ARCHIVE FILE | The Bracelets

5 09 2008

It was a dialog from Charlie MoPic where the Montagnard bracelets were introduced (from the German translation):

“Why do you wear those bracelets?” “Because we are brothers.” “Is it all?” “Is it not enough?”

You can see them in Vietnam War movies, in Platoon everyone (except Lt. Wolfe) wears them. But there is surprisingly few information about them online.  It seem that in the early phase of the war they were given to the Special Forces advisors who worked with the Vietnamese Montagnards and were often integrated into tribes.

QUOTE: Many, if not most [Special Forces trainers], wore the brass or bronze “Yard” [=Montagnard] bracelet, even in uniform. This was a gift from a Montagnard tribe or individual signifying a special bond of brotherhood and friendship, and was very highly regarded by all recipients. (source)

QUOTE: Advisors to indigenous partisans were often assimilated into the particular subculture in their area of operations. The symbol of this adoption was the unique circlet (kong), bearing the identifying tribe’s stylized markings, handcrafted for intrasocial rites. These mountain peoples would rework available metals, so the bracelets not only varied between tribes, but within a tribe from year to year … sometimes brass or copper, sometimes tin or aluminum. This loop-bracelet was presented in a solemn animistic ceremony of public affirmation. Several advisors thought enough of their filial bonding to adopt their own stateside wives into the tribe by uttering mutual vows and exchanging bracelets for wedding bands. As time passed, and events changed circumstances, the Montagnard refugees needed a livelihood, so beautiful bronze and sterling silver reproductions were offered commercially, with a pamphlet explaining the significance of the object, the meaning of the symbolic signs, and the plight of these dislocated peoples. These handsome facsimiles weren’t made in the old way, and their quality is much improved by the marketing, but they lack the power (yang) that gave them meaning, so these artifacts have become just another trinket. (source)

  Some samples:
Sampan Import Company

John Wayne’s Montagnard Bracelet 

Montagnards today


There is another kind of bracelets worn by black soldiers. Only Big Harold seems to have none. Here are some examples:

And that’s what I found out about them:

Soul Soldiers: Exhibit Reveals Story of Blacks in Vietnam

QUOTE: Some soldiers began demanding Black-only hootches, or barracks, which some called “hekula,” the Swahili word for temple. In another show of solidarity, they created these elaborate boot-lace bracelets, which some called slave shackles. They sang songs by the Temptations as they charged through the jungle. (read the whole article)

Fighting on Two Fronts: African Americans and the Vietnam War

QUOTE: Those who wore slave bracelets, a small bracelet woven out of bootlaces and worn by African Americans to show solidarity were considered militant (…)  (read the whole article)  

HERE is a gallery with some paracord bracelets and a tutorial how to make them, HERE a tutorial how to attach a button. But I think, according to the shape of King’s bracelet… (Photo from the Pioneer Laserdisc booklet)

    …the braid itself is rather like THIS.


After Elias’ death Chris — together with a CIB — apparently gets his own Montagnard bracelet (or did he “inherited” this one from Elias’?) and another one, similar to the bootlace bracelet. Does it mean he was adopted by the black soldiers? It’s hard to say, anyway the braid looks a little bit different.



2 responses

1 03 2018
Irvin Harley

What’s up, Steve at Bridges.
Wow “ARCHIVE FILE | The Bracelets |” is truly an original topic
I just wanted to share that I liked your blog post.

3 03 2018

Thanks! I don’t get much response 😀
But: what do you mean with “Steve at Bridges?”

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