Jump to content

NVA portraits: Immediate Postwar


Recommended Posts

Back in the early 1990's, I had a trading partner in Hong Kong who was sending me items from the flea markets in Vietnam.


Along with wartime field gear and uniforms, he was finding dozens of discarded photographs. Some were extras from photographer's studios, and some were pulled from albums of families and veterans who wanted to forget.


Most of what he sent me were ARVN photos, obviously not in favor at the time. I was most focused on those. But every now and then he would include a few from the Communist side.


Without any documentation, I would guess most of these were taken immediately after the war. I think they are probably from the newly occupied Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon).


At the time I thought NVA photos would always be available, and I concentrated on gathering the ARVN ones. It is to my regret 25 years later that I did not ask for more of the NVA.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This one of these two soldiers is the best of the lot.


They are wearing their uniform shirts outside of their belt. Typical of Communist uniforms, the pocket flaps come down to a point.


Both have field caps with metal insignia.


The one on the viewer's left looks to have the common issue belt with the small square buckle.


The one on the right wears what looks more like a Soviet style large metal buckle without insignia. He also has color tabs for his rank insignia.


Sandals are the foot wear of the day. The trousers look newly issued, while the shirts have some fading or at least color difference to them.


Both of the soldiers look a bit weary. This may have been taken shortly after the Communist victory. The tropical foliage suggests it is in South Vietnam.

Studio 1 a.jpg

Studio 1 b.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Historically, Vietnam has had the tradition of the Soldier Scholar. That is exemplified by the thoughtful pose of this individual.


Similar poses have been seen in ARVN portraits.


The ceramic elephant he is sitting on is common to Asian gardens and living rooms. We have something similar we use as a plant stand.

Studio 1 c.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Two NVA soldiers standing in what looks like a former ARVN or US base camp. Note the structures in the back ground.


The one on the viewer's left is wearing a short cut jacket with a waist band, similar to an Ike jacket. He might have collar rank tabs... it is hard to tell.


The one on the right is wearing what appears to be a newly liberated US style belt buckle. He also has the rubberized jungle shoes.


Both sets of uniform look fairly recently issued, most likely after the fighting had ceased.

Studio 3 c.jpg

Studio 3 d.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here is a bit of irony.... photos of NVA and ARVN Airborne apparently taken in the same studio. Considering where my source obtained these, I think this is very likely, just weeks or months apart. Look at the background and it is identical.


The uniforms of the NVA look to be brand new. The belts look to be civilian. The only clue that these are Communist uniforms is again the pointed pocket flaps.


The one on the right has rubber jungle boots, also looking fairly new.


I suspect this is after HCM City had been fully occupied and the troops had been refitted.

Studio 3 b.jpg


Link to comment
Share on other sites

The next three have a common theme.


During the war, Saigon photo studios experimented with juxtaposed photographs. You often saw this on sheet music, but you also saw it for studio "send this to the folks back home photos" as well.


The results were often less than convincing, but they got the message across... when the helicopters came, I was there to oppose them.


We would all probably guess that a revolver would not be the weapon of choice for repelling an airmobile assault. The same weapon seems to be a prop in all three photos, and it looks suspiciously like a Western cap pistol of the time.


I have no explanation of the beret in the first photo. I cannot recall NVA troops of this period ever wearing berets as they were too closely associated with colonialism and the ARVN. All I can guess was that it was a prop in the studio. This photo does show the collar tabs very nicely on what might be a tan shirt. The belt buckle also is possibly US/ARVN issue, and the trousers look brand spanking new.


Similar comments go the the armored crewman's helmet in the second photo.


Photo 3 shows dark colored buttons against a light color shirt, as well as the subjects "war face".

Studio 2 a.jpg

Studio 2 b.jpg

Studio 2 c.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This one is a proud and decorated hero of the war.


The exhausted look in the eyes speaks volumes, as well as his somewhat under nourished look.


Again I would suspect this was soon after the war's end.

Studio 2 d.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

And here we have the proud owner of what might be a newly acquired motorcycle. Note the use of the chin strap to keep from loosing his hat as he tears along the streets.


His shirt is worn out, and the uniform looks newly issued.

Studio 2 e.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I will tag this one on at the end. I cannot recall if I actually acquired this one, or if I just captured the photo long ago from eBay.


This may have been taken before this soldier went to war. He looks well fed and groomed, somewhat in conflict to the previous photos.


Thank you for looking.


If you have similar photos, please feel free to add.

Studio 4.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Cap Camouflage Pattern I

The ARVN and PAVN photos in the same studio is really interesting, the helicopter photos are just weird. Thanks for sharing.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Very nice photographs. I have always found photos among personal belongings to be some of the more interesting things to come out of war.

A note about the juxtaposed photos, when I visited Vietnam back in 2012, I know they were still being done in photo studios (I actually have a few similar images of myself as a younger kind lol) though I am unsure if they're still done today

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 year later...
  • 1 year later...

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...