Good Hearted Woman

Good Hearted Woman

♫” She’s a good-hearted woman in love with a sea-going man.”♫

by: Garland Davis


There has been much written about the Navy.  About the men, the ships, battles, piers, WestPac, bars, hookers and heaven knows what else.  Asiatic sailors spend an inordinate amount of time reflecting on and telling tales about all these things.  But, we don’t talk a helluva a lot about those who really loved us.  Loving a crazy-assed WestPac sailor took a Good Hearted woman.  They are and will always remain among the greatest of God’s creations.

I know you have all seen them waiting on the pier whenever the ship returned to homeport, be it 0200, cold or wet, they would be waiting.  Rain…Snow… Hell, alligators could have been falling from the sky and they would have been there.  Waiting for what?  Waiting for an unshaven, smelly, raggedy-assed idiot who hadn’t showered for three days because of busted evaporators and limited fresh water, hauling a sack of dirty laundry and reeking of sweat and fuel oil.

They couldn’t wait to embrace the smelly guys who poured off the gray behemoth that had just tethered to the pier or out outboard in the nest. Holding a baby their sailor had never seen in one arm and trying to keep track of a three-year-old waving a sign that says “Welcome Home Daddy.” She was an angel in a sun dress from the mark-down rack at the Navy Exchange with a smile that dimmed the sun. These girls welcomed you when you came home and stood on that same pier with tears streaming down their face when you left.

Sit back and think about it.  That lady in the kitchen doing the dishes was once, the barely out of her teens, girl who married a crazy assed Third Class North American Bluejacket.  All he had to offer was E-4 pay and a few bucks sea pay, poor housing in even poorer neighborhoods, long separations and duty every third or fourth day.  She put up with him when he showed up late with a couple of shipmates and two cases of beer.  She made them sandwiches and made sure they were up and on their way the next morning.

Later when you were at sea, trying to keep up with the carrier in heavy seas, she was at parent-teacher meetings school plays, science fairs, little league games, and dental appointments; without you.  She carried them to the emergency room and met with the principle when they got in trouble.  She did it all without you when it would have been really great to have you there.  When you got orders to Hawaii, she arranged for packing household goods and transporting the dogs all while you were at sea.

They should be eligible for sainthood. Think about it…they married guys who spent a good part of their time away from them.  They had to play second fiddle to another lady that he had a love/hate relationship with.  She was hard steel and gray and demanded much of him.  She dined on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before the allotment check came in.    Homemade Christmas and birthday gifts for the kids.  Home permanents because the beauty shop cost too much.  Unable to visit her Mom and Dad for years because there wasn’t money for travel.

Dude, do you know what a lucky bastard you are.  Do you know what it takes for a woman to put up with the bullshit sandwich that a sailor’s wife is handed?  Yet they were strong.

Yes they were special ladies who loved us.  Welcome home with her arms around your neck.  Hell, with the fuel oil smell and the sack of dirty laundry, you couldn’t have paid someone to hold you like that who didn’t love you.  They actually ordered see-through pajamas and nighties that would make a stripper blush.  Just to welcome you home.

They were our angels.  Always will be.  There should be a statue on every Navy Base of a beautiful young girl in a J. C. Penny’s bargain dress, holding a toddler in one arm and the hand of grinning snipe in greasy dungarees and a frayed white hat with the other.

This is for the ladies.  God bless you.  You supported us, you loved us, and you put up with us.  We were crazy.  Had to be to live the life and do the things we did.  You were the sanity in our world.  You are recognized and honored by all of us who stood topside and watched you as we entered and left port.

Your life was hard; it was a hell of a lot rougher than any starry eyed girl should have to deal with. Your sacrifices and personal hardships will be rewarded in the memories that all faithful and loyal women accumulate and in the deep regard and respect by which you are held by the men who stood on deck and regarded your bargain basement dress as a garment worn by an angel.



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




By:  John McDonnell


I met Shorty aboard the Research Vessel Trident in the fall of 1973. He was a rather stout, and as his nickname implies, rather short Puerto Rican ordinary seaman. His love of life and fun was infectious. For example, he bought a watermelon ashore, infused it with at least a 5th of vodka, and snuck it aboard. I wondered why the whole deck gang got so noisy at their afternoon coffee break and discovered the watermelon.

But what I remember Shorty for was an incident on the “fantail” of the vessel one evening. Since we were doing research for the University of Rhode Island, we always had a good complement of scientists and graduate students in Oceanography aboard. A number of them were women. One of the most attractive of them was Charlotte. She was a liberated young woman who wore short-shorts and blouses open at the top. Every evening, weather permitting, someone would play the guitar and we’d have a little party on the “fantail”, the stern of the ship. Alcohol, although officially not allowed, was often present and tolerated as long as it was discreet and quiet and used only by those off duty.

Shorty was a product of the inner-city, Charlotte was from the suburbs and academic community. Shorty met Charlotte at the evening fantail party. He politely asked if he could sit next to her, and she agreed. He then asked her if she would care for a cigar (long before they had their renaissance) and she agreed. He bit off the end of one, slobbered all over it, and handed it to her, and helped her light it. Then he asked her if she would care for a drink. She agreed, and he poured her an 8 oz. tumbler full of vodka. Poor Charlotte sat there with a cigar in one hand, a glass of straight vodka in the other, wondering what to do when Shorty asked her if she would like to see his tattoo. A bit warily she agreed, and in front of all hands, he dropped his drawers and “mooned” her with his tattoo on both cheeks, which was of two ship’s propellers, and the words, “Twin Screws-Keep Clear” over them. It is a warning posted on the stern of all twin screwed vessels.

Poor Charlotte rapidly disappeared, and never again attended a fantail party. However, she did forgive shorty. At the end of the cruise, Shorty obliged our scientific staff by allowing them to take photos of his tattoo as he proudly showed his posterior to the departing scientists.


Captain McDonnell’s Bio
I was born and raised in a town called Hollidaysburg, In Central Pennsylvania. My father was a design engineer at the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Test Department in Altoona. He was an honors graduate from Yale back in 1922 and went to work as a young engineer for what was then the world’s largest corporation, the Pennsylvania Railroad.  My mother was a prep school graduate from Highland Hall. She never went to college but was an intelligent woman who taught me a lot.  She tutored me during my license exams, even sent me the morse code blinker light messages.  She could have been a captain with her skill and knowledge.  Both my parents loved to travel by ship, and as a young couple between the two world wars made a number of trips on freighters in the Caribbean. They loved to take me and my brother and sister on exciting and unusual trips to places like Moose Factory, Ontario, on a cruise on the Kenora across Lake Winnipeg, Manitoba, the North Gaspe from Quebec City to Gaspe, and a cruise on Lakes Huron and Superior on the S.S. Norgoma. I really loved ship and train travel of that era. My father did not want me to work for the railroad but felt that the shipping industry still had a future. I applied and was accepted at the United States Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, New York, where I graduated in 1965.

The Vietnam war was starting when I graduated, and I quickly found work as a Junior Deck Officer on the U.S.N.S. Eltinge, a troop ship run by the Navy. We carried as many as 7000 soldiers from San Francisco to Vietnam as well as from Korea to Vietnam. The troop ships were mostly laid up after 1965, they were considered too primitive for modern times. I got a job on a wartime built Victory Ship, the Alamo Victory in November 1965, which was operated by American Foreign Steamship Company. I sailed with them from 1965 to 1973 on various ships and increased my licenses and my jobs from Third Mate up to Captain, and got my first command, a C-3 called the American Robin at the age of 29. As the Vietnam war wound down, and government contracts became scarce, I found a job as a Chief Mate with Lykes Lines in 1974 and worked there until my retirement in 1995.

On a trip to South America and the Falkland Islands in 1982, I met my wife to be, Ines Gonzalez down at the Southern tip of Argentina, on Perito Moreno Glacier. We were married the following year. It isn’t easy to find a wife when you are sailing six to ten months a year, but I was lucky.

I retired in 1995 when my wife, who was twenty years out of medical school in Argentina, was required to do a three-year residency in an American medical school in order to be licensed in the United States. She needed help with our young family, and I went from being a captain to being Mr. Mom. It was rewarding for a while, but after five years of that (at which time I wrote these sea stories) I wanted to go back to sea. The terms of my retirement would not let me do this, but there was an exception made for work on humanitarian relief vessels. I read about an organization called Mercy Ships, who operated several hospital ships that visited poor countries around the world with a volunteer crew and medical staff, and gave free surgeries to those who could not otherwise afford them. I also sailed for a time as a Captain of the M.V. Louisa, a ship owned by LeSea Global Feed the Hungry that carried food and missionaries to the Caribbean. I didn’t make money, but I re-connected to my love of ships and the sea.  At this writing I have just renewed my Master’s license for the 9th time, and can sail another five years, God willing.


Machete Juice

Machete Juice

by Bob ‘Dex’ Armstrong


Man has done wondrous things with the art of fermentation. History is replete with examples of fine and delicate spirits brought to us through masterful experimentation with fermentation and distillation. As an East Tennessean, I am proud to be associated with the fine products developed and made available worldwide by Mr. Daniels.

At the other end of the spectrum, man has found a way to harness the full destructive power of sugar cane… Bottle the stuff and market it to the idiots of the planet. 151 proof rum is a perfect example of just such an invention. The sonuvabitch who created 151 rum, took something innocent like molasses… Briar Rabbit syrup and did something to it that turned it into moon rocket fuel. Selling 151 proof rum to submarine sailors ranks up there with passing out fragmentation grenades to kindergarten kids.

I’d never heard of the stuff. Most of the lads in the after battery on Requin were beer drinkers. In port, the lads regularly flushed their kidneys with a variety of draft brewed products that over an extended and most enjoyable period of time, reduced you to a level of stupidity that allowed you to still operate thirteen button blues and remember a large part of the elements of verbal communication. The descent into silly behavior was gradual… Took the better part of an evening interspersed with convivial trips to the head.

While we were out in our saltwater world gainfully employed poking invisible holes in the ocean, men in the land of warm sun and palm trees were cooking off stuff with the lethal qualities of contraband ordinance. The employees of something called the “Three Daggers Company” were producing and bottling a liquid product that could reduce otherwise responsible adults to blithering idiots in less time that it took them to order a third round.

Any sailor who got introduced to 151 proof rum will tell you that it was the same as wrapping your lips around the muzzle of a 16-inch gun on the forward high turret of the main battery, USS Iowa… And jerking the lanyard. One minute, you were a productive member of the human race and the next minute, you were directing traffic in downtown Kingston in a straw hat, sandals and skivvy shorts.

I am sure there are members of the smoke boat establishment out there who mastered the art of 151 proof rum consumption… But I will tell you, none of you rode the Requin in the early 60s.

One of the amazing properties of 151 proof rum is that it can reduce your I.Q. to zero-point zip but leave you convinced that you could win the bull-riding event at a championship rodeo. Every bottle sold should come with an insanity defense chit.

There is no energy crisis… We could tell all the OPEC oil ministers to go molest their camels. 151 proof rum is highly combustible… You top off a Tench boat with Three Daggers Golden Supreme and you can overhaul Miss Budweiser in a state five sea.

In 1962, we pulled into Charleston. I had gotten five fifths of 151 rum as my allotted gallon of duty-free booze. My intent was to return home and give some old high school buddies the opportunity to destroy themselves.

I had family in Beaufort, South Carolina… An aunt and an uncle who was a recently retired army colonel. I was invited to visit. I took two bottles as a gift figuring it would be a novelty and a great conversation piece. After dinner, my aunt, a reserved southern lady, left the table and went to the kitchen to build herself a rum and coke. I followed her.

“You don’t want to fool with that stuff… It packs one helluva wallop!”

“Oh, Dex… I was drinking rum before you were born.”

“Not that stuff… It’s lethal. Just use a little.”

“Dex, I went through Prohibition… You name it, we drank it. Don’t worry about your dear old aunt…”

During the next hour, I got to witness a dear old aunt pass out on a porch swing and a former army colonel fall out of a hammock.

The next morning, my uncle appeared… Standing there in his robe, his silver hair looking like he used an eggbeater for a comb… He put on his reading glasses, picked up the bottle and said,

“Jeezus, this stuff is three quarters alcohol!”

God never made an O-6 officer that ever listened to a jaybird kid he’d seen running around in diapers.

“Yes sir… Damn stuff is wicked… Seen members of our forces afloat do some amazing things after getting wrapped around a few drinks.”

“I’ll bet you have, son.”

“Yes sir…”

“If you ever fool with this dynamite, do me a favor… Throw your car keys up on the roof.”

It was all part of being in the diesel boat navy. If it was out there, we got next to it. As Cowboy would put it,

“There never was a horse that couldn’t be rode… And never was a cowboy what couldn’t be throwed.”

I never saw any sonuvabitch in SUBRON SIX get up in the stirrups of the 151 pony and go the distance. I saw several that had to be extracted from extremely high vegetation and one lad returned to the quarterdeck with a police car hood ornament hanging out of his jumper pocket.

It was all long ago… In the days where society forgave the antics of young men who did rough work on their behalf and good officers understood that you couldn’t burn down civilization on E-3 pay no matter how stupid you were or how hard you tried. At times, silver dolphins were your best insanity defense.



What is the Navy?

What is the Navy?

Written by:
Boats Thompson
Deck Department LPO
USS San Diego LPD 22

The Navy is the Commander in Chief asking where the nearest aircraft carrier is, and a scrubby boatswain’s mate sitting on a pair of bits teaching a young seaman how to splice line. A tobacco-chewing gunner standing a sharp watch in a far-off land. That’s the Navy. And so is the big, fat engineer who can make a diesel engine run better just by standing next to it.

There’s a man in San Francisco who remembers the USS Missouri made port there in the autumn of ’61. That’s the Navy. So is the recruiter who accepted a young man from Long Beach, California for master-at-arms training named Michael Monsoor who would go on to be a Medal of Honor recipient. The Navy is a spirited rivalry of humankind against the ocean, skill against nature, a daily struggle. Everything is measured and evaluated. Every heroic, every failing is seen and congratulated or counseled.

In the Navy democracy shines its clearest. The only race that matters is the race to roll a firehose. The creed is our very own. Color merely something to distinguish one flight deck job from another.

The Navy is a recruit. His experience no bigger than the lump in his throat as he begins basic training. It’s a veteran too, a tired old man of forty-five hoping that those aching muscles can pull him through one last deployment. Nicknames are the Navy, names like Boats and Wheels and Guns, and Bull, and Cowboy, and Sparky, and A-Gang.

The Navy is the cool, clear eyes of Arleigh Burke, the flashing heroism of Alan Shephard, the true grit of Carl Brashear.

The Navy is service, as simple as muster, instruction, and inspection, yet as complex as the American spirit it symbolizes – a lifestyle, a business, and sometimes almost even a religion.

Why the tale of John Paul Jones engaging an English ship in foreign waters and then having the tenacity to declare “I have not yet begun to fight.” That’s the Navy. So is the bravado of a doomed Captain James Lawrence saying, “Don’t give up the ship. Fight her ’till she sinks.”

The Navy is the damage control locker, general quarters, the boatswain’s locker, tiger cruises, The Chief’s Mess, Anchors Aweigh, and the Star Spangled Banner.

The Navy is a tongue-tied kid from every small town and massive city growing up to be a Chief Petty Officer or mustang or ships’s captain and praising Neptune for showing him the way around the globe and back again. This is a Navy for America. Still a Navy for America. Always a Navy for America.

Written by:
Boats Thompson
Deck Department LPO
USS San Diego LPD 22



Rust is Forever

Rust is Forever

By:  Garland G. Davis

Battleship movie and the U.S.S. Missouri: Is the U.S.S. Missouri ...

Just like the cops say, the perpetrator always returns to the scene of the crime.  I live in Honolulu and visit the USS Bowfin and USS Missouri museum ships about once a year.  I have visited the Midway once since they moored her in San Diego.  These museum ships are designed to relieve the public of money and to allow so-called “docents”, who never served in the ship,  to  herd them from soda machine to snack machine around the decks.  They probably got a lot of their knowledge of ships from the movie “In Harm’s Way,” or from paperback books.  For ten dollars, they feed you fairy tales and bullshit.  In Baltimore, they went so far as to paint shark’s teeth on a proud old submarine.

I go for the comfort it gives and to kick start my seventy-two-year-old memory.  I return because of an unrequited love affair with these old girls.  I return because I can.

They keep the old ships looking good when it comes to their outward appearance.  They paint them and buff them to lure the tourists and their dollars.  Although the exteriors look ship shape, keep in mind that, “Beauty is only four or five coats of paint deep.”  I remember an old Chief Boatswains Mate that always said, “Rust never sleeps.”  Look past all the cosmetic work and find patches of rust flakes and oxidation.  I guess the people who run these museums can’t see oxidation’s equivalent of cancer and figure the public can’t either.

Like a good looking woman, these old ships are high maintenance creatures.  When a fellow gets married, he expects the expense of buying lipstick, beauty parlor visits, fashionable clothes, mammograms, and pap smears.

There are many qualified volunteers who make a valiant effort to keep these old gals looking and feeling well.  You could call them fairy godmother’s who travel for miles to spend their weekends doing work every bluejacket, back in the day, did his best to duck.  Old guys who need Geritol, Budweiser, Jack Daniels and Viagra.  Old guys screwing around with cutting torches, skill saws, and doing the work that the lazy-assed municipal bloodsuckers who crave the tourist’s dollars should not have deferred.  The same people who promised the Navy to be responsible stewards of these fine old fighting ships. Instead, they load snack and soda machines in every available space and consign them to fall apart from the rust.

When you give a kid a puppy, you tell him, “You can have the puppy but if you don’t feed and care for it will get sick, starve, and die.”

Children don’t have a bunch of old sailors with tattooed tallywhackers and black oil pumping through their veins to bail out their worthless asses when the dog gets sick and fleas.  But many of the cities are like the child, they take the ship and take pleasure from the tourist dollars it brings in and then places plywood walkways down as sections of the decks rust away.

No, in the true American tradition, responsible adults. The kind of men who stop and give a hand at auto wrecks. The kind who donate blood regularly. The kind who take the neighborhood elderly shopping. The kind who make the time to be PTA board members, Little League coaches, Scoutmasters, and Vestrymen. The same kind of men we served with, are proud to call shipmates, and who made up the ship’s company on some of the best ships God and United States shipyards ever built.  These marvelous men will show up and bail out the worthless good-for-nothing asses of the assholes who promised the Navy to take care of the ships. Kind of makes you proud to be one of that generation of sailors.

I have heard others say that it is a shame our proud old ships have to go to the breakers.  But, I ask, what is worse, to be dismantled and recycled into useful metals instead of being left to rust away under the poor care of a money fueled tourism industry.  Better to take them to sea and pull the plug.

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.


Haircuts and grooming

Haircuts and grooming

By:  Garland Davis


I was thirteen years old when I got my first Barber Shop haircut. Until his death, my Dad cut the boys’ hair. I remember he originally used a squeeze handle clipper that tore out as much hair as it cut. We were happy when he bought the five-dollar electric clipper. The new clipper made so much noise that hearing protection was needed. It sounded like a jet airplane revving for takeoff, but haircuts were more comfortable and much less painful. That is unless you moved while he was cutting your hair. Then Dad would make it painful. It didn’t matter how you wanted your hair cut. Dad made that decision (I am pretty sure; he could only do two styles, trimmed or bald). He also cut his own hair. He was very good at trimming the back using a mirror and the clippers.

After Dad died Mama would take us, about once a month, to a man who lived on Route 66 for haircuts. He had a block building with a single barber chair. I remember that it cost thirty-five cents each for the haircuts. I know the man cut hair part time, because we always went in the evening. He was a veteran who had served in the Marine Corps and had been injured on Guadalcanal during World War II. He walked with a defined limp.  It sticks in my mind that he worked for the Post Office.

During the late fifties flattop haircuts were all the rage. Barbers charged more for that style haircut. I wanted a flattop, and Mama told me that I would have to pay for it myself. I went to Davis’ Barbershop in the single stop light burg of Ogburn Station. I paid seventy-five cents for that haircut. I also paid twenty-five cents for a tin of “Butch Wax” to keep it standing stiffly. Those were the days of flattops, jelly roll cuts and duck tails. Each successive style seemed to get a little longer than the ones before. The long hair that the Beatles ushered in was on the horizon.


The day before I left for the Naval Training Center, San Diego, I told the barber to give me a boot camp haircut.  The first stop upon arriving at NTC was the Barber. What my civilian barber deemed a “boot camp” haircut was totally unsatisfactory to the Navy barber.

For the next thirty years the service pretty much dictated the length and style of haircuts and during the twenty-one years I was afloat provided the barbers and haircuts free of charge. They were generally fairly competent barbers, although there were a few that I would be reluctant to let mow my lawn.  But the haircuts were free and left more money in one’s pocket for liberty. Ashore, the Navy Exchange shops were cheap enough that it only cost a couple of beers for a haircut. I was pretty much satisfied with Navy haircuts.  I usually found that wallet was a lot more appealing than appearance to the young ladies I frolicked with.


In a missive about haircuts and barbers, I would be remiss if I didn’t pay homage to the additional services provided in the barbershops of Vung Tau, Keelung, Kuala Lumpur Taipei, Pusan, and Olangapo.  Let’s just say, the services the young lovelies provided under the oversize sheets beat the hell out of a neck rub and a manicure. Although, those were available also. When visiting those ports one seemed to give more attention to appearance as it was not unusual to get multiple haircuts in a day.


Since retiring from the Navy, I have used the ‘irritation quotient’ to determine the frequency of haircuts. I let my hair grow until the irritation factor reaches a point that will drive me to spend eighteen dollars, plus tip, to get a haircut.  When my friends, also retired from the Navy, ask how often I get it cut, I usually tell them, “Every three or four months, whether it needs it or not.”  My wife has given up mentioning it.  When I tell her I am thinking of getting my haircut, she usually answers, “Whatever.”


I had my hair cut yesterday afternoon at a salon near my home. A lovely young Filipina stylist provided the haircut.  I am seriously considering paying more attention to my grooming. I anticipate more frequent visits to that salon.


I used to not worry how it was cut.  I always knew it would grow back.  But in recent years I have begun to have my doubts.  There seems to be less of it.  Maybe It doesn’t always grow back anymore.




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.



Out on the Pacific Rim

Two Facebook posts in the Asia Sailor Westpac’rs Association Facebook group yesterday by Bosun Raymond C. Willoughby:

“Just received horrible news of a Great Shipmate, better friend and person was killed in a motorcycle accident this morning near Minneapolis. Walt Hasbtook, SM 3; made two Westpac’s with me on the USS JOHN W. THOMASON DD 760, Walt and I have had many beers, many laughs, and many miles together on our motorcycles. Walt was Northbound when someone pulled on front of him, tee boned. Walt, gonna miss you, Brother. DGUTS (Don’t Give Up The Ship). BOSN”


“Let me correct the spelling, Walter J Hasbrook. Eyes were a little full earlier. I have known Walt over 50 years. Has made me again appreciate what so many in this group mean to me. Hard to say sometimes, but you are one hell of a bunch of freedom fighters, friends, shipmates, brothers, you get the idea. It has crossed my mind tonight of the notification of bad news, sad devastating news many here have shared. So, collectively I again tonight have held up in thought and prayer for all of our loses. We have so many to go, it is the time spent, hours of hard work, liberty, family, miles traveled in thought and body. Here’s hoping we can meet again on this side before it is our turn to take the watch on the staff of our Supreme Commander!! Dguts. Bosn”


The Bosun’s posts got me to thinking and reminded me of one of the reasons we created the website and the Asia Sailor Westpac’rs Association Facebook group.  I went into the archives and pulled this one out:

This is the transcript of a speech I gave at the first annual Asia Sailor WestPac’rs Association reunion at the Clarion Hotel, Branson, MO in April 2013:

Out on the Pacific Rim

By:  Garland Davis

“… And if at times our conduct isn’t all your fancy paints, remember single men in barracks don’t turn into plaster saints.”—-Rudyard Kipling in Tommy

When old sailors get together, it doesn’t take long for the conversation to turn to what valve did what… The “Can you name the gin mill?” game… “Whatever happened to the old asshole Mess Deck MAA? You know who I mean. Whatzisname?” “You remember the bargirl with the big boobs who fell in love with the pretty boy radioman off the Dicky B. Anderson?” Pier numbers… Phone numbers… Hull numbers… Bar names.

Somewhere and at some point, some son of a bitch tells the first lie… Then it begins.  The “Can you top this” bullshit. Amateurs don’t stand a chance. Like the preliminary fights, it all leads up to the main event when certain liars swim out and eat the little fish (If anyone tops Mac’s ‘Disco Chief’, there’s gotta be a Pulitzer prize in it). I told my bride of going on 48 years that in the wonderful world of sea stories, Mac is a major league crown contender. Love his stuff… Brings back great memories… The priceless stuff that lives in the dark corner of your memory locker (According to my friend’s daughter, most of it should stay in a dark place and never see the light of day).

Too true. At the pay rate of nonrated men in the early 60s, no one should be too damn surprised that we didn’t devote a lot of our time to opera, polo, golf, and downhill skiing. We also never developed a proper appreciation of fine French wines, classical art and classical music, unless, of course, you consider screw cap Akadama, a Budweiser naked lady calendar, and Country Music songs to qualify.

There were no better places than those found on the Honcho in Yokosuka, Magsaysay in Olangapo, Wanchai in Hong Kong, Bugis Street in Singapore, or Soi Cowboy in Bangkok. You could get into these places without white tie and tails. Hell, you could get in bare-ass naked if you had the correct currency.  There were no debutante balls held in these joints… unless you counted the cherry-boy signalman who got his first BJ at Marilyn’s… And you didn’t have to push your way through paparazzi to get into the Samari.

Being asked to explain your actions at 18, forty years later to your friend’s daughter after she inadvertently read some of the crap you have written is the damnedest delayed action fuse on the planet.

“You mean my dad did this stuff? The man who told my boyfriends they would be boiled and eaten if they so much as hinted at possible monkey business?”

Same guys… Not that we have matured a hell of a lot. It’s just that the research we did while serving in the Far East brought us face to face with the entire spectrum of monkey business. There is no one more prim and proper than a reformed whore.

How do you tell someone who stayed home, married his high school sweetheart, became a deacon at the Baptist Church, and was the local chairman of the United Whatever’s Fund, that despite the stories he heard, we were really good guys? We didn’t spend a lot of time at the preacher’s house. We were volunteers…We served our country out on the far Pacific Rim… Paid our dues and earned the right to enter a voting booth without a disguise.

When the boys and girls of the anti-war hippie days were acting like traitors and idiots, we were out there on the Rim. I missed the early Beatles… Went to sea when the President was assassinated… Missed the first trip to the moon… Somewhere along the way, I became all too familiar with the Indo-China that became Viet-Nam… new NFL teams appeared out of nowhere… They quit making Ipana toothpaste and Old Gold cigarettes… Some genius invented the birth control pill and Johnny Carson replaced Jack Parr. Just part of the price Asia sailors and maximum-security convicts pay… Isolation from the western world allowed us to call ourselves dues payers. All of us who wore a Navy uniform can be damn proud of that.

All this chest pounding over ‘Winning the Cold War’ is probably more of that hocus pocus, ‘Now you see it, now you don’t’ foreign policy horse shit. But, one thing we CAN say, “On our watch, no commie bastards slapped us with a God Damned sneak attack and we kept the free world safe enough that the only things our recently graduated high school pals had to worry about were blouse buttons and three-hook bras while at the Drive-In.

Being a WestPac sailor wasn’t easy. Just being accepted by the men whom you would call ‘Shipmate’ for the rest of time, became an honor in itself.

This website and the Asia Sailor Westpac’rs Association FaceBook group are blessings.  They permit me to once again find men I can talk to, who understand and give a damn. You spend all your time learning your rate… Learning the Navy language… Gaining pride in yourself and what you do… Making friends… And then, all too soon, it’s over. You retire and wander around in the world of ‘Who gives a fuck?’ people with no one to talk with. Kind of like spending twenty or thirty YEARS learning Japanese and then moving to Oslo, Norway.

Thanks guys for allowing me to help build this tree house, so we can hold ‘NO CIVILIANS ALLOWED’ meetings, tell socially unacceptable tales of old shipmates, old girlfriends, past deeds and chase the fireflies of our better days through stack gas and sea spray.  Trying to tell our story in Sunday school language makes about as much sense as applying moisturizer to an alligator’s ass.

We are becoming fewer and fewer, like old Ford Model A’s… They are not making the damn things anymore so every time you lose one, the herd is thinned by one.


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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.



Salty Dungarees and Soft White Hats

Salty Dungarees and Soft White Hats

By:  Garland Davis


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.



One Saturday Morning in Subic

One Saturday Morning in Subic

By: Garland Davis

“Well, I woke up Sunday morning

With no way to hold my head that didn’t hurt.
And the beer I had for breakfast wasn’t bad,
So I had one more for dessert.
Then I fumbled in my closet through my clothes
And found my cleanest dirty shirt.
Then I washed my face and combed my hair
And stumbled down the stairs to meet the day”—
Kris Kristofferson

I woke to the thunderous roar of sunlight streaming through the window.  On the other hand, maybe it was an un-muffled jeepney passing outside.  I knew that I wasn’t dead.  I hurt too fucking much. A dead man would not feel this bad.  Where the hell am I?  I squinted at the room through aching eyes.  I think it is my brother’s house at Baloy Beach.  I vaguely remember stumbling in here with a girl sometime in the night.  He told me to stay, just lock up when I leave and drop the key with Hanson at the Rose if he doesn’t see me before my ship sails.  He had to leave early; told me he had duty Saturday.  He isn’t here. Must be Saturday.  The girl isn’t here either.  Was she a figment of my alcohol riddled brain?

I fell off the Futon onto the cement floor fumbling around for my glasses.  It never ceases to amaze me that no matter how drunk I get, I always know where I leave my glasses. Of course, I was bare ass naked.  My crank was stuck to my leg with dried saliva and other body fluids. So I guess the girl was real. I hadn’t been wearing skivvy shorts.  I had thrown them away when a group of Airdale assholes, somewhere in Subic City, started doing skivvy checks.  I saw my denim shorts in the corner. I stumbled to my feet and slipped into them.

Somehow remembering that had I placed my wallet under the futon, I snaked my hand under and retrieved it.  I hesitated to look inside.  How much money had I spent or did the girl I was with rip me off before she left?  I was afraid that I had shot all the ammunition in my peso gun last night. Wow, I was pleasantly surprised. I hadn’t spent a lot at all. I checked the secret pocket sewn into the denim shorts to ensure that the three one hundred dollar bills were still there.

My mouth was as dry as the street outside. I stumbled into the kitchen, looking for something to drink. There was nothing in the reefer. A cooler sat by itself in the corner.  Looking inside the cooler, I found a single San Miguel beer submerged in tepid water.  The thought of warm beer made my gut turn over.  Nevertheless, I was so thirsty; my mouth was so dry that I would probably consider drinking a gallon of Shit River if it was served over ice.  I grabbed the opener off the floor and popped the top on that hot beer.  I drank about half the bottle, gagged and fought to keep it from coming back up.  If it did, at least, there was something in my stomach to puke up.  I held onto the table to prevent falling, weaving back and forth for a moment, and then forced down the rest of the beer.

I found my shirt in another corner, pulled it on and stumbled around looking for the athletic shoes that I usually wore out here.  I don’t have to worry about combing hair or grooming.  I keep it in a buzz cut.  I discovered long ago that a man’s wallet carried more weight than his hair when it came to female companionship in Olongapo.

I remembered that there was an outdoor bar thing just down the beach.  I would seriously consider performing a perverted sexual act for a cold soda right now.  I locked the house as the bright sunlight almost knocked me to the ground and stumbled toward salvation for my dehydrated condition.  The pretty young teenaged girl behind the counter showed no surprise as my sick drunk ass approached the bar.  I asked for a cold Coke or Pepsi.  Then I told her to make it two. She set the first one on the bar.  It was streaming water and ice chips.  I think I mumbled grace to some sailor’s deity as I clutched it with both hands and drank it down in an almost single gulp.  Nectar!  The cold and wet began the healing process.  I sat the empty onto the bar as she replaced it with the second one.  I threw some peso coins onto the bar and told her to keep them coming.

As I sat there drinking cold Pepsi in an attempt to repair the damage, I thought back over the previous day and the events that had led to my waking up wishing for death to help me feel better.

Midway had moored at Cubi Point, yesterday; Friday morning.  As usual, when entering port, I had been occupied getting stores aboard, the underway watches secured, and the inport watch set.  Finally, everything was done; a three-day weekend awaited, nothing between Tuesday morning and me but seventy-two hours of liberty.

I left the ship about fourteen hundred Friday afternoon.  I grabbed a cab with a couple of airdale Chiefs.  They were heading to the CPO Club.  I figured “Why not,” I would have a couple of San Miguels there and then head for my stomping grounds in the Barrio. We walked into the main room of the club; the two airdales spotted some of their friends and moved that way.  I told them to have a good liberty and made my usual way to the stag bar.  San Miguel was calling!

I saw the beginning of my downfall at the bar as I walked through the door.  A Senior Chief Aviation Boatswains Mate who we called “Smokey” (he smoked four packs of Camels a day) was at the bar.  Smokey drank beer with a shooter of rum on the side and he had the proverbial “Hollow Leg.”  No one could recall ever seeing him drunk.  He always insisted on buying shooters for anyone he knew.  He knew that I drink Crown and immediately ordered a shooter for me.  I asked for a beer; deciding that one and I would be out of there.  If I tried to drink with Smokey, I would be “knee walking drunk” by sixteen hundred.

I managed to get out of the club after drinking only one beer and two of Smokey’s shooters.  I headed through the gate, across Shit River, to the moneychanger and stocked up on ammunition for my “Peso Gun.”  I intended to take a taxi to the Barrio.  There wasn’t one around, so decided to walk down to a shit kicking joint on the right and have a Pepsi.  The beer and two shots were heavy in my stomach.  I didn’t want to get fucked up before dark.  Going in that joint was a mistake.  A half dozen of my cooks was there and called to me as I entered.  By the time, I made it to the table a frosty cold San Miguel was sitting before an empty chair.  I thought, “You can’t fight fate, fuck, it must be my karma.”  I sat down and took a pull on the bottle.  I finished the beer and bought a round of Magoos.  After that one, I left.  Outside, I stopped a taxi and negotiated the fare to the Barrio.  I told the driver to drop me at the Irish Rose.

Things went downhill from that point.  There were about a dozen people that I knew in the Rose.  The beer was flowing freely, the jukebox was playing, the overhead fans were exercising the flies, and I was negotiating with one of the girls for a blowjob when I suddenly realized that it was dark.  Where the hell had the day gone?  It seemed as if I had just left the ship.  The rest of the night became a kaleidoscope of bars, beer, and girls.  I remembered jeepney rides, a girl stroking my leg, drinking Mojo, another girl, more beer and going into my brother’s house with another girl.

Now here I am sitting on Baloy Beach drinking Pepsi trying to sort out the events of the night before to decide whether I had had a good liberty.  I concluded that had a hell of a time; it was all good.  I was hung over, sick, my dick was sore and I still had plenty of money.  That is all a sailor can ask of a liberty.

I finished the second Pepsi and signaled for another as a tricycle taxi came roaring down the beach road and stopped at the bar.  There were two passengers crammed into the passenger side car. I recognized one of them as Jack Coates, a Navy retiree, and ex-pat. I didn’t know the other fellow, but he and Jack were obviously about three sheets to the wind.  But then, I had never seen Jack in any other condition.

They stumbled to the bar and Jack ordered three beers.  The girl placed the beer on the bar and Jack handed one to his companion and slid the other in front of me.  I said, “Jack, I’m drinking Pepsi, it is too early for beer.”

Jack stumbled toward me, grabbed my fresh Pepsi and threw it across the road onto the beach and said, “Stewburner, When I’m drinking beer, ever fuckin’ body’s drinking beer.”

You can’t fight your fate. Karma is karma.  I thanked Jack lifted the bottle, hoping that I could keep it down, and took a pull.  After the Pepsi, it went down much easier than the warm beer I had had for breakfast.  Drinking the beer and laughing at one of Jack’s stories, I was thinking that I still had three days’ liberty to go.

Fuck, still three more days liberty.  I love it; a sailor’s life is good.

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

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


The Night I Was Nearly Captured

The Night I Was Nearly Captured

By:  Pat Dingle

I’m guessing now but I think it was in 1966 on our second tour when the USS Yorktown was relived in the Gulf of Tonkin by another CVS for the search and rescue of pilots who could make it out near the coast or to the Gulf after being hit. We were ordered to steam south east to the ass end of the South China Sea to take part in a South East Asian Treaty Organization (S.E.A.T.O.) naval maneuvers with U.S., Pilipino, Australian, Thailand and England navy war ships. I gathered it was meant to reassure our allies and show the commies we’re in full cooperation with each other. I recall I talked with the Brits and Aussies over the radio network from our respective Combat Information Centers (CIC) while conducting war games for about a week (I’m guessing our side won). At the end of the mixed fleet operations we all headed east to Subic Bay but instead of our normal berthing, we dropped anchor in the bay off Manila, along with the rest of the mixed bag of war ships, meaning we had to take our liberty boats ashore. If I recall correctly we landed right by the famous old Manila Hotel, an upscale landmark. There were about six of us guys from OI division going over together and I remember walking into that hotel with potted palms, doormen and tuxedos everywhere along with dirty glances from most guests and staff at us heathens. I took it that we’re not the first sailors to sully the premises but didn’t see the No Sailors sign posted anywhere. Still, we could take a hint (and no service) so we moved on until locating a bar more suited to our class of customer.

Seems the Manila Hotel also held a dim view of Aussie sailors because the first good joint we found was already full of them. I remember bellying up to the bar for the first of many 7-7s that night when one Aussie walked up to the one I’m sitting next to and said “Mate, I don’t like your looks”, hauled off and slugged him so hard in the face he dropped off the bar stool like he had been shot in the head. Sitting on his ass rubbing his jaw the Aussie on the floor replied “Neither do I mate”, got up and bought his critic a drink. They were the best of buddies after that, and I’m sure long before. Shit, we’re drinking with a rough crowd here and only six of us more civilized American sailors. Fate stepped in and soon we were buying them drinks almost as fast as they were buying us drinks, each with a toast. Shortly it came down to whose Navy sucked the most with examples of unfair use and abuse flying back and forth. But when it was revealed that your first hitch in the Aussie Navy was a mandatory twelve years, we immediately conceded that they and their Navy really sucked the most. Pleased upon hearing that they won the “Who Sucks The Most Contest” they bought more rounds for us six losers.

Late in the evening and God knows how much booze consumed, the diplomatic relations efforts between our two countries got around to whose Navy had the better looking uniforms. This time it was a tie, I thought they did and my new down under mate thought we did. Under the circumstances and to be fair, I got (slid) off my bar stool and stripped down to my skivvies and said something like “Here, you like it so much, take it”. And he did. But he also was a fair man so he too stripped down and handed me his uniform. Who am I to refuse a gift from our closest allies against the commie bastards and any and all others who tried to walk into our bar that night. Right there and then before the cheering crowd, we put on the other’s uniform while less daring drunks only traded hats. Was this becoming a great liberty or what? Now I’m in the Aussie Navy and telling my former OI companions to bugger off in my best Aussie accent. It was about this time the shore patrol came in and told everyone it was time to head to the beach and get in the liberty boats and go back to our respective ships, last call. We all decided to go together and when we stumbled down to the docks, we all got aboard the same Yorktown boat, now an unwilling water taxi, along with other inebriated sailors from other ships who seemed lost as well. The festivities from the bars came with us, most in a mix of different uniforms from three or four different ships.

The liberty boat first pulled up to the Aussie ship’s sea ladder and a few of them crawled up it on their hands and knees like they know the drill. The OOD up topside was yelling for the few Aussie’s still in the boat who wanted to go AWOL to get up there or they’re coming down. We offered sincere sanctuary aboard the Yorktown assuring them it was so big they’ll never find you but in the end they too went up the ladder. I’m just sitting near the back of the boat trying to understand what’s going on around me cause the Aussie OOD and other thugs up topside kept screaming down to us Americans left in the boat to get up there right now or else. It was all so baffling and our coxswain wouldn’t pull away until the offending Aussie was captured and flogged. They took a few steps down the ladder, now enraged at the insubordination of a lone Aussie in the boat who refusing direct orders to come up topside. The officer and his backup was coming down the first few steps on the ladder pointing at the about to be convict when it hit me. They’re after ME, in a full Aussie uniform. I stood up in the boat, mustered up the only proper response I could think of to help clarify the situation, and shouted from the top of my lungs “FUCK YOU”. Oh shit, now they’re scrambling down the ladder to snatch my young impersonating one of them teenage ass and throw me in irons aboard an enemy ship for years. I heard all about it back at the bar just a little while ago.

Fortunately our Yorktown coxswain thought that was a very American response indeed and backed the boat up just as they were about to board us with cutlass in hand. As we moved away from the Aussie ship all our hard drunk efforts at improving relations between our two navies sunk with each catcall from us to them and back at us. And a good time was had by all. When we pulled up to the Yorktown’s ladder guys in the boat were patting me on the back for having a way with words under adverse conditions. If I wasn’t so drunk I could have agreed with that but as it was I couldn’t get any words out, all I could do to very slowly climb our sea ladder, salute, and remember request permission to come aboard Sir. Our JOOD had a very sad disappointed look on his face as he just nodded his head OK, if you must. I made my way down to the OI compartment with a little help from my friends and crashed on top of my rack wearing a full dress Aussie Navy uniform. Was this a great liberty or what?