Christmas in Vietnam, five decades ago

The envelope that contained the letter from Sack to Hood. Note the “free” postage for servicemen. Photo available for purchase

The envelope that contained the letter from Sack to Hood. Note the “free” postage for servicemen.

Lois Swoboda
Published: Monday, December 23, 2013 at 11:16 AM.

After 46 years, Leon “John” Sack received a letter that reminded him of a special Christmas gift from long ago.

In 1966, 11-year-old Barbara Hood received an assignment from her sixth grade teacher, Charlotte Hogan. Her class was asked to write a letter to an unknown soldier stationed in Vietnam .

When Master Sgt. Leon Sack went to the post office to pick up mail for his crew, the attendant told him about a group of letters received from schoolchildren back in the States and asked if he was interested in taking some of them.

Sack took seven, one for himself and each member of his crew. Back at the barracks, he distributed the letters and for a time the men were transported away from the battle zone by these unexpected letters from home.

Sack later wrote to Barbara, “In a combat environment, two of the biggest enemies of any soldier are loneliness and fear. As we sat and read the letters, for a short time, these two enemies disappeared.”

Sack and his comrades were members of the First Combat Evaluation Group and stationed in Dong Ha, the northernmost outpost in South Vietnam only six miles from the demilitarized zone and six miles from the Gulf of Tonkin . His job was to direct bombers to targets in North Vietnam and evaluate the success of bombing runs.

The First Combat Evaluation Group had the distinction of having the highest number of casualties per capita of any ground-based Air Force Unit in Vietnam . “The fact is we were constantly under siege,” said Sack. “Always in peril. It was pretty nerve-wracking.”

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