A minute gesture or item, such as the pencil reproduced in actual size on this page, can sometimes acquire great value. That is just what happened when a voluntary organisation asked G.I.s in Viet Nam what their most-wanted items were. Those needs were modest—such things as a pair of dry socks and some writing material. Time provided the tiny pencil, which the Christian Reform Laymen’s League included in 200,000 packets to Viet Nam. Surprisingly, the mini-pencil is serving purposes far beyond postcard writing. Its wooden shaft, wrote one Marine, is being used to clean the hard-to-get-at rifle sights, while the graphite helps sliding parts of the M-16. Hearing of this, the volunteer group asked Time for more of them to be included in a second shipment. This week another 200,000 pencils are going to the men.
Time, April 26, 1968