December 1996 | Volume 47, Issue 8
Among the celebrants at this festivity are a calf, a donkey, several turkeys, and a smattering of geese. Patrick Shaughnessy, who sent in the photograph, explains that it was taken at the Cholon Officers Open Mess in Saigon on December 24, 1958, and given to his father, Maj. Michael A. Shaughnessy, by the organizer of the feast, Chiu Wong. Major Shaughnessy, the man standing right beneath the balloons between the two columns, belonged, as all the others here did, to the Military Assistance Advisory Group.
“At the time the photograph was taken,” Patrick Shaughnessy writes, “approximately seven hundred and forty U.S. Military personnel were advising the South Vietnamese Army; only about forty brought their families with them. Everyone must have been grateful to Mr. Wong for his efforts to brighten what otherwise would have been a colorless holiday season. Seven months later, on July 8, 1959, the first two advisors were killed during a Vietcong attack near Bien-hoa. As it turned out, this was the last peaceful Christmas Americans would have in Vietnam.”