What does “Bravo Zulu” mean and what’s the origin of that term?!
ANSWER: In the Navy, if you did good work, you may have heard the term “Bravo Zulu,” which means “well done.
The term BRAVO ZULU originated from the Allied Tactical Publication ATP 1, an Allied military maritime tactical signals publication, which in the aggregate is For Official Use Only, and can also be found in Multinational Maritime Tactical Publication 2
Signals are sent as letters and/or numbers, which have meanings by themselves sometimes or in certain combinations.
A single table in ATP 1 is called ‘governing groups,’ that is, the entire signal that follows the governing group is to be performed according to the ‘governor.’ The letter ‘B’ indicates this table, and the second letter, A through Z, gives more specific information.
For example, ‘BA’ might mean ‘You have permission to . . .’ do whatever the rest of the flashing light, flag hoist or radio transmission says.
‘BZ’ happens to be the last item of the governing groups table and it means ‘well done’.”
“Bravo Zulu” is also defined by the Allied Naval Signal Book, an international naval signal code adopted after the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was created during 1949.
Until then, each Navy in NATO had used its own separate signal code and operational manuals.
World War II experience had shown that it was difficult or impossible for ships of different navies to operate together unless they could communicate readily and the implementation of ACP 175 was designed to remedy this.
In 1908, 500,000 Aussies turned out to welcome the arrival of the Great White Fleet to Sydney. The reception was so warm that hundreds of sailors went on unauthorized absence so that they could further enjoy the hospitality of the Aussies. When the fleet left, USS Kansas had to stay behind for several extra days to round up the stragglers, offering a $10 bounty on every sailor returned.
I was Watch Captain in the Galley. BT2 stopped by after lunch and asked, “Hey dude, what are you doing this afternoon? The Chief cut me loose for the day. I know you get relieved in a little while. I saw the other CS2 a few minutes ago.”
“I don’t know. Thought maybe I would run by the exchange and then park my truck at the P.O. Club, have a few in the Asshole Locker and then grab a cab for the Honch.” I answered as I finished making notations on the daily Galley Worksheet.
“The exchange? I need a favor. You see, I promised Junko that I would get one of those small refrigerators that the exchange has on sale. Can I go with you and use your truck to carry the reefer to her place on Chuo Hill?”
Junko was his current girlfriend. He had recently set up housekeeping with her. She was a cashier at the Commissary Store. I didn’t think the relationship was tenable for very long. Junko seemed to be pissed at the Snipe most of the time. But then, BT2 had that endearing quality that usually caused women to ask, “What the fuck am I doing with this asshole?”
I agreed to take him to buy the reefer and take it to her place.
After my relief and I went through the galley turnover routine, BT2 hung around the cooks berthing while I showered and got into my dress canvas.
NOTE: These events happened in the days before civilian clothing was permitted aboard Navy ships. Most sailors kept civvies in a locker club and changed there after leaving and before returning to the ship. END NOTE
We left the ship and went to the exchange where he bought his refrigerator while I made my purchases. We loaded the reefer in my Datsun pickup, covered it with a tarp I kept in back, tied it securely and started for the gate.
BT2 said, “How about stopping at the Club so I can get a case of cold beer to put in my new reefer. I’ll buy you a couple!”
We did that. Had a couple, bought a case of cold Oly’s and headed for Chuo Hill where I helped him carry the stuff into the apartment. Actually, the reefer was small enough that he carried it after we unpacked it. I carried the case of beer. He plugged it in and assured himself that it was cooling. He opened the case of beer, grabbed an opener popped a couple and began to stock beer in the reefer.
After I finished my beer, I left him there and headed for the club for a few and then a run out to the Honch to see Sumiko. I wouldn’t stay over tonight. I promised the Chief that I would help him go through the books to get ready for the supply inspection next month.
The next time I saw BT2 was after I was awakened by the Messenger of the Watch at 0400 and told that the OOD needed me on the Quarterdeck. I got up, dressed, and went topside to the quarterdeck where I found the BT and his refrigerator.
The Chief standing OOD said, “Dave. The Shore Patrol brought him back. Just a ride, no charges, but he has this refrigerator, half full of beer, and I can’t let him bring it aboard. He insisted that I call you to put it in your truck. Can you do that?”
“Yeah. Come on asshole, you cause me to lose sleep, you can carry your fucking reefer to the truck!”
He sheepishly hefted the reefer and carried it down the pier to the truck where we secured it under the tarp and headed back to the ship for coffee. There was no sense in going back to bed at this late hour.
This is how I pieced together the events that transpired after I left him at the apartment and terminated by him storing his reefer in my truck:
While we were having coffee, I asked, “What the fuck happened? Why are you here with the refrigerator?”
“Well, it’s like this. After you left, I decided the reefer would be better out in the apartment instead of in the kitchen, so I didn’t have to walk far for beer. I had to move some stuff to make room close enough to the plug. When Junko got home, she got pissed because I had fucked up some of her stuff. She told me to leave. So, fuck her, I took my reefer and my beer and left. I caught a cab. He was kinda pissed because I wanted to put the reefer in his trunk, but I gave him a couple of hundred extra yen. I remembered that there was a electric plug in the alley beside the Club Alliance. I had him take me there. I plugged the reefer in, sat down with my back against the wall and proceeded to drink some beer.”
A BM acquaintance told me the rest of the story. He was night dispatcher at Shore Patrol Headquarters. It was a slow boring night. He was looking across the street toward the Club Alliance when he saw a light flash in the alley alongside the club. He didn’t give it any thought until he saw it twice more. Curious, he called for a unit to check out the alley.
There they found BT2 with his reefer and a pile of empty cans. It seemed that the dispatcher was seeing the reefer light each time BT2 opened the door to get another Oly.
BT2 reconciled with Junko but she did eventually threw his ass out for good. She kept the reefer!
This episode finds me in Japan heading to Korea with my Great Shipmate Willy.
We were being sent there by the CAPT to get, of all things, Cruise Jackets for the sons of crew members.
We were in the train station near Sasebo. Sitting in a restaurant on the second floor of the station looking down, I spied a public toilet which reminded ne that I really needed to go.
The need for the facilities became stronger as I went down the stairs. the first mistake I made was to rush into the ladies toilet and scare the shit out of the women in there. I quickly backed out of there throwing “Gomenasai’s” left and right.
I rapidly corrected myself, the pressure in my bowels becoming stronger, and ran, like a sprinter going for the gold, into into the men’s room. As I was preparing to drop trou, I noticed that there was no toilet paper.
There is a box mounted on the bulkhead by the doors to the toilets. I could see it cost 80 Yen to get paper from the dispenser. I didn’t have 80 fucking Yen. I was on the verge of shitting myself because I was short a damned copper looking 10 Yen coin.
Willy is looking down at me from the restaurant. I mimic holding coins up and he gives me a positive head shake . By this time I’m drawing a crowd . I’m getting desperate and run topside to get change from him.
I run back down and do a fucking tap dance trying to not shit myself. The crowd has grown to about 50 and the big smiles only increased my anxiety that I might not smell so good if I didn’t take care of business. Fumbling, I insert the coins and twist the knob and out slides a pack of tampons .
Giggling and outright laughter are coming from the Locals. They are really into it by now. I’m panic stricken . Look topside and Willy is holding up the napkin dispenser.
HELL YES AND DAMN RIGHT I THINK .
I scorched the stairs to grab the stack of napkins and barely made it in time . The JAPANESE gave me a standing ovation with big smiles and hand clapping. It seems I was the star of the show!
This is just one of the many awkward incidents in the life of a Westpac sailor and one of the many times a SHIPMATE has been there for me.
He was from a small town called Flop in a Great Plains midwestern state.
The town was built on top of a hill and was one of the highest places in the state. The townspeople billed the town as 1,200 feet above sea level although it was only a few feet above the surrounding prairie.
The founder of the town had been bound for Oregon with trade goods when his wagon fell apart after climbing a slight slope to the dizzying heights.
Since he couldn’t continue his migration, he decided to settle there. He knew the winter would be harsh and he must build a shelter but the only materials available were dried grass and thousands of dried Buffalo Flops. Desperate, he built something that looked like an igloo using the flops. He called it the Flop House.
During the fall and spring, he traded some of his goods to some Indians for buffalo skins. He was afraid not to. He thought that they might scalp him otherwise. In the spring a troop of buffalo hunters came through and bought his skins for more gold than he dreamed they were worth.
He rode one of his horses back to civilization, bought a wagon, trade goods, and went back to the Flop House and set up a trading post. He also hired a couple of boys to hunt buffalo and found himself in the trading and skin business.
Over the years lumber and building materials were brought in and a town grew there on the hill. In homage to the stuff that saved his life that first year, he named the town Buffalo Flop. He built a building which contained his living quarters, a trading post, a saloon, a few rooms to rent, and a whorehouse. Of course, he called it the Flop House. It was said that he kept a dried flop beside his bed because he couldn’t sleep without the smell of buffalo shit.
Somewhere long after he was gone and his descendants ran the Flophouse as a General Store, Saloon, and two ladies plied (we don’t say that in polite company) another enterprise from the two rooms in back. Th grandchildren also operated a buffalo ranch on the prairie surrounded by cornfields.
A few years ago, to make the name sound more respectable, the town elite proposed they change its name to Buffalo. Another faction wanted to call the town something else because there were already a few towns named Buffalo. A third faction, comprised mostly of Oldtimers, wanted to leave the name as Buffalo Flop.
After much discussion, arguments, acrimony, and one gunfight they settled on Flop as the new name although it took six years to get the U.S. Postal Department to recognize the name change and almost a decade to get Rand McNally to list it as Flop instead of Buffalo Flop in their maps and atlases.
By 1960 the town population was a little over 600 and was pretty static. As soon as the youngsters gained adulthood, they left for greener pastures. There wasn’t much of a future in Flop.
Our hero from Flop enlisted in the Navy and was sent to San Diego for boot camp and afterward ordered back to the Midwest to attend Boiler Technician School at Great Lakes.
From BT School our BTFN was ordered to an old WWII destroyer homeported in Japan. He spent the next six years rotating to two other ships there and eventually attained the rank of Petty Officer Second Class. BT2.
Finally in 1978, his ship changed homeports to Long Beach, CA. He immediately started scheming to get back to the Western Pacific. In the meantime, he decided to visit his older sister, who had raised him after his Mama died. He took the train into a large midwestern city and caught the Greyhound into Flop.
The Vietnam War was raging, and the town leaders jumped on the fact that he had fought in the war, albeit from a gun platform off the coast. He was the closest thing to a war hero that flop had ever had. He had sent his sister copies of his certificates for the Vietnam Service Medal and the Combat Action Award, and the town council declared him a bonafide hero and voted to award him $100 to help pay for his vacation.
BT2 played the hero, took their hundred bucks, and as darkness fell, repaired to the Flophouse saloon for a few cold ones and to see if there was any action to be had.
The townsfolk were not shocked that he went to have a few drinks. Men did that.
They weren’t shocked that he sampled the wares of one of the ladies. Single men and some married men did that.
But… The town women were scandalized by the perversion and the town men were walking around with half a chub imagining doing it themselves.
BT2 took BOTH of the whores to bed at the same time…
We had served in two previous ships together, both homeported in Japan. The second one had just rotated back to the states and was to undergo overhaul and then be homeported in Long Beach. We were lucky enough to arrange duty swaps with crewmembers of a ship that would be rotating to Japan in about three months. In the meantime, we tried to make the best of Long Beach, but it just wasn’t Westpac.
BT2 and I had made First Class together. He had lost it after five days in after a Hong Kong peccadillo. (I can hear him now, saying, “There, that’s what’s wrong with you always using them big fucking high school words that only them college educated assholes in the wardroom know!”) But I have already told the story of Hong Kong…
We left the ship at liberty call and headed for a joint on the Pike where we sometimes trolled for female companionship. We had both been lucky at the endeavor there from time to time.
We were embroiled in an argument that was long running. BT2 was saying, “Goddammit, you are a fucking Navy Stewburner, not a wardroom puke. Why do you read them, fucking high brow books and use them big words? You ain’t Cary Grant. Swave and Deboner ain’t gonna get you any more pussy than a pocketful of green. You been in Westpac long enough to know that.”
I always replied, “What works in Westpac doesn’t fly with round eyes. You have to use a little more circumspection.”
“What the fuck does circumcision have to do with it. Fuck the round eyes. There are enough P.I. LBFM Westpac widows around that half the time you think you are in Olongapo. If we had a few jeepneys and some San Miguel, we wouldn’t even know we were in Long Beach.
We entered the joint and bellied up to the bar, ordered a couple of Lucky Lagers and looked around at the talent. A striking blonde, sitting alone at the bar caught my attention. I said to BT2, “You’re on your own Shipmate. Well, here goes nothing.”
I moved down and asked if the stool to her right was being used. She looked me over and said, “Please, I am Kate, but everyone calls me Kat.”
I sat and introduced myself and asked, “Kat because you purr or because you have claws?”
She laughed but didn’t say anything. We talked, laughed, and drank for about an hour before BT2 suddenly showed up on the stool to her left. I reluctantly introduced them. If you can move away from someone while sitting on a stool anchored to the floor, I do believe she managed to widen the space between her and the Snipe.
She had slipped her shoes off and left them on the shelf that served as a foot rail. After a time, she, walking in her stocking feet, and I went to the juke box to play some music.
Shortly after we resumed our position at the bar, she said, “I have to go to the ladies room.”
Soddenly she turned and said, “You despicable Son of a Bitch,” and punched me in the left eye and carrying her shoes went into the ladies room and a few minutes, still in her stocking feet and carrying a pair of obviously wet shoes stormed out of the place.
BT2 said, “I’m just looking out for you Shipmate!”
The Asshole had pissed in her right shoe, the one on my side, while we were at the juke box.
We had been in the Indian Ocean for over sixty days when a helicopter from the supply ship dropped a pallet of beer on the flight deck. Many of us were hoping for the high Alcohol By Volume percentage of Australian beer that rumor had it was sometimes provided but what we got was Bud Light or as some called it Butt Wipe. But what the hell. Beer is beer.
Shortly afterward, the Supply Officer came to me and told me to plan on a ‘Steel Beach Beer Day’ on Sunday. He asked me to prepare a menu and be prepared to present it to the XO the next morning. I knew the XO would want Steak and Lobster. My argument for hamburgers and hot dogs would be that we just can’t afford Steak and Lobster. Pretty sure the Supply Officer would walk the tightrope and not really support either side. But I did win and get my way. You can’t spend money you don’t have.
It was a busy couple of days in the galley, preparing potato salad and other cookout dishes and baking all the extra hamburger and hot dog buns that would be needed while still serving the scheduled meals
When ‘Beer Day’ arrived the Boatswain’s Mates got the two grills broke out and set up while a couple of my mess cooks carried charcoal, paper plates, and other items to the flight deck.
We lighted the charcoal at 1000. The cookout would run from 1100 until 1700. The Chief Master at Arms and his minions carried, iced down, and guarded the beer ready for the 1100 start time. The previous day each crew member had been issued a chit which he could exchange for two opened cans of beer. At the time he received it, his right hand would be marked with indelible marker. The CMAA was determined that no one would get more than two beers on his watch.
Once the topsiders, putting on a suck show for the XO, took over the grilling duties, I got in line for my two beers. BT1 was a couple of places ahead of me.
He received his two cans and waited until I got mine. We walked away from the crowd. As I took a hit on one of my beers, he was standing there looking from one hand to the other.
“Something wrong?” I asked.
He said, “Chief Dave I am trying to decide on whether to sip these and enjoy them or slam ’em for maximum effect!”
The safety and security of the world, more often than not, relies upon an innocuous little bean we all know and love. Well, we call it a bean. It is actually the seed from the fruit of the flowering plants Coffea Arabica or Coffea Canephora.
An American Airman on his 89th day of duty in a missile silo located somewhere in North Dakota found a 20lb tin of coffee dated 1952 after they all thought they had run out.
A Submarine cook in a diesel boat moving in for one last attack on transports bound for Tokyo before returning to Pearl Harbor, opening the last tin of the stuff dated 1945.
An engineer Hole Snipe stole a tin dated 1960 and cut the impossible to remove top off with a grinder to make a fresh pot of ‘Black Gang’ coffee to keep the watch alert and the steam plant running like a well-oiled machine disguised as a hellish nightmare.
And do not forget the Marine Devil Dogs who carted the same tins ashore at Guadalcanal, Tarawa, and Inchon and across other battlefields, wiped the blood and mud off their John Wayne’s to free the fresh grounds and boil them in water strained through a mostly clean sock.
And remember the soldiers who spent hours, days, and weeks in the same sandy pits or mudholes, in Godforsaken shitholes around the world, pouring grounds or instant powder into their mouths and trying to work up enough saliva to swallow.
The sky is protected, the sea lanes are open, our freedoms are preserved, and our enemies defeated, all aided and abetted by a little, bitter, often burned, tiny seed.