The 9th MEB released Charlie Company after the Subic Bay visit and the Company sailed home on the old APA George Clymer.When the ships of the squadron arrived at Okinawa, working parties were again set out to unload the ammo and vehicles from the ships. The thousands of rounds 155mm and 8 inch were repackaged into their wooden crates of four rounds and off-loaded back onto the pier. After the working parties, Charlie Company mustered on the dock with full 783 gear and seabags, then marched in formation, with seabags thrown over a shoulder, down the pier to the waiting 6x's and climbed aboard.
The loaded trucks wound their way through the urban area and onto the highway, headed north to Camp Schwab. It was a chilly ride, especially for the company that had spent the last few months in the balmy Philippines. Everyone put on their field jackets, which hadn't been worn for six months.
But morale was high despite the disappointment of having to leave the Philippines. Most were wondering if Camp Schwab was any different from the time they had left in October of 1964. As the trucks rumbled by the old Caltex gasoline station, they knew they were three miles from the front gate. The Caltex was the turn around point for 3rd Recon's morning six-mile jogs. It was, literally, down hill from there. The three miles from the front gate to the Caltex was uphill. Joggers were glad of it, too, because some were not in the best shape each and every morning and it was no small blessing to some to have a downhill trot going back to barracks.
The trucks drove through the front gate and down to the left where the 3rd Recon Battalion barracks area was located. Headquaters, the Command Post, was to the right, near where the mess hall stood. The trucks pulled up in the cull d'sack that was surrounded by all the barracks of the letter companies and H&S, and everyone off loaded.
To their surprise, there were "new guys" at the barracks. Some replacements had arrived shortly before Charley Company returned. As the troops filed into the squadbays, there was relief that the place was all squared away and there would not have to be a rigorous field day.
Charlie Company returned to Camp Schwab to its barracks and the normal garrison routine started again. It was a week of duty company, policing up the area, going out on work details, and so forth. Then it was a week on the beach in rubber boat training. While the weather was not that hot anymore, it was still not too uncomfortable in the water. The temperature was still in the 70s. Then it was up to the NTA for field exercises for two weeks. The Recon specialties of map reading, forward observer spotting, observation posts, and recon patrols were practiced and practiced. Then it was back in garrison for that routine.
Being a recon unit, each morning after reveille each platoon would muster and do PT, including a six-mile run from the barracks, out the gate, and up a three-mile hill to the CalTex gasoline station on the highway. On some mornings, especially Mondays, this muster created some bizarre sites. Some of the troops who had done some heavy drinking the night before had a hard time getting out of the rack, but rise they did, even if they weren't shining. On rare occasions the formation would include some who had not hit the rack at bed time, instead, stayed up to the wee hours continuing to drink. With only an hour or so sleep, these intrepid troopers still would attempt to make muster, stumbling out to the grinder sometimes only with boots and skivvies on.
They didn't do too well on the jumping jacks or push ups but they did attempt to go through the motions. Then, the platoon would march to quick time and turn towards the main gate. After a few yards at quick time, the order for double time was given. The one or two drunks, one time one of them in skivvies, valiantly attempted to keep up with their formation. The trouble was that on that one occasion the under-the-weather Marine in skivvies had not yet mastered the art of tying his boots on properly that morning. Perhaps given an hour or two, it might have come back to him. This had the obvious results. Before jogging in formation to the main gate, he lost one of his boots, the other just barely hanging on mysteriously.
His general condition and his loss of footwear overcame his advantage of lighter clothing and in the quarter-mile distance or so, he fell behind a few yards. The platoon double-timed out the gate with only one straggler. The guards at the gate waved him down as he courageously attempted to close the gap. As the platoon turned left at the highway and began to run up the hill, it is not known just what conversation took place at the gate. Since recollections are foggy at best when one is in such a condition, the Marine could not later make a clear report on the matter. In fact, the Marine had difficulty remembering anything about a muster that morning, or much else for an hour or so.
The platoon returned from its run to the CalTex and back and broke for showers and chow. The straggler was again awakened and assisted to the showers. After the cleanup, chow and the brisk walk over and back to the chow hall, things were looking up, although there are times when he had felt better.
Liberty in Henoko
Liberty call was sounded each weekday around 1630 when training schedules permitted. Third Reconners then braved the hazards of Henoko, the liberty 'ville outside the base, and the more adventurous tempted the RASP, the Ryukyan Armed Serves Police, or the Okinawan U.S. military police, composed of MPs from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps. This multilateral force was detested and feared by most, and the MPs gloried in it. They had high unit morale. They were very hard-nosed and gave no slack. They could easily be distinguished from the detailed Shore Patrol MPs, who were actually regular snuffies temporarily assigned for a day or two, by their hard hats. Their covers were brightly painted helmet liners. The RASP were feared by transgressors in Okinawa, of which nearly all of us were from time to time.
Henoko was the most common host to the 3rd Marines, 3rd Recon, and AmTraks based at Camp Schwab. It was less than half the size of Takigahara at Camp Fuji but its main drag was lined, building to building with bars and whore houses. It was patrolled by the local Shore Patrol/Military Police, and occasionally by the RASP. Virtually all liberty in Okinawa was Cinderella liberty, i.e., check in at the gate was 2330 and you had to be back at your barracks and checked in by 2400 hours. Although Henoko was very close by the base, it still took about fifteen minutes to leave a bar and make it through the gate. Then it took another five to ten minutes to walk back to the company area and check in with the Duty NCO. Sometimes junior enlisted Marines' schedules did not allow for the walk around the fence from Henoko to the main gate at Camp Schwab. There was a hole in the fence conveniently placed in an almost line-of-sight route to the barracks areas of the base. As always, of course, as with all common-sense procedures, there where some draw backs to using this convenience. For one, although it did occur to some but not everybody, if one was told or shown the hole in the fence then it was not a great leap of intelligence to figure out that it would likely be know to every guard on the base. Especially if one takes into account that at least half the troops were assigned guard duty at one time or another on the base duty company. That meant that one chanced the risk of the MPs strolling around to the area of the hole around 2330 hours and watching for late comers. Another drawback was the lesser risk of tearing your liberty uniform, or at least getting it dirty or muddy. However, choosing between being UA by a few minutes and chancing the hole in the fence, it was better to take your chances at the hole rather than the near sure-fire chance of going on report. It is a mystery that in the entire year or so of my tour of duty, the hole was never repaired.
Again Into the NTA
Meanwhile, Delta Company was still perfecting its ambush skills as the Raider Company. Again, Charlie Company was assigned to be the "victim" of a Delta Company ambush. This time it was to be along a road in the NTA. The weather had turned chilly and there was a constant cold light rain. Charlie was to move up the road in vehicles along a five-mile stretch designated at the tactical training zone. A four-man point was put out in a Mighty-Mite with a PRC-10 radio. The point ran about two to three hundred yards ahead of the body of the convoy. This was done because of the likelihood of an extra large ambush area in the case of a motorized convoy. The point was far out of sight of the company along the hilly and winding clay road. Vehicle speeds were down around five miles an hour. Then, as the point came up to a high point in the road with a cliff overlooking it on the right, a head in a helmet was spotted on the skyline. Now, in ITR they teach you never to shoot at someone one the skyline because it is likely to be a Marine. The enemy is not usually that stupid. However, there was no doubt that some Jarhead from Delta got excited when he saw the point of Charlie Company coming up over the crest and decided to make a last-minute adjustment in his position. The alarm went back to the company, "Ambush right, ambush right," was spoken in a low voice into the mouthpiece, as inconspicuously as possible. Delta, in the textbook fashion, let the point through.
However, Charlie Company was scrambling off the trucks and forming on-line in a counter-ambush formation in the thick brush on the right-hand side of the road. The trouble was, it was still over two-hundred yards from the ambush. The point went down the road another two-hundred yards or so to await the assault on the flank of Delta's ambush. It waited, and waited, and waited. Meanwhile, Charlie Reconners were fighting, but not Delta, they were assaulting the thick brush between them and Delta. It took ten or fifteen minutes for the left flank of Charlie, the flank nearest the road, to climb up the cliff side and make the first contact with the Delta ambush. The Delta ambushers at that end were not quite sure what to do. It was certain that they heard Charlie coming but stayed in position for the ambush. Then the center and right flank of the line of skirmishers of Charlie Company folded around and to the rear of the main part of the Delta ambush. The Delta troops, having been assigned their ambush positions, stayed in them as instructed. However, no counter ambush contingency plan had been formulated. It was all over, by the time the point crew heard the attack beginning and came back to support the action from the opposite direction, the exercise was all over but for the critiques.
The point team, proud of having spotted and sprung the ambush, came smiling into the milling crowd of Charlie and Delta Reconners. They were greeted by a pissed-off Charlie Company. The two-hundred-yard assault through the brush had not done a great deal for the collective appreciation of Charlie Company for the fine job done by its point crew. The positive lesson that came out of the long stretch of the assault was that both Charlie and Delta analyzed the development for better ways of ascertaining the exact position of ambushers in relation and distance to the counter ambush attackers. There was debate as to just how far ahead the point in a motorized convoy should be. If there was any resolution to this last question, it was not shared below the senior levels of the company.
When the exercise ended and the area had been policed up, the troops were given slack time while awaiting the trucks to take them back. This left time on their hands and that usually meant that these Marines would eventually find some trouble to get into. The rendevous point was located by the highway where a stream crossed under a bridge. Since the area had been used over and over for years, there were fighting holes dug ages earlier by the grunts. Pathways snaked in and around the positions and through the brush. The bridge crossed the stream about fifteen or twenty feet over the water. The stream was only one or two feet deep and ran swiftly. As usual, the mamasans were out in force, scavenging for expended brass and C Ration refuse. They scoured the trails and positions for discarded peanut butter, cheese, and other rejected gourmet items from the B-1s, B-2s, and B-3s.
What started out as light-hearted play later turned ugly. At first, the Marines would pitch a tin of peanut butter in front of a group of mamasans to see them claw and push each other around to get at the prize. Then crueler tricks were hatched. One Marine went to one of the half-dug fighting positions, which was only about two feet deep, and placed some roughly hewed punji stakes, fashioned quickly with his K-Bar, into the hole. He then place branches and grass over the hole, placing a one-dollar bill on one side of the top of the trap. Then he waited along with his buddies. A minute or two later, a mamasan scooted around a corner and spotted the dollar. Her eyes opened wide and energy coursed through her body. She went for the dollar and slide into the pit. The Marine dove out and snatched his dollar up and ran down the trail, laughing.
The mamasan had knocked over any little stakes that might have injured her but she was now in a foul mood. Not only had she been disappointed over getting hold of the dollar, she was into mud up to her ankles.
More mischief was being hatched at the bridge. Other Marines had discovered that the mamasans' desire for the leftover C-Rats was strong. So strong, in fact, that they would hazard the cold stream to retrieve tins thrown into the rapid water. Not thinking that was tough enough, a combination was concocted where a small tin of peanut butter or cheese was sailed into the deeper parts of the stream and then a Ham and Limas would be reserved for the mamasan to brave the trip into the deep. When the mamasan got out into the deeper water, the ham and limas can was sent sailing into the water near her to create a dowsing. When the ham and limas ran out, larger and larger rocks were thrown, crating geysers of water, soon soaking the few that persevered. This was soon brought to a close by one of the platoon leaders who knew that when his Marines were having too much fun, they were probably up to no good. Everyone was ordered off the bridge and back to the rendevous area. The entire exercise ran only three days. It was back to Camp Schwab.
In less than a month back at Schwab, Charlie Company got some great news. Delta Company was going back on float and Charlie Company was now to be the designated Marine Raider Company. That was good news but the great news was that the company would begin its Raider training back at Subic Bay! Some of the troops were literally jumping for joy, hopping around and laughing. This time the Word held stable and in a few days Charlie was en route to Futema MCAS to catch a C-130 for Cubi Point NAS, Subic Bay. It was now October, 1964.
Charlie Company in the Philippines - Raider Training Part 1
Charlie Company, 3rd Recon, landed at Cubi Point Naval Air Station, in October, 1964. The company was quartered in two two-story barracks at the back of the base by the dump. If you were looking at a map of Subic Bay with Grande Island toward the top of the map, Charlie Recon would have been to the extreme right point of the base about a half mile from the shore. The canal that separated the base from Olongapo emptied out into the bay just to the right of the barracks. The barracks were all wood and unheated. They consisted of one large squadbay running the length of the building, with a door at the back end where the outside stairs were attached, and a large head to the right and a large communal shower to the right in the upper end. A door was at each side of the building, one at the head side and another at the showers side. The upper deck was not used since the entire small company, along with the small motor pool attachment from H&S consisted only of fifty men. A smaller out building, which housed the company office and officers' and senior NCOs sleeping quarters, was between the barracks and the rest of the base.
The "motor pool" had been flown with them to Cubi Point and consisted of a Mighty-Mite, and two PCs. The captain appropriated one of the PCs as his staff vehicle. He went over to the sailors at the hobby shop on base and had them make up a sign about twice the size of a automobile's license place that read, "Marine Raider Company." The plaque was place on the front of the PC. The captain would tool all over the base in his "Raidermobile."
Negritoes And Jungle Survival Training
Subic Bay is bounded on its left side by the Bataan Peninsula. On the other side of Cubi Point, farther back into the jungle, the U.S. Armed Forces ran a jungle survival camp. The U.S. instructors were supplemented by indigenous Filipinos called "Negritoes," the Spanish word for "little black ones." The Negritoes were small, even by Filipino measures and were very dark complected. They had a superior reputation for having aggressively and violently resisted the Japanese during their occupation of Luzon during World War II. The Negritoes were, and probably still are, a people very comfortable living in the jungle, living entirely off the land. It was these skills that were valued by Americans. The Negrito crew consisted of about a half dozen men, ranging in age from their sixties to youths in their late teens. Many of the older men were veterans of WWII and had actually been the ones to fight, ambush, and poison the Japanese troops. They told stories as they taught of how they prepared "jungle potatoes" in their camps when they knew the Japanese were on their way to kill them. These jungle potatoes are a poisonous root that must be prepared in a special way to remove their toxicity. After proper preparation, the "potatoes" are very edible.
The Negritoes would cook the roots without removing the poison and make it appear as though they were going to eat them themselves. This was prepared along with rice and other safe food. Just before the Japanese showed up, the would flee the camp, apparently leaving their prepared food "prematurely" steaming in the cook pots. The Japanese would then help themselves to the nearly finished food and suffer the consequences. After at least a few of the Japanese had died of poisoning, and most had at least become ill, the Negritoes would then counter attack and annihilate the enemy.
The Marine Raider Company would spend two weeks being taught by experts on how to live in the Philippine jungles without bring in food or drinking water. The base camp was near a rather large stream which provided an abundance of small (tiny) fish, snails, shellfish, large eels, and frogs; as well as various assorted insects and grubs nearby. The Negritoes would put plastic eye goggles on, pinch their noses with a piece of wood resembling a clothes pin and kneel in the two-foot-deep water. On one hand they would have a strong rubber strip cut from an inner tube with a six or seven-inch piece of one-eighth inch steel tied in the middle. The ends would be tied to the thumb and forefinger to make a miniature bow and arrow-type weapon.
They would then bend over, upside down in the water and look under underwater rocks and submerged bank overhangs for fish. Upon finding a two or three-inch fish tucked away they would then spear it with the little piece of steel rod. Soon, two dozen or more were taken in this way. They also gathered dozens snails of all sizes into hand-woven baskets, which some were made on the spot from split bamboo from the water's edge. Hooks were also set out for larger fish and eels. On large eel was caught which was over six feet long.
Anything else offering soft tissue was also gathered up and after appropriate butchering, thrown into a common pot to make a large fish stew. Bamboo shoots, various roots and berries also followed into the fish pot. It was boiled for an hour or so and yielded a delicious broth with just a little bit of texture like a stew.
The Negritoes also taught the Marines how to bed down for the night in a jungle full of creepy crawlies. Bamboo stalks of about three or four inches in diameter were cut into six-foot lengths and used for the four corners of an above-ground platform. Other, smaller, bamboo poles six or seven feet in length, of about one or two inches in diameter, were lashed in place between the four main poles. Green bamboo was stripped and used as lashing material, along with rattan reeds harvested nearby. The "floor" was lashed together about three feet from the ground. This was done to get away from most of the pesky critters swarming all about the jungle. A roof was lashed across the top about three feet over the floor. Banana leaves and other broad leafed plants were used to temporarily waterproof the roof. Six or seven Marines could use each one of these temporary shelters to sleep in at night.
The Reconners were taught how to make bamboo stoves or ovens in which to cook rice (the rice was brought along). A large piece of green bamboo would be cut, about four or five inches across and chopped off at each end just beyond the joints. A hatchway of about three inches long and two inches wide was then cut into the side of the barrel-shaped bamboo. The piece cut out was discarded and another piece, slightly larger was cut from another section of similar-sized bamboo to provide a little door that could be wedged into place and not come off. The cavity was emptied of any residual water or whatever and then filled with a measured amount of rice and water. The door was then wedged in and the thing placed under the coals of the camp fire for twenty minutes or so. The top with the door piece was left slightly out of the coals so that when the rice was ready, it popped the door piece off and spilled cooked white rice out of the bamboo oven. The bamboo oven was then removed from the fire with sticks and the rice could then be eaten from the bamboo or poured out onto the mess kit.
When the company heard that they would go on survival training, many "retained" some of the live M-14 ammo from the live fire exercises and the rifle range. The Filipinos often spoke of hunting monkeys in the jungle and some were quite fond of monkey meat. So when the time came for foraging, some "patrols" would wander as far as they could from the base camp hunting monkeys. The distance didn't really help because when a monkey was finally spotted a few days later and shot down, the sound was clearly heard by everyone. By that time, even the officers were hungry enough to simply express curiosity as to whether the aim was good enough to get some meat.
An old, tough monkey was brought down from the trees. It was carried back to camp where the Negritoes went about cleaning it and preparing a meal. The meat was like leather and there wasn't as much as might have appeared from the three-foot creature. The meat was boiled along with other creatures running the gamut of the food chain. The delivered broth wasn't that tasty but with the hunger level rising, it was better than bugs.
To ease the pain, each Marine was given one C-Ration per day to supplement the local fare. However, the diet was more suitable to the Negritoes than to some of the Marines. It was not a diet that you could get fat on, and some were tempted to start swiping food after two or three days. All food, including C-rations, was pooled into common caches. The food was bagged and tied up from the top of each of the hooches to keep lower-order mammals from marauding the food. Although the cans would not be a problem, there was also foil wrapped food and rice also bundled up in the bag. Unfortunately, some were selfish and stole from the group.
Corporal Giacalone, a tall, lanky, Korean War vet, was platoon sergeant of the1st Platoon. He was about 6'3 or so and went about 230 pounds. He had told stories of being in 81mm mortars in Korea. Although he was one of the wittiest and funniest entertainers in the company, he didn't inspire Recon Marines. Corporal "Jack" needed a lot of two (maybe three) things: booze and food. He seemed to suffer more than most under the same conditions. Apparently he needed more food for sustenance than the rest of the squad sleeping in his hooch, for one night he was caught raiding the food bag. Nothing much was done about it but his standing in the platoon sunk lower than its normal rock bottom standard.
Unfortunately, Corporal Jack wasn't the only midnight food raider, although there were only two or three others of the fifty or so in the company. But it was enough to loosen the tight bonds between these Marines who had grown very close. Fortunately, the survival training soon came to a close and fences were mended.
Demolitions Training at Cubi Point
Also attached to Charlie Company was a sergeant who was a demolitions expert from Engineers. This sergeant taught Reconners, now Raiders, how to calculate and set charges using TNT, C-4, Det cord, dynamite, and Composition B. The company was assigned quite a large amount of C-4 and TNT, so a lot of blowing up things was practiced. The Marines had a ball training to blow things up. On one occasion, the sergeant took the company over to the dud range, where duds were blown up, to school them in the art of stringing C-4 along knots of detonation cord. The area consisted of some patches of high grass and bamboo about five or six feet in height, interspersed with clearing where the ordinance was destroyed. The area's soil consisted of about a foot of finely powered grey flour-like substance. Some of it was left over ash from fires and explosives, and it was mixed with the pulverized soil. This loose powder enhanced the blast effect of almost any explosion by sending mountains of clouds of dust into the air along with the smoke from the explosive itself.
Since the company did not have enough transportation to get around to the various training areas, the Navy motor pool on base was used with their Filipino civilian drivers. The large grey school buses were used to transport the entire company. After a few trips, the Marines got to know the Filipinos and friendships started up. Thus, when it came time to go out to the detonation range, the Filipino drivers would ferry the company to the site. The road into the area was only one narrow lane carved through the bamboo. If one bus was going in and encountered another coming out, one would have to back up perhaps up to a quarter mile to a clearing that would allow passing.
On the last demolition run to the dud area, the bus driver dutifully dropped off the Raiders at the largest clearing and turned around and went back to mainside. He was to return at 1100 hours to pick us up for chow. The Engineer Sergeant explained that they had to use up the remainder of the C-4 so another allotment could be drawn. The amount remaining was not enough for the next demolition exercise which was to be conducted across the Bay in the old Japanese fortifications. What it meant was, we were going to have the biggest blast so far, of our training. We were instructed and shown how to knot the det cord and pack C-4 around the knot tightly. It had to be tight so that the blast of the det cord would not simply blow it off without detonating the C-4. The longer you knead C-4 or any other plastic explosive, the less dense it gets and the less explosive power it has. Since the medium in C-4 is a form of paraffin, it easily and quickly loses its density. Classes were held for a couple of hours with small demonstrations on how to use det cord and C-4 to cut, chop, or fragment trees, poles, or metal girders.
Around 1030 hours it was time for the big finale. In two relays, a group would take their half of about twenty pounds of C-4 and pack it onto the det cord. The det cord would be double primed and we would all scurry into the small concrete bunkers for shelter. For safety reasons, the fuse on the det cord was set for five minutes. This gave us plenty of time to clear out. The thing blew with a tremendous burst, throwing a ton of debris into the air. The first relay had a couple of pounds of C-4 blow off the knots when the det cord blew. So the second relay picked up that C-4 and repacked it with their C-4, making for an even greater explosion when the det cord was set off. Again, the five-minute fuse was set on the det cord which now had about twenty-five pounds of C-4 well packed onto it. We were really kind of giddy, anticipating the huge explosion this time. The fuse was lit and we ran to our bunkers in just a few seconds.
As the time slowly ticked off, everything was quiet. The previous blasts had driven all birds and other wildlife from the area, or at least had silenced them. It was quiet as we peeked every now and then to see the smoke fizzling out from the fuse as it burned its way to the det cord and the twenty-five pounds of C-4. Then we heard a whining and grinding not too far away. The bus driver had shifted into low gear for the last part of the drive to the detonation area to pick us up. He as a little early. The fuse had just burned about two-thirds of the way down but we could exactly be sure. We hoped that the thing would go off before the bus was near enough to get hit. The bus was getting closer now and coming a little faster. We wanted to run to the opening and down the road to warn him but the fuse was nearing its end and the bunkers were across from the opening of the road into the blast site. We had to stay put and hope the bus took longer than the fuse.
Well, wouldn't you know it, the timing was perfect. Just as the bus came around the last curve and not quite to the opening, twenty-five pounds of C-4 went off along with about 100 yards of det cord. The blast threw debris all over the place. It dumped a large quantity of the fine silt on us behind the bunkers. You could hear the tiny rocks and other fragment zip through the grass and cane. The blast caught the driver completely unawares and he jammed on his brakes, skidding a few feet into the opening. We couldn't see the bus for all the smoke and dust. It was almost completely quiet except for the things coming down out of the air and bouncing off the roof and hood of the bus. As the air slowly cleared we watched to see what happened to the bus. We wondered if the windows had been blown out. Was the driver okay?
As the dust slowly cleared, we saw that the driver was getting up off of the floor of the bus and looking around, getting ready to run for it. Apparently he thought there might be another attack. The inside of the bus was filled with dust and smoke. It started filtering out the windows as a small breeze blew through the area. Then the driver, seeing us walking up to the bus, came out. He looked like a light grey zombie. He was all shook up. When we saw he was all right, our nervousness turned into laughter. He just looked at us for a few moments and then became angry. He though we had done it on purpose! After a few minutes of explaining, he finally believed us that it had been a near-tragic accident. We got on the bus and started wiping it down as well as we could. All the way back on the twenty-minute drive to the barracks, we kidded our driver and kept asking him if he wanted to do it again. Now he joined in the fun and asked if the next time he could be the one to set off the explosives.
Each and every Marine in Charlie Company was taught not only the practical use of explosives but, also, the theory and mathematics of demolitions. They were taught about the class and orders of explosives. For example, they learned that dynamite exploded at approximately 11,000 to 14,000 feet per second; that TNT exploded around 21,000 fps, that detonation cord blew at 21,000 fps, and that C-4 reached 26,000 fps at detonation. They learned how to make densely-packed four-inch triangles to sever 4-inch pipe with as clean a cut as a hack saw would make. They learned about how tamping enhanced the effect of an explosive; what amounts to use with concrete, steel-reinforced concrete, and steel. They were the proper way to set explosives on bridge supports: a pack of explosives high on one side, and one low on the opposite side to create a shearing effect. After a couple of weeks of this training, Charlie Company really wanted to blow something up. They would have their chance, or at least most of them would. An exercise was planned to effect a clandestine insertion on the right side of the mainland surrounding Subic Bay. The largest part of the company would go in by rubber boats and sneak along the coast for about five miles and go toward the old Japanese fortifications of reinforced concrete. With the supervision of the sergeant from Engineers, they would place a 20 pound charge of C-4 within a portion of the fortification and blow it to hell. A small aggressor force was made up of a reinforced squad from the 2nd Platoon, who would attempt to ambush the company, or at least intercept it. Whoever won, they would still go on to set the explosives and watch it blow.
Around 2100 hours the company reached a part of the beach far enough away that the insertion was secure. The boats were deflated and buried and Lt. Matthews led the company inland. A couple of main roads heading in the desired direction were bypassed and finally a narrow dirt road was found that wound its way up toward the fortifications. The formation was single file and the spacing between each Marine was such that the line stretched for almost a quarter of a mile. The night was lit only by less than a quarter moon. It was just enough light to make out the man ahead but just barely. Strict noise discipline was observed and each man took care to walk silently and on the alert. Every other man was given the opposite side of the road as his responsibility for observation. However, the intensity by which this task was undertaken led to a near loss of nearly two-thirds of the company in the operation. At one stop where the point halted the company to check the trail ahead, the spacing was such that the man ahead and behind were barely visible. Each man went to his side of the small road and knelt down, M-14s at the ready, peering out to the side. When the patrol started up, a few did not notice the man ahead taking of to follow the front men. The concentration taken to guard the sides was such that all did not periodically check to see if the man ahead was moving on or not. In one case, the majority of the company lost contact with the first squad in line and had to walk quickly and silently to try to find the front group in the dark. With a little luck, the Marine who lost track of his man in front did find the company in a frantic ten minutes or so. This was a good lesson brought up later in the critique of the exercise.
The company halted at a tidal stream. Tidal streams are deceptively deep, especially near the mouth of the stream. A small looking stream only ten or twenty feet across could be fifteen or twenty feet deep. This one turned out to be about twelve feet deep, more than thirty feet across and could not be forded. It was decided to have three men, the platoon leader with them, swim a rope across. Since the moon had almost set by then, it was getting even darker. The Marines on one side of the bank could not see the Marines on the other side. A silent signal was worked out so that the waiting Marines would know when the rope was secured on the opposite bank before starting to use it to cross the stream. Each Marine, in addition to his M-14, was carrying two magazines of blanks as well as five empty magazines on his web belt, an additional two canteens, a K-bar, and first aid pack. Two Marines had the addition of a prick-10 radio strapped on their backs, so swimming was not an option. The signal was to be three jerks of the rope and then each Marine would, as quickly as possible, go hand over hand across the thirty feet, all without splashing. It had also been decided that one radio man would cross first after the rope was secured. The comm man held the rope in both his hands waiting for the signal. In a couple of minutes, there it was, three jerks on the rope. The Marine with his gear and the radio slipped into the creek pulling hard on the rope to attempt to pull himself across steadily. He drifted out only five or ten feet or so before plummeting down below the surface four or five feet. He reeled more rope in trying to get back to the surface. The rope resisted at first stopping his decent but then went completely slack, sending him farther down in to the black water. He desperately pulled on the rope, hand over hand to keep from drowning. Then the rope's slack stiffened. He held onto the rope as it started dragging him through the water, upward at an angle. By this time he was choking. The radio felt like a fifty-pound anchor. It was almost too late by the time his face broke through the water and he gulped for air.
Lt. Matthews was pissed. It was entirely too much noise and, besides that, he had not completed tying the rope at the other end and he was aggravated that the radioman had started over across the rope early. He had not realized that when he was trying to secure the rope a minute or so earlier, he had pulled on the rope to get more slack so that it would reach around the small tree he was using to anchor it. He had inadvertently yanked on it three times to get more feed, thus giving the signal that it was secure to the Marines on the other bank. When the radioman clung to the rope in his underwater decent, it had dragged all three of the Marines back into the water. Only with extraordinary efforts were the three able to retrieve the rope and pull the drowning Marine out of the water. But all's well that ends well and the radioman stifled his coughing and choking under harsh criticism for him to quiet down and checked his radio. It didn't work. Water had gotten into it even with the duct tape and waterproofing clay sealer. The prick tens often got wet and didn't work but most recovered when they had a chance to dry out. Then the rope was properly secured and the rest of the company crossed the stream and headed up the road. The rope was left in place for the return trip.
After another half hour, the raiding party reached the fortress unchallenged. The aggressor group was just too small to cover all the approaches. The exercise went "administrative" for the demolition phase. Under the supervision of the Engineer sergeant, the teams scaled the concrete wall and place the explosive in a crack in the concrete. It was double primed with a twenty-minute fuse. The C-4 was primed with two primer caps and about a dozen wraps of det cord. The double fuse was lit and the company then retreated down the wall and away a safe distance. Since it was expected that the entire side of the wall would be blasted away, that distance was considerable. Anticipation was high, the last few minutes went by very slowly. Then, a strobe-like flash of light and "WHOOMP!" That was all; no huge fireball, no tumbling rocks, chips of concrete, or other tumbling debris out of the skies. Something had gone wrong. The Engineer sergeant who had himself set the charge led a small team back up the wall to where the charges were set. It turns out that the C-4 separated when the det cord went off. It looked like the det cord detonated and blew the charge at least in half or perhaps into smaller pieces simultaneously as the caps detonated. The whole thing was pretty much a fizzle. So much for the big show.
Airborne Amphibious Insertions
Given the range of activities in which Charlie Company was trained or in which it dabbled, it would appear in hindsight that Charlie Company was a test bed for developing techniques not only for new ways of attacking a target, but also for variations on amphibius insertions. On occasion, the company was given Mae West's and told to put field uniforms on; i.e., utilities, with bathing suits but not to use boots. Rather, tennis shoes were worn with the uniform. Each Reconner was given two foot-long pieces of sisal; i.e., a short piece of manila hemp cord about a quarter of an inch thick. The sisal was to be used to tie the pistol grip portion of the M-14 stock to the uniform belt and the barrel to the leg just above the knee.
The company was taken to a place on the quiet beach near the docks where UH-34 helicopters picked them up and carried them to a height of forty feet over the water, about a half mile out. As the helicopters cruised at about five ten knots, the Marines jumped from the choppers and dead-dropped forty feet straight down into the water. They hit like bullets, going down at least ten or fifteen feet before the Mae West's slowly started raising them up to the surface. One Marine named Lloyd, had tied his stock to his belt loop instead of his web belt and was immediately separated from his rifle at he hit the water. The jumpers exited the chopper in teams of six but one at a time. With the helicopter's ten know track, the six were deposited about twenty feet apart as they hit the water. As Lloyd's surfaced after his jump, he rose through the surface of the water with a silly grin. The other team members thought it was the excitement of plunging free fall for forty feet that caused his smile. Instead, Lloyd said, "I lost my rifle." A nearby Marine said, "What?" Lloyd said, still smiling, "I lost my rifle." Well, it appeared to be a case of grin and bear it for Lloyd, since he had just committed one of a Marine's unpardonable sins, he had lost his rifle due to carelessness and was still alive and conscious. In the area of the drop, the bottom of Subic Bay was a muddy slime at a depth of ninety feet. The water was murky with the effluent of the sewer canal and several streams that flowed in to the bay, in addition to the usual microbial flora and fauna of estuaries. Although those of the company who were SCUBA qualified would search for the M-14 for two days, it was never a likely recovery. Lloyd appeared before the CO on charges of stupidity and filled out a bunch of paperwork, including his sworn statement of events and was finally issued a replacement weapon.
Rubber Boats Are Not Speedboats
Another partial success but still a disappointment were the various rubber boat runs with the Navy UDT teams. There was a UDT unit stationed at Subic Bay and a productive inter-relationship grew between the two groups. The UDT folks had some fast patrol boats which they used to pick up divers on the fly. This boat was offered to the Recon Raider company for training in high-speed pickups in the water. A rubber boat larger than the seven-man boats used by Recon was attached to the side of the high-speed patrol boat. In the attached rubber boat, a bull-built Chief Petty Officer would lean out over the side with a plastic ring about two feet across and heave in each of the Marines in a high-speed pass by. As each Reconner hooked his arm into the ring, he would be taken from a dead stop in the water to a speed of over twenty knows or so and rolled into the rubber boat. The swimmer just recovered would then scramble over the jumping, bouncing, and vibrating deck and gunnels of the rubber boat into the main boat in order to clear the way for the next swimmer being retrieved a few seconds later. That went well.
However, the "rubber boat insertion in force" did not come off. In this exercise, six rubber boats filled with the entire company were laced together and then hooked to the rear of the high-speed boat and towed at twenty to twenty-five knots to the insertion point. At least that was the theory. The array was hooked up as follows: a line was fed out from the rear of the motorized craft. It had two "pelican hooks" (these hooks could be quickly disengaged with a yank of a second smaller line, the hook looked like a pelican's beak) were paid out from the single line. Each of the two lines were attached to two lead rubber boats, these rubber boats would tow two more rubber boats each. The final array looked like two sets of three rubber boats. Since six boats had to carry nearly the entire company, each one was loaded to the maximum of seven paddlers with two passengers, with full combat gear and whatever other gear was needed for the particular operation.
The problem came in when the entire setup was linked up and the tow boat started to get up to ten or fifteen knots. The points at which the tow ropes were secured to the rubber boats were also the same type of rubber as the boat. As the tons of resistance built up in each set of three boats with their capacity cargoes, the divots would stretch to unbelievable lengths, threatening to tear out a chunk of rubber and explosively collapsing a lead boat. The pull of the trailing two boats with their full cargoes was just too much for the material to bear. Should one of the lead boats rapidly decompress, the trailing boats would be towed over the crippled boat and Marines. On each of two tries, the lines to the pelican release had to be pulled to save the boats. After two runs with varying takeoff speeds, the exercise was canceled.
One of the high points of the extensive rubber boat training was the race between the six boats from the training area back to the MWR beaches along the pretty park-like area used by the base personnel and their families in the day time. The straight-line distance was about six miles. It was about 0400 and we had been going through strenuous training exercises the entire evening and night. Now, Lt. Matthews suggested that we race the boats across the bay. The original plan had called for the empty boats to be towed back with the Raiders on the patrol boat. Lt. Matthews' enthusiasm for a six-mile paddle race was not shared by many. He grinned and said, "The first boat back gets overnight liberty. The second boat gets the rest of the day off." Well, it was a Friday morning and that would mean Having a 3-day weekend with an overnight stay. Some technicalities would have to worked out on the overnight because no overnights were authorized in Olongapo. We would have to declare that we were going on a tour to Manila (or "Maneela" as the local bar girls said) or Baguio, in the mountains. The catch was that you could not be caught on the streets after 2330. You had to have a place for the night before the Shore Patrol and Guard Company Marines made their street sweeps.
It is not certain whether Lt. Matthews "suggestion" would've become an order but it didn't matter. Overnight liberty was rare and an easily marketable concept. We turned to and launched the rubber boats, heading for the distant beach. The race only lasted a little over an hour with Lt. Matthews' boat coming in first. The boats all made landfall within five minutes of each other. No one thought about the company standing down for the day after an all day and all night exercise when the liberty was offered. But, it didn't make a lot of difference, liberty was always valued and after we cleaned up and took naps (for some), we headed for Olongapo with our "overnight" to Manila paperwork.
Liberty in Olongapo
Most in Charlie Company had visited Olongapo after the Bay of Tonkin float and loved it, even if there were only two or three visits. When the got there in October, 1964, all were anxious to revisit the places discovered earlier and to explore new places. The streets were crowed with shops, a few hotels, and bars, a lot of bars. A lot of tiny shops, with no entrance were jammed in between buildings, taking up the entrances to alley ways. These little one-person shops would simply be a stall about the size of a portable john with a small counter in front and shelves of merchandise tacked up inside the walls. More than anything else, they sold cigarettes and chewing gum. The cigarettes were look alike American brands made in the Philippines. Other little booths had various forms of food, like shish kabob things of either dog or monkey meet; not much beef in the Philippines. Sometimes they claimed the stuff to be pork but after a few weeks, it made little difference to Charlie Company, as long as you were hungry, it didn't matter what it was as long as it was cooked well and tasted good. Some of the food booths and food carts that parked along the street, had roasted or toasted squid, a strong and foul tasting delight with the consistency of potato chips. This was one of the lesser-preferred dishes when one came in, even hungry, from liberty.
In the bars there was plenty of frosty San Miguel beer. In most places it was served up at about 33 degrees, and when the top was pulled off, the beer immediately froze with beer ice rising up through the top and melting as it ran down the side. You can't get beer much colder than that and still have it pour out of a bottle. Not that many bothered to pour their beer into a glass. On a day with temperatures in the 90-degree range with humidity to match, it was the best beer in the world, as attested to by these teenage world travelers.
Also in the bars were a special Filipino treat, balugue (baloog), which were offered stacked in small bowls on the bar as you drank your beer. Now a balugue was not something Americans usually encounter at home, at least outside of Filipino communities. A baluge was about a fifteen or sixteen day fertilized chicken egg. To the Filipinos, and the more adventuresome Americans, this was a delicacy. After a couple of beers and when hunger started gnawing, you could simply take one, crack it open and pop a sixteen-day-old incomplete chicken fetus into your mouth, complete with partially formed feathers, feet, eyeballs, and blood vessels showing through the translucent skin of the chick. Not for everybody, that.
For most, though, there were far better amusements than balugue. In the Philippines, the beer tasted better than anywhere else, the women seemed prettier than anywhere else, and the people loved American GIs. As with most foreign places, the food was a wonderful discovery (except for balugue). The Filipinos don't grow many tomatoes so they make a form of catsup from spices and bananas. While it doesn't taste like tomato catsup, it comes in a catsup bottle and is the color and consistency of tomato catsup. Poured over pork or chicken fried rice it is delicious. Olongapo also offered a strange butterscotch gin. For most, however, this was an acquired taste, although some took to it naturally. A Reconner from Charlie Company, R.J. Stolt, from Pennsylvania, was particularly fond of this drink, habitually choosing it to excess.
After a short time pulling liberty in Olongapo, the reconners started to become wise in ways of Olongapo streets.
Shore Liberty in Civvies
If there is one thing that gripes a Marine guard company more that almost anything else, it's other Marines getting to do what they consider matters in their own private domain. Overseas, the standard requirement for enlisted personnel going on shore liberty is to wear the uniform of the day. Now, at Subic, besides the officers, the guard company was the only bunch that had the privilege of wearing civvies on liberty. However, it appeared that the Admiral of the base had a fondness for the Marine Raiders even though they had already caused the base some grief. So it was that he gave his permission for the Raiders to pull liberty in civvies. The guard company at first harassed those who first attempted to leave the base in civvies. The MPs posted at the gate imposed arbitrary dress standards for civilian clothes; such as, the Reconners' civilian shoes weren't shined to their liking, or shirts weren't ironed to their taste. After a couple of days and some harsh complaints from the company CO to the brass, the guards were quite chastened and knocked it off. Since few had any civvies at all, the first week of liberty in civvies provoked a buying spree by Charlie Company in areas of Olongapo and in stores heretofor unentered by these Marines. Since there were no department stores on the main strip, bar girls were pressed into service to act as shopping guides. It wasn't exactly a Brooks Brothers parade but an adequate change of civvies was had by all.
Almost everywhere you go, there are things that people want that you are not supposed to give or sell to them. Olongapo was no different. Now, we're not talking arms trading or dope smuggling, we're talkin' cigarettes and raincoats. Genuine American cigarettes and real Marine Corps-issue raincoats. The Filipinos loved both, and most GIs at one time or another ran out of cigarettes on liberty and really wanted some real American smokes. In accordance with the usual rules about PX supplies and local merchants, there were restrictions on what you could take into town. Cigarettes were allowed but you could only take two packs, enough for the heaviest smoker for one evening. Black-market American cigarettes would cost a dollar on the streets of Olongapo and any extra packs a GI had would sell for fifty cents a pack. This was an attractive deal for most privates and Pfcs, since liberty money was always in short supply.
A private first class was making about seventy or eighty dollars a month at the time, with overseas pay. That meant a cash flow of fifteen to twenty dollars before the purchase of necessities was factored in. Another factor was that beer was relatively cheap in Olongapo. The going rate in the popular bars was one Peso, about twenty-five cents American. In some of the cafes, beer went for a little at fifty-centavos, or twelve-and-a-half cents. Cigarettes were cheap at the PX and Ship's Store. A carton of ten packs of Lucky Strikes cost one dollar and a carton of Pall Malls cost one dollar and ten cents. Selling Pall Malls for fifty cents turned a nice profit for both the seller and buyer. The trick was to get them out the gate. It was no sweat getting the allowed two packs but occasionally the Marine Guards patted down sailors and Marines for hidden packs of cigarettes. The most obvious place was the socks. As many as four packs could be smuggled out the gate in your socks. But it was the first place the guards looked if it wasn't raining. If it was raining, then many more could be concealed in the raincoat or anywhere underneath it. The cigarettes were readily sold virtually to anyone on the Olongapo streets.
Another commodity popular among the Filipinos was the standard Marine Corps-issue rain coat. It would fetch twenty pesos on any day. Although this, unlike the cigarettes, was a losing deal for Marines, it came in handy when in a pinch. However, one Reconner, having remembered the market for raincoats on his stopover after the Tonkin float, had purchased five or six ninety-nine cent plastic raincoats in Okinawa. These were the same color green as the Marine-issue coats but were more cheaply made. However, the Filipinos didn't seem to care, readily shelling out the standard twenty pesos for these also. The trouble was that the Subic Bay PX did not carry them.
Although the small scale black marketing in cigarettes and raincoats was relatively safe, it did have its risks. Replete throughout the Philippines was the Japanese WWII Occupation Currency. It resembled Filipino money but had some obvious differences. Unfortunately, at night in poor lighting, maybe after a few beers, it could be slipped to the less wary. Although this was considered counterfeiting by the Filipino government, not much could be done to stop it. It was "seller beware."
Wildest Marine Corps Birthday Ever
About a month after Charlie Company settled into their barracks at the back of Subic Bay, it was time to celebrate November 10th. Now, on the main holiday of the Marine Corps Calendar, it was fitting to provide for a few things. One, Charlie Company was allowed to borrow the empty barracks behind them and turn it into a hall in which to hold their party. Two, it was a foregone conclusion that San Miguel and butterscotch gin would be the mainline drinks and would be allowed in the "barracks" where the party was being held. Three, women. Yes, by special arrangements with the base, anyone wishing to bring along special "friends" from town could obtain passes for them at the gate and they could spend all the time at the party so long as their escorts stayed with them. And, four, the hall had to be decorated.
The unofficial slogan of Charlie Company at the time was "Pray for War." This may have seemed naive at the time but no one had been in combat and there was a thirst for action that only the uninitiated would indulge in. A large classroom flip chart was appropriated, pages stripped off, and drawing working parties were assembled. The posters declared, "Pray for War," "3rd RECON," "Marine Raider Company," "Swift, Silent, Deadly, " "Kill, kill, kill." About twenty posters were taped to the bulkheads just under the ceiling, and hung from the rafters. The troops were really getting into it on November 9th. When it was learned that a small communications support detachment of Marines was on ship out in the harbor, the only thing to do was invite them to the Recon party as brother Marines. Unfortunately for them, they accepted the invitation.
On November 10th, 1964, morning muster was held and only the necessary duties were assigned. The troops were allowed to leave to pick up their guests from town at 100 hours. The Navy mess donated a birthday cake, which was brought in at 1300 hours. The Captain gave a two-minute speech reminding all present of the purpose of Marines gathering together on the Marine Corps Birthday and that everyone should have fun and behave themselves. Gunny Miller started off after that with a round of toasts to get things going. The gunny had broken out his cotton tropicals for the party, believing the Marine Corps Birthday to be too important an occasion to merely wear khakis to. He had all his ribbons from over twenty years of service. His ribbons spoke of many campaigns from Korea to Lebanon to the Cuban crisis. However, the nice clothes didn't make Gunny Miller look any less tough.
The party naturally started off slow. Some Recon Marines introduced themselves to the comm guys from the ship. They sat and drank and ate snacks for a while. After a couple of hours, some music was played from a radio and then the dance got started. And, that brought trouble. That is, mixing beer, gin, women and strange men brought trouble. Naturally, the comm crew hadn't been able to get women from town so they would ask the Raiders' "dates" to dance. For a while that didn't cause a problem. But after a few too many drinks, a couple of the comm Marines kept keeping too steady company with a couple of the women who were supposed to be with the Charlie Company Marines. Then somebody saw the same stranger dancing with his girl too many times. The first was Corporal White. He had gone to the bar to get a couple of cold San Miguels. As he walked back across the floor, he suddenly saw "his girl" dancing with the same guy who had been dancing with her more than a couple of time earlier. White smashed both bottles of beer down on the concrete deck and went for the comm Marine dancing with his girl. Although White got the first punch in, both were a little tipsy and off their game and, so, they sort of wrestled and tried to throw punches. As they sort of danced in each other's grip, they flailed away mostly hitting each other on the shoulders and back of the head. Soon they were down on the deck and groveling in the spilled beer and broken glass. Both started getting cut up before anyone was of a mind to break it up. But the broken glass was too dangerous so the gunny who had been looking on approvingly up to this point, had some Marines from both camps swoop down and break up the fight. The Charlie Company corpsman, Doc Skinner (no kidding), examined the wounded. Both had cuts serious enough to require stitches and transportation was arranged with the H&S duty driver to take them to Cubi Point Naval Hospital about fifteen minutes away. The beer and glass was policed up and the music stared again. Things were almost back to normal when one of the comm guys starts mouthing off about how chicken shit it was for White to run up and hit his buddy. Words were exchanged and one thing led to another and another fight broke out.
This one didn't injure so much as cost people money. There was a lot of shirt tearing. The uniform shirt was first, then the skivvie shirt. When the pair stopped punching and simply rolled around in each other's arms, the gunny said their fight was undignified and ordered it over. However, the rolling pair had provided a diversion to a more serious fight outside. While the fight inside was starting, apparently another was starting about the same time outdoors. It is not clear how it got taken outside, whether it started out there, or the fighters decided to leave the hall. The hall quickly started emptying out so that everyone could go see the new distraction. This one produced split lips, torn ears, and miscellaneous other doctorable injuries. Gunny Miller pushed his way to the front. He smiled as he evaluated the damage being done in the fight. The Reconner was a little larger, much stronger than the comm pogue, and was definitely getting the better of his foe. It had gone far enough and the comm guy threw in the towel. Gunny's smile grew wider.
Doc Skinner couldn't keep up with business and these two also were to be sent to Cubi Point. However, it would have to wait until the Mighty-might returned from the first run. Doc Skinner started cleaning the wounds and putting butterfly tape on the worst cuts. In about fifteen minutes, the driver returned from the hospital only to be informed that he had another load to haul back up to the hospital. In the next two or three runs, the corpsmen at the hospital would greet the driver, who was now becoming a familiar face to them, by saying, "Is this more from that Marine Raider party?"
A couple more scuffles broke out and the CO of the visitors thought that they had had enough fun for the Marine Corps Birthday and ordered his troops back to ship. As the grey Navy bus hauled the contingent away, there seemed to be a vacuum left, like most of the fun was leaving. It was now late in the afternoon and there was still a few beers left. It was decided that drinking whatever beer was left over should be the priority activity and all set to the task.
In another hour or so the beer was almost gone. That's when Gunny Miller thought things were too dull and suggested that the earlier times of the fights were a lot more fun that just sitting around drinking beer. He asked if any pair of reconners would like to fight for the entertainment of the rest. Nobody was particularly enthusiastic about the gunny's idea. So, the gunny suggested that somebody fight him. Everyone was reluctant. The gunny was well respected and actually like by all the company; nobody wanted to hurt him, and much more importantly, get hurt by the gunny.
Gunny Miller's Fight
Gunny Miller, all decked out in his cotton tropical uniform of the day, resplendent with his ribbons from Korea and from other places and campaigns, his Expert Rifle and Expert Pistol badges gleaming from his chest, slowly started to unbutton his shirt. Having completed unbuttoning his shirt, he slipped out of it and carefully placed it on the back of a folding chair. With much theatrical sense, Gunny Miller faced what was only about half of Charlie Company left and calmly announced, "If anybody has the balls to put my shirt in the shit can, I'll be honored to kick his ass."
This took everybody aback. Gunny went on, "Isn't there at least one man among us, besides me?" We all sort of looked around uneasily. The gunny continued about how disappointed he was, that he had had a much higher level of respect than to see that no one would rise to the occasion. Lance Corporal Starks, a Cajun from
Louisiana, about six feet tall, lean, and who could be grim looking when he wanted to be, spoke up. "Gunny, I think a whole lot of you and all but I've had enough of your shit." The gunny said calmly, "Well, anyone can throw my shirt into the shitcan." Well, Starks got up and ambled over to the folding chair with the gunny's shirt carefully hanging on the back. He picked up the shirt and with measured, deliberate motions, balled it up, crushing within the material all the ribbons and badges. He then went the two or three steps to the shit can and, right on top of the left-over cake, icing, and spilled beer, jammed the shirt into the can, grinding it viciously down as far as it would go. It only went a little less than a foot, since the can was almost full.
Gunny Miller smiled, walked over to the GI can and pulled his shirt from atop the trash. He held it up by the ends of the shoulders and gently shook it loose from its crumpled state. It was spotted by the wet beer stains, giving it a mottled, two-tone camouflaged appearance. Except for the cake and icing sticking to hit, hanging in clumps, some pieces of cake and multi-colored icing tumbling off of it in small fragments. Gunny slowly shook it and snapped it a couple of times, as if it would all go away and look nice if he could just get the wrinkles out. The shirt was a hopeless mess. Starks was standing quietly, grinning. Gunny then calmly walked back to the chair and replaced the shirt on the back. And in one fluid motion, brought up a left cross to the side of Starks' head. The blow landed just above the jaw line, otherwise Starks might have gone down.
The gunny was about five foot six, Starks was just over six feet. Starks trip-stepped sideways from the hit but quickly regained his balance. Gunny charged him, swinging, to follow up on his initial advantage. Starks dodged and blocked, then, regaining his bearing and balance, caught the gunny with a few good licks. But Gunny started raining punches on Starks. Starks tumbled backwards into the folding chair. In one motion, Starks fell against the chair, grabbed by the sides of the back and did a roll and back on his feet, carrying the chair with him. The gunny pressed his attack only to be met with a chair to the head. Actually, it was to the side of his face and by his ear. This opened up a gash across the gunny's left side of his forehead.
The blood spurted out and came out profusely. The two corpsmen were watching the fight along with the rest of the Marines. Now, the gash looked to serious to allow matters to continue. Doc Skinner stepped in and stopped the fight. By now the gunny had blood, cake, beer, and icing all over him. Starks looked the same way, except most of the blood was from the gunny. He did have a split lip and some puffiness here and there about his head and face, but nothing serious.
The duty driver was called and the gunny was place into the fron passenger seat of the Mighty-Mite, and along with the driver and Doc Skinner, went on their way to the Cubi Point Naval Hospital. About three-quarters of the way there, Gunny Miller claims that the bleeding has stopped and orders the driver to return to the party. Doc Skinner intervened and overrode the gunny's orders. This was a medical situation and he was in charge. The gunny made it to the hospital and after the blood was cleaned up, got six stitches for his trouble.
Back at the barracks, the party was winding down and quarrels started breaking out here and there. The CO declared the party at an end and sounded liberty call. The duty personnel were given the immediate task of policing up the more disastrous of the mess while the entire clean up would wait until the next day. Of the forty or so of Charlie Company who attended the party, only a dozen or so made it out the gate that early evening of November 10, 1964. Most were passed out and in their racks, or somebody else's, were already throwing up beer, cake and icing and didn't feel like going anywhere, or were turned back at the main gate by the Marine guards, who thought they were just too drunk to go and offend the decent citizens of Olongapo.
That evening, there was a quiet depression over almost everyone's mood. Friends who had quarreled and fought made amends and renewed their bonds, others were just taken down by the anti-climactic evening after all the action earlier in the day. Finally, everyone except those on liberty, were in the rack for the night.
Searching for Tree Poachers
In the jungles of the Philippines there are some magnificent trees. Many of them are mahogany, ebony, and similar highly desirable furniture woods. Also, many of these stand nearly one-hundred feet in height. In the '60s, exporting lumber and furniture-grade wood was a major export of the Philippines.
In and around the hospital at Cubi Point, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of these trees stood in pristine rain forests. The amount of land leased by the U.S. Government around Subic Bay was considerable. The leased territory around it went on for miles. Around the town of Olongapo the forests had been stripped of the bigger valuable trees and the commercial loggers were looking for more such trees within an economical distance from the roads and rail lines.
It turns out that for months, trespassing loggers were cutting trees from land on the U.S. military reservation. While the trees were not the issue, the proximity was an issue. When one of these giant trees was felled, it could be hear for over a quarter of a mile, and felt for twice that distance. The 400 Marine Guard Company had little success in rounding up these tree poachers. The base CO, an Admiral, called on "his" Raider Company to handle the task. One squad of the 1st Platoon was selected to recon the area and find the elusive loggers.
The mission started in mid-morning. Ammunition was issued and two-days' C-rats were given to each man. Lt. Matthews lead the patrol. The squad was given the location of the last tree cutting and set off in that direction. The first day the squad was simply engaged in scouting out various areas where logging had obviously taken place out of the many square miles of the Subic Bay-Cubi Point military reservation. The patrol covered about six or seven miles that day, going along jungle trails under double canopies that rose up to one hundred feet or more. The day was warm but not too oppressive. Having been satisfied that the older logging camps were deserted, the squad found a place to spend the night by some huge boulders by a medium size stream. The air was quiet and the evening lovely. A pool was located which was about four to five feet deep and the patrol bathed in the splashing water of the small waterfall that fed the pool.
The next morning just before sunup, the patrol took off again in a new direction. After about an hour the first give-away sound was heard. The earth trembled momentarily and a far off sound like an artillery shell exploding, only very faintly. The squad immediately went on the new azimuth toward the sound. More sounds followed shortly thereafter. As they came closer and closer, the felling of the trees broadcast to all the senses. The sounds grew but so did the rumbling of the earth grow more telling, the small shock waves on the face now definitely perceptible. The point signaled to the patrol that he had something just ahead and the patrol stopped. Lt. Matthews went ahead to investigate.
He came back down the trail and motioned for the rest of the squad to come ahead. As the Marines came into the logging camp single file, spaced about ten meters apart, it was obvious that it was a fresh camp. There were huts enough to acconmodate twenty or more men. Smoke still came from fires hastily put out. There was fresh-cut brush and small trees everywhere. But there were no loggers to be seen.
The patrol wended its way around the small camp until it came upon an older Filipino man, sitting in front of his hooch, smoking a homemade pipe. Lt. Matthews greeted him, "How are you doing this morning? You speak English?"
"Yes, I'm good this morning," answered the small Filipino man, who appeared be over sixty years old and looked to be about five feet tall and weighing about ninety to one hundred ponds.. "You have meesed brake fast," he said.
Lt. Matthews replied, "Thanks, we've already had breakfast."
The old man studied the group of Marines. He asked, "Why are you so far back in the jungle?"
Lt. Matthews answered, "We're hunting. We'd like to shoot some pigs or monkeys. Have you seen any around here?"
"No monkeys around here, you have to go farther that way for monkeys," he said, motioning generally to the north.
Lt. Matthews ordered the patrol to make sure they had their weapons locked and ordered everyone to clear weapons. The live ball ammo came flying out of a couple of the breeches. This was simply to demonstrate that the patrol was armed and meant business. The charade was almost over.
"Have you seen the people from here who have been cutting these trees," asked Matthews, motioning to the obvious evidence of logging all around.
"Well, yes," the old man responded. He then stood and put his right hand to his mouth and whistled through his fingers, letting out a loud, sharp whistle. He shouted, "Let's go, we're caught! Come in! Right now!"
From all around the camp Filipino workers stood up from the bushes and from behind fallen logs and started meandering in to the camp. They collected around the patrol. Some had bolos, some had axes and chain saws. The Marines looked about them apprehensively. Matthews ordered to lock and load. Chambers came back and went home. The old man seemed amused and said, "Don't worry, we know its feeneesh here. We will go with you." He smiled and his eyes danced from Marine to Marine.
"Well, okay then, ask your men to get their things and line up single file over there," Matthews said in more of an asking than ordering way, motioning to a clearing. The old man said a few quick bursts of Tagalog to the men and they causally went to their hooches and gathered a few belongings. The radioman contacted the base comm contact and reported in.
The ten Marines then interspersed themselves among the Filipinos, some of whom appeard to be only teenagers, while others appeared to be too old to do heavy physical work. They lined up and the column headed back down the hillside toward the road to the hospital some five or six miles away.
When the trail turned into the dirt road, they knew they were nearing the chain-link fence and the gate that led to the paved road. As they approached the gate with their band of tree pirates, a bull-dozer with two workers sitting on it and a woman of about forty stood nearby, very displeased. It turned out that the woman was the owner of the logging company the captured group worked for. There were also a group of American officers, some Navy, some Marines, standing with the woman and discussing the situation with her. She was very cross. They explained to here that there was no desire for any arrests and that they could keep all the trees that had already been cut down, but any further logging was now stopped. She didn't seem to buy in to it but there was nothing she could really do. The Filipinos were all released and started up again to chat with the Marines. They had been very friendly on the hike back and now hurried last words of farewell were exchanged.
Chow call was sounded for the recon team and the squad broke out their C-Rats. The author had the incredible bad luck to draw ham and limas but had prepared for this worst-case scenario in the epicurean sense. As a major and a Navy lieutenant watched, he dug out a bottle of catsup that he had appropriate from the Navy chow hall on base. He emptied out the cookies from the small can and punched holes in the bottom around the sides with his John Wayne. He bent in the top sides in three places to form a little stove. He tore open the foil-wrapped heat tabs and plopped one into the can and lit it. The ham and limas can was opened, the cold layer of grease was peeled off and the can was placed on the little stove. A mess-kit spoon of the ham and limas were scooped out and thrown away, and the rest were brought to a boil. Then, the can was taken off the stove, and a generous portion of catsup replaced the missing limas and was mixed well into the rest. The major was impressed. He said, "Now look at that, there's a survivor for you. He takes the worst meal I know of and fixes it up to his taste." The major was offered a portion but he quickly declined, too quickly in my view, so I asked him again, assuring him he was really missing a treat, and that he shouldn't judge too harshly just because it was ham and limas. He laughed and said, "No, thank you, I'll be back at the mess soon and eat there."
The patrol took their time eating while waiting for the old blue Navy bus to come pick them up. It finally came around 1400 hours. That was good, there would probably be plenty of early liberty today, they thought, discussing the topic as they rode back to the barracks. Lt. Matthews was attempting to be none committal but had to smile when constantly reminded of the easy success of the patrol. Everyone was in a good mood, for the time being, anyway. They had not found out yet what happened to the rest of the company on the other side of Subic Bay. The rest of the company had gone for a three-day exercise on patrolling, ambush, and survival. They would shortly find out.
Lance Corporal Griffith
LCpl Griffith was an easy-going guy from North Carolina. He was the kind that anyone could walk over to and sit down and talk if about just about anything. Griffith usually had a story or an amusing comment about whatever you brought up. He would tell stories in his down-home southern accent that made whatever he said a little more interesting. He was the kind of man that had no enemies, and most acquaintances were friends. He was a solid member of the Raider Company.
While the patrol from Charlie Company we searching the jungle behind the Cubi Point hospital, the rest of Charlie Company was on maneuvers on the opposite side of Subic Bay. About a dozen reconners were assigned to act as aggressors to the rest of the company in a counter-insurgency sweep. That placed the aggressors two or three miles out into the foot hills.
There were about four radios among the company on that exercise, PRC-10s, or "prick tens" as we called them. They were only occasionally reliable and seemed to sense when they were needed the most and were determined to defeat their users. Back at base during radio checks, they were nearly flawless but out in the field, they often couldn't punch through. This may have worsened a bad situation on the second day of the training.
Patrols were sent out to find the insurgents and the insurgents looked for the company and an opportunity to ambush it. Corporal Early, Corporal White, and Lance Corporal Griffith were clustered together, with Early trying to establish radio contract with the rest of the company. Also with them in positions farther down were Lempergel and Martinez and Doc Skinner. For reasons only know to Corporal White, he took out his .45 and was handling it. He had at least a few rounds in the magazine. At some time, either earlier or at that time, he had jacked one into the chamber.
Corporal Early had the radio handset in his left hand, holding the earpiece up to his left ear. LCpl Griffith was on his left, White on Early's right. Again, nobody knows but White, if even he does, what exactly happened next but the .45 went off sending the bullet through Early's left forearm, passing between the bones, leaving a clean hole through his arm. Griffith was not so lucky. The bullet went on to strike him in the right side of his neck, traveling on through destroying a portion of his windpipe and jawbond and exiting the other side of his neck.
Everyone was shocked at the sudden blast of the pistol. Doc Skinner said that, for some reason, before going into the field on that exercise, he had, almost as an afterthought, thrown some surgical tubing into his Unit One, since it was not a regular piece of equipment. It was exactly the thing he needed to clear Griffith's airway into his lungs. Doc Skinner cleaned up the blood around Griffith's neck and ran the tube down his windpipe, keeping Griffith alive. He bandaged him and did as much as he could.
Doc then turned to Early, whose forearm was bleeding and quickly bandaged it. Early seemed okay and was more concerned about Griffith than himself. Doc then went back to work on Griffith, although it was clear he needed a medevac ASAP. This was the first time Doc Skinner was confronted with combat type wounds and situation and all agreed he performed brilliantly, working professionally and keeping his head about him.
The others got on the radio beside Early and tried to contact the company. After about five minutes of futile attempts, Martinez volunteered to run the few miles back to the company CP and report. The temperature was in the nineties despite it being in December and Martinez simply couldn't run the entire distance over foot hills and in and out of ravines. He did the best he could, knowing that Griffith's life depended on him getting back as quickly as possible. He covered the two miles or so in a little over twenty minutes, arriving exhausted at the company area.
The radio at the company got through to Cubi Point safety net and a UH-35 was dispatched from the airfield for Griffith. It only took the 35 about ten minutes to reach Griffith. He was alive when he was loaded on the chopper but he didn't make it to the hospital. Apparently, he had lost too much blood.
The tree-poacher patrol rolled into the barracks area at Subic around mid-afternoon, ready to brag about their excellent recon skills in finding and capturing the wood choppers. Their high spirits immediately sank when their brothers told them that "Griffith got killed." It didn't make sense at first. The members of the company who were on the exercise weren't all that excited about talking about it but the poacher patrol was insistent on knowing what happened. It didn't seem real. People shouldn't get killed in training, it was hard to accept.
Everyone was sure it was an accident and actually felt sorry for Corporal White, who had shot him. Of course, all unauthorized ammunition was collected. The poacher patrol had ammo but it was authorized, but, still the same, it was also turned in. Too late for Griffith. Corporal White was ordered over to somewhere else on base to be questioned. He came back briefly and stayed for a couple of days. Then he was placed under arrest and placed in the brig at Subic. A few days later, two chasers brought him back to pack his gear and then they left. Some sought to express their sorrow and give support only to be cut off abruptly by the Guard Company chasers. That was the last time we saw him. Griffith's stuff was packed and shipped, we supposed to his family.
Overnight Liberty in Olongapo
Officially, there was no overnight liberty in Olongapo. One could, however, obtain overnight liberty if it was necessary to visit the move sophisticated cultural centers of the island of Luzon. There were two popular tours available; one to Manila, and the other to Bagio, a town in the mountains. The stipulation for overnight to these places was that one had to be clear of Olongapo by 2200 hours. Or at least off the streets.
There were a number of hotels along the main drag suited to the finances of lower-graded enlisted personnel. Of course there were the more expensive, upper class places, but these were beyond the cash flow of most Privates First Class and Lance Corporals. Although these hotels were intended as, what shall we say, short-term romantic love nests, they were still moderately nice and certainly not nasty hot-sheet motel-type dives.
Overnight liberty was flaunted around because of its rarity but, in the real world, it wasn't that big of a deal. However, for one having such an opportunity, it was something to impress the local bar girls with, although they might have thought it was silly.
The bus station, where one caught the bus for Manila (say "Maneela") was at the opposite end of the main drag. For about five or ten cents American you could get from the main gate to the station. However, only very few made it as far as the bus station. It turns out that there were just too many interesting things right there in Olongapo that distracted the touring Marine from his earlier intended destination.
The Jeepney Incident
The jeepneys provided a river of WWII jeeps flowing in a never-ending stream up and down and back again over the main drag of Olongapo. Gaily decorated, driven and decorated by Filipinos, each one had a different look and personality. However, some of the drivers were opportunists who would rip off Marines or sailors if the chance presented itself. This caused an impediment to closer cultural relations between the Raiders and the drivers.
When money ran low, an inexpensive entertainment would be to just ride up and down the street in a jeepney, harassing pedestrians or even the driver himself. This is what happened one evening in Olongapo.
Lempergel, Donoho, and Jones were out for some modest amusement when Lempergel decided he would surprise everybody by "assisting" the jeepney driver with his driving. As the driver putted along, Lempergel, who was sitting in the front passenger side seat, suddenly jammed his foot on top of the driver's, the one on the accelerator. The jeep sprung forward, from about fifteen miles an hour to nearly thirty. Luckily, Lempergel chose a time when there was a long interval between the jeeps. The driver, unable to get his foot up on the accelerator, shoved in the clutch and turned of the key but not before the engine raced to a few thousand RPM. He was plenty mad about what Lempergel did. Lemp apologized profusely, trying to explain that he just wanted to see what would happen. He complimented the driver on his quick reaction. The driver was given a tip and was convinced to continue on.
As he again drove along at about ten or fifteen miles an hour, Lempergel grabbed the shift stick and began jerking it back and forth and sideways, causing some terrible grinding sounds. This time the jeepney was boxed in front and back and the driver had difficulty avoiding an accident. He tried to slow down and pull over but Lemp grabbed the steering wheel and kept turning the vehicle back into traffic, while mashing his foot on the accelerator. He and the driver started to struggle for control of the jeep. He continued gnashing the shift stick around crazily. He then pushed down on the stick which caused it to come completely out of the grear box. This was designed into the gearboxes in those jeeps for easier disassembly. He waived the shift stick around for a second or two before tossing it out of the door onto the sidewalk. The jeep which was only going about five or ten miles an hour now, shuddered to a stop.
The drive got out and gave a lound whistle. A dozen or so jeepney drivers immediately stopped and started descending on the threesome. It was time for extraction. All three, still laughing themselves silly, bailed out of the jeep and ran down the street back toward the base, with the gang of drivers in pursuit. They reached the intersection of the main drag and the jungle street and ran into the bar at the point of the intersection. It had entrances on both sides. They ran down the jungle as far as the door and ran in and immediately tried to "blend in" among the crowd. They headed in a circuitous route to the opposite side of the triangular-shaped bar and the doorway back out onto the main drag.
Looking discretely over their shoulders every now and then, they saw that the Shore Patrol had now joined the chase and hunt. They made it to the opposite door only to be greeted by more Shore Patrol. Luckily, these Shore Patrol were the temporaries who were impressed into service and lost their liberty. They were ordinary sailors and Marines who just had the bad luck to get the duty. The four Shore Patrol, two sailors and two Marines easily assessed the situation: these guys were fleeing and were likely the ones they were looking for. Some quick talking helped. "You know how these drivers rip us off and then lie about us. If you keep us, we'll get hung for their lies," and so on. The Shore Patrol finally agreed after a minute or so and released the three reconners. None too soon, for as the three quickly ducked into the next bar, the other Shore Patrol and posse of drivers came streaming out of the first bar. The Shore Patrol already waiting there reported no luck and after a couple of minutes of discussion, dispersed back to their previous occupations.
Having had enough fun for the night, it was then back to the base.
Continued in Part 3 - Jump School and other adventures