Asia Sailor’s Rules

Asia Sailor’s Rules

By:  Garland Davis


The following rules are promulgated to guide the societal actions of the Asia Sailor:

  1. Under no circumstances may an Asia Sailor share an umbrella with another man
  2. An Asia Sailor may cry ONLY under the following circumstances:
  • When a heroic dog dies to save its master.
  • The moment Salena Gomez starts unbuttoning her blouse.
  • At the decommissioning of a proud old ship.
  • At the final memorial for a shipmate.
  1. An Asia Sailor may legally kill anyone who brings a camera to a party in the Barrio.
  2. Unless he murdered someone in the Asia Sailor’s family. The Asia Sailor must bail a shipmate out of jail within twelve hours.
  3. An Asia Sailor’s shipmate’s daughter or sister is off limits unless he actually marries her.
  4. An Asia Sailor must never complain about the brand of free beer in a shipmate’s fridge. However, bitching is permissible if the temperature of said beer is unsuitable.
  5. No Asia Sailor shall ever be required to buy a birthday present for another man.
  6. On a road trip, the Asia Sailor with the strongest bladder determines pit stops, not the LantFlt Yeoman with the weakest bladder.
  7. An Asia Sailor stumbling upon a shipmate watching a sporting event, may ask the score of the game but never ask who is playing.
  8. There is never a valid reason for an Asia Sailor to watch men’s ice skating or men’s gymnastics. Ever!  However, watching Michelle Wie play golf is permissible.
  9. It is permissible for an Asia Sailor to drink a fruity alcohol beverage only when it is MOJO and he is sunning on a tropical beach in Barrio Barretto, and the beverage is prepared and delivered by a topless LBFM and only if another Asia Sailor paid for it.
  10. An Asia Sailor always accepts free drinks.
  11. Only in situations of moral and or physical peril is an Asia sailor permitted to kick another man in the nuts.
  12. Asia Sailors never wear Speedos and never lets a shipmate do so.   This issue is closed.
  13. If another sailor’s fly is unzipped, that’s his problem. An Asia Sailor doesn’t notice such things.
  14. Female sailors who claim to be Asia Sailors are to be treated as spies until they demonstrate the ability to pull a Seventy-Two in the Barrio and drink as much San Miguel as the Male Asia Sailor.
  15. When an Asia Sailor compliments a shipmate on his six-pack, of course, he is talking about the beer the shipmate is carrying.
  16. An Asia Sailor talking to a hot suggestively dressed LBFM in a club must always have enough Pesos for the Bar Pine.
  17. An Asia Sailor never hesitates to reach for the last San Miguel or the last stick of Monkey Meat, but not both, that is just greedy.
  18. An Asia Sailor never joins his wife or girlfriend in discussing a shipmate, unless she is withholding sex pending his response.
  19. An Asia Sailor never talks to another man in the head unless they are on equal footing (i.e., both urinating, both waiting in line, etc.). For all other situations, only an almost imperceptible nod is appropriate.
  20. An Asia Sailor never lets a telephone conversation with his wife or present shack up to go longer than he can have sex with her. Hang up when necessary.
  21. The morning after an Asia Sailor and a female who was formerly “just a friend” have carnal, drunken, monkey sex and the fact that they are feeling weird and guilty is no reason not to nail each other again before the discussion occurs about what a big mistake it was.
  22. It is acceptable for an Asia Sailor to drive a woman’s car. It is never acceptable for her to drive his.
  23. An Asia Sailor never buys a brown, pink, lime green, orange, or sky blue car. Never!
  24. A woman who replies to the question, “What do you want for Christmas?” with “If you love me, you will know what I want!” gets laid Christmas morning by her Asia Sailor. End of story.

We sincerely hope this clears up any confusion.

The Asia Sailor Westpac’rs Association, Ltd.

P.S.  Add something about an Asia Sailor never rubbing sunblock on another dude!


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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.


My Viet Nam

My Viet Nam

by: Garland Davis

“That strange feeling we had in the war.

Have you found anything in your lives since to equal it in strength?

A sort of splendid carelessness it was, holding us together.” -Noel Coward

I spent a total of 39 months serving in the rivers and waters of the Republic of South Viet Nam and a week in the waters of the Peoples Republic of Viet Nam (the North).

I was never in the boonies, or humped a pack and an M-16 or been in a firefight. I did spend almost two years of my life as a cook in an Ocean Going Tug, towing barges in and out of the ports of Saigon, Vung Tau, Da Nang, Bac To, Cam Ranh Bay, Qua Viet and up and down the rivers of South Viet Nam, often coming under fire, working sixteen hour days, months on end, without a break.

I later spent two one hundred day periods at sea in an old Forrest Sherman class destroyer, doing ground support gunfire missions. We would sit a couple of miles off the coast and provide gunfire support to Army and Marine Corps units engaged with the enemy.

When the North Vietnamese walked out of the Paris Peace Talks, Nixon got pissed and raised the ante. My Destroyer spent a harrowing week running into the North Viet Nam port of Haiphong three times a night and shooting up the shipping. Rearming and refueling during the day and shooting at night. I can still hear the sound of North Viet artillery projectiles exploding in the air around the ship.

Still, I had a dry bed to sleep in, except for the sweat from the ninety-degree heat in the berthing compartments and then there was the constant noise of generators, ducting and the guns firing.

I remember a period when one of the evaporators was malfunctioning. The fresh water being made by the other evaporator was needed for boiler feed water. So the crew was on water hours. We were getting showers infrequently and the ship’s laundry was shut down. We were using paper plates and plastic utensils in the mess decks because there was no water for washing dishes. The cooks were limited to a minimum amount of water for cooking and washing pots and pans. It got a little stinky and uncomfortable.

I was just screened by the VA because I was in areas where I could have come into contact with Agent Orange. I’m good, guess I dodged that bullet. A couple of shipmates from that time are suffering from the effects of that crap. The ‘Big Orange” is a bad mother.

Authors Note: The above was written about six years ago.  I have since been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, screened for Agent Orange and am now categorized as 100% disabled by the Veteran’s Administration.  I now know firsthand that the “Big Orange” is a really bad motherfucker.

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.


Pilot Down

Pilot Down

Abort, Abort, Abort

By: Pat Dingle


While on station patrolling the Gulf of Tonkin waters off North Vietnam, CIC stayed at our modified general quarters by a rotating of watches with 7 hours on, 5 off, 5 on, 7 off every day of the week for up to two months continually at sea. I was like most of our guys who ate in the mess hall once a day and the rest of our food came from going through the hamburger/hotdog line in a forward gallery that stayed open 23 hours a day. It closed for a hour from 2300 to 2400 hours for cleaning. We’d grab a burger kept warm by heat lamps, add whatever condiments tasted good to us, walk over to the drink dispenser for coffee or powdered milk if we were going to eat it there on some stools or we’d eat on our way up a number of decks to CIC. If enough of guys on duty were hungry we’d send a seaman down to get the burgers for us. We had our own 30 cup coffee maker filled often each shift. With four or five hours’ sleep, stand watch, repeat, spread out over twenty-four hours, we stayed alert enough and the system really worked well. Devised by some wise Chief during a past war or two no doubt.

I came on duty in the air section on one such day and was briefed by the Radarman I was relieving on a downed pilot rescue underway in the jungles of North Vietnam. We were monitoring it over the radio headset tuned into that particular frequency our Sea King helicopters used but we ourselves were not directly involved at this point in the rescue. Our duty was the very first step in an operation, we’re the first to detect and identify where an aircraft gets hit and general location where it goes down below our radars and pass the data on. The pilots carried a beeper that sent out a signal as to their location for the rescue crews to work from. We were not involved at that point other than monitoring if we chose to and if we had the time. I had the time as I sat down on the scope and put the headset on. One pilot, strong beeper signal, two helicopters, one jungle miles in from the coast and another hour of daylight. I listen intently to learn who the voices in my ear belong to. They should have him any minute now I thought. Nothing but static in my ear then “I see him, he’s on this hill waving his arms, jumping up and down, he’s OK”.

I can’t begin to describe the feelings I felt at that moment. I’m still focusing my attention on my air search radar for other aircraft in trouble or bogies as duty demanded but hearing we got one alive really gave me a rare good feeling, most of the time it didn’t work out like this and seldom do I get to monitor a rescue. The lead helicopter is over him but radios the trees are too thick there to safely lower the sling and bring him up. Just then the second bird radioed he’s taking ground fire. The first one reports he is too then ABORT, ABORT, ABORT came over the air. As they climb for altitude one of the two radioed there must be a hundred NVA at the base of the small hill firing up at them. The soldiers were making their way up the hill towards the pilot as dusk set in and the two helicopters returned to the Yorktown some fifty/seventy-five miles away. I felt sick at heart. All I could think of was that American pilot on the ground watching his rescuers fly away, abandoning him to his fate and what must be going through his mind. I really felt for that man and here I am all comfortable and safe aboard a ship. There was radio chatter for a while about coming back for him in the morning but of course hearing that trash talk only pissed me off more. In my mind, I just kept saying you can’t leave our man behind. I knew this was hard on me but nowhere nearly as hard as on our pilot. That was beyond my comprehension. I was in turmoil the rest of the watch and when relieved I went down to my rack where I couldn’t shake it off or let go, tears came to my eyes in frustration and sense of betrayal but I didn’t cry for him.

After an hour or two of restless sleep I was rudely woken in the dark as our man went around waking us up for the next watch in thirty minutes. And no, the shit, shower and shave thing only worked in boot camp, we were permitted to look scruffy and did. I was back in CIC by 0500 and traded stations with a guy so I could be on the same one I had five hours ago. I had to be here and hear the final verdict of this event. Maybe then I can let it go. Maybe. It’s dawn now and several helicopters and prop fighters are approaching the hill where the downed airman was last seen about ten hours ago. I had no hopes of a recovery, not with that many NVA. In my mind, the pilot is still being tortured by the commie bastards or was shot and killed last evening. The movies I watched growing up didn’t have a clue as to the way it really is, and neither did I those first few times.

I was so obsessed within my circle of thoughts I was shocked to hear in the headset “There he is, he’s OK”. There was a lot more chatter but that’s all I remember hearing. He’s alive, the NVA didn’t get him, he’s OK, wow. I was so overwhelmed with relief I can’t began to describe it. I have no idea who that American pilot was or what branch of service he belonged to. All I knew was that we went back and got him and that’s all that mattered. One more thing, I’d like to meet that pilot today over a drink or two and try to find out which one of us had the worst night back in April 1965, him on a hill in North Vietnam or me on the Yorktown in the Gulf. But truth be known, I give it all to you and I salute you, American pilot who ever you were. You earned it big time.





Anchor Pools

Anchor Pools

By Garland Davis


I never won an anchor pool. I entered them but was always unlucky. Anchor pools were usually operated by an enterprising Petty Officer with a do nothing job. They had the time to prepare the pool and find sixty fish to sign up.

For those who never rode an anchor pool ship, I will explain their operation. First off they are illegal… Totally and absolutely outlawed by everyone from the Chief of Naval Operations down to the squadron chaplain.  The chain of command knew there were anchor pools but usually turned a blind eye and ear.

The odds are terrible. You stand a better chance betting on a blind mule at the Kentucky Derby.

Let me explain how an anchor pool works… You need a pen, two sheets of white typing paper, a sheet of carbon paper (do they still make carbon paper? Xerox sure must’ve kicked the slats out of the carbon paper racket…), a piece of stiff cardboard and a good stapler.

You staple two sheets of typing paper together with the carbon paper sandwiched in between. Then you lay out a grid with 60 squares. What you get are two mirror image blank grids – one exactly over the other one.

You then delicately – What a word to use in conjunction with anything done by a sailor – fold back the top sheet and the carbon, and place numbers from one to sixty at random, in the sixty blank boxes of the lower sheet. Then you return the folded top sheet and carbon so that you have a top sheet containing blank boxes.

You then circulate among the fellow inmates of the haze gray vessel you are serving in. For the piddling cost of five dollars, each sailor is permitted to sign his name in one of the blank spaces. Most anchor pools are five buck pools. I heard rumors that on some big ships they had pools with hundred buck boxes. We didn’t have any direct relatives of Bonnie and Clyde, so we kept it to one Abe Lincoln a box.

Once you have picked a box, you write your name in it. Because the carbon paper is still in place sandwiched over the numbered boxes, your name will appear superimposed over some number between one and sixty. The pages are stapled to cardboard so you have no way of knowing what your number is.

The corner boxes go first. Boxes in the middle go next. There are many scientific systems used… There is the ‘Hand over the eyes, finger point’ method, the ‘Eenie-meeny-miney-moe’ selection process, and the favorite ‘Shit, just pick one for me’ method.

I personally liked the one in the middle of the lower edge. This location had been revealed to me in a 151 proof rum-induced dream… At the time, I was speaking directly with Zeus.  He and I had frequent conversations but as it turned out that the son of a bitch didn’t know shit about anchor pool picks.

Each anchor pool has a prize, usually two hundred dollars. When you come in to tie up, the word will be passed over the 1MC “Put your lines over.” This will trigger a shower of heaving lines… Heaving lines are thrown at the pier or the deck of some outboard ship. ‘Heaving line’ for the uninitiated, is a light line that has a big knot tied on one end to weight it. The knot is called a ‘monkey fist’… You weight it so you can throw the light line across the water. A line handler is your counterpart on the pier or the boat you will tie up to. He catches your heaving and takes up the slack then pulls the heavy hawser over that will tie your ship up. It takes six hawsers to tie up most ships.

You can increase the range, velocity and lethal potential of a heaving line by making the monkey’s fist around a large metal nut, a pool ball or a smooth rock. Bounce that little sweetheart off a Boatswain’s Mate’s skull and you are guaranteed instant celebrity followed by certain death.

When the first hawser goes over the bollard on the pier, the Navy considers the ship moored… And the Officer of the Deck tells the duty Quartermaster, to enter the time in the log. No one gives a damn about the hour but the minute determines your anchor pool winner. The quartermaster passes the word,

“Ship moored sixteen thirty-three…”

The top sheet is removed from the anchor pool and the person’s name inscribed over the number thirty-three is the winner of two hundred dollars. The persons who chose thirty-two and thirty-four each receive fifty dollars.

The winner’s name quickly spreads and now every sonuvabitch on the ship knows who will buy the beer at the club the better part of the first hour.

Anchor pools aren’t a good thing to base your future security or retirement plan on.

They are at best, a lousy percentage bet, but they were one possible critical leg in the illegal financial system that keeps the lads who ride haze gray iron in beer, whiskey and ragged around the edges female companionship.


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.





Why Ships Are Referred to as “She”

By George Davis


A ship is like a woman, in that if a sailor does not provide her with his full, undivided attention, she will wander off.

“HEAVE-TO to lay a sailing ship on the wind with her helm a-lee and her sails shortened and so trimmed that as she comes up to the wind she will fall off again on the same tack and thus make no headway.” THE OXFORD COMPANION TO SHIPS & THE SEA, edited by Peter Kemp, Oxford University Press, 1976

The Flying Scot is a 19-foot, sloop-rigged, centerboard day sailer. The large, deep cockpit is ideal for family sailing. It is of fiberglass construction with comfortable benches along each side. One person can sail it, but she can seat eight adults.

It is a bright, pleasant, Sunday morning. The sailor and the girl sail the Flying Scot across Subic Bay to Gaines Beach. At midday ,they enjoy hamburgers and San Miguel. After a leisurely stroll under the pines on the old submarine base, they start back.

The wind is coming out of the west, blowing steadily toward the land at a pleasant 4 to 6 knots. There are little wavelets on the water, but no appreciable swells. The sails are set for a starboard fetch, which puts the boat in the middle of Subic Bay, out near the channel. There are no ships moving. There are no other boats near. They are alone.

“Did you ever make love on a sailboat?” the sailor asks.

The girl looks up at him. “No.”

He grins back at her and drops his swim trunks. She looks around, then begins to undress. The sailor positions himself on his back on the leeward bench seat, his feet toward the bow, using a life jacket for a pillow. The heeling of the boat anchors him firmly against the seat back. From that position, he can monitor the wind in the sails and manage the tiller. The boat is hours from any obstruction and he can guide the boat by watching the wind in the sails. The girl positions herself over him and assists him with the entry.

“Damn, you are easy!”

“You make me wet.”

But the moment doesn’t last. The sails begin to luff and he must concentrate on correcting the course.

“This is not working,” he says as he withdraws from her. “Lets try something… Ready about! Helm is over!”

He brings the boat about onto the port tack, close hauled, and cleats the jib sheet up tight. “Ready about! Helm’s a-lee!” and he brings the sailboat back to the starboard tack, leaving the jib cleated off on the wrong side. The wind catches the back of the jib and blows the bow off the wind. The sailor pushes the helm over to the lee and ties it off. He trims in the mainsail until it pushes the boat forward. The helm turns it into the wind, but the jib pushes the bow off the wind. Now he readjusts the main so it balances against the jib. The main pushes the boat forward. The jib pushes it back. It rocks gently forward and back, not going anywhere, just drifting sideways against the centerboard. Satisfied, he cleats off the main sheet.

“This is called ‘heaving-to’”, he says. “Now, where were we….?”

“Guess we’ll have to wash with sea water.” The sailor unties the tiller and begins steering with his knees. He releases the jib sheet from the cleat and draws it back through on the port side. Then he adjusts the sails for a starboard reach back to the yacht club at Cubi Point. He checks for signs of current so he can adjust for any set from the tide.

“I can feel a two-step coming on,” he beams at the girl. But she knows that after a shower and a warm supper, the sailor will probably feel like a nap……

A woman is like a ship, in that if a sailor does not provide her with his full, undivided attention, she will wonder off.

George the Sailor

01 August 2010


George Davis was raised on a small farm in the breaks of the Republican River in Nebraska. He graduated from an electronics technical school in Denver, Colorado, then worked for a year in an electronics assembly factory in Dallas, Texas. He joined the Navy and spent 19 of a 24-year career forwardly deployed to the western Pacific. He is now retired on a hobby farm on the dissected plain of the Buffalo Commons, driving a school bus to cover the expenses of farming.





author unknown

In the beginning…

In the beginning was the word, and the word was God and all else was darkness and void and without form. So God created the heavens and the earth. He created the sun and the moon and the stars, so that their light might pierce the darkness. And the earth, God divided between the land and the sea, and these He filled with many assorted creatures.

And from the slime, in a land called Lympstone, God made dark, salty creatures that inhabited the seashore. He called them Marines, He dressed them accordingly, in bright colors so that their betters may more easily find them in the holes and burrows that they’d scoured out of the ground. And God said, “Whilst at their appointed labors they will devour worms, maggots, C and K rations and all creatures that creep or crawl”.

The flighty creatures of the air, He called Airdales, and these He clothed in uniforms which were ruffled, perfumed, and pretty. He gave them great floating cities with flat roofs in which to live, where they gathered and formed huge multitudes. They carried out heathen rites and ceremonies by day and by night upon the roof amidst thunderous noise. They were given God’s blue sky and their existence was on the backs of others.

And the surface creatures of the sea, God called Skimmers, who supported the Airdales and with a twinkle in His eye and a sense of humor only He could have, He gave them all gedunks, polluted with much stickywater, to drink. God gave them big grey “targets” to go to sea in. He gave them many splendid uniforms to wear. And He gave them all the world’s exotic and wonderful places to visit. He gave them pen and paper so that they could write home every week, and He gave them rope yarn Sunday at sea and a laundry so they could clean and polish their splendid uniforms. (When you are God it is very easy to get carried away with your own great and wondrous benevolence) .

And on the seventh day, as you know, God rested from his labors. And on the eighth day at 0755, just before Colors, God looked down upon the earth and He was not a happy man. God knew He had not quite achieved perfection, so He thought about his labors, and in His infinite wisdom, He created a divine creature, His masterpiece, and this He called a Submariner or BubbleHead. A child of heaven.

And these Submariners, whom God created in His own image, and to whom He gave his most cherished gift, great intelligence, were to be of the deep, and to them He gave more of his greatest gifts. He gave them black steel messengers of death called the “Smoke Boat” class in which to roam the depths of his oceans, and He gave them His arrows and slingshots, the Mark 14 torpedo of burnished brass and black, and the Mark 37 of green, to wage war against the forces of Satan and all evil.

He heaped great knowledge and understanding upon them, in order that they may more easily win their greatest challenge, to pass their Qualification Test and be skilled in the great works God had charged them with.

The finest of these men, God called “Diesel Boat Submariners” for they made all happen beyond the understanding of other men. He gave His Submariners hotels in which to live when they were exhausted and weary from doing God’s will. He gave them fortitude to consume vast quantities of beer and booze, to sustain them in their arduous tasks, performed in His name.

He gave them great food, submarine pay and occasionally, subsistence so that they might entertain the Ladies of the “Starlight”, “White Hat”, and the “Horse and Cow” on Saturday nights and impress the heck out of the creatures He called “Skimmers” and “Jar Heads”.

And at the end of the eighth day, God again looked down upon the earth and saw all was good in His realm. But God was not happy because in the course of His mighty labors He had forgotten one thing. He had not kept a pair of “Dolphins” for Himself.

But He thought about it and considered it and finally, He consoled himself, in the certain knowledge that – – –


“Not Just Anybody Can Be a Submariner!”



Engaging the Enemy from Main Control

Engaging the Enemy from Main Control

By:  David ‘Mac’ McAllister

It was 1967 and our 45th day on the gun line, the entire crew was weary and tension was violin string taught; however, moral was high. We were operating with the USS Canberra doing Sea Dragon operations well to the north of the Vietnamese DMZ; engaging the coastline with 5”/38 caliber gun fire while the Cruisers heavier guns concentrated on primary supply line targets further inland. Although, having received counter battery fire several times during the past month and a half we had not yet sustained a direct hit. The odds were mounting though and weighed upon us all as the General Quarters alarm sounded once again and we scrambled to our stations setting material condition Zebra as we went.

Main Control was my GQ station and as I slid down the ladder, feet landing on the upper-level deck plates with a metallic thud, the messenger scampered back up, disengaged the locking mechanism on the scuttle and with a dull thump it slammed shut and was dogged down tight. Seven men and 60,000 horses were now sealed off from the rest of the ship within a watertight tomb well below the waterline. If one tended toward claustrophobia this was not the place to be. Main space ventilation was set up with the exhaust fans running on high while the supply vents were set for low speed. The negative pressure created by this configuration tended to keep main space heat and humidity confined to the engineering spaces. With Zebra set, the normal flow of fresh topside air through the scuttles was closed off and the space temperature would rapidly rise in these close and sealed quarters.

Being the lower level man, my responsibility was to maintain the machinery online and rolling over in standby that recovered condensate from the main engine, turning it into feed water in the deaerating feed tank and returning it to the boilers via the main feed booster and main feed pumps for regeneration back into steam. The lube oil pumps supplying main engine lubrication were also under my cognizance. Needless to say, plenty to do under normal circumstances; however, at a heightened sense of awareness during General Quarters, all of my senses were fine tuned to detect changes in noise, pitch, smell and yes taste – you can taste fear. As the reports of “Manned and Ready” from the other three main engineering spaces, shaft alleys, repair five and Damage Control Central were received, the final report of “Engineering Manned and Ready” was passed to the bridge via the 1JV phone circuit. We would make our stand and fight the enemy from here.

Signaling that we were making our firing run into the beach, the ship heeled over to port and dug in as the main engines answered up to a twenty-five-knot bell. As we closed the distance and brought the main battery within range the ship shook powerfully as mounts 51 and 52 opened fire pounding our foe with 5”/38 caliber gunfire. With a turn to starboard and speed reduction to 10 knots, we commenced our firing run parallel with the beach. Lobbing six-gun salvos at pre-designated targets, this is when we were at our most vulnerable; exposing ourselves as a fat slow target for the well concealed powerful shore batteries known to exist there. The hope being was that they would take the bait, roll those big guns out and fire upon us thereby exposing them for destruction. Meanwhile, the Canberra’s rounds were screaming overhead falling farther inland, hopefully disrupting targets along Charlie’s vital supply lines known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

Communication between the lower level and upper level was via bell and voice tube. A single ring on the bell was a normal “I want to talk to you”; while repeated rings indicated an emergent communication. By now I knew well what repeated rings meant during Sea Dragon Ops – counter battery. The bell rang several times in a row shortly after we commenced our firing run – we had commenced receiving counter battery.

A hard turn to starboard accompanied by an all ahead flank bell and the order to make black smoke was an indication to disregard all acceleration tables and make best possible speed as soon as possible because we were turning mount 53 to the beach, limiting our size as a target and haulin’ ass outta Dodge. The incoming shells were falling not only all around us but well out ahead along our escape route. We would later find out that we were being taken under fire by several shore batteries with the advantage of different firing arcs at their disposal. Charlie was always claiming to have sunk one of us but it seemed that he was serious about making good on the propaganda today and we were his target.The muffled thump of the incoming rounds being taken close aboard exploding underwater was immediately followed by the

The muffled thump of the incoming rounds being taken close aboard exploding underwater was immediately followed by the tinny spray of shrapnel as it laced against the underwater hull of this 1940’s vintage tin can. I could hear our messenger of the watch starting to jog around the evaporators on the upper level. A black kid from Mississippi, I had asked him once where he thought he was running to; to which he replied “I don’ts knows, I just feels better when I’m a runnin”.

As the frequency of incoming rounds close aboard increased, my attention was now diverted from the machinery to a near constant vigilance for hull integrity. I couldn’t help but wonder how much that old hull had been stressed over the past twenty plus years and two previous wars as it was peppered with shrapnel yielding explosions. Although I kept telling myself ‘the water is your friend, it’s absorbing the concussions and decelerating the shrapnel’s lethalness.’ I really wasn’t convinced, but as my messenger friend above put it – “I feels better”. The acidic taste in my mouth testified to the stressfulness of the situation and in spite of the heat and humidity my sweat felt cold and skin clammy.

As we made for the safety of the open waters of the Gulf, the ship lurched and shook as mount 53 continually laid round after round back at those inflicting harm our way. To this day I believe our mount 53 gun crews could give the then new 5’/54 caliber automatic mounts a run for their money with rounds fired per minute. It was a constant barrage for what seemed like an eternity. Charlie had us bracketed walking rounds in on us while we gave back all that we were getting. I later spoke with SM1 and he said this about his view from the signal bridge “It wasn’t all the rounds hitting around us that worried me as much as the rounds splashing down several thousand yards ahead of us that we still had to transit through that frosted my nuts”.

As with things of this nature, it stopped as suddenly as it started. The word “Now set material condition Yoke” came as a welcome call to a relatively intense poker hand in which we were all gambling for the highest of stakes – our lives. As the scuttles to Main Control were opened and the freshness of the topside air spilled into the space you could feel a collective sigh of relief rise up and meet the heavy humid air of the Gulf of Tonkin.

After securing from general quarters a mini FOD walk down was conducted to pick up the shrapnel on deck; much of which was sent off for analysis with some being pocketed as war souvenirs. Although we sustained no direct hit that day, the stacks were riddled and holed from air bursts; while flying proudly at the mast, Old Glory showed that she had taken a few as well. Come to find out, we had silenced two of Charlie’s shore batteries evidenced by the secondary explosions that followed our direct hits and many inland targets had been reported by spotters as destroyed. We were intact with minor shrapnel damage and no injuries once again – another successful mission.

As I sat on a bit gazing back in at the beach now several miles distant, I realized that my mouth was not as dry any longer and that the acid taste had been neutralized. The trembling and realization that I was scared shitless would soon pass for we would be doing this all over again in just a few hours; that being the nature of Sea Dragon Operations. Strangely though, through it all I held no animosity; just the pride of knowing that I belonged to the US Navy and a team of Blue Jackets that, today, had collectively kicked Charlie’s ass a little bit.

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.