Monday, April 24, 2017
Vietnam, National Liberation Front (Viet Cong) combat sun helmet (c.1968)
Hey look...It's me. I wasn't in Vietnam but as a radioman aboard Naval Communication Station Guam during the war I supported the effort by communicating with United States warships operating off the coast of Vietnam.
How I wish I still had that hair.
The United States was involved in the Vietnam War from 1959 to 1975; a sixteen year investment in blood that led to 58,315 American deaths, and countless lives among the Vietnamese, Laotians, and Cambodians.
And today I own shoes that were recently made in Vietnam. So it goes.
This is widely accepted as the first war that the United States lost...though keep your eyes on Afghanistan gang.
The United States, and its allies, brought massive amounts of men and materiel to that war. We came up against an unwinnable insurgency war with the National Liberation Front (Viet Cong) and the highly motivated regular troops of the North Vietnamese Army (NVA). Caught between these two formidable foes...fighting on their own ground...for their own independence...they were indefatigable and ultimately victorious. And now they make great shoes.
Today I work as a Park Ranger for the National Park Service and I'm stationed in Washington DC on the National Mall. Frequently I work at the Vietnam Veterans War Memorial. It is a sobering reminder of the cost of the War to the American people.
Why we lost the war is still argued here in the United States and many diehards insist that we won, though they're grumpy old men who are only getting older (and grumpier); but as a people we seem to agree that we lost, and we're over it. For a while we were averse to getting into another Vietnam-like "quagmire"...but we eventually got over that too...didn't we?
Enough with the history of the war, my Vietnamese manufactured shoes, and my one-time luxurious and curly hair, and on to the helmet.
Now for the walkaround:
This wartime version is a light grayish-green color. The helmet is still standard issue for the Vietnamese army and the post-war model is a very deep green.
The helmet is cheaply made and very lightweight. Though non-ballistic it made operating in a tropical environment somewhat more comfortable for the wearer.
The disc bearing the insignia of the national Liberation Front is surrounded by an officer's wreath.
The ventilator cover.
The inside of the ventilator.
The helmets, worn by both the the NVA and the VC, were manufactured in North Vietnam and made their way south via the notorious "Ho Chi Mihn trail" - the indestructible supply route which day and night saw the transport of tons of food and materiel to the Viet Cong forces.
The size is inked on the label.
The rudimentary headband is adjustable by a cord and a series of holes in the plastic.
The chinstrap, which is of very inexpensive plastic, is adjusted by two sliding buckles and secured by a hollow rivet.
The liner is simple, cheap, and fragile plastic.
Female fighters of the Viet Cong have camouflage covers
on their helmets.
Bottom line? they won, we lost. End of story.
See you next time with another cool helmet from the collection.