Sunday, June 7, 2009

Remember the Year of the Monkey

The red hand stamp on this 1969 cover ominously warns, NHO TET MAU THAN / DE PHONG XUAN KY DAU - "Remember the Year of the Monkey / Take precautions for the spring holiday" (year of the Rooster) .

The Year of the Monkey, of course, was 1968, and Tet was when the Vietnamese Communist forces launched a full-scale offensive against the Republic of Vietnam.

A smaller version of this hand stamp exists with the same text and there is a third version that specifically recommends uniting against the Communist enemy. They are all illustrated in Richard Aspnes' excellent Commemorative Postal Markings catalog.

The rectangluar KBC 4416 cachet is also interesting. I haven't seen one quite like that and I didn't previously have a record of this KBC number.

Update June 8:

I received a response from knowledgeable collector/dealer, Anh-Tuan Tran, who specializes in cachets and markings on Vietnamese covers. He believes both cachets on this cover are fake. There is not a lot of fake KBC material on the market, so I admit I did not consider this possibility.

The back-stamp postmark in Vinh Long looks good - the March 2 1969 date is late for Tet, but it's logical this marking may have been used for a couple of months to keep people alert. The QUAN -BUU postmark is illegible. Like I said, I haven't seen this type of KBC cachet.

Anh-Tuan provided a scan of another "Remember the Year of the Monkey" cachet for comparison - this one an M3 First Day Cover. As you can see, the letters in the hand stamp are much more precise and clear.

Is the KBC 4416 cover a fake, or was the hand stamp regionally made and applied during the contemporary period?

Based on the available information, I think the underlying cover is genuine but I concur the two hand stamps appear to be a fake.

1958 USOM Laos Cover

Here is another cover I picked up at the NAPEX show. I couldn't resist the lovely franking, despite the cover's awkward size - it took two passes through the scanner to capture it and I'm not sure how to store it (click the image to make it larger).

It looks like there may be a stamp missing near the bottom based on the partial postmark, so it's probably not possible to accurately identify the rate paid. It presumably contained documents or photos that were not to be folded.

The return address is the American Embassy in Laos. The cover was sent in May 1958 by a member of the US Observation Mission (USOM).

USOM Laos was established in January 1955 to provide foreign aid.

NAPEX, ROK Forces, APO Number List

I just got back from NAPEX in Virginia for the Society of Indo-china Philatelists annual meeting. As always, I had a great time catching up with other SICP members. I gave a presentation titled, "South Vietnam at War 1952-1956," Peter Corson talked about the North/South Family Postcards and Howard Daniels showed some interesting financial instruments and other material from the region. I am sure Jack Dykhouse will do a full write up for the next issue of the ICP.

I picked up a couple of items from dealers, and a group of KBC material from a fellow collector that I will be scanning.

I bought the cover shown here because it is the first I've seen from
Republic of Korea (ROK) forces in Vietnam that references a US APO number (96240). I'm not sure why it was added, since the Koreans ran their own military postal service. [I've talked about ROK forces a couple of times on this blog ].

At any rate, I've had a difficult time figuring out the locations or dates for these covers, so having an APO cross-reference helps. In this case, the APO was located at Nha Trang Air Base.

While APO 96240 was easy enough to Google, a lot of them are difficult to identify. This prompts me to inquire if any reader can point me to a list of 5-digit APO numbers used in Vietnam. I have the excellent Numbered Army & Air Force Post Office Locations produced by the Military Postal History Society, but it only covers through 1964 when the 3-digit numbers were still in use.

Even a partial list of 5-digit APOs would be helpful.

Update June 9

John Carroll pointed me to a 1994 MPHS publication,
United States Numbered Military Post Offices Assignments and Locations 1941 to 1994, edited by George Cosentini and Norman Gruenzner. It is out of print, but I found a copy from Phil Banser.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

NKP Airbase APO 96310

Shown is a cover from APO 96310 located at the Nakhon Phanom (Royal Thai) Air Base in Thailand, on the border with Laos. The United States flew reconnaissance flights over the Ho Chi Minh Trail and covert ground support missions over Laos from this base during the Vietnam War.

NKP Air Base also corresponds with Operational Location 23-27 as shown in the address ("OL 23-27"). The postmark reads Jun 20 1969.

Thanks to a reader, "CMR" in the return address has been identified as "Consolidate Mail Room"

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Postcard from Vietnamese Marine Training at Quantico

Given the Presidential Inauguration this week, it seems an appropriate time to share this postcard.

It was sent on January 10, 1965 by a Vietnamese Marine, Major Minh, training at Quantico, Virginia.
The machine postmark reads, "Marine Corps Schools, VA."

The recipient was a Warrant Officer in the Vietnamese 1st Marine Battalion, headquartered in Saigon. A receiving cancel in Vietnam marks a transit time of eight days.

General Le Minh Dao

The two covers illustrated with this post bookend the military career of Le Minh Dao, the South Vietnamese General who is perhaps best known for leading the ARVN 18th Division during the waning days of the Republic of Vietnam.

The first cover takes us back to February 1956, when Le Minh Dao was stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia for military training. It was sent home to his family and the enclosed letter mentions his recent visit to Washington DC during Tet. He writes that he is attending school regularly and expects to be home in June.

After a long and decorated military career, Le Minh Dao was captured after the at the Battle of Xuan Loc by PAVN forces and was sentenced to live the next 17 years in re-education camps where he became weak and nearly blind from malnutrition.

The second cover was sent from Le Minh Dao from a re-education camp in Ha Son Binh province in April 1982. When he was finally released, he received political asylum in the United States where he lives today.

South Vietnamese Naval Ship Listing

I just added to my collection this cover, sent from the Vietnamese Naval Ship Tran Hung Dao, hull number HQ1 at KBC 3328.

I thought I'd share my checklist that summarizes information I've compiled about each VNN navel vessels, including the ship number, name, type, disposition, associated KBC number(s) and notes.

Click to view VNN Ship Listing

There are quite a few holes, especially regarding the ship names and dispositions, so any help making this listing more complete will be greatly appreciated.