North Vietnamese Medals

The textual information and certain photos are used with permission from Edward J. Emering. His book Orders, Decorations and Badges of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam was used as a reference. If you are interested in further reading, you can find the book on Amazon.

The Gold Star Order

This simple medal, established on June 6, 1947, is the highest honor conferred by the SRV on both individuals and units. It is equivalent to the Hero of the Soviet Union medal, although it in no way matches the quality or workmanship of its Soviet counterpart. During his 1965 interrogation, a PAVN colonel confirmed that this Order had only been conferred once. It had also been awarded to Ho Chi Minh, who had refused it until final victory was achieved. As of 1974, only two of these Orders had been awarded. One to Ho Chi Minh and the second to Vice President Ton Duc Thang, who received his Gold Star Order from Ho Chi Minh in August, 1958. Ton Duc Thang eventually succeeded Ho on his death. Although a total of 16 Gold Stars have been awarded to date, the only positively known recipients include: Ho Chi Minh, Ton Duc Thang, Leonid Brezhnev and Aleksei Kosugin, who both received their awards in June, 1980; and the famous SRV military leader, Senior General Vo Nguyen Giap, who has often been photographed in uniform, wearing only the Gold Star Order.

It is also widely believed (but unconfirmed) that the Gold Star order was also presented to PAVN General Tran BA Thanh, who served as a ARVN officer on the South Vietnamese Prime Minister’s staff during the war and provided invaluable intelligence to Hanoi. It is believed that he alone was responsible for the failed Son Tay prison raid, which attempted to rescue captive U.S. military personnel.

The planchet itself is a raised, five-pointed, solid gold star, measuring approximately 1 1/2″ from point to point. The back is decorated with a raised wreath of two laurel branches. The medal is neither numbered nor named as might be typical in other countries of the world for such a high honor. The pin device is a simple bent wire.

The Order is worn on the left breast, centered above all other Orders. There is no corresponding service ribbon. Counterfeits have been observed, but the laurel leaves on the reverse were not present.

Ho Chi Minh Order

This award was established on June 6, 1947 and was revised to its current style on August 28th, 1981. Since its revision, it is only issued in one class to both individuals and units. This medal would appear to be equivalent to the Soviet Order of Lenin, which was awarded in tandem with the Hero of the Soviet Union medal. The criteria for this award makes specific reference to the “revolutionary cause” of the people.