Christmas 1969 and the guns of the Artillery battery were quiet. An eight day truce was in place that shut the war down. Just before dark, on 24 December, two US Army cargo helicopters, called Chinooks, landed on the battery's landing pad. Along with that days mail, the much requested beer and tobacco products, and the tins of food, if it could be called that, that made up Christmas dinner, three 4X4 pallets were wheeled off by pallet jack. The supply sergeant signed for everything, and the birds took off. Everything was quickly put away except for the three pallets. It seemed that the pallets were actually mail for one soldier.
The rest of the story: A Private First Class, assigned as a cook to a artillery unit, asked his mother, in August, to please send him a certain item that he loved. The mother wrote the company, that produced the product, and asked them if they could help send the troops more than just one requested item. The company, which was owned by two brothers who had been in WWII, responded with a big 'YES'! So, instead of just one item, as requested, being sent to the young soldier, three pallets, with 500 of the product each, was sent to the soldier. There were 89 soldiers assigned to the Battery. One thousand and five hundred, divided by 89, meant that each soldier could have 16 Christmas fruit cakes, with 74 getting 17.
The results: By Christmas night, no one in the unit wanted to see a fruit cake again. By 28 December, the rats and the monkeys stopped eating the fruit cakes. Except for flies, even the insects had given up, on the fruit cakes, by 31 December. To make things worst, the battery had received orders, to move, on 5 Jan. The unit could not take the almost 900 fruit cakes with them. They did not want to spend the time burying them. What to do?
Someone, just before the truce ended, came up with the idea of loading the tubes, with fruit cakes, during every fire mission. So the soldiers started to load the tubes, with fruit cakes, during every fire mission. So the cakes started going down range toward the enemy.
The problem: Artillery units sometimes fire in close support to infantry troops. An artillery round, flying over friendly troops heads, is ok. Hot, sticky, and smelly specks of fruit cake, landing on a soldiers skin, was not a good idea.
The finial solution: The Battalion Commander, hearing of the problem from higher headquarters, paid a little trip to the artillery fire base. After fully understanding what was going on, he decided, that leaving fruit cakes at the firebase, would not be considered, "Giving comfort to the enemy', so the fruit cakes were left behind when the unit pulled out.
The aftermath: Years later, the soldier, who had asked for a fruit cake so many years before, attended a reunion of their Regiment. As a joke, he gave his former battery commander a present. It was a fruit cake. It took four of us to pull the former battery commander off the former cook.
I was not in Vietnam, and did not have to live through the fruit cake problem. I was, in later years, friends with both the former battery commander and the former cook. The battery commander left the service after his required six years was up. The former soldier spent 31 years in the Army. I served with him at Fort Campbell. He retired a Warrant Officer. The former WO died in July. I attended his funeral in Hopkinsville, KY. The former battery commander died in November. I could not attend his funeral out west. Just after the former cook died, the former battery commander asked me for a favor. He asked me, on Christmas Eve, to leave two items at the former cook's grave. One was to pour a small amount of Jack Daniels on the grave. The second, if you have not guessed it, was to wrap a fruit cake, in Christmas paper, and leave it on the grave. The former battery commander wanted his last laugh. He had no way of knowing that it would come after his death. This afternoon, I went up to Hopkinsville, and fulfilled the request.
Mission over Sir!
P.S.: I will not make this a yearly trip. A joke is a joke. Soldiers, while we may have a strange sense of humor, we truly loved one another, and we are all family.