Mementos Section
BACK TO HOME PAGE

MORE PAGES TO READ
MEMENTOS #2    RVN BANK NOTES    ARVN PATCHES    RVN STAMPS     INDOCHINE ART

Helmet left behind

MEMENTOS

        It's nice to start with an item related to VNAF, unfortunately what I have at hand right now is my own stuffs: the Republic of Vietnam currency. You may say these Piastre bills have no more value. Yes, but long ago these were my "real money", the money in my pocket when I left Vietnam in April 29th, 1975. What the hell I carried these "defunct" money with me when I left VN for America in 1975? Man, I wasn't sure I could make it on that fatal day so at least I still had some money to buy a ride home! After more than 30 years, the VNCH bills are still with me. They are my mementos!

       I believe that all ARVN soldiers would feel a kind of melancholy when looking at these VNCH bills, because they remind a lot of happy moment at the beginning of every month (monthly pay day; hey, the Vietnamese military slang in 2nd Corps is: "bat cai luong"). Even though the thin, humble bundle of salary lasted only in..a few days. Then they wouldn't know where the next "real breakfast" would come from..! But one thing is for sure: instant Chinese noodle. Now looking back, the dangerous living days at war time seem to be the happy days of our lives, even with so little money. We take the fullest day, one day at a time; living happy day, day by day...All Vietnam Vets would agree!

        How many "old timers" of Vietnam War era still bear along with their souls the so-called "mementos" like the VNCH bills I am going to post below. They are not just the mediocre objects at all; each of them can tell a simple anecdote, a true story or perhaps a...real legend.

SOUTH VIETNAM'S CURRENCY

SIGN OF THE FORGOTTEN PAST

MEYERKORD HOTEL
Meyerkord Hotel
THEN

      Jim Stewart has just sent in a photo of the authentic sign of Meyerkord hotel in Vung Tau. I wonder whether it was the place where many US service men used to stay on weekend for convenience. "Number Ten" is ranked as a worst one in Vietnam War grading system, but this one goes... extra mile, "beyond call of duty": #11.

After more than 34 years (since April, 1975), who still holds on that souvenir while many others have forgotten?

Meyerkord Hotel
NOW

      Surprised, surprised! Guess where the Meyerkord hotel's sign is located today? In December 1968, Jim Early exchanged the sign (it had been taken down then) for a case of Schwepps tonic water and brought it home. It has been "retiring" in Washington DC till this day. Thank Jim Early for the updated photo. You are indeed owning a piece of Vietnam war history. The sign looks pretty big for personal luggage. I wonder how the guy...smuggled it back to the States? :0)

NAM QUAN GATE

NAM QUAN GATE

      Nam quan gate (the entry point to enter China at Vietnam-China border) for thousand years belonging to Vietnam as a national historical landmark has been recently handed over to Red China through a shameful Vietnam-China land and sea territory treaties. The treaty signed by Hanoi regime as a concession to China in exchange for "blessing endorsement" and protection from "the ancient enemy" of Vietnam. The following pictures show Nam Quan gate in the early time of Indochine period, plus some photos (taken by Dr. Hocquard) of the ancient Vietnam's military fortresses at the moment right after being defeated by French Army and Navy.

Some patriotic movement against agreements on Vietnam-China land and sea territory treaties signed by leaders of the two Communist regimes have been intensifying during the last few years. Vietnamese patriots in Vietnam and overseas are raising their voices louder and louder in fierce criticisms against the Vietnam Communist Party and its government for the so-called shameful concession of Vietnam territory to China.

THE FRENCH GUILLOTINE OF COCHINCHINE

THE AUTHENTIC GUILLOTINE IN VIETNAM
The VN GUILLOTINE

      A French photographer took the photos of one of the last Guillotines in Vietnam (perhaps there are two more). This authentic guillotine is similar to the model Berger of 1872. Rusty but still in good shape, the Guillotine seems to be displayed as a museum piece in an old prison at La rue Grandiere in old Saigon (today Ly Tu Trong street).

This is really an eerie, haunted machine, even the damned, atheistic Vietnamese Communists didn't dare to chop it off for sale as scrap metal as they used to do on most historical antiques left over in Vietnam. Who wants to claim this memento? :0)

See more pics of scary machine below

VIETNAM BAMBOO GULAG'S "PAJAMAS"

Prisoner's uniforms What the heck is this? Good Wills or Salvation Army's second hand pajamas? Nahhh...! But former US POW's in "Hanoi Hilton" will regconize it right away the "dear clothes" they used to wear during their imprisonment in Vietnam. The different is the color: theirs are in redish brown; this one is in day gray, the Gulag pajamas reserved for ARVN troops after April. 1975.

A friend of mine, T.Tran, also a class mate in Military Academy spent some 6 years in Vietnam Bamboo Gulag after April, 1975. His "war crime": Joining ARVN to defend South Vietnam. Finally the guy came to the States under the Humanitarian Operation program. He was broke from soul to body, had no precious materials to bring with him to the US but...the Gulag pajamas.

The pajamas you see on the right has been issued to him in 1977 at Long Giao Gulag camp (I keep saying "Gulag", because it's the most correct term to call the system of hard labor camps that Hanoi regime has built to imprison all ARVN's officers and South VN officials). The second suit of pajamas was issued to him three years later, and not every prisoners has the "privilege" to receive the prison uniforms. Why my friend still keeps these "stupid clothes"? Perhaps, because it was a real life, priceless lesson needed to be reviewed and learned, not only for himself but for many next Vietnamese generations. And if no one can perceive the value of it, at least it was a memento on this website.

After all, if we had a chance to do it again, we would do it exactly as we did before. But this time, much much better!

BIERE LARUE

Remember the "old timers": Beer"Quan Tiep Vu" (ARVN's beer), "#33", and "Con Cop"(Tiger) ?
It tastes greater than Viet Cong "Bia Hoi"!

"SAFE-CONDUCT PASS"

If you were familiar with this SAFE-CONDUCT PASS you would smile bitterly when seeing them again for such an ironical situation: South Vietnam and all its allies (whose flags have been printed on the Safe-conduct Pass paper) have lost the war.

During the war, South Vietnam government has created many "Chieu Hoi" (Open Arms) programs, opening a chance for the Communist-disinclined troop to lay down their guns and cooperate with the local authorities. Safe-conduct Pass was part of the Chieu Hoi program in which the leaflets would be spread (usually by airplane) out across the Communist controlled areas.

When South Vietnam was finally sold out in April 1975, no one provided ARVN troops such a "Safe-conduct Pass" to go home. So to whom these mementos belong? Perhaps the ones who believed in and carried these passes to our sides were the big losers.

PS: The Safe-conduct Pass was guaranteed and signed by Air Marshall Nguyen Cao Ky, Recently the guy came back to Vietnam and cooperated with Hanoi regime on many "projects", I wondered if he remembered to bring along this Safe-conduct Pass?


MORE SAFE-CONDUCT PASS & LEAFLETS IN VIETNAM PSYOP

     During the Vietnam War, propaganda leaflets were used continuously in an attempt to win the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people. The use of propaganda in warfare is a tradition that dates back to Biblical times. The use of forged, parodied or overprinted currency to be the medium of that propaganda, for the most part, is a phenomenon of the twentieth century. During the Second World War, the United States, Great Britain, Japan and Germany all produced and disseminated propaganda leaflets in the form of banknotes. The reason for this popularity is obvious. Even the most law-abiding citizen or soldier who would never think of reading the enemy's poison will stoop to pick up a banknote on the ground. Almost without realizing it, he will read the message and become an unwilling recipient of enemy propaganda.

     The use of forged currency in warfare is also well documented. The Germans forged millions of British pounds during World War Two in an attempt to undermine the British economy. During the Vietnam War, currency was produced that combined these concepts. These notes were both propaganda and counterfeit, of a quality that could have conceivably made a shambles of the economy of the Democratic Republic of (North) Vietnam.

     When the United States involved itself in the Vietnam conflict, it was quickly realized that propaganda would be a major part of the battle. In the attempt to win the friendship of the populace, American aircraft dropped 400 million leaflets in Vietnam in the period between April 1965 and November 1966 alone. The total number of leaflets of all types produced for use during the war was about 50-billion, over 1500 for every person living in both the north and the south.
(Text and photos source: psywarrior.com )

SAMPLE OF LEAFLET FRONT & BACK
Portable Radio Drop

     A PSYOP officer who operated out of the 7th PSYOP Group on Okinawa added:
We ordered small portable radios for air drop over North Vietnam. We scheduled a helicopter to drop the radios encased in a foam box on our PSYOP compound to see if they would survive. In the initial tests the batteries were installed in the radio. It didn't work. There was considerable breakage. We took the batteries out of the radio and installed them in the foam box near the radio. That worked fine. The operation was approved. We used a B-52 to drop the radios.

     Specialist Five Clyde Gaidosh, the air operations NCO of Co A, 8th PSYOP Battalion in Nha Trang, Vietnam from 1969-70 recalls dropping small portable radios that could only receive the Chieu Hoi (Open Arms) station. He recalled that the radios were about 5 inches high by 4 inches wide and about 1 or 2 inches thick. The ones he dropped were a bright yellow. Although he is not sure after 35 years, he believes that they ran on a 9 volt battery and were packed in a plastic waterproof padded bag. He recalls that the small parachutes were about 18 inches to 2 feet across. The radios were dropped from helicopters for pin-point targets and fixed wing aircraft for larger targets.
(Text and photos source: psywarrior.com )

"RED DOLLAR" (MILITARY PAYMENT CERTIFICATE)

     You may hear of the words "Do La Do"(red Dollars), but never had a chance to see them; now you can see by click on the thumbnail pics below. They are the photo courtesy of Jim Stewart. "Red Dollar" is actually a Vietnamese dubbed term for MPC (Military Payment Certificate). That is how GI's got paid in Vietnam and used for transaction in the PXs and Clubs in lieu of the "green Dollars." Way back then, Uncle Sam had many reasons to issue this type of currency to the GI's in Vietnam. And by doing so, Uncle Sam's real US currency will never fall into the hands of the South Vietnamese (in turn it would strengthen the South Vietnam's economic base), because no one wants the funny "red Dollars." Not cautious enough, to make sure that no "smart ass" can get benefit from the "red Dollars" backmarkets exchange, sometimes Uncle Sam abruptly issued a new series of MPC. Only the GIs then can turn in their own money in the old MPC for the new one. Any one else who possessed the old MPC out side the US military bases wouldn't be able to make the exchange. They end up bankrupt with a bunch of useless "red papers." The Viet Cong later on learned from this, making many times the unannounced currency changes in the following years after they took over South Vietnam; robbing every one's last saving Piastres so that the South is equal dirt poor to the North.

Even with the MPC system, the GIs who stationed in the cities could make some big bucks. Listen to Jim Stewart, an MP Vietnam vet tells how the MPC black market works during the Vietnam War:

"Locals wanted greenbacks (real U.S. currency) to deposit in their bank accounts as MPC was not negotiable in local banks. The Piaster was the Vietnamese money. To help the local economy, the Piaster and MPC exchange rate was almost equal in value. The going legal rate was about 125 Piaster for $1.00 MPC. However a local could give you as much as 3 times the value of their Piaster to get their hands on military MPC. They would then take that MPC (which was useless to them) and give you (G.I.s) twice as much MPC for any greenback dollar you would give them. How would G.I.s get greenbacks? Simply have it sent from home. So a G.I. could take $300 in greenback, trade it to a local for $600 MPC, then take that $600 in MPC and get a money order for greenbacks and send it back home. That was part of the black market at work."

Easy money for the GIs! But the "underdog South Vietnamese" at that time worked back and forth with their humble Piastres just to gain little of Uncle Sam's real green Dollars. Today Hanoi regime didn't have to do a damn thing but their economic machine receives each year more than four billion "green, fresh, real US Dollars" from Vietnamese abroad (not counting the other "underground," unofficial money transfers). If you wonder why a bunch of "red mafia" could hold on their power for so long, the above 4 billion "ecomomic aid" is one of the answers.

US STAMPS WITH SOUTH VIETNAM FLAG'S IMAGE

     Three US postage 39¢ are going to be issued (today is January 8, 2006 as this news posted). The stamps bear the image of South Vietnam's flag. If you are a stamp collector, remember to get them. In the future, they will become not only the mementos to many but also the valuable stamp collection for sure. The old 37¢ stamp has been previously issued sometime ago. Someone thinks those stamps are a hoax, having no value. As I understood, those stamps are custom orders from some Vietnamese overseas organizations. Once I have more information about the stamps, will post here.

More information about the stamps: The three above US stamps are custom ordered by a San Jose Chapter of The National Military Academy of Vietnam's Association (incorporated with the Zazzle.com and Pitney Bowes Co.). Although they are not the official US Post Office stamps, but they are certified and have the same value as the one of the other US Postage 39¢. The difference is you have to pay 65¢ for a 39¢ stamp.

For more information and questions, or how to buy them, you can email to lamvienmutualfund@yahoo.com or check in the website www.vobivietnam.com .Thanks for all concerns. What a smart idea to promote the spirit and images of the Vietnamese Nationalists by issuing such special stamps. By the way, there are some nostalgia images of the Republic of Vietnam's old stamps to be posted below. How about making some "phony" VNAF stamps, they should look greater than the real stamps just issued. See VNAF DIGITAL ART section for " US' VNAF stamps." As of today Feb. 14. '06, some have been done!


EVACUEE INFORMATION CARD

     Perhaps most Vietnamese-Americans who came to America as a refugee in April 1974 wouldn't be able to recognize the documentary papers on the top, because it was more than 30 years since the day they personally carried those papers. So what the hell is those weirdo looking papers? They are the personal documentary papers (beside the I-94 form card) the Vietnamese refugees carried when they left the refugee camps. You can call it I.D. card or "re-birth certificate" or what ever it fits your sense of humor; for a simple reason: as a Vietnamese refugee at that time, the guy had no home, no property, no official identification, and lastly he belonged to no nation. Click on the picture to see a large image, you can read the details of that paper. Very interesting isn't it. The small paper is "Medical Screening Record" pass. You can leave the refugee camp only when you are "medical clean!"

     Today a lot of Vietnamese-Americans, for pleasure and fun flocked back to a place where some years ago they were so fearful to live and risked their lives to escape, even the "bogey man" whom they were so afraid of and try to run away from, today still reign over that old place. Why there's such an ironic, hilarious, paradoxical situation? Someone can give you 101 good reasons for that question, but there's a very solid answer: Today they carry an "amulet paper": US PASSPORT (not the above funny paper any more). And each year, they funnel back to feed the "bogeyman" around 4,000.000.000 fresh Dollars (tien tuoi). Four billion fresh green dollars without string attached, without conditions what so ever! For those whose memories are still good, they would cry if they remember that on the final year of Vietnam War, US Congress has cut 3 hundred million Dollars of military aids to South Vietnam, sealing the fate of a free nation.

     By the way, even if the aids had been granted, South Vietnam wouldn't have got 3 hundred million fresh Dollars, all she receives would be the surplus, non-practical items that didn't fit the needs of ARVN at that critical moment. One still remembers the last batch of US military aid pallets sitting on Tan Son Nhat airbase in the April of 1975. Guess what? All were "concertinas"(barb wires), helmets and "sac-au-dos!"

"THE PRISONER'S DISCHARGE PAPER"

Prisoner's Dischage Paper

        Most of my military buddies are..."inmates." Their crimes: Defending South Vietnam. Each spent at the minimum 6 years in the so-called "Reeducation Camp." One of them has just sent me a "Prisoner's discharge paper" that has been issued to him when he was released from the Communist prison (click on the picture to see larger image). I myself first time saw this document. The terms and language used in the official form sounds ridiculous and absurd; but it could really frighten you because this is an actual historical event. I translate only this line from the paper:

Crime committed: 1st Lieutenant, deputy of security office

In the paper, a note indicates that the guy is not quite free, he still under some sort of house-arrest for 12 months (under the supervision of local authority)

So when you are an officer of ARVN, you become a criminal. Many Westerners mistook in comparing the Vietnam War with the US Civil War. They forgot that there was the whole Communist Warsaw Block behind Hanoi regime. After the US civil war ended, all soldiers of General Robert Lee were allowed to go home with their horses and guns to farm and protect their land. After Hanoi regime took over South Vietnam, all officers of ARVN marched straight into the concentration camps. Since the end of Vietnam War, my friend still keep his "Prisoner's discharge paper" as a memento. He has no short memory and still considers himself a professional soldier.

There's another detail I should point out. The Certificate was issued in 1982, near the end of 20th century, but the quality of the paper didn't match any type of 8.5x11 letter paper in the free world that I know. Its paper tissue seemed to be made from some ancient time, when human rights and civilization didn't exist. This really scares me!