Semper Fi Santa

The following poem was written by an anonymous Marine in Vietnam in 1967. It is best appreciated when recited to family and friends as they sit comfortably around the table, awaiting a hearty Yuletide meal.


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 one more 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 could be a sleigh,

You never knew what they’d use,

Our flares were tripped, our SIDs had flipped,

Our tipsy blew a fuse.

We let’m come close, then 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 all hell,

Bright red flares 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!”

Out I went for  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 goddamned 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.



81’s–81-mm mortars

360–a 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–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