Saturday, October 25, 2008

Feedback Requested on Abbreviations

This post includes several covers that include an abbreviation that I have struggled with, either due to the handwriting or because I am simply unfamiliar with the usage. I would appreciate feedback or suggestions on these items.


The return address of this cover from
M.A.A.G. (Military Assistance Advisory Group, Vietnam). includes the abbreviation "C.A.A.T." Searching Google I was able to come up with two candidates: "Combined Anti-Armor Team" or "Combined Arms Assault Team." The former, a Marines unit, seems more prevalent and thus more likely.

This is an example of questionable handwriting. I assume the return address reads "CORDS /IV" standing for "Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support, IV Corps", but I cannot help thinking it looks more like "COBOS," which does not seem to mean anything. The rest of the address reads "Advisory Team 75, My Tho, Vietnam."

This cover is from the US Embassy in Vientiane, Laos. The return address is written in pencil and partially obscured with something that looks almost like White-Out. The name appears to be "Captain W.R. Healy" and the next row is "(?)ARMA". If I assume the first character was intentially wiped out (and the sender got a bit sloppy with his name above), ARMA likely stands for the "Army Attache" which was involved in programs like Project 404 in Laos. I have tried searching with other letters in the abbreviation, e.g. SARMA, DARMA, OARMA but to no avail. Thoughts?

Presumably a Vietnamese term, the abbreviation "K.V.K." has me stumped. Identification might provide some more information about the type of unit served by KBC 4076.

On Dec 1st and anonymous contributor identified the abbreviation as meaning "
Kho Vu Khi" or ammunition dump

Click on the covers for larger images. Thanks for your help!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Urgent Rifle Brigade Cover 1947

Shown is a turned cover (disassembled, turned inside out and reassembled for use) sent via the French military postal service in Indo-china. Based on the My Tho back stamp, the year was 1947. A hand stamp in the upper left reads "KHAN (Urgent)". In the lower right is the unit cachet of a rifle brigade.

I am less familiar with French material than Vietnamese and I have a couple of questions that I am hoping readers can answer.

1) Is the notation in the upper left corner a shorthand return address (M919/4B)?

Philippe Drillien writes,
I do not think it's a return address. According to the French regulation, every French administration must own two books . In the first one, you must write, every day, all the mail you receive; each mail is given a number of arrival; often, the number is preceded or followed by one or more letters. Usually, the letter concerns the service or the name of the addressee. The second book is for the mail you send and works according to the same way. M919/4B could mean:

It is the 919th mail registered by the secretary M. It has been written by 4B

2) The last word in the top portion of the unit cachet is unclear (after Tirailleurs). Perhaps Algeriens?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

QUAN-BUU 1 Postmark 1956

In my article, Vietnam 1955: Military Postal History in a Year of Transition, in the March 2008 issue of the Indo-china Philatelist, I referenced numeric QUAN BUU markings 1,2,4,5 and 8, in addition to the number '7' marking that was the primary subject of the article.

Shown is a tan registered mailing receipt from a sender at KBC 4218 within I Corps.

The pink form appears to be a declaration of value for the contents of the letter. Of note is the QUAN BUU 1 postmark on the back of the form, dated 26 November 1956.

The abbreviation "CTTT" in the address on the pink form is spelled out in the address on the tan form as "Cong Thu va Tao Tac." This roughly translates as "Corps of Engineers". "Cong Thu" literally means "government buildings" and "Tao Tac" literally means "buildings and construction." (Thanks, Vinh for decoding these!)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Sea Eagles - Vietnamese 8th Marine Battalion

This cover, adorned with a picture of children with rain coats and bunny rabbits, was sent from the Vietnamese 8th Marines Battalion in Thu Duc at KBC 6618. The sender was apparently out on an operation as indicated by the "H/Q" (hanh quan) in the return address.

The addressee was aboard a Naval "Landing Craft Utility" class ship, with hull number 543. Mail was directed to this ship via KBC 3328, the Naval Fleet Headquarters in Saigon.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Military Construction and Supply Correspondence

KBC 3126 was assigned to a construction unit (Kien Tao). The preceding letter 'D' in the return address probably stands for "Doi" (small group) or "Doan" (large group). The recipient was a member of Supply Group 61 (Lien Doan 61 Tiep Lieu) associated with the 6th Air Division at KBC 3533. A 1.50d stamp pays the military letter rate, although mail between KBCs should have been sent postage free.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

RVNAF Military Postal Service

I just obtained a copy of the Indochina Monograph series The RVNAF by Lt. General Dong Van Khuyen. Buried in the center of this 400 page document are three pages on the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces military postal service.

Some key items of interest:
By 1966 the Military Post Office Center (formerly the Directorate of Military Post Office) controlled 29 post annexes which served more than 1,500 KBC units and addresses. In 1973 there were 40 annexes servicing more than 3,000 KBC units.

The most frequent shortcoming in the military postal service was the time the mail took to reach the responsible person or beneficiary. An extensive investigation .... revealed that the delay did not take place between one KBC and another as many servicemen had thought, but primarily between the sending unit and the original KBC or annex, and between the destination KBC or annex and the receiving unit. The delay was also caused by the unit's internal distribution system.

There was also a lack of coordination between the unit and the area logistics command to have the KBC changed in case of [a] long-term operation outside the military region.

As for mail security, several measures were taken to prevent loss or interception. Mailmen, with proper security clearances, were chosen from good and reliable personnel. Each mailman was issued a register to record the receiving and delivery of mail, which was daily inspected by the chief of the mail and message section. Each mailman was also issued a leather case with lock for carrying mail in transit.

The book was reprinted by and is available from Dalley Book Service in Virginia. They have also reprinted a number of other military titles, including Bernard Fall's The Viet Minh Regime and Documents Relating to British Involvement in the Indo-china Conflict 1945-1965 originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office. Tell George I sent you!

Monday, June 16, 2008

3rd Infantry Division Cover

This cover was sent from a member of the Vietnamese Armed Forces 3d Infantry Division (3 Bo Binh) at KBC 6534. Nhac Doan is a group in charge of the military band and other entertainment.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Mobilie Riverine Military Police

This cover is addressed to a Mobile Riverine Military Police Officer in Phong Dinh province in the 4th military zone. It was sent on 26 November 1970 from Trinh Chi Hieu, Class 5 Radio Operator, Company 4 Specialist Battalion at the Naval Training Center in Nha Trang or aboard a ship that reported to Naval headquarters (KBC 3318).

A 3d stamp pays the military postage rate (half the civilian rate). Had the recipient been considered military, the letter could have travelled postage free. MPs were considered military in the sense that they had their own KBC numbers, but no KBC was used in this case.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Services Suspended to Cambodia

Although the London postmark date is illegible, this cover was presumably sent after mid-April 1975 when Phnom Penh fell to the Khmer Rouges and the Cambodian infrastructure had ground to a halt. The cover is notable for its hand stamp marking "Services Suspended to Cambodia". What other countries applied this type of marking?

Phillippe Drillien writes that France used markings for mail bound to Cambodia. He believes this type of marking was used twice. First in 1970 when Sihanouk has been abdicated, and a second time, in 1975, after the fall of Phnom Penh.

Ferocious Tigers - Vietnamese 9th Marine Battalion

This rather unassuming cover is interesting because the address includes an explicit reference to the Vietnamese 9th Marines mascot, the Ferocious Tigers (Manh Ho), at KBC 6626. The sender was at KBC 3198, the 1st Air Division in Danang.

Friday, June 13, 2008

MSA Mission to Saigon

This cover has a return address from the Mutual Security Agency (MSA) mission to Saigon, which was formed in 1951 under Truman.

Averill Harriman was the Director of the MSA at this time and was focused on organizing covert operations and psychological warfare in Vietnam. In 1954 the MSA became the Foreign Operations Agency (FOA), then the International Cooperation Agency (ICA) and finally the Agency for International Development (USAID) in 1961.

The cover was sent from Saigon on 29 Jul 1952 to Portland, Oregon but was redirected to Parks Air Base in California, which had just re-opened in the previous year after sitting abandoned since 1946.

A Portland machine cancel on the front and hand stamp on reverse peg the cover's arrival as August 5th. Straight line date markings of August 14 and 15 probably mark its arrival at its destination. Somewhat ironic is the sender's notation on the reverse, "P.S. Rich this went as air mail - check delivery time."

Three copies of the first Vietnamese airmail stamp issued March 8, 1952 (Scott #C1) attractively grace the cover. At 9$90, the sender likely overpaid the rate, which was 8$50 to North America as of December 1953 (John Carroll).

Thursday, June 12, 2008

KBC 4076 Cover "K.V.K."

Can anyone help with the abbreviation "K.V.K." on this 1965 cover? It has a return address of KBC 4076 (actually sent via registered mail at KBC 3030) and was sent to a VA hospital in the United States. I am stumped...

Thanks! Andrew

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Indo-China Revenue Catalog 2nd Edition

The Society of Indo-china Philatelist's Indo-china Revenue Stamp Catalog Second Edition was awarded a vermeil medal at NAPEX in early June. The literature exhibit is the third largest in the United States with 40 entries.

The updated catalog, released at the show, provides comprehensive revenue stamp listings for Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Indo-china. Sections are included for Indo-china revenue stamped paper and pecule overprints. Most items are priced and shown in full color.

The price is $20 post-paid in the US, $25 mailed to other countries. Order it from SICP Executive Secretary, Ron Bentley.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Chieu Hoi Document and Safe Conduct Pass

The Chieu Hoi safe conduct pass shown here is different from any I have previously seen. Safe conduct passes were distributed throughout South Vietnam to encourage Communist soldiers and National Liberation Front personnel to defect.

I contacted Herbert Friedman who has written a lot of about these passes (click here) and he confirmed that he has not seen this one before - and he has more than 1000.

Herbert went on to say, "It is from the 4th PSYOP Group, order number 20 in the year 1968. It would be a tactical leaflet, specifically requested by units in the 4th Combat Zone. Specific units would often request leaflets."

Here is another interesting item, shown front and back. It is a release docu
ment from a Chieu Hoi camp in Kien Hoa province. The recipient had been civilian support personnel with the Viet Cong. According the Vinh Nguyen, "These guys would do anything to support the fighting troops, from carrying weapons, building roads to farming and raising livestock."

He was released with 1000$ in his pocket and directed to report to the Dinh Tuong Chieu Hoi Center within 24 hours or he would forfeit the release document.

The individual's photo was removed from the document at some point, but this group photo was included with the document, conceivably depicting his buddies at the camp, together with American advisors.

Monday, May 12, 2008

White Star Mobile Training Team

This roughly opened cover is quite a find, in my opinion. It is addressed from Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) Laos that was formed
April 24, 1961 pursuant to an agreement among United States, Cambodia, France, Laos, and Vietnam for mutual defense assistance in Indochina. MAAG Laos was abolished October 1962 in compliance with the Geneva Accords requirement for removal of all foreign military forces from Laos, with the exception of French forces (the MMFI). This cover is dated November 3, 1961.

Even better, the cover was sent by a White Star Mobile Training Team (WSMTT). White Star was the US Army Special Forces program to recruit native Hmong to fight against the Pathet Lao and later to support covert Air America operations.
White Star Units were attached to or worked with a unit of regimental or smaller units of the Forces Armee du Royaume (FAR) or Royal Laotian Army.

The cover is addressed home to Fort Bragg where the White Star units were trained.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Military Free Frank in Vietnam

I received a question about the Free Frank privilege for military personnel in Vietnam. Here is information from the Department of the Army provided 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.