Merry Christmas, 1965

| December 20, 2012

We are all aware of the way Vietnam veterans were treated by some in this country in the 60’s and 70’s. I came across an article in my local fishwrap about a couple of college students here in my home town that didn’t really care for the way protestors were behaving and came up with an idea to show their support for our local soldiers.



Operation Michigan Christmas, an idea that came from Jackson's Dave Trotter and Gary Mugg and championed by Gov. George Romney, delivered nearly 7,500 Christmas packages to Michigan soldiers serving in Vietnam in 1965. Nearly 200 students from colleges and universities throughout the state helped pack boxes and make signs for the charter plane delivering the packages.

Operation Michigan Christmas, an idea that came from Jackson’s Dave Trotter and Gary Mugg and championed by Gov. George Romney, delivered nearly 7,500 Christmas packages to Michigan soldiers serving in Vietnam in 1965. Nearly 200 students from colleges and universities throughout the state helped pack boxes and make signs for the charter plane delivering the packages.



“There were a lot of us here that believed regardless of the war, the soldiers in Vietnam were kids like us and our friends and family,” Mugg said. “Dave especially believed we needed to do something to show our support for the troops.”On Nov. 21, 1965, Mugg and Trotter announced in the Citizen Patriot an ambitious project to gather the names of Jackson-area men and women serving in Vietnam so they could mail Christmas packages to them to help boost their morale.

It was first envisioned as a local effort however, then Gov. George Romney (yes, Mitt’s father) got wind of the idea after returning from a trip to Vietnam and decided to make it a state wide effort.

News of the effort reached Gov. George Romney, who had just returned from a visit with Michigan troops there.

On Nov. 26 – the day after Thanksgiving – Romney made Mugg and Trotter’s plan a statewide effort to put Christmas packages in the hands of every Michigan man and woman serving in Vietnam.

Operation Michigan Christmas was born.

The Pentagon was unable to provide names and addresses of Michigan soldiers so 9 newspapers across the state put out the call and just 4 days after Gov. Romney made it a statewide effort, over 3000 names and addresses had been submitted.

Dow Chemical Co. gave bottles of aspirin, tissues and Saran Wrap that covered Michigan apples. Ford, General Motors and Chrysler all contributed model cars so soldiers could give the toys to South Vietnamese children.

The packages contained candy, nuts, fruit cake, peanut butter, mixed nuts, raisins, apple sauce, gum, canned pop, ballpoint pens and stationery, sewing kits, toothpaste, razor blades, shaving cream, insect repellent and foot powder.

200 college students helped pack up gift boxes totaling more than 7,400 packages and the newspapers that collected names and addresses pitched in to pay for a charter flight to deliver the goodies.

The flight left Willow Run Airport on Tuesday, Dec. 14 and the gift boxes were in the hands of grateful soldiers by Christmas. Pentagon officials later called the “gift lift” a “logistical miracle.”

When I was in Desert Storm the most memorable thing about the holidays for me was an Apache pilot that landed in our AA on Christmas Eve, jumped out with a Santa suit on, and handed out Christmas cards from anonymous folks back home.

Please feel free to leave your holiday deployment stories in the comments below!

Merry Christmas everyone, and a special Merry Christmas to those of you spending it away from your loved ones this year.

Category: Historical, Holidays, Society

Comments (26)

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  1. Hondo says:

    During the Christmas 2007 season, I was in Baghdad. All of us in my element received a number of Christmas Cards from people we didn’t know and had never met. A church had somehow gotten our names and addresses, and members of the congregation took it from there. We also got a few care packages from members of the congregation if I recall correctly.

    I couldn’t tell you what was in the care packages. But I believe I still have a few of the cards.

    No, it wasn’t really a big thing in the materiel sense. But it was a damn nice gesture, though.

  2. Debbie says:

    During the Vietnam War, Dad was gone six Christmases in a row, five of them, he was relieving others so that they could be home with their families for the holidays; I didn’t mind those sacrifices at all.

  3. NHSparky says:

    First Christmas underway, 1988–one of the guys dressed up as Santa and passed out cards from the wives, etc., that they had kept since before the underway.

    Last Christmas deployed, 1994–port visit in Singapore over Christmas where an oil company exec and his wife invited about 12 of us over to his penthouse apartment (half of the top floor of the building) and treated us to one hell of a Christmas dinner.

    In between, the tradition on the boat if it was in port was single guys took the duty on Christmas, the married guys took it on New Year’s Eve–unfortunately, didn’t always work in practice if you were in 3-section duty.

  4. Dan says:

    Christmas 2007, we revived a box of Christmas cards from a class of 2nd graders. the cars were prominently taped to the wall. one card stuck out. on the front it said “hey soldier, thank you for fighting for our country”, on the inside it said “i love chicken”. that became the unofficial brigade motto.

  5. Dan says:

    sorry for typos, sent from my phone.

  6. Old Tanker says:

    The newspaper that I got this story from, my hometown paper, printed a list of names and addresses of all the soldiers from the area that were deployed in Desert Storm. We received quite a few packages, letters, cards, etc… from anonymous folks back home. I don’t recall much about the packages but I sure remember the cards. Especially the ones sent by grade school kids that were hand drawn, those were the best by far!

  7. Red Leg JO says:

    we just got a bunch of care packeges from 2nd graders. the cards are now covering our work tents.

  8. Red Leg JO says:

    When the insanity of Afghanistan gets tomuch, its great to go read them, nothing puts the world in prospective like the words of a 2nd grader

  9. SSG Medzyk says:

    2004, they bolted a facsimile of a big red and sparkly sleigh to the sides of a 1/2 ton trailer, mounted a high bench seat, ran reins to the reindeer dressed hummer, and with Santa at the helm, came outside the wire to our checkpoint to hand out care packages the supply guys had put together for the platoon. Santa’s elves served up hot soup and hot chocolate while we marveled at the rather good lot of cool shit in the goody boxes.

    The look of total bewilderment on the faces of our Iraqi counterparts was priceless 🙂

  10. JAGC says:

    Christmas 2005 at Spiecher near Tikrit was literally the day they turned on the cold for that winter season. Our Arab alarm clock (mortars) woke us up at exactly 0700 and upon slowly exiting the tent, we found that it was winter where the previous day was normal and warm. We had a nice Christmas lunch and people had set up decorations in our TOC donated by anonymous people back home. I believe many of the donations were from church groups. Each member of the company got a stocking full of goodies. As the only Jewish guy, they gave me the blue stocking which also had been delivered from someone back home. As fate would have it, every one of us got a neck gator as a present from a church group. Afterwards, we went out on a completely unmemorable mission involving landing a UH-60 in a village somewhere and walking around for awhile. And because it was cold and miserable, the neck gator came in handy.

  11. CavScoutCoastie says:

    This is sort of an opposite story. Before I deployed, I filled out cards for my wife for all the dates I was going to miss, birthdays, anniversary, Thanksgiving, etc… I left these with my mom to deliver on the appropriate dates. It wasn’t much but it was something.

  12. Dusk says:

    Diamondback 2010
    I was with attached to supply at the time. Christmas Eve we put together bags for the rest of the unit. They included some spiffy stuff from the battalion and holiday cards from middle school students back home(Oregon).

  13. Rerun0369 says:

    My Christmas Eve 2009 was spent in a firefight in Garmsir. But I was able to call the wife on our broken sat phone and got 5 uninterrupted minutes with her, and my newborn baby.

  14. Common Sense says:

    All of your comments make me so glad I belong to Soldier’s Angels.

    Thank you all for your service and sacrifice.

  15. Ex-PH2 says:

    I spent one Christmas Eve and all of Christmas Day in 1969 standing duty at NPC. I traded with other people.

    I told my parents I had to work.

  16. Yat Yas 1833 says:

    In Dec. ’78 I stood “Assistant Duty NCO” of our barracks, the Duty” was a Cpl!, so a PFC from my section could go home to see his new born son. I remember Weaver had leaky eye-balls as he thanked me for the 33rd time before he left. That was one of Tyne best Christmases I ever had.

  17. Yat Yas 1833 says:

    Ooops *the bestChristmases…

  18. Sean says:

    Christmas 2004 Iraq-

    Twas assigned to CJ-SOTF at the RPC and was detailed to escort Some F/O’s north of Baghdad who were calling in Fire Missions. Apparently some Intel weinie with his whiz wheel realized that when the Paladins fired there were no Rocket/Mortar attacks on VBC for 48 hours. The eve spent cleaning and greasing my M2HB, M4, M9, and Shotgun and checking all the Ammo (Which came in brown crates with a USAAF logo and WWII Dates from Frankford Arsenal).

    We started out 0400 picked up the F/O’s and headed north to the old IA Artillery impact area. Was about 32 degF and raining which turned to sleet and ice. PL stops convoy and asks did anyone see the mortar round in road? WTF! turns out we were parked on it and it was an RPG warhead. Oh Well.

    We set up on a Mound and called in the thunder. Handed out Soccer balls with 1CAV Horse on them, Medic checked some old boys stump from the Iraq-Iran war , did a Bilat with the sheik, fed some goats, gave out pencils, etc.

    12 hours later still sleeting we headed back in. By the time we reached RPC I was frozen, literally in a layer of crusty ice. I couldn’t even clear the gun as my fingers just wouldn’t function, had to be lifted out of the turret, wrapped in a Woobie and laid down on a cot. Top handed my a still Hot Choc chip cookie and I fell asleep.

    Best Christmas ever.

  19. Poetrooper says:

    Reading the above comments leads me to the realization that I must be one of the really old farts here. I was one of those who was reporting in to Vietnam in December 1965 as a replacement NCO.

    I had a Battalion Chemical/Biological/Radiological NCO MOS, but they needed line NCO’s in the 2nd/327th Abn Infantry of the 101st, so the battalion commander personally welcomed me aboard as a member of his staff and then promptly sent my ass to the line for “temporary duty” as a fire team leader.

    What a Christmas present that was. I went out on a night patrol the very evening of the day I reported in and as the effin’ new guy, I got to hump the ruck. I was so out of shape as a staff wienie that the next few weeks damned near killed me, but by the time I finally got moved up to battalion several months later I was Airborne lean and mean once again, in the best shape of my life.

    It was a memorable experience but I’m thankful I never got a Christmas present like that ever again.

  20. Veritas Omnia Vincit says:

    We sent Christmas stuff to our neighbors son Dominic in December 1965, I remember thinking I couldn’t wait to hear what he thought about getting stuff from home, a few weeks later on 18FEB1966, a few months shy of his 20th birthday, he was killed during Operation Masher/White Wing…I was a kid who remembered him as the cool older brother of my friend his younger sister. That he could die had never occurred to me. It made me very aware of what kind of sacrifices were being made by these young men and women.

    This is a great story and shows what kind of people appreciate their young men and women, and it emphasizes that the Romneys have been doing good things for years. Thank you for posting this.

  21. Joe Williams says:

    Christmas in Nam 66&67, just another work day. Resupply and couple of Emerg Med-Evacs, Routine Ops. Joe

  22. CSE CSC says:

    Christmas 2006 was in Iraq on a Seabee Convoy Security team, based out of Camp Fallujah. We got this giant banner from the kids in the first or second grade class of one of our guys’ kids. All the kids in the class had stuck little paper Christmas trees with some nice words or other on them, all over the banner. There was a lot of the normal “stay safe” kind of thing, but the little tree that was pretty much the team favorite simply said “Don’t Die, signed, Jack.”

    Afghanistan for Christmas 2010, I was stuck at the flag on KAF (never do that again.) The highlight of that Christmas was eating dinner on the DFAC floor during a rocket attack.

  23. HMA (aka Riflemusket58) says:

    Christmas 1990; Saudi Desert; tent city; no mail for me. Waiting on our vehicles to arrive from Germany. Had a meal of some kind of mystery meat and soggy French fries, and Near beer of some weird brand. It could have been far far worse. Just a distant memory. No complaints here.
    Merry Christmas to all.
    Kindest Regards;

  24. Ex-PH2 says:

    “Caution: Being a Marine in Khe Sanh may be hazardous to your health.” 3dBN 26th – on the back of a Marine’s flak jacket in an AP photo in Vietnam 1968:

  25. Ex-PH2 says:

    Not exactly Christmas, but I remember all of these photos showing up in the newspapers in 1965.

  26. SGT E says:

    Marez, 2009 – got a morning off from the CDR’s daily BUB (just submitted written reports instead), then a regular 14-hour day at the office…did have some brass serve up chow, which is always fun.