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In war there is no substitute for victory.

-- Gen Douglas MacArthur
Poc Time8234 Reads  Printer-friendly page

Vietnam I don’t know if those of you that were in Viet Nam during the war remember the custom of poc time. If you remember, this will be a refresher. If you never heard of poc time, well it’s time you learn about this Vietnamese tradition. What follows are my observations based on my brief time in country.

I would imagine that the way poc time was observed varied from area to area. I only served at Bunard, so I can only relate to it as it was observed in my AO: the Don Luan District of Phouc Long Province in III Corps Tactical Zone. Your mileage may indeed vary.

Poc time was a tradition that I found to be only one manifestation of an overall cultural bias. Perhaps some would call it laziness but I am sure that there are things which are ingrained in our culture which others would call laziness, yet we accept them as a necessary part of our way of life. Poc time was part of the Vietnamese, Khmer and Steing Montagnard peoples' ability to find a good reason to take a break.

When I was at Bunard, the indigenous took every holiday off, no exceptions. I wasn't there for Chanukah, but I have no doubt that they took those days off. I know for a fact that they took off such important Montagnard, Khmer and Vietnamese holidays as Ground Hog Day, Lincoln's birthday, Washington's Birthday, April Fools' Day, and of course that all important day in Montagnard history, Cinco de Mayo. I figured there must have been a contingent of ‘Yards at the battle of Puebla.

Then there were the traditional Buddhist observances such as St. Valentine's Day, Ash Wednesday, St. Patrick's Day, The Annunciation, the first day of Muharram, Passover, Good Friday, and of course, Easter. These days off were sprinkled in with a host of other official holidays which were clearly more localized such as Tet Nguyen dan and Le Phat dan. The typical work week ended up being only four days at best, due to all the holidays, and it was not all that unusual to only have a three, or even two, day work week. I do not recall ever having a full five day work week. There were just too many observed holidays in my AO.

Of course, they observed the Sabbath. Everybody's Sabbath, Jewish and Christian alike. We must have had a large contingent of Seventh Day Adventists or Jews among our 'Yards, in addition to Catholics and other Protestant denominations, because both Saturdays and Sundays were their Sabbaths.

It is with this basic cultural understanding that we take a look at poc time. You can't take half the week off to observe official and unofficial holidays, and then expect folks to put in long hours on their limited work days. Poc time was the solution to this situation. Every afternoon, for two to three hours, everything came to a screeching halt. That was time to eat, sometimes bathe, and take a nap.

This even took place on patrols. Sure, we would put out guards to protect our flanks, but they took poc time just like everybody else. We were effectively defenseless during poc time. Fortunately, Sir Charles was part of that same culture, so we were 100% safe during poc time.

I was never involved in a contact when poc time rolled around, but I would have expected that all hostilities would have ceased. Both sides would have needed their rest. Some things are much more important than some silly war you know.

By the way, clearly some of this was purely tongue in cheek. I was in Viet Nam from 12-19-68 through sometime in July of 1969. And as everyone clearly recalls, Ground Hog Day '69 fell on a Sunday that year, Easter is always on Sunday and George Washington's Birthday fell on a Saturday. With Saturday and Sunday both already being the Sabbath, they had the day off anyway. I was too ornery to tell them about the American custom of taking Friday or Monday off when a holiday fell on a Saturday or Sunday. Now what was it I said about American cultural biases that others might consider a manifestation of our own laziness?

Note: by Robert D. Pryor, Detachment A-344, 5th Special Forces Group (ABN) First Special Forces.


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