I found this great website and blog called Accidental Mysteries. I learned of these Zippo lighters on that blog. Bradford Edwards spent many years searching for these lighters in Vietnam. This collection of hand engraved Zippo lighters that he sourced , have now gone to auction, and have been documented in the book Vietnam Zippos: American Soldiers’ Engravings and Stories 1965-1973.
Zippo lighters were first sold in 1933. You see them being used in Mad Men thanks to Dan Draper and his suave style. And yes, they were so suave and cool. I still remember the flip and sound of these lighters as the flame appeared. In stainless steel, during the Vietnam War many soldiers had them engraved by the village street vendors. It was one way that soldiers could express themselves and the toll that war was taking on their lives. These Zippo lighters reflect history and speak visually to a profound story. How many of these men lived, how many died, how many disappeared leaving these thoughts behind. I imagine a soldier late at night lighting a cigarette and seeing in the flickering light a reminder of the lives they were living in Vietnam, and the lives they had left at home. The engravings speak to fear, love, anger, patriotism and all sorts of human emotions. These voices are still heard in the patina and words of these objects. It touches me to see this…reminders of the person who held these in their hands.
I wonder what I would have written.