Blood Chit
by Sara Bates

 

It started as just a piece of white silk. It was transformed into one of the pilots’ best friends if captured over enemy territory. This printed 10x13 piece of silk became known as a BLOOD CHIT. Each was assigned a serial number to be able to keep track of them — possibly knowing the serviceman assigned that number.

  Each war was different but the contents of this piece of silk identified the wearer as an American armed-service member that when found probably required assistance. The American flag is the first clue but then the languages written below that are such that whomever found this American can find somewhere on this piece of silk with their own language so they can understand the intended message.
The blood chit on display at the Museum was used during the Korean Conflict and was still available for pilots at the beginning of the Vietnam War. It wasn’t until after it was determined that the Vietnam fight was going to last longer than a skirmish that a proper Vietnam Blood Chit was written. The languages written on this piece of silk are the ones that a civilian or other military personnel might speak if they encountered a downed pilot.
The United States began using blood chits in WWII. It became part of the flight crew’s survival kit. This kit also included gifts like gold coins and maps or sewing needles, something the downed serviceman could trade for safe return to an American post. Some of these blood chits were sewn on the back of a flight jacket and others on the inside of the jacket on the lining. The Vietnam Blood Chit included the languages; Vietnamese, Thai, Burmese, old and new Chinese, Laotian, Cambodian, Tagalog, Visayan, Malayan, French, Indonesian and Dutch as well as English. The message was the same in any language:
"I am a citizen of the United States of America. I do not speak your language. Misfortune forces me to seek your assistance in obtaining food, shelter, and protection. Please take me to someone who will provide for my safety and see that I am returned to my people. My government will reward you."
The Blood Chit on display belongs to David Eastman. He acquired this while attending a military reunion when a box of left-overs from the Korean War including unused blood chits were offered to anyone there who wanted one. His only regret is that he only got one! PO2 David Eastman, from Lapeer when he entered the Navy in October 1961, served aboard the carrier, USS Coral Sea, in the Tonkin Gulf. He served until July 1967.

 

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