Where in Hell Did They Go?

Where in Hell Did They Go?

By:  Garland Davis

They were famous throughout the Navy.  The Gut in Barcelona; East Main Street in Norfolk; Flatbush Ave in Brooklyn; The Combat Zone in Boston; The Pike in Long Beach; Market Street in San Francisco; Broadway Street in San Diego; Hotel (Shit Street) in Honolulu; The Honcho in Yokosuka, China Town and Sakuragi-cho in Yokohama; Wanchai in Hong Kong; Buggis Street in Singapore; Magsaysay in Olongapo; and all the other places where fleet sailors congregated.  People ask, “Where did they go?”  Well shipmate, they didn’t go anywhere.  You are asking the wrong question.  You should ask, “Where did all the fleet sailors go?”

Long ago, on payday night and in the nights following, these streets were a paradise to the North American Blue Jacket.  A person could look down the street and see neon signs advertising beer and bars and a sea of white hats bobbing up and down as sailors made their way from bar to bar.  At liberty call these became a shopping center for intoxicating beverages and sex.  And in some places a PO2 could get that new First Class crow sewn on or that old Third Class crow sewn back on.  No need for crows these days.  It is all collar and hat devices.   Hell, I don’t see much need for dress canvas these days.  The only time I see it worn is when a ship is leaving or returning from a deployment. With all the straight sailors and females, the gays and lesbians and “don’t knows” aboard these days, I figure sailors are shopping for sex closer to home.

The smoking lamp is cold and probably over the side or being saved for recycling or Mary Soo (forget her, CumShaw is Fraud, Waste, Abuse and misappropriation of government property. I’ll tell a story about the consequences of CumShaw some time.) Instead of trading useless gear to Mary Soo for painting the ship, the Navy now recycles and lets a multi thousand dollar contract to get the job done.  Smoking is now frowned upon.  Surface ships limit smoking to a tiny, uncomfortable topside space.  My shipmates in the Bubble Head world can no longer smoke anyplace aboard the boat.  Municipalities and states have jumped on the bandwagon and banned smoking in bars and restaurants.  Drive past any bar or lounge and you will see a group standing on the corner smoking and no, they cannot bring their drinks outside. It is against the law to drink in public.

Drinkers are now pariahs in our modern Navy.  The clubs are closed.  They no longer exist or have been converted to MWR game rooms where the strongest drink available is a fucking Red Bull.  Quarterdecks of ships, in addition to a podium, log books, long glass, and weapon are now equipped with Breathalyzer and probably a watch stander to operate it.  Many commands are requiring that sailors refrain from drinking the day prior to a duty day.

Back in the day, a sailor ashore knew that his shipmates had his back.  Whether in a confrontation with a sailor from another ship, marines, or Limeys, he knew his shipmates would stand with him.  Too much to drink!  A shipmate would help you back aboard and even help you to your rack. You would do the same for him when necessary.  These days, you are assigned a “Liberty Buddy.”  You are to stay together and, I guess, keep each other from drinking or smoking.  With the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, I guess a dalliance with a “Rump Ranger” would be okay.  But, before you go ashore, you have to formulate a “Liberty Plan” and get it approved by your Department/Division Liberty Coordinator.  If, during your liberty, you or your, Liberty Buddy change your plan, you must contact your Liberty Coordinator and   get the change approved.  I surmise that, “I’ll be in the Barrio some place getting fucked up, a blow job, and laid.” Would not be an acceptable liberty plan. It always worked for me!

They were more than streets bars. First and foremost, they were the repositories of small bits and pieces of the history of America’s forces afloat. They were the unofficial clubhouses of those of us who went to sea on old gray steel under the flag of the United States. They were places where a thirsty bluejacket could go and park his ass where sailors heroes of earlier fleets theirs. They were the poor man’s Valhalla, where lads who plowed deep salt water, could go and share fellowship and sea stories with fellow sailors… A place where the well-intentioned lie and the bullshit-gilded flawed recollection were readily forgiven and accepted.

They were places where lonely strays could tie up alongside a warm annd willing honey-ko on a cold night… For less than forty bucks.

Where did the streets and the bars go you ask?  Where the fuck did the sailors go?


34 thoughts on “Where in Hell Did They Go?

    • Mike Jacobs says:

      I must have been at the tail end of the real Navy, on a destroyer out of Yoko from 88-91. No women on ships, no gays, dungarees, Subic was still open. We all cussed, whored, and drank like sailors, I was a natural squid (I tried to get in the Air Force, but they wouldn’t take me bc I got busted drinking too many times, I was a much better Squid!!). Best times and best friends of my life, I think about it every day!


  1. dbr416@yahoo.com says:

    This is why I Retired over 20 years ago. When asked if I would go back, Hell No. I saw the writing on the wall, and it didn’t look good. I loved the time I was in, saw a lot of places/ports and wouldn’t change a thing, good memories.


  2. Floyd says:

    There was one other place that was visited by us a lot was in Sasebo Japan.. Anyone remember “Paradise Alley?” I was only on a small minesweeper in 1960 and I had shore patrol that summer as a new 3rd class. It was payday and a number of tin cans and a heavy cruiser were tied up in “India Basin” .. The scene in Paradise Alley was strait out of a John Wayne flick or one called Mr. Roberts! The noise and such was almost insane.. just like a movie cept it was REAL. I would have loved to recored it, but I had NO camera then, nor was I allowed one on duty. Thanks for some GREAT memories….


  3. sweepsailor says:

    We used to go to Paradise Alley in Sasebo Japan.. one hell of a loud and noisey place. We could NEVER do the things there now we did in summer of 1960.. We had GREAT and FUN times!


  4. buddy penn says:

    Great story, served 65-69 so know exactly what you are saying, it’s true about those were the good ole days and thanks for wonderful reading material.


  5. Jerome Wilson says:

    The Gut in Palma de Mallorca, right behind the cathedral, while the Policia sweep through the streets to hassle the ladies. Everyone into the bar, quick!
    New York Brooklyn Shipyard, Kum Kau Kitchen on Myrle, J train, China Town, Bleecker St in the Village, 42nd street….
    The Lido Inn in Norfolk, Oceanview rd, Virginia Beach on spring break, EM Club, Littlecreek rd….
    The Naples pier, Ft Lauderdale on spring break, Bahamas, Tortolla, Bermuda…


    • Rich DeMatteo says:

      That was definitely the good old days, we could go up in the Barrio in olongopo and rent the bar and girls for the weekend from mamma-san, we were forward deployed on sasebo, in the 80s, and yes paradise alley was still great, I remember my navy days and shipmates daily and I think it sucks for today’s military that they will never have it as good as we did


  6. Dennis says:

    Reading this made me feel better. It confirmed I am not alone in my thoughts or what courses through my veins. It was my Navy, the Navy young sailors (young men AND women for God’s sake) have no idea about. But we know. We were there.


  7. David says:

    No place grabbed me like Olongapo City PI. Yep it was not the prettiest place but serving in the Navy USS Hector 77-81 I do have fond memories of the place. Sorry modern sailors will never fully get to appreciate those days and places like back then.


  8. Ah, yes. 72 -92 and I remember er most if the places mentioned. Good times and find memories my friends. I am just glad that I joined when I did and had the opportunity to experience the wonders known to some of us as “Great Liberty Ports” When you are totally hung overy from the night before and you stop off at the Samari massage parlor in the Barrio for a massage and a blow job, you just come out of there re invigorated. Cheers shipmates.


  9. RMCM R.D. LUNEY, USN, RET. says:

    Navy 1962-1992, retired as Command Master Chief. Those were the days! Fond memories of all the places mentioned and then some. One of my favorites was the Wanchi in Hong Kong, and Shit River in Olongapo. Really enjoyed reading the article


  10. Davey J. says:

    Retired just a few years ago, bye was in PI for an hour cerise in 2011. Everything you describe was still in the barrio, just as it was in ’90s, down to the blaring Metallica…. albeit a little harder to find. Those in the know had a wonderful time. But you’re right in that the modern Sailor will not know the incredible fun and camaraderie that once was.


  11. Kevin McInerney says:

    6 yr Navy Veteran, I did 3 West Pac tours 2 with the “Gator Navy”and 1 with an RVAH Squadron, as a Commissaryman thena”MessManagement Specialist PO2, this story brought back so many memories, Hawaii, Phillipines, met my brother who was a WO in the USMC and I at the time was a PO3….lol it didnt end well.
    White Beach in Okinawa, Sasebo, and Viet Nam.
    Thanks for the mammaries…..oops memories


  12. “. . . . before you go ashore, you have to formulate a “Liberty Plan” and get it approved by your Department/Division Liberty Coordinator.” Is this for real?


  13. Bruce Hevner says:

    GREAT post and SO much of it TRUE! I was 70-74 WestPac sailor (DC2). I talk to shipmates who stayed in until retirement or are in the reserves. They tell tales of a Navy I have NO recollection of!


  14. D. Jones, US RET says:

    I was a mInes weep sailor back in the sixties and remember Paradica Alley very well from when our sweep was in drydock. Always went to the Black Cat bar


  15. Wild Bill Wrifht says:

    Nostalgia at your best. A really great Rendition of how it was to have actually have lived it, thanks again Garland.✅


  16. Bill Hoover says:

    I’m sure glad that I served when I did. My son, also a retired Marine who grew up around my friends and I, said we wouldn’t make it 15 minutes in the USMC/USN today.


  17. Gregory Mercado says:

    Great read that brought back fond memories. Worked hard and partied hard. Extremely fortunate to have worked for some fantastic leaders from the Navy depicted in the era that no longer exists. Retired as a knarley BTCM that frequented many of the placed listed practicing the lost art of a sailor’s idea of R&R, I&I.


  18. I was in from 1964 to 68. RD3 aboard USS DALE DLG19. Two wes pac cruises and a Midshipman cruise. Remember well the places and times mentioned. I wouldn’t care to serve in the neutered Navy we have now. My Navy from 1964-68. Hell yeah!


      • bobstphns@yahoo.com says:

        Yeah, I was in 73 to 93 and the 70’s were great to me. Today’s sailors were just born to late and missed out. When you talk about Subic to a new kid they think your lying, ‘nobody does that kind of shit” that’s why they call it Disney land for adults. I remember the quiet little backstreet bars where you could sip an iced cold San Mcgoo and listen to the minstrel man sing his tune….peelings,,,, nuting more dan peelings.Those were the good days, or nights I should say.

        Sent from Yahoo for iPhone


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