A little haul…

Today I visited Davy’s Antiques and Collectors Market in Penzance, and I was pleasantly surprised to find such a great selection of militaria (among other antiquities) and at such good prices as well. I couldn’t stop myself from picking up a few things.


I got this lovely Soviet officer’s dress uniform belt


A Soviet Navy belt buckle

Lastly I got this wonderful 50 years of the armed forces Jubilee medal, issued in 1968

I’m really pleased with what I found today and I would highly recommend this antiques market to anyone in the area, great stuff at great prices!

Thanks for reading! 

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The Origins of Antisemitism

To understand where this hatred originated, it is necessary to consider the beginnings of Christianity. While Jesus and his followers were indeed Jews, they were determined to separate themselves from the traditional Jewish faith, associated with the Temple. This was in part due to the rebellious nature of many Jews, who caused trouble to the Roman rulers, but also because of their non-belief in Jesus Christ as the Messiah; the fulfillment of the Old Testament. In Christianity, the story of Judas also contributed to Antisemitism, as it was believed he betrayed Jesus for money, creating the start of the negative association of Jews with money and greed. In the gospel of John, Jews were actually depicted as the children of the devil.

 Jews have also been accused of killing Jesus; this is because at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion there was another criminal who was up for execution. This man was Jesus Barabbas, a nationalist revolutionary who was also convicted, and as was custom at the time, the crowd (who were Jewish people) were given the choice to free one of the prisoners. They freed Barabbas, and thus the divisions between Christians and Jews became certain; the Jews were seen as muderers. These Biblical origins show us how Christianity was responsible for creating Antisemitism. 

When Emperor Constantine accepted Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire, the majority of Europe became Christian. The Jews were hated because they did not believe Jesus was the Messiah, but the Romans did not exterminate them as they did with other heretics. The Romans allowed the Jews to live in order for them to witness the second coming of Christ, which would force them to admit their wrongs and accept Jesus as the Messiah after all. But while waiting for the second coming, the Jews suffered greatly. The economy was built on agriculture, but Jews were not allowed to own land, they could not work in industries as craftsmen had to come from Christian guilds. The only work Jews were allowed was with money lending and trade, further associating the faith with greed. 

This association has survived long since the days of the Romans; in the 1870’s economic depression was blamed on Jewish bankers, and this too was the case in the Great Depression starting in 1929. Biblical accounts and the persecution of the Jews by the Romans created Antisemitism, rather than fault of their own, which would then be used by Hitler to carry out the Holocaust in Europe. But Antisemitism did not originate with Hitler and the Nazis, though it is strongly associated with them, it has much deeper roots in the Christian faith, and the attitudes of Europeans as a whole. 

I hope you found this post interesting, thank you for reading! 

Operation Wandering Soul

The people of Vietnam are deeply spiritual, with the vast majority being Buddhists. During the Vietnam war the Americans attempted to use the beliefs of the Vietnamese to their advantage. The American forces had been using psy-ops, Psychological Operations, since World War I, but during the Cold War they became a far more frequently used weapon of the USA. One example is Operation Wandering Soul, perhaps the creepiest US operation from the war.

The Vietnamese believe that their dead must be buried in their homeland; if they are not their soul will wander the land, suffering all the while. The United States learnt of their beliefs, and of Vu Lan Festival, a special day to the Vietnamese when they believe wandering souls can return to their homes. This is a highly celebrated day for the Buddhist community. 

The Americans attempted to use these beliefs against the North Vietnamese, and the Viet Cong in particular. The majority of the militia would be far away from their homes during the conflict, and so the Americans stated they were sure to become wandering souls, forming the basis for this creepy plan. US engineers who worked on psy-ops spent weeks recording eerie sounds and messages in Vietnamese, designed to be the sounds of the wandering souls of the VC who had not been buried properly (or at all). They recorded these sounds on tapes, the notorious ‘Ghost Tape No. 10’ can be found online today.  The messages called on their ‘descendents’ in the Viet Cong to defect from the force; the Americans designed the messages to incite fear in the enemy and to make them flee their position. They used speakers on helicopters to play the messages throughout the nights, sometimes in conjunction with other sounds; recordings of tigers roaring were often used to create more fear and panic in the enemy forces. They also dropped many leaflets depicting dead Viet Cong soldiers, thousands of kilometres away from their homes and without proper burial, to push the message further.

The success of Operation Wandering Soul is not known, in most cases it is said that when the tapes were played, the Viet Cong opened fire towards the source of it. Most did realise what they were hearing was simply being played from helicopters above them, but many could not help but fear they would end up a wandering soul too, especially the younger members of the militia. 

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed this post! 

Who were the NLF?

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The NLF, formally known as The National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam (commonly shortened to the National Liberation Front), was formed on December 20th 1960. It was an organisation that aimed to overthrow the regime of Diem in South Vietnam, and ultimately to reunify the North and South. They were dubbed the Việt cộng  by those in the South, a contraction of ‘Việt Nam Cộng-sản’ (Vietnamese Communist), or alternatively ‘Việt gian cộng sản’ (Communist traitor to Vietnam). To the Americans, they became known as ‘Victor Charlie’ or commonly just ‘Charlie’, and this commonly referred to any communist force in Vietnam, not just members of the NLF (primarily because American troops struggled to work out who was a member of which organisation, as the NLF did not wear uniforms or recognisable insignia).

But who were the NLF? The organisation had its military arm, the People’s Liberation Armed Forces, which included the notorious guerrilla units that most people think of when the Vietnam war is mentioned. But there were also full-time soldiers, members of regional forces who were better equipped than the guerrilla militia. The guerrilla forces relied mainly on weapons captured from the Americans, or weapons left behind from the previous conflict with the French (which were mostly American-made weapons). The NLF also had agents in the ARVN, the South Vietnamese army, working to destroy them from within. There was far more to the NLF than purely guerrilla warfare.

But the guerrilla forces were a vital part of the NLF. They were successful in recruiting many thousands of South Vietnamese people to either join the organisation, or at least support them. The vast majority of South Vietnamese did not support the regime of Diem; he was oppressive towards them, took much of their land away and forced them to pay, and had no respect for their religion and culture (Diem was a Catholic, and was arguably far more like the Americans than he was his own people). This alienated the Vietnamese, and they saw the NLF as a way of getting rid of Diem. Many people who joined the NLF were not communists at all; a large percentage of the membership joined to get revenge for family and friends who had been killed by the French in previous conflict (whom the Americans had aided). They supported communism simply in order to remove Diem from power, for love of their country and anger at the past. In an interview with a former NLF member, he explained that many people had heard of Maoism and Leninism and knew they were named after Mao and Lenin, and so they assumed Socialism and Communism were simply movements named after people called Social and Commun. However many were communists, or supported communist policies without knowing they were communist. The NLF gained much support by promising to take back the land from the rich and redistribute it among the peasants.

The membership of the NLF came from almost all areas of society. Buddhist monks could be found in the NLF, more significantly so during and following the Buddhist crisis of 1963. Many former members of religious sects such as the Cao Dai were also members, as they had been persecuted by the regime. Peasants and farmers made up a large portion of the membership, as they had suffered greatly due to loss of land, or being forced into ‘Strategic hamlets’ by the US (a campaign that failed greatly and gave the NLF a surge in support). Women and children were also members, many became part of the militia, and those who couldn’t worked behind the scenes, cooking food for the forces, working in the hospitals or along the Ho Chi Minh trail to transport supplies, among many other jobs. Women were particularly useful to the NLF, as American troops were not used to women being part of the military, they were even less likely to be suspected than other undercover parts of the NLF militia; many women were enlisted in intelligence services. The diverse membership of the NLF gave them many advantages; a wealth of different skills to utilise.

The NLF was a highly effective organisation that was impossible to beat, due to their secretive nature and military tactics, the trouble US troops had in identifying them and the huge support network they had in the South, as more and more people revolted against Diem’s regime and American intervention.

I hope you enjoyed this post, thanks for reading!

Introductions..

As a new blogger I feel I should really introduce myself; I’m Caitlin, an aspiring historian with a keen interest in modern history, collecting militaria and other antiques, and historical-style fashion. I plan to write about my collections, new finds, interesting parts of history and experiences I have relating to the field. I hope you will enjoy my blog! 

To start, I thought I could do a show-and-tell of my current (small but treasured) militaria collection. 

These are my Vietnam war protest pins, from student unions in the late 60’s to early 70’s.

This is (what I was told is) a NLF battle flag, dated to 1969, however I have some suspicions it could have been made as a souvenir but I will never know its true origin.Epaulettes from the Red Army.My geiger counter, the Radiac Meter No.2 (and No.1), British made from 1957. This model would have been issued to Civil Defense corps.