Friday, November 28, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Memories of Christmas in Vietnam

stevenson column sig 2

By
From page A8 | December 25, 2012 |

I’m dragging out one of my favorite Christmas stories because even though I’ve told it before, it stays with me.

It goes back 45 years to my tour in Vietnam. The Christmas holiday and the Vietnamese New Year, known as Tet, seem to blend into one another, even though they are weeks apart. I was stationed in Quang Tri, the northernmost of all the South Vietnamese provinces.

In fact we were a mere 15 miles from the demilitarized zone, known as the DMZ. I was there from September 1967 to July 1968 – a month-and-a-half off for good behavior, I guess. I was – as we called ourselves – a low-ranking enlisted swine. That was tongue in cheek for the bottom half or so of the enlisted ladder. So I was a Specialist Fifth Class, known more briefly as a Spec 5.

I was on an advisory team, with a few Marine guards and an ARVN – Army of the Republic of Vietnam – stationed nearby. My job was primarily in an office and because I could type – sort of – and had been an editor in high school and college, I was called upon by various officers to check the letters they were writing to their superiors. I developed almost a bond with our province chief, Lt. Col. Joseph Seymoe.

When Christmas rolled around, Lt. Col. Seymoe wanted to have some kind of sing-along after dinner and he asked he asked me if I could lead a few dozen enlisted men in Christmas carols. I explained that I was Jewish and had a terrible voice, so he might want to find someone else.

He asked if I knew the words to a half-dozen carols and when I confessed I did, he said “The job is yours.” It was fun, because the 20 or 30 guys who sang along knew the words and melodies better than I.

Sadly, that part of the story did not have a happy ending. A few weeks later, Lt. Col. Seymoe was hitching a ride on a UH1B chopper to an advisory district bordering the big Marine base at Khe Sanh. He asked me if I wanted to go along, but – fortunately – Bob Brewer, the actual provincial boss, said, “I’ll need Stevenson for some reports.”

You can guess the rest – the chopper was shot down and Lt. Col. Seymoe and others were killed.

It turned out that that action was the beginning of the famous Tet Offensive, when the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese went all out to kill Americans and our allies. I was placed in a relatively safe bunker in the middle of the compound, but mortar fire and gunfire were coming in all around us. We had one serious offensive weapon, known as a “duster.” It was a tank with two anti-aircraft guns on it. Even though it was “intended” as an anti-aircraft gun, it was very effective as an anti-personnel weapon.

There was one Marine, Sgt. Ed McKim, whom I loved for his heroism. He kept the duster supplied with ammunition, running in the open with mortar and machine gun fire all around him to make his resupply trips.

I guess Sgt. McKim, who was my friend and barracks neighbor, made one too many resupply runs, because they finally got him. The next day, units of the 1st Air Cavalry Division came. First F4 Phantoms dropping napalm, then the Hueys carrying men and firing machine guns.

It turns out the First Cavalry killed almost 1,000 North Vietnamese regulars, who had a map of our small compound with them. No question our compound was their target for that coming night. Bless the men of the First Air Cavalry and especially Sgt. McKim.

And Merry Christmas.

Bud Stevenson, a stockbroker, lives in Fairfield. Reach him at Bsteven254@aol.com.

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 1 comment

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • Jean in S.J.December 25, 2012 - 2:08 pm

    Thanks for this essay and for your service. Powerful memories to remind us of the bravery of those on the front lines. I admire your loyalty in remembering these colleagues.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
.

Solano News

Giving thanks, ‘even in this broken world,’ on Thursday

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Solano Turkey Trot draws 2,600 to college

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
 
Il Fiorello schedules olive milling day

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

 
Early Black Friday shoppers take advantage of deals

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3 | Gallery

Eagle Scout project adds floating docks at Rockville Park

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
.

US / World

‘Guardian angel,’ community join to give man home

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
US celebrates Thanksgiving with parades, turkey

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3 | Gallery

Tons of marijuana seized in Central California

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
Gorilla death prompts San Francisco Zoo changes

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

Health agents still unpaid after plan’s rollout

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
California Burger King employee finds $100,000

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

At 1 month, US Ebola monitors finding no cases

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Families asked to host visitors for pope’s US trip

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Researchers discover ‘pre-cancers’ in blood

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
35 arrested in Oakland after protest march

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

A glance at Ferguson: Then, now and the future

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
For some, location of Brown’s hands irrelevant

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Ferguson gives thanks after a quiet night

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Colorado mastodon bones show ancient warmer Earth

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Queen of crime writing PD James dies aged 94

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Ebola aid dogged by coordination lags in Guinea

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Taliban attack rocks upscale Kabul district

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Small quake rattles California wine country

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

.

Opinion

Harvard admissions, then and now

By Bud Stevenson | From Page: A11

 
 
What it costs to fight the Islamic State

By Walter Pincus | From Page: A11

.

Living

Today in History: Nov. 28, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: Nov. 28, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

Movies just another course on Thanksgiving

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Poor health is no excuse for not behaving like a caring person

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A9

Horoscope for Nov. 28, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

 
.

Entertainment

Week in preview: Nov. 28 to Dec. 4, 2014

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

 
Prison theater transforms Colombian inmates

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Singer John Mayer among ‘Late Late Show’ subs

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Review: ‘Horrible Bosses 2′ doesn’t work

By Jake Coyle | From Page: B2

Review: ‘Madagascar’ spin-off hatches family fun

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Reading Harry Potter gives clues to brain activity

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Talking songs with She & Him

By Kim Durbin | From Page: B3

 
Entertainment calendar Nov. 28, 2014

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B4

 
Cosby testimony describes accuser’s spiked story

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

.

Sports

College notebook: Many happy returns for Arizona’s Bondurant

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B7 | Gallery

 
Sherman’s big night leads Seattle past 49ers again

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7 | Gallery

Rookie quarterback Carr is Raiders’ silver lining

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

 
US cities urged to keep price tags down for 2024

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

Eagles roll over Cowboys 33-10 for NFC East lead

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

 
5 investigated in FIFA WCup bid corruption probe

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Johnson shines in Detroit’s 34-17 win over Chicago

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Signups for Friday, Nov. 28, 2014

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B10

No. 9 UCLA must overcome Stanford for Pac-12 title

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

 
.

Business

Kia’s ‘Soulful’ first electric car

By Ann M. Job | From Page: C1

 
Automakers aim to drive away car computer hackers

By The Associated Press | From Page: C2

3 Reasons holiday shoppers will spend cautiously

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

 
OPEC keeps oil output on hold despite low prices

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

.

Obituaries

Deanna L. Haines

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
Esther Ringler

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

‘Chipper’ Douglas Lee Anderson Jr.

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9