Winter – 1965, We leave Japan for Vietnam…Part 2
There was a guy aboard who gave us all a laugh because it seemed everywhere we went ashore, he would get some sort of venereal disease. He had gotten the clap in Hawaii, again in Okinawa, and here it was a few days since we left Yokosuka and he had it again. Comical. He was a cook, red hair, freckles, very attractive to the ladies, and seemed he knew exactly which woman to pick to end up with the clap or syph. Each time it happened he had restricted duty and zero shore leave. In fact, he’d only gotten to go ashore in Japan for a few days before we left because he was restricted up until those last couple weeks we were there. Then he got it again there. The captain was pissed and the guy got a captains mast and lots of extra duty. Plus loss of grade. We were all chuckling at his misfortune and the weird fact that he was always with other guys when they went out looking for women, but he was the only guy who would get something, usually. Part of his punishment would be spending a few days in the brig aboard ship, a small room with bars for a door down below decks. He even said after the first time he got it, that he would never pick out a woman alone again, he wanted someone with him to help him select. That didn’t seem to do anything for him. Later he caught it again in Vietnam, then again on our second stop in the Philippines. And then again when we got back to the states months later. Each time he would get a captains mast, lots of extra duty, be confined to the ship and of course, disrespect from the rest of us, since he was a line cook who cooked for and served us. Who wants someone with the clap serving them food? Comical, but sad. It’s against orders to get a venereal disease, just like it’s against orders to get a sun burn. The military thinks of it as lack of discipline.
About this time we were half way to Nam, and doing lots of maintenance work on the entire ship to make ready for entering a war zone. I was still working on learning my job and being up topside all day was just great so the days zipped by. All that equipment like radar, navigation equipment and the like was fun to play with and I was able to learn a few things too. There were plenty of sailors my grade on board so no one had excess duty. During all that extra time off I learned to play dice and found my niche was to bet on other players rolls as a side bet. If I could get a feel for the player then I would take side bets on whether the guy would make his point or lose it. I seldom lost money.
I often had trouble waking in the morning and was always dashing around trying to get ready for muster on time. One evening, I felt very tired after a regular day. I slipped into my rack at 8 pm, while everyone else did their thing. I was asleep within seconds and started snoring (or so I was told the next day by a friend). That is an open invitation to screw with someone so a couple of goof balls did the regular stuff to me like fill my palm with shaving cream and then tickle my nose so I would spread the cream all over my face. They also dipped my hand in warm water but I kept moving it out of the bowl so I didn’t wet the bed. I slept though the whole thing so although they were amused with themselves, I never woke up to their teasing, and it kind of fell flat. (My friend made them stop when he got back from the movie and filled me in about the whole thing the next day). Anyway, next morning at muster, after sleeping 10 hours, as well as sleeping through all the noise that goes on, I was still sound asleep. None of the people that tried could wake me. When they had roll call, I was missing, so the captain sent a bos’ns mate down to get me. He tried banging nearby lockers, shouting, shaking my rack, all to no avail. No officer is allowed to physically touch you since during WWII, when it was found that soldiers that were grabbed or poked when asleep could wake up in a killing mode and before realizing what was happening grab a gun and fire at whoever had shaken them. There were many stories I had heard of people getting killed that way. So, the bos’ns mate finally did the only thing he could think of…he had one guy lift my rack up a couple inches while he unhooked the chains that held it level. Then he just dropped the whole thing with me in it while they tried to moderate my fall. When I tumbled to the floor, I finally woke up, looking up at the bos’ns mate shouting at me and still in a fog. Ended up going to a captains mast for missing muster. I had to chip the paint off of a big valve down below decks during my spare time. Then repaint it. Not much fun. I could never figure out why that one time I had needed that much sleep…