For all of you smokers back in the day, which brand did you prefer and which brand did you smoke while living in the rice patties, mountains and jungles of Vietnam? It appeared that many (about 60%) of the soldiers in my platoon smoked. Every C-Ration meal contained a single four-pack of cigarettes; ten different brands were primarily offered, but like the meals, some were more popular than others. If somebody liked Lucky Strikes, Parliament, Chesterfields or Pall Mall’s, they would never run out. The popular brands like Winston, Marlboro, Kools and Salem were always in short supply and benefited the non-smokers who used them to barter.
Although I wasn’t a cigarette smoker, I did for six months of my duty, pack “Captain Black” tobacco into Lt. Col. Bowen’s pipe and lite it up for him. The Col. would always light up before he turned in for the night. He always had me clean his pipe, pack it and light it for him and if at night in the bush, I did so at least 50 feet from him in case someone saw the light and started shooting at it. I can remember lighting it a few times in the bottom of a foxhole that I had dug earlier that day for him, the sergeant-major and myself. During the rainy monsoon times, I was glad I had my zippo lighter. (That’ll be another subject [Zippos] to talk and comment about.)
Make your comments here about your experiences with your smoking habits or while smoking in the bush. Can you remember which cigarette brands were available back then? Did any of you get to smoke any cigars from the “black market” or any of those so-called mama gook smokes?
Nonsmokers can leave a comment here too about how you used your allotted smokes to trade with. I always traded my smokes for cans of fruit from out of the MRI boxes. Tobacco chews were also a bit popular in those days.
Typical commercial brands issued in the cigarette rations in Vietnam were: Camel, Chesterfield, Kent, Kool, Lucky Strike, Marlboro, Pall Mall, Salem, or Winston. Due to health concerns, cigarettes were eliminated from the MCI accessory packs in 1975.