Zippo Manufacturing Co. has issued its latest collectible set honoring the 70th anniversary of D-Day.
Presented in a special gift box and accompanied by a wartime replica brass Acme clicker, or “Cricket,” this set has been created as a tribute to the courage and ingenuity of those who served on June 6, 1944.
The U.S. Army’s 101st and 82nd Airborne divisions, who were the first troops to drop behind enemy lines, were all equipped with a Zippo lighter and Acme Cricket in addition to their standard battle gear. The gift set is a timely reminder of those who served in one of the world’s most important historical conflicts.
The design for the 70th anniversary D-Day lighter was created by Zippo Design Center artist Dave Dalton. The artwork depicts the welded iron girders, often referred to as “Czech hedgehogs,” that were half-buried along the Normandy coastline as an anti-tank defense measure and were visible in so many of the gripping images taken by journalists during the invasion. The code names of the landing beaches are revealed and highlighted in the brushed brass finish.
Each lighter is consecutively numbered and production was limited to 7,000 pieces.
“This piece has been a big hit — Zippo has sold the entire run of the collectible to our distributors, however they are still available at many Zippo retailers, including a very limited supply at the store at Zippo/Case Museum in Bradford,” said Vince Montecalvo, Zippo national sales manager.
Montecalvo was responsible for the idea to pair the Acme clicker with the brass lighter for the set. The clicker was called the Cricket, because of the “click-clack” sound it makes. It was a vital tool for paratroopers to be able to identify each other, and these replicas have been made in the very same factory as the original — J Hudson & Company in Birmingham, England. For the first 24 hours of D-Day, “Operation Overlord,” if they saw another soldier, they were to press the toy once “click-clack,” or say “Flash” and the other person was to immediately respond with “click-clack, click-clack” or say “Thunder.” If they didn’t respond, the order was to fire.
Meanwhile, the Zippo lighter, famed for its reliability and durability, was used throughout World War II by soldiers to light campfires, light fuses on explosives, hammer nails, signal to fellow soldiers with the famous Zippo click, heat rations in their helmets, and more. There are even reports from some soldiers that the Zippo lighter saved their lives by deflecting bullets. In fact, Zippo owes much of its worldwide recognition to the thousands of soldiers who carried their Zippo lighters into battle. During the war years, Zippo founder George G. Blaisdell dedicated manufacturing efforts to supplying Zippo lighters exclusively to the U.S. military.
The 70th anniversary set is the fourth D-Day commemorative edition that Zippo has issued. It follows commemoratives released on the 50th, 60th, and 65th anniversaries of the event. The current set was the first to be bilingual, in English and French, representing both the launching and landing countries involved the historic operation.
The Zippo lighter and Cricket have also had important roles in movies about World War II. They shared the silver screen in the 1962 film “The Longest Day” and in the 2001 HBO miniseries “Band of Brothers.”