The military history of the 20th centrury and smoking seem to go hand in hand in all conflicts and all countries. Due to that lighers make up part of the small pieces of history connected to units, conflicts and locations.
Especially the Zippo and its lookalikes have become the brand connected with the (US) military. It had a lot of options for customization offered to customers. I do not mean the (often fake) crude engravings made in Vietnam but the acid etched, often coloured variations that were officially made by Zippo for the customers. From the 50s until the 80s loads of these were made in all sorts of variations. Here follows a selection from my collection ordered by date/period
USS Archerfish (SS311), Vulcan lighter Japan, 1950s
This submarine saw extensive service in WW2 and ended its operational period in Japan after which it was decommissioned in 1946. But due to the Korean war it was recommissioned in 1952 for that war and afterward again decommissioned in 1955 after which it again was put back in use in 1958 but this time under somewhat different name, as the AGSS311. Exact date inclear but likely 1950s.
Two well used examples from the same year:
US Army, Signal Corps, Zippo 1960
(Hollands) Signaal, Dutch manufacturer in the Weapons Industry, Zippo 1960
USS Thaddeus Parker, Zippo 1963, double sided
The item below is a small commercial pocket knife and not a lighter but it was produced by Zippo as well. Due to the two military subjects it can be dated to 1962 or 1963. The years the Commando vehicle and the Stoner MG were introduced, both were produced by Cadillac Gage.
UNEF United Nations Emergency Force, Middle East, Canadian participation, Zippo 1978, double sided
Alsaskan Dewline – Distant Early Warning Line, Zippo 1981, double sided
HMS Active, Zippo 1982, Falklands War, double sided
The HMS Active was part of the English fleet to went to the Falklands and actively participated in the war there in 1982. Lighter is also Zippo dated 1982.
10th Special Forces, 1984, the 1st Batallion (BN) was located in Germany, double sided
Multinational Force & Observers, Sinai, Zippo 1992
SFOR, Bosnia, Busovaca (logistics location for the Dutch), Zippo 1998
USS Canisteo, Zippo 1977, double sided
Some more Navy Zippo’s, several countries, dates and ships
And to help you dating your own Zippo this overview will help!
Next to Zippo there were all sort of makers offering similar lighters and services and also very different types of lighters were made for the military like the WW2 Service Lighter by Dunhill that was aimed at the US forces as a relatively cheap but high quality lighter.
It is fun to look for lighters with unexpected and special engravings and although it is not a focus within my collection I tend to pick up nice examples when I find them (only locally in the Netherlands though). I will add more lighters as they come in.