I grew into it


I grew into it.

When you are seventeen and the whole world is just outside of you front door, you can be a little anxious to get started. Some kids will go off to college, some will go to work in a factory or mill, and some kids find themselves drawn to something more adventurous. In my case, that was the military and more specifically, the Navy.

I convinced my parents to sign the permission slip and without much real thought on my part (other than the foreign ports I would hopefully see) I raised my right hand and said a bunch of words. At seventeen, I honestly had very little idea what the words meant or what I was obligating myself for. As we were lining up to say them at the Navy office, I seem to remember a serious feeling coming over the whole proceeding. Up until that…

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Chinese Pirate, Madame Ching

Chinese Pirate, Madame Ching

From: Dave Petersen

Shih Yang also known popularly as Madame Ching was one of the greatest Chinese pirates who sailed the seas in the 19th century.

At the height of her career, she commanded approximately 2,000 ships and 50,000 pirates controlling the seas from Hong Kong to the Vietnamese border. Piracy was instigated by the people living by the sea; they were starving. They could see the Portuguese and English trading ships carrying fruit, vegetables, and meat to the more wealthy Chinese people.

When one of these ships was wrecked by a storm, the sea-side villagers sailed out to the ship to retrieve its cargo. When they got to the ship the product was still being guarded! Out of desperation, the villagers murdered all the guards and took the food home.

This activity was soon organized into a systematic operation under the command of Ching Yih. In fact, other pirates realized how good he was and joined under his command. Ching did not limit his thievery to the sea. His crew also went inland. Along with booty and produce, this pirate crew took villagers as slaves.

The officials at Peking sent forty warships to take down this pirate armada but failed. Ching sank all these ships except twenty-eight, which he kept for his armada. After the battle with Peking, Ching decided to ‘take’ a wife. Twenty of the ‘choice’ female slaves were brought before him bound, one being Shih Yang. Not only was Shih thought to be beautiful, but she was larger than most women and her feet had not been bound as is traditional custom.

Ching unbound Shih and she clawed at his face almost blinding him. He decided to persuade her to marry him by giving her jewels, garments, and slaves. He also said this is the type of luxury she would have as his wife. Shih would only agree to marry Ching if she received half of all his property and joint command of the pirate fleet. He agreed and they were married in 1801.

They also adopted a boy named Chang Poa (then 15) who was a captive of Ching. She soon took command of two of his squadrons, which totaled a third of the entire fleet. Where she learned how to command at sea is unknown, but she was so gifted that even her husband feared her. By 1806, virtually every Chinese vessel passing the coast paid protection money.

Ching and Shih were only married a short time as Ching was killed during a typhoon in 1807. After his death, Shih informed the captains that she meant to command the entire fleet and no one disagreed. Shortly thereafter, Shih fell into an affair with her adopted son who was already a lieutenant in the fleet. They were soon married which cemented the family’s hold on the armada.

The fleet, under Madame Ching, was even more prosperous than before. Madame Ching was so organized that she posted rules of conduct on even the smallest sailing vessel. One of the regulations was ‘To use violence against any woman, or to wed her without permission, shall be punished with death.’ She also realized that to feed and care for the large number of pirates one could not raid on shore or the villagers would be hostile. To remedy this situation, she hired villagers who grew grapes, rice, etc. to work for her so she would always have supplies.

She also announced that any pirate who pilfered from these employees would be executed. Madame Ching was never defeated as it was stronger than the Chinese military. Out of desperation, the emperor of China granted amnesty to all pirates in 1810. Madame Ching negotiated the pardons for herself and her captains.

The agreement was made that Madame Ching (which went to her husband) would command a part of the Imperial fleet, receive a palace and high honors for her and her captains and retain her fortune if she would retire. She agreed and it is said that ‘the seas were once again peaceful’.

Madame Ching and Chang Pao settled in Fukien. They had one son. Chang Poa spent the rest of his life in a comfortable government position (died in 1822 at the age of 36). After Chang’s death, Shih returned to Canton where she ran a gambling house and brothel until her death in 1844. She was in her sixties.

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USS Stump DD-978

USS Stump DD-978

By: Keith Immerzeel

Edited by: Garland Davis



This is the way the incident was reported by the Norfolk media:

NORFOLK NAVAL BASE – The crew of the Norfolk-based destroyer USS Stump rescued four civilians Friday from a sinking fishing boat about 66 miles east of Cape Hatteras, N.C.

The Stump, which was conducting routine operations in the area when it received the distress call from the 72-foot Sara Ann at 8:30 a.m., was assisted by two Coast Guard aircraft from Elizabeth City, N.C., that circled overhead to mark the boat’s position, the Navy said.

When the Stump found the Sara Ann about 1 p.m., the fishing boat was foundering in 8- to 10-foot seas. The destroyer put a rigid hull inflatable boat overboard, and three Stump crew members steered over to the boat, carrying an extra pump. The Coast Guard aircraft had already lowered four pumps; altogether, the extra pumps failed to control the flooding, the Coast Guard said.

After making a damage assessment, the group decided the boat wasn’t salvageable. The New Jersey-based crew, soaked and cold after hours of pounding by high waves, was brought aboard the Stump in two shifts, the Navy said.

The crewmen were “all in pretty good shape,” according to an officer on the Stump. They were given clothing, food and a chance to call their families, the Navy said.

The Stump returned to Norfolk Friday evening.

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The ship’s history reports the incident thusly:

In March 1998 the Sara Ann (a fishing trawler) was operating off the Virginia Capes when the seas became too much and she started taking on water. Stump, while conducting routine operations on 17 April 1998, was informed by the United States Coast Guard Station Portsmouth that the Sara Ann was in distress. Stump subsequently rescued four civilians about 65 nautical miles off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Stump provided safe passage back to Norfolk, Virginia.

This is the rest of the story as told by Keith Immerzeel, a snipe who was there:

We had a lot of strange incidents on my ship I will never forget. After speaking on another post on a time we saw a helo go down during vertrep and losing some members of the helo crew it made me think of the time we were able to help out a group of civilians. I will never forget this as it was a “family and friends” cruise day where people could bring relatives or whoever they wanted on board and we went out and puttered around the outskirts of Norfolk for awhile while everyone basically got to tour the ship, check out many of the places while it was in operations. We even had more visitors to the engine room than I expected we would. I figured everyone would be up on the bridge taking a turn at steering the ship.

We received a call for help that morning from the Coast Guard regarding a civilian vessel off the coast of North Carolina in distress. I distinctly remember it being a Friday and at first when some of the crew realized we had been rerouted they were a little bummed because we were supposed to be out a few hours and then back in port and unless you had the duty you would be on liberty shortly after noon. And if you didn’t have the duty over the weekend it was going to be nice having a long weekend.

Apparently, we were the closest ship, so with all these civilians onboard, we hauled ass at flank speed for the rest of the morning into the early afternoon to get to the vessel. When we got there and secured the crew of the sinking vessel on board it was determined the vessel could not be saved as it was taking on too much water. So then things got even more interesting. I’m not an expert on maritime law or rules but apparently, we were not allowed to leave until the vessel was completely submerged and gone. I don’t know the reason behind this. But rather than waiting, even more, time in the area since we had an entire ship full of civilians plus the four we had gained off the coast of North Carolina, we broke out the 20mm and made her sinking come quickly. The owner of the vessel knew it was a complete loss anyway so he was supportive of us putting it out of its misery.

We didn’t get back to Norfolk until late that night. Normally when you think about anyone who gets delayed by anything they are often upset. This entire group of civilians who were only supposed to be gone a few hours ending up being on board for around 12 hours, ate two meals on board, and got to see her in action going balls to the wall were the happiest people I have ever seen who had an unexpected delay. I will always remember that.

The friends and family absolutely loved it and they got to see more of our daily routine than they had imagined they would. We had people staying down in the engine room for quite awhile as they now had a lot of time to kill and since we had the same amount of time to kill this afforded them the time to be able to ask all the questions that were on their mind and get much more in depth answers rather than having a couple of hours to tour the whole ship. Now they could devote multiple hours to the area that interested them the most.

It was the fastest an engine room watch has ever gone by.



In the Waters of Pearl – Building the Pearl Harbor Submarine Base 1918-1945

Served my Twilight tour as Bachelor Quarters Officer at SUBBASE Pearl. — Garland


I spent a number of years in my youth living and sailing out of Pearl Harbor. The last time we were there was in 2003 and the changes even then were astonishing. Many of the old buildings were still there but a modern bridge attached Ford Island to the mainland. The Chapel at Sub base was closed at that time and the Enlisted Men’s club was on limited hours as well.

But no matter how long you are away, some memories come back and overwhelm you. The smell of the many flowers as you arrive at the airport. The breeze of the trade winds that mask the heat of the bright sun. And the feeling of an unstated collection of long ago spirits that traveled through these islands on their war to long ago wars. As you stand by the finger piers looking across at the shipyards, you can hear…

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THE CLUBS AND HOTELS OF OLONGAPO Acapulco, Argentina, Bali Hai, China Inn, Copacabana, Fuji, Hong Kong, Monte Carlo, Mozambique, Sahara, Shanghai, Sweden, Zanzibar – you could have been anywhere in the world with these Gapo Clubs And for the USA lovers, one could have gone to Boston, Washington, Texas, Tennessee and Nashville and Grand Ol’ Opry, New York and Broadway, and Woodstock, New Mexico, New Jersey, New Haven, Florida and Miami, Missouri, Las Vegas, Dallas, and, of course, California. But in my case I preferred to be in Shangri-la, Cloud 9, and, most of all, in Heaven. U & I could Frolic in Dreamland unless you wanted to remain in Banaue, Nueva Vizcaya, or Jolo. And there may be some who would rather be at the Gay Club or the AC/DC Club or at the Cockeyed Cowboy and the Foxy Lady. If there’s a Gay Club, there was also a Gay Hotel. If there was a Joy Club, there was also a Joy Hotel. If there’s a Bayview Club, there must be a Bayview Hotel (but no bay to view). They may be the Talk of the Town but at all cost, it was alway’s a good idea to avoid the Devil’s Den, the Shark’s Cove, the Crazy Charlies, and the Destroyer because you may be an El Gringo or a Gigolo but you’re no match to Nina’s Papagayo. And for the gold lovers, Gapo had Gold Label, Golden Buddha, Golden Hotel, Golden Nugget Club, Golden Pawn Shop, Golden Peacock Club, Golden Place, and Golden Ranch. For the silver fans, there were the Silver Dollar and the Silver Star Club. And for the not-so-young anymore, Gapo had Old Gold Hotel, Old Grand Dad Club, Old Jolo, Old Mexico, Old West # 1, and Old West # 2. In the Jungle or the Zoo, you may find a Zebra, a Brown Fox, a Penguin, a Palomino, a Red Rooster, and a Pussycat as well. And in D’ Cave, there may be an Eagle’s Nest but I know that in the Tropicana Garden or the Beehive there was an Iron Butterfly and, of course, always it was the Queen Bee who was always the SUPREME. Of course, it won’t be called a jungle, if there was no Harlem, where colorful clubs abound like Black Chamber, Black & White Club, Blue Haven Hotel, Blue Magic Disco, Blue Room, Green Apple, Purple Haze, and a mix of colors called Rainbow. Although not in the jungle, PAULINES definitely had the crocodile. And if it’s too cold in GREENLAND,,too mystic in ROCKET ROOM,,too flashy in The CATWALK,sailors went to D’ PARK where the BAMBOO GROVE was near the LAGUNA de BAY. They lay down on The SANDS, by The MARINA, .watched D’ WAVE, and just waited for The SUNSET, dreamed of The MAALIKAYA, checked The PALLADIUM, tried to play The TOM TOM, or rode The CAROUSEL and smelled D’ ROSES. These were so ECONOMICAL and every MOMS surely ” L ” them. As a Majestic Baron and an Aristocrat, lodgings such as the Emperor, Empress, and Imperial were probably worth of the Crown Z. But since I owed no allegiance to the Queen, I went with my PRESIDENT at the WHITE HOUSE and stayed at the ADMIRAL ROYALE where the service was totally CONTINENTAL. If there was an ‘L’ Club, there were also the El Cario, El Flamingo, El Gringo, El Paborito, and El Tropicano There were also the Magic Glow, Willow, Apollo, Tally Ho, Mocambo, Johnny O, The Tide Hi – Lo , Alamo, Happy and Love Disco, and Leo – patok silang lahat sa Olongapo And HOBBIT HOUSE is not a BAHAY KUBO that was made of SAWALI. It’s not also a museum that has a DIAMOND and no statue of the SPHINX. Even if you do ,CHERRY picking at the STRAWBERRY FIELDS, there won’t be any argument from the CHATTERBOX, even in the far flung places of DAVAO and BANAUE and the WILD WEST of ARIZONA. Girls name abound with the likes of Rosanna, Rose, Rovisa, Rufadora Sandra, Cherry, Sherry, Christine, Cindy, Marilyn, Florie, Fely, Mariposa, Nene, Ester, Dolly Marcy, and Victoria. They all have three things in common: they’re all Bonita, Maligaya, and Maalikaya. There were also Airport and Airwaves and B29 in the Sky. Astro and Apollo are other club names. Also Carrier 7 which wasn’t the Big E aka the Enterprise There were the West 1622 Club. West End Bar, and West Fargo Bar, and the Wild West. On the other end there were also the East Inn Club, East Coast Disco, and Eastern Club and Hotel For masculine names Gapo had Ely’s and Ernie’s, Ding’s and Wilfredos, Tom Tom, Joker, Leo, Ken’s, Bubba’s, Sonny and Sam’s. There were also Fat Freddies, Porky’s, Jack Daniels, Johnny O’s, and the gentle Uncle Bob’s. As a sailor’s town, there were the Sea Breeze Bar, Sea Horse Club ,Sea Knight and Seaman’s Inn. There were also the Ship Ahoy, Show Boat, Port Hole, Port ‘O Call, Fleet Nite Club and the Quarterdeck There were also the dance clubs like Shindig, Yug-yug, Pier 10, Filmore East, Rock Trax, Hot City and the Concert. That’s the Olongapo during the peak of the Navy days. Sailors called Gapo the best liberty town and everyone said sir aye aye.

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Smokes and Suds

Smokes and Suds

By: Garland Davis

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I Never trust a fighting man who doesn’t smoke or drink.”… Admiral William Frederick (Bull) Halsey Jr.

I started smoking, surreptitiously, at about twelve or thirteen. It was shortly after my Dad died. I wouldn’t even have taken the chance while he was living. Growing up in a state where tobacco was king, where everyone smoked, cigarettes and cigars were easy to come by. Everyone would sell them to a kid. You just had to say they were for your Mom or Dad if anyone asked. When I could afford cigarettes, I bought them. When I couldn’t, I bummed them or did without. Looking back, that would have been a good time to quit. I thought the Maverick brothers on the TV series were cool with their cigars, so I started smoking cigars also. In those days you could buy a decent cigar for ten cents and a good one for a quarter.

I smoked until boot camp, where I was presented with another great time to quit smoking. The Company Commander got pissed off and turned off the smoking lamp for the entire company for about six weeks because the Battalion Commander found a cigarette butt adrift. I, unlike some of my fellow victims, obeyed the rules and didn’t smoke during this period. After the six-week hiatus, the only thing that I can equate that first smoke to is an orgasm.

In those days, cigarettes cost about two bucks a carton at the Exchange. A payday trip to the Exchange to get cigarettes, cigars and toiletries always saw the essentials in stock. We all ran into the perpetual bum, the guy who never had his own smokes. I never wanted to be that guy and always made sure that I had a stock of smokes on hand.

On my first ship, I learned that “Sea Stores”, non-tax paid cigarettes, only sold when outside the three-mile limit, were less than a buck a carton. Now this was a smoker’s heaven. I served in an Ocean Going Tug that was too small to have a store. It was also slow, with a top speed of twelve knots, and much slower when burdened with a tow. I learned to buy a large stock of smokes before leaving port. I remember one extended mission where everyone ran out of smokes. We pulled into Singapore and for some time afterward, we were all smoking English Cigarettes.

I smoked throughout my Navy career. In 1985, I was presented with another opportunity to stop smoking. I had stomach ulcers and it became necessary for surgery. The Doc’s decided to remove one-third of my stomach and a portion of the small intestine. In preparation for the surgery, I had a consultation with the anesthesiologist. He told me that the gas they used during surgery was an insult to the lungs and sometimes people died and it was always people who smoked that died. This was said while the whole time he was smoking a cigar. I quit smoking for a week before the surgery and for about two months afterward. Having coffee one morning and my wife’s cigarettes were on the table. Took one and lit it without even thinking, like I had done thousands of times before.

I smoked for another eleven years after that. Finally decided that the time to quit had arrived. Smoked my last cigarette on Christmas Eve 1996. No patches, no therapy, no hypnotism, just quit.

My first experience with drinking occurred when I was about fourteen. The juvenile delinquents that I palled around with and I found a quart jar of clear liquid under a bush in the woods. Of course, we knew that it was moonshine whiskey. This was bootleg country. Just about everyone I knew had a relative that was or had been a bootlegger. We decided to drink the stuff. Of course we were all lying about how many times we had drank white likker in the past. I recall taking a sip and thought the top of my head was coming off. But of course, I said, “Damn that’s good.” We each had a sip and all proclaimed how good it was. We hid it for later, but could never find it again. I always suspected that one of my cohorts took it.

I was about fifteen when my uncle gave me a six pack of Pabst’s Blue Ribbon beer. I learned that beer was something that I could enjoy drinking. In those days, the age to purchase beer, in North Carolina, was eighteen. Twenty-one for whisky or other spirits. I quickly learned which of the small country stores in the county never bothered with identification. I remember one farmer/store operator who proclaimed his policy of, “If a boy is old enough to tote the money in here, far as I’m concerned, he’s old enough to tote the beer outta here.”

I arrived in San Diego at seventeen, and of course, there was no drinking until twenty-one. The naval authorities and the state of California took the no drinking thing seriously. I saw a long dry spell before me.

The next year while stationed at Lemoore California, someone left a half fifth of vodka in the dayroom of the cooks barracks. A fellow cook and I drank it, with grape kool ade, the only thing available. That was the first time I got sick from drinking. I remember the purple water in the toilet. I haven’t been able to drink grape kool aid or grape soda in the fifty years since. No problem drinking Vodka.

The following year I was assigned into an ammunition ship in Port Chicago, Ca. When I reported, the ship was in the yards in San Francisco. Expected the California rules would keep me dry, but my shipmate Ike introduced me to some dives in the questionable neighborhoods of Frisco where no one seemed to give a damn how old you were. After we left the yards and moved to the Ammunition Depot at Concord, I learned that there was a club on base where underage sailors could drink beer in undress blues.

After taking on an ammunition load and enduring REFTRA we departed the Bay Area for Hawaii and the Far East. During our stop in Hawaii, I learned that the EM Club just required underage personnel (the age in Hawaii was twenty at the time) to sign a log acknowledging that you understood the drinking age. Then they sold you booze. No problem, unless you got into trouble or got drunk. Then they used your signature in the book against you. After Hawaii came Guam and then Japan, the PI, and Hong Kong.

After leaving The ammo ship, I went to CS “B” school in San Diego. I was barely twenty. I had recently made second class. I sewed a hash mark on my liberty blues. This was in the days when many third class cooks were sporting two and three hash marks. I would go into a bar, put my left arm on the bar and order. Worked. San Diego wasn’t so dry after all.

After San Diego, I was ordered to the Navy Commissary Store, Yokohama, Japan. For the remainder of my naval career in the Far East and Hawaii, I drank when I could. Unlike many of my shipmates and friends, I could always take it or leave it. I quit, for a while, about a year and a half ago for health reasons until I read a study that found evidence that an ingredient in hops may be beneficial to persons suffering from Parkinson’s disease. Yea, let’s hear it for hops!

Many of my FaceBook friends ask why I always share Bud Light posts. I have been asked if I own stock in Anheuser Busch. The truth is: I have a born again sister who has categorized me as a drunken sinner. I do it to irritate her.

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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.