Monday, November 1, 2010

G.I's Give Viet Hamlet Two Santas

from amanda shafers scrapbook....

Des Moines Tribune Dec. 22 1966
XOM HUE, SOUTH VIETNAM (AP) "Blaster 8-4, code name 'Jo-Ho-Ho' coming in for a landing, let me see your smoke, Ho-ho-ho."
"rog, Blaster 8-4, take 'er down."
In Christmas colors, green and red smoke flares indicated the landing zone across from the Buddhist temple. The bubbletop helicopter made a turn in the listless tropical air, set down in a peanut field, and Santa Claus came to the tiny hamlet of Xom Hue, 35 miles northwest of Saigon.
There were two of htem, in fact, a Vietnamese Santa Claus and his American couterpart, so the 1000 kids in the hamlet were doubly delirious with delight.
"You're No.1' they kept telling helicopter pilot Richard Salzarulo of Pittsfield, Massl, the American Santa Claus.
Actually, he was No. 2, because the US 25th Infantry Division, whose artillerymen were sponsoring the big Christmas party, was out to stress the Vietnamese aspects of the celebration.
From Xom Hue, a bitterly contest hamlet all the way back to the days of the French, it was the biggest day since the Viet Cong pulled out bag and baggage eight months ago.
The 25th Infantry Division band paraded down the muddy main street oom-pah-pah-ing Jingle Bells. Half the hamlet followed happily along behind.
In the words of Ebeneezer Scrooge, "There never was such a Christmas" as Buddhism and Christianity got together in a bizarre Christmas pudding.
There was a lifesize Nativity scene in front of the pagoda, with Vietnamese schoolgirls dressed as angels and wearing enormous silver wings fashioned from old newspapers.
Then the children of the village marched in a colorful "star procession", proudly showing off huge colored stars they had made of bamboo and rice paper.
The reviewing section was a colorful blend of village elders, government officials, church and pagoda dignitaries, military leaders.
There was Col. Daniel Williams of Boonville, SC, the artillery commander, in his steel helmet. There was the Rev. Tran Van Phin, Catholic priest from the next village, in his broad-brimmed French cure's hat. There were Le Van Auh, the hamlet chief, in his black mandarin coat, and Capt. Ho Van Hiep, the district chief, in his spotless khaki uniform, resplendent wtih decorations.
There were the pagoda venerables in their saffron robes and wispy beards, lovely ladies in long flowing ao-dais and streaming jet black hair, toohless mamasans spitting out betel nut and sucking on pipes or cigars, G.I.s standing by with M16 rifles
All agreed, after due deliberation, that 9-year-old Nguyen Van Nhan, whose father pedaled a cyclo cab, had made the best Christmas star. It was fully three feet tall, almost as tall of Nguyen himself, and bore the inscription: "Mung li giant sinh" which is Vietnamese for "We Wish you a merry Christmas."
For his star making talents, Nguyen recieved a huge model airplane carved and painted by the surgeons at the Army's 7th Surgical Hospital.
The rest of the kids surged around and at one point threatened to overrun the two Santas to get at $3,300 worth of toys the artillery-men had flown over, at their own expense, from the States.
While Mess Sgt. Cecil Shafer of Des Moines, Ia. served up a mountain of cakes and cold drinks, a Bietnamese drama team entertained on a stage set up across from the little school that the American artillery men had provided with desks and benches.
(Shafer, 40, son of Mrs Amanda Shafer of 933 Forest ave., has been in the Army 19 years. He has two children, both of Des Moines, Mrs. Donna Lynn Hessletine, 22, of 6740 Townsend dr. and Roy Dean Shafer, 20, of 4217 Bowdoin st.)
Lt Ted Root of Stow, Ohio, stepped up to the microphones provided by the Vietnamese propaganda team, and sang "O Holy Night" with sich silvery sweetness as to lay to rest forever the canard that all artillerymen are tone-deaf.
He was backed by a 25-voice G.I. Choir.
With the division band and a Vietnamese string band combining for "Silent Night" and the whole hamlet singings along, it was difficult to realize that less than 18 months ago the hamlet had provided 90 to 100 recruits to the Viet Cong.
After the ceremonies, the two Santas, Warrant Officer Salzarulo and Dao Nguyen Thong, a local student for the Catholic priesthood, climbed back into their bubble chopper and headed out over the rooftops.
Just then a flight of armed Huey helicopters busted past, lifting 25th Division infantrymen into heavy fighting in the Boi Loi Woods eight miles away.
Santa Salzarulo's last words of radio contact, as he disappeared in the clouds, were: "It's 130 degrees up here, and I ho-ho-hope I never draw this mission again!"

1 comment:

Robert May said...

Thats my Great Uncle Dickie!!!! The american santa!!! I cant believe I found this article. My Grandmother May will be very proud.