Gerrits Travels – Vietnam War 1966-’70 (part 6)

A Dutchman in Vietnam!

Gerrit spent the first half of the ’60s in Greenland working at the BMEWS base, one of the coldest parts of the world. You can read more about him there in the earlier blogs about him: Gerrits Travels – Part 1 – BMEWS at Thule Air Base – Greenland The second half of the ’60s he spent in tropical Vietnam working state related contracts.

As he passed away I am not sure I will ever know what he did there exactly. He worked in some capacity for RMK-BRJ the largest building conglomerate active in Vietnam during the war. You can read more about their history here: RMK-BRJ wiki

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He had some form of medical education in the US (he stated to be an MD but I found no actual proof for this though) and he worked in some medical capacity it seems, probably in the line of Health and Food safety for RMK-BRJ.

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Below a photo of his kit-bag (his original Dutch one, not a US version!): GHM Medical Department / Facilities & Operations RMK BRJ / 6th Division Vietnam

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Here some paperwork form his time in Vietnam:

His MACV ID Card (Military Assistance Command Vietnam)

His S Government drivers license with Vietnam Road Sign test

Saigon Hospital card and Saigon Freemason membership card (look at the date?)

As he spent more than 4 years in Vietnam he witnessed most of the war and not always from a safe distance! On several occasions he risked his life during the line of work. As can be read on the Wiki regarding RMK-BRJ with more than 52 emplyees killed.

I’ll share here some of my favourite pictures from his collection (these are mainly prints I took from the slides he made).

Some local forces:

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Do you something bulbing inside his white shirt? He always carried a grenade there for safety reasons, but not visible….

Driving a river boat, he went with the river forces on patrols on several occassions, just for fun and he spoke French fluently so he could help out in communications too.

With the Marines he had a Dutch friend there too, recently emigrated to the US.

And some random photo’s:

Some of the items he collected during this period:

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The Marbles pilots survival knife he already got in Greenland and brought to VN.

The Rolex Datejust he bought for his Birthday during R&R in Bangkok! It can be seen on the stairs of a friends house in Saigon. He is guarding the house with his M1 with double (taped together) banana magazines.

A relatively rare item among his military gear are these: Military Survival Kit – Hot Wet environment. Mainly issued to Special Forces in Vietnam – complete with all items including flare gun and amphetamine tablets (also called no sleep tablets). For more info see http://www.vietnamgear.com/kit.aspx?kit=370

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At least one more episode to follow! Congo and Persia are the next stations in the trip…

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You cannot hide your heritage 🙂

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MWO4 voor Wim van den Berg – Guerilla & Verzet in Minahasa door het KNIL 1942

Willem Carel van den Berg 

IMG_6491Originele foto zoals ook afgebeeld in Maalderink

Geboren te ‘s Gravenhage 15/10/1899
Ridder MWO bij Koninklijk Besluit van 27/12/1948, no 19

Uitreiking MWO: 
Burgemeester Bisschopplein te Batavia – 19/03/1949
Riddereed afgenomen door: Dr. L.M. Beel – Hoge Vertegenwoordiger van de Kroon

IMG_6492Originele foto van de uitreiking in Batavia, W vd Berg rechts in beeld

Reden MWO

Het zich in de strijd onderscheiden hebben door uitstekende daden van moed, beleid en trouw als Commandant van het Tactisch Commando Kakas (Minahassa) van 11 Januari tot 22 Februari 1942 door, nadat de onder zijn bevelen staande zwakke bezetting van het vliegveld Kalawiran (Minahassa) aan de voor de overmeestering van dit vliegveld neergelaten overmachtige groep vijandelijke parachutisten gevoelige verliezen had toegebracht en de voorbereide vernielingen te Kakas waren uitgevoerd, hoewel zijn oorspronkelijke opdracht het toeliet zich naar het Zuiden buiten de Minahassa terug te trekken, zich tot het voortzetten van de guerillastrijd in het gebied te Oosten van het meer van Tondano te handhaven.

IMG_6488Album ter gelegenheid van de MWO uitreiking

Na in dit gebied ongeveer 100 man aan troepen te hebben verzameld en daarvan twee afdelingen voor een bijzondere guerilla-opdracht te hebben afgescheiden, heeft hij met de hem overblijvende brigade ter sterkte van 23 man als enig overgebleven strijdende groep in de reeds geheel door de vijand bezette Minahassa gedurende 43 dagen onder uiterst moeilijke omstandigheden en onder bedreiging door de vijand met de zwaarste represailles het verzet met veel beleid en onbuigzaamheid volgehouden.

In de nacht van 16 op 17 Februari 1942 bij Kampong Lamban door de vijand na een zorgvuldige voorbereiding omsingeld en aangevallen, heeft hij met zijn groep, tot de munitie uitgeput raakte, hardnekkig weerstand geboden en zonder verliezen door de omsingeling man na man weten heen te sluipen, nadat hij de twee nog vermiste militairen, alleen en onder vijandelijk vuur in het bedreigde bivak had opgespoord en tijdig in veiligheid gebracht.

Nadat hem uit berichten was gebleken, dat elke kans tot versterking van zijn groep met 1 a 2 sectiën geheel verkeken was, besloot hij zich aan de vijandelijke achtervolging te onttrekken door van Kampong Kolongan in Oostelijke richting naar de kust te trekken; over zee de kust naar het Zuiden volgende, werd zijn prauw ten gevolge van noodweer op de kust geworpen en werd hij met zijn groep op 22 Februari bij Kampong Basaan door verraad gevangen genomen.

IMG_6493Artikel in Wapenbroeders 1949

Tenslotte heeft hij na zijn gevangenneming, met de zwaarste folteringen en de doodstraf voor ogen, door zijn moedige, zich zelf niet ontziende en waardige houding, o.m. door zijn verzoek om zijn militairen het leven te sparen en slechts hem voor het voortzetten van het verzet te doen boeten, de vijand dusdanige bewondering en respect weten af te dwingen, dat hij en de tot zijn groep behorende Nederlandse militairen niet werden terechtgesteld en hem zelfs door de Japanse troepencommandant voor de door hem en zijn mannen betoonde moed openlijk eer werd betoond.
Door de gedurende een guerilla-activiteit van 43 dagen met een kleine groep van merendeels Manadonese militairen op de vijand bevochten grote, vooral morele successen, heeft deze officier met zijn mannen tevens de band Nederland-Minahassa aanzienlijk versterkt.

Militaire rangen: 
Tweede luitenant der Infanterie KNIL 08/09/1924
Eerste luitenant der Infanterie KNIL 08/09/1927
Kapitein der Infanterie KNIL 30/06/1937

IMG_6487Militaire (KNIL) officiers legitimatie van W vd Berg als Kapitein uit 1940

Majoor onbekend
Luitenant kolonel 20/02/1947
Eervol ontslag 13/02/1950

Bronnen: 
De Militaire Willems-Orde sedert 1940, door P.G.H. Maalderink,

Zie voor Militaire Willemsorde ook:

The story of a forgotten war hero – Adriaan Zijlmans and his succesful evacuation of 3000 women and children to safety…

Military Order of William – 200 years of decorations!

The Hungarian WW2 army officers 1931M dress tunic (társasági zubbony)

The first type of dress tunic of the Hungarian army, after World War one, was the 1926 Model which was a classic atilla style tunic which was in use in many armies up to World War one.

This was replaced by a more modern but still typical Hungarian dress tunic in 1931, hence the model name 1931M. This model was in use until 1945 and was never changed in that period. Where the regular officers uniform changed the collar in 1939 this remained a standing collar.

thumb_IMG_6467_1024Some colour variations exist based on the branch of the army – this one is the infantry green version. General officers had a light blue one (like the WW1 hechtgrau colour), darker blue for the cavalry etc. This version is for a Lieutenant Colonel of the Infantry. The loops on the left breast are for medals, in this case 9 loops. The combination of rank and medals hint at an officer that already started his career in the first World War.

Sources:

  • A Magyar Királyi Honvédség Egyenruhái 1926 – 1945, dr. Tóth László, Huniform, 2007

Hungarian Air Force: pilot wings and cap badges

The Hungarian Air Force was built up in secret during the 1930s. Officially this was not allowed based on the Trianon treaty that was a result of World War 1. Also when the war started and they could openly built the Air Force further it remained rather small compared to other forces in the war making all insignia quite rare.

In most countries a pair of wings has become the standard symbol for an aviators qualification. In the Hungarian Air Force this was no different. What makes it a a bit more interesting is that almost the same design was used for cap badges. This leads to many mistakes by collectors, pilots wings are seen as cap badges and vice versa.

The distinction is actually quite easy. For the qualification badge the wings are straight and for the cap badges the wings are curved. Otherwise they are the same.

Pilot wings

There are basically two types of wings that were used in World War 2 by the Hungarian Air Force. One for the pilot and another for the observer (navigator). The only difference between these is that the pilot has a crown above the eagle and the observer not.

The wings are made of cloth with gold bullion stitching. There is no difference in rank visible in the badge – which makes it different from most Hungarian badges like on the cap badges we will discuss next.

The wings were worn (sewn on) on the right breast above the top pocket of the 1930M Air Force officers uniform (that I will discuss in another blog).

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thumb_IMG_6455_1024 Worn version of the pilot wings, front and back below

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Metal versions of these wings were also officially made but these seem to have only been given to non-Hungarian pilots as “exchange” badges.thumb_Schermafbeelding 2018-04-07 om 10.38.16_1024Metal version awarded to a german pilot (photo from the internet, not my collection)

The observer wings were introduced later in the war and were worn by the officer with this task in the crew of a bomber. These are very rare and also exist in metal for foreign observers but I have not found a photo of one being worn or a confirmed original.

IMG_6450        Lieutenant with the observer wings (photo from internet)

Cap badges

For the cap badges the story is interesting too as some more variations exist. The basis is again cloth with bullion stitching. Silver for ranks below officer and gold for officers. But more variations exist. A more ornate version on a red cloth background for general officers exists which is very rare. Also a version for officers in training. For use on the side cap for common soldiers a metal version was in use that later became standard for all ranks. All variations of course with the curved wings!

thumb_IMG_6473_1024NCO cap badge in silver bullion, top is worn, bottom one new old stock

thumb_IMG_6474_1024The NOS one even has the makers label still attached!

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Period overview of Air Force badges and ranks:

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The Hungarian WW2 Air Force officers 1930M tunic (zubbony)

Another blog about a Hungarian tunic, this time the Air Force officers “front” version.

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The 1930M uniform was the standard Air Force officers uniform from 1930 until 1945. The only variations are in material and color. Green for regular use, white for the summer and black as the dress version. Within the green colour also many variations exist.  Officers could buy their own tailor made versions with more luxurious materials like gabardine in place of the regular wool version.

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Example of a flight officer wearing a tailor made version

This specific version is a coarse wool (poszto) version as was handed out by the Air Force. This variation is called the front version that has brown metal buttons in place of the regular gold coloured buttons and made of poszto.

thumb_IMG_6393_1024Example of a front version being worn by an Air Force lieutenant

Unlike on the army tunic the shoulder boards are detachable (which was also the case with the river forces). If the officer was an aviator the pilot wing would be worn on the right breast just above the top pocket.

This tunic like eg the German and English ones were also worn as part of the actual flight gear. Often with a leather coat over the tunic.

hun afPilots with flight jacket over the tunic (photo from internet)

The Austro-Hungarian Bravery medals in WW1 – part 3: paperwork

The Austro-Hungarian army was well organized in its paperwork. Each request for a medal would go through the hierarchy and be kept in the personal record when awarded. It would depend on the level of the medal in which stage of the hierarchy the decision would finally be made.  For the Golden Bravery Medal a separate register was kept that still is available as a reference in the Vienna Military Archives. 

After the medal was awarded the person would receive  an award paper (Legitimation) confirming the award which should be worn on the person (to be able to proof the medals that were actually worn in the field). The standard place to keep these papers were the small ID capsules each person would wear. This made it necessary to make the documents very small. Here are some examples.

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Some units made more elaborate documents available for their men in a larger size. These are not standard and not official but relatively rare and desirable.

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Personal files were partially lost in the 2nd world war and also these were split between the different states that resulted from the end of the Austro-Hungarian empire. The Honved related files are mostly in the Hungarian Military Archives in Budapest and most others in Vienna and some in the other states. Here an example of Bravery medal related request as found in these archives.

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More about the research on one person can be found in this earlier blog: Vitéz Horvath Janos winner of the Golden Medal for Bravery, WW1 Austro-Hungarian Army

An interesting secondary source for Hungarian WW1 bravery medals related info are the Vitezi rend yearbooks in which also medal lists are published. 

 

The Austro-Hungarian Bravery medals in WW1 – part 2: exchange with the German Iron Cross

The German Iron Cross is probably the most iconic award in the world. As part of the same coalition an exchange agreement between Germany and Austro-Hungaria was made for their armies. Were the German award system is the same for all ranks this is not the case in the Austro-Hungarian (AH) award system were there are specific medals for officers and different medals for the nco ranks. For the Germans the Iron Cross was the most general medal for gallantry so a good basis for exchange. But this would not fit the AH system. Therefore the choice was made to make the German Iron Cross only available to the officers in the AH army. The 2nd class for troop officers and the 1st class only for high ranking officers which can be seen in the extreme low amounts awarded. This only began to change slightly in the last year of the war.

For the ranks below officer a different solution had to be found. This came in the form of the Prussian Warriors Merit Medal (Krieger Verdienstmedaille) that always had been intended for foreign soldiers of ranks below officer. It was worn on the same ribbon as the Iron Cross which made the distinction between officers and men a bit more tolerable.

The Iron Cross could be awarded to the lowest rank of officer (Fahnrich) and also to Officer replacements. Most officers that became an officer during the war had gone through the nco ranks as part of their officers training and often had been awarded medals for the nco ranks in that period. As soon as they were officers they would be eligable to receive the German Iron Cross. So in mixed groups (officers that had been a nco before) both officers and nco medals can be found. This often leeds to the misunderstanding that the German Iron Cross could be awarded the nco’s as well in the AH army which is not the case.

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The award criteria for gallantry medals are very different in each country as is the structure of the army and the processes to award medals. So a comparison of “level” is not possible. But a comparison of relative numbers of awards should be possible.

To do this I have taken some data from online sources and combined those. I have taken the number of men mobilized between 1914 and 1918. Further I have taken the number of awards per class and compared these with the number of mobilized men. Both as an percentage and as 1 decoration awarded per how many mobilized men.

There are several reasons why this comparison is not “fair”. The AH Bravery Medals were aimed at the men below the rank of officer. No other gallantry medals could be given to them. The German Iron Cross in the German army was open to all ranks. Next to this there were many other awards for gallantry/bravery from the different states within Imperial Germany. Those facts are not taken in account – it is a simple, straightforward comparison of numbers only!

Nevertheless I have made the comparison in numbers and found to my surprise that the total relative amount of Iron Crosses is way bigger than that of Bravery Medals. Even the “unpopular” Bronze Bravery Medal is relatively rarer than an Iron Cross 2nd Class. And the Silver Bravery Medal 1st class can be compared to the Iron Class 1st class in relative amounts.

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The last part of the statistics show the numbers I have taken from the reference below and state the amount of German Iron Crosses (IC) and Prussian Warriors Merit Medals (WMM) that were awarded to members of the Austro-Hungarian army.

All pictures are from my own collection.

Reference: Steiner, J.C. (2010) Heldenwerk 1914-1918. Vienna, Austria

Part one can be found here: https://erikscollectables.wordpress.com/2017/06/18/the-austro-hungarian-bravery-medals-in-ww1/

The Hungarian WW2 army uniform 1939M tunic (zubbony)

As most books regarding Hungary in WW2 regarding the history, uniforms and medals are in Hungarian I want to add a series of short descriptions in English in this blog.

The 1939M tunic (zubbony in Hungarian) was a modernization of the earlier 1926M version. The most notable difference being the collar which was a standing collar in the earlier version. The 1939M came with a so called stand and fall collar (so a collar that folds like on a shirt).

The same style of uniform was used both by officers and men. The basic material of the tunic is wool but many variations exist in both quality of the material and details. Most officers bought a private, tailor made version of the tunic in a fine quality of wool “kammgarn”.

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The officers version as seen above can be recognized by the details in gold: the buttons, the collar insignia “paroli” and the shoulder loops. The collar insignia give information about rank and branch. In this case a colonel of the infantry. The stars are made of bullion. The collar loops are the same for officers of all ranks and all branches of the army, a small loop of gold material.

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The ranks below officer had most often a tunic in coarser wool “poszto”. Most professional soldiers would also have a tailor made in a finer version of wool like the one above. The distinctive difference with officers is that the details are in silver, buttons and collar insignia and the shoulder loops are of cloth and give the branch of the army as do the collar insignia. In this case a sergeant of the Gendarmes. The stars for the rank are made out of solid aluminum.

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The arm of the officers tunic ends with three (non-functional) buttons which the lower ranks tunic does not have.

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The back of the tunic shows a minor difference again, a single split for the officer and a double for the NCO.

Normally medals were worn on the uniform, even in the field in the first years of the war. Later in the war most men wore ribbons only and sometimes not even those. The colonel is showing a ribbon series fitting his rank and a career spanning two wars. Behind the ribbons also the loops for medals can be seen. The sergeant is wearing three medals on loops, also spanning a period of two wars.

Sources:

  • A Magyar Királyi Honvédség Egyenruhái 1926 – 1945, dr. Tóth László, Huniform, 2007
  • Video on youtube by Decker’s Militaria: https://youtu.be/QrlaTfwqG40

HGU-4/P USAF Aviator Sunglasses 1958-2018, an icon for 60 years!

The HGU -4/P was introduced in 1958 and is still in use in 2018 marking an unpreceded 60 year period, a design classic in all aspects!

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Although the USAAF Aviator Sunglasses (AN6531 and the G-2) are probably the most iconic (aviator) sunglasses in the world and still in production today (Ray-Ban being the most well known maker) they were in official air force use from 1941 until their replacement in 1958 so they “only” lasted a period of 17 years.

General Douglas MacArthur with the earlier G2 Aviator Sunglasses and A2 leather jacket

They were then replaced with the sunglasses that are the subject of this blog: the HGU-4/P Aviator sunglasses. An extensive testing was done in 1958/59 and the HGU-4/P was considered the better compared to the G-2 that was still in stock at that time.

Here you can read the original report of that testing: HGU 4P

American Opticals designed these glasses for more comfortable use with helmets in mind resulting in the iconic bayonet style arms. The original version had a 52mm frame and was gold filled, later versions became gold plated and also available in matte chrome. Since 1982 Randolph started supplying the US forces with these glasses and they still do today. Both brands made these glasses also available for the commercial market and they still do today. Minor differences between the commercial and military versions can be found.

A few military examples in matte chrome, from the internet:

Here some photo’s from the internet of the glasses being worn in Vietnam:

And some celebrities on and off the screen (from the internet again):

And my own set (now with prescription multifocal glasses), RE from December 1991:

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Dutch “Honorable Mention” to a Navy MD

The Dutch Honorable Mention

The Dutch Gallantry medals had, for a very long time in history, only one order for all different levels of Gallantry, the Military Order of William which was instituted in 1815.  For lesser deeds of Gallantry there was the “Eervolle Vermelding” which translates to “Honorable Mention” or for the Anglo-Saxon world a Mention in Dispatches also instituted in 1815. For this there was no visible display of the honor. By many in the forces this was felt as an omission in the military decoration system. An unofficial wreath was worn with several different medals to make the Honorable Mention visible. Only in 1879 this was changed by the use of a crown device to be worn on the “Expedition Cross” that had been instituted in 1869. For multiple awards the number (2 or 3) would be displayed below the crown.

During WW2 the crown was finally replaced by several new medals for Gallantry and only one more clasp was added to the Expedition Cross (Timor 1942).

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Multiple example of the crown device and to the left an example of the unofficial wreath. (not my collection!)

Bali 1849 – Honorable Mention for J.P ter Beek, MD for the Royal Dutch Navy

As mentioned before the Expedition Cross dates from 1869 and at that same moment 6 clasp were instituted going back to as early as 1846, the first Bali Expedition. All living participants of these 6 expeditions would get the medal with clasp and an award certificate. These first 6 clasps belong to the rarer ones but the award document even more so (as there were more clasps produced than actually handed out to living participants). The navy only had a small part in the total number of crosses awarded so is even rarer.

Medical Doctor Ter Beek of the Royal Dutch Navy participated in the 3rd Bali campaign in 1849 on board of the “Z. M. fregat Prins van Oranje”  (the flagship of the campaign).

Ter Beek retired from the Navy in 1859 and became a General Practitioner in the city of Kampen in the Netherlands. Ten years later, 20 years after the campaign, he received the Expedition cross with the Clasp Bali 1849 and the award certificate shown below.

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In 1879 the aforementioned Crown device for wear on the Expedition Cross was instituted and also handed out retrospectively to those who had earned the Crown in the period before its existence. As Ter Beek was also Honorably Mentioned in the same Bali campaign he would get the Crown device and the diploma in that year, 30 years after the campaign for which it was bestowed!

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Above the diploma for the Honorable Mention and below the accompanying letter and the Expedition Cross with clasp and crown device.

This combination of a rare clasp with Honorable Mention for the same campaign and all documents confirming this may very well be unique in its kind! Especially so a Navy version!

His son A.W.K. ter Beek also chose a life of service and joined the Dutch East Indies Army where he would be awarded a Military Order of William 4th class, Honor Sword and Honorable Mention. The related documents to that are in the hands of another collector!

 

Historical items and their stories by Erik