Submariners are a rare breed; it is an assignment requiring a special set of skills and a special kind of both physical and mental toughness.

“You take a little steel tube, pack a nuclear reactor and high power steam propulsion plant with high pressure and temperature steam. You also use the steam power plant to produce high voltage un-grounded electricity which you route throughout the boat in exposed cable bundles. You pack in 24 intercontinental ballistic missiles and the rockets that propel them out of the submarine (just 1 stage of 1 of these rockets is enough to liquify the submarine internals) that can each potentially be armed with up to 8 ballistic nuclear re-entry bodies that each by themselves can potentially be 20 times as powerful as those dropped on Japan in WW2. You route high-pressure air and hydraulics throughout this tube to operate all this large machinery required to move the tube around. You pack in up to 40 ADCAP Mk 48 torpedoes who have an auto-catalytic fuel that could utterly destroy your tube (see Russian submarine Kursk) and pack it full of high explosives. You pack all of these extremely dangerous things into that small metal tube, climb inside it with 120 people you love to hate (the feeling is mutual too), seal it up, drive it out thousands of miles into the middle of the ocean, and sink it.

If a fire burns for longer than 15 seconds without an extinguisher on it, it begins to grow rapidly and in as little as 2 minutes can render the entire space untenable. The loss of any 1 space on a submarine is likely a loss of the ship. There are a lot of things on a submarine that wants to burn or start a fire. And a lot of things on a submarine will explode when exposed to high heat. As such, every single person on a submarine has to know how to combat a fire by himself and call for assistance. On no other platform in the military is the success and survival of the whole ship dependent on the individual performance of each sailor as it is on a submarine.

This is all backdrop to some of the nation’s most vital clandestine operations (just 1 of the large number of missions a submarine can perform) which you never read about due to the nature of the missions. The stakes are high, and there is no room for error. It is a lot of stress. It is also a lot of pride.

Other than Seals, no other community asks more of its men and women than the submarine service. And as such, being a submariner is a certain badge of honor that is respected by the other communities and services. It is an arduous, thankless, and dangerous job.

So, what would attract one to this assignment? It is far and away the people. The shared responsibility for each other and the shared experience forges an extremely tight bond between the crew of a submarine, one that can only be rivaled by marine/army combat units, and even then it is still a different type of bond as each man is just as important as the one next to him. It is less steeped in the rigid structure of the rest of the military, and lines of rank are blurred more in submarines than anywhere else. This appeals to certain types of people and not to others.

So when you ask a submariner what it is he misses about submarining once he’s gone, he will always respond “I miss the people.


The Bamboo Telegraph

The Bamboo Telegraph

By Garland Davis

Did you ever leave the Main gate in Subic, stop for a beer on Magsaysay and then catch a Jeepney to the Irish Rose and walk in as the girl you had been rolling around with opened a beer for you and asked, “Why you stop at Brass Rail? You have girlfriend there? You buy her a drink, I think you butterfly!”

Shipmate, you have just experienced one of the most efficient communication systems ever to exist. Some call it the “Bamboo Telegraph,” others call it the “Grapevine.” Whatever name used, it is damned good.

I remember hitting the beach with a shipmate and we worked our way down toward the Jolo or New Jolo where his steady girl worked. When we arrived there, she was pissed and read him the riot act telling each place we had stopped and the names of the girls we had talked to. And then she gave him shit about not bringing me right away because she had a lonely young cousin to introduce me to.

I remember a time when a shipmate and I were bar hopping, drinking and talking to the girls.  His steady came bursting into the bar and started on the girl sitting with him. Fortunately, the waiters/bouncers grabbed them as the butterfly knives came out.

Back in the day, there were hungry kids who, for a couple of Peso’s, would wait at the gate and follow a sailor and report to his Honey-ko. They could relay information up and down Magsaysay at a speed that would make Western Union envious.

Usually, the Bamboo Telegraph was more up to date on your ship’s movements than CTF 73…




By Garland Davis

Jeepneys, the flamboyant passenger vehicles of the Philippines, are nearing the end of their reign as the “Kings of the Road.”

Government moves to overhaul outdated public transport, making it safer and more environmentally friendly, will put the brakes on a mode of travel that has long been the surest and cheapest option in a country of 105 million people.

Jeepneys evolved from surplus army jeeps left behind by the U.S. military after World War Two to become brightly-painted vehicles festooned with religious slogans, horoscope signs or family names.

Another of the things that made the P.I. a memorable place to visit. Who of us hasn’t participated in a Jeepney race over the hill to the Barrio? Pile into two Jeepneys and promise a hundred extra Pesos to the first one to reach the Irish Rose. Side by side, hanging on for your life, with one wheel half off the cliff as they made the curve by the graveyard.

Did we really do that shit? Yes, that and more. Jeepneys were the chariots that transported us from a place where we were responsible, hard-working adults to a place where we reveled in the delights offered, a world that is rapidly changing. It was a place where we could go batshit crazy and a jeepney would take you there for about the cost of a bottle of beer.




No automatic alt text available.

Established in 1921, the Signalman (SM) rating was absorbed into the Quartermaster (QM) rating in 1948, only to be re-established eight years later. Its status remained unchanged, with no service ratings or other additions, until 2003, when it was once again included in the Quartermaster rating.

Specializing in visual communications using flags and powerful lamps, Signalmen transmitted and received messages—sometimes encoding and decoding them in the process—from line-of-sight sources. Such a system might seem primitive in today’s world of digital telecommunications, and the very fact that it was limited to only what could be seen, it still has one advantage: Unlike wireless transmissions, messages sent via visual communications are almost always seen only by the intended recipients.

Sailors in the SM rating employed three main methods of communications: Semaphore, Morse code, and flaghoist signaling. Semaphore is a system where each arm can be positioned to point in one of eight directions (similar to the eight main points on a compass); the combination indicates a numeral or letter. Visual Morse code works identically to the original telegraph version but uses flashes of light of varying lengths to replicate dots and dashes. Flaghoist signaling relies on flags of different colors, patterns, and sometimes shapes to indicate numbers and letters.

When the Navy disestablished the Signalman rating in 2003 and shuttered the doors to the Signalman Class “A” Schools around the country, the duties of the rating were given Quartermasters. Although such a move had been rumored for years, many were surprised by the decision because the current crop of Quartermasters at the time was completely unfamiliar with the tasks performed by Signalmen. Sailors in the SM rating when the decision was announced were given the opportunity to convert to another rating, with many choosing to select Master-at-Arms due to the increasing need for them that was an unexpected result of the Global War on Terror.

I wrote this about three years ago:

Arms and Lights and Flags

By:  Garland Davis


My grandfather could talk with his arms and lights and flags.

I asked him why.

He said it was the sailor’s way through time.

I begged him to teach me how.

I worked so hard at school to learn.

And the letters and words finally came.

Now I too can talk with my arms.

It makes him laugh, easy in himself.

That is what grandsons do.

It would be many years before I found his maps and log books.

Mildewed and stained.  Strange names and places.

Coral Sea, Midway, Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Iwo Jima, Okinawa.

The final log entry, “War over; Surrender, Tokyo bay; Going home.”



I would go to the Navy, as my grandfather did,

I would talk with my arms and lights and flags.

I would be as my grandfather, visit strange places with strange names.



Electronic waves have made the ability to talk with one’s arms obsolete.

Now I talk with the radio and plot courses and names on an electric map.

There is no longer the need to talk with arms and lights and flags.

I imagine my grandfather’s spirit standing alone on the signal bridge.

Semaphore flags clutched in his hand.

Tears slowly running from his eyes.



Why do you need an AR 15?


Warning: If you are easily triggered, this may not be a good article for you to read.

See the source image

Why do you need an AR 15?

In the wake of the latest horrific shooting, the topic for many people seems to focus on why someone would need an AR 15. Depending on the political and philosophical background of the people speaking about this, the first thing you have to do is separate fact from emotion.

Fact: The AR 15 is not an assault rifle. It stands for “ArmaLite Rifle” after the firm that designed the weapon in the 1950s. The AR15 is a lightweight, intermediate cartridge magazine-fed, air-cooled Armalite Rifle with a rotating lock bolt, actuated by a piston within the bolt carrier or by conventional long/short stroke piston operation. It has been produced in many different versions, including numerous semi-automatic and select fire variants. or the…

View original post 1,809 more words


The Bilingual Sailor

The Bilingual Sailor

By: Garland Davis

The North American Bluejackets of the past developed a unique language that we all learned starting with “Boot Camp.” There were universal terms that everyone understood and there were terms that had meaning to individual ratings. This language evolved a little differently on each ship. Example: Midway did a 113 day I/O cruise from Subic to Pattaya. During that trip everything became SERIOUS.

“Man when we get into port, I am going to drink some SERIOUS beer.”

“I am going to get me some SERIOUS pussy when we get to Pattaya.”

“Man, that is some SERIOUS beer.” When the beer was VERTREPed aboard for the beer day and steel beach cookout.

One sailor to another while looking down on the flight deck, “Dude, this is a SERIOUS fucking airport.”

Whatever the word or phrase of the moment, we understood it. Some of the new words became part of the lexicon, others were forgotten. As we transferred to different ships and stations the Language of the Sailor became pretty much standardized. We understood each other. Well, at least us Asia Sailors did. I cannot vouch for those LANT FLT dudes. They were always a little out of sync. And they have always been jealous of us because we had Subic.

When dealing with civilians we sometimes have difficulty communicating. Primarily because civilians are a little slow. You must remember that civilians live a sheltered life and have no idea where Subic is located or the entertainment and activities offered at the Subic City amusement park. The following glossary is to help you deal more effectively with them.

Skivvies: Civilians don’t understand this. It will not work to go to Victoria’s Secret to buy a gift your wife or girlfriend and say, “I want some of them fancy crotchless skivvies for my shack job.”

Skivvy Check: This is an inspection held by shipmates to determine who buys the next round (the dude wearing skivvies does). It is not proper to hold a skivvy check on the patrons of the lounge at the Holiday Inn while on leave.

Shack Job: Another term that civilians are unfamiliar with. You would introduce your shack job to a civilian as, “My companion, or my roommate.”

Skank: Same rules as those that apply to “Shack Job”

Skag: Same rules apply.

Bar Hog: In the civilian world female employees and patrons of bars and clubs are not referred to as Bar Hogs. They are genteel young ladies unless they are old and over the hill then they are Bar Hogs.

NOTE: The Bar Hog capitol of the world is Norfolk, Virginia, if you can believe a fucking thing those LANTFLT pussies say. In my opinion, you have to go to National City, California to meet the elite of the Bar Hog world. ENDNOTE

Bar Fine: We all know that a bar fine is a scam cooked up by the Mama-sans to separate a sailor from his money. We paid it grudgingly but willingly. In the civilian world, the proper way to meet a genteel young lady in a bar or club is to offer a seat or ask if you may buy her a libation. An improper way to start a conversation with her is, “Hey baby, I ain’t seen you here before. You still cherry? You do BJ’s? How much is your Bar Fine?”

Rug Rats, Crumb Crunchers, Curtain Climbers, Tricycle Motors, Snot Eaters, and etc.: All terms that apply to a Shack Job’s children. Probably not a good idea to use any of these terms to refer to your sister’s kids.

War Club: We all know that it means the largest container of an alcoholic beverage. Usually the cheaper the booze, the larger the bottle, in other words, War Club. When you ask a civilian clerk for a “War Club” it is not unreasonable to think that he may a bit apprehensive. The proper request is, “Gimme the largest bottle of the cheapest shit you got.” He will understand, especially if you are in uniform.

Head: Due to its use in many movies, most civilians actually know the meaning of head. They think it is “cute” when you ask for the head.

Pisser: We know that means urinal but civilians are perplexed when you remark, “You know your head would be a lot nicer if you put in a couple of pissers.”

Shitter: Again a perfectly good description of a toilet stool but your host may be a little upset when you tell him, “Boy, I wouldn’t go in there for a while. That one was really a stinker. It smelled so bad that I thought it was going to wreck your shitter.

Ass Wipe: A self-explanatory and accurate description of its primary use. Civilians refer to it as toilet tissue which opens it up for many other uses.

Happy Sock: This term is understood solely by sailors and its closest equivalents in civilian life are Bounty Towels and ass wipe. (Never ever pick up a single sock in berthing!)

Fart Sack: A big ass sack you put your mattress in.

Shit on a shingle: Any of a myriad variety of creamed of or other sauces served for breakfast, usually over toast. Civilians look upon these as generally unpalatable but then they have never been hungover, starving, and need a stick to your ribs breakfast in order to make it through the day until “Liberty Call.”

Buzzard Puke over a hockey puck: A sailor’s quaint euphemism for Creamed Tuna or Turkey Ala King over Biscuits. Not a popular civilian dish either. But again, it will get you through a hangover and on to “Liberty Call.”

Horsecock: Usually a term used to identify cold cuts. Not a proper way to order a sandwich at Subway!

Set the Special Sea and Anchoring Detail: Either a happy or a sad occasion. It depends on whether leaving or entering port. This is one where civilians think, “Oh don’t they look so cute in their sailor suits, standing up there on the ship?”

And let’s not forget “Fuckin’ A” or “Fuckin Aye” for emphasis on the positive or you bet your ass. When the subject is serious sailors often use, “Fuckin’ A Ditty bag” to convey the seriousness of the moment.

Another confusing term for civilians is “Geedunk”. This is a term used to describe the place where you buy “Pogey Bait.” If you don’t know the meaning of Pogey bait, you will probably have to ask a LANT FLT sailor, I’m not going to explain it here.

“Two Blocked” or “Tube Locked” for snipes: Meaning there ain’t no more room in this two-pound sack for another five pounds of shit.

Tell a civilian that you are going to “Hit the Rain Locker” and they will look at you with a total look of stupefaction.

Traveling around Asia, sailors have incorporated foreign words and terms into their everyday usage. Some of the following come to mind:

Itai: Japanese for “Ouch.” A sailor may use it, “Stop fucking around and get that deck finished or I am going to lay some “Itai’s” on your ass.

Beaucoup: French for much or a lot. Used by sailors of the Viet Nam area to mean “a whole fucking lot”. For example: “When we get into port I am going to drink beaucoup fucking beer.”

Mama-san: Slang Japanese term for Mother. A sailor uses it to refer to the proprietor of a bar or Skivvy House.

Skivvy House: A brothel. I always envisioned going into competition with Victoria’s Secret by opening a chain of lingerie stores called “The Skivvy House.” I figure our clientele would consist of Shack Jobs, Skanks, and Bar Hogs. Probably go over well in National City.

Damn, I almost forgot Honey-ko: The proper way of addressing your Shack Job or any other Bar Hog you meet.

I could probably go on with many more. But you get the gist. Just be thoughtful when dealing with civilians, and LANTFLT sailors. Remember they are pussies who have led a sheltered life.


To follow Tales of an Asia Sailor and get e-mail notifications of new posts, click on the three white lines in the red rectangle above, then click on the follow button.

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.


Kinki Plastics

Kinki Plastics

By Steve Hayes


Image may contain: car and outdoor

In 1981, shortly after Sterett had shifted homeport to Subic, I contacted a shipmate up in Yokosuka about used Japanese car sales.

Used cars in Japan were pretty cheap and, at the time, Com7thFlt had not raised any objections to free Op lifts from Yoko to Subic so the whole evolution was easy.

These cars were purchased sight unseen by us but we had the assurances from my friend that they were good.

After a couple of months, Blue Ridge ties up at Alava Wharf and starts to offload six or seven cars for Sterett crew members.

All I knew was mine was a 1977 Toyota Corona (like the picture). What I didn’t know was the car, apparently, a business car in Japan had “Kinki Plastics” proudly painted in large letters on each rear quarter panel.

I was never sure what type of business Kinki Plastics was in Japan but my Westpac’er tainted mind had some ideas.

The car was a hatchback. Had a section in the back for storage of things. This area could be viewed through the back windows.

Soooooooo, on a trip to Singapore, I did a little shopping and, when back in Subic, I decorated the rear section with a few Kinki Plastics toys!

As a barrio runner working out of the Irish Rose, the Kinki Plastics I had were an item of discussion. It didn’t take too long for a couple of these products to get some use among the ladies of the evening. Not to get graphic but none of these women had ever experienced the height of enjoyment a Kinky plastic could provide so Kinki Plastics, the products, and the car became well known!

I don’t believe I ever did thank that shipmate for this part of owning Kinki Plastics.

Eventually, I decided to settle down and get started on a family. Old Kinki Plastics got a paint job and the items from the rear area were gifted to some of my favorite Barrio “friends”.

(batteries included)!