by Bill Owens SM3/c
ON TO THE FUTURE
( After punishment of being restricted to the ship in LA.)
One wonderful advantage that a sailor has when we weigh anchor and sail away is to put out of mind all the sins of the past and look forward to all the new adventures that would surely be presented in the future.
It was in this frame of mind that I left L.A. and sailed toward the unknown .
The unknown proved to be the Philippine Islands and a twenty-one day voyage without sighting land.
At fourteen knots (near 16mph) the trip was about as long a period of time as I cared to spend at sea without sight of land. It was however not without its good side. The new first class (the boss) asked me one day why I was not rated and I told him I just didn’t get along with the prior boss. He knew I had all of the required expertise plus at that time and the next thing I knew I was sitting in the division officers (ensign’s) office with an examination form in front of men. I had no difficulty with any of the questions related to the rating I was being examined for but ran into a snag when queried about things that only a bos’n mate would have knowledge.
I remember thinking well I’ve had it I guess. (incidentally prior to this period of time those before me had no such requirement such as a test but only the recommendation of the first class) My luck was running good that day because in the desk shelf above my head was a book that was titled “U.S. Navy Seamanship” I was not sure whether the book was for Ensign Sanders use or maybe left for me, but I hesitated only moments before thumbing through it to find the answers to those subjects I was unfamiliar with.
Needless to say I passed with flying colors and soon received my “Crow” as a third class Signalman. Equal at the time I think to a sergeant in the army. We were suppose to get third class out of signal school but I missed by a week getting it because the Navy changed the rules.
On the twenty first day we sighted the Philippines and dropped the hook in an assigned anchorage in at Leyte..
There is usually a story that goes with every port and this one was no exception. Now bear in mind, first we had been twenty one days at sea and second we had a group of gunners mates who were kept aboard even though they had attained their points for discharge. A lethal combination.
The Captain decided he would give the port section ( of which I was a member) liberty. All eligible hands were called to the quarter deck to await transportation.
The uniform of the day for the liberty was dress white’s. event though we were bound for some stretch of jungle beach for our R&R.
After a prolonged wait an LCM was unloaded and put in position for us to board. Provisions ( in this instance cases of beer ) were loaded aboard. Condoms were thrown down to us in the boat (for reasons unknown as it seemed there were no inhabitants in any area as far as we were able to determine.)
We cast off and headed for the beach. On our first try for a landing we hung up on a choral reef and had to back off and try another spot.
About an hour or so later we were still encountering the same problem and it was decided we would get in as close as we could and wade ashore using a human chain to unload our beer.
About fifty yards off the beach we once again were hung up on a reef but dropped the front panel and jumped out into oily water in our dress whites.
Exactly what started the next activity I don’t know but as the cases of beer were passed from one to the other up to the shoreline the last man to handle the beer took off into the jungle. Some how or other I became one of the errant gobs and before long the last case had left the beach for parts unknown under the arm of one of our shipmates.
Now some significant period of time had passed in which we had done nothing more than try to get ashore and the officer in charge passed the word that liberty was over and that all hands were to report back to the beach and wade back out to the LCM for return to the ship.
This order was ignored and we continued to penetrate the jungle pausing at a deserted army encampment to gorge ourselves on beer as fast as we could down it. By God we were going to have our liberty regardless.
Some how the officer in command was able to find a Jeep and driver and took to the road we had begun to follow trying to head off his charges and heard them back to the ship.
As we heard the sound of a motor we dashed into the jungle off the road and hid until the jeep was out of sight ahead of us and then continued our trek.
In due course I had my fill of beer the game we were playing ceased to hold my interest and I started back along with a few others who had similar inclinations .
On the beach it was back into the oily water in our ruined whites and into the LCM for our return to the ship.
Most of the occupants were pretty well oiled themselves buy this time and as we approached the ships gangplank they began jumping into the sea and swimming for the ship. Some minus any attire.
The captain was at the quarter deck by the gangplank and as the more boisterous sailors climbed aboard they were instructed to put themselves on report. Some how for once I escaped this fate and hurried to the signal bridge where I was scheduled to be on watch.
As darkness approached and many hands were still missing the Captain sent some of our smaller LCVPs to look for the men. A short time later I began to receive light messages that reported abandoned LCVPs on the beach as well as complaints from various Army commands that unruly sailors had crashed some parties (miles away) and asked to have them picked up. At the end of my watch I hit the sack and didn’t find out until the next day that one or two were still on the missing list.
The captain of course was furious and in this mood ordered all hands involved reduced in rate to 2nd class seamen.
It turned out the most flagrant violators were the men who by all rights should have been discharged by now . Through the intervention of the 1st Lt. ( a Mustang with many years of service) the men were restored to former rate and the matter dropped.
If I’m not mistaken a day or two later we boarded a contingent of sweet young things who worked for the Red Cross and hauled them to Saipan I thing for transportation home. This trip as one might guess was full of adventure for some and proved to a man that there was part of a voyeur in all of us.