War Stories

Turkey On the Run

The time of Christmas is a time of giving, but sometimes it is a time of taking. In the year 1967 the month of December found young men facing the Christmas holiday on soil not of their choosing. This was a time of great uncertainty for many young soldiers who had never been away from home, much less the United States. Knowing this, the battalion wanted to make the transition from peace to war with a little nostalgia of what we were fighting for. What better distraction can you have then a good home cooked turkey dinner.

I had gotten to the Republic of Vietnam with the 101st advanced party. I was at this time a 92b2p, which is in army MOS terms, is an airborne cook with the rank of PFC E3. Advanced party personnel had to get the base camp in order first before the main body arrived. Cooks were responsible in helping with the set up of the mess hall and preparing meals for the troops. I had been working like there was no tomorrow for days on end, so on this day I got the day off from cooking. I found myself standing in the mess hall line like all the other line doggies, and having a great time bullshitting with them while the line moved towards the door.

Inching my way to the serving line, I noticed all the tables had those checkered red and white clothes over them, all the men in line had on clean jungle fatigues , and the cooks looked cool in there white aprons and shirts. The troops were all a buzz about the good meal that was soon to be consumed by them. I was happy that I did not have to work on this day, and had the chance to enjoy the holiday sprit.

I was four members down from the serving line getting my tray and silverware when a commotion broke out in front of the serving line. There was a flash of bodies that ran to the back door of the mess hall and out into the red clay covered road. A loud shout followed those out the door, STOP, STOP, those guys. Before anyone could react, the troops were out the door and disappeared like thieves in the night.

I raced to the front of the line and asked the cook what the hell happened. The head cook stated, some ass holes have stolen the Christmas Turkey. There was an unholy outcry from the now turkey less troops. All the officers’ faces turned red with anger and they started to bark orders to the noncoms to find and bring the turkey thieves to justice.

The cooks in the mean time had to come up with a substitute for the now kidnapped fowl, which turned out to be some kind of sliced beef from a can. Of course this enraged the EM, for this maybe their last holiday dinner on this earth. In a normal situation enlisted men stick together and the bird napping would have been the talk of the base camp, but because this turkey napping denied the common ordinary foot soldier his first almost home cooked meal, the turkey abductors had little chance of getting away. The culprits were caught with the smell of turkey breast still on there lips Needless to say the bird bandits did do some sort of extra duty, but what could you do to a birdnapper a combat zone?

This fowl play has been the talk of the battalion for years. I just want to say thanks to those who have contributed to this story and helping bring laughter to those who have experienced the not so gay part of life. The life of a combat infantryman, is a harsh one indeed, but even when the going gets rough, there is still time for laughter.

William R. Hayes.