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Marine Fishing on Guard Duty?
Submitted by Cpl. Bill Hart, USMC.
ANGLICO, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, 2nd Mar. Div., 1953-56
This does not begin with ‘This is no shit…’ so it’s not a sea-story, it happened.
In late February 1954 I was a young Marine on my first deployment and aboard USS Olmsted, APA 188. We’d tied up for 4 days in San Juan, PR, before continuing to Vieques for a couple of months of living in squad tents, field problems, live-fire exercises and liberty in picturesque Isabela Segunda. On our first day in port I caught guard duty. It was my 18th birthday and my 365th day in the Corps. The post that I was assigned to, from 2000 to 2400, was the fantail of the ship and I was wearing typical guard uniform; utilities, steel helmet, cartridge belt with attached bayonet and my M-1 rifle. Most of the Marines and ship’s company, except for watch-standers, had gone ashore on liberty, so it was a quiet night on deck. The only other person I’d seen aboard was a guy fishing about 20 feet or so away. I’d been on watch for a little over an hour when the guy walked over to me.
As he approached I noticed that he was wearing khaki and I figured that he was either a chief or an officer. As it turned out he was a lieutenant (jg) and a Chaplain, and he said to me, “Marine, I have to go make a head call. Hold this and I’ll be back in a few minutes.” And he handed me his casting rod, line still in the water, and walked off forward, leaving me there with my mouth hanging open and a dumb expression on my face. I about crapped in my skivvies!
It had happened so quickly that I hadn’t had time to think, plus, he was an OFFICER and even junior Marines know that a ‘No’ to any officer’s order is not a proper response. Some time later I came to realize that the jg probably had less time in the Navy than I had in the Corps and he didn’t know any better than to interfere with a guard standing his post, but that knowledge, even if I’d had it then, would have come much too late.
Having been entrusted with this post, I knew that my responsibility lay in maintaining order in the immediate vicinity and in repelling from this fine attack-transport any hostiles who might attempt shinnying up the hawse lines to get at the 5 inch 38, or maybe even commandeer the ship. I knew this, but, of course, what even a casual observer would see was a Marine wearing a steel helmet and with a rifle slung on his shoulder, fishing?
Time dragged! Where the hell was that jackass jg? It got to the point where I could almost hear the footsteps of the Sergeant of the Guard stomping up the ladder from the galley to check me at my post. I was sweating bullets. What I thought was ‘…reduction in rank and loss of pay and allowances’, ‘…captain’s mast’, ‘…restriction’. I saw myselfa lowly E-2, who’d never make E-3, who’d just been snookered on his 18th birthday by a dumb-assed jgspending the rest of the night in the damned brig!
Anyway, the Chaplain got back, retrieved his rod and continued fishing. That was the longest 10 minutes I’ve ever endured. And after the fear of being caught on guard duty holding a fishing rod departed, anger set in. I thought about what a pain in the butt it was hearing, ‘Now hear this! Sweepers, man your brooms! Sweep down all decks, ladders and…’ piped over the 1MC a couple of times each day and I thought about us Marines getting soaked with salt-water by the deck crew hosing the decks and hatch-covers. I hoped for some drunken sailor to come back off of liberty and cause a ruckus on my post just so I could give that deck-ape a vertical butt-stroke right in the jewels!
Well, no drunken swabbies came by either, so I amused myself by watching the jg fish and picturing in my mind how nice he’d look floating face down off the fantail, snarled up in about 50 yards of 25 pound-test mono-filament. I even considered helping him over the side.