Flat tires on Christmas Day

Published 2:00 pm Friday, December 16, 2022

By Gene Hays

On December 25, 1967, I and my fellow workers received a half day off; that meant 6 hours of a 12 hour shift.

I was in Chu Lai, South Vietnam where we had an assortment of Marine Corps fighter and attack aircraft with combat sorties planned 24/7, except Christmas Day.

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My avionics unit, along with an A-6 avionics unit, had a mini celebration on the beach after completing our half day of work. Trash barrels were iced down with beer and sodas and some lucky individuals brought hard liquor.

We had over 100 Marines ready to drink and play. We had a couple of footballs we passed around and quickly divided up in teams. We were maybe 25 yards from the shoreline and occasionally we had to retrieve the football in the water.

The beaches were closed and posted for no swimming because of the weather and there were no lifeguards. Of course, that wouldn’t intimidate a group of Marines.

About an hour into our celebration, an Army Military Police jeep came down to us on the beach and they wanted to talk to whoever was in charge (we never figured who that was). After one of our senior enlisted Marines agreed to be in charge, the MPs nicely explained that we were playing too close to the water and that we needed to move.

When the MPs returned to their Jeep, they found it wasn’t going anywhere as the left rear tire was flat and couldn’t make it through the sand. They called their maintenance support on the radio and while they waited, we gave them a couple of beers and they didn’t mind the wait at all.

When another MP Jeep arrived, everyone was advised to keep away. This time an Army MP Lieutenant sought out our senior officer present, and one of our senior enlisted Marines introduced himself as a Major and wanted to know who was asking.

While the conversation ensued, I saw out of the corner of my eye to see someone had crawled through sand to the Lieutenant’s jeep and I could hear a faint sound of air escaping from a tire.

When the conversation ended with our self-appointed leader, all four MPs returned to the Lieutenant’s Jeep and were chagrined to find theirs stuck in the sand.

We also offered them some beer after another radio call was made, and this time we were told that the Provost Marshall was coming with the next Jeep.

We adjourned our celebration to our living areas having had a great and memorable Christmas.

Semper Fidelis!
Gene Hays is a retired Marine Master Sergeant, author, and historian. Email: rghays47@gmail.com.