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The holiday season in Vietnam is watching Santa Claus ride a water buffalo, listening to music coming from the sky, or being "adopted" by a Girl Scout troop in Minnesota.

Each of the more than 300,000 war zone GIs fights the loneliness of being away from home at this time of year in his own way. Some ignore it, others dream of next year, and some others keep the holiday spirit alive. All will have memories.

Scores of servicemen played Santa Claus to wide-eyed Vietnamese youngsters who have never experienced peace on earth.

At Phu Cat AB, 20 miles northwest of Qui Nhon, airmen of the 537th Tactical Airlift Sq. painted a Santa Claus face on the nose of a C7 Caribou and then used the craft to distribute 2,000 pounds of gifts. Most of the presents went to Montagnard children in Civilian Irregular Defense Group camps.

At the USO in Cam Ranh Bay, Santa abandoned the traditional reindeer and used a water buffalo for transportation.

The Civil Affairs section of the 1st Cav.'s 3rd Brigade used a 1,000-watt speaker system and a helicopter to serenade troops at fire bases with some five hours of Christmas music.

For Spec. 4 Edward Winter of the 17th Combat Aviation Group, Christmas in Vietnam meant adoption by some Girl Scouts in his hometown of St. Cloud, Minn.

He received four dozen cookies and a handful of letters. One youngster wrote, "I hope you like our cookies and win the war. I love you with all my heart. I am sorry that there is a war. I hope you come home OK."

Religious observances in Vietnam included Christmas services conducted by Terence Cardinal Cooke, of the Archdiocese of New York, and Dr. Oswald Hoffmann, "Lutheran Hour" speaker.

Jewish chaplains in the four military regions will hold Hanuka services in various parts of the country until Monday.

For most of the 180 patients at the 3rd Field Hospital in Saigon, Christmas Eve was the day they spoke with the President of South Vietnam. President Nguyen Van Thieu, on his first visit to the U.S.-operated facility, distributed gifts among the patients.


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