Salty Dungarees and Soft White Hats


By:  Garland Davis


There were incidents, all them milestones that you didn’t see until many years and a hell of a lot of salt water under the keel. We were men who sailed as crewmembers in the haze gray steel of Fletcher and Forrest Sherman class destroyers and old sway-backed cruisers out on the Pacific Rim in the Far East Fleet.

By the time you finished your first WestPac, you had worn out or lost your boot camp boon dockers, your white hats were soft, supple, and no longer boot camp stiff, you guessed your pea coat was in the pea coat locker, you hadn’t seen it in a year or two. You knew from experience the sound your lighter made when you dropped it on a whorehouse floor… You had no fuckin’ idea what had become of your raincoat.   And you owned some salty, faded Seafarer dungarees.

You now had a nickname.  Someone had hung one on you. “Cookie”, “Stew”, “Big Snipe”, “Little Snipe”, “Asswipe”, “Dip Stick”, “Dick Smith, “Sparks” and many others.  You knew you had arrived and had passed some unseen test. You knew your shipmates had accepted you when one of them labeled you with a nickname.

Before you sewed a Third Class Crow on your left arm, you had completed one or two tours of mess cooking, scrubbed burned shit off a million pots and pans until your skin looked like prunes.  Dumped tons of leftover shit over the fantail or lugged it to the dumpsters a half mile down the pier.  You had stood a few hundred helm and lookout watches.  If you were in the “hole”, you had stood hundreds of hours of hot, miserable lower level, messenger and burner watches. You had assisted more than a few drunks down ladders to their berthing and, on occasion, been assisted down yourself.  By this time, you had consumed enough oil flavored mid watch coffee to lift the fuckin’ ship off a dry dock’s keel blocks.  The ass of your liberty uniforms had polished bar stools in Yokosuka, Sasebo, Olongapo, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.

It became impossible to hold on to a paperback book.  You could fall asleep reading a skin book at chapter eight and wake up to find the book missing only to have it turn up two weeks later in the after crew’s head tucked in a wire way.  You really didn’t want to touch it again.

You came to realize that there was a hell of a lot about ships and the Navy that were not explained to you by your Company Commander in Boot Camp.

You learned that when a Chief started a tale with:  “Back when I was a Seaman…” You were going to get a half hour of bullshit about the days when Noah was searching for pairs of animals to pack in an old four-stack destroyer including the Seaman who went on to become a Chief Petty Officer.

You had actually seen men who were selected for their intelligence the elite of the electronics, radar, radioman, and sonar schools, use their teeth to open beer bottles and spit the cap onto a barroom floor.  You and your shipmates had dined on San Miguel beer, Mojo, Monkey Meat, and cockroaches.

And things happened as the time passed. You thought nothing of getting up at midnight to spend four hours tending a boiler or staring at the horizon searching for a light or a periscope feather of water.  It became normal to sweep everything down twice a day.  You learned to sleep anywhere.

In the meantime, your white hats softened. Your dungarees faded until they were almost white. New ones, you dragged on a line behind the ship to hurry the effect.  Your blue jacket was paint spattered and the cuffs were frayed.  You had lost an uncountable number of white trousers to the water and mud of Olongapo. You had learned to sew buttons on your dungaree shirts and your pea coat. And you hadn’t seen that watch cap since packing your seabag to leave boot camp.

You had hung around the Quarterdeck brow a number of times waiting for a departing shipmate to arrive topside hauling all his earthly goods in a canvas bag, just so you could tell him good-bye, shake his hand and tell him to stay away from the Bar Hogs in Nasty City and act as you would.  You never knew how much he meant to you at the time and the number of sea stories you would tell about him and his crazy antics in years to come.  Sometimes you wonder where he is now.  Maybe you’ll get your grandson to use his computer skills to try to locate him.

And that hot coffee with a taste of fuel oil was not half bad, as a matter of fact, it was pretty damned good.

You have arrived. You are now a blood brother in a tribe of idiots, shipmates, with whom you would be forever linked.


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A native of North Carolina, Garland Davis has lived in Hawaii since 1987. He always had a penchant for writing but did not seriously pursue it until recently. He is a graduate of Hawaii Pacific University, where he majored in Business Management. Garland is a thirty-year Navy retiree and service-connected Disabled Veteran.



The Mid-Morning Moon

The Mid-Morning Moon

By:  Garland Davis

I have always been skeptical of folks who begin the recounting of an event with, “Honest to God, this really happened.” Having dabbled in the verbal horseshit trade myself, I am suspicious of such a lead in. I have served with some of the most accomplished liars in the free world. All sea stories begin with, “No shit, this REALLY happened.”  Well guys, in the following instance, honest to God, this really happened, No shit!

A Pearl Harbor based Destroyer was ordered to the South Pacific to shadow a Soviet Cruiser and two Destroyers.  The Shipyard at Pearl had fabricated a device to scoop their garbage from the water so the intelligence detachment ship riders could paw through it.  The scoop contraption was mounted on the fantail portside.  There was a scoop that could be lowered to water level and then lifted to deck level, something like a skip loader.  The contraption was covered with a tarp during the day to prevent the Soviets from discerning its use. I do not believe any garbage was ever actually recovered during the operation.

The Soviets were extremely interested in the covered item on the fantail.  They became almost fanatic about photographing whatever was under that tarp and took every opportunity to close the U.S. ship and try to photograph the fantail.  The Captain amused himself with turning the ship to hamper their view.  Everyone assumed the Commies thought it was some new anti-submarine or weapon system.

The Soviet cruiser became very aggressive and made an approach as close as ships do during UNREP operations.  Many Soviet Officers with cameras were at different positions shooting photos of the American ship.  The CO passed the word over the internal 1MC, “Anyone wishing to photograph the Soviet Cruiser lay to the portside with cameras.”  Within five minutes there were forty or fifty cameras pointed at the Cruiser.

Two Electrician’s Mates, working on the boat deck, not having cameras, dropped their pants and mooned the Soviets.

The Soviet skipper, becoming flustered, took off like a bat out of hell.  Later there was a query from the State Department about American Naval Personnel showing their backsides to the Soviet ships while the Soviets passed to render honors.  Of course, no one knew anything about it officially.  Unofficially, it became known as the “Mid-Morning Moon.”


To follow Tales of an Asia Sailor and get e-mail notifications of new posts, click on the three white lines in the red rectangle above, then click on the follow button.


A native of North Carolina, Garland Davis has lived in Hawaii since 1987. He always had a penchant for writing but did not seriously pursue it until recently. He is a graduate of Hawaii Pacific University, where he majored in Business Management. Garland is a thirty-year Navy retiree and service-connected Disabled Veteran.


The Ugly Contest

The Ugly Contest

By: David ‘Mac’ McAllister


It was a hot sultry night in the Philippines. I lay in bed, skin wet and clammy with passion spent perspiration, the stale taste of beer on my breath. The oscillations of the floor fan across my body lulling me to the brink of sleep. The last thing I remember before dozing off – rats scurrying on the window sill in the moonlight.

It was close to dawn as my internal alarm clock faithfully started to rouse me from my slumber. As I lay in that glorious twilight between sleep and consciousness my mind drifted back to the night before. Prolonging the inevitable as long as possible I remembered the Hole in the Wall and the terms of the Ugly Contest. As the reality of deeds done set in, my senses raced to wakeful horror. Fully awake now, I was afraid to open my eyes for fear of what I may find next to me; besides, there was something nibbling on my feet – RATS.

As my eyelids snapped open like window shades, there she was at the foot of the bed; that fucking baby duck, the one I bought and didn’t have the heart to feed to the crocodile at Pauline’s, in her hands allowing it to peck at the soles of my feet. Reflexes brought my legs and torso upright, knees meeting at my chin. As my vision cleared and the San Miguel haze abated in the dimly lit room, I noted all she was wearing was a pair of golden hoop earrings. Jesus, I wasn’t even going to be in the running for the Ugly Contest, what a movie star! I think I was probably going to be late for morning muster at the Hole in the Wall.

Walking out onto Rizal Ave I was greeted by the already hot tropical Sun searing through my bloodshot eyes, two or three dozen roosters crowing and some nitwit singing out “BAAALOOOT!” Hopping in a jeepney. I bounced along in the dusty heat towards the main gate, and my destination.

Now the Hole in the Wall was a little one step go down joint that served as a starting off and finish up hangout for us hole snipes. Depending on how you looked at it, it was either the first den of inequity encountered or the last outpost of passion before crossing the bridge that separated Olongapo from the Naval Station.

Ugly Contests, for the uninitiated, were a cross between and animal act and charity with a little machismo thrown in for good measure. Usually occurring after a day or so in port, the basics are as follows: All participants put twenty or thirty pesos into the pot, then scour the night for the ugliest girl they could find, take her home and meet up the next morning with her in tow. The lucky sailor with the winner, as judged by his peers, got bragging rights plus a small portion of the pot; while the majority of the winnings were given to the girl.

Stepping out of the jeepney, I was greeted by the aromatic stench of Shit River which was met on its way down by last night’s beer trying to come up. Swallowing hard, I negotiating the returning crowd of sailors, stepped down into the Hole in the Wall and quickly ordered beers for the crew awaiting my late arrival. Picking mine up, I inspected the label ensuring it said Philippines and not Manila, wiped the neck on my shirt tail and finger popped the bottle opening. Little trick’s, learned the hard way, to avoid the horrid San Magoo’s. A long pull on the cold sweet beer settled my rebelling stomach and washed the bad taste of the river smell away. Not having a horse in the race, I was relinquished to spectator status this morning. So leaning against the bar, sipping on the beer, I settled in to watch the festivities.

From bad past experiences, the Ugly Contest was always referred to as a beauty pageant while the contestants were present. You know ugly girls can get really ugly when their feelings get hurt. A great spectacle was always made and many of the contestants were paraded about by their sponsor’s so as to show off their most despicable qualities.

MM3 was one of those individuals that could shit, shower and shave, put on deodorant and foo foo, then don a brand new tuxedo and still look like crap. His standards of excellence regarding the fairer sex were well below those of an inbred red neck snorkeling after his sister. Consequently, he was hard to beat at these affairs and his notoriety was legendary.

That being said, our newly reported aboard BT1 stepped down into the Hole in the Wall hand in hand with what I would classify as a poster child for revulsion. There wasn’t really one defining trait that set her over and above the rest. It was just that, as they so frequently say on “American Idol”, she had the total package. Thin stringy hair, a few beetle nut stained teeth and eyes that creepy pale color associated with cataracts, she was beyond homely. Her body shape was that of a timepiece alright; rather than an hourglass, that of a clock – round.

Totally surprised by this unusual turn of events, BT1 was beside himself to be unanimously, although inconspicuously, without contention judged to be the hands down winner without so much as having to do anything but walk in with this lovely.

Well, after the awarding of the grand prize BT1’s honey jumped for joy and hopped around the joint, as well as her chubby little legs would permit, singing “I be d’weenner, I be d’weenner” over and over. Picking up her winnings she placed an unforgettable nauseating lip lock on old BT1 and up and out she went, disappearing into the humanity of the morning rush. As everyone else was left to distance themselves from the specimens that they had drug in, I clapped BT1 on the back and said “Let’s head out shipmate”. Across the bridge we went, tossing Pesos to the Bonka boat girls, thru the main gate and into a taxi, off for Alava pier. Busily jabbering away congratulating my new shipmate on his victory in unseating MM3, I finally noticed his lack of enthusiasm, response or reflection upon his good fortune. So I poked him in the shoulder and said, “What’s up with you? Aren’t you proud of that shit?” as we jumped out of the cab and started up the brow. He gazed at me through watery eyes and said “I don’t mind winning, it’s just that that was my wife”.

“Oh!” say’s I.

Now what the hell do you say to that?

I thought to myself ‘Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clear to the bone’, but instead, said “Well shipmate, beauty is in the eye if the beholder” and left it at that.

He and I became regular shipmates; however, I never did see him in the Hole in the Wall again.


David “Mac” McAllister a native of California, now resides in the Ozark Mountains of Southwest Mo. Having served in Asia for the majority of his 24-year Navy career, he now divides his time as an over the road trucker, volunteer for local veteran repatriation events and as an Asia Sailor Westpac’rs Association board member and reunion coordinator. In his spare time, he enjoys writing about his experiences in Westpac and sharing them online with his Shipmates.