Hap Hernandez, The Legend
By Jack Thomas
Hap is second from the left wearing the porkpie hat.
This story was related to me in the mid-80s by Capt. John Chamberlain, CNFJ COS, during a vigil at his quarters in Yokosuka while awaiting the arrival of Don O’Shea from the airport in Narita.
Incident at the Border crossing San Diego /Tijuana:
In the early ’60s, USS ARCHERFISH (AGSS-311) was operating out of San Diego. They were unique in that the entire crew was unmarried (single) and there was a several year waiting list of Submariners desiring duty on that boat. Archerfish was constantly deployed throughout the Eastern and Western Pacific.
One evening five enterprising crewmen, including future legend Hap Hernandez, decided to hit Tijuana for a night of debauchery. They drove one sailor’s car into Tijuana and Hap, as was his norm in Tijuana, rented a Mariachi band to follow them wherever they went and provide music.
Early in the evening, a discussion ensued as to when they were going to head back to San Diego because they were getting underway the next morning to provide target services for some DDs to do ASW exercises. The driver said if they cleared the border by 0730 he could get them back to Ballast Point by 0800, the expiration of liberty. That was greeted by cries of Bullshit but the driver insisted that he had done it before.
Finally, a $300 bet between Hap and the driver was agreed to. They headed back to the border crossing about 0700 and were in line shortly after that. The Border Patrol officer approached the vehicle and requested ID from everyone. Hap was in the middle of the back seat looking like a rotund Pancho Villa and he held both hands up and said, “No Hablo Ingles”.
The driver said, “Hap, show him your fucking ID card.”
Hap’s response was a shoulder shrug and, “No Hablo Ingles”.
The Border Police had them pull the car off to the side and herded everyone inside for further discussions. When it became obvious that there would be no way to get to Ballast Point by 0800 unless they flew Hap said “Oh, is this what you want to see?” as he pulled his wallet out.
The Border Police were pissed, but they let them go. They missed ship’s movement, of course, and enough money was scrounged up to pay the $300 bet. When the CPO Club opened about 1100 Hap put the $300 on the bar and said to drink it up. When Archerfish returned that afternoon one of the five went down to the pier to brief the C.O. and invite all hands to the CPO Club for a party.
There was no report, of course.
Just one more story in the legend that became Hap Hernandez.