Sunday, March 18, 2018

Republic of Korea ROK Forces in Vietnam

I haven't posted to this blog in a very long time...but there has recently been some feedback on a Republic of Korea (ROK) forces cover. I thought I'd post a few more here as well. I'll note the division based on research I did a decade or so ago...and may get corrected :)

Southern Cross

Blue Dragon


White Horse

Cover Markings "decoded"

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Cambodia Covers for Sale

I just posted a group of 20 Cambodia covers on eBay. The lot includes this nice registered cover to Scotland.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Vietnamese Navy Seahorse Insignia Cover

It is rare for me to come across a new insignia on a South Vietnamese military cover these days, but every now and then I am pleasantly surprised. 

This cover has several things going for it (in addition to the lovely mint paper color):
  1. Crisp military insignia and name of the ship in the corner card
  2. Triangular officer KBC cachet with the HQ number
  3. It was sent between military KBC postal zones
HQ-14 was the hull number of the Van Kiep II, a Patrol Craft Escort of World War II vintage, formerly the USS Amherst and acquired by the Vietnamese Navy in 1970. At the end of the Vietnam War she regrouped with other naval vessels near Con Son Island, then made her way to Subic Bay on May 8, 1975. She later resurfaced under the Philippine Navy.

While the postmark is illegible, the enclosed letter dates the usage as June 1974. The letter was sent  from a naval officer to the Naval Medical Facility in Saigon at KBC 4595.

You can view more military covers with insignia on my website.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

SP 4103 Cachet

I am indebted to Pierre Pepin of Philatelie et Aviation Militaire for discovering this cover and sending it to me. 

The cover, postmarked 29 Nov 1953, is struck with a nice Secteur Postal / Le Vaguemestre hand stamp. The digits at the bottom matches the sender's return address of SP 4103. The style of this hand stamp is a bit different from others I have seen, so I was happy to add it to my collection.

As I've noted before, French postal zones utilized five-digit Secteur Postal numbers to obscure a unit’s designation and location. Under American advisement, the Vietnamese adopted a four-digit Khu Buu Chinh (KBC) code system that served the same purpose. During the transitional period of 1952-1956, one finds various combinations of French and Vietnamese text on the postal markings and addresses of military covers. 

I was able to locate the listing for KBC 4103 in the tome Danh-Luc Buu-Khu (1970) and identify it as serving the 2/43 Infantry Battalion headquartered Long Khanh within Long Nai Province in the southeastern section of Vietnam. While there's no guarantee that SP 4103 was in the same location in 1953, I'd say the chances are pretty good in was in generally the same area. 

As always, if anyone has has more information, please add a comment to this post or email me directly.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

OSS Det. 202 in Kunming, China

In 1945, the American Office of Strategic Services (OSS) was aligned with Ho Chi Minh against the Japanese in Indo-china. 

Headquartered with the 14th Air Force in Kunming, China, OSS Detachment 202 monitored and influenced activity in the region. A small number of the OSS actually operated within Indo-china and met directly with the Viet Minh. 

Over the past decade I have located two OSS covers from APO 627 in Kunming shown below.

The first cover was sent by Victor Jabson on March 19, 1945 enjoyed free-franking privileges. The enclosed letter is cut in half vertically. It seems innocuous enough, but perhaps the military censor took issue with some of the contents.

Victor writes, "I have seen so many interesting things that I could write volume after volume but I think I [would] rather wait until I come back and then we can have an old fashioned get together with beer, oysters and all the other good things we used to have at our meetings."

The second cover was sent by Jerome Wisniewski, from the HQ & HQ Detachment operating out of China. It was mailed on Aug 20, 1945 - less than a week after Japan's surrender in World War II and two weeks before Ho Chi Minh's declaration of independence on September 2.

This is a fascinating and complicated era of Vietnamese history. To learn more I recommend:

The OSS and Ho Chi Minh: Unexpected Allies in the War Against Japan by Dixee R. Bartholomew-Feis
Why Vietnam? Prelude to America's Albatross by Archimedes L.A. Patti
Vietnam 1945: The Quest for Power by David G. Marr

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Thu Duc Infantry School Cover to NJ

You don't see a lot of SVN military correspondence sent outside the country. Here is a cover sent from the Thu Duc Infantry School to the Robert H Sittig Associates in Fort Lee, New Jersey in October 1969. 

From what I can ascertain on the web, the company was an export agent specializing in US-manufactured products, particularly dental supplies. Unfortunately the enclosure is missing, but it's an interesting and attractive cover.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Imnaha Stamps website back at

Long story short, I had problems renewing the domain name for my web site, so I registered www.imnahastamps.NET instead. I haven't made updates in a while, but it gets a decent amount of traffic, so I figured it was worthwhile keeping it up and running.

Some things to check out if you aren't familiar with it:

1. Definitive KBC number list
2. Examples of military insignia on covers
3. Unit-specific military cover articles (VNN, VNAF, Airborne)
4. ARVN military IDs and certificates
5. Comprehensive Viet-Minh overprints sub-site

Enjoy! (don't forget to update your bookmark)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Season's Greetings

Best wishes for a Merry Christmas, and a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year!

Similar greetings were sent in 1962 from ARVN Brigadier General Van Thanh Cao and his wife to Major Giertsen of the Strategic Hamlets Division. The card was sent postage free via APO 143.

General Cao headed up 'Operation Sunrise' that oversaw the creation of three strategic hamlets in Binh Duong Province earlier that year. Ultimately, around 14,000 such hamlets were created throughout South Vietnam and populated with forcibly relocated peasants before the program was dismantled in early 1964.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Help Wanted

I need help completing my collection of North Vietnamese military stamps on cover. I have some ideas for a series of articles and maybe an exhibit, but I'd like to have an example of each before I get started.

I don't think this the rarest of the NVN military issues on cover - I'd probably give that distinction to the very first military issue, one of the ocher-colored medal stamps, or perhaps this stamp's twin, the olive-colored waterwheel stamp with the medal completely shaded. However, I found examples of each of those on cover, so maybe I'm wrong. For some reason the brown 'invalids on waterwheel' stamp has eluded me.

I'm looking for a cover like this one:

It has to be tied with a genuine postmark that has a legible year date prior to 1975, although a contemporary date from 1959 or the early 1960s would be terrific. Other than that, I'm not too particular on condition or anything else.

Let me know if you have one you can sell or trade.

You can reach me at imnaha at optimumonline dot net or by posting a comment to this blog entry.


Friday, September 23, 2011

NVN Red Leaping Soldier Stamp on Cover - 1966

I periodically upgrade the covers in my collection with ones that are in better condition, show a more interesting usage, have historical context or simply have more eye appeal. Case in point is the cover shown here. My previous example of this stamp on cover had a roughly opened edge and a 1978 usage, despite the stamp being issued in 1965 (after the war ended in 1975, the military used reserve stocks of stamps until they were exhausted).
In addition to the contemporary postmark from 1966 and the military return address, the cachet appealed to me as I had not seen in before.

I reached out to my friend, Vinh Nguyen, who quickly translated the cover's details. The cachet reads, Vừa sản xuất vừa chiến đấu, that translates as "Produce While Fighting". The central circular logo bears the phrase, chống mỹ cứu nước meaning, "Fight the US aggressors to safeguard our country."

The recipient is a traditional medicine doctor at the Thai Binh provincial medical department. This was not a hospital, but rather the medical department of the province.

The hand-written text at the bottom reads, "Medical department, please forward to Doctor Cúc, traditional medicine, to where here department is temporarily evacuated."

All in all an interesting cover that I am happy to add to my collection.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Vietnam Postal First Days

Typical First Day Covers (FDCs) mark the initial distribution of a postage stamp. These covers mark the first days of other postal events.

This cover, created by a member of the Air Force Advisory Team 2 (AFAT-2) commemorates the free-franking privilege going into effect for American military personnel on September 1, 1965.

The Department of the Army provided this information to new arrivals in Vietnam:
Free mail service went into effect 1 September 1965 for all military personnel serving in Vietnam and adjacent waters. Personal letters, letter size tape recordings and post cards in their generally accepted form are entitled to free transit. Letters sent under this free mail policy will be handled as US air mail. Your full military address to include name, rank, and service number must appear on the envelope. The word FREE in the upper right hand corner must be in YOUR handwriting. It cannot be typed or mechanically marked.

Mail may be sent free to the Foreign countries. Letters so mailed cannot be registered. They may be sent special delivery if an additional special delivery charge is paid. The words "Postage Paid" or "Port Paye" must be stamped in the upper right hand corner. APO will perform this service. Handwritten or type written lettering is not acceptable.

Packages under 5 pounds sent regular mail will, whenever possible, be handled via Air Mail between Saigon and the San Francisco Post Office.

April 1, 1967 was the first day of use of a QUAN-BUU machine cancel by the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). 

At least I believe this to be a FDC of this machine cancel. Does anyone have any example of an earlier use?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Archer and Hut Handstamps on Vietnamese Military Covers

I am hoping someone can shed some light on these hand stamps found on ARVN military covers postmarked 1970-1971.
The first marking depicts a hut, apparently on stilts over water. Behind it appears to be a tree or trees with vertical branches or handholds. Above the hut, perhaps attached to the tree, is a banner or flag. The hand stamp suggests a rural or small village setting.

The cover in my collection with this marking was mailed by a Vietnamese Ranger (Biet Dong Quan) from KBC 4579. I don't know where this KBC was located, but I have records of Ranger units using it as early as 1962, always with the designation "BDQ B".

The other hand stamp depicts an archer with his bow drawn. His head is uncovered by a hat or helmet and his hair is long. In the background is a building, perhaps another hut on stilts, flanked by a tree. 

The archer is presumably an ethnic warrior, whom the French called "montagnards" meaning highlander or mountain people.

I have two examples of the other marking on covers sent from KBC 6279 that was operated by the Regional Forces in Pleiku.

Presumably these markings were purely decorative. Certainly they did not convey free-franking privileges since each of these covers bears a postage stamp cancelled with a military QUAN-BUU postmark.

Please contact me or post a comment if you have more information about these markings.

UPDATE: Jack Dykhouse emailed me a scan of another archer hand stamp, bringing the unofficial tally to three.

Monday, January 17, 2011

New Zealand Forces in Vietnam

In May 1965, New Zealand announced its decision to deploy a combat force to Vietnam including a 105-mm howitzer battery, replacing an engineer platoon and surgical team deployed the previous year. The unit was attached to the US 173rd Airborne Brigade under MACV command, with the primary mission of supporting Australian forces in Phuoc Tuy Province. 

In November, 1967, New Zealand and Australian forces entered a working arrangement to reimburse the United States military for services and support including base camp construction, transportation within Vietnam and military postal facilities that included a closed pouch system for all personal and official mail.

The illustrated cover, sent via the US APO postal service was sent to England, under-franked with 10-cents postage and assessed 3-pence postage due.
 The sender was one of 18 members of the New Zealand Army Detachment headquartered in Saigon. Total in-country strength of New Zealand forces at this time was 534. 

The small number of personnel in Vietnam makes mail sent by NZ units less plentiful than that of their Australian and Korean counterparts. It should also be somewhat less plentiful than mail from Thai allied forces. I have not found that to the the case, and it is reflected in the significantly higher market prices for Thai material related to the Vietnam War.

Strength of Military Assistance Forces in Vietnam in 1967 (US Department of the Army):

Australia: 6,818
Korea: 47,829
New Zealand: 534
Thailand: 6,005
Philippines: 2,020
Republic of China: 31
Spain: 13

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Seasons Greetings

Seasons Greetings from the Kingdom of Laos....Bob Burns was the Intelligence Officer attached to United States Information Service in Vientiane, Laos when this card was mailed in 1958.

Best regards to everyone for happy holidays this year!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Joe Cartafalsa R.I.P. 2010

Joe Cartafalsa passed away on December 7th, 2010.

In August, 2000 I attended the APS Stampshow in Rhode Island. I had the good fortune of meeting Joe in front of his Vietnam Military Mail exhibit. I had started collecting this material a couple years earlier, but was finding it difficult to understand what I had. Joe spent a lot of time with me that day, walking me through his exhibit, identifying and commenting on the covers I had brought along, and introducing me to dealers at the show who carried Vietnam material.

Over the subsequent years, Joe continued to build my enthusiasm and knowledge in the military mail of Vietnam, and expanded my interest into revenues. We kept in touch via email and an occasional phone call, meeting up at NAPEX when his health allowed. We collaborated on a CD-ROM and talked about items we had found and articles we were writing. I caught up with him in Philadelphia one year to borrow books for an article I was writing, and of course to browse his stock.

Joe was a long-time member of the Society of Indo-china Philatelists, and a prolific contributor to philatelic publications, including three articles in the Congress Book.

Rest in peace, Joe. You will be missed.