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War and the Muses - "When the Third Platoon Gunned Down Santa Claus"

For two Christmas’s past now, we’ve special items appropriate to the holiday,  Captain Virgilio's Christmas and Lord Raglan's Christmas, both rather serious.

This year we thought we’d go with something lighter, a “Chet Story.”.

Chet Lynn (1932-2001) was a Marine, who rose from teenaged enlisted man to major, while earning a Purple Heart during the long walk out from the Chosin Reservoir and later doing his bit in Vietnam.  Like many another veteran, Chet often told stories about life in uniform or little bits of military humor, including this, about which he wrote, “The holidays are creeping up on us and I ran across a tattered old ditto copy of a bit of doggerel that was put together in 'Nam sometime around 1967.



“When the Third Platoon Gunned Down Santa Claus”

                                     

There's strange things done 'neath the Vietnamese sun.  

But the thing that locked my jaws

was the night 'neath the moon,

the third platoon gunned down Santa Claus.            

 

It started off right just another night, you had to spend in the dirt,

security was out, 360 about with fifty percent alert.                                                  

We had 81s and naval guns our tanks were track to track,

an Ontos or so an arty FO with barrages back to back.

 

I froze where I stood 'cause out of the wood  

eight horses came charging along,

this may sound scary those mustangs were hairy,

"Oh no," I moaned," mounted Viet Cong."

                                                 

They were coming our way, pulling what looked like a sleigh,

            you never knew what they'd use,

 our flares were tripped, our SIDs had flipped

Our tipsy blew a fuse.

                                                 

We let them close then we yelled "who goes"

like they do in the movie show,

the answer we got, believe it or not,

was a hearty," Ho Ho Ho."

                                                 

Now these troops of mine have seen some  time,

they've done some things back-assward,

they may be thick but I'll tell you a trick,

they knew that wasn't the password.

                                                 

The nineties roared the 81's soared,

the naval guns raised hell,

bright red flare flew through the air,

as we fired our FPL.

                                                 

I'll grant him guts, but that man was nuts,

or I'm a no good liar.

He dropped like a stone in our killing zone,

 I passed the word, "cease fire".

                                                 

I went out and took a real good look,

my memory started to race.

My mind plays games when it comes to names

but I never forget a face.

                                                 

He was dressed in red and he looked well fed,

older than most I'd seen,

he looked right weird,  with that long white beard

and stumps where his legs had been.

                                                 

He hadn't quite died when I reached his side,

but the end was clearly in sight,

I knelt down low and he said real slow,                                                        

"Merry Christmas . . . and to all, a good night”

                                                 

Now we should have known our cools were blown

when that light in the East we seen,

 I thought it was flares and it had to be theirs,

or the damned things would have been green,

 

I picked up the hook with a voice that shook

said "gimme the Six and quick,”

“Colonel,"  I said, "hang on to your head,

we just greased old St. Nick".

                                                 

Now the old man’s cool, he's nobody's fool,

right off he knew the word,

if this got out, there'd be no doubt,

he wouldn't be making his bird.

                                                 

"Just get him up here and we'll play it by ear,

make sure he's got a tag,

dismantle the sleigh, drive those reindeer away,

 and bury that God damned bag".

                                                 

Now by and by the kiddies may cry,

 'cause nothing’s under the tree’,

but the word came back from FMF Pac,

 that Santa had gone VC.

                                                 

There's strange things done 'neath the Vietnamese sun,

            but the time that locked my jaws,

was the night neath the moon,

When the third platoon gunned down Santa Claus.


Glossary:             Some of Chet’s terms may be unfamiliar, so we’ve added this little guide, though we don’t know all the terms either.

 

81’s                      81-mm mortars

360 About           Complete perimeter alert

Bird                      An eagle, the insignia of a full colonel, as Chet’s c/o was only a lieutenant colonel

FMF PAC             Fleet Marine Forces, Pacific

FPL                       Final Protective Line – the last ditch defense line

FO                         Forward Observer, a soldier, sailor, marine, or airman who spots for artillery (arty) or air attacks from the front lines

Ontos                    The “Ontos” M50 Motor Carriage, a unique armored vehicle used by the Marine Corps for some years in the late 1950s through the ‘60s, mounting six 106 mm rec oiless rifles, all facing forward.  Loosely translated, “Ontos” is Greek for “The Thing.”

SIX                        Six/ 6 refer to the commander and sometimes his headquarters

SID’s                    Possibly Signals Intelligence Division

Tag                        Identification attached to a corpse to indicate an enemy combatant

VC                        Viet Cong, the Communist guerrilla forces in South Vietnam

 

More Chet Stories:  This is hardly the first “Chet Story” to appear in CIC, for some more, see “Colonel Lynn, General Krulak, and the Tartar Sauce,” “The Platoon Sergeant and the ‘Baby-Faced’ Lieutenant,” and “Major McIlhenny, USMC

 

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