North Vietnamese Army Leather Belt with Stamped Brass Buckle
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The North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong wore a wide variety of factory made belts. They are one of the most common NVA VC souvenirs and commanded high prices during the War.
Most NVA and VC belts were actually made to NVA specifications in the PRC.
The primary PRC made for Hanoi belts included leather with brass buckles; sewn canvas with parallel rows of stitching with brass buckles; khaki-brown web with small interlocking buckles; red-brown plasticized with small interlocking buckles and wide reed green web with large interlocking star buckles. All but the later came with stars or without stars on the buckles.
The wide lime green web belts always had stars and were never seen being worn in the PRC.
Brass buckles on the web or canvas belts were either cast or stamped. I suspect cast were the earlier buckles as casting is more expensive and time consuming that simple machine stamping.
The belts with small interlocking buckles were stamped with the factory number on the reverse of the buckle and the year of manufacture. Observed years included 1965 to 1972. These buckles had brass bodes with a shiny plating that often flaked or wore off.
The buckles on the wide reed green belts were steel with a dull zinc plating, the same as on a new chain link fence.
Belts sent to the Hanoi evolved over time as leather was found not to last long in the hot, wet conditions in Viet Nam. Canvas belts lasted longer but they were phased out early in favor of web, which fared better. Plasticized belts fared the best but do not seem to have been the primary issue based on what I have seen over the years.
Captured NVA and VC belts with stars with the most highly sought after souvenir in Vietnam and often brought very high prices in the rear. The star embossed buckles were sold at a premium as they were thought to be officer issue. However, having collected this material since the mid 1970s, I can say that most NVA and VC belts I have seen actually have stars, leading to the conclusion that the star was merely sales “puffery.”
Soviet made belts did appear in greatly reduced numbers amongst the NVA and VC. These Soviet export belts are quite different than the Soviet issue in the USSR. The Soviet export belt had a plain curved brass buckle, without hammer and sickle, and the belt material was plasticized not web. These are photo documented during the 1973 POW exchange being worn by NVA personnel who also wear tunics. They were worn as early as the Tet offensive however.
Belts made in the PRC somewhat mirrored the made for Hanoi export belts. However all PLA issue belts had stars with Chinese characters for 8 and 1 in the center of the star. These numbers represent August 1, the day the PLA was founded in 1949.
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