Shining Bright Work

Shining Bright Work

By:  Garland Davis


A good friend and shipmate recently passed.  Willie was the leading BT in Morton when I made Chief. He welcomed me to the mess and was something of a mentor as I experienced the change in status from First Class Petty Officer to Chief Petty Officer.  Shortly after Morton returned to Pearl from WestPac, Willie invited me to his house for dinner and drinks.  I noticed a brass plaque about one-foot square (It may have been larger, my memory isn’t what it was) hanging on one wall along with some ships plaques and other Navy memorabilia.  As close as I can recall the wording, there was something about a type of boiler and manufactured by Westinghouse.

I asked Willie, “What’s the story behind this plaque.”

He said, “I was a BTFN on the USS Fletcher DD-445. That plaque was on one of the boilers and I had to shine it every fucking morning until I made Third Class. When they decommissioned Fletcher, I took that off the boiler, brought it home and hung it on that wall.  I am going to sit here and watch while that mother fucker turns green.”

Thinking about Willie and that incident got me to wondering how many hours I spent shining the ship’s bell and other bright work.  Traditionally, the Ship’s Cook shined the ships bell.  This was a tradition that was adhered to in Vesuvius. Before quarters each morning, I either trooped up to the bridge or to the Quarterdeck when the ship was inport to shine the bell. On a few of the ships I served in, the Quartermasters reciprocated by making the first pot of coffee in the morning.  This is another tradition that has gone the way of the flat hat.  The last three ships I served in didn’t require the cooks to shine the bell.

Tradition aside, there was enough copper and brass on the ships to keep an Executive Officer in a permanent state of pissed off because it didn’t shine up to his standards.  The first FF I served in had unlagged and unpainted water lines in the copper pits (the place where the steam jacketed kettles were located) and under the sinks.  I stayed on the cooks’ asses to keep them gleaming just to keep the Division Officer and XO off mine.  On the second FF, someone had painted over all those copper lines.  Saved the cooks and me a lot of grief.

When I was in Morton there were a number of plaques on the starboard bulkhead of the mess decks.  One was a solid brass plaque that the XO always commented on if it wasn’t shining when he did his messing and berthing inspection. It was a DesRon Eleven Plaque.  The squadron motto of “On the Way” was prominent on the plaque.  Sometime in the past, an HT with time on his hands had changed the motto to “In the Way.”  The XO never commented which leads me to believe that he never really saw the plaque, just the shine.

The tanker I served in had four ports in the Galley.   They were brass and had to be shined.  I was in that ship when the Steward and Commissaryman ratings were compressed into the Mess Management Specialist.  As the leading MS, I inherited all the brass ports in the officers’ staterooms.  Brasso flowed by the gallon just to keep the XO happy.

Then, of course, there were the brass fire nozzles.  Supposed to be wire brushed instead of shined.  The Brasso would clog the spray nozzles.  I was in an Ocean Going Tug (ATA) and because of the small size of the ship, fire nozzles turned green overnight.  The Damage Controlman was constantly wire brushing the damned things.  He came up with a solution.  Condoms!  Stretch a condom over the fire nozzle and it was free of the constant salt spray.  If the nozzle had to be used, the pressure of the water would blow the condom off.

Since the ship didn’t have a Disbursing Officer or Ship’s Store, the XO controlled a fund granted by TYCOM for incidental purchases.  We were in Subic and DC2 got money from the XO to buy one hundred forty-four rubbers.  I was in the Spanish Gate Exchange when the DC came in.  He stood around for a couple of minutes and said, “I can’t go ask the young female cashier for rubbers.”

I looked.  There was a pretty young Filipina at the counter.  I told him, “Give me the money, I’ll get them for you.  How many do you want?”

“One hundred forty-four,” he replied.

I went to the counter and told the girl how many rubbers I wanted.  She said, “I will have to go to the back to get them.”

I was waiting by the counter when I noticed four girls looking out of the door from the back room at me, among them, was the cashier pointing at me.  She brought me the rubbers and I paid her and delivered them to the DC2 in the restaurant.

The next day, I went into the Exchange for something.  There were two girls behind the counter.  They were giggling and watching me.  I knew they were talking about my purchase from the previous day.  I took my purchases to the counter and she rang them into the register.  I said, “Oh yeah, give me six condoms.  I ran short yesterday.”

I can still see the expression of incredulity on her face.  Thinking about it later, I should have asked her for a date.

But to get back to shining bright work, I had a small amount of bright work compared to the snipes.  Turn your back on a can of Brasso or Never Dull when there was a snipe in the vicinity and you would suddenly be without.  I swear the snipes used more bug juice cleaning and shining stuff in the hole than I did preparing beverages for meals.  The few times I had to go in the pit, everything always looked neat, shiny, and clean.

I have often wondered how much money was spent annually by the Navy keeping the bright work shiny and pretty during the thirty years I served.


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.  To see a menu of previously published articles, click on the three white lines in the red rectangle above.

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 Battle of Dong Hoi Gulf

The Battle of Dong Hoi Gulf

By:  Jim Barton


Something we noted, and it coincided with the earlier Sea Dragon Operations Lessons Learned, was the presence of large numbers of fishing boats off the coast. While fishing is a normal livelihood for these people, interspersed among them were boats with antennas which we knew to be enemy spotters. The Rules of Engagement (ROE) by this time did not allow us to engage these boats which meant the effectiveness of the incoming rounds could be reported to the North Vietnamese gunners ashore. That would soon change. But much of this was actually being directed from the White House since the first incursion across the DMZ by the North Vietnamese and our responses to it. This is a lousy way to do business. I actually received and read several messages from the White House.

A thing we noted was the peculiar arrangement of fishing stakes. A fishing stake is a long bamboo pole with a bag of rocks attached in a net to its bottom. Normally fishing nets are strung between the poles and the nets are tended to by the fishing boats periodically throughout the day. What Sea Dragon participants and we noted was that there were rows of fishing stakes that ran parallel to the coast near Vinh. There were no nets on some. These ran in rows with what appeared to be 50 meters or so spacing. The North Vietnamese gunners and spotters were using these stakes as optical markers to direct fire against our ships as we passed through the rows. It was a well laid out killing zone and improved the accuracy of their guns.

The North Vietnamese did not routinely use radar to direct the firing of their guns. When they did they could be jammed or targeted. As the months passed they used fire control radar more frequently for their coastal artillery. Anyway, after secure voice conversation on April 17th among the CTU, the ships CO’s and planning teams, we went to GQ around 2330 for a firing run in the same area as that of the 17th under the cover of darkness. Although damaged from the earlier run, Buchanan participated in the raid. Her entire aft section, gun, and missile launcher were useless. But Mackenzie had earlier gone on a firing run with only the reciprocating fire and bilge pump providing fire main pressure. I guess CO’s and Commodores wanted their ships in the fight. We did not have the luxury of “destroyers-a-plenty” yet. We fought with who and what we had. Fortunately, on that run, we did not experience any counter-battery fire.

Another concern was close in our minds. We had been receiving frequent messages indicating a higher level of enemy aircraft (MIG) threat. In the course of the war to date, there had been many MIG engagements but no attacks on US surface units. Nevertheless, we were in a heightened state of readiness. There was a primary MIG airfield in the vicinity of Vinh and others situated along the North Vietnamese coast. We expected the aircraft from Yankee Station would take out the airfields. That apparently had not happened as strike packages were working to stop the North Vietnamese advance and crushing other infrastructure. It proved a costly oversight.

On April 18th, the damaged Buchanan was detached to tend to the transport of Seaman Davis’ remains and to proceed to Da Nang to effect repairs. Command of the task unit remained with Commodore Choo-Choo Johnson who shifted his flag to Stoddert. We were soon joined by Higbee as a replacement for Buchanan and our task unit proceeded to refuel and rearm.

By this time, Freedom Train Operations were being conducted by two SAG’s each under the command of a Commodore (DESRON Commander). The numbers in the SAG’s varied from 3 to 6 CRUDES ships; and while often operating in close proximity to one another for mutual support, the SAG’s normally were separated by 30-70 miles.

Other WESTPAC Destroyers were providing gunfire support, others missile duties and others still providing escort duties for the carriers. Because of their single gun mount and single screw which restricted their speeds below 30 knots, the Garcia and Knox class DE’s were assigned important duties on Yankee Station or NGFS south of the DMZ. Very few if any ships at this time had the luxury of liberty port visits. Some would rotate to Subic Bay for repairs before heading back again.

After replenishment on April 18th, the northern SAG, less Higbee who rejoined the southern SAG, proceeded back to the vicinity south of Vinh. At one point it appeared we would go instead; but for continuity, we stayed with the northern SAG and Higbee joined the southern SAG.

As events would have it, this would prove to be prophetic for us. Higbee joined with the 7th Fleet flagship, guided missile cruiser USS Oklahoma City (CLG-5), the guided missile frigate USS Sterett (DLG-31), and USS Lloyd Thomas (DD-764). My friend Lieutenant Dave Lee from Midshipman days and Destroyer School was on board Lloyd Thomas as Chief Engineer. He and I would serve together again as commanding officers of frigates in the same Mayport Destroyer Squadron some 15 years later. We remain good friends to this very day

Once Mackenzie and company arrived at the northern SAG area, we set GQ again on the evening of April 18th and proceeded to fire at targets in the vicinity of Vinh. After 45 minutes into the mission, we were once again under heavy 130mm fire from counter battery as we left the coast. The range of these smooth bore guns was 30K yards, exceeding the range of even the 5″/54 ships. For Mackenzie’ we were out-ranged by 6 miles.

During the engagement, we noted numerous splashes on our port and starboard quarters. That is a good thing. The last thing an OOD wants to see, which was often the case, were geysers as high as the SPS-40 radar on the bow. For nearly four hours we fired at targets ashore and traded gunfire with North Vietnamese artillery sites. In all, we counted about 30 incoming rounds in the vicinity of Mackenzie and other splashes near the other ships in the SAG. After completion of the firing runs, we proceeded to replenishment for fuel and ammo.

Early on April 19th, we proceeded out to sea for underway replenishment then worked our way back toward the holding area for evening strike operations. The area around Dong Hoi and that of Vinh were the two primary strike areas. First, however, we moved to the southern sector while the southern unit refueled and rearmed in the late morning. When the southern SAG returned to the Dong Hoi sector we moved to the north. The SAG’s changed places in this way at times and rotated duties so that each could be rearmed and refueled.

Around noon on the 19th, we had actually been at a location about 14 miles of the Dong Hoi strike area but some 50 miles at sea. This turned out to be the very site of the northern SAG’s subsequent action. Another flash traffic MIG alert was received, this time, a warning indicating MIG’s had gone “feet wet” in a couple of runs, each time returning to the airfield near Vinh.

And so, with the southern SAG’s return, we slowly moved north to the Vinh holding area about 50 miles off the coast. By 1600, the two groups were separated by less than 40 miles. A discussion was had in our SAG on secure voice about the MIG threat and Stoddert in our SAG was assigned missile protection duties. Sterett, the AAW picket ship with its longer range missiles, provided cover for both SAG’s. Radio and radar ranges were extraordinary that day. We were listening to UHF communications well beyond the horizon. The same was true for the surface search radar.

In the southern SAG, Oklahoma City with COMSEVENTHFLT embarked, was doing duty as a gunship with its longer range 6-inch battery. She was escorted by Higbee and Thomas.

For some reason, the aircraft passed down the beam of Oklahoma City, dropped at least one bomb and it struck Higbee on the aft gun mount. No one was killed. Four sailors were injured. The ship had just evacuated the gun mount due to a misfire and no one was inside. Accounts of the engagement vary, North Vietnamese being different than American. Sterett claimed one downed MIG and before it could get a second salvo against the other, the retreating aircraft was low over land and the fire control radar dropped its lock. North Vietnam claimed no losses. In the ensuing confusion, Sterett claimed it was being attacked by North Vietnamese patrol boats and took them under fire. This later proved to be not true. This may have been phantom radar contacts likely caused by our position to the north.

On this occasion, I had been in CIC working out coordinates and charts for the evening strikes. I stepped out on to the Bridge to get some air and almost immediately over the secondary SAG circuit we heard lots of chatter from the southern SAG. Then we heard that they were under attack by MIG aircraft. We were riveted as the tense voice came from Higbee saying they had been hit by a bomb followed closely by the engagement by USS Sterett with missiles against what turned out to be two attacking MIG-17 aircraft. The apparent target must have been USS Oklahoma City with Commander 7th Fleet embarked.

The North Vietnamese claimed also to have bombed Oklahoma City sustaining light damage but that has never been substantiated. As I listened to the voice reports of the battle, Oklahoma City did not report being hit. There was discussion via secure voice circuits about our SAG proceeding south to assist but that did not happen. We continued with or mission planning which included hitting the MIG airfield near Vinh that evening.

One of the lessons learned from this is that the US Navy surface ships operating without air cover were vulnerable but that US AAW Picket ships like Sterett provided adequate protection. Photos taken by one of the Sterett’s crew clearly show the MIG being destroyed by a Terrier missile. I have not seen those photos but in subsequent briefings and in the classroom years later, I learned that Sterett had killed the MIG at close range, so close in fact, that it was said that the kill occurred before missile booster separation had occurred.

If this is true, it is tantamount to hitting the aircraft with a rock because the missile was not yet in its guided mode. Eye witnesses saw a MIG aircraft completely destroyed by a direct Terrier missile strike at only a few thousand yards and pieces of the virtually disintegrated MIG fell into the sea in view of the eye witnesses. Requiring repair, Higbee steamed to Da Nang and they tied up alongside the damaged Buchanan.

Over the next few weeks, repairs were made to Higbee. Rather than attempting to replace the aft gun mount, welds were made to the deck and compartments below. Higbee returned to the gun line as a single mount NGFS ship and provided carrier escort duties before returning home from deployment. When the ship returned to duties after repairs we cheered its arrival. With the call sign of “Truck”, she proved herself Ram tough.

In the northern SAG, we began our runs again at targets in the vicinity of Vinh from 1930-0100 on the 20th. Around noon, we went in again for another strike for 1 ½ hours and once again from 1600-1730. One of these targets was Hon Me Island which Stoddert, Hamner, and Mackenzie shelled repeatedly during the early morning hours of the 20th. Around noon, we re-attacked the area and shifted to a potential air threat which we engaged. We also fired upon and destroyed an enemy shore battery during counter battery fire. We then proceeded to the holding area to regroup for our evening operations.

In the evening, having received intelligence that the North Vietnamese had positioned several PT boats at an anchorage near Cape Falaise, our SAG proceeded to the coast. Nearing the coast in the darkness we engaged and destroyed an approaching surface contact just before 2200. We shifted fire to the anchorage and support facility and noted secondary explosions as a result of gunfire from the three U.S. ships.

And so it went. No rest for the weary.



The author is a retired career US Navy Surface Warfare Officer whose assignments at sea include duty in all Line Departments in the Destroyer and Auxiliary Forces up to and including command of a Frigate. Ashore he served in key national policy positions on the staff of the Chief of Naval Operations.


Booze II

Booze II

By: Garland Davis


I talked about the clubs yesterday.  And lamented their passing.  The CPO Club in Yokosuka was operating four years ago when I was there.  I am fond of that building as the P.O. Club.  I spent many an evening in that stag bar.  Also many a productive lunch hour during the work week.  Four years ago I stopped in at lunch, went into the lounge and ordered a beer.  During the lunch, I had about three beers.  The only other customers were two male and two female Chiefs.  They sat at separate tables and had iced tea and sandwiches.  The highlight of the day; as I was leaving, with a heavy heart, I bumped into Ivan Chute, an old Midway shipmate, and we retired to the FRA for the afternoon.

Back in the day, I saw Petty Officers make decisions on the fate of subordinates, cut deals for badly needed gear for an upcoming evolution and settle shipboard grievances peacefully.  I also saw fights.  Laughed until I cried at sea stories or the antics of some of my contemporaries.

I saw wives come in and drag their errant husbands out, to the applause and laughter of all.  If I was to tell the truth, the manager (his name was Stansell) escorted me to the door a few times while informing me that I was barred for a week, a month, or for life.  Usually after a few days, he would relent and let me return to the madness.

Another great Yokosuka Club was the old Club Alliance.  You could have dinner and drinks there, stop in at the package store for a case of cold Oly’s, change MPC to Yen before retiring to whichever bar your current Honey-ko worked in.

One of the two other clubs I remember with the fondness that I do the P.O. Club is the old CPO Club at Pearl.  The front entrance was outside the gate in a Navy Housing area.  The back entrance was inside the base.  It was like the CPO community had their own personal pedestrian gate that conveniently sold drinks.  The club managers were Skip Ogilvie and John “Doc” Cottingham.  At closing time, the doors were locked, but that didn’t mean the party ended.  I often went to the club for dinner and drinks and left after having breakfast and drinks.  I was initiated there.

The other club I loved was the China Fleet Club in Hong Kong.  The pints of beer, the snooker rooms, and the flophouse where you could rent a bed. I don’t recall if they ever closed.  In my memory, I was always able to get a beer and some fish and chips there.  Then there was the Brit’s Singapore EM Club adjacent to the Fleet Landing.  Drank my first Guinness there and fought the Australians and English because one of my shipmates referred to an Aussie as a Fucking Limey. I loved the English and Australians, their customs and their accents. They loved a good liberty.  Unfortunately, the British are no longer “East of Suez.”  A good thing ended when they departed.

The legendary Beeman’s Center at the Submarine Base Pearl is now a fast food restaurant and MWR game room. I remember when the Beeman’s CPO club had a strip show for lunch every Friday.  I also remember the furor when a group of Chiefs’ wives stopped in for lunch while a Bubblehead A-Gang CPO and one of the strippers were having each other for lunch. The large EM Club at Pearl has been transformed into a vendor operated food court and MWR game room. The Banyan’s Officer Club at Pearl, dating back to the thirties, was bulldozed to make room for a pier side Navy Exchange and Uniform Shop.  The eighth-floor lounge, “Top of the Q” at the BOQ is now classrooms.

I guess that if you want a drink on base you buy it at the Mini Mart and smuggle it into your barracks room and hope you pass the Breathalyzer tomorrow morning.


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.  To see a menu of previously published articles, click on the three white lines in the red rectangle above.

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.





By:  Garland Davis


The Great Auk

(Pinguinus impennis) is a flightless bird of the alcid family that became extinct in the mid-19th century.

The Dodo

(Raphus cucullatus) is an extinct flightless bird that was endemic to the island of Mauritius, east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean.


In the Royal Navy. By 1650, a pint of rum had been unofficially adopted as part of the sailor’s daily ration. Competition for rum sales and for the security that armed ships brought with them was fierce among the planters. Even the island governors supported selling rum to the navy, a move they hoped would help keep the pirates at bay. Then in 1687, to appease the governors and guarantee the supply of spirits for their sailors, the Royal Navy officially adopted a mixture of rum from the English Caribbean islands as part of the crew’s daily allotment. Ships were dispatched to collect and distribute this special blend that would be carried on all Royal Navy ships around the world. Thus began a statutory naval tradition that would last almost three hundred years: rum and the sea.

The Caribbean spirit came out of the still at 140 proof and was a lot stronger than the beer and wine it replaced. Drinking a pint of West Indian rum every day caused such disorder among the sailors that Admiral Edward Vernon ordered that the ration be diluted with two parts water prior to issue. He also decreed that sugar and lime juice be made available as a reward for good behavior. Sailors endorsed the Admiral’s order and christened the new ration grog, in honor of their hero who led them to battle wearing his finest grogam coat.

In the 20th century, it was finally conceded that rum was not conducive to the mental concentration needed to wage modern warfare. The cerebral demands of flying supersonic aircraft or operating sophisticated electronic equipment are much different from those needed to load or fire a cannon from the deck of a ship. In the Royal Navy, the sailors’ tot became another casualty of changing times on July 31, 1970, when the last rum ration was served on board HMS Endymion, marking the end of an era in naval history. The tradition of rum and the sea lives on, however, on private vessels at anchor around the world. Cheers to another day in paradise!

Alcohol aboard ship in the U.S. Navy. 1914 General Order 99, issued by Secretaryn of the Navy, Josephus Daniels on 1 June, strictly prohibited “the use or introduction for drinking purposes of alcoholic liquors on board any naval vessel, or within any navy yard or station,” to take effect on 1 July 1914.

The parts of General Order 99 pertaining to “Navy yards or stations” was later amended to permit Enlisted, Acey Deucy, Chief Petty Officer and Officer Clubs to operate aboard Navy shore facilities under the direction of the Chief of Naval Personnel.  Navy clubs operated under the control of BUPERS until the mid-sixties.  Some clubs were profitable and some weren’t.  The profits from the clubs were pooled and used to operate all clubs.  Small installation’s clubs were subsidized by the profits from larger clubs.

Those of you who were there remember the days of twenty-five cent drinks and ten cent happy hours in the overseas clubs.  Prices were slightly higher in stateside clubs, but not markedly so.  Most of the smaller clubs were operated by a CPO or senior PO1.  They usually employed dependents or off duty sailors.  They weren’t fancy.  They were comfortable; a place where a sailor could go and unwind.

Wonder what happened to this great club system?  The civilians who operated the Navy Exchange system had embarked on a program to build “department store” type operations. They realized that if they could get the clubs under the NEX there was potential to make a lot of money, hire more people and increase the size and scope of their operation. They proposed that all Navy clubs be transferred under their umbrella.  Navpers agreed that EM and Acey Deucy Clubs could be turned over to them but maintained control of CPO and Officer Clubs.

That became the first nail in the coffin of the Enlisted Men’s Club System.  First, they hired Club Managers for each club and full-time staff.  This increased the cost of operating the clubs so they raised prices to compensate.  In many instances, the new prices were equal to or higher than in the surrounding civilian community. Customers started going elsewhere.

When congress authorized the Navy Exchange System to replace the ashore equivalent of the ship’s store operated by Navy personnel, they specified that each store had to be self-supporting or close.  This rule forced the closure of many of the smaller clubs. Under BUPERS, they were subsidized. But the NEX rules forced their closure.

Although the drinking age in many states was twenty-one, most installations and clubs turned a blind eye to these rules as long as the sailors were well behaved.  I remember a club at Port Chicago, Ca. where underage personnel could drink in dungarees or undress uniform.  As an eighteen-year-old, I spent many an enjoyable evening there.  The drinking age in Hawaii was twenty.  Upon entering the club, you were required to sign a log acknowledging that you understood this.  Then they sold you the drinks.

During the Viet Nam War, some states lowered the drinking age to eighteen.  Many states had eighteen as the age for beer but not distilled spirits.  There was a concerted effort by groups such as MADD to get states to raise the limit to twenty-one in all states.  They were finally successful in 1984: “The National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 required all states to raise their minimum purchase and public possession of alcohol age to 21. States that did not comply faced a reduction in highway funds under the Federal Highway Aid Act. The U.S. Department of Transportation has determined that all states are in compliance with this act. The national law specifically prohibits the purchase and public possession of alcoholic beverages.”

The Navy wasn’t immune from this law.  The clubs in both the BUPERS and NEX systems were required to cease underage sales of alcohol.

At the end of the Viet Nam war, groups and individuals began to make a concerted effort to discourage drinking in the Navy.  About ’76 I was serving in Ponchatoula.  I was on leave and went to the CPO Club at lunch.  I had business at Navy Legal that morning and was in uniform.  I was having a beer and sandwich at the bar when a Master Chief from COMNAV14 came to me, showed me a letter from the Admiral giving the Master Chief the authority to question anyone under COMNAV14 authority.  He asked for my ID and noted the information, asked my command and noted that also.  A few days after my leave, I was called to the XO’s stateroom.  He handed me a letter from COMNAV14 to the CO of Ponchatoula.  It said in part.  “The following Chief Petty Officer from your command was observed drinking at the CPO club at 11:45 on day and date, a working day.”  After explaining that I was on leave, the XO said.  “Warn your fellow Chiefs.  This new Admiral is an ex-alcoholic and has a hatred for drinkers.”

The result:  The CPO club’s lunch business declined while the business at Mama’s Kitchen, outside the gate, boomed.  The CPO club burned in the late sixties.  BUPERS was reluctant to rebuild the club, but after much lobbying, a club was constructed.  It never gained the popularity of the old club and finally closed its door.  The building was PSD for a time.  Then it was used as the courtroom for the CO of the submarine that surfaced into the Japanese fisheries training ship.  It is now the administrative offices of the Federal Fire Department.   There is a small, unofficial club at the CPO quarters on base.  It is usually filled with CPO retirees.  Active duty CPO’s pretty much steer clear.  The Fleet Reserve Club does a booming lunch and after work business.

More to come tomorrow……………………………..




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.  To see a menu of previously published articles, click on the three white lines in the red rectangle above.

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.



Plane Guard

Plane Guard

By:  Garland Davis


Stack gas permeates

…Sea Spray falling

on the decks.


Chasing the Carrier

through the chop

…Captain on his bridge

radar turning

searching all directions.


Thick fog of droplets

…A rainbow halo

of JP5 from A-6

going home.



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.  To see a menu of previously published articles, click on the three white lines in the red rectangle above.

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.



Gimme Shelter

Gimme Shelter
CAPT John Wallace, USN (Retired)

Have you ever wondered why the military gives harmless sounding nicknames to its operations? I’ve always suspected it’s to lull the participants into a false sense of security (“Hey, guys, we get to go on Operation Benign Puppy”)

In the summer of 1962, my ship, USS Polk County, was ordered to participate in Operation Dominic (Hey, guys, we get to go on Operation Dominic)! Dominic, a Pacific Ocean operation, involved nuclear weapons testing in the vicinity of British owned Christmas Island, for air-dropped weapons, and U.S. owned Johnston Atoll for the ambitious, first-time-ever nuclear blast in the earth’s outer atmosphere.

My ship was one of several assigned to the scientific element of the operation, which meant we were loaded with instrumented vans, arrayed with a variety of antennas, and directed to steam around beneath the nuclear burst. The nuclear weapon was to be carried aloft on a rocket launched from Johnston Atoll. As D-day and H-hour approached, the anxiety level aboard ship increased noticeably . The major danger, we were told, would not be from the nuclear explosion, but from the barrage of instrumented Nike missiles which would be launched to take readings on the detonation. The impact points for these missiles were unpredictable. (I shot a Nike in the air, and where it fell…) Heavy steel I-beams were stacked on top of the instrumented vans to minimize damage should one or more of these unguided missiles land on us. We un-instrumented people were on our own.

As launch time approached, the ship went to General Quarters which put me in the unprotected after gun tub. The uniform for guys about to witness e=mc squared up close and personal was: long sleeve khaki shirt  buttoned at the neck and wrists; steel helmet (not as reassuring as an I-beam, but what the heck); and high-density goggles, which, even during hours of daylight, rendered you completely sightless. The countdown for missile launch proceeded without a hitch and we watched the rocket with its lethal load (the physics package, as the euphemists dubbed it) ride its flame towards a destination above Johnston.

As the countdown for the burst was broadcast over the ship’s 1MC, we were directed to don the goggles, close our eyes and direct our faces down and away from the impending burst. In spite of these measures, the light at detonation was as intense as a strobe and was seen over 800 miles away in Hawaii. Immediately after the detonation, with goggles removed, I looked up into a nighttime, blood-red sky from horizon to horizon, with multiple yellow striations crisscrossing the night sky as small iron rods, which were released with the burst, aligned themselves with the magnetic lines of force around the earth. What an awesome physics lesson!

We “survivors” of the first and hopefully last outer atmosphere nuclear weapons test went on about our military careers with no ill effects. Our medical records were flagged and for several years results of my annual physical received special scrutiny. The visual effects of that event are firmly imprinted on my mind even today; but when I try to recapture my thoughts as I gazed up into that blood-red sky, the only thing I recall thinking was…I wonder where those Nike missiles are…


Entered the Naval Air Reserve out of high school in 1955, serving with VF-782 as an AT striker at Los Alamitos NAS, CA.
After graduation from college, attended OCS and was commissioned in March 1961. His duty assignments included USS Polk County (LST 1084)as Deck and Gunnery Officer; Navy Language School in Anacostia, MD, studying the Russian language; ACNSG Fort Meade, MD. as a submarine rider; NSGA Bremerhaven, Germany as Communications Officer; Vietnam as OIC of Special Support Group to MACV SOG; NSG HQ in Washington, DC; Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA; NCS Rota, Spain as Operations Officer; NSG HQ; ACNSG at Fort Meade; CINCUSNAVEUR London, UK as Deputy DNSGEur; NSGA Puerto Rico as Commanding Officer; NSA Fort Meade; NCPAC Hawaii as Deputy NCPAC.
Retired in January 1989 and remains in Hawaii.




By: Garland Davis


It was summer when she left the yards,
The deal is we can go, if we
Keep her clean, keep her running,
Heading west, to WestPac

We pass Hawaii on old tired boilers,
Shipmates together on this old gray iron,
Mac smiling that shit-eating grin,

When we finally make it.

To WestPac, boys stand up,
San Miguel in your hand, here’s to turning to,
Slowing down and girls that lay us down,

Living and laughing; drinking and wishing,
On the edge of shitfaced as that brow is raising,
Sure would like to stay in, WestPac,

Like a typhoon, the days and years roll on,
You can’t pause as we once did.
Few days in life stand out,
But life’s about days like those

In WestPac.


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.  To see a menu of previously published articles, click on the three white lines in the red rectangle above.

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.




by: Garland Davis

While visiting a friend’s house recently, I was talking with his nine-year-old grandson about the boy’s possessions.  He showed me an I-pad, (required by the school he attends), an Android Smartphone, an X-Box, but told me he also wants a PS4 (whatever that is). He also told me that he plays lots of different games.     It took a minute before I realized he was talking about electronic games.  He doesn’t play any sports. His parents feel that sports are too rough and have discouraged him from playing football or baseball, although they did let him play soccer for a while.  Because they both work, they don’t have the time to take him to practice and games.  They don’t let him go out alone or with other kids his age.  He said that was fine with him, he would rather play with his X-Box or watch TV. He is pretty much relegated to the house and his electronics.  After a time, he excused himself.  He said he wanted to Skype a friend and watch a favorite program, Lab Rats, on the Disney Channel.

I believe today’s children are missing something in their life.  There are three parks within three miles of my house.  They are empty of children unless parents are with them. I got to thinking back to my childhood and comparing my yesterdays to their today’s.  It seems as if the kids of today are surrounded by high technology gadgets that waste/consume their time.  They play games about mad birds, candy drops, stealing cars, and Warcraft with their electronic toys.  They meet and talk with friends in the ether.  The only physical and personal interactions are at school.  I think this must leave a hole in their psyche.

The only electronic device that I remember from my childhood was the transistor radio but their cost of eight dollars was a fortune and outside the reach of a North Carolina farm boy.  The most sophisticated toy I had was a Daisy Red Ryder BB gun and it took years of begging before it showed up for my eleventh birthday.

During the fifties, a boy’s toys were ten cent yoyo’s, nickel bags of marbles, an old baseball missing its cover, and a bat with electrical tape holding it together where it had cracked.  We were envious of the guys that had gloves.  My uncle gave me an old glove that I repaired with electrical tape to make it quasi-usable. We would have loved a manicured park to use as a baseball diamond. Our playing field was the cow pasture (keep an eye out for the bull) and the bases were dried cow flops.  We were Duke Snider, Gil Hodges or Pee Wee Reese through many summer afternoons.  Yeah, that’s right.  We were all Brooklyn Dodgers’ fans.

I was eight years old when I saw my first television program.  I was nine when my Dad bought a used seventeen-inch TV from an uncle.  We could get two channels regularly. Sometimes we could get a third channel from Charlotte.  I guess the wind had to be blowing from the right direction to get it. Our TV watching was severely limited.  Chores, homework, and bedtime took precedence.   On rainy days, I remember watching the test pattern waiting for the National Anthem to start the day’s programming.  There was always the Saturday Game of the Week with Dizzy Dean.  It was extra special if they were showing the Brooklyn Dodgers.

My treasures were a fifty cent pocket knife, missing one side of its genuine plastic imitation bone handle.  After hours of working with my Dad’s whetstone, that knife was as sharp as a razor.

An old inner tube, a pair of discarded leather shoes or boots, some fishing twine, and a pair of forks cut from a sapling were essentials in the repertoire of a formidable weapon in the hands of a pre-teen boy.  The slingshot!

When in the woods, we were always on the alert for that most critical of components of the slingshot, the perfect sized branch that forked into a “V”.  It was best to cut the fork and let it cure before constructing the slingshot.  It was always good to have a backup weapon, in case the one you were using broke.  Every boy I knew had at least two standby slingshots.

With these slingshots we were ferocious hunters, roaming the woods, wantonly slaughtering birds, squirrels, and other small animals.  This is something that I now deeply regret and hope to be forgiven for someday.

I am not sure what modern day children are learning from their electronic world.  In the woods and on the baseball diamond, my generation learned to shake it off when you were hit with the baseball. We learned to function as a member of a team.  We learned leadership and how to function in a lead position, whether on a sports team or in the tobacco fields.

I believe, upon attaining adulthood we were better prepared for life than the coddled and sequestered children of the modern generation.


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.  To see a menu of previously published articles, click on the three white lines in the red rectangle above.

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.


XO’s I and CO’s Mast

XO’s I and CO’s Mast

By:  Garland Davis


The first CO’s mast that I ever attended was in USS Vesuvius as a newly minted CS3 and the accused’s immediate supervisor.  There were two people to be seen at Mast that morning, both for unauthorized absence.  The first miscreant was brought before the Captain.  He made the excuse that he had forgotten to set his alarm and had overslept.  The CO awarded him two weeks’ restriction to the ship.

My cook striker was brought in and stated the he drank too much the previous night and somewhere he had lost his neckerchief.  He stated that he would have made it to the ship on time, but the Marines at the gate held him up hassling him about an improper uniform.  The CO thought for a minute then asked me, the Chief, and the Division Officer about his performance.  After our replies, he dismissed the charges and said, “Son, the next time you go drinking, take better care of your uniform items.”

Yes, there was a time in the Navy when drinking too much could be used as a credible reason and wasn’t held against miscreants at Mast!


In Midway, XO’s Investigation was conducted aft on the first deck, just aft of the legal office.  There was a large space just forward where witnesses and divisional representatives gathered and waited for their miscreant to be called.  There was usually quite a crowd and the wait could be protracted.  I was there with Red, an airdale AECS, waiting for our dirtbags to be summoned.  I usually attended because as Assistant Food Service Officer, I was rewarded with attending for each Cook and Mess Cook who was summoned.  Red and I were bullshitting when a brand new Ensign approached. He introduced himself and informed us he was the newest addition to B Division.  He was seeking advice on how to conduct himself as he had never before attended one of these functions.

Red immediately says, “Sir, the XO has to make a decision whether the person you are going with is guilty.  To do this, he needs as much detailed information as you can give him.”

I jumped in and seconded Red’s recommendation.

In actuality, the XO didn’t want any bullshit.  He just wanted to hear “good Guy, who messed up” or “dirtbag whom the Navy would be better without.” He had forty or fifty sailors to process and just didn’t have a lot of time.

The Ensign’s criminal was called before ours. He was almost shaking as he went in to the function.  He was shaking when he came out.  He told me and Red. “I don’t know what happened.  I was giving the XO the information about the FN and suddenly he told me to shut up and sent the FN to mast.  I don’t understand.”

Red says, “Sir, I’m glad I’m not you.  The XO hates you.”


Another time, another XO “I”.  Red and I together again.  The same Ensign comes over and says, “I hope this doesn’t take too long today.  I’ve got paperwork to do before entering Yokosuka tomorrow.  It is going to be good to get back to Japan.”

“Pisses me off”, says Red.

“Why?” questions the Ensign.

“Cause we don’t get our sea pay when we are in port.” goes Red.

The Ensign says, “Of course you draw sea pay while you are attached to the ship whether you are in port or at sea.”

“Me and Dave don’t believe we can morally accept sea pay unless the ship is actually at sea.  They pay us the sea pay for inport days and we return it to the Disbursing Officer,” Red says.

“Really, that’s amazing.” From the Ensign.

“Let me explain our theory of Sea Duty,” Says Red.   “The earth is seventy-five percent water; if you spend your first twenty-five years ashore then you owe seventy-five years’ sea duty.

Later that evening we are in the CPO Mess having coffee when BTC Mudge comes in, pours a cup, sits down and says, “Will you two clowns stop fuckin’ with my Ensign, I am trying to train him and you are fucking him up. Right now he is in awe of Chiefs and for some reason thinks the two of you have your shit together.”

“Mudge, anything we can do to improve your world is our goal in life.” I said.


Captain Owens was CO of Midway.  Mast was usually held in a ready room.  Divisional Representatives could take a seat and observe until their “Dirt Bag” was called for punishment.  One particular mast, the first three cases were called and their Division Officers, Division Chiefs, and Petty Officers lauded their men as outstanding examples of the North American Blue Jacket.

After the third one was adjudicated, Captain Owens told the CMAA to hold the next one for a moment.  He clutched the podium, glared at us and said, “All right gentlemen, let’s knock this shit off.  If these were such sterling characters they wouldn’t be up here this morning.”                                                                                                   *********************************                                                                                       There was another time we were gathered in a ready room, again, with Captain Owens.  The first case took about thirty minutes and the second one was dragging on.  At the rate it was going, we would be there most of the day.  After finally clearing the second case, Captain Owens told the CMAA to wait a minute, looked at everyone and said, “I can’t take any more of this today. Dismissed.”


Another time we were gathered in a ready room for Mast.  Again with Captain Owens.  The accused was a BTFR.  He is brought in front of the CO and is joined by the Division Officer, his Chief and a BT1. The charges are read, and the FN’s statement given.  The Division Officer told the CO that the FN was one of the division’s poorest performers.  The Chief reiterated the DO’s statement.

The PO1, when asked about the offender exclaimed, “Look at him, just look at him, he’s a scrounge.”

We all saw a clean, neatly dressed sailor in a perfect uniform.  The BT1, almost dancing around pointing out various items, goes on, “Those are my pants, the hat, shirt and shoes are borrowed.  He doesn’t have any skivvies and I had to buy the socks.  I bribed the SH1 to get him a haircut and threatened him with bodily harm if he didn’t take a shower. I thought about letting him come up here as he was, but I was too ashamed that someone in my division was that fucked up, sir.”

The CO asks the BT1, “What do you think we should do with him BT1?”

Shit can him, Captain,” replies the BT.

And it was done.


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.  To see a menu of previously published articles, click on the three white lines in the red rectangle above.

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.


Prince and Purple Rain

Prince and Purple Rain

By:  Garland Davis


The news today about the death of entertainer Prince brought memories of a time when Prince and Purple Rain almost got my ass kicked.

I was on my twilight tour completing thirty years in the Navy.  I was assigned as Bachelor Quarters Officer at a base in Hawaii.  A major inspection of the BEQ and BOQ operations and facilities was scheduled for December, a little over thirty days before I retired.  The sweat pumps were running at full capacity because a good grade would put us in competition for the award for best Bachelor Quarters in the Navy. An award similar to the Ney Award.

One afternoon, the Commander comes into my office and asks, “Chief, when did you attend BEQ/BOQ Management School? I don’t have that information in the files.

“I never attended the school sir,” was my reply.

“But, the school is a requirement for your billet.  This is a major discrepancy on the inspection.  Why didn’t you attend?” He asked.

“The command was supposed to get a school quota for me after I reported, but the Commander, at the time, said it wasn’t important.  And besides, we had a couple of major projects with the opening of the new BEQ and later the BOQ Annex.  The school was forgotten and just fell through the cracks.” I said.

The Commander said, “I have to figure out how to fix this.” and left.

About an hour later he called and asked me to come over to the Supply building to his office.  Upon my arrival, he said, “Chief, it is a four-week school.  I have got a quota for you in the class beginning next week.  You will leave here Saturday.”

I protested that it would be a great waste of money since I would retire less than two months after completing the course.  He told me that the Captain was adamant that the discrepancy be corrected and the subject wasn’t open for discussion.  So I went home and packed my bags for the trip to NAS Memphis, Tennessee. I dug out my dress blues and winter working blues. I packed some Levi’s, polo shirts and a jacket.  I didn’t have any long sleeved shirts.  It would be cold in Tennessee.  Something that Hawaii didn’t prepare one for.

Arriving in Millington Sunday morning, I was assigned a room in the CPO quarters.  A number of the other CPO’s were there for the same reason I was. Bachelor Quarters School.  With the exception of two PO1’s the entire class consisted of Chiefs.

Like all Navy schools that I have attended, this course gave you a lot of material in a short time.  After the first two weeks, the pace slackened and the Chiefs in the class relaxed and started talking about a liberty run to the FRA for Friday night.  One of them had driven and had his car there. The problem was, if they were going drinking, they needed a designated driver.  Tennessee was hell on DUI. At the time, I was training for a half marathon and was going through one of my no drinking phases.  I volunteered to drive them.

The FRA Club at Millington was off the beaten track, out in the boonies.  Because of the crackdown on DUI, the club was faring poorly financially.  In an effort to increase revenue, management turned a blind eye to checking the membership credentials of the patrons. So when we arrived the clientele consisted of a mixture of active and retired Navy members as well as a group of locals.

It was typical of Navy bars worldwide, stools at the bar, a few tables, and a jukebox spewing country music.  We went in and found a table. There being no one to wait tables, we trooped to the bar and ordered.  After my fellow Chiefs had their drinks, I told the lady behind the bar that I was driving and would just have a Club Soda. She put a lemon wedge in the Club Soda, she said it looked like I was drinking and would avert questions. She told me it was no cost to the designated driver and I could get a refill anytime I wanted.

As the evening moved on, we mingled with the retirees and locals talking, telling stories, and drinking.  I was at the bar talking with a local fellow and his girlfriend.  They were fascinated that I lived in Hawaii and were asking questions about the place.  I asked the bartender for another drink, she took my glass and returned it with Club Soda and a lemon wedge.

This fellow who had been sitting at the end of the bar drinking alone all evening got up walked over and asked the bartender, “Why don’t he have to pay for his drinks?  I been watching yall and you been giving him free drinks all night long.”

The bartender told him that I was just drinking soda because I was driving and that it was free to designated drivers.  He turned to me and said, “What do you want to drink, I’ll buy you some real likker.”

I said, “I appreciate the offer, but I’m not drinking, I am the driver tonight.”

He said, “That’s what I figured you’d say.  You must be a Yankee. No balls.”

“What makes you say that, sir?” I asked.

“Well, you ain’t drinkin’, you got all that Jewelry on.”  I was wearing a watch, a gold bracelet, my wedding ring and a birthstone ring.  “An’ you’re wearing a short-sleeved shirt and you ain’t got no socks on.  It’s colder than a well diggers ass in Tennessee in December and you ain’t got no goddam socks on.  You must be from up north somewhere.”

I said, “Sir you are right I am from North.”

He asked, “Where up north?”

“North Carolina.”

Everyone in the bar had been listening and burst out laughing when I said, North Carolina.

The local fellow got red in the face and said, “I don’t take to people funning me.  I’m gonna whup your ass.”

The other locals in the bar grabbed him and settled him down. He went back to his position at the bar.  I kept a wary eye on him.  He seemed to be paying a lot of attention to me.  I had grown up among rednecks and knew how they felt about being belittled and having people laugh at them.

I walked over to the jukebox dropped some coins in and looked over the music selections.  The first thing that caught my eye was “Purple Rain” by Prince.  I played it and a couple by Willie.  As I walked back to the bar, the song Purple Rain began.  That redneck yelled, “I knowed you was a goddam Yankee, and that Yankee song proves it.”

Suddenly, I was ducking and blocking punches until his friends grabbed him and hustled him out of the place.  We figured it was time to go also.  My passengers were hungry and wanted to go find Wendy’s.

And that is my greatest memory of Prince.


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.  To see a menu of previously published articles, click on the three white lines in the red rectangle above.

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.