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Colorful Mailbags of the Vietnam War


The Colorful Mailbags of the Vietnam War By Fielding S. Freed

Green, in a variety of shades, was the color of choice for the US Military during the Vietnam War. Green helmets, green helicopters, green cans of ham and lima beans, and of course green uniforms were all designed to blend in with the sometimes overwhelming jungle. There were some exceptions, however, to this rule of green. Purple smoke grenades and eye popping pink signal panels identified friend from foe from the air. There were times when bright colors could save a GI’s life. Mail, that all important link to home, also came in colors during Vietnam. Red, yellow, and orange mail bags were especially designed to stand out against all that green and make the mail easier to keep up with while in transit. It is not that the US Military and US Postal Service did not try to join forces and make delivering mail to front line troops green as well. A well-intentioned but failed experiment was the design of olive drab mail bags intended to be dropped from helicopters. They worked well, too well. It must have seemed completely predictable in hindsight, but during test drops the bags ended up blending in with bushes and grass and could not be found. It was decided that colorful mailbags were worth the camouflage risk if they got the mail delivered.

Many who served in Vietnam still recall those vivid mailbag colors. Jimmie Stephens (Tactical Operations Center, 1st Bde, 4th ID, 12/69-11/70) remembers, “Bags full of smiles, tears, laughter and sometimes heartbreak. Millions of bits of individual moments of reality ‘back in the World’ within those crimson and canary colored pouches.” Of those that made it out to the field, the most common mailbag color was red, really more of a magenta. If you look closely at color photographs taken during resupply or down times during the war you might be surprised at how often you see the telltale splash of the color of a mailbag. Sometimes Hollywood gets the small things right. When Forest Gump and Bubba are dropped off to their unit in Vietnam, a red mailbag gets tossed out right behind them. A detail most likely lost on all but the vets who were there.


One thing remains the same for generations of service men and women deployed overseas, mail was, and is, their tangible link to home. Even in our era of email and Skype, there is still something special and uplifting about a handwritten letter or care package. One of the many things that made the Vietnam experience unique was the way mail was delivered. There is little doubt that the sight of those colorful bags tossed out of a Huey must have caused some hearts to beat a little faster, hoping for a letter or package from the World.


### Image Captions: A US paratrooper from the 1st Air Cavalry, receives mail, while stationed in a blocking position north of the Michelin Plantation. Vietnam, 1969. | Location: north of Michelin Plantation, Vietnam. (Photo by © Tim Page/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

Experimental, prototype olive drab mail pouch developed by the Postal Service for use in the jungles of Vietnam. Image courtesy of the Unites States Postal Service Museum

Heavily sandbagged post office operated by the Marine Corps during the siege of Khe Sanh. ©Corbis

Forty years after the end of the Vietnam War, the United States Navy still uses bright yellow mailbags. Image courtesy of the Unites States Postal Service Museum

Copyright 2016, Fielding S. Freed Contact: [email protected] Phone: 843-709-3120

Merry Christmas!

Moore Militaria would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. We will be closed Monday, December 26th through Friday, December 30th. Normal business hours will resume Monday, January 2nd. You can still place an order during this time using our online. Orders will be processed in the order they are received and we will make every effort to ship all back orders on the 2nd. Thank you all again for your continued support!

Cyber Week Sale!

Cyber Week at Moore Militaria! Support your favorite online Vietnam Era retailer this week and prepare for the Holiday Season with Cyber Monday kicking off Cyber Week. From Monday, November 28th through Friday, December 2nd, enjoy 15% off of most items. This includes all of our Vietnam War era Uniforms, Insignia, Field Gear, etc. No coupon code necessary.

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Thanksgiving Special! Time to prepare for the Holidays and take advantage of our annual early Black Friday "Thanksgiving Special!" From today through Sunday, November 27th, enjoy 20% off of any order over $150. This includes all of our Vietnam War era Uniforms, Insignia, Field Gear, etc. Our selection of modern tactical gear is included as well. Even One of a Kind items are included! Discount is reflected at checkout.

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In recognition of Veteran's Day, from today through Sunday, November 13th, take 15% off of almost every item in the store.

Shipping Updates

We are going to try something new for domestic orders. With the USPS now having better tracking, and offering it for 1st Class items, we are going to offer 1st Class as an option for domestic orders. This is only for packages up to 15 ounces, but it will be ideal for those with small insignia orders, etc. With Priority starting at $6.40 this may be a good option for a less expensive solution. That being said, if we see a spike in lost orders, we will revert to Priority being the "base" level for shipping.

Mid July Savings

We had a lot of customers that missed the 4th of July sale and have had people asking about any deals or coupons. We are trying something a little different than we have ever done before. Now through the weekend (ends July 18th), you can save 20% on any order over $150.00. When you go to check out, enter the coupon code JulySavings and the price in the cart will change. You must do this at the time of ordering. There will not be an retro discount, etc. Feel free to share the code with your friends, and groups, etc. and we can see how this works.

Independence Day Sale!

Fire Mission! Celebrate the 4th of July with savings on Vietnam War era uniforms, insignia and field gear! Discounts of up to 15% on most items so check every category for the best deals! Sale applies to instock items only and will run through Monday, July 4th.

Fatigue Restock

We finally have our restock of fatigues in. We now have all sizes available in poplin 1st, 2nd and 3rd model jungle fatigues as well as Tadpole Tiger Stripes. We will be unpacking today and over the weekend. Any back orders should be shipped no later than Monday. http://www.mooremilitaria.com/apparel.html

Newly Listed Item

We just listed an unissued set of aircrew armor in size long on the Newly Listed Page and One of a Kind Page.