Custom Challenge Coins History from the Vietnam War
The military challenge coin tradition began long before the Vietnam War but in Vietnam these custom military coins had a whole new meaning. Just as in World War 1 and Korea, these coins were used in the military challenge drinking games but Vietnam’s particular traditions surrounding their custom military coins had very specific purpose.
Bullets as a Badge of Courage
The tradition of carrying the custom challenge coins in Vietnam actually started out not with military coins, but instead bullets. Bullet groups consisting of highly trained soldiers serving on the frontline were formed. Not just anyone one could be part of these groups, only the worthy could join. Members of a bullet group would carry a round from their combat weapon in their front hip pocket. The purpose of this special bullet was that when faced with certain capture, the soldier would use it on himself in order to prevent falling into enemy hands. Every soldier knew that if captured, they would face certain torture and were unwilling to risk the lives of their comrades, by divulging to the enemy any information that could result in troop deaths. It was seen as a sign of loyalty, sacrifice and dedication to be willing to take your own life in order to ensure the safety of your fellow brothers in arms.
The use of these bullets was as much of a safe guard as the coins were in WW1. While these bullets prevented capture, the custom military coins were used to prove that you were a part of the US military during the first World War. Spies were infiltrating Allied Forces on all fronts and the coins were custom made to prove that the soldiers were who they claimed to be and not enemy spies. Both the bullets and the military challenge coins served as safety measures in their respective wars.
The bullets in the Vietnam War became a badge of courage and soldiers couldn’t help but show them off like their modern day custom military coin cousins. In their limited leisure time these elite soldiers would spend quite a deal of it at the “hooch” bar where they would all play the game of who carried the bigger bullet over a few drinks. Eventually this evolved into a drinking game where one soldier would challenge another by producing his own bullet and then slamming it onto the bar counter top. If the recipient of the challenge was not able to also produce his own bullet, he would then be forced to buy the challenger a drink. However, if the challenge recipient did, in fact, carry their bullet the challenger would be buying him a drink because the challenge had been met.
Custom Challenge Coins
The longer the game continued the larger the caliber of the ammunition carried became. The one with the biggest bullet had immediate bragging rights, especially if they earned themselves a drink by challenging another or meeting a challenge themselves. Soon it wasn’t just bullets but grenades and mortars that were used in the game and there came the problem. It is dangerous enough to slam live ammunition onto a bar counter top but even more dangerous when using grenades and mortars. In order to prevent possible disaster, munitions were switched to custom challenge coins. These custom coins were often personalized with their unit name, symbol and possibly even their own personal name. The rules of the drinking game were the same, just slightly less dangerous now that it was played with military challenge coins and not live rounds.
As the Vietnam War progressed, many different types of custom challenge coins were produced that represented each particular bullet group. More and more groups were started along with numerous different custom military coins. The custom military coins were unique to each unit and designed to represent their specific function. The tradition of the military challenge coins may have started before the Vietnam War but it took on a whole new meaning during it. The tradition is alive and well but much more widely practiced. Civilians, such as policemen or firefighters now seek out a challenge coin maker in order to have their very own custom challenge coins designed. The challenge coin is no longer just a military practice but it remains a symbol of courage, dedication and honor.
I want to inform you that I received the coins 100ea today. In behalf of our enlisted association I want to extend our appreciation for a wonderful job by your company.
- CPO, US Navy
Hi Heather, Thank you for the coins, We really like them, ya’ll did a great job, We are out of here in 28 more days.
- 1stSGT, US Army
The coins came in today. Everything looks great.
- CPT, US Army
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- MSgt, US Air Force
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- SSgt, US Air Force
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- SSgt, US Marine Corps
Got the coins this evening and my son-in-law has sent me photos. Even in his out of focus photos I am impressed. You all did a fantastic job re-creating our symbol. Thanks so much for working with me and thanks for your service!
- SFC Retired, US Army
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THANKS again for your work with these, I really appreciate it.
- MAJ, US Army
I received the coins on Monday and they look great. Everyone that has seen them also agree that they came out better than what they thought from the drawing I showed them. Thanks for the great work again.
- Fire Investigator
Thank you. I have received the order yesterday and they look great. I
appreciate your work.
- MAJ, US Army
I received the coins today. They look great.
- Civilian Account
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- Civilian Account
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- Civilian Account
Thank you Heather very much for the coins. I was home on leave and brought those with me forward so I can hand them our during a formal sit down with the unit once we are home soon in the near future going through demob station. They are incredible.
- CPT, US Marine Corps
Ma’am, today 29 September I received the coins that you shipped to us. I just want to tell you that they look AWESEOME! Everyone loves them…they are a little smaller than we wanted which was my fault since I changed it but they still look great. I also want to take this opportunity to thank you guys for all the patience and quick progression that you all performed. I am going home this Sunday so I will def pass on your company to the new personnel coming in. Thanks again for all your help. I’m sure we will do business in the future. Have a great day and ill talk with you soon.
- SrA, US Air Force
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- SGT, US Army
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- MAJ, US Army
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- CPT, US Army
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