Why Uncle Ho Didn't Attack on Christmas Eve
by Gary Earls (30/36) with postscript by Ken Mayberry (50)
In December 1969 I was assigned the duty of perimeter defense officer for the 158th Avn Bn. I hated the duty since I had already done it as a 1LT three months earlier and now I was a Captain and someone decided that a Captain should be perimeter defense officer. Several days later, I think it was Skip Lee, John Hodnett, and John Eaton came to see me about the idea of having the officers pull guard duty on Christmas Eve and giving a party for the enlisted even with hard liqueur that they weren't supposed to have. I told them that all I wanted was warm bodies on guard and here was twenty dollars toward the party.
I later went to sleep with visions of having the sharpest guard mount in the 101st Division, somewhat similar to the Old Guard at Arlington Cemetery. Of me receiving the Legion of Merit for having the sharpest guards and receiving the highest OER possible, personally written by the Division Commander, General Wright. I forgot about the arrangements about December 22nd, heard that a "maintenance flight" had been arranged to go to Da Nang to pick up the "refreshments". My Warrants told me that they were getting ready for guard duty.
On December 24th I attended the guard mount since we were at a highened security. The other units brought their guards and here came this mob down the road. It was the guards for C/158th. I took a double take. This wasn't the Old Guard that I had envisioned. No, this mob looked like the Mexican bandit gang from the movie, "The Magnificent Seven." They took their place between the other units. It looked like they hadn't shaved in a couple of days. Each officer had crossed bandoleers and at least three weapons per man. The duty officer looked at me and I just shrugged my shoulders. He started his inspection.
As luck would have it, the battalion commander, LTC Joseph Kastner, left the Bn Headquarters just as we were getting started with the inspection. He looked at the guards and then did a double take realizing that the Phoenix guards were not ordinary guards. He looked at me and then back at the guards and back at me. He just shook his head and kept walking toward the mess hall. I realized then that my Legion of Merit was disappearing into a general courts-martial or at least an Article 15. I figured that I had a lot of explaining to do for the Mexican bandit gang. Oh, well it had been a good career.
That night the enlisted guys didn't have to worry about anything but partying. There weren't any flights planned until later and they could sleep in if they wanted. Never did hear anything officially about the Mexican bandit gang guards. One of the pilots in B/158th mentioned to me in the PX several days later that their troops wanted a night off from guard duty. "What have you guys started" he complained.
Now you know why Uncle Ho didn't attack Camp Evans on December 24th, 1969 despite the cat calls for him to come out and fight. The calls were coming from the Phoenix sector. Fortunately for Uncle Ho and his troops there were no takers otherwise it would have been a bloodbath and the war would have ended on December 26th with Uncle Ho's army defeated because of a lookalike Mexican bandit gang. That's my story and I am sticking by it. :-)
Gary E. Earls
Ken Mayberry adds...
Gary, your tradition was still alive in 70, although somewhat shall we say "enhanced?" The pilots picked for guard duty had been drinking ALL afternoon because many flights were terminated early for the holiday. By formation and inspection time some even had difficulty with basic bodily functions such as walking upright. It was great for troop morale, though I had never seen the EM laugh so much in my life. I don't remember who the OD was but was he PO'd. Thank God we didn't get hit that night.
Happy Holidays to All,