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


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.


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


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:


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:


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


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


You cannot hide your heritage 🙂

For the earlier parts you can go here: Gerrits Travels – Part 1 – BMEWS at Thule Air Base – Greenland

Hussar Attack, 1915 Bronze by Szamosi

This bronze is titled “Husszar Roham” (in Hungarian) which translates in “Attack of the Hussars”. The Hussars are the traditional Hungarian horse cavalry and has become a generic name for light cavalry units in all armies in Europe in the 19th and early 20th century. During WW1 horses bacame outdated in the course of the war and many cavalry units became “dismounted”, so on foot, without their horses. In 1915, the date of this work, the Hussars were still very much in action with their horses. Especially on the Eastern front, fighting against the Russians over large areas with relatively few people.

This original bronze (probably the only existing example) was made by the Hungarian artist Szamosi. It took me years to find this out. I always thought the first letter was a R in place of the actual SZ.  Szamosi lived between 1885 and 1971 and specialized in medals and plaquettes. This one is of a formidable size, 30 cm in diameter.

When I found it I had a difficult time to establish how to display this work of art. Finally I decided to have it framed as a “painting” with the 2 screws it has on the back.

Not sure where and how is was placed originally, maybe on a wall? Before the war Szamosi was already active both as an artist and as an educator at the Arts Academy.

His most famous works are from the 1910s and 1920s. During the first world war he made several works of art related to the war like this one.

thumb_IMG_5472_1024 2

Reference: Szamosi Soos


Chinese Qing Dynasty work of art by Ding Guanpeng?

This work of art I bought a long time ago when I was somewhere between 12 and 15. when. In those years, together with my late father Herman, we went to all kinds of flea and antique markets to find nice things. On such a quest we found this part of a Chinese scroll  in a local (which was Deventer in that period) antique shop. Although it was not expensive I did not have the money to buy it. Because I liked it very much my father decided to buy it for me. In my 20s, when I had some money I had it framed and more recently I had it framed in a more fitting frame with museum quality glass.

Those more than 30 years I have had this work of art in my possession I never researched it further. Now with the possibilities of internet I finally was able to find out something more – many thanks again for the help Internet collecting communities!

It is probably from the 1720-1770 period which falls under the Chinese Qing Dynasty. The artist may be the famous “Ding Guanpeng” one of the great painters of the early Qing period.

Ding Guapeng is also well known for his depictions of the 18 Luohans he made for the Qianlang emperor. The scene shows two of the 18 Arhats or Luohans, the original first followers of Buddha on their mythical beasts in the clouds. Based on the info I found on Wikipedia I think on the left is Pindola the Bharadvaja described there as: Sitting dignified on a deer, as if in deep thought. With perfect composure, contented with being above worldly pursuits. And to the right is Nantimitolo tamer of the Dragon described as : In the hands are the spiritual pearl and the holy bowl, endowed with power that knows no bounds. Full of valour, vigour and awe-inspiring dignity, to succeed in vanquishing the ferocious dragon.


The seal is not of the artist – if it ever was signed that part of the scroll has been lost in time – it is a collectors seal and the seal is Japanese, not Chinese. So this work of art went from China to a Japanese collection before it came to the Netherlands (and who knows where in between…).  The seal reads 佐渡 良 Sado Ryo 藏書 books of collection ( Sado Ryo is alias of 坪井 信良 Tsuboi Shinryo 1823-1904 ) So it is safe to say is was collected in the 19th century.



Tsuboi Shinryo Born: 1823/8/28 Died: 1904/11/9 Japanese: 坪井信良 (Tsuboi Shinryou)
Tsuboi Shinryô was a Rangaku medical scholar of the Bakumatsu and Meiji periods, and the father of Tsuboi Shôgorô, known as one of the “fathers” of Japanese anthropology.
Shinryô was born in Takaoka, Etchû province, the second son of Sado Yôjun. He began studying medicine under Koishi Genzui in Kyoto in 1840, and later studied under Tsuboi Shindô in Edo and Ogata Kôan in Osaka, before being adopted by Tsuboi Shindô in 1844/9. He later served as domain physician and educator at the han school of Fukui han, under lord of Fukui, Matsudaira Shungaku, before becoming an assistant scholar at the Tokugawa shogunate’s Bansho shirabesho. He became a physician in service to the shogunate in 1864, and was shortly afterwards bestowed the title of hôgen.
Shinryô established the first medical magazine in Japan in 1873, the Waran iji zasshi, and published a number of other works as well over the course of his career. The magazine lasted 43 issues, ending in December 1875. Meanwhile, Shinryô was named head of the Tokyo Prefectural Hospital in December 1874, and retired three years later.

Opa’s en de oorlog: van onderduiken en persoonbewijzen

Een speciale blog, in het Nederlands, voor Tibor en groep 8 van OBS De Border

Wat weet je eigenlijk van je overgrootouders en wat die in de oorlog hebben meegemaakt? Waarschijnlijk leven ze inmiddels niet meer dus de vraag is of ze veel verteld hebben aan je opa’s en oma’s, die de oorlog misschien zelf al niet meer meegemaakt hebben.

Ik onderzoek historische thema’s en schrijf artikelen en blogs en werk mee aan boeken. Toch als ik naar mijn eigen opa’s kijk (de overgrootvaders van Tibor) dan weet ik erg weinig. Eén opa heeft in de meidagen van 1940 meegevochten tegen de Duitsters, hij was gemobiliseerd als dienstplichtige. De andere opa was ondergedoken in de oorlog, de broer van deze opa zat bij het leger (KNIL) in Indonesië (toen Nederlands Indië) en heeft tegen de Japanners gevochten en daarna aan de Birma spoorweg gewerkt en in de Japanse kampen gezeten. Mijn oma en mijn moeder (toen 5 jaar) moesten in 1944 vanwege de slag om Arnhem (de “brug te ver”) vluchten uit hun huis in die stad en te voet naar familie in Apeldoorn – terwijl opa ergens ondergedoken zat. Ze kwamen terecht op de boerderij van de ouders van de ondergedoken opa. Op de boerderij was er genoeg te eten en eigenlijk was de oorlog er bijna niet te merken.

Zo heeft iedere familie zijn eigen “oorlogsverhalen” en het lijkt misschien alsof je best veel weet. Als je dan verder gaat onderzoeken blijk je soms toch weinig te weten. Waarom was opa ondergedoken? Waar zat hij tijdens de oorlog eigenlijk en hoe heeft hij alles overleeft. Niemand die nu nog leeft kan het vertellen. En de andere opa waar heeft die gevochten? Op de Grebbeberg misschien? En de broer van opa, wat deed die eigenlijk in het Indische leger en wat heeft hij gedaan tijdens de Japanse aanval? Hoe heeft hij de ontberingen van het kamp kunnen doorstaan? Allemaal verhalen die verloren gegaan zijn. Na de oorlog wilden ze het er niet meer over hebben en vooral aan een betere toekomst werken.

Zo kom je als onderzoeker ook verhalen tegen waar je met je onderzoek gewoon vastloopt en je niet meer verder komt. Dit is zo’n verhaal waar ik hoop toch nog ooit het precieze verhaal op te kunnen schrijven….

Drie persoonsbewijzen en wat foto’s….

Een vriend komt ze brengen, gevonden in een boekenwinkeltje. Hij weet dat ik dit soort dingen interessant vind dus hij heeft ze gekocht.

Wat kan dit zijn? Persoonsbewijzen zijn in de oorlog door de Duitsers ingevoerd. Het was zo gemakkelijk om te controleren wie je bent net zoals nu met een ID bewijs. Dat was lastig als je “illegale” dingen wilde doen of niet met de Duitsers wilde samenwerken. Als je niet kon laten zien wie je was werd je direct opgepakt en opgesloten. Daarom wilde het verzet, ook wel de illegaliteit genoemd, valse persoonsbewijzen hebben. Soms gemaakt van echte persoonsbewijzen met bijvoorbeeld een andere foto erop en soms ook volledig nagemaakt.

Zo’n vals persoonsbewijs was dus belangrijk voor bijvoorbeeld Joodse mensen om ervoor te zorgen dat ze niet naar de concentratiekampen hoefden. Ze kregen dan een nieuw vervalst Persoonsbewijs waar niet de grote letter J van Jood op stond. Dan waren ze relatief veilig. En mensen in het verzet van wie de echte naam bekend was bij de Duitsers hebben ook een andere naam nodig en dus een ander persoonsbewijs.


Wat is dit? 

Drie persoonsbewijzen met steeds dezelfde foto maar een hele andere naam en ook een andere Gemeente. Een drieling met verschillende namen? Nee de kleding is ook echt hetzelfde dus het moet wel dezelfde man zijn. Als onderduiker of Jood heb je aan 1 vervalst persoonsbewijs genoeg en het hebben van 3 geldige persoonsbewijzen is zelfs gevaarlijk omdat het dan direct duidelijk is dat er iets niet klopt. Jullie hebben toch ook niet 3 geldige paspoorten met verschillende namen?

Het verzet, het kan bijna niet anders toch? En als onderzoeker wil ik dan meer weten. Wie is de man en wat heeft hij gedaan in het verzet? Op de persoonsbewijzen staat natuurlijk niet zijn echte naam. En op de foto’s staat ook niets geschreven. Maar de foto’s helpen wel. Het is te zien dat hij een officier in het leger was. En hij deed mee aan de internationale militaire vijfkamp – een soort van olympische spelen voor militairen. Dat levert me uiteindelijk zijn naam op. Met die naam is ook zijn militaire carrière als officier te achterhalen en zijn medailles zijn terug te vinden:

Zijn naam is G. Struijs en hij is geboren in 1911. Voor de oorlog is hij reserve officier: reserve 1e Luitenant der Artillerie per 1 jan 1937. Na de oorlog doet hij dienst in Indonesië als officier: hij wordt reserve Majoor der Artillerie per 1 nov 1949. Tijdens zijn dienst als officier en voor zijn verzetswerk kreeg hij de volgende medailles:

– Vijfkampkruis NOC
– Bronzen NOC medaille
– Oorlogsherinneringskruis met gesp ‘Nederland Mei 1940’
– Ereteken voor Orde en Vrede met 3 gespen
– Officierskruis XX
– Verzetsherdenkingskruis

Het verzetsherdenkingskruis bestaat sinds 1980 en werd alleen gegeven aan mensen die in een verzetsgroep gezeten hebben. Dit bevestigt natuurlijk het vermoeden dat hij in het verzet gezeten heeft. Ook blijkt hij in de oorlog gevangen genomen te zijn door de Duitsers is in het NIOD archief terug te vinden. De persoonsbewijzen hebben hem dus niet helemaal kunnen redden en misschien had hij wel een 4e persoonsbewijs bij zich toen hij gepakt werd? Hij heeft vastgezeten in in Scheveningen en in diverse kampen in Duitsland. Die gevangenis in Scheveningen had als bijnaam “Oranjehotel” omdat daar veel verzetsmensen werden vastgezet. En het verzet was natuurlijk voor ons Koningshuis, de Oranjes en niet voor de Duitsers.

En dat is de huidige stand van het onderzoek. Zo snel als ik weer een stap verder ben zal ik het arikel updaten of een deel 2 uitbrengen…

Maar misschien is het tijd om eens met je opa en oma te gaan praten (als je ze nog hebt) en vragen wat zij en hun ouders meegemaakt hebben in de oorlog? Zo kun je een stukje geschiedenis bewaren, zeker als je het ook opschrijft voor later! Een goed idee voor een werkstuk?


A spear for Batak rulers – the Lembing Raja

This is an adapted and translated version of an article I published in 2011 in “Wapenfeiten”.

Sumatra is the single biggest island of the many that together form the state of Indonesia. On this island there are many different people that have had their own distinctive development in language and culture and maybe even different origins. In the North of Sumatra the two biggest ethnic groups are the Acehnese and the Batak.

The Batak consist of six related groups that live in a large area around lake Toba. The are called the Toba, Pakpak, Simalungun, Angkola, Mandailing and the Karo Batak. These tribes have differences in language, culture, arts but also in the weaponry they used in the 19th century.

Why mention weapons specifically? They were, at least in that period, an important and often integral part of many societies around the world. Most specifically in the Indonesian archipelago with the Keris as its foremost example.


The spear, or more correct lance that is the subject of this blog only appears to have been used in the Karo Batak area. This is the most northern Batak area that borders with Aceh. The area that was in a, more or less continuous, war with the Dutch colonial army between 1873 and 1942.

The proximity of the Aceh region can be recognized in some of the weaponry in use with the Karo Batak in the 19th century. The “lopah petawaran”, a small ritual knife that is closely related to the rencong (the traditional Aceh weapon) is such an example that can be seen in Aceh and with the Batak.  Often it is very hard to determine from which culture/ethnicity such items originate due to the resemblances in style, quality and materials.

The Dutch influence in the Batak area was very limited in the 19th century. There were multiple reasons for this. Trade with the area was limited and they did not have raw materials that were of specific interest to the Dutch colonials nor were they waging war against the Dutch, unlike their northern neighbours the Acehnese.

This made the main group of westerners in the Batak region that of religious groups with an aim to convert the Batak, who had their own religion, to Christianity (in different forms). During most of the 19th century the attempts to convert the Batak were unsuccessful but this changed towards the late 19th and early 20th century due to the changing circumstances in the region. Two groups seemed to be successful in that period, the Dutch Bible Society (Nederlands Bijbelgenootschap) and the German Rheinische Mission Society (Rheinische Sendungs Gesellschaft).

 The people involved in these societies also amassed great ethnographical collections that ended up in Germany and the Netherlands. Amsterdam even had a Batakmuseum for a period of time with the collection of Mr. Van der Tuuk of the Dutch Bible Society. This collection later became part of the Tropenmuseum also located in Amsterdam. Next to this there seems to have been a hype in Europe regarding the private collecting of Batak ethnographic items. One of these collections was owned by G. Meissner in Germany and the collection was described in a booklet by F.W.K. Müller. In this booklet we find the only period description of the spear/lance that is the theme of this article. The Lembing Raja – or lance for Batak kings…


Drawing by FWK Müller from the Meissner collection

Weapons as symbol of status

The title of Raja was important within the Batak community, the literal translation being King. The actual meaning could be different depending for the different Batak tribes and even per region within a tribe. Looking at the period literature it seems if could range from the actual King of a region the size of the Netherlands to the mayor of a village.

One of the recurring themes in the whole Northern Sumatra region is the use of weapons as a symbol of status for local leaders and nobility. Where in the Europe of that period a crown was the visible symbol of the status of a king weapons were used as such in Sumatra. For the Batak a specific form of sword, the podang,  seems to have been the typical symbol of leadership status. For the Karo Batak this lance also fulfilled the role as symbol of formal status for the local Raja’s.

The description by Müller was also used in the standard work of Zonneveld; Traditional Weapons of the Indonesian Archipelago and as such has become available to the modern audience as the original book by Müller has become very difficult to find.

The original description can be translated as follows: Karo parade lance, only can be used by important Pengulu’s (leaders). Very long blade with strong silver fittings.


A similar Lembing Raja from my private collection

The Leiden ethnographic museum has a very similar example in its collection under collection number B2-20. This is part of a large Batak group that has been on permanent loan from Jan C. Heestermans since the end of the 19th century. Research shows that this man was professor in the Batak language for the University of Utrecht in that period. This example also has been described as a Lembing Raja based on the original Müller description. A few similar lances can be found in Dutch private collections also a variation with a wavy  blade like a keris.

The Raja of Dolok and his entourage

The photo in the header of this article is the only known picture of a Lembing Raja in use. The picture shows several weapons that are carried by people of his entourage and all seem to be symbols of status for the Raja.

detail-batak-rajaDetail from the bigger picture of the Raja of Dolok with the Lembing Raja


•Traditional Weapons of the Indonesian Archipelago, Albert G. van Zonneveld, Leiden 2001

•Beschreibung einer von G. Meissner zusammengestellten Batak Sammlung, F.W.K. Muller, 1883

•Batak, Kunst aus Sumatra, Achim Sibeth, Frankfurt am Main 2000

•Museum voor volkenkunde Leiden – collectienummer B2-20

Gerrits Travels – Part 5 – Life on Thule Air Base

In the years Gerrit was in Thule the base was still quite new and still being built. It was not a place of luxury but of a very simple life, work, eat, sleep, repeat….

Here some pictures of that simple life in the harsh conditions of the Arctic.

Construction still ongoing!

As on any base there was also a Chapel for the churchgoing part of the staff. And of course Xmas specials on the menu.

Dormitories were quite simple with small rooms. Not sure if private rooms were available to all personnel?


The barracks in summertime, looking very new

Outside of the dormitory and inside of the hall

Just enough place for bed, small table and personal belongings…

Weather conditions were very harsh, even in spring and summer

Describing weather conditions and leaving his Jeep near the other Barracks for better protection against the snow.

And some more snow storms in spring…

And of course US Mail!

Later after the 1968 accident with a B-52 there was radiation but no idea what the radiation could have been before 1965?


And the ubiquitous sign post found on every base far from the States!


Gerrits Travels – Part 4 – Eskimo dog sled trip to Dundas mountain

Dundas Mountain

Gerrit somehow got the opportunity to make a trip with the local inhabitants, the Inuit or as they often were called in that time Eskimo’s. Today there are companies offering dog sled tours in that area but looking at these photo’s it was not a commercial business yet in the 60s. Dundas mountain is quite near to the Thule site so it appears on many pictures. As the picture below show the trip started from BMEWS itself, four of the five radars can be seen here and of course the dog led sled!


As I have no details on the trip itself from Gerrit it was good te see that on some pictures he made captions of what we can see!

The caption reads: An Eskimo from Dundas with gun and screen for the seal hunt

It seems he made the trip with some unknown friends

He mentions one of the dogs by name and says he often took it into his truck


Probably this one?

Two photo’s of “locals”, really love these, could be in National Geographic…

Also during his time in Vietnam Gerrit always had good relations with local people. Not being in the military himself probably gave him some more possibilities for this.


The family that took him on the trip?


Skinning after the hunt, pole fox?

On an Iceberg 4km from the coast

Dundas from the seaside


This wildlife booklet must have helped, he studied it well. He brought even some items with him that are no longer here like a Narwal tooth, from the unicorm of the seas…


Stay tuned for the final in Part 5 life on Thule Air Force Base


Gerrits Travels – Part 3 – Reminders of Thule Air Base

Prized possessions of an Arctic Traveller

Gerrit lived as a civilian on the Air Base. It seems that in his role he had acces to military supplies and also to the military shop, the so called Base Exchange. A place it seems were also luxury items like Omega watches could be bought ore ordered.


Next to the photo’s I have some of his most prized possession of that time, his parka, knife and watch. I will discuss them here as they are quite unique…at least to me!


In most photo’s he can be seen wearing his N3B US Air Force cold weather parka. Next to the Parka I have the matching trousers and a pair of aviators fur lined boots…

He also had a Marbles Jet Pilot survival knife that he kept on using in the Vietnam war. Marbles designed the knife but they did not get the Defense Contract. So probably this is a private purchase from the Base Exchange. In any case it is a rare knife by now.


And here is Gerrit wearing and using the knife! First in his dormitory with the parka on the chair, the knife on the table, used to open a can? And plenty of Kodak films in the drawer…


And here worn on the belt during his trip to Dundas


And my personal favorite as it can still be used his Gold Omega Seamaster. Bought January 1963 on the Base Exchange!

So far the prized possessions of Gerrit. Next up in Part 4 is the Eskimo Sledgetrip to Dundas!





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