Christmases in Viet Nam
Hope your holiday preps are going smoothly and you found the Mistletoe. I came upon this photo while doing some research recently about the United Service Organization (USO) plans for helping our troops celebrate Christmas (and Hanukkah) in Afghanistan and Iraq (and other outposts). I'm certain Vietnam War veteran classmates will have a memory of Christmas past stirred by this photo by SP5 Rod Bryan of the "Tropic Lightning," newspaper of the U.S. Army's 25th Infantry Division in South Vietnam. Here is the caption of the December 1967 event:
LAUGHS TOO -- Comedian Bob Hope and part of his Christmas troupe as seen by nearly 10,000 screaming fans at the 25th Inf Div's Lightning Bowl. Hope and his bevy of beauties visited the 12th Evac(uation) Hospital after the show. Shown are (from left) actress Raquel Welch, singer Barbara McNair, Hope, "Miss World" Madeline Hartog Bel, and actress Irene Dunn.
The Hope aircraft was reportedly fired on while leaving Cu Chi and he later had this comment about the action, "Taking off from Cu Chi they took a couple of shots at us. Even the Cong gets sore when you don't leave the girls behind."
|Image by SP5 Rod Bryan|
If you're interested in reading my recollection of the USO and Christmas 1967 you may go to http://www.thetentacle.com
|- Norm Covert ('61) of MD - 12/17/07|
Normie, child that I am, I tend to view
the world through rose colored lenses - until I'm absolutely confronted with
After reading your essay, I am positively shocked and outraged anew.
HOW CAN THIS BE?!?
Thank you so much for bringing this to our attention, Norm! Merry Christmas!
Note the references to God, Jesus and Christians in the text of the menu. I suppose that today that would not be permitted as it would be considered "politically incorrect." This is not one of the areas in which society had advanced today, I think. That is a shame that I think we will regret one day.
|An aerial photo of where I was for the Christmas Dinner on the menu is also attached. You will see that several places are marked on the photo - the infamous mess hall, my hootch, and a perimeter guard tower where I spent most of the day and night on Christmas 1967. That day was the only time during my 6 weeks at Division Artillery that I did have ammunition, and was also the only time during my year in Vietnam that I pulled an official guard duty shift. We also had an M60 machine gun, a weapon that neither of us in that guard tower had ever loaded or fired. Thankfully we did not need to use it. Later on when assigned to the radar section, I learned to use an M60 and a lot of other weapons, too.|
|- Al Simms ('60) of VA - 12/13/08|
|WOWZERONI! This certainly gives one pause for thought about many different things! Thank you so very much, Al - for everything!|
Great piece about the war. What a small world it is. I also was there Sept 67 thru Sept 68. I was with the 601st Radio Research Detachment. We were the guys who sent you the fixes to fire on the VC. It all came back to me when I saw your map of the Americal Division located on the South China Sea. I was just a shoulder in the Army stationed at Fort Bragg when General Westmorland said he needed 10,000 more troops. I was put on a ship out of Oakland California. It took 20 days to get to Da Nang where I took an LST to Chu Lai. What a scary trip for a new recruit. Do you remember where the USO was located on the beach? I am having a hard time figuring out where my hutch was. It was a crazy time that I choose to forget. Were you there during the Tet offensive?
I don’t remember what we had for Christmas dinner, but I do remember going to the Bob Hope show with Raquel Welch and others. Oh yeah, and I remember the rain and mud.
|- Phil Hammond ('64) of UT - 12/14/08|
|Thank you so much for sharing this with us, Phil! Many of our subscribers were there during that "crazy time" as well - and extra thanks to you all!|
As for where the "fixes" to fire on came from many of them came from my own radar section. When we were at Chu Lai they probably all went thru you since we reported them to CLDC but during the 7 months that we were in the field we usually gave them directly to the Arty FDC on our hill. Many times they fired on them as soon as we gave them to the FDC. They may have been supposed to go thru you but I think that many times, especially if they were hitting us, they did not take the time to do that because if they had the mortars would be gone by the time that they got clearance. That may have been stretching the combat contact mission permission a bit but we had to do what we had to do to "take them out" and get them off of us.
Re your 20 day trip to Nam on the ship: Did you come over on the USS General Walter H Gordon with the 198th Brigade? My unit did, although I came a little later in late Nov by air - 20 hours instead of 20 days! Picture of the USS Gordon is attached.
As for your unit location I am pretty sure that it was on the east (seaward) side of Ky Ha not far back from Rosemary's point. There was a very tall radio broadcasting antenna there that your unit may have had some involvement with. It was also a very restricted area or at least part of it was. A photo showing the antenna is attached. The Antenna is just about dead center of the small photo.
I was there for the entire TET68 offensive since I did not leave Vietnam until December of 1968. I don't know if you know this or not but we (the USA) almost completely destroyed the Viet Cong during that offensive and they never really recovered from it. After that the North Vietnamese Regular Army began moving south and took over the fight.
Three pictures that I took at the Bob Hope show are also attached. I was on a cue card handling detail and because of that had a front row seat just off to the right side of the stage. Also met Bob Hope at the airport to pick up the cue cards.
Carol, please note that I have also sent this email directly to Phil, just in case you don't want to burden your website with all of the maps, photos and old soldier stuff.
|- Al Simms ('60) of VA - 12/15/08|
Not at all, Al! I am
honored to include them here for the edification of all -
and as a small thanks for the sacrifices of y'all and so many others!
Regarding Al Simms ('60 - of VA)
and Phil Hammond 's ('64 - of UT) recollection of Chu Lai, I thought I sent
the attached picture last year. I found it last November (2007) while
researching a Christmas commentary on the USO and it's support of our troops
in Iraq and Afghanistan. I couldn't find it on the NNHS site; it may be
among your temporarily lost images (I trust).
Merry Christmas to you, all our
classmates and especially those who served and still serve our great nation
on the frontiers of freedom.
|- Norm Covert ('61) of MD - 12/15/08|
You did indeed
send that image almost exactly one year ago today, Norm, and yes, it is now
in the Twilight Zone,
but you have thoughtfully restored it to us! Thanks so much!
Christmas Candle clip art courtesy of http://www.hellasmultimedia.com/webimages/christ-htm/lines-christ3.htm - 12/16/08
Return to NNHS Class of 1965