Benjo Spider

Benjo Spider

By Garland Davis

Benjo Spider

Vesuvius was anchored in Sasebo. It was the early sixties and memory of the ammunition ship explosion at Port Chicago was still too fresh in Navy leadership’s mind to moor ammunition ships to the pier, consequently, these ships anchored out, usually in the remotest anchorage. One of my snipe buddies and I caught the 1900 liberty boat for the long ride to the Fleet Landing.

Besides long boat rides another detriment to liberty in those days was a thing called “Cinderella Liberty” which meant, if you didn’t catch the 2400 liberty boat from the Fleet Landing you turned into a pumpkin without a liberty card for a protracted period.

It was 2000 by the time we reached the pier giving us four hours to get drunk, laid, and back to the landing for the 2400 boat. We stopped by the club for a shot and a beer and to change our non-rate monetary pittances for Yen. With that accomplished, we were into an 80Y taxi and off to Sailor Town. A couple of large Kirin beers alongside a shot of Nikka Whisky (fine sippin’ whiskey for 50Y a shot) and we were ready for the girls.

My BT buddy goes into the head in one of the joints in which we were drinking. In the meantime, I am putting moves on one of the hostesses. This consists of showing her your dick alongside a thousand yen note. (And yes it was that cheap, back in the day.) Anyway, the BT comes back carrying the biggest goddamn spider I have ever seen in his hand. The Mama-san got a little pissed that he had caught her Benjo Spider. He ended up paying her a hundred yen for the spider. He paid another hundred for a box.

I didn’t get laid that night, but we had more fun with that fucking spider. Walk into a bar and place the box on the table. Pretty soon one of the girls would get curious and open the box. We thought it was funny as hell. Finally with the witching hour rapidly approaching, we caught an 80 yenner to the landing. He got out of the cab and tossed the box into the dumpster.

I said, ‘You should have turned the spider loose.”

He replied, “I did. I left it in that taxi.”

We laughed our asses off thinking about the passenger who discovered the spider.

We made our own fun, you know, back in the day.

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When I was 18

When I was 18

He said,

The Navy let me loose in Olongapo City and told me to be off Magsaysay Dr. by midnight. I wandered around in those bright sounds and smells of Shit River, Jeepney diesel exhaust, San Miguel Beer, and meat cooking on a stick.

It was already too late by the time liberty expired for me.

I haven’t been fit for decent society since.

 

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“BURY ME WITH SAILORS”

“BURY ME WITH SAILORS”

Author Unknown

I’ve played a lot of roles in life;

I’ve met a lot of men.

I’ve done some things I’d like to think

I wouldn’t do again.

And though I’m young, I’m old enough

to know someday I’ll die,

and to think about what lies beyond,

Beside whom I would lie.

Perhaps it doesn’t matter much;

Still, if I had my choice,

I’d want a grave, amongst Sailors when

At last, death quells my voice.

I’m sick of the hypocrisy of lectures of the wise.

I’ll take the man, with all the flaws,

Who goes though scared, and dies.

The troops I knew were commonplace

They didn’t want the war;

They fought because their Fathers and

Their Fathers had before.

They Cursed and killed and wept…

God knows they’re easy to deride…

But bury me with men like these;

They faced the guns and died.

It’s funny when you think of it,

The way we got along.

We’d come from different worlds

To live in one where no one belongs.

I didn’t even like them all;

I’m sure they’d all agree.

Yet I would give my life for them,

I know some did for me.

So bury me with Sailors, please,

Though much maligned they be.

Yes, bury me with Sailors,

for I miss their company.

We’ll not soon see their likes again;

We’ve had our fill of war.

“But bury me with men like them

Till someone else does more.”

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The story of “Bob”

The story of “Bob”…

By Brion Boyles

The Negritos are a tribe of pygmies that lived within the base perimeter of the Naval Station in the Philippines and acted as “security” along with the USMC patrols. One night, they gave the Marines a cooked bat to bring back to the Military Police HQ. My watch section worked the 1700 to 0700 patrol shift. I was on duty as MP radio dispatcher at HQ, recovering from an ankle wound. Around 0400, while everything was dead quiet, the Marines snuck up behind me at my desk and tapped me on the shoulder with the bat… still on the stick, it had been cooked on. I turned around and came face-to-face with a snarling, furry monster… teeth bared, tongue sticking out grotesquely. I about shot thru the ceiling.

We all had a little bit of it to eat… not recommended. Nonetheless, I asked if I could keep the head. It had some kind of eyelid covering over the eyes, which turned kinda greenish during cooking…sorta like glow-in-the-dark plastic. Look seriously evil.

After my shift, our patrol did what we always did, go out on the town for “Choir Practice”…. a drinking session from about 7 AM to around 10 AM at a 24 hr bar called “Slim’s”. I wrapped the head (which I had named “Bob, The Burnt BBQ Bat”) in a napkin and brought it with me… and when I got to Slim’s, sat it on the bar next to my beer. After a few beers and inquiries from the girls (“What’s THAT?”…”Oh, nothing….”), I went into the head to pee and wait. I didn’t have to wait long before the screams…

Later, I got a little worried when I was packing out my household effects to transfer back to the States. I felt SURE that Customs would snag up “Bob” and a few other morbid items I had acquired in the Philippines… so I hid the lot of them in the rattan furniture and cushions.

When I got to the States, I forgot about them and later sold the rattan furniture in a yard sale. To this day I wonder what the reaction was when some housewife or maid discovered my grisly collection…

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A Sailor’s Lament

A Sailor’s Lament

I remember standing on the foc’sle on a Morning watch weighing anchor with the smell of the North Wind whipping in from ahead and the taste of salt spray on my lips.

The feel of the ship beneath me, a living thing as her engines drive her through the sea.

The sounds of the Royal Navy, the piercing trill of the boatswain’s call, the clang of the ships bell, the harsh squawk of the main broadcast Tannoy and the strong language and laughter of sailors at work.

The warships, sleek destroyers, fussing frigates, plodding fleet auxiliaries, menacing submarines, purposeful mine hunters and steady solid carriers.

The proud names of the Royal Navy’s capitol ships, ARK ROYAL, EAGLE, LION and TIGER. The descriptive names of destroyers, DARING, BIRMINGHAM, BATTLEAXE, CAVALIER, and frigates, ACTIVE, UNDAUNTED, VIGILANT to name just a few.

The military beat of the Royal Marine Band blaring on the upper deck as we entered harbour in Procedure Alpha.

The pipe “Liberty men fall in” and the spicy scent and sights of a foreign port.

Going ashore in No 1 uniform to meet the ladies and visit the watering holes of these foreign ports.

My mates, men from all parts of the land, from city and country alike and all walks of life, I depended on them as they depended on me for professional competence, comradeship, trust, and courage, in a word we were shipmates, a band of brothers.

A loud game of Uckers in the evening with my messmates.

My shipmate slinging my Mick (hammock) (or unzipping my pit) for me coming aboard after a run ashore, knowing that I would do the same for him.

The surge of adventure in my heart when the calls of “Special Sea Dutymen close up” or “Away seaboats crew” were piped.

The absolute joy of hearing the call “Up Spirits” in anticipation of your daily tot of rum.

The sudden adrenalin rush when the “Action Stations” alarm blared, followed by the clamour of running feet on ladders and the resounding thump of watertight doors and hatches being shut as the ship transformed herself from a peaceful home to a deadly weapon of war ready for anything.

The atmosphere of the ship in the darkness of night, the dim red glow of the nightlights and the navigation lights. Standing on the quarterdeck as “Lifebuoy Ghost” (sentry) watching the sparkling phosphorescence from the screws as they constantly pushed tons of water astern of the ship, carrying us to our next destination.

The “Watch on Deck” on a balmy tropical night in the South China sea watching the glorious sunset and flying fish gliding for amazing distances across the surface of the sea, with some landing inboard.

Drifting off to sleep in a hammock (or bunk), lulled by the myriad of noises large and small that told me that my ship is alive and well and that my shipmates were on watch and keeping me safe.

The aroma from the galley during the Morning Watch. Cheesy, Hammy, Eggy, Train Smash, Sh*t on a Raft and Figgy Duff.

The wholesome taste of kai (very thick cocoa) during the middle watch on a cold, dark winters night.

The sound of the bow slicing through the mirror calm of the sea and the frolicking of dolphins as they darted in and out of the bow wave.

Watching the ships wake disappearing back towards the horizon knowing that it will be gone in a short time and being aware of the fact that we were not the first or will not be the last to leave our mark on the water.

The state of the art equipment and the orange glow of radar screens manned by young men in anti-flash gear using sound powered phones that their grandfathers would still recognize.

The infectious feeling of excitement as we returned home again, the hugs and kisses of welcome from sweethearts, family, and friends.

The work was hard and dangerous, the going rough at times, the parting from loved ones painful but the robust Royal Navy comradeship, the all for one and one for all philosophy of the sea was ever present.

The traditions of the Royal Navy and the men who made them and the heroism of the men who sailed in the ships of yesteryear.

Now that I am home I still remember with fondness and respect the sea in all its moods from the shimmering mirror calm of the tropics to the storm-tossed waters of the North Atlantic, the bright colours of the White Ensign snapping at the yardarm, the sound of hearty laughter.

I am ashore for good now and grow wistful about my Royal Navy days when I was young and a new adventure was ever over the horizon.

Stamped on my brain is my Official Number and an anchor where my heart is.

Numbers will never be the same again:

Uniforms: Number 1s 2s 3s 8s 10s 10As

Punishments: Number 9s, 14s

Even as times change and young matelots take over from old seadogs, some things will never change.

The old days were always harder.

The recruits always looked younger.

Official Numbers were always smaller.

The waves were always bigger.

The girls were as good looking in Pompey (Portsmouth) as they were in Guzz (Devonport).

Your last ship was always the best.

If I haven’t been there, it doesn’t exist – or we blew it off the map.

Only a sailor knows, I was a sailor once and I know.

I look back and realize it was not just a job, it was a way of life. A life where shipmates were a family never to be forgotten.

I was part of the Royal Navy and the Royal Navy will always be part of me.

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USS Cole October 12, 2000

USS Cole October 12, 2000

By Garland Davis

On the morning of Thursday, 12 October 2000, USS Cole, under the command of Commander Kirk Lippold, docked in Aden harbor for a routine fuel stop. Cole completed mooring at 9:30; and began refueling at 10:30. Around 11:18 local time (08:18 UTC), a small fiberglass boat carrying C4 explosives and two suicide bombers approached the port side of the destroyer and exploded, creating a 40-by-60-foot (12 by 18 m) gash in the ship’s port side, according to the memorial plate to those who lost their lives. Former CIA intelligence officer Robert Finke said the blast appeared to be caused by C4 explosives molded into a shaped charge against the hull of the boat.[3] Around 400 to 700 pounds (180 to 320 kg) of explosives were used.[4] Much of the blast entered a mechanical space below the ship’s galley, violently pushing up the deck, thereby killing crew members who were lining up for lunch. The crew fought flooding in the engineering spaces and had the damage under control after three days. Divers inspected the hull and determined that the keel was not damaged.

Seventeen sailors were killed and 39 were injured in the blast. The injured were taken to the United States Army’s Landstuhl Regional Medical Center near Ramstein, Germany, before being sent to the United States. The attack was the deadliest against a U.S. naval vessel since the Iraqi attack on USS Stark on 17 May 1987. The asymmetric warfare attack was organized and directed by the terrorist organization al-Qaeda. In June 2001, an al-Qaeda recruitment video featuring Osama bin Laden boasted about the attack and encouraged similar attacks.

Al-Qaeda had previously attempted a similar but less publicized attack on the U.S. Navy destroyer USS The Sullivans while in port at Aden on 3 January 2000, as a part of the 2000 millennium attack plots. The plan was to load a boat full of explosives and explode it near The Sullivans. However, the boat was so overladen that it sank, forcing the attack to be abandoned. Planning for the attack was discussed at the Kuala Lumpur al-Qaeda Summit shortly after the attempt, which was held from 5 to 8 January 2000. Along with other plotters, it was attended by future 11 September hijacker Khalid al-Mihdhar, who then traveled to San Diego, California. On 10 June 2000, Mihdhar left San Diego to visit his wife in Yemen at a house also used as a communications hub for al-Qaeda. After the bombing, Yemeni Prime Minister Abdul Karim al-Iryani reported that Mihdhar had been one of the key planners of the attack and had been in the country at the time of the attacks. He would later return to the United States to participate in 9/11 on American Airlines Flight 77, which flew into the Pentagon, killing 184 victims.

The first naval ship on the scene to assist the stricken Cole was the Royal Navy Type 23 frigate, HMS Marlborough, under the command of Captain Anthony Rix. She was on passage to the UK after a six-month deployment in the Gulf. Marlborough had full medical and damage control teams on board and when her offer of assistance was accepted she immediately diverted to Aden. Eleven of the most badly injured sailors were sent via MEDEVAC to a French military hospital in Djibouti and underwent surgery before being sent to Germany.

The first U.S. military support to arrive was a U.S. Air Force Security Forces Quick Reaction Force from the 363d Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, 363d Air Expeditionary Wing, based in Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia, transported by C-130 aircraft. They were followed by another small group of United States Marines from the Interim Marine Corps Security Force Company, Bahrain flown in by P-3 Orion aircraft. Both forces landed within a few hours after the ship was struck and were reinforced by a U.S Marine platoon with the 1st Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team Company (FAST), based out of Norfolk, Virginia. The Marines from 6th Platoon, 1st FAST arrived on the 13 October from Norfolk, Virginia. The FAST platoon and security forces airmen secured USS Cole and a nearby hotel that was housing the U.S. Ambassador to Yemen.

USS Donald Cook and USS Hawes made best speed to arrive in the vicinity of Aden that afternoon providing repair and logistical support. USNS Catawba, USS Camden, Anchorage, Duluth, and Tarawa arrived in Aden some days later, providing watch relief crews, harbor security, damage control equipment, billeting, and food service for the crew of Cole. LCU 1666 provided daily runs from Tarawa with hot food and supplies and ferrying personnel to and from all other naval vessels supporting Cole. In the remaining days, LCU 1632 and various personnel from LCU 1666 teamed up to patrol around Cole while MV Blue Marlin was preparing to take up station to receive Cole.

Victims[edit]

17 Sailors were killed and 39 others wounded in the al-Qaeda attack on USS Cole.

Those killed in the attack:

  • Hull Maintenance Technician 2nd Class Kenneth Eugene Clodfelter, 21, of Mechanicsville, Virginia
  • Chief Electronics Technician Richard Costelow, 35, of Morrisville, Pennsylvania
  • Mess Management Specialist Seaman Lakeina Monique Francis, 19, of Woodleaf, North Carolina
  • Information Systems Technician Seaman Timothy Lee Gauna, 21, of Rice, Texas
  • Signalman Seaman Cherone Louis Gunn, 22, from Virginia Beach, Virginia
  • Seaman James Rodrick McDaniels, 19, of Norfolk, Virginia
  • Engineman 2nd Class Marc Ian Nieto, 24, of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin
  • Electronics Warfare Technician 2nd Class Ronald Scott Owens, 24, of Vero Beach, Florida
  • Seaman Lakiba Nicole Palmer, 22, of San Diego, California
  • Fireman Joshua Langdon Parlett, 19, of Churchville, Maryland
  • Fireman Patrick Howard Roy, 19, from Keedysville, Maryland
  • Electronic Warfare Technician 1st Class Kevin Shawn Rux, 30, of Portland, North Dakota
  • Mess Management Specialist 3rd Class Ronchester Manangan Santiago, 22, of Kingsville, Texas
  • Operations Specialist 2nd Class Timothy Lamont Saunders, 32, of Ringgold, Virginia
  • Fireman Gary Graham Swenchonis Jr., 26, from Rockport, Texas
  • Ensign Andrew Triplett, 31, of Macon, Mississippi
  • Seaman Craig Bryan Wibberley, 19, of Williamsport, Maryland

Medical care of the wounded was assigned to CDR Thomas Preston Davis of Naval Medical Center Portsmouth.

Memorial

A wreath laid by the crew of USS Cole at the Norfolk Naval Station memorial, Oct. 12, 2011.

A memorial to the victims of the attack was dedicated at Norfolk Naval Station in Virginia on 12 October 2001. It was erected along the shore of Willoughby Bay and overlooks the channel used by Navy ships transiting to sea. Seventeen low-level markers stand for the youthfulness of the sailors, whose lives were cut short. Three tall granite monoliths, each bearing brass plaques, stand for the three colors of the American flag. A set of brown markers encircling the memorial symbolize the darkness and despair that overcame the ship. In addition, 28 black pine trees were planted to represent the 17 sailors and the 11 children they left behind.

The memorial was funded by contributions from thousands of private individuals and businesses to the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, which gave the memorial to the Navy. Its design originated as a vision of USS Cole crew members, who then teamed with Navy architects and the Society to finalize the project.] The Cole memorial is located about 500 feet (150 m) west of the Naval Station memorial for the USS Iowa turret explosion. There is also another memorial marker placed at Wisconsin Square in the city of Norfolk, near USS Wisconsin.

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