By Robert “Okie Bob” Layton
There was a time, oh, 30-40 years ago when being in the Navy was fun you just had to know how to work it!
We worked hard and long hours at sea most of the time 12-18 hour days. Pulling into port one would try and maximize every hour of liberty that was available.
While on rest and recreation the professional “Liberty Hounds” were the masters of this and from them grew the legends of uninhibited escapades, Antics of drunken debauchery, close calls with the shore patrol, brushes with the local law, conquest of the opposite sex, outlandish wanton sex, minimal monetary expenditures, and endless in port parties and of course escape from punishment. This was the formula for the best sea stories the fleet could produce.
I was one of those “Liberty Hounds”, one of the pack, if there was a pecking order in our pack place me about the middle for being senior enlisted I had an image to represent [military bearing] and a reputation to uphold [Liberty Hound].
I was a well-balanced yin-yang sailor, but not the top dog! Now along about this time in 1980 I happened to have a sailor who worked for me who was the “A-number-one” party animal I had ever served with.
AMECS Joe Creapo
No one could get as much fun on liberty as Joe. He just had the knack for getting the most out of the least amount of liberty. Tuff as nails, Joe could handle himself in any bar fight, out drink all the rookies, and always managed to go home with the best-looking girl in the bar. Beer drinking, Harley riding, you could count on Joe to empty his wallet in any stripper club in record time. I would get to know Joe from the time he was a Happy 2nd class petty officer until he was a super Senior Chief petty officer.
And so it happened, on USS Coral Sea 1980, a few days out of pulling into Subic Bay Philippines, a First Class Joe approached me with this proposal.
“Senior Chief Let me go into the beach early”
“What for Joe,” I ask
“If you let me go in early I’ll set up a party for the Detachment”
Joes volunteering did have some merit for we had just completed a long at sea period and everyone was ready for some good old “PI” liberty
“Joe if you can catch a ride into Cubi Point its OK with me”
“No shit!” he exclaimed
My yes to his request somewhat shocked him!
“Joe you promise to have everything ready?” I told him
“No problem Okie I can handle it”
Joe was really excited for he had never got to fly off the ship early just for the sole reason of liberty.
“You know Okie I really appreciate getting to fly off early,” He said
“Do you know what to do to get off,” I ask
“Well kind-of” he replied
“Joe you’ll need to go up and see if you can Hitchhike you a ride in on a Mail COD [mail airplane Carrier On-board Delivery]” I informed him
“Don’t worry Okie I’ll have the beer iced down and waiting on the pier when the ship ties up” He boasted
The Mail COD’s flew out of NAS Cubi Point Philippines and were used for the purpose of shuttling people, parts, and mail to and from the ship. You needed a set of orders to fly off the ship- something Joe did not have. I assumed Joe was going to see our Administrative go to guy YN3 Manny Jasso and have him type up a set of dummy no-cost orders to the CVW-14 beach Detachment. So when my guys came down from the flight deck and told me Joe had caught a ride on a C-1 into the beach I thought everything was OK.
Things were not OK, for Joe had departed the ship without any orders which made him AWOL and to top it off he was entering a foreign country illegally without permission.
Two days later we pulled into Subic Bay and tied up to Leyte Carrier pier Cubi Point. I’m out on the cat walk gazing down on the pier looking for Joe.
No Joe!… No iced down beer!… No nothing…bummer!
I come to the conclusion something had gone wrong with Joe. I organize a liberty search party and depart the ship searching for Joe. I was in some deep shit if something had happened to Joe for I had not told my Officer in charge that I had let him leave the ship!
First stop was Gordon street “Po city” Olongapo the Marmont club after a quick check with one of his old Honeyko’s it was reviled he had been there the day before and left word he was heading out to Subic City.
Acting like true shipmates [the search party consisting of Red Lahe, Scotty Stockard, George Dahms, and myself] we go down and each rent a Trike [A two-cycle motorcycle with a sidecar] for a race out to Subic city!
We had a chilling race out to Subic City in which Scotty almost got flattened by a bus when his Trike wouldn’t go uphill fast enough. The local Bus decided to push him. For you thrill-seekers out there it was quite a rush to take a Trike ride back then. With the two cycle Ring-Ding-ding. Ring-Ding-ding under powered engine, bumpy ass sidecar and the little buzzer of a horn going full blast you could be standing still and it felt like you were riding down the road!
But, when you got that thing really moving down a heavily trafficked road, darting in and out of traffic with a race wager riding on top of it, buddy it was like an amusement ride minus the safety features—it was the real deal folks what a blast!
We arrive in Subic City and go bar hopping looking for Joe no luck. We end up at the Broadway Bar asking if any of the girls had seen him. They did not recognize his name but when we described him they all went “Oh Oh Ga Goo Americano” [Crazy American] they said he had left with Max. We all wondered who the hell Max was!
Consensus was to wait, go upstairs, settle down and to have a few cold ones.
I’m sitting between Scotty and Red inside the Bar away from the balcony when we hear a ruckus outside I get up and look over the railing in the street below.
Down the street comes Creapo beer in hand, naked, riding a 600lb Pig! Joe is just a whooping and hollering waving his cap in the air he looked like Slim Pickens riding an “A” bomb. A drunk ass girl is walking next to him topless smiling and waving. You would have thought they were in a 4th of July parade!
I holler down “Joe”
Joe looks up smiles and says, “Hey Senior how you like my ride his name is Harley”
“Joe where the hell was ya?” I ask referring to him not being on the pier
“Let me park my Bike and I’ll be right up” he replied
Scotty, Red, and George never moved. This was all normal for them- so natural, for they thought and why wouldn’t he!
Joe gets on a shirt, shorts, and flip-flops and comes upstairs.
“Joe what the hell” I exclaimed
“Hey I always wanted to ride my motorcycle into Subic City I figured this is about as close as I can get—It’s a Hog” he grinned
About that time his girlfriend walks in, still topless and commences to give everyone at the table a motorboat ride!
Joe introduces his Girl “This here is my new biker chick her name is Max short for Maxed-out”
I inquire “Ok Joe why didn’t you meet the boat at the pier”
“Well I have been hiding out?” he said
“We could tell that”
“After I left you on the boat I go upstairs and they were fixing to load up a COD to shoot to the beach. I ask one of the crew members if I could catch a ride into Cubi he said yes. I had my white flight deck jersey on, he must have thought I was part of the Transfer and receiving crew and It was OK so I go down pack a quick AWOL bag go back up and launch off to the PI”
“So?” I quizzed
“Well, when we landed at Cubi they asked me for my orders. You didn’t tell me I was supposed to have orders.” he sternly said
“I thought you knew” I shrugged
“Well let me tell you the Philippine customs officer knew!” he barked
“When we landed, he put my ass under arrest”
“How did you get out of it” we ask
“As he was waiting for a truck to pick me up and take me to jail. I managed to talk him out of a Head call”
“Once I got in the head I went out the bathroom window, flagged a sailor down driving down the street paid him to take me to the main gate changed into civvies on the way and made it out the main gate before anyone was alerted”
“Your one lucky fucker” I noted
As if to square things up he offered “Well Okie I’m sorry about not meeting you on the pier Let me buy you a beer and a motorboat ride!”
Our concern for his safety had now turned into annoyance for once again he had come thru unscathed and turned a failed liberty into a success!
AFCM Robert “Okie Bob” Layton