MONTGOMERY VILLAGE, Md., November 27, 2014 — As I sat back to read postings in my Facebook, I came across several written by grunts like me during Thanksgivings in Vietnam. These brought back my Thanksgiving, 1966.
It had rained all day. The 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment Mechanized (Triple Deuce), was holding a defensive position at the Cambodian Border in the Parrots beak, Northwest of Saigon in Tay Ninh Province. It had been commissioned with providing assistance and security to an Army Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) unit.
The area was a known infiltration point for supplies to the Viet Cong in that area of South Vietnam. The mechanized unit with lightly armored vehicles (Armored Personnel Carriers, APC, M113) had been necessary in this area where enemy activity was common. Fire power from the near 80 APCs and their 50 caliber machine guns, plus two M60 (7.62 mm) machine guns in each vehicle had been deemed sufficient to defend the area and allow the ARVN unit to search it.
This was the first trip of the Triple Deuce into this area of War Zone C, but wouldn’t be the last. Some of the perimeter included a river that marked the boundary between Vietnam and Cambodia.
We had almost lost hope for a hot meal from headquarters, the weather lifted and the helicopters came in with the turkey and all the trimmings. As units were brought into the center of the defense perimeter, the kitchen warriors from base camp started to feed the wet and starving troopers. Things started to get a lot more relaxed and we were all looking forward to a great meal and knocking off a few beers as night fell.
Just about the time when half of the unit had been fed, sniper fire broke out. We all dropped our trays and ran for cover. One distraught soldier screamed “Curse you Red Baron,” a reference to the peanuts cartoon then popular.
It is difficult to put into words the disappointment that the sniper intervention caused us. Simple things are everything for soldiers in a combat zone. While miserably wet under a poncho, we all had dreamed of the promised meal. Now it had been spoiled and we were still wet and miserable.
As night fell and the sound of gun fire stopped word got around that the sniper had been a member of the ARVN unit we were protecting. He apparently had thought it was funny to ruin the Americans’ celebration. He had been turned in by one of his fellow soldiers who rationally didn’t think it was so funny.
It is possible that some people’s Thanksgiving reunions are as full of fireworks as this one back in 1966, but it is likely that the sniper would not be firing real bullets.
Mario Salazar, the 21st Century Pacifist, remembered this unusual Thanksgiving celebration while watching football. He can be found at Twitter (@chibcharus), Google+ and Facebook (Mario Salazar).