Christmas In Country

Discussion in 'Vietnam Memories Forum' started by Guest, Mar 11, 2003.

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    Indybear57
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    (12/10/01 4:09:49 pm)
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    Christmas In Country
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    Here's a memory that was posted to MSNBC about a year ago. Maybe it will jog a memory or two that someone would like to share.

    Christmas in the Hai Van Pass!

    It was Christmas 1970 and we had the Fire Support Base duty on FSB Roy. Roy was a Viet FSB that guarded the northern approach to the Hai Van Pass.

    The Hai Van was on the main highway between Danang and the northern I Corps cities of Phu Bai, Hue and Quang Tri.

    I had only been back in country for a little over a month and was assigned to the 101st Pathfinder Platoon. Our primary mission was to provide Pathfinder support to the ARVN and US units in I Corps. This Christmas Corporal Fern ("Evergreen") and I were supporting the 54th ARVN Infantry Regiment Headquartered on FSB Roy. We were the only two Americans on the hill and it was going to be a very difficult Christmas for us.

    Christmas Eve day was bright, warm and clear and most of the traffic in and out of the FSB was administrative and the day passed uneventfully. Getting on towards dark we ate our Christmas Eve dinner of C-Rat's, spiced with some local rice and vegetables and lots of Tobasco sauce. Cleaning up the bunker, equipment, weapons and making regular sitreps to our higher-higher took up most of the evening, busy work trying not to think that it was Christmas Eve and we were the only US personnel around.

    Around 1930 I headed up to the Regimental Tactical Operations Center for the King of the Hill nightly "dog and pony show" to get the skinny on what the
    54th Infantry planned if Mr. Charles decided to ignore the truce and drop by for a little visit. The Colonel of the Regiment was an old hand at this war and had some interesting plans of his own just in case. He had at least 15 defensive squad size ambush patrols planned, several claymore mechanical ambushes and extensive Night Defensive Targets planed for the supporting US and Vietnamese Artillery units on the neighboring FSB's. These he gave to me just in case I had to call in Tac Air or Cobras from the 101 for support. I digested as much of the briefing as I could and hung around afterwards to speak to the Colonel.

    After the briefing I finally got the Colonels attention and asked him in Vietnamese what I thought was "Colonel, I'm a Catholic, and tomorrow I would like to attend church". Problem was, I spoke the Saigon Dialect of Vietnamese and I was in Central Viet Nam and the pronunciations, tones and inflections were different on some words. I couldn't quite understand why he started laughing, I mean really letting go till his eyes started to tear up. The Regimental XO walks over about this time and the two of them start talking rapidly in Viet and I can't quite make out all the words when the whole staff starts laughing. Finally, the Colonel looks at me and explains, Lt. I'm a Catholic also but on
    Christmas we usually go to church and not a whorehouse. However we can do both if that is the American Catholic tradition for Christmas". My face must have turned at least 6 or 7 colors of red before it settled into just plain old beet red. The Colonel explained where I had gone wrong with my pronunciations and told me that there would be a Vietnamese Catholic service in the TOC at 0900 on Christmas and that my Corporal and I would be welcome.

    Beating a somewhat hasty and embarrassed retreat back to the bunker I sat down and Evergreen offered me a cup of mocha while I filled him in on the units defensive plans for the night. We set the radios to the proper frequencies and went outside to finish the mocha and just look at the stars.

    Outside the bunker was a surprise that took us away from the war and back to Christmas. Setting on the sandbag blast wall was a small Christmas tree fabricated from the stripper clips used to load M16 rifle magazines. It was about 7 or 8 inches tall, and was wired with about a dozen flashlight bulbs painted red, green yellow and blue. The star on top the tree had been cut from the top of a C-Ration can and the ornaments were beads tied to the tips of the "stripper clip limbs". The whole contraption was set on top of a PRC/25 radio battery as a power source for the lights. It was the most ridiculous looking excuse for a Christmas tree we had ever seen but it was also the most beautiful tree we had ever seen. Standing about 25 meters away the Regimental staff watched and waited to see our reaction. What can you say to something like that? I walked over to the staff, bowed slightly and said thank you for the wonderful Christmas tree. The XO bowed and explained that it was the regimental enlisted men that came up with the tree to make us feel a little more at home with them on Christmas. It was difficult to control the emotion that I felt upon learning this.

    It was getting close to midnight and Evergreen and I waited for the mad minute to erupt from the US FSB that was a little further and higher into the pass. It had become a habit with US troops on the FSB's to open up with every piece of ordinance that would fire a tracer round at midnight on Christmas Eve. Sure enough at exactly midnight the Pass erupted with thousands of rounds of tracer ammunition star clusters and flares. It went on for several minutes and stopped as abruptly as it started and was followed with about 2 or 3 minutes of complete silence. Then softly at first, came the sounds of men singing, the sound grew as the song traveled around the US FSB until we could hear the words of Silent
    Night - Holy Night fill the Pass. That's another tradition that happened on other Christmases in Viet Nam. The song echoed off the walls and seemed to skip across the distance to FSB Roy where it was soon answered by the men of the 54th ARVN Infantry Regiment singing Silent Night - Holy Night in Vietnamese. I looked at Evergreen and could see the tears in his eyes and wondered if he could see mine. The singing continued for several minutes and died out as slowly as it had begun until silence again engulfed the pass.

    The next morning, Christmas Day we woke checked in with a sitrep to our Higher - Higher, cleaned up, ate breakfast and set up for the day. We headed up to the TOC Bunker at around 0830 and got into the bunker in time for the beginning of the Mass. It was strange to see men carrying weapons taking communion and even stranger to hear the Mass said in Vietnamese.

    After Mass we walked back to the bunker and called FSB T-Hawk where two of our sections were pulling the duty. They let us know that we wouldn't have to eat boned turkey C's for dinner. They would be sending us a care package for dinner on the last "Log Bird" out that afternoon. We could expect it around 1400. Right on time a Huey comes into view calls us on the radio and says he has our dinner on board. He's just going to make a hover stop and pop it out the door to us. That's fine with us and I head down to the pad to get it. The Huey comes in drops and flares comes to a short hover and from the passenger compartment I see a Donut Dolly in her blue cord dress squat down to throw out the box. I can't help it I look up and her short skirt is up around her thighs and my eye gloms onto the bright pink panties she is showing. Oh well, at least she got the dinner here I think.

    Back at the bunker Evergreen and I chowed down on a slightly lukewarm dinner of Turkey and all the trimmings to include pumpkin pie. All in All it wasn't a bad
    Christmas considering where we were and what we were doing the day before and would be doing again the day after. I do have one regret though. If I had only known that it was to be Evergreens very last Christmas I would have tried to make it a little better for him.
    He was killed 5 months later trying to get into a jungle LZ at night with a rucksack full of medical supplies to help an ARVN unit that had been shot up pretty badly. The pilot of the Huey he was on hovered over the "Bad Guys" by mistake and a hail of bullets ripped through the passenger compartment of the Huey. Evergreen was standing on the skid and caught one lousy bullet underneath the flak jacket. I wasn't with him then, the CO thought we were getting to friendly with our troops and transferred the Section Leaders around and I was leading another section when it happened. I'll never forget that it was the same Huey from the 101st Aviation Battalion that brought us Christmas dinner and it was the 54th ARVN Infantry Regiment Evergreen was going in to help.

    It's been thirty years and I can still remember these events as if they were yesterday. I can still see the tracers and hear the sounds of Silent Night waft by on the evening wind. It's not that I can't forget: I don't want to forget. I don't want to forget the memory of that little piece of sanity, a Christmas tree made from stripper clips and flash light bulbs, of Silent Night ringing through the Hai Van Pass in an insane time in a place called Viet Nam and most of all Evergreens last Christmas.

    Merry Christmas Evergreen!

    Posted by Steve C on the MSNBC Vietnam Veterans BB 12/10/00


    Mithrandir
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    (12/10/01 4:35:31 pm)
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    memory of my first Christmas in VN...

    our tree was a beer can with red wrapping paper around it... and a bamboo shoot for a tree with old red ornament bulb.....

    looked a lot like the tree that Pig Pen had in the Charlie Brown cartoons....one bulb bent the twig to the ground... the only thing missing was "Snoopy" as the vulture, sitting on the twig....


    the inscription read...
    " HO *&^cking HO *&^cking HO ....Merry *&^cking Christmas"


    but...

    we were happy.......our last tree was a Panamainian prostitute decked out in lights and popcorn strings....and nothing else......

    I didn't eat popcorn for a long..long.. time after that.....and THATS another story.......




    out...


    Edited by: Mithrandir at: 12/10/01 4:35:58 pm

    Tac401
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    (12/12/01 9:03:43 pm)
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    Re: Christmas In Country
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    Good post Mike,

    Thanks!

    JD
    The Firearms Forum Vietnam Memories Bulletin Board Contact Administrator

    gorourke
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    (12/18/01 11:31:56 pm)
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    We had just rolled in from a sweep of the Boi Loi Woods, minus my buddy John Miller, a brother from New York City. He took some shrapnel from a boobytrap, not bad but enough to get him some time off. As I called in his dust-off, I told him he was lucky to be spending Christmas time in Cu-Chi. We waved goodbye to the dust-off, climbed onto our tracks and headed back to our night logger.

    As we pulled in, Top came over to our track. He wanted to see Roger. I was hoping Roger was not in trouble. He was not exactly the most disciplined soldier around, and not the most liked as well. I looked past his troubles however, and we soon became friends. So I was happy to see that Top had some good news for Roger. It was Rogers turn to attend the "LCLC" class at Cu-Chi. The Lightning Combat Leadership Class was a week in base camp to learn more about mines and bobbytraps, communications and tactics. A good deal, but Roger did not want to go! Top asked once more, and again Roger said no. I remember Roger telling Top why he did not want to go. "It's Christmas time and I want to spend Christmas with my buddies." Top gives up and looks back at his list, I was next on the list to go. The chopper was waiting, Top was getting impatient. I told Roger he was crazy, the Bo Loi was heating up, NVA were all over the place and I reminded him of the two dead grunts from C Company we pulled out of the woods just a few day before. There was no changing his mind, he would not leave the bush. Top said now or never, so I grabbed my stuff, gave Roger a "your crazy look" and hopped on the bird.

    A few days later, Roger took a burst of AK when my company walked into an NVA bunker complex. Every year at this time I remember Roger, and I remember not saying "Merry Christmas" as I headed for the chopper. It's one of those anniversaries, we all have them and we all struggle with them. I guess this is the one that hurts me the most.

    Merry Christmas Roger.........

    Roger J. Flynn
    Date of Casualty: Thursday, December 18,1969
    The Wall: Panel 15W – Row 070

    P. Gary


    Tac401
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    (12/19/01 1:45:53 am)
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    Re: Christmas In Country
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    Great post Gary!

    JD
    The Firearms Forum Vietnam Memories Bulletin Board Contact Administrator

    Indybear57
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    (12/19/01 10:46:04 am)
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    Re: Christmas In Country
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    Ditto!
    KICK ASS U.S.A.!

    homer4
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    (12/19/01 1:04:00 pm)
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    In-country Xmas
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    Great post P.
    I remember being at SaDec Provence HQ and and getting a decent hot meal and rappin with the guys and also listening to the reel to reel that Roger had gotten from home...believe we all did some recording by way of grab-assin for his folks.

    So mostly it was uneventful seeings how I was brand spankin new to the unit.

    nighthawksh
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    (12/19/01 1:32:11 pm)
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    Christmas in Vietnam
    I spent Christmas, 1968 in country. Not very much to tell about it. I was on Reactionary Force (glorified guard duty) both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I do remember a few things about it.
    One, I remember posting the guard shift at Midnight, Christmas Eve. One of the positions was up on the roof of one of the buildings. It was the last post, so I sat there for a while with the young troop who had that duty. It was his first Christmas away from home. (It was probably my 7th or 8th, so wasn’t a big deal to me). Anyway, we sat and talked awhile. I had stopped on my way and picked up a canteen cup full of coffee, so we shared that, plus my cigarettes. I hope I made it a little easier for him. He was not in my duty section so I only knew him from the guard duty detail. Don’t even remember his name, only that he was a young E-3, tall and skinnier than me. Plus he sure did smoke a lot of my cigarettes.
    On Christmas day, we were allowed to leave the RF barracks and go to the main mess hall or the club for Christmas dinner, as long as we did not “imbibe” in any alchol . Some of the guys were not interested in going anywhere, (depressed) just wanted to stay in the barracks and eat the C’s that were always available there. I had gone out to post the 1400 hour guard shift. When I returned, some of the troops had brought a bunch of stuff from the mess hall, plus had got out their “care packages” from home, had pushed a couple of field desk together with a piece of plywood them, and set out quite a spread. One guy even had a little cardboard Christmas tree he put in the middle of the table. All and all, it was a pretty good feast. Every thing from ham and turkey to Kosher beef, to corned beef, to Spam, to “Kipper snacks”, to you-name-it.
    This was probably the only Christmas dinner I have ever had without some sort of alcoholic drinks,,, usually a bottle of wine, a few Jack D’s, a few beers,, something.
    Of course, I made up for it the night I got off of RF duty,,, lol
    Sorry this is so mundane,, don’t have any “wild & crazy” stories about Christmas,, not in VN anyway.

    Stan H ,, nighthawk

    I may not agree with what you say,
    but I shall defend to the death your right to say it

    Comanche6
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    (12/20/01 1:18:10 pm)
    | Del Re: Christmas In Country
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    Wow! Rush of memories here.

    I did two tours - the first with the newly arrived 199th Light Infantry Brigade when we arrived a week before Christmas. I remember being there in the dust of Long Binh wondering what the hell the year would be like - and really missing home.

    Second tour was different - I was with the 2/5 Cav in the 1st Cav Division. I'd been out in the weeds, but by Christams, had a rear job. By that time, I'd met my future wife (a nurse at the 24th Evac in Long Binh), and was able to spend an hour or two with the 24th as they hosted a party for Vietnamese orphans. Take a look at www.24thevac.org.

    Long time ago, wasn't it?

    Indybear57
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    (12/20/01 3:37:36 pm)
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    Re: Christmas In Country
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    Great pics Comanche6! Glad to see you join our merry band. Look forward to seeing more from you soon.

    Thank you for your service and welcome home!
    KICK ASS U.S.A.!

    Comanche6
    Member
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    (12/20/01 6:05:37 pm)
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    Thanx, Indybear57 - -

    Though I wasn't there in 1966, there is a picture of a Christmas crad for the 1st Cav showing pix of the chapels at An Khe. Find at www.tallcomanche.org. Christmas Day 1967 was spent on a bridge on the Bong Son plain, and saw a new company commander, along with a visit from Santa - www.tallcomanche.org. By 1969, the company was in Tay Ninh - here's a pix taken in the read area - www.tallcomanche.org. There's a rather poignant story about Christmas in 1971 at www.tallcomanche.org

    Take care, all.



    Tac401
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    (12/20/01 6:49:27 pm)
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    Re: Christmas In Country
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    Welcome home Comanche6!

    JD
    The Firearms Forum Vietnam Memories Bulletin Board Contact Administrator

    homer4
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    (12/21/01 9:08:19 pm)
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    Welcome
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    A merry Welcome to ya Comanche6. Pull up an ammo crate and sit a spell. So good people here Bud.

    Hope your the lending kind.

    berto64
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    (12/21/01 11:44:31 pm)
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    Re: Welcome
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    Comanche6,
    Be sharp around ol' homer there, He's the reason for the
    old saying, niether a borrower or LENDER be.
    He's a great guy, loads of fun, but he tends to be broke alla time.

    berto


    Endeaver to Persevere

    hope6970
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    (12/22/01 1:09:10 am)
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    Some good stories guys.

    Comanche6, my husband was with the 24th Evac 69/70. Worked in surgery as a surgery tech. He was headed for the field as a medic but for some reason he found himself in surgery and that is where they decided to keep him. I didn't meet him in Nam, that came after we had been back to the states for awhile.

    Glad to see you aboard. - Hope


    Have to edit the above some. My husband tells me that it is not surgery tech.....it is Operating Room Tech. As for any excuse for myself....anyone who could do the work in any capacity at the 24th has my complete admiration, that is work that I could not begin to think about doing.

    Edited by: hope6970 at: 12/22/01 1:24:50 am

    homer4
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    (12/22/01 8:46:29 am)
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    ...a lender be
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    Hehe, I resemble that remark.

    Glad that the surfery went well for ya Bud and also that your healing up well there Berto.

    Now Comanche, lets say that we mosey on over to Hawks waterin hole and get more aquainted over a couple of 33's.
    I'll buy the first one but as for the rest...


    berto64
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    (12/22/01 12:33:09 pm)
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    Re: Christmas In Country
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    Did '3' tours, extended twice. 69-71.

    Christmas 69, was home for holiday on extension leave, 1970
    I honestly do not remember where incountry I was. 1971 I was back in the world as a PFC.

    berto



    Endeaver to Persevere
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