Battleship Row, Pearl Harbor 1941. Another fine painting by Dale Byhre.
Battleship Row, Pearl Harbor 1941. Another fine painting by Dale Byhre.
A Midway shipmate and good friend passed this morning. Master Chief Mess Management Specialist Gary Dewitt is pictured on the right. During his three years as the MS Detailer, he affected the lives of thousands of Navy cooks.
Shipmate… I wish for you fair winds and following seas, deep green water under your bow, your main rifles trained in the posture of peace and a gentle breeze at your stern.
A SAILOR DIED TODAY
Papers tell their life stories
When politicians leave this earth,
Their bodies lie in state,
While thousands note their passing,
And proclaim that they were great.
From the time that they were young,
But the passing of a Sailor
Goes unnoticed, and unsung.
Is the greatest contribution
To the welfare of our land,
Some jerk who breaks his promise
And cons his fellow man?
Or the ordinary fellow
Who in times of war and strife,
Goes off to serve his country
And offers up his life?
The politician’s stipend
And the style in which he lives,
Are often disproportionate,
To the service that he gives.
While the ordinary Sailor,
Who offered up his all,
Is paid off with a medal
And perhaps a pension, small.
It is not the politicians
With their compromise and ploys,
Who won for us the freedom
That our country now enjoys.
Should you find yourself in danger,
With your enemies at hand,
Would you really want some cop-out,
With his ever waffling stand?
Or would you want a Sailor
His home, his country, his kin,
Just a common Sailor,
Who would fight until the end.
He was just a common Sailor,
And his ranks are growing thin,
But his presence should remind us
We may need his likes again.
For when countries are in conflict,
We find the Sailor’s part,
Is to clean up all the troubles
That the politicians start.
If we cannot do him honor
While he’s here to hear the praise,
Then, at least, let’s give him homage
At the ending of his days.
Perhaps just a simple headline
In the paper that might say:
“OUR COUNTRY IS IN MOURNING,
A SAILOR DIED TODAY.”
By Garland Davis
It was either ’69 or ’70. I was serving in an oiler. The ship would load fuel in Subic and make the swing from Dixie Station in the South to Yankee Station in the North and then back South. Since we were the largest Oiler in the area, we would pump our remaining cargo (consolidate) to the two or three smaller Oilers and then run to Subic for three days to reload.
We pulled in the day before Thanksgiving. Being the Leading Commissarymen, my cooks and I were up late and back up early preparing for a Thanksgiving feast. Being in Subic, one wouldn’t think there would be much more than the duty section for dinner, but Thanksgiving this year was a working day for the crew. Those sailors involved with loading the liquid cargo were busy, the snipes were steaming the plant, the storekeepers were loading stores as were my cooks and I, and the Deck force was working on the running rust on the sides. The word was that maximum liberty was being permitted Friday and Saturday and underway at first light Sunday morning.
Thanksgiving Day came and went. The meal was remarkable. The Captain and XO rained Kudos on the Supply Officer which he casually mentioned to the cooks at Quarters Monday morning. I was finally able to get on Liberty about 1800 Thursday night and was free until midnight Saturday. I hit the CPO Club to prepare my drinking muscles for the night. A couple of San Miguels there and then through the gate. Of course, by the time I reached the Hole, I was overcome by a raging thirst. After sating the Thirst Monster within, I caught a Jeepney for a Special Run to the Barrio. The driver was an enterprising young man who had a cooler of San Miguel which he sold for an exorbitant price. The monster was growling again so I succumbed.
I arrived at the Irish Rose somewhere around 1930. As I walked in a Boatswains Mate whom I had served with on a Can yelled, “Hey Stewburner, where you been? I saw your ship pull in yesterday. I expected you last night.”
“Thanksgiving, a day of protracted slavery for Stewburners. You know Holiday for the crew, work your ass off for the cooks.” I quipped as the girl passed me an ice cold one across the bar.
A couple of other BM’s, whom I knew, were sitting beside us. One of them yelled, “Bird Day! Fuck, it’s bird day and we don’t have a fuckin’ bird.”
The other Bosun said, “Fuck it, let’s go get one!”
The two of them chugged their remaining beers and left. It was probably about two hours before they returned because one cannot go to the market in Olongapo and back without stopping at ‘Nasty Mac’s’ for a cool one each way. They brought with them the largest Rooster carcass I have ever seen. It had the head and feet on and had not been eviscerated, in other words, it still had its guts. The only thing it was missing was the feathers. They threw it on the bar and yelled, “It’s Bird Day, here is the fuckin’ bird.”
Hanson said, “Get that nasty thing off the bar, it stinks!”
Somebody yelled, “Damn that Mother Fucker’s got B.O. It needs a bath.”
It wasn’t long before someone paid a couple of the girls to give the “Bird” a bath. They washed him in a pan out the side door with a couple of drunk deck apes supervising. At one point I heard, “Honey, don’t forget to scrub his cock.”
Finally, they presented the bird, his beak and toenails (do you call what chicken’s have toenails?) painted with bright red fingernail polish. Somebody yelled, Jesus, that Goddamned thing still stinks, get that Motherfucker outta here!”
The bird was taken from the bar and forgotten.
My friend said, “I gotta go to Subic and pay Mama-san my rent and pay the girl who hoses my hooch out every few days. You wanna ride along.? I borrowed Eddie’s car.”
“Only if you are sure you’re drunk enough to drive.” I facetiously replied.
It was a Japanese sports car with two bucket seats and a shelf-like seat behind them where you could transport a couple of skinny LBFM’s. As we pulled onto the road, “I asked, what the fuck stinks?”
Looking in the back, there was the chicken on the LBFM seat. There was also a coil of line. I said, “I think the Bird wants to walk.” I took the line and put a couple of “Granny” half hitches or maybe they were “Granny’ bowlines, how the fuck am I supposed know knots, I can barely tie my shoes, around the drumsticks and threw the bird out the window.
We reached Subic City and had a cool one while he paid his debts. I turned down a half dozen offers of BJ’s while he did so, after all it was Subic City We started back to the Rose with the Bird running alongside. By the time we got back the bird was coming apart. As we pulled into the rose, I gave the line a strong tug. The Bird went airborne, came around a splattered on the windshield with guts and shit everywhere.
We walked into the bar and my friend handed the keys to Eddie and said, “Man, you ain’t gonna believe this shit, but the biggest fuckin’ bug I ever saw just splattered all over your windshield.”
You Can’t Go Back
By Garland Davis
Some things you can’t go back to
Some things need left alone
Don’t mess with the memories
Of a life passed on
All the time I made reservations
At the heart of my mistakes
Oh, some things you can’t go back to
‘Cause you left them slip away
Or can you?
Joe’s journey began in Denver. The first destination was Honolulu where he would spend a pair of days to relive a stop there in 1965. The next part of his journey would take him to Manila and a special taxi or jeepney to the old U.S. Navy base at Subic Bay where he had arranged for a room at a hotel that had once been the base BOQ. Robert Frost had said one cannot go back but Joe thought that maybe he could.
Joe had thought of making this trip for years. The biggest regret of a regret-filled life was leaving the Navy in 1967. He had planned to re-enlist but decided to get out for a couple of months for a vacation and then go to the recruiter. That way he would get a break and still keep his Second Class crow when he went back. The poet said, “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”
Fifty-three years later, three wives and three children, one who was brainwashed by his first wife to hate him, and twin girls who were clothes horses and as vacuous as his second wife. His third wife had passed on ten years earlier.
Looking back on seventy-four years, four years in the Navy, almost forty-two years as an over the road trucker, Joe thought that the only time he was really happy was during the brief period he spent as a sailor. He regretted more than ever not shipping over.
Joe left the BOQ, walking slowly, using a cane to help maintain his equilibrium, he started for the gate area and the famed Shit River Bridge. As he walked slowly, he watched the Filipinos moving along walks and streets that had once teemed with white uniforms.
Joe reached the bridge. There were no guards or Marines. There was no wooden box to throw your extra cigarettes into. Joe was pretty sure that an extra pack of cigarettes wouldn’t wreck the Philippine economy, but the Marines didn’t take any chances.
He moved onto the bridge. It was all strange. The water in Shit River was clean and there was a floating fountain shooting a cascade of water into the air. But, the most noticeable thing was the lack of the famous Shit River odor.
Joe looked out over the bridge to town. What had once been seedy bars and hotels now presented itself as modern stores and businesses. Most remarkable, the street that had once been either a dry dusty thoroughfare or a stream of mud was paved and clean. He began to move across to see how much of the old Olongapo still existed.
As Joe reached the mid-point of the bridge, he felt a momentary dizziness. There he seemed to be facing a shimmering mirror. He was looking at a white image that seemed to be waving him forward. Joe took a step and encountered the shimmer.
Suddenly Joe was overwhelmed by the stench of the putrid stream and the clamor of the boys in the water yelling, “Hey Joe, throw me Peso.” He looked down at himself, he was dressed in whites with a GM2 crow on his left arm. Bewildered, thinking this is right, Joe moved on.
Joe walked off the bridge onto the dirt of a street that would later be pretentiously named Gordon Avenue. There was the Hole in the Wall and the Chop House. He stopped into the Hole and drank a beer. He couldn’t remember a beer as cold or as good.
He wandered down Magsaysay, stopping into a Shitkicking bar for a beer. The girls were prettier than he remembered. He hit a couple of Rock and Roll joints. The bands were of a quality that rivaled any on the Billboard charts. He stopped at Pauline’s and bought a duck for a Peso for the crocodile who just lay there, probably already sated or no longer cared for duck. As he walked away, he saw the boy rescue the duck. He would probably sell it a dozen more times. He stopped around the corner at Mama’s and had a couple of Tacos with the special hot sauce and San Miguel, of course. They were as good as he remembered.
After eating, joe walked into the club next door. Gloria was there. She smiled and said, “Hello Joe, I have been waiting for you.” She took him by the hand and said, “Come, I have a new house,” and led him out the door and down the alley. Joe walked along beside the beautiful girl, smiling.
The two policemen were directing foot traffic around the covered body that lay in the middle of the bridge. Finally, the ambulance with the doctor came and pronounced him dead. Tha ambulance attendants loaded the body into the ambulance. As they drove into traffic, one attendant said, “I believe he is in paradise.”
“Why would you say that?” asked the driver.
“Did you see the smile on his face?”
Recently, I made the decision to run for a local office. I figured after a lot of time of scrubbing shitters and shooting garbage out of the TDU, I would be a perfect candidate. Bilge diving seemed to also fit the bill so I filled out my paperwork to compete for a Township Supervisor. Not a glamorous job by any means. In fact, not a well paying one. Everyone learns your phone number and you find out quickly how mean you are for not fixing evey single pothole.
But I chose to serve. After all those years sitting on the sidelines complaining, it was kind of payback time. The race was nice and clean up until recently. Then the current supervisor woke up one morning and decided that he liked his paycheck as Roadmaster. Its a lot of money. So despite losing in the primary to both the Democratic and…
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Taking a Break
Due to circumstances beyond my control, I am going to take a sabbatical from Tales of an Asia Sailor through the Holidays. I will begin the fourth year of the blog in January of 2020.
I appreciate each and every one of you who have read the crap I write and the stories written by my shipmates.
There are more than a thousand posts on Tales. Click on the three lines in the red rectangle at the top of the page then click on a particular month to see posts published during that month.
Back Out There
By Garland Davis
Running around in these new civilian clothes
Uncomfortable to say the least
Running out of patience, rather I was wearing dungarees
In my dreams I watch them steaming past
Numbers on their bows their identify
I can wish one would slow and take me aboard
Cause in this life ashore only the cars pass
The day is done, would that I could hear “Sweepers”
Meanwhile at sea
Darken ship, red lights are on, the movie soon
Supper is finished; mess deck secured
I see, Sun sinking out low over the bow
Playing games in the Mess and smoking cigarettes
Whiskey waits in another port
Funny the things you thought you’d never miss
In this strange, crazy civilian world
I miss the dolphin escort at the bow
I miss the rush of the flying fish as they flee
I miss being somebody everyone knows there
Everybody knows each other
I miss those Tin Can days
Walking the decks and passageways
The sound of the sonar’s song
Oh, I wish I could go back
Well, I found a girl out there; but we don’t fit in here
It seems so hard to breathe in this civilian world
I need to be where I can see that great Western Ocean
One of these days I’ll pack up and take her back out there
Navy, my world for so many years
Why did it have to end so soon