The following are short remembrances of Christmas time spent in Vietnam by veterans who were there. These are courtesy of “The Perimeter” the newsletter of the Texas Association of Vietnam Veterans and used with permission. – TCVVM

Danny Kaiser
SGT, USAF
12 FMS
12TFW
Vietnam, 1966
Coming Home

My tour of duty in Vietnam was Jan.66 to Jan. 67 and as luck would have it my orders came down a little early and I was set to be home by Christmas ’66 and I had less than 24 hrs. to process out. That being done, I left Cam Ranh Bay for Saigon the following morning. Once at Ton Son Nhut Air Base I did the usual out processing and debriefing that we had to go through. The next day was Christmas and my flight out of there was at 1330 hrs. so my last meal in country at the chow hall was turkey, dressing and all the trimmings, great going away meal. After that we boarded the plane and we were off. Once we were at our cruising speed and altitude the airline crew decided it would be great if they served the vets returning home on Christmas Day a wonderful meal of turkey, dressing and all the trimmings.

We flew on to Japan, landed, refueled, changed crew members and we were off again. After a few hours of flying we crossed
the international date line, it was now Christmas on this side of the world, the new crew wanted to surprise us with a wonderful
Christmas meal of turkey dressing and all the trimmings.

We made another fuel stop in Alaska and on to California. We landed, went through customs and once in the terminal we were
met by the wonderful ladies from the USO to welcome us home and invite us in for a wonderful Christmas dinner of
turkey, dressing and all the trimmings.

Since this was almost 50 years ago, communication was not like it is today, so I just then had a chance to call home and tell my
family I was now stateside and to meet me at the airport in the morning. My wife told me that would put a hold on Christmas dinner
until I got home the next day.

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Vergil Maples
US Army
4th Inf Div
2/9 Artillery
Vietnam 1967
A Funny Way To Start A War

I landed in the Republic of Vietnam on December 22, 1967. When I arrived at my Base Camp
on December 23, I was told the next day as they rounded us up that we were going to a hillside to
see Bob Hope and Raquel Welch for a Christmas Show. Me, being Texas country boy, I asked who Raquel
was. I found out, but it sure was a funny way to start my tour.

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CHRISTMAS EVE 1964
Franklin Mendez
SGT, USMC
4TH PLT, 1st Amtrac Bn, 3rd Marine Division
Vietnam 1964 – 1967
Christmas Eve 1964

The 4TH PLT, 1st Amtrac Bn, 3rd Marine Division was designated to tour the Far East in the months of November 1964 through January 1965. This was a normal routine: show the flag and make our presence known in the South China Sea. The tour would take us to places like Hong Kong, Australia, Thailand and the Philippines for great liberties. In Hong Kong, we could buy reel-to-reel recorders at very good prices, not to mention the cameras like Minolta and Nikon’s. We could also order tailor made Shark Skin suits and silk shirts with our monogram on the pocket. These tours had been going on since the end of WWII. So the stories we heard from our fellow Marines, who had already been there, were awesome, full of adventure and excitement. Every Marine looked forward to going on a cruise when they were sent overseas to do a tour in Okinawa, Japan.

Mine was no exception. We prepared for the tour for months, getting our vehicles up to snuff, getting the track really tight and making
sure that our Little Joe (back- up generator) was working and full of oil. We did 100 hr. checks on the Continental V12 Engines to make sure our radios were working.

We also packed all our uniforms into one sea bag and sent another one to storage. We basically cleared the barracks of everything we
owned. We were going on tour and would be gone for 3 nice long months, basking in the sun and enjoying the pleasures that the Far East had to offer.

The departure day arrived in mid – November, so we were taken to the tractor park with all our gear. Everyone loaded up on their
Amtrac’s. I was assigned to Bravo Four Seven, as the driver. We had a 3-man crew, the Crew Chief, Driver and Gunner. We drove down to the beach to await the USS Thompson LSD that would be our home for the next 3 months. We waited and waited but no ship came. Finally, we were told that the ship was delayed and would be arriving in a week. We had already been declared as being on a Cruise so we could not return to our Barracks or leave the beach for that matter. We waited for the ship for 2 weeks on that beach. When we finally saw the ship on the horizon we were tired and had had a bit too much holiday cheer while waiting. To say the least, that was not a happy day for any of the 10 crews. All our excitement seemed to have evaporated into the cold wet November air.

We finally got boarded and secured all the vehicles on the tank deck, we got our assigned berthing quarters and the ship commenced
to get underway. We sailed for about two weeks arriving in Subic Bay in the Philippines on December 24, 1964. On arrival, we were given the word to unload the vehicles and drive them to a secluded spot on the shore of the Naval Base. As the 10 Amtrac’s snaked along the water to the shoreline, we could see the U.S.S. Forestall where Bob Hope was having his Christmas Show that evening. We were not invited to attend.

That evening, we were given a liberty pass to Olongopoo, a small city outside the rear gate of the Naval Base. We were advised that
the gates would be closed at midnight and anyone not in the base would be reported as AWOL.

Well, I went on liberty and had a great time. As usual, we got into a bar fight with the local squids and pretty much destroyed the bar.
We made it back with only a few minutes to spare. When we got back to the platoon area where we were parked, we found the rest of the platoon singing Christmas Carols and having a great Christmas Party. It seemed like everyone had a Christmas story to tell, so we would listen to their stories and then we sang a carol. This went on until 4:00 AM when the beer ran out, so we headed to our tractors to get some sleep.

At 5:00 AM, Christmas morning, we were alerted to load back onto the ship. No one knew why we were doing it in total darkness . Most of us were still drunk and hung over, not having more than one hour of sleep. We drove to the ship in total darkness. I nearly hit the side of the ship trying to find it. It was unbelievable that we all made it on to the ship! I still don’t remember all the de tails of how we got the Amtrac’s secured to the tank deck, it’s still a blur in my memory to this day.

When we were finally loaded and underway, we all headed for our bunks to continue our interrupted sleep. When I woke up, 3 days
later, I made my way up to the forecastle of the ship. What I saw was scary. For as far as I could see, Navy ships of all types were heading west from the Philippines. It was a sight to behold and we all wondered where we were headed.

That Christmas Day, I have never forgotten, because what alerted us to re-load our Amtrac’s onto the Thompson was the beginning
of a long war, now known as the Vietnam War.

According to what I have since learned, the NVA had successfully infiltrated the secured area of Saigon and bombed the Hotel
where most of our commanding generals were staying.

When we arrived on station off the coast of Vietnam and just 25 miles from Saigon, we were given our orders. We were to evacuate
the American civilians from Saigon if things escalated. As it turned out, we were on station for two months, which meant we were never
more than 50 miles from Saigon. We never went anywhere and never set foot on dry land again until we got back to Okinawa. For all of
that, we were awarded the Armed Forces Expeditionary Ribbon. Very few ever received this ribbon after the war started. I did not know at the time that I would return in a few months with the 2nd Regimental Landing Team to a place called Chu-Lai, Vietnam. We were advised when we landed that we could expect to be out in a couple of weeks and our presence was supposed to be a show of American Military power, but all of you know the rest of the story. That was my Christmas of 1964.

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