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Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam)

Last modified: 2015-02-21 by ian macdonald
Keywords: vietnam | south vietnam |
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[South Vietnam] image by Vincent Morley and Santiago Dotor

See also:

Republic of Vietnam

The Republic of Vietnam, otherwise known as South Vietnam. Three horizontal lines form the Chinese ideogram for the word 'south' so this is presumably a punning reference to the country's name: Vietnam means 'south land'. Come to think of it, this makes South Vietnam a candidate for our discussion earlier on tautological names - it means 'South south land'.
Stuart Notholt - 29 November 1995

The South Vietnamese flag is a little longer than standard flag and the strips are not that wide.

The three horizontal lines do not represent the Chinese ideogram. It was created by the last Emperor of Viet Nam (Bao Dai). The red stripes represent the blood line of three regions (Tonkin, Annam, & Cocinchnina). The deep yellow field represent the skin tone off the people.
Dai Vuong - 30 November 1997

The continuous horizontal lines is named "Càn", the North West direction.

The South direction is denoted by "Ly", with a discontinued middle line:

[Ly flag] image by Santiago Dotor

[Ly flag] image by Santiago Dotor

[Ca'n flag] image by Santiago Dotor

It was true that the first Vietnamese flag (Nguyễn Dynasty) is a Ly flag. But it was promptly changed to a Càn flag because Ly has discontinuity, and the symbolism has changed.

Originally, The yellow background is the color of the Nguyễn House, also is the color of the element Earth. The Red "Ly" symbol signifies the South, with red signifies Fire.

The flag was changed in 1944 to the current flag, which has some more modern ideology. The yellow still is the earth, but is also the color of the skin. The red stripes has the color of blood, represents 3 geographical regions of Vietnam.

This flag is older than the Republic of Vietnam (1954-1975). It was flown when Japan returns symbolic independence of Southern Vietnam and Northern Vietnam (was then a colony and a protectorate of France) to Vietnamese in 1944.

It continued to be used by various governments since then. It is only partially correct to say that this is the flag of Republic of Vietnam. Many still claim that it is the only flag which is worthy to represents Vietnamese.

It is a misnomer by foreigners to call Republic of Vietnam "South Vietnam" and the Popular Republic of Vietnam "North Vietnam". Technically, both regimes claimed the whole Vietnam as territory (the same way as in the case of Republic of China in Taiwan and Popular Republic of China in Mainland China). But it is much easier to distinguish the two by the actual control of the territories.
Linh T. Tran - 05 December 1997


In 1948, when the former Emperor Bao Dai became the Chief of State of Vietnam, he ordered to change the broken red band into a continuous red band to form the Yellow Flag with three yellow red bands. Then, on June 2nd, 1948, the Chief of the Temporary National Government of Vietnam, Brigadier General Nguyen van Xuan, signed the Ordinance to specify the characteristics of the Free Vietnam National Flag as follows:

The national emblem is a flag of yellow background, the height of which is equal to two-thirds of its width. In the middle of the flag and along its entire width, there are three horizontal red bands. Each band has a height equal to one-fifteenth of the width. These three red bands are separated from one another by a space of the band's height.

Jan Mertens, 29 December 2003

Until about 2000 there was no mention anywhere of a three-striped flag prior to 1948 in any account of the history of the flag. Some of these accounts were written by respected scholars and high ranking officials of the Republic of Viet Nam, who should know the truth. On the contrary, all accounts prior to 2000 accept that the date the flag was created in 1948. One authoritative account (in Vietnamese) can be found at  Its author, Prof Nguyen Ngoc Huy, was a high ranking official in South Vietnam. My investigation of images from the Tanh Thai era has shown no three-striped yellow flag, instead some images (paintings) can be found with a "Dai Nam" flag (yellow background with the Chinese characters for "Great South", the old name of Viet Nam). There is now so much misinformation about the Republic of Viet Nam flag on the web that frankly, none of it can be believed.
anon. 12 December 2014

Arms of the Republic of Vietnam

According to the article: by Otto Neubecker (1969) [neu69] "Neue und veränderte Staatswappen seit 1945 IIa. Die Wappen der Staaten Asiens" (Fortsetzung, Schluß und Nachtrag). Kleeblatt-Jahrbuch [hzk] 1968/69, p. 37-75. South-Vietnam used several different, unofficial, designs as "coat-of-arms":

Arms of Republic of Vietnam (1954-55) & (1963-75)
[1954-55 South Vietnamese Arms] contributed by Jaume Ollé

Up to 1955 (under ex-emperor Bao Dai as head-of-state) a dragon in a shield showing the stripes of the South Vietnamese flag vertically. I have no image.

Arms of Republic of Vietnam (1955-57)
[Republic of Vietnam Seal]

1955-57 (as a seal of the presidency) a first variant of the "bamboo coat of arms" was used.

Arms of Republic of Vietnam (1957-63)
[1957-1963 Arms of Republic of Vietnam] by Mario Fabretto

1957-1963 the triangular variant with brush, sword and scroll was used. Official description (information of Vietnamese embassy at Paris to French heraldist Robert Louis, 1957, cited by the above-mentioned article): "The former coat-of-arms was recently replaced by a national symbol, that characterizes the aims of the new republic. It is formed by a bamboo thicket of the species "truc" (Bambusa arundi speciosum), surrounded by a brush, the symbol of the spiritual values, and a sword, the symbol of courage. Bamboo is a plant with upright stalks and twigs and evergreen leaves (also in winter). According to the traditional interpretation in Viet-Nam it symbolizes the firmness, the noble-mindedness and the integrity of the "honest man" (quân tu). The bamboo, the brush and the sword have a double meaning. On the one hand they symbolize the absolute intellectual sincerity in search for the beautiful, the good and the true, on the other hand the absolute moral sincerity in the conception of the means used for reaching this aim."

Arms of Republic of Vietnam (1957-63)

About 1963 (president Diem's death) a different arms was introduced, simply showing the three red stripes (vertically) on yellow, thus making this a "arms-of-banner". Variants of this coat-of-arms showed the shield on the breast of an eagle holding two objects (sword and brush?) in its claws. Another variant is the shield with a thin red-white-red border and green-grey dragons as supporters (surrounded by grey clouds).
Marcus E.V. Schmöger, 9 March 2003

Republic of Vietnam Presidential flag

[Presidential flag, South Vietnam] image by Mario Fabretto

This is the president's standard of South Vietnam between 1955 and 1963 (Nĝo Dinh Diem). The inscription should mean "duty and sacrifice".

date: c. 1955 - c. 1963
Proportion: unknown
use: president's standard
Source: archive CISV
Accuracy: good

Mario Fabretto, 13 October 1997

The 1975 Transitional Flag

[1975 Flag] image by Mark Sensen

On 8 June 1969 a flag was adopted for the (communist) Republic of South Vietnam: red over (light?) blue, a ("normal") five-pointed star over all. This became the only flag of South Vietnam from 30 April 1975 (when the anti-communist regime collapsed) until 2 July 1975 (when North and South Vietnam were united as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam).
Source: Jos Poels, Prisma vlaggenboek, 1990
Mark Sensen, 18 September 1997

The Transitional Flag of South Vietnam was recently in a news photo of an event marking the 30th anniversary of the communist victory. I guess this means it is still in limited commemorative use?
Eugene Ipavec, 31 March 2005

See also:

The Four Power Joint Military Commission

[Four Power Joint Military Commission flag] image by Ivan Sache, 7 January 2013

For the critical transition from war to peace, the Accords empowered three commissions to oversee the implementation phase and resolve any differences. The Four-Power Joint Military Commission (JMC) represented each belligerent: the United States, South Vietnam, North Vietnam, and the Viet Cong. At the conclusion of the 60-day cease-fire, this commission would in theory shed its protective outer garment (U.S. and North Vietnam) and become the Two-Power Joint Military Commission, an insular body representing the interests of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) and the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam (PRG, the Viet Cong). The third commission, and the most important one, involved international participation in die transition to peace. Entrusted to regulate and oversee the implementation of the Accords' articles, the International Commission of Control and Supervision (ICCS) consisted of four members: Canada, Hungary, Poland, and  Indonesia. The ICCS bore the implied responsibility of enforcement, but lacked the power to do more than report the violations to the Joint Military Commission. The ICCS was to cease functioning when the Accords' provisions had been fulfilled, signaled by a supervised national election and the installation of the new government's elected officials. The ICCS' goal and the final determinant of its existence would be the attainment of this 'peace,' but in the interim the commission's immediate and overwhelming problem would be settlement of territorial disputes and ceasefire violations. Final resolution of these and any other matters pertaining to the Accords ultimately required a unanimous vote of the JMC- This rarely happened.

G.R. Dunham & D.A. Quinlan. 1990. "U.S. Marines in Vietnam - The Bitter End - 1973-1975"

The flag is shown in Smith's "Flags Through the Ages and Across the World" (1975) as red with a black "4" in the middle. A  footnote in p. 300 (International flags) says: "The flags opposite have been presented in a single shape and size. The correct proportions however are provided below each flag." The flag of the the Four Power Joint Military Commission is labelled with 1:1 proportions, therefore square.
Ivan Sache, 7 January 2013