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Vietnam Zippos: American Soldiers' Engravings and Stories (1965-1973) 0th Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0226078281
ISBN-10: 0226078280
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Significant Seven, September 2007: When pictures of thatched huts set ablaze by U.S. troops were beamed to stateside TVs, the Zippo lighter became a symbol of the escalating Vietnam War and America's increasing uneasiness with her mission there. But the lighters were often much more than that to the soldiers; they were talismans and tokens of personal expression, engraved with statements ranging from the profane to the obscene to the just plain hopeful:
  • When God open[ed] the gates of hell, the 101st walked out
  • Death is my business and business has been good
  • If you think sex is exciting, try incoming
  • Never again
  • I love you mom
Lavishly illustrated and startlingly frank, Vietnam Zippos: American Soldiers' Engravings and Stories (1965-1973) is an insightful and gut-wrenching look into the thoughts of the young men who carried them. --Jon Foro


"For American soldiers in Vietnam, the Zippo lighter was an essential talisman; its chrome casing was also a convenient canvas on which fighters expressed their anger and frustration. In Vietnam Zippos these unique artifacts tell the story of a war gone sour. Lyndon Johnson’s observation that ‘ultimate victory will depend upon the hearts and minds of the people’ inspired the gleeful savagery of ‘Give me your hearts and minds or I will wreck your fucking huts’; another solider rephrases Psalm 23 with ‘Yea though I walk through the valley of the jungle of death, I will fear no evil, for I am the evilest son of a bitch in the jungle.’ Later as enthusiasm for the war ebbed, lighters feature such deep thoughts as ‘When the power of love is as strong as the love of power, then there will be peace.’ Truer words were never engraved."

“Zippo is as distinctly American as apple pie, the Stars & Stripes and the girl next door. . . . Whether carried as a talisman or as simply a convenient, easily-concealable object upon which to privately ‘rage against the machine,’ these Vietnam Zippos represent a previously untapped source for studying the ‘new military history’ of those who fought our most divisive war. . . . This book is highly recommended.”—Armchair General

(Armchair General)

"Lavishly illustrated. . . . A subgenre of battlefield art that has probably never been collected as thoroughly or presented as elegantly as in 'Vietnam Zippos'. . . . [The lighters] tell hundreds of stories . . . and each one makes the book worth reading."
(Army Times)

"During the Vietnam War, the Zippo lighter was an indispensable part of a GI's uniform. . . . At a time when American men and women are again fighting an unpopular war in a faraway land, it is fitting to remember the philosophers of that war who passionately reflected on their circumstances in this humble yet personal medium."
(San Francisco Chronicle)

"Sobering . . . Using Zippos from the collection of artist Bradford Edwards, Buchanan shows the personal histories of some of the millions who served [in Vietnam]. This unique approach is by turns funny, pornographic, informative and heartbreaking."
(Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

"[Vietnam Zippos] documents what the author, Sherry Buchanan, calls ‘amulets and talismans bringing the keeper invulnerability, good luck and protection against evil.’ Sadly, these personalized mementos also served as last testaments for many who were killed in action. . . . . This book, well designed and photographed by Misha Anikst, offers a rare personal dimension. The mottoes on these lighters, like ‘When I die I will go to heaven because I spent my time in hell,’ provide candid insight into what these soldiers thought of the war."
(Steven Heller New York Times Book Review)

"The engravings on lighters featured in this copiously illustated volume are at once searing, caustic, sentimental, humorous, but always moving, running the full emotional spectrum with both sardonic reflections and poignant maxims. Part pop art and part military artifact, they collectively capture the mood of the sixties and the darkest days of Vietnam."
(Pennsylvania Heritage)

"A fascinating and specialized military cultural history that is a unique and recommended contribution to the growing library of Vietnam War histories."
(Midwest Book Review)

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (October 23, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226078280
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226078281
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 1.1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,220,374 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This amazing book is the culmination of just one of the artistic threads that Bradford Edwards has traced over the last 15 years in his search for meaning in the Vietnam War and its aftermath.

As I turn these little metal boxes over in my hands, flip them open and snap them shot, they come alive. Opening this book is like opening my own cigar box full of treasured mementos from that time and place.

As I examine the images and read the messages carved into the lighters, whether they are swaggering or philosophical, whether they express love, a GI's resignation or loneliness, whether they are funny or profound or profane, my imagination takes over. These beautifully-photographed artifacts trigger time travel and so many memories. I connect immediately with a million guys just like me.

I met Brad Edwards in Saigon in the early '90s. He was already up to his neck in his "zippo obsession." We would run into each other late at night in the backpacker cafes. He would invariably pull out a small cloth sack and dump three or four lighters on the table and describe where he'd bought them and why each one was special. I was always immediately (and still am) transported back to the faces of my comrades, conversations, and sensations and emotions too many to describe. Over the years I've come to know a little more and understand a little more.

The book is a very high quality item - a beautiful realization of 15 years of Bradford's considerable effort. I must say I find it strange that someone else is credited as `author' of this book.

Thanks, Brad, for a lot of great work over the years. And for this very special book.
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Format: Hardcover
Like Proust's lemon pastry, the sense-experience of seeing these Viet Nam War Zippo lighters in this wonderful book causes a tidal wave of memories for me. These Zippos, beautiful artifacts of an ugly time, are durable tokens of a war fought within while fighting the war outside. Those who found themselves in the heart of darkness expressed their feelings on these small bulletin boards of self-expression; lust, braggadocio, irreverent humor, fatalism, bemusement, anger, longing, hope, dread, and contempt, oh yessss contempt. Contempt for authority, incompetent leaders, unrealistic goals and even death itself. Talismans of selfhood, of continuity in a maelstrom of chance, they became more to us than even we knew....

The collection presented in these pages is an important one. I am deeply grateful to Mr. Edwards for having found, selected and perserved this irreplaceable trove , and this book well-reflects the value of the collection; the Zippo images are thoughtfully contextualized by the intelligent, insightful text and the distinctive style of the graphic layout and image/text interaction further adds. This book works on so many levels my vote is an unqualified five stars!
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Format: Hardcover
An amazing and gorgeous book about Bradford Edwards' story and collection of Zippos from the Vietnam War. It is very informative and well organized - lots of useful research. The photographic portraits are sharp, clear and make the Zippo appear like a modern sculpture.

The publisher, Sherry Buchanan, while having no personal connection with the Vietnam Zippo, does a credible job of putting the text and images together (why she took the "author" credit is confusing ). It would have been nice to see more of Edwards' artwork and hear more about his personal experiences collecting these lighters with their powerful and reflective carvings. everytning you would ever want to know about the Vietnam Zippo and more!

Highly recommended - a nearly flawless book (save the silly asteriks for the word - "f***" - was Buchanan hoping to sell this book to children?)...also, it has the highest quality printing possible for such an inexpensive book makes it a huge bargain- it was even printed in Italy!
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Format: Hardcover
Vietnam Zippos is an extraordinary look into the many textured experiences of those in the throes of war with small comforts at hand. the intimacy of the etched phrases and images on these pocket pals provide keen insight into the hearts and minds of their varied owners. bradford edwards' relentless pursuit of these tiny personal fragments left behind, sheds new light on the subject of war and those who actually fight them- wrestling doubt and confusion along with humor and wit. edwards' effort is commendable and is no doubt the sole foundation and reason this book came to be.

bradford's extension of the zippos' theme into his artwork deepens and broadens the conceptual framework of these tiny, functional canvases. great photos, content and layout bring together works of true intimacy and reveal the coincident twist that all zippo lighters have stamped on the bottom that they are manufactured in Bradford, Pennsylvania.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book discusses Zippo lighters, a personal item carried by most GIs (even ones who didn't smoke) in Vietnam. There are a few anecdotes, some stories and lots of illustrations of authentic Zippos personalized for soldiers over there. Some have words of wisdom, others have funny sayings and many are just profane. A neat book for someone really interested in the Vietnam War from a GI point of view.
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