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Liberty with Best Intentions

by Pat Dingle

Sailors almost always go shore on liberty with the best of intentions. I know I always did. Yet once ashore in foreign lands, something always seem to come up that turns your teenage plan upside down. I know it did it to me nearly every time but not to the extreme of this liberty in the Philippines...                                                    
During the Yorktown's second 1966 tour in Vietnam, OI (Operations Intelligence) division shipmate Bob Schnaufer introduced me to the wonders of skin diving in Subic Bay during one liberty. The day before we had concluded that we have contributed enough to the rumors and legends of salty sailors ashore during this five day port call. It's time for something new. So, upon hitting the beach we made our way to the recreation center on base where one could buy or rent all kinds of wholesome gear for our entertainment. We paid the few bucks for swim masks, swim flippers. snorkels, swimsuits and made our way down to the beach. Bob showed me how to use all this stuff and into the water we waded. Soon I was floating on my stomach face in the water viewing fish and only sucking seawater down the snorkel now and then. To a nineteen year old from the Nevada desert this was the greatest thrill I could have imagined. I know how I'm going to spend all the remaining liberties during my four year hitch. When Bob talked my waterlogged body out of the water that day I bought all the skin-diving items to take with me to other ports of call. The Yorktown left Subic that night for the Gulf of Tonkin with a sailor aboard with hands and feet looking like prunes thinking maybe there is something to this alternative lifestyle ashore. I fell asleep in my rack dreaming of what I'll be doing during our next port call, wherever that may be.
Some six or seven weeks later we received word in the Combat Information Center (CIC) that our next port call will be an island in the southern Philippines called Cebu, a place the Yorktown had never been before for liberty. In fact only one US Navy warship a year visits on a certain date to help celebrate the liberation from the Japanese Army in March 1945 when combined Filipino and American forces landed and reoccupied the island. The USS Yorktown will be the first aircraft carrier since World War Two. I pored over the info and maps to learn all I could, looking for clear waters to snorkel in. I found this is going to be a very interesting port to visit. The Japanese Army established a base there when soldiers landed in June 1942. They were resisted by guerrillas groups from day one, Cebu is the oldest city in the Philippines, communist guerrillas called Huks are very active today and the Yorktown will have only 24 hours there. I've got to go ashore with the first liberty boat on day one and as a seaman with two years seniority in OI div., I got it on. Now I really studied the maps available in CIC and accordingly, soon had my plan. Just south of the dock area there was a road leading out of the city only about a map inch from the shoreline of the bay. Can't be too difficult to walk a ways out of the city and then just cut over to the water. I was going alone as I often do as my shipmates had other plans that didn't involve my new found wholesome recreation, the heathens.
A week later the Yorktown dropped anchor far out in the bay early one morning and shortly I was among the first in line at 0800 to go down the sea ladder to one of our liberty boats. I was dressed in summer whites and carried all my snorkeling equipment in my dirty laundry bag, having earlier stuffed what had been in there under my mattress. I studied the southern shoreline on the way into the beach knowing I'd soon be somewhere along there snorkeling to my hearts content. This is going to be a great liberty as I've got all day, don't have to be back aboard until 1700 hours. A man with a plan. Approaching the docks I noticed the similarities to many other small boat docks in West-Pac, rough looking men staring as they go about their work, dilapidated docks, small fishing, cargo boats tied up two, three deep and the unmistakable smells and sounds of busy wharfs. Our boatswain mates brought us against a landing dock with the professionalism one expects of great seaman. We clamored out and up the sea stairs, it was low tide, to topside and mingled a bit as everyone was trying to decide which way to go. Everyone but me, I lit out to the left, having studied a map and had a plan. I walked along the warehouse fronts a ways, ignoring the usual negative stares, until I found an alley leading into the city. The first narrow street was packed with small shops offering fish, cafes and bars and the sign I was looking for. I have never gone hungry or thirsty anywhere in the world I've been, just look for a coke sign out front, world traveler 101.
I had gotten only a block or two from the docks when I began to experience something I had only read about in books. People were smiling, waving at me and calling out "Hi Joe". I had not had the pleasure of being so welcomed before outside of an empty cat house. I was taken aback but quickly responded by waiving back with a big smile. Soon the greetings changed to "Hi Joe, what's in the bag, something for sale"?. Guys riding small motorcycles would pull up alongside me asking that more often then regular citizens walking around but some did. Other motorist would honk and waive and I returned every one. I figured out it must be because of the WW2 liberation celebrations that these folks really like Americans. The guys asking about my laundry bag got a less friendly greeting back and I'd just keep on walking. At 6' 1" I wasn't concerned about anyone trying to take the bag away from me and spoil my wholesome liberty ashore snorkeling. I had the best of intentions for a change. I kept walking until I came across a wide, paved road heading in the direction I wanted to go. Now there were fewer pedestrians but the good folks driving by still honked and waved.  Jeepneys, those WW2 American jeeps and jeep-like vehicles converted into very bright taxies individualized by owners/drivers with multi-colored blinking lights, slowed to ask if I wanted a ride but as I only brought five bucks with me I politely declined the offers. It seemed like every third car on the road was a jeepney, affordable transportation for the average Filipino I guess. The guys on motorcycles still stopped to ask what was in the bag but fewer said "Hi Joe" first as I walked from the city to the countryside parallel to the water in the bay, I think. I'm walking for about a hour or so but there are many little farm houses spaced out so that I didn't think it right to cut across private property to get to the water. It's very hot out, the sun beating down under a clear sky, but I keep on going really enjoying the scenery. It was green everywhere and out here small patches of jungle just off the roadway. Very impressive to a guy from the desert. Up ahead I can see the jungle is thick and comes right up to the road. I'm beginning to think I'll have to cut through all that shortly if I'm going to get to the bay. About a mile up the road I'm in the dense jungle shade still walking and thinking that stupid map in CIC was all wrong when a car horn blew just feet behind me.
I turned to see an open jeep with three heavily armed men stopped a few feet away. The driver's rifle was slung over his shoulder, the middle aged fat guy in the front passenger seat, wearing a wide open sport shirt revealing two revolvers in his waistband and a shoulder holster, motioned for me to walk back to them. The third guy, standing up with the machinegun on me, just stared. The fat guy started by asking "What's in the bag?". I said swim fins and didn't mind that a bit, even handing him the bag under the circumstances. He wanted to know what I was doing so far out of town and seemed baffled when I told him I wanted to go swimming. He then identified themselves as police by whipping out a huge badge affixed to his wallet and said it was very dangerous for me to be here because the communists will kidnap me, waiving to the jungle. He then told the others in their language what I was doing out in the boonies. He and the driver laughed, the guy on the machinegun continued to stare. Then the boss man with a badge said he knew a safe area on the water, get in. Again the circumstances compelled me to comply, after all they said they were cops. I got into the back seat next to the machine-gunner and went for a ride, turned out to be a very long ride. I held onto the side of the jeep, he held onto the gun. At least we were heading down the road in the same direction I had been walking. The jungle was very thick now with few open patches next to the road. I didn't think I would have walked this far. In fact I know I wouldn't have. All I can do now is enjoy the ride and I did, looking for tigers, monkeys, and snakes behind every bush we past at a high speed. This was really fun.
We turned to the left off the main road onto what I'd call a dirt path miles from my pickup point. I had to keep my arms in as leaves from plants were scraping the sides of the jeep. No one had said a word so far. We climbed a hill of sorts then descended down the windier other side where I had a glimpse of the sea through the thick forest of trees, it's still to my left, so far, so good. The path straightened out and descended to where the trees thinned out and I could see a small village up ahead. An honest to God village with grass huts up on stilts. It was truly an impressive sight. The jeep slowed for pigs being herded down the road by little kids. My head was twisting back and forth trying to take it all in. There were little naked kids, big pigs, goats, big pots etc. all together under the huts. All eyes turned to us as we passed, very wide eyes on the kids, narrow slits on the adults. You'd think they'd never seen a cop jeep before (or an American sailor). Kids from under every hut spilled out in the dirt road behind us and ran as fast as their bare little brown legs would go, laughing , loudly chattering, calling out to their friends sleeping in their huts. Soon we had quite a tail of kids behind the jeep and I felt honored to be providing such wonderful entertainment for these kids. The boss cop turned and he too had a big evil grin, one looking like he had bagged a sailor. Up ahead I saw that the jungle petered out and there was my open sea. A small rock jetty with a real house on it appeared to be our destination. The jeep came to a stop in front of the house and a heavily armed man walked outside and up to the boss cop who told me to get out. The man's eyes kept going from the cop to me as he received his instructions. I hoped they were friendly instructions. The boss then told me this was a telephone relay station and that the guard would protect me from harm while I went swimming. I could change inside. With that the jeep turned around and went back out the dirt road kicking up dust as all the naked or near naked kids in the village arrived a tad out of breath. The guard kept them all outside as I went in and changed from my American sailor uniform to a pair of swim trunks.
When I stepped out the front door I was immediately shocked, shocked, when all the kids exploded with belly laughter, pointing at me, poking each other, tears running down their faces like I was the funniest thing in the world. I looked to my protector for help but he too was laughing his ass off. I couldn't figure it out, what was so funny? Was it my pale white body 'cept for very tanned face and forearms? My skinny legs? Just red swim trunks and black shoes, no socks? What ever it was it had the effect of keeping everyone in a total state of hysterical collapse. Being horrified, I did what any American sailor would do in this suddenly adverse situation, I walked with dignity, swim fins and mask in hand, to the nearest water and went in. I thought if I went out far enough my audience would be left behind to settle down. No such luck. I'm wading out, chin held high, when I see those little dugout canoes along the shore filling with all my fans who are paddling with their hands for all they're worth in an effort to keep up with me. And keep up they did. There was a circle of kids in canoes around me the entire time I was in the water. Wading in a foot of water didn't help either, not when you're wearing swim fins. You must lift your foot and fin high up out of the water and with an exaggerated effort, take a big slow step forward. And then another, and another and another. My every step caused a dozen or more canoes to roll side to side as their little brown crews burst out in new laughter. More then a few of my new pals jumped overboard and pantomimed my silly walk, much to my chagrin. If they got too close to me I'd turn on them lurching, hands like claws, growling like a madman, then we'd all really bust up. They knew by this time I was having as much fun as they were. We went way, way out and still the water was only up to my waist. It was then I decided not to go any further but simply put on my mask and snorkel, float around a while looking at all the fishes in the sea then back to shore without a hint of what was really happening here. let the little nippers ponder and wonder for the rest of their lives just what my Top Secret American Mission to Their Village this day was really truly all about.......you see I too have a sense of humor..... Mask on, face in the water, and nothing. I can't see my hand in front of the mask let alone fish or coral and my mouth suddenly felt like I swallowed a handful of salt.. Turned out this village makes it's living harvesting sea salt. This area of the bay is so salty it's all they have to do here. There were long rows of cement slabs on the beach below the high tide mark. When the high tide goes out it leaves a thick layer of sea salt behind on the slabs which are then scraped twice a day with wooden tools thus harvesting the salt. I'm snorkeling in a damn salt factory. Nobody in their right mind comes here to go snorkeling except maybe an American sailor once a year if his ship happens to be ordered to Cebu. Sadly though, deep down inside, I knew by my new pintsized friends reactions to seeing a Caucasian that I was the first.
I think my well intentioned plan to have a wholesome experience ashore snorkeling on this liberty was doomed weeks prior when I thought I knew what a land inch represented on a map in CIC. Well, this turned out to be one very hot sunburned and thirsty day, more so after accidently swigging some of that saltwater, but all worthwhile I guess. I waded back to the beach surrounded by little brown lifetime memories in dugout canoes. After changing back into the more dignified uniform, waking and thanking my guard for all his protection (he was still sleeping under his covered porch), I set out afoot to retrace my entry to this seaside village on stilts. My army of children, most naked, all barefoot, all happily in tow. Marching out of the village I knew how the pipe piper must have felt. As the path-like road started to climb up that first hill the kids suddenly stopped as if there were an imaginary line in the dirt. I had to keep walking as it's past noon, I'm in a jungle many miles from the city and I had to report back aboard the Yorktown by 1700 hours. At the top of the hill I looked back to all my young friends still below at the village limits. They were watching me, waving until I'm out of sight. I stood up there atop that hill a long time, slowly waving back to them, one and all.
My trek from the village on huts through the dense jungle back to the main road and the Yorktown was uneventful if you ignored the sunburn, thirst, hunger, generally being lost feeling or not knowing how I'll make it all the way back to the docks. It's march or die so I kept walking. It seemed like hours before I hit the main drag back to town. Not having been eaten by a tiger or snake bit, I now was walking back alongside civilized pavement. At least I knew I was heading in the right direction. The jeepneys were coming by more often then I'd thought, being way out here in the boonies. Most who were going my way would honk their distinctive horns and slow down to pick me up if they had room for another passenger. I didn't have a clue as to the cost of a ride into town and only having four or five bucks on me, I'd waive them on. I had tried asking the first few who stopped but neither of us spoke the other guy's language. I noticed the drivers seem a bit pissed off at me too. I'm learning there's a strict protocol involving jeepneys and pedestrians. If I want a ride I should stand well off the road to give the jeepney room to pull off the road and waive directly only at the one I want. If I don't want a ride I'm required to waive a "no" sign so that driver doesn't waste his time stopping as in time is money. It took me miles on foot watching a few folks do this before I caught on. The longer I walked the more thirsty and worn out I become with no hint of Cebu in sight. It was about this time a young jeepney driver my age stopped and offered a ride. I gestured that I was broke, with broken English and hands a flapping he replied with a wide smile "so what? get in the front seat anyway". I did, gratefully. He even offered me a bottle of water. His passengers all nodded at me with big smiles too and off we went down the road towards Cebu, two teenagers not able to converse yet understanding each other by  facial expressions, body language and laughs. The wind's now blowing in my face going down the highway, is this a great liberty or what? Within a few passenger stops here's this American uniformed sailor getting out of the seat in front and bowing deeply to women as they get on board, much to their shock and amusement. Same when they got off at their destination. I'm earning my passage the old fashion way. My shenanigans that day gave my fellow teenage driver much status on the streets of Cebu where unique jeepneys are the golden rule, the weirder the better, the ones people want to ride in. And in this town and time I was weird. The driver stayed in the city picking up-dropping off folks, I guessed so more people would see him with me riding shotgun.
About 1500 hours he gestured by rubbing with a circle motion on his stomach that he was hungry to which I replied by rapidly bobbing my head up and down "me too". We immediately stopped next to a street vender causing many car horns to sound off behind us but we stopped traffic only long enough to get two of what I thought was monkey meat dipped in fire sauce on a stick, washed down by two cokes each. He paid. I thought I might pay for lunch vomiting over the side but I never did. That lunchtime delight wouldn't become habit forming for me. Shortly after lunch my new friend asked if I'd like to meet one of his old friends, pointing to the mountains visible on the western edge of the city. Sure, why not? I have about another two hours before he'll have to drop me off at the dock to catch the last liberty boat and I can see they're not too far away. A short short side trip to the nearby mountains would nice, no harm in that, right? So having a new plan of the day he turned off all those blinking lights indicating he's out of service and off we went. The neighborhoods changed dramatically as we hit the low foothills near the mountains. The houses were more like wealthy old Spanish estates covering several acres for the smallest ones we passed. Most had high arched gates on the street end of their driveways and all had heavy security gates, some even had armed guards. All these homes were very well cared for and in complete contrast to the parts of town I'm more failure with as a sailor. This was a very pleasant drive after all. Higher up in the hills we passed the University of Cebu, a beautiful campus established several century's ago. It too was surrounded by high iron fences and what appeared to be guard towers every few hundred feet. Just past the school the road narrowed to two lanes that horses would have trouble with passing in opposite directions. Now we're in high mountains with very steep drops just inches from the jeepneys tires. And apparently no speed limit cause my friend never slowed down. Neither did the cars and trucks coming down the mountain. No need if you lay on your horn when approaching a blind curve. I was beginning to hope this friend didn't live too much further up when I observed the fact nobody lived up here, no houses. I didn't bother to bring that up as I'd rather the driver focus on his driving then mindlessly chat with me. Nearing the top of the mountain I spotted what looked like a shack on the side of the road extending out over open space supported only by poles on the outer edges . And that's where we skidded to a halt just inches from a few hundred foot drop over the side. My friend signaled for me to stay in the vehicle like he didn't seem to notice or care that had I stepped outside I would have fallen hundreds of feet down the mountain side. He honked his horn and went up to a door as a young lady looked out. I saw her looking my way then nodding her head yes. A few minutes later she came outside and they both walked back to the car and opened the drivers door. That's when our eyes met and those little hearts started flowing back and fourth between us. She is drop dead beautiful and my age. She sat next to me all bright eyed, smiling at me and in that moment I knew.
There comes a time, some say only once in a lifetime, when fate, the force of nature, call it what you will, has you in it's iron grip. Well it had me too. In that moment I knew going ashore with the best of intentions just went out the window. She spoke no English and none was required as us three teenagers sped down that mountain side as dusk set in, horn hardly heard over our collective laughter. Soon we were back in the downtown area of Cebu just cruising the main drags under all the bright lights. I was reminded of cruising back home in Las Vegas but this city in the Philippines, under the circumstances, beats Vegas hands down. I was prepared to do this all night long, why not? I'm already AWOL, but my driver friend had other plans. He and she kept chattering while I kept grinning like a monkey with an orange when he suddenly stopped in the middle of a busy intersection to talk to the cop directing traffic. The policeman listened a moment and broke out in a big grin while looking at me then said something sounding like instructions. I hoped he wasn't about to take my orange away. Whatever the cop said we did by hanging a hard right and driving to another area of town nearby that was much more upscale. Up ahead I noted a newly constructed hotel much taller then any other building I've seen so far. Some sections of it were still being built. We drove past then swung down an alley behind the hotel and up to the hotel service-delivery bay in the rear. My friend jumped out and knocked on a door answered by a hotel employee. Words were spoken and shortly a bellhop came out and my guy was explaining something as the bellhop kept glancing at me nodding. My friend came back to the jeepney to say his cop friend told him to ask for this guy to get a room for the night and he wanted ten bucks. I should have anticipated this, my day has been going like a roller coaster anyway, dropped off at a sea-salt factory in the jungle to snorkel, mystery meat for lunch, I'm now AWOL, hungry, and only had five dollars. My driver friend took it to the bellman who looked down at the $5 bill and nodded yes (they're the same worldwide). My girlfriend and I scrambled out of the car and followed him inside as my driver said something about being back for us in the morning. I thought that's what he said. And now this is the only part of my liberty in Cebu that will fade to dark like any good movie.
I was awoken in the morning by loud knocking on the door but no one was there when I opened it. We waited a while and then both felt stranded. The only thing to do was go downstairs and play it by ear. We descended about five floors when the stairwell opened up two flights above the main floor. Holy Cow, we're in the Grand Hotel, staff decked out in tuxedos, marble floors, potted palms everywhere, a huge spiral staircase down from here to our escape out the lobby. An American sailor must always do the right thing; we went down those two fully exposed flights of stairs in lock step with heads held high, the sailor and mountain girl without luggage, across the lobby area as big as our hanger deck all the while trying to ignore the open mouth stares and dead silence from all. Dead ahead are the revolving double glass leading outside manned by a very tall elderly Filipino doorman dressed in a red tuxedo complete with red top hat. Is this joint classy or what?  I turned and nodded my approval of the hotel to one and all as we followed him out. On the sidewalk he asked me in perfect English if I required a taxi, sir. I turned on the charm by shrugging my shoulders, shaking my head no. He looked at the mountain girl and understood immediately that I was broke even if it wasn't like that. He asked where are you going sir and I replied the waterfront part of town. The doorman asked me to wait there a moment and walked over to a man just starting up a small motorcycle nearby. He then nodded to me to come over and said this man will take you there. I'm stuck but again a sailor has to do what a sailor does. I got on the motorcycle, turned and waving goodbye to my mountain girlfriend standing there, took off on a bike that sounded like bumblebees. I hoped I was right that our jeepney driver pal will come soon to take her back home. Fortunately I was well experienced on a bike because this guy rode like a madman, weaving in and out of traffic like he wanted to crash us. Or dump me off the back. Anyway, he kept his word to to doorman and took me to the docks where I got off by simply standing up when he slowed down. He sped away sounding like angry bees, must be running late to get somewhere else.
Now I find myself not only broke and hungry but it's about 0630, I'm the only sailor in town and AWOL to boot. The rough dock workers milling about are looking at me funny cause I'm the only one around wearing summer whites. I hope I'm the only one in uniform. Anyone else is bound to be the shore patrol. I've got to lay low for about two hours until the first liberty boats come in from the Yorktown and I can blend in. Right now I feel like a snowflake in a bucket of oil. I walked about only a few minutes until I saw that universal sign I was looking for and walked right in. The talking and sounds inside stopped. So did I, quickly concluding this was the breakfast/bar/hangout for dockworkers right out of a Humphrey Bogart movie. Not knowing how I might be received in here, I sat down at a small table closest to the door and facing everyone. After a while everyone went back to what they were doing, just sneaking glances at me as I waited for service. I had about 50 cents in American coins and really need something to drink, the last liquid intake being yesterday afternoon. It was soon apparent this is a self service establishment, at least for sailors, so I got up and went to the bar. I put all my coins on the bar top and said "Coke" to the bartender. He opened a small glass bottle of coke and took half of my money. I went back to my table thinking I have to nurse two cokes until I see sailors outside and then come up with a plan to get back aboard without an arrest and court-martial. Neat trick if I can pull it off and I think I can if I just blend in with everyone coming back aboard. I'm thinking this'll be a piece of cake as I sat there sipping my drink listening to my stomach growling. At this point I had no real concerns except for those two men sitting nearby in a booth. The one facing me was a skinny rat faced cutthroat looking guy who kept giving me very hard looks. The other guy was a lot older, 60s, fat and had a round face. He kept trying to look at me but had trouble turning around in the booth, being so large. After a while the big man got up and walked over to my table and sat down facing me. A big smile broke out on his face and he said "American" pointing at me. I nodded my head yes. Then in broken English he went on to tell me he likes Americans and wants to buy me food. I nodded OK. He snapped his finger once and a waiter appeared from out of nowhere to take his order, not bothering to ask what I may want. To tell the truth after yesterdays meat on a stick from a street vender I didn't care what they brought. Soon I had a breakfast and several cokes in front of me as my benefactor began to talk. Rat-face stayed in the booth staring daggers my way. Disconcerting somewhat cause I thought I saw him draw his finger across his throat and a thin smile appeared momentarily but I was so hungry I paid him no attention other then kept one eye glued his way.
My newest pal had quite a story to tell me, the first American he's seen in decades. He said he was a young man when the Japanese invaded Cebu so he started a gorilla army inland from the coast and fought the Japs from the very first. He said they killed so many Jap army patrols that the Japanese quit trying to do anything in the valleys in the interior of Cebu Island and stayed near the cost and city. That jived with the history I'd read in CIC. He went on to say that twice he and his group rescued downed American pilots. He kept them safe until the end of the war when they returned to American hands. Then he said the two pilots returned to Cebu several years later with their wives just to visit and thank him for saving their lives. The Americans stayed with him for a month on that visit and this man's face was beaming with pride telling me the story. He went on to say after the war the government made him a senior colonel in the Philippine army in charge of the local garrison but after a few years he retired because he just couldn't make a decent living doing that. So I asked what he did after life fighting the Japanese and a retired colonel. His face suddenly took on the most evil, sly look I've ever seen. Head lowered, eyes darting side to side making sure no one can hear, he dramatically told me "How you say 'by hook or crook', I have boats, men, I smuggle cigarettes and other things from Indochina where they're cheaper and sell them here and Manila". He looked so proud and I must have looked so impressed that he offered me a job on one of his boats. I told him I'll give that real thought but that I still have several years left in another navy. He looked somewhat disappointed but said he understood and that the position is mine anytime I want it. I appreciated having options as to whose navy I want to serve in. The pirate handed me his business card saying this café is his headquarters and I can always get in touch with him here. I kept that card for decades, a guy never knows when he'll need a friend in Cebu, Philippines.  At one point I asked him what happens if the Philippine navy catches him on the open sea. He broke into a big grin and pulled out a wad of dough that would've choked a horse, pantomiming peeling off bucks for the captain of the navy ship. He said he knew who he gets along with and who he doesn't, then his boats are much faster then any navy ship. He nodded towards rat-face and whispered if anyone gets in the boss's way, making quick stabbing motions. I had rat-face pegged right.
It's been over twenty four hours since I came ashore with only the best of intentions and I've had only a few hours of sleep, if that. I'm really beat and all I want to do now is get back aboard my ship whatever the cost. So I bid farewell, I'll be sure to look you up, to my latest new friend and left his headquarters on the wharf. I walked until I found the same area the liberty boat used yesterday and waited. I was exposed but I didn't care. I was too tired. I'll just go back on the first boat and hopefully get in my rack and pass out. What's the worst that could happen now? Soon the first of many liberty boats came ashore filled with the crew who were on duty yesterday. I went on and sat up forward. The two crewmen were aft. When we pulled up alongside the Yorktown's sea-ladder I jumped on and drug myself up the ladder, it's nearly over, I made it. Reaching the top I looked on deck and I'm a dead man. There's no way out now, I'm busted. The JOOD was none other then my O.I. division Chief, the very same Chief Petty Officer who always suspects me of chicanery. Me!!!, of all sailors, go figure. I have all of two seconds to save my bacon from the brig when survival instincts kicked in. Those last two steps up the sea-ladder and my salute to the flag then him were so textbook perfect, so snappy, so stiff at attention, I took my lifer Chief by complete utter surprise. All he could think to do was to slowly return my salute. I could see it in his baffled eyes though, did Dingle go ashore then immediately return on this first boat? Did I see him go ashore a little while ago? Didn't he go on liberty yesterday? Why is he back so soon? Why is he in my Navy? I quickly marched into the crowd of sailors trying to go down the sea ladder, each one saluting the Chief thus forcing a return salute, and disappeared down the nearest ladder not giving my Chief a chance to call me back for questioning. And he never did. I slid down the hand rails, shoes skipping lightly over every fifth step. Minutes later I was in my skivvies and in my rack soundly asleep. I was home, I made it. It's a very good peaceful feeling to be back home, after having gone ashore the day before with only the best of intentions.


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