As I sit here this evening listening to Santana’s Greatest hits on my vintage stereo system I’m inspired to write about the detour several of us took to the Island of Luzon in the Republic of the Philippines. About the second week of April 1971 a rumor started floating around that several CT’s were getting TAD orders for NSGD San Miguel, RPI for 6 months that would include a 3 month sojourn to Phu-Bai, Republic of South Viet Nam. The rumor turned into a reality when a list of about 30 Linkou CT’s came out with departure dates for Naval Communications Station San Miguel. Fortunately for me at the time, my name wasn’t on the list which was surprising as the majority of those on the list had arrived in Taiwan about the same time I had. This obvious ommission did not go unnoticed within Delta section. One member, Skinny Dan was on the list, not only did he out rank me, but he had considerably more time on the ROC than I. To make his situation worse, he was married and had just finalized arrangements to bring his wife over from the ‘world’. She would be arriving just in time to see Dan off on his TAD to the PI and beyond. She would have to adjust to Taiwan on her own. With some ‘gentle’ coaxing by the likes of Fat Gary I volunteered to take his place. Fat Gary was going also and he assured me that it would be ‘Ace’ as he would say about anything that would involve drinking and partying.
Before departing for the PI several of us had the opportunity to accompany Dan to Shung-Shan airport to greet his arriving wife one evening in late April 1971. The flight arrived on time, streams of American servicemen and dependent family members got off the plane and filed by us, but not Dan’s wife. After enduring my NUG pranks I was somewhat suspicious of my duty section mates and wondered if the Mrs. was a figment of their imagination. It turns out there was a spouse, but she decided she wasn’t coming to Taiwan, and left Dan off that memo. A few years ago I exchanged e-mails with Dan and he told me he got divorced and made a career of the Navy. Some time after his tour in Taiwan he got regular orders for San Miguel. He met a lovely Filipina and got married – now that’s irony.
So off we went to the PI. The best part of it for me, an E3 that was always broke, was the extra per diem pay, $180 up front. Some how I wound up partying all night in Taipei the night before my flight departed for Clark AFB and missed the last Liberty Bus back to Linkou. I Almost didn’t get back to Linkou in time to pack and catch my flight to Clark Air Base in the Philippines. As I jumped into a cab cursing the thought of having to pay the fare all way back to Linkou I heard a voice yelling to “wait”. Running out of the same establishment I had been in was Uncle Mike, also scheduled to be on the same flight as I. Amazing how geniuses think alike.
The PI was ‘Ace’ as Fat Man said. Much more forgiving to my wallet, but less sophisticated than Taipei. Yes, I would say we behaved with a certain level of sophistication while on the town in Taipei, as compared to the way we behaved at the Cross Roads outside the gates of NAVCOMSTA Phil. I recall walking into the UAC (Ugly American Club) one afternoon and did a double take of a table where two Linkou sailors were sitting with two Filipinas in various stages of disrobement; one of the girls had nothing but her underwear on. I noticed there were cards on the table; ah ha – strip poker game. In Taipei we would play Black Jack at the Kings Club bar and loose our money to one of the girls – much more sophisticated.
One of the “When in Rome, Do as the Romans” adventures that had to be taken while in the PI was a trip to the Subic Bay Naval Base and the city of Olongapo, which had the reputation of being the best Liberty Port in the Westpac. If you were there, you’d know what we’re talking about, if not……… well, you just had to be there.
Above: Some of the Linkou Navy contingent at Subic Bay.
One of the more humorous things I witnessed in the PI was at a little club called the “Blue Heavan” (I think). Lynn Hintergart, Linkou Alpha section, and I were having a cold San Miguel beer at a table, Lynn sitting across from me. A little Filipina girl about 12 years old was sneaking up behind Lynn. She had a huge hairy spider in her hand and she motioned for me to be quiet. She came up behind Lynn, pulled his shirt collar back, and dropped the spider in. Lynn started screaming like a little girl and ripped all the buttons off his shirt to get it off. So, Axe, getting a little cold water on you while taking a dump isn’t so bad.
My tour in the PI ended as abruptly as it started. A little less than 2 months into the 6 month assignment I received orders with about half our group to return to Shu Linkou.
The first group that went over were already in Phu-Bai waiting for the rest of us to relieve them after 3 months. That relief would never come and they got stuck for the full 6 months. Getting back to Taiwan was the good news. The bad news was that since I had received half my per diem pay in advance I had been overpaid by $64. I never gave it any thought since I had spent it all until I was told to pay it back in cash a few days after arriving back in Taiwan. That was an awkward moment – “you want how much cash?”