Christmas Eve in DaNang - 1968
by Gary Walker
1968, DaNang, South Viet Nam, Christmas Eve.
I was a misplaced “Submariner” doing what I was assigned. The assignment didn’t make much sense but as we all did, I did my duty. I was assigned to the Armed Forces Police, 3rd Military Police, 3rd Marine Battalion. This proves that a “submariner” can do anything.
The Armed Forces Police were a combination of all “Allied Countries” within South Viet Nam, either militarily or administration. The “Tet Offensive” was over, but rumors were many.
Thanksgiving was just a nightmare. The VC decided that the Transmitter Site at Marble Mountain was going to be their target for 11 days. Many good men would not see Christmas. I laid in the mud, shivering without a thought of Turkey. Daylight normally bought courage.
Christmas Eve brought many changes to our “normal routines.” A German Hospital Ship was tied up on the DaNang River, in front of the “White Elephant.” (The White Elephant was the Headquarters of MACV in the “I-Corp”, Northern South Viet Nam) The German’s would provide medical treatment to anyone who came across their decks. Whenever the ship got underway, we knew big things were going to happen.
Christmas Eve day brought almost panic on the deck of the German Vessel. They couldn’t get out of town quick enough. Traffic on the streets was very light (very unusual) Old people were leaving town with all their belongings.
With all the activity, we were going into Plan B and there was no Plan B. We drove “Rat Patrol” jeeps with M-60’s on them. I carried an M-79 Grenade Launcher and a M-16. We were very well armed but there were times when this didn’t matter. We all wrote letters home and put them in the big green mailbox.
As darkness began to set in, assignments came and we were in place waiting. Intelligence reported to expect massive ground attacks. I was assigned the bridge connecting the East side of DaNang with the Main City. This was the only way in to the city from the East. Everything the Navy brought into the area came from “Deep Water Pier” and across the bridge. I set security. Checked it many times and waited.
The clock ticked, we waited and waited. We began to tremble as if it was very cold. At 2217, all hell broke loose or so we thought. There was massive small arm firings, many flares, men yelling and then we noticed that the firing was in the air. You could see tracers everywhere but into the air. The VC was there but no attack. Their tracers were into the air also. I don’t know who was dropping flares but it turned out to be quite a show for Christmas Eve. Maybe God decided that no one was to die that night.
[Be sure to visit Mr. Walker's website - Ed. ]
Published December, 2005