BLT 3/5 as a SLF aboard LPH-5 USS Princeton (‘Nam 1966)
It was sometime in mid-1966, somewhere off the Vietnam coast, we were returning to our ship after a search and destroy operation. As I stepped onto the deck, and knowing most of the deck crew from my helicopter guard duty while on the ship, I could see the startled expression on a swabbie’s face.
Not knowing if it was the aroma from fifteen days of sweat, gunpowder, insect repellent and rice paddy mud or the unshaven face, I just grinned. Recognizing me, he said “Hey Jarhead, what did you do, scare ’em to death?” I replied “Yeah, VC number ten.” He then said “I’ve got the latest scuttlebutt.” I replied dryly “What’s that, some chicken shit inspection?” He laughed and said “No, we’re floating back to Subic to confuse enemy observers for a few days and having liberty call instead of training.”
Ski, our wireman, said he knew the perfect place for us to go and unwind.
As we entered the Philippine waters we floated by the USS Enterprise and it felt like we were on a tug boat. Soon as the ship docked, “Cinderella Liberty” was sounded and five of us headed directly to the best off-limits, restricted slop chute in the Olongapo City’s wild side.
After a few boisterous hours of flowing booze, a classic, all-out brawl started. Broken bottles, tables, chairs, fists an bodies flying, Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children, the squid sea going bellhops, some mean local patrons and everyone else . . . I felt like it was an episode of ”McHales Navy.”
So I said to myself “Self . . . What stupid? . . . this is getting risky, and that naive, prick sergeant (personalities clash from day one, I had one he didn’t) would love to see me get office hours,” so out the back door I went and somehow made it back to the ship on time.
Once on board, I waited by the gang plank for Ski and the rest of the group who returned in a Shore Patrol paddy wagon. After taking some ribbing for leaving the festivities early, I just said I’m planning on keeping my remaining supply of odds against danger for the combat zone.
No bullshit GI.
A. L. SYOR
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