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The previous Christmas I had spent half way around the world, from my home in California, in Asmara, Ethiopia (today Asmara is the capital of Eritrea). We had a visit from three wise men on the camels (complete with camel smog) ..... told them they were really lost and pointed them in the general direction of Israel and went back to our Scotch and water!

A year later found me and several of my cohorts from Kagnew Station (the name of the base in Africa, the only U.S. base in Africa at the time) at Phu Bai, just south of the city of Hue in the Republic of Vietnam. I had spent from July 4th till late November of 1968 as an analyst and liaison supporting the 1st Air Cavalry Division at Camp Evans just south of the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Vietnam. Having lived in a tent sunken in a ditch for past five months I was more than ready for the luxury of air conditioned trailers, regular Army food, and a very nice club for after hours recreation.

I had formed the Phong Dien Sports Car Club whose objective was to solicit letters and pictures from sorority girls at various colleges and universities around the U.S. This effort had been a major success with young ladies writing the guys in our small unit and becoming pen pals with some of the guys. God bless the ladies from Southern schools who were generous with their letters and pictures.

So when I was transferred down to our northern headquarters at Phu Bai, I had to come up with something to top my previous morale building effort. I decided that we should have a Christmas dinner, not just any Christmas dinner but a special one with all the food shipped to us by mail from the States. This venture quickly brought together 20 enthusiastic intelligence analyst, crypties and linguists, each of whom with the remittance of twenty bucks got the privilege of selecting one item for inclusion on the dinner's menu. Money in hand I solicited the help of my mother, who at the time was editorial home economist at Sunkist Growers to help purchase, package and mail all the items to us in Vietnam.

The various canned foods and other delicacies were purchased and donated from Jurgensen's a Pasadena, CA gourmet food purveyor (where I used to cadge cookies when I was a little kid). When people heard about what these guys in Vietnam were doing they began donating food and drink for our event. Especially appreciated were at least three cases of wine and four jero boams (very large bottles) of Champagne that were sent (illegaly by U.S. Mail). We ended up with jars of imported caviar, wild boar under glass, all kinds of special crackers and spreads and other hors d'oevres items along with more substantial food stuffs. This bounty all arrived over a period of a week, coming in over twenty five good sized boxes. We had so much stuff we invited our cohorts in collection to join us for the celebration. I think the best item in this bounty was the Hot Toddy mix (rum was readily available from the PX) which we enjoyed while stripped to our skivvies with the air conditioner as low as it would go, singing Christmas carols and generally getting plotzed.

The food editor of the Los Angeles Times got ahold of what was happening and wrote up a three column story about "our boys in Vietnam" and their Christmas party. The project was such a success that I don't think any of us really missed being home for Christmas that year.Well, maybe just a little bit!

I had several more Christmases a long way from home, but despite being in a hot war zone (in those days we ASA-ers were always in a Cold War zone) I don't think I was to have a Christmas quite as much fun or memorable.
 

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Good on ya'. Not quite as dramatic or convoluted, but submarine crews were pretty good at about the same sort of quiet publicity - and the pen pals/gift wrappers loved it. Unfortunately most of the boxes of cookies and cakes looked as if they had been Post Office cancelled by elephants with rubber stamps on their feet.

In '68 I was watching you through a periscope .................

One day I'll tell ya' how I scaled up a cherry cheesecake recipe for 155 men out of a small French cookbook in the ship's library - the recipe was for 6 small cheese tarts - the filling looked like a cheesecake recipe Mom used - and we had to use up a case of Philadelphia cream cheese. Smashing success on Christmas Eve. Remember the old #10 cans of cherry pie filling ??? Heh, heh.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I, for one, am waiting to hear this story .... was this onshore or in the deep?
 

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Over 500 feet down, silent service work. Watching them while they watched us watch them ..................
 

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That must be a real challenge to make a cheery cheese cake without making a sound.
 

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^^^ What can I say, even the LZ's for the 1st Cav and the Screaming Eagles had hot turkey and ham coptered ou tto them on Christmas Day.

Thinking back, the only time I can remember having C-rations was when we were in escape and evasion training at Fort Devens before shipping overseas. That was before we were attacked by aggressors and we had to spend 5 days after being caught and interned in a very realistic POW camp, being tortured (electrodes and field telephones amongst other thing) and crawling through a 200 yard long dirt tunnel to freedom and another attempt to escape through enemy territory. Never had to use the training for real, but knowing how to open the cans and eat the C-rations was a real confidence builder!
 

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I had room for at least 3 cases of "C" rations in the upper ramp door of my C-130. I still have my P-38.
Last Nov.18 I was out 47 years.
 

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Damn !!! I have one on the truck key ring and a few in a shop drawer somewhere.

Been retired Navy for 32 years. Did 24 active, over 26 total. E-9.
 

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I keep one hanging in the kitchen under a cabinet for those rare sardine, anchovy, smoked oyster etc cans that don't have a pull tab and are too small to use a regular can opener on.
 

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Here's a Christmas thread that I thought our new members might get a kick out of reading. I remembered that Sub had a Deep Christmas tale to tell!
 

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On a different patrol (from the cheese cake thing), Christmas was just about at "halfway night" - 38 days done, 38 to go. "Halfway" was always a night of special food, relaxed atmosphere, and a couple of hours of skits in the Crew's Mess. At the time our captain was Cdr. Richard Winter, one hell of a good skipper. The crew thought very highly of him. The Nuclear Machinery division did a skit on "submarine birth control" complete with props - (the huge HVAC system used quantities of expanded foam filter material cut from 60" wide rolls. It was flesh-colored, easily cut and formed, and could be drawn upon with wide-tip magic marker). At the beginning of the skit a 6 foot tall penis, in correct detail, walked into the crew's mess, bent 45 degrees and pissed all over the captain. The place went wild, the old man was "impressed" and Nuke Machinery took the top prize: 3 gallons of real ice cream (not the chalky crap from the soft ice cream machine which ran 24/7/78). Captain Winter asked for a replay and Polaroid shots for his scrapbook. Once in a while it was nice to set aside thoughts of the deadly business we were engaged in - and stuff like that made for a tightly-knit crew.
 

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Another great story, Sub, it is the comrade-ship (no pun intended) that was a fact among men in military and naval units and their willingness to support and join in the efforts of the group that made those Christmases away from home and loved ones very special.
 

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Interesting stories. I can only imagine making a cheesecake for over 150 people, not to mention doing so quietly.

I can't compete. The best I've got is that after a 48 hour (successful) stakeout, I took some of my crew to IHOP for Christmas dinner. I hadn't eaten in over 30 hours at the time. Endless Pancakes sounded promising.

I recall leaving my waitress $100 as a tip, because I felt bad that she had to work on Christmas. She applied a 25% discount to my table though and since then, every waitress there has done the same, any time I have been there.

Statistically, I don't usually eat at all on Christmas.
 
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