My First WestPac Liberty

My First WestPac Liberty

By John Petersen


I made my first trip to the PI in late ’82, on board USS Proteus AS-19. The trip took about two weeks from Guam. That old Fulton class sub tender could manage about 18 knots with a current and a good tail wind.

During the voyage, this anxious, apprehensive and hormonally charged nineteen-year-old was subject to a veritable onslaught of stories about what to expect and how to handle certain situations and many  the other volumes of advice offered.

Just prior to our arrival in Subic Bay, my LPO (I will not divulge any names, this to protect the innocent and/or presumptive otherwise), was given the task by our Division Officer to look after me on our first night out in town. Duly noted, and after about two hours, duly forgotten.

I found myself in a place called Subic City, with a few other newbies from the ship. I will say now that that first night in a place I had never imagined existed was something I would definitely not write home about. My stepmom would have had a stroke. (My dad, however, would have demanded pay to share the stories).

I could never have thought that there was any place on Mother Earth where that the amount of debauchery could exist in one, minuscule spot on the map. Watching a caramel skinned beauty squat down over a stack of Pesos atop a San Magoo or Red Horse bottle (and knowing there was that one red hot coin in the stack). Witnessing various forms of marine life going places we had to pay for.

Sneaking off into a side room with a little cutie for a few minutes of fun, a bucket of ice included. Trying your damnedest not to crack a smile while you and a few buddies were being, uh, ‘administered’ to. All said and done, this then wide-eyed hayseed was, if anything else, corrupted.

Sadly, those days are long gone, replaced with breathalyzers and heads aboard ship with no stand-up urinals and all the other PC directives. I am so happy that I was able to serve in the time that I and others were able to truly enjoy places like Subic City, Olongapo, Phuket, Pattaya Beach, and ports of the like before political correctness became the mainstream.

Long live the true Asia Sailor.