Some of you may have seen this helmet before. Since I first purchased it, I've always been curious about the history of the helmet. Over the course of the past few months, I and several researchers in Vietnam have been looking into it and it looks like we may have found at least a portion of the helmet's history.
This helmet was locally produced in Vietnam and used predominantly between 1952 to 1960. A lightweight helmet, this was sold to the civilian market and issued to "Thanh Nien Xung Phong" (TNXP) or Youth Volunteers as Chinese produced helmets were only issued to NVA soldiers. Youth Volunteers manned Truong Son Road/HCM Trail throughout the war, helping to direct traffic, house soldiers, transport supplies and maintain the trail which included the dangerous duty of clearing ordnance.
Based off of information written on the front brim, it is believed that this helmet probably belonged to Nguyen Quang Thong, PO Code HT 24089CK of Minh Son Commune, Do Luong District, Nghe An Province.
Mr. Thong was born in Hamlet 8 in Minh Son Commune in 1943. During the course of the war, he served as a nurse, eventually arriving in the B2 Battlefront which included the entirety of III and IV Corp and a portion of II Corp. Beginning in Ninh Thuan Province, it ran all the way down to the tip of South Vietnam in Ca Mau Peninsula. Serving as a nurse, he was captured in 1968 and spent the next 6 years as a POW in Phu Quoc Prison Camp. In 1974 as part of the Paris Peace Accords, he was released and settled back in his hometown. He passed away in 1979 from an illness contracted while he was a prisoner.
His wife, Dau Thi Huyen, now 71 years old, is still living in the same house. Tragically, as Mr. Thong died at a young age, his family retain no photographs or mementos of him.
On the exterior are four signatories, Nguyen Thi Vinh, Duong Thi Ly, Chinh Thi Pham (written like a foreign format. It should be Pham Thi Chinh) and the only male, Dong Van Phu. From what I've been told, the first three all came from the same Commune as Mr. Thong and served as TNXP during the war.
A number of people were adamant that the helmet was fake since no NVA soldier was issued this model, but luckily, a NVA vet chimed in and gave his account on how Mr. Thong may have come into possession of the helmet.
"This kind of helmet was the type that was issued and by the Youth Volunteers. But how did Mr. Thong gain ownership of it? To address this issue, let me tell a story.
At the time, almost everybody who went into the military were issued helmets exported from China. One day while on patrol near Atopo, we heard a great commotion coming from ahead of us. When we arrived, I found a number of Youth Volunteers who were returning to the North. They quickly went cleared the road and stood off to the side so we could pass through. One of the volunteers went up to me and said:
This is where things get foggy and the research is still ongoing. The main issue is the veteran who picked up the helmet wrote down the name "Nguyen Thi Vinh" and the date of capture. This would mean that she must've been in possession of the helmet when it was captured.
Ergo, my theory is that when he was captured, he might've not had his equipment, including his helmet with him. That meant the Vinh, whether the signer, another person with the same name or whatever the case, just kept it and used it until it was picked up.
The main key to finding out the truth I believe is hidden in those for signatories. If any of them are still alive, they will probably be able to verify and confirm the history behind the helmet.
My main goal in the end though is to return the helmet to the family. I've been urged to donate it to a museum there in Vietnam, but I refuse to be the one to do it, because more than likely, they'll throw a political slant onto it which is not what I intend to do.
Anyhow, I hope that you enjoyed the post. If all goes well, the helmet should be back in ownership of the family by the end of 2019. Until then, we'll just have to continue to dig.