Christmas Story


Christmas Eve was the Bob Hope Show.

Four thousand of us squatted on the deck

Or perched on anything we could.

We screamed with laughter, shouted in applause

While warm, black water slipped by

Close outside.

There was a truce that night.

The decks were quiet,

Aircraft blind and dark.

Turkey in the Wardroom,

A few wild parties here and there

Celebrating life amid the empty bunks.

Others, too, we knew would celebrate,

Safe in port so briefly.

They were sitting now

At drink-wet tables in the Cubi Club,

Staring at foggy windows

Black hills blacker still against the night,

Their ship lit up with “MERRY XMAS” lights.

Christmas Day was almost gone

When we came up on deck,

Moving stiffly in our nylon armor,

Helmets swinging.

The truce would end at six;

Our target time was 6:05.

Milestone Flight proceed to

Zero-eight-eight radial,

One hundred miles Channel 99.

Contact Nail Five-two on Button six.

The sun had just begun to gild

The pale karst cliffs.

Hodie! Hodie! Christus Natus Est!

Our target – troops, supplies, and trucks –

Lay safely covered in the trees;

A valley slope already deep in shadow.

Nail Five-two was good.

His voice, a lazy Texas drawl,

Talked us into easy contact.

His spot, a white, slow-curling smoke,

Hit right on.

He hung there

Far below us in his white-winged craft

And watched our runs.

We gave him three runs –

Six bombs each.

Our second and our third were good enough.

The sun had still not set when we pulled off.

Nail gave our BDA as we both headed home:

Two trucks, two fires, four bunkers out,

Six killed by air,

And signed off:

A pleasure workin’ with y’all,

An’ a Merry Christmas to yuh, now.

Merry Christmas, Nail Five-two.

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Peter Adams Young
Peter Adams Young as a navy pilot during the Vietnam war.