gave the order but the official meaning is "FINALY I GOT MY ORDERS."


Finally I got My Orders

Some zippo have an hole in the bottom that was obviously repaired. This was where a tube was fit for a longer wick into a larger jar or a beer can and the zippo was used as a light in the tunnels and darkened hooch's that had no electricity.

Zippo from a tunnel.