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.
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.
hinge ( this job was done in country)
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.
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
lid of this lighter was changed.
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.
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.
the fully rebuilt lighter from a zippo base,
look at the welded lines.
to the generaly accepted ideas, the soldiers
didn't shortened their lighters when they were
sort (they finished their duty tour in Vietnam)
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
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).
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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."
I got My Orders
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.
from a tunnel.