soldier who was looking for an engraved lighter
to send home as a gift or simply to bring home
a souvenir at the end of his tour of duty could
buy it on the Saigon side walk or Tan Son Nhut
airport. Zippos were often the only things that
accompanied the young men and their memories
back home from the war they would never forget.
Post Exchanges (P.X.) offered about fifty zippos
for sale each day and the demand was ten times
this quantity. So soldiers bought zippos that
were originally allotted to them on the black
in box bring home as souvenir note it is shallow
the box office of the coveted items, the zippo
lighter was the first. Traded to a prostitute
for her services, and immediately sold on the
black market to realize her wages. Zippos were
of a medium of exchange and could be used as
a wager (bet) in a poker game. The winner offering
them later for sale.
fighter who spent much time in the field, far
away from base camps and the land of big P.X.
did not have access to these luxuries that the
REMF(Rear Echelon Mother Fucker) had . The garrison
soldier, who could go to a large base exchange
every day. This fighter had to buy on the black
market, at the black market prices, those items
that were sold to the locals... by those who
had access to the P.X.
retail price in USA was 2$75 in 1968 and only
1$75 in the P.X. On the Saigon black market
the price was between 15 et 25 $. Sometimes
soldiers, in waiting line in front of a craftsman
store expecting a zippo, brought copies from
Japan or Korea zénith, Penguin or Vulcan.
famous "La femme ŕ l'oiseau" engraved
on a Zénith lighter. ( if you flip the lighter
there is a curious picture) The memory of japan
is a gift from my friend James, the PX was effective
in Japan. These engravings, done with a pantograph
are the earliest form of those done in Vietnam.
zippo lighter was the most purchased and sold
three times more than a Japanese copy. The Vietnamese
quickly understood the interest in building
perfect copies. The average soldier did not
know the fabrication codes on the bottom of
the lighters and was only looking for the italicized
zippo mark. If the logo was correct, the lighter
The first copies appeared since 1966, a press
machine copied the zippo logo onto brass that
was chrome plated lighter from china. Sometimes
GI's had gotten a genuine and sometimes a forgery.
All the lighters engraved in Vietnam and carried
by soldiers can find their ways into a collection..
method to obtain a zippo in Vietnam was to send
a special order to the factory. The soldiers
in the garrison had access to these special
orders engraved for a special unit or branch
design. Collectors particulary want those lighters
since they probably imagine they are not counterfeit.
It is an error; Japanese and Korean were able
to reproduce acid etched art work supplied by
engraved zippos brought home at the end of year
spent in Vietnam(1966)
usually fought more often and have no time to
go to P.X and to have their zippo engraved.
During the "vietnamization" ( 8 June
1969) , the troops were concentrated in the
Philippines in Subic Bay base just before they
left for home. The soldiers had then the possibility
to engrave their Zippos in the souvenir shops.
The engravings are different from those done
in Vietnam. They do not penetrate the stainless
steel level to the brass. There is no mention
of Vietnam on the lid but those lighters are
part of the history and can find their way into
a honest collection.
soldiers have their personalized zippos. They
could buy them to the PX if they were lucky.
Many GI gave to them a zippo as a gift. (Than
Tang in Vietnamese)
Airborne special force Zippo QLVNCH for Quan
Luc Viet Nam Cong Hoa Army of Republic of Viet
have a Zippo offered a long ago during the Vietnam
conflict to an ARVN soldier Nguyen Long Ho of
Vinh Long. This lighter was given to him by
an American G.I. from Oklahoma. On the front
it is engraved with advertising from a Residential
Property Agency. This particular lighter is
engraved on the back with the name, Military
Unit and city of the owner. Nguyen ---- ----,
Long Ho. This lighter is scratched and has genuine
patina. The individual history of Mr. Nguyen
is quite remarkable unto itself.. During the
collapse of the South Vietnam as the Communist
North Vietnamese moved on many of the cities
of South Vietnam Mr. Nguyen was an ARVN soldier
with the 15th regiment of the 9th Infantry Division
near Rach Gia. He was captured along with his
company and sent to a re-education camp into
the Hmong region. During the war against the
Red Khmers of Cambodia, he is conscripted to
fight against the Khmers with primitive weapons.
The Cambodians were a well armed enemy. The
political Commissars were suspicious about "contrary
revolutionaries" and used them as "Ground
Powder" or "Cannon Fodder. Mr. Nguyen
severely wounded by a grenade during one murderous
attack, found his treatment limited to being
given Aspirin. He quickly understood that the
only way to save his life was to escape his
incarceration at the hands of his Communist
captors. Shortly after that epiphany he soon
his way to escape by boat out into the South
China Sea. Soon after many days spent waiting
for miracle, a French boat rescued him and his
unfortunate companions. Mr Nguyen has since
made his residence in the suburb of Paris, earning
his lively hood as central heating worker. He
offered this special Zippo along with his story
as part of his oral history. Today, he is dreams
of happy retirement at peace and quiet in his
reunited Homeland of Vietnam. This lighter,
he has found was the only thing that chained
him to his past. It was time for it to tell
it's own story. Such an item would have been
so compromising to his personal safety in the
"Re-education Camps" that it would
literally liable him to a "Little Death"
at the hands of his captors in the camp.
Mr. Nguyen has told me that many others would
throw away anything that could associate them
with the South Vietnamese government troops
or American forces.
The fear instilled in them to possess anything
such as a Zippo lighter was so great that these
items were often discarded or hidden before
being captured and interred by the forces of
North Vietnam (NVA) or the Peoples Liberation
to the bravery of Mr. Nguyen, not only do we
actually have this remarkable Zippo, a memento
of the war years, we also have his oral history.
I might add, that it was not unusual for American
G.I.s to carry adverting Zippo lighters. Often
U.S. companies would send "Care" packages
to American Soldiers, many of these packages
contained food items and small tools that could
be used in the field.. Many of these gifts parcels
contained company Advertised items such as Zippo
lighters or pocket knives. One G.I. had his
parents company send a Care Package to him and
it indeed contained a Zippo from the company.
His father worked for: The Harley Davidson Motorcycle
Company. This is why advertised Zippos often
turn up with much in country engraving and American
G.I. laments or poetry from the war years.
Nguyen Zippo (Thanks James for the translation
and additional information)