New Year's In Vietnam

It was 31 December, 1968, and the four of us living in the "engineer's hooch" at the MACV compound in Soc Trang decided that the best way to celebrate New Year's Eve was to have egg nog.

So, we started about 1400 that afternoon to put it all together. The only ingredient we had was a bottle of rum, which we agreed was essential. Two of us decided to set out on a scrounging mission to see what we could get. The MACV messhall had no eggs, not even the powdered variety. They had no ice. However, we were able to get a couple of gallons of powdered milk, which was a start.

Ron and Roger said they knew a couple of pilots out at the Soc Trang Army Airfield, so they went out there about 1430. Mike and I cleaned a large pot we were given by the messhall and eagerly awaited the arrival of the necessary supplies.

An hour and a half later, Ron and Roger came back empty handed except for a bit of nutmeg. The messhalls at the airfield had no eggs. The club at the airfield had no eggs!

And, none of our sources had any ice they could give us.

So, down to the local market we went; and we bought a couple dozen eggs and a small block of ice. Back to the engineer hooch we went to make our eggnog.

I don't need to tell you about the anticipation abounding as we mixed our libation. It was New Year's Eve, and the next one would not see us in Vietnam. Hell, I was scheduled to board that big freedom bird in a short nine days!

And what a concoction it was. A huge bottle of rum. A couple of gallons of milk. Two dozen eggs, bought on the economy. And chilled, by a big block of ice, bought on the economy. And a couple of pinches of nutmeg scrounged from the messhall.

By 1830, we were ready! Invites went out to some of our friends to join us at around 2200 hours.

Time passed; and at 2200 hours, it was already 1969 on our side of the International Date Line. Another two hours, and I was down to single digits in counting the days until I could leave for home.

There were ten to twelve of us, eagerly waiting to drink the eggnog! Then one of the guys, I think a Navy Doc with the Military Provincial Hospital Advisory Team, asked the fatal question, "Where did you get the eggs and ice? I thought the messhall was out."

We looked at one another, wondering. We weren't supposed to drink the water; but we were MACV, and drank it all the time. Then we discussed whether we should consume raw, Vietnamese eggs. What kind of bugs could there be inside? One by one, we decided not to drink our gorgeous egg nog. At 2230, the concoction, brought about by our bartending skills, our ability to scrounge, and our initiative in finding eggs and ice in the market, went down the drain untouched by human lips.

We toasted in New Year 1969 with warm Fresco, warm Coke, and warm Black Label. But, I didn't care. I would be home in ten days.


Ed St. Clair at 12/12/96

Copyright © 1996, Ed St. Clair, All Rights Reserved