Art and Architecture, Books for the News, History

Vietnam Zippos on the CBS Evening News

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Sherry Buchanan’s Vietnam Zippos: American Soldiers’ Engravings and Stories received some prime time publicity Saturday on CBS’s Evening News. Buchanan’s book showcases a collection of Vietnam era Zippo lighters to tell the fascinating story of how the humble Zippo became a talisman and companion for American GIs during their tours of duty. CBS correspondent John Blackstone asks Vietnam vet Hap Desimone “if it seems strange to see the lighters depicted as art:”

“No,” he says. “It doesn’t seem strange at all.”
In Vietnam, every soldier, it seemed, had a Zippo.
“I carried one,” Desimone says. “I had it engraved.”
With the engravings Zippos became the one place soldiers could express themselves.
“A lot of these sentiments I heard before, ‘We’re the unwilling led by the unqualified doing the unnecessary for the ungrateful’,” he says. “It rings a bell.…”

The piece continues quoting artist Bradford Edwards whose collection is featured in Vietnam Zippos:

“You had people who were discontent people who wanted to express heartfelt emotions,” he says. “And here was a small canvas.”
“They look like a collection of tombstones,” Edwards says. “And they may be the last thing some of these guys had to say.”
While some of the soldiers may never have made it home, now their Zippos are here illuminating the past.

Video of Blackstone’s piece is online at the CBS website.