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
"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."
"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."
"[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."
"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