At Christmas time in 1969 I was in Vietnam, beating the bush with a Mechanized Infantry platoon. Just before Christmas, we were pulled in close to our base camp at Lai Khe to provide extended perimeter security for Bob Hope’s USO Christmas show. Anyone who wants to read more about that show can follow the link below.
There was a temporary truce declared on Christmas Day, and the entire battalion gathered at a large clearing north of Lai Khe. Hot food was choppered in and we all gorged ourselves, since it was the first time we’d eaten anything but c-rations for weeks.
After the meal, we were told that Donut Dollies were coming in to visit us. The Donut Dollies were part of the American Red Cross, young college-degreed women who spent a one-year tour in country as morale boosters for American troops. As soon as we heard this, everybody started getting cleaned up as best we could. We washed our faces, shaved, put on clean uniforms, and straightened out the APCs to make them presentable.
The ladies flew in to our site in a Ch-47 Chinook helicopter, with two Cobra gunships for security. It was procedure to mark the landing site with a smoke grenade, and the pilot would identify the color of the smoke to ensure they were landing in a “safe” zone. This was the dry season in Southeast Asia, and the knee-deep grass in the clearing was very dry. A small fire was started by the smoke grenade and when the Chinook came in to land, the downdraft quickly spread the fire through our site. Genius.
It took us some time and a lot of water to put the fire out. Luckily, we had plenty of water to get the job done and none of the munitions in the APCs detonated. The Chinook had to pull out and circle the area until this was accomplished, but finally was able to land. The young ladies deplaned and walked around on the burnt grass talking to us.
I had the pleasure of talking to one of the ladies for a few minutes. I wish I had a camera with me, so I could share some pictures, but I didn’t carry a camera when I was in the field. I don’t even remember her name, but she was very nice, and it was a true pleasure talking to a young American lady after being out in the field for weeks. It was a break from the war, a touch of home that still gets me misty-eyed when I think about it. And every Christmas it comes to mind, reminding me of how good I have it now. So, this Christmas, I want to thank those young women for the sacrifice they made to bring us grunts some smiles and give us some good memories.
Thanks, ladies, and I hope you have a merry Christmas. You did a hell of a job.