Three letters from home, two dog tags, and a P-38 can opener under the tree?
Besides his M-16 rifle, the other indispensable item that American soldiers carried in Vietnam was the small P-38 can opener needed to open the C-rations, the meals they ate in the field. Like other soldiers, my father wore his P-38 on the chain of his dog tags, which hung around his neck, so he wouldn’t lose it. He treasured his trusty little P-38, but he lost it sometime after returning to the States, once he didn’t have to wear dog tags or worry about C-rations anymore!
While we were Christmas shopping at the West Point PX last week, my father found the gift he didn’t know he wanted: another P-38 can opener, right there in the sporting goods aisle.
“It’s like finding a long lost friend!” he exclaimed, while I looked at him like he was, um, crazy.
He took it home and made a nice display of the can opener, his dog tags, and his old 25th Infantry Division hat. On an Army blanket, of course! Hey, it’s green – and we’ve got that Red Cross 1967 gift bag as the red…
C-rations were phased out in favor of MREs (meals, ready-to-eat) almost 20 years ago, so the troops in Aghanistan and Iraq probably don’t carry can openers. “Now the P-38 belongs to the ages,” my father said.