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Saturday, July 5, 2014

Holidays in The Nam: by Michael Lansford

Michael Lansford
I thought today I would write about how we celebrated holidays in The Nam -- our way of celebrating the 'real world' and the people we missed.

All vets probably had similar experiences.

The holiday, Memorial Day, was very hard as we had just finished the "Hill" (Hill 937, Hamburger Hill, May '69), so we were all pretty numb to everything.

On the 4th of July, someone accidentally fired a tracer into the ammo dump. The first thing it did was set fire to the fuel which, in turn, spilled into the rocket and ammo pit setting them off.

The rockets were for the Cobras. Man that stuff was flying everywhere! No place was safe, because the ammo and rockets had no direction, but what a show! Best Fourth of July ever.

Hanoi Hanna got wind of it and all we heard on our radio was how the People’s Republic of Vietnam had overrun and destroyed the American camp with all personnel. Now that made our day. Hell we blew up our own stuff!

I still wonder who put the tracer round out that way. No one was supposed to fire tracers anyway, but with that light show, it must have been seen and heard all the way into space.

Thanksgiving Dinner - water everywhere
Thanksgiving Day was during monsoon season, of course, and we had only C-Rats -- or so they thought.

I found some officers’ quarters and 'borrowed' some turkey with all the trimmings.

This is a picture of us sitting under a 155 pallet with the rain pouring down and us enjoying our Thanksgiving dinner.

Every time we took a bite of something, the water went everywhere. It was cold and wet, but I told the guys we were having a real Thanksgiving, no matter what. Cold, wet, sloppy turkey and dressing isn't too bad when you are starved for it.

The things we did to observe what we cherished. On Christmas, we found some kind of little tree and Voila! It became our Christmas tree. We even made gadgets to hang on it, like grenade pins, and claymores underneath. Someone made an angel for the top out of a C-Rat box. We had fake presents, using ammo boxes, but sometimes we would put in one round just for effect.

Plastic bags were a luxury, as we used them to keep what valuables we had dry – well, sort of dry. Everything there got wet. If it wasn't the heat, it was the monsoon. But we made the best of it.

I remember someone sent me a hamburger bag just to (in their minds) help me remember the burger stands we used to hang out at. Man it still smelled like burgers and fries. The thing is, when I was alone it made me sad, knowing what I had back in the world and I didn't even know it. That bag meant the world to me. Anything from home was revered.

My family sent me care packages once a month, but there were times it took a long time to get mail, depending on where we were. Then later on, the new Captain I had stopped all my mail, etc. That was the only way to really hurt a troop, withhold his mail. Mail was our lifeline.

Michael Lansford (center) with the guys
Labor Day weekend somehow really fit our world. We labored all right. We took rockets and mortars all weekend from Laos.

We couldn't technically shoot back as they were a "NEUTRAL" country.  Right.

We got around that rule real fast. We just slid around behind them and herded them like cattle until we knew they were officially 'off sides'.

"OOPS Penalty! No time out this time. Sorry about that,” we said. Or, if my Vietnamese spelling is close, we called it Sinh Loi, or “Sorry about that.”

Whenever they had their TET of Lunar holidays we were supposed to have time out and let them observe their religion, etc. Hell all they did was use the time out to move closer, resupply, and get ready for time in. Strange war, when you call time out for their holidays, but not ours.

But aren't all wars like this? Some things don't ever change ...

Michael "Surfer" Lansford
2nd Batallion
"Bravo" Battery
11th Artillery,
155 split trails
101st Airborne
Viet Nam 68-69
Hamburger Hill 10 May-21 May 69

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

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  1. Those were the days I remember. Christmas Eve of '67 we were back at our base camp Dong-Ha, and you know I don't believe there was a shot fired even on Christmas day. My parents sent me a canned ham, other guys were sent things also and we chipped in and made a feast out of it, and a few c-rats, and just sitting around taking about home. I was attached to C-company, 3rd Engineer Bn. --Allen J. Folk

    1. Michael LansfordJuly 5, 2014 at 9:11 AM

      Thanks for your reply Allen J. Folk. Man we all had so many stories to tell about holidays. For me being out in the Ashau time out just meant gear up & be ever more alert than usual. We too chipped in for whatever holiday it was just to help make us feel more normal that it was. still in all those of us wherever we were there did whatever it took to make our lives feel like back home. Thanksgiving was & still is my most cherished holiday. That's when all of my family out aside their differences & we were one family even for a short while, & to this day I miss my Mom's dressing more that anything. Thanks for your service also my friend. God Bless you & yours , always.

  2. Guess I was in the minority. I don't recall any holiday being anything special. Then again... maybe it was just me. I didn't have any special someone back in the world to send me stuff. The few letters I wrote were to the estranged folks back home to let them know I was still alive. (wasn't sure if they cared or not)
    Al, 199th infantry 69-70

    1. Michael LansfordJuly 7, 2014 at 10:00 AM

      Big Al we've been the minority ever since we landed in country. Our holidays like I mentioned earlier we just got more prepared for what was coming. The 68 Tet offensive should have opened their eyes. There's no time out for holidays. The one thing I looked forward from home was my care package my mom sent every month. Anything from home from anyone helped keep us going. God Bless, my friend & comrade.

  3. Thanks giving A day with C- Rats was good [hot food]
    Later dee 815th/102nd Eng 75th Ranger US Army Rt .]

    1. Michael LansfordJuly 25, 2014 at 4:23 PM

      I remember also dee ernst At times even cold C-Rats seemed good or whatever we could get our hands on.


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