North Vietnamese Army Officer’s Tunic with Epaulets – Light Gray
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The standard NVA uniform worn in the South by NVA enlisted and NVA officers consisted of a two pocket shirt and pleated trousers very similar to dress pants, such as Dockers. The detail on the pockets was something unique to the North Vietnamese Army. Most NVA uniforms worn in the South were made in the PRC to specifications issued from Hanoi. PLA uniforms of the period greatly differed from these made for Hanoi exports.
ENLISTED SHIRT DETAIL
Stand and fall rolled collar;
Two pleated chest pockets;
Scalloped pocket flaps;
Darts along the rear shoulder seam;
Pleased cuffs at the wrist;
Detailed ends on the wrist pleats;
Pocket flap undersides were made from two scraps of material pieced together;
Collar undersides were also made from scraps of material pieced together;
Buttons are all the same size, have raised edges and are convex.
Two inward hanging slash pockets on the trousers;
Button and Loops for blousing at the cuffs;
Three buttons at the inner upper waist;
Single button rear pocket on the right hip;
Darts on the rear hip;
Waistband and pockets are often white muslim but sometimes khaki.
In pre war and early war years, NVA uniforms, made in the PRC, were made in light colors such as khaki tan, khaki brown light gray and dark gray. As the supply of what was arguably surplus and obsolete fabric was exhausted in the PRC, the colors being used began to shift to various shades of green and brown. As the NVA expanded its ranks, and more and more uniforms were made by the PRC, the final color adopted by the NVA was a reed green color. This was the same color and fabric begin worn by the PLA in the 1960s. Other PRC made NVA uniforms, such as blue, were issued but on a much less frequent basis.
The vast majority of NVA uniforms were made in 100% cotton twill. Twill is a fabric where you can see parallel rows of fabric; one row being higher than the adjacent row. Poplin, a flat lightweight cotton fabric, was also used in making NVA uniforms, but much less frequently.
The Chinese have been marking uniforms they make with production numbers, consisting of several numerals, stamped in the armpit area or in crotch area since the Korean War. I have seen this detail in hats and uniforms from the early 1950s. They continued this practice when they manufactured uniforms for Hanoi, the Pathet Lao, Khmer Rouge and of the themselves into the 1980s. Real wartime NVA uniforms made in the PRC, in decent shape, will have these production numbers.
Post 1975 Uniforms often have Vietnamese labels.
The North Vietnamese had issue tunics. Tunics date back to the Viet Minh days. Many photos show Viet Minh troops parading in them. Officers wore four pockets and enlisted wore two pockets as was the practice in many Asian armies. During the 1960s and early 1970s, tunics were widely worn by the NVA; primarily in the North.
NVA Officers traded their tunics in for the enlisted two pocket shirt when going South. However, some tunics did make it to the South. This fact is documented in ST66-24. ST66-24 was the monthly publication of the MACV Combined Material Exploitation Center. CMEC was the unit that cataloged enemy material.
Tunics had very narrow loops on the shoulders when worn in the North with shoulder boards. These loops were removed when going South. Postwar tunics have very wide loops.
NVA female personnel very often wore tunics in the North. They were much like the male tunics. Female tunics did not have upper pockets but had drapes on the hips for the wider female anatomy.
Enlisted men most likely were not issued tunics en masse but did occasionally pose wearing them in the North for studio photos sent to family and friends. They were also issued to enlisted men for parades. Photos of NVA wearing tunics during the POW exchange in 1973 are to be found on the web.
Officer's uniforms, made in the PRC, were constructed very much like the enlisted two pocket type. Tunics had plain cuffs, rolled back with a wide cuff band. They had a rear drape/split and more elaborate interiors for the pockets. Some had hidden button under the pocket flaps. The buttons on the front center were larger than the upper pocket buttons. Some had a button and loop at the collar to close it up in the colder winter months in the north. Some had interior buttons to add a quilted lining. The colors and materials were the same as described above with respect to the enlisted uniform.
Officer's uniforms, made in the PRC, were constructed very much like the enlisted two pocket type. Tunics had plain cuffs, rolled back with a wide cuff band. They had a rear drape/split and more elaborate interiors for the pockets. Some had hidden buttons under the pocket flaps. The buttons on the front center were larger than the upper pocket buttons. Some had a button and loop at the collar to close it up in the colder winter months in the north. Some had interior buttons to add a quilted lining. The colors and cotton twill were the same as described above with respect to the enlisted uniform. Trousers were standard NVA issue so that Officer's and Enlisted men wore the exact same pattern.
The final four photos show the relevant portions of a September 1970 MACV Intelligence Bulletin. These bulletins and well as other materials were published monthly during the war for issue to the G2 and S2 community. They documented various items of intelligence value, including new tactics and equipment encountered being used by the NVA and VC. In this case, they describe an NVA Field Grade Officer's Tunic captured in March 1970 and show the front and back of the captured tunic. Officer's tunic were manufacture so that shoulder boards could be attached. The loops were very narrow cotton twill made of the same material as the tunic. These were often removed for the trek down the HCM Trail as insignia was not authorized for wear in the Nam Bo. Some had two string loops hand sewn into each collar so that the aluminum prongs of the collar tabs could be passed through the narrow loops.
Standard ChiCom buttons but made with epaulets possibly for VC Main Force NVA Cadre Officer wear. I have seen only two like this.
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