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Wikipedia describes Nose art as a decorative painting or design on the fuselage of a military aircraft, usually chalked up on the front fuselage, and is a form of aircraft graffiti.

While begun for practical reasons of identifying friendly units, the practice evolved to express the individuality often constrained by the uniformity of the military, to evoke memories of home and peacetime life, and as a kind of psychological protection against the stresses of war and the probability of death. The appeal, in part, came from nose art not being officially approved, even when the regulations against it were not enforced.

I’ve attached hundreds of unique color photos Huey’s, Chinooks, and more, showing how soldiers decorated their helicopters during the Vietnam War.  Most are elaborate, colorful, and often comical art inspired by Sixties and Seventies pop culture, music, cartoons and comics, psychedelia, and politics, as well as sex and booze.  The artwork personalizes an aircraft for its crew, because it is the crew members who name the aircraft and create the art, christening it with an identity of its own.

I’d like to offer a special “Thank You” to John Conway for allowing me to share many of these pictures from his Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association (VHPA) Museum – donors of individual pictures are credited below.  The museum website is chock full of pictures, stories and other aviation information from the Vietnam War. The museum continues to grow and John welcomes any donations of images, stories or memorabilia for inclusion into the website and live exhibits. Please make it a point to visit the museum in the near future at http://www.vhpamuseum.org  

Quite a few of these pictures are not identified by unit or have additional details about the artwork.  If you can identify and provide that information, please get back to me.  Also, if anyone wants to contribute personal pictures of their ship’s artwork (Vietnam era) and back-up information, I’d be honored to add them to this article.  You can also mention whether or not I can forward copies to John Conway for the museum.

I hope you enjoy these!

Legend:

AHC – Assault Helicopter Company
AML – Air Mobile Light
ASH –  Assault Support Helicopter
AWC – Aerial Weapons Company
CAC – Corp Aviation Company
HH – Heavy Helicopter

 

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The 174th Dolphins, the “slicks,” adopted the above nose-art logo in mid-1967 that became a standard for several years. While there were a few individualized drawings used for nose-art on Dolphins, both before and after the ones depicted here, none were known to have been used on more than one aircraft at a time.  Photo by Jim McDaniel, 1967

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174th Assault Helicopter Company Dolphins – photo by J.C. Pennington, 1969 

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A/101 AVN Thunderbirds – Image courtesy of Jan Null

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Ray Cochran SF Huey in Phu Bai 1966 named “Gunslinger”

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Bob Hesselbein I took this picture of a C/16th CAV LOH in 1972. Here’s a side view taken at Dong Tam.

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Bob Hesselbein Killer Eggs with sharks teeth.

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Bob Hesselbein Three Darkhorse scout pilots: Tim Brennan, Hugh Mills and Mike King parked at a Cantho AAF revetment 1972

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 71 AHC Rattlers nose art Image courtesy of Jim Adams, 1st Platoon Leader, Dec. 68-Dec. 69

Hank Llewellyn  Interestingly, the photo, “71 AHC Rattlers – Image courtesy of Jim Adams, 1st Platoon Leader, Dec 68 – Dec 69” is of Medal of Honor recipient Col. Bruce Crandall’s door art. It was painted by CWO Sid Cowen. The doors adorned, then Major Crandall, Huey into the battle of the Ia Drang Valley, Nov 1965. The blue triangle indicates Alpha Company of the 229th AHB. The coiled serpent is formed in the shape of a “6” re: “Serpent 6” Crandall’s call sign. Photo is on display in the Pentagon “Hall of Hero’s”. Bruce returned to VN in1967 but was unable to locate the old doors that were refitted to each Huey he flew.

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Scott Henry – Black Cats of the 282nd Assault Helicopter Co, Danang

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Donated by Scott Henry

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Born Free Dian 211 ACR – Image courtesy of William Powis

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 Image courtesy of Jan Null

Nga Tran  –  Shark teeth painting terrified the enemy,

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F Troop (Air), 8th Cavalry Blue Ghosts

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I was the CE of Cobra 1 in the Cobra Platoon, 114th AHC, Vihn Long, 1965.
Image courtesy of Paul Kunkel

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155th Assault Helicopter Company Stagecoach

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116th AHC Wasps – Image courtesy of Pat Ronan

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190th Assault Helicopter Company Spartans

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117th AHC  Warlords

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The following 3 pics are of Warlord 043 donated by Charles H. Hallett Jr.   123 AVN Bn Co B Aero Scouts – Americal Division.  Supported troops in Happy Valley and A Shau Valley

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52nd Combat Aviation Battalion Flying Dragons

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176TH Assault Helicopter Company  Muskets 

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 Image courtesy of Jan Null

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 Early 20th ARA Bird – Image courtesy of Louis Barber

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F Troop (Air), 9th Cavalry

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D Troop (Air), 1st Squadron, 10th Cavalry

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Canned Heat of B & E troops, 1/9 Cav. Roger Snow, gunner,  can be seen standing behind the pilot’s door. The last three digits of the serial number were 555 so the ship was more often referred to as “Triple Nickel.  Image courtesy of Roger Snow

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240th AHC Greyhounds

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We used the Griffin call sign for the UH-1’s and the Little Griffin call sign for the LOH’s. I recall, some time before I left in 69, that we had to give up the Griffin call sign because some other unit was using it. One of the nose paintings was “Virgin Eater”. Another was “Cherry Popper.” This was based upon the logic that the mythical griffin only ate virgins – a perfect theme for young male pilots. Pilots’ names in this shot are; left as you face the chopper – CWO Bruce Sutton, and right as you face the chopper – CWO Richard Vonhatten.  Image courtesy of Pete Rzeminski, CW2 (8/68 – 12/69), HHC (Avn Det), 1st Brigade, 101st Abn Div

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 Here are a couple of pics from my time in ‘Nam….I was with the 114th AHC, and was assigned to our maintenance ship “Road Service”. I was with them from 1971 to 1972.   Image courtesy of CSM Ed Hepler

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 Razorback ship of the 120th AHC – Image courtesy of Joe Stone

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 Nose of the 391st Maintenance Detachment – part of the 68th AHC. This ship was called “Top Tiger Tail”. A Rare example of Nude artwork that was authorized See story on 68th AHC page under “Companies”.   Image courtesy of Dave Green 68th AHC Crew Chief

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 “Pink Pussy” – short lived nose art found on a rough and ready 117th Slick (circa 1967)   Image courtesy Al Bennett

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 Warriors 336th AHC – Image courtesy of Don “RAC” Raczon 

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 Warriors 336th AHC – Image courtesy of Don “RAC” Raczon 336th AHC

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 Image courtesy of Jan Null

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C Troop (Air), 16th Cavalry Dark Horse – Image courtesy of Jan Null

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 “Nice to see my ship represented. We were a Night Hawk that flew out of Soctrang with the 336AHC. They did spell my name wrong on the original. – Tom Wilkes”  – Image courtesy of Jan Null

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 Image courtesy of Jan Null

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 ‘Witchdoctor – 6 ‘  – Image courtesy of Bill Mc Donald, Pilot 128th AHC ‘Tomahawks’ Phu Loi. Vietnam 1967.

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 “Mad Tom” of the 121st AHC – This guys first name is tom. The last I heard he was running a catfish co-op in Alabama? In the early 70’s. He always caught the biggest fish. Got pics to prove it.  Image courtesy of Lowell L. Eneix

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 A Duck Strike on the Viking ship of the 121st AHC – Image courtesy of Lowell L. Eneix

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 “The Tin Bin” of the 121st AHC – Image courtesy of Lowell L. Eneix

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 “Tiger Lady” of the 121st AHC – in keeping with the 121st’s nickname – “The Soc Trang Tigers”  Image by Lowell L. Eneix

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 “Peg of my Heart” of the 121st AHC – Image courtesy of Lowell L. Eneix

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 “The Good Widow Mrs. Jones” of the 121st AHC – I think this was Capt.. Whites bird?  Image courtesy of Lowell L. Eneix

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 “The In Crowd” of the 121st AHC – I think this AC got transferred to a scout and got killed. Bad memory, Can’t remember his name but can see him clearly. Does anyone else have that problem? Hope it’s not just me.  Image courtesy of Lowell L. Eneix

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 “The Incredible Hulk” of the 121st AHC – This ship had some reason to be slung back to Soc Trang. On down wind it began to oscillate and the Chinook had to punch him off at about 300 feet. With about 40 guys watching including the AC. I had my camera and for the life of me don’t know why I wasn’t taking pic’s. Dam! makes me sick everytime I think about it. Image courtesy of Lowell L. Eneix

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 “Harvy” of the 121st AHC – Image courtesy of Lowell L. Eneix

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 “Kaptain Klutz” of the 121st AHC – Image courtesy of Lowell L. Eneix

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 “Buzz Off” of the 121st AHC – Image courtesy of Lowell L. Eneix

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 A “very” young me next to my aircraft’s nose art.  I was with the 117th AHC in 1969 at Plantation airfield.  Image courtesy of Dallas E. Figgins

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 We were Battery E (AVN) 82nd Artillery. We did not have a unit patch…The A/C markings were red skid tips to denote an artillery unit and the Cav artillery patch on the nose.  Image courtesy of Ed Lem

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 Warriors 336th AHC – Image courtesy of Don “RAC” Raczon 336th AHC

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68th Assault Helicopter Company Top Tigers – Image courtesy of Joe Stone

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 Image courtesy of Joe Stone

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335th Assault Helicopter Company Cowboys

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176TH Assault Helicopter Company Muskets

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 D 3/5 OH-23 “Raven” featuring nose art of the “Spooks” Scout platoon (circa 1967). The “Spooks” were the predecessors of the Warwagons and possibly the only unit to fly the Raven in combat.  Image courtesy of Richard Bench

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 This piece of Nose art lasted less than a month. This helicopter’s crew chief was the pilot NCOIC for the Aero rilfle plt’s birds. His name was SFC John R Rock. (AT this time the Sgt Rock Comics were hot). D/1/1 had deployed from Fort Hood to join with our parent squadron 1/1 Armored Squadron assigned to the American Div in Chu Lai. Enroute our orders were changed attaching the troop to 2/17 Cav, 101st. This was the period of time when the division went from Airbone, to Airmobile and back to Airborne (Airmoble) in less than 2 months. We had the first Cobras attached to the division and 1st Avn Bde units supporting the 101st were redesignated as 101 units . The Division had become the Army’s second Airmobile Division As soon as the change was “Officially Completed” The word came down from Division Hqs there would be no Nose Art in the division and Sgt Rock disappeared.      Image courtesy of Ray Knight

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 Nose art on F 2/17 Cav. ship. “Comanchero” designation carried over from the units days under Comapny A, 101st Aviation Bn.  Image courtesy of Richard Bittle

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 Sidewinders – 117th Guns (circa 1967) Image courtesy of Dale Garber

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170th AHC Bikinis

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 71 AHC Rattlers – Image courtesy of Jim Adams, 1st Platoon Leader, Dec. 68-Dec. 69

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227th Assault Helicopter Battalion 1st CAV

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Jim Toolis missing 61st AHC 6 and 1 on nose

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 Nose art for the BN commander of the 227th circa December 1970 (Lt Col Islan (spelling not sure)- Victor Call sign “Pouvoir 6”.  Image courtesy of Michael Dwyer, Sp 4, Victor call sign “Blivet”

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 Image courtesy of Jan Null

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 170th AHC Aircraft Flying Dragons – image courtesy of Steve Shepard, C troop 7/17

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2-227th AVN Vultures

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 “Strawberry Bitch” of the 121st AHC (Namesake of the B-24 now in the US Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio – ” I am pretty sure the pilot of that AC was the SON of the pilot who flew the B-24 on display at Wright-Patterson. Our company commander made him change it from “bitch” to “blonde” didn’t want any “nasty words” being displayed. So this just might be the only picture of the original “Strawberry Bitch” of the 121st” – Lowell Eneix     Image courtesy of Lowell L. Eneix

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SP4 Doug “Short Round” Walton Door Gunner on Casper 061 at LZ English 1968

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Casper Aviation Platoon was the only separate aviation platoon in the United States Army during the Vietnam War.  Casper was organized with the 173d Airborne Brigade on Okinawa in 1963 and arrived in country with the Brigade on May 5, 1965 becoming the first United States Army ground unit committed to the Vietnam War. Casper Platoon supported the Brigade until they all left Vietnam in August 1971.

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335th Assault Helicopter Company Casper

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174th Assault Helicopter Company Sharks

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BGYRR8 A Huey helicopter of the 121st AHC in Soc Trang, Vietnam, has the words, "Super Slick," and, "Lamont's Lament," painted nose art. Image shot 1967. Exact date unknown.

BGYRR8 A Huey helicopter of the 121st AHC in Soc Trang, Vietnam, has the words, “Super Slick,” and, “Lamont’s Lament,” painted nose art. Image shot 1967. Exact date unknown.

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48th Assault Helicopter Company Jokers

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Playboys 197th AHC 

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48th Assault Helicopter Company Jokers

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48th Assault Helicopter Company Jokers

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176TH Assault Helicopter Company Muskets

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48th Assault Helicopter Company Jokers

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 “The nose art is basically the standard design of several of our Huey’s but I added the name “Tumbleweed”. That’s what I called my ship.   The door art was a take off of a Sunday morning cartoon character. My CE at that point was a Sergeant John Sulfridge. We had to sneak the parts down town and have the art work done. I sent him in while I waited in the jeep. That was a mistake as you see my last name is misspelled. I was with D-Troop 3/5th From Sept ’70 to ’71. We changed our Unit to C 3/17 sometime before I left. I was the “Slick” Platoon Commander “Long Knife 26”.  Image courtesy of Mike Rokey

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 170th AHC Aircraft  Flying Dragons – image courtesy of Steve Shepard, C troop 7/17

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The Judge – Image courtesy of Pat Ronan

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176TH Assault Helicopter Company Muskets

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Donald Steigel Thanks to all the HAL-3 guys. PBR593

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213th Assault Support Helicopter Company Black Cats

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213th Assault Support Helicopter Company

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 Unique nose art on C 3/17 Huey reflecting the feelings of the time – Image courtesy of Ralph Chapman

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 Warriors 336th AHC – Image courtesy of Don “RAC” Raczon 336th AHC

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170th Assault Helicopter Company  Buccaneeers – Image courtesy of David Hooper

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 Found on the nose of the 1st Platoon Hueys in the 117th AHC, Little Annie Fanny led the Beach Bums, and later Warlords, into hot LZ’s from Kontom to Can Tho. She should be considered a traditional symbol of the American soldier’s fighting spirit – straight from the cartoon pages of the 1960’s Playboy magazine.  Images courtesy of James Fischer

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 Long Knife (D troop 3/5 Cav Lift Platoon) nose art 1971 Vinh Long RVN. “I seem to remember there was a flurry of nose art activity in ’71. The crew chiefs were taking their doors and stuff to an artist that was in the town in Vinh Long. Probably the same artist did the work on the “Dutchmasters” (B troop 7/1 Cav) aircraft”.  Don Callison D trp 3/5 Cav.  Image courtesy of M. Clark

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 C troop Lift bird with trademark Motto – Image courtesy of Bill Brooks

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The nose of our Night Hawk UH-1H, D Trp, 17th Cav, Da Nang, ’72. Wish it was in color.  Images courtesy of Rich Neely

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 121st AHC Tigers – Image courtesy of Jan Null

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361st Aerial Weapons Company Pink Panthers

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These last four pictures show the nose art of B57 bombers of the 8th TBS stationed at Phan Rang Airbase, Vietnam.  Donated by Joe Schwarzer

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Don’t forget to visit the VHPA museum in the near future at http://www.vhpamuseum.org  

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