All Yorktown sailors loved going to Subic Bay, the Philippines for liberty.
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When is 'hitting the beach' more dangerous than Yankee Station? The "hostesses" (ladies of commercial virtue, if you know what I mean) liked to "marry" a sailor for as long as his ship was in port. That meant that she would stick by you from moment your ship entered port, until you left port. If you met her on your first liberty in Olongapo, she would be there waiting for you at the bar on all other liberties and would refuse all 'offers' from other sailors until you returned to her. On our first day of liberty in Subic Bay, PH2 Recchio of the Yorktown hit the beach with some other photo lab buddies.
He was a good natured jovial guy, always ready with a five dollar loan if you needed it.
He was at a bar with a couple other photo lab guys flirting with the "bargirls" (if you know what I mean). One "hostess" thought that PH2 Recchio had become her 'husband' for the liberty stop of the Yorktown but Recchio didn't seem to understand it that way, so he continued to chat and flirt with the other "hostesses."
That's when she took out a knife and cut the button off of his dress white uniform in one fast stroke and said, "You think you can butterfly on me? You don't 'butterfly' on me!."
Needless to say, Recchio and the other photo lab guys fled that bar for the rest of their liberty.
by PH2 Daniel A. Bernath
The term butterfly was in full operation in Olongapo when I got there. The thing that always amazed me was the telegraph system in town. You could have a honey-ko at the first place out the gate and you might try to score on a girl clear out at the other end of town and the girls would know you were already seeing some one and refuse your advances and brand you a "butterfly". How they knew you were already seeing someone is almost as mystical as how they knew when the fleet was arriving.
last paragraph by Charles Paige
"I wuz robbed" Another Subic Bay Story
I was an airman apprentice and we stopped off in Japan and probably getting paid $50 a month. I bought a new Seiko watch for $20 and loved to wear it. Our next liberty was in Subic Bay, Olongapo City. Everyone warned me to not take my camera when I went "on the beach" in the Philippines because it would be snatched. So my camera stayed on board the Yorktown but I did wear my watch.
Only one street was "on limits" in Olongapo. Everything else was "off limits." On the main street was one bar, another bar, two hotels, a brothel, another bar, etc. down two sides of the street. So here I am at night, walking down the main street and chatting with a shipmate when suddenly I feel my watch being ripped right off of my wrist!
My shipmate says that he was talking to me and then he turned to say something to me and I had "vanished!" Actually, having my watch ripped off my wrist, along with some flesh, really pissed me off and my adrenalin was really pumping. I started chasing the thief at high speed. The Thief quickly left the main street and ran into "off limits" apparently thinking I'd stop following him. But I was still so angry that I continued to chase him, feet away from as we ran through the very dark Olonogapo streets. Only the main street had street lights.
It was a moonless night and I could now barely see him but I could HEAR him just ahead but still he was running just a bit faster than me. We must have covered half a mile. Then we come to a little footbridge and he jumps right in! I hear the splash as his body hits the water and the panting as he tries to swim out of this dirty germ infested sewer.
I'm still pissed off and there I am, in my dress whites, with one leg over the bridge's handrail, ready to jump into the water after him. Suddenly I hear this little voice in my head, it says "Sailor, are you nuts? That guy probably has a knife and you only paid $20 for the watch!"
I bring my leg back down and then look in the sky for the light and sneak back to Main Street hoping the Shore Patrol doesn't see me.
Daniel A. Bernath PH2 firstname.lastname@example.org
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What it was REALLY like in Olongapo and the Philippines
for the Yorktown sailor on "liberty"
by Charles Paige
The Philippines were strategically important to the Vietnam
action. The archipelago of 7,100 islands, only 6.5% of which were larger than
one square mile, was about 750 miles west of Vietnam across the South China Sea.
It was a short trek from Yankee Station in the Gulf of Tonkin to the
southwestern part of Luzon island, Philippines, location of our Naval Base on
Cubi Point, Subic Bay, and Clark Air Force Base. Southeast from the US Naval
Base and across Manila Bay was the "City of the Philippines," Manila, herself. A
short distance south of the base were Bataan and Corregidor, two famous World
War II theaters of combat. Just off base was the infamous Olongapo City.
It was no easy matter getting on or off the base. For both actions a person had to get in line and wait until it was his turn to be inspected, even frisked. Marines searched for contraband, which included products purchased from the Navy Exchange on base. I was once caught "smuggling" a box of chocolate covered cherries. I had three choices: stay on base; eat the contents before leaving base; dump the contents before proceeding through the gate. I did a combination of the second and third choices.
When a fellow finally got through the normally long line and passed inspection, he would then find before him a line of local men and women stretching from the gate, across the Po River bridge and into town. Getting past was like running a gauntlet. They all wanted to provide some type of service, and each wanted us before we had a chance to be gotten by somebody else. Many men in line were Jeepney drivers. A Jeepney was a highly decorated taxi with Jeep design that could carry several passengers at a time. [Legend had it that the Jeepneys were Worldl War Two vintage jeeps left behind by the US Marines, Army and Navy and decorated later by the local citizens] It rode high enough off the ground to be used even during monsoon flooding. Also, it had a roof and rolldown, canvas sides.
The Po River was more like a sewage canal than a free flowing tributary. Some sailors found great amusement in throwing coins into the sludge and watching local kids dive in to compete for the treasures. Other kids not interested in catching hepatitis had different getrich schemes. In fact, one scam came close to separating me from my wallet. Several yelling, cherublike boys and girls were playing off somewhere and then suddenly swarmed around me as if it were all part of their game (which it was). They made sure to bump up accidentally against their victim so he would not notice the little hand tugging at the wallet. I noticed, anyway, and pushed away the hand of a gaptoothed, smiling little girl who quickly became engulfed in comrades. The swarm moved elsewhere still yelling and laughing as kids will do.
I'll list four of the things we learned from veterans of Olongapo City liberties. Never take a camera or wrist watch, especially if they were things with which you would not want to part. Never carry money or ID in wallet. Never go into town if you suspected someone on the ship might want you dead. Never buy food from street vendors. A contract could be taken out on a person for about $50, and this fact was widely known. Consequently, many "hard ass" (very strict, arbitrary) petty and commissioned officers who would not be missed, preferred life on ship or on base.
The word was that meatonastick vendors who hawked their morsels on the streets sometimes used monkey meat. (I also do not recall seeing any dogs or cats in the city). Nevertheless, meatonastick vendors conducted a lucrative business, especially with drunken servicemen grown bored with biting the heads off live baby ducks.
|The prostitutes in Olongapo City were the most companionable I had ever encountered. Upon comparing notes with my fellow sailors, it was poignantly evident that nearly all of those we had dealings with claimed to be using the earned money to put themselves through college while supporting their families back home (always other locations than Olongapo City). Unfortunately, of all the vast sums of money flowing into Olongapo City each month, brought in by aircraft carrier crews and sailors from a steady stream of smaller vessels, very little remained in Olongapo for the city's upkeep. Most of it quickly left the city and contributed to the fortunes of people in power, i.e., friends of the Philippines government. The town, itself, consisted mostly of hovels, cheap hotels, bars, and massage parlors, with the people living in near-poverty.||24 April 1968
Familygram to sailor's wives, Mothers and family;
The U.S. Navy Base at Subic abounds in
recreational facilities including skating rinks, swimming pools, bowling
alleys, horseback riding, skeet ranges, golf courses, and gymnasiums.
Nearby Grande island, with its ball parks and swimming pools, was
utilized for numerous division parties.
Captain William Bennett
An older fellow I worked with said he remembered Olongapo City when it was a
sleepy village housed with nipa huts. That was before it became a recreational
port open to the US military. Since then the sleepy village has become to the
Philippines what Tijuana has become to Mexico, Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) has
become to Vietnam, ad infinitum.
Onward came the Americans. Many sailors left their supposedly born and bred civilized behavior either back in the states or on the ship to be donned upon return. These became animals loosed. The prostitutes, both female and male, had to work hard and fast to keep up with the onslaught, though their share of the take was next to nothing. The young prostitutes of mixed parentage never knew if one of their tricks was their father, brother or uncle. Anything disreputable went. Many were the disgusting tales stored up by sailors for telling during gross-out sessions, boring weeks at sea or when later years would bring fewer "noteworthy" adventures.
Many partakers were husbands and fathers, with families stateside, destined to return one day and carry on the responsibilities of the land. During especially wild liberties it was not unknown for "buddies" of a married man to have pictures taken when their friend was in a compromised situation. Then later, if the now-repentant husband refused to go on another sex-gorged, drunken binge, or do any other bidding, the buddies would blackmail him into compliance by threatening to mail pictures to his wife.
The town bars competed for clientele, and many employed entertainers who displayed special erotic talents before the gaping, beer-guzzling servicemen. Meantime, there would be an abundance of "companions" around to help a fellow who was getting sexually turned-on. The sailor and the companion could either go behind one of many tall screens situated inside the bar or go to a nearby hotel. There also were more sexually open bars where "itches could be scratched" in the open.
Fortunately for all concerned there were many more Americans who found entertainment of a wholesome and beneficial variety. Of these, some men joined volunteer projects to paint schools and hospitals and in other ways minister to the often-deficient and always impoverished human side of the Olongapo City community. In appreciation, more than once the men of the Midway were invited to dinners put on by thankful Olongapo City citizens.
I never warmed to Olongapo City or its people for some reason but found a few locations at least marginally enjoyable. A few were bars. Others were stores, restaurants, and a particular massage parlor. The Royal Swedish Warm Bath, at 175 Rizal Avenue, provided Swedish massage, steam bath, cocktail lounge, a barber shop, and the personal care of girls like Eden, whose tiny feet felt great as they walked up and down one's back as part of the massaging process. The way to get to the Royal Swedish Warm Bath was to walk up the city's central street to its far end, then go a block or so left on Rizal. This end of the street catered exclusively to people of light skin. If a fellow were black he would have turned right at the intersection and gone into the area catering to Blacks. If a person of the wrong color found himself in the wrong quarter, he would either find himself in a fight or would be snubbed. Boundaries were strict.
A friend and I were talking one afternoon with the owner of a store that sold electrical devices, sundries and souvenirs (mostly local, hand carved products). Somehow the topic of "Japan" came up, probably introduced by the store owner, who obviously had an ax to grind. He then engaged in a long soliloquy about how Japan was working constantly to undermine the Philippines' economy. According to him, Japan was doing this by flooding the Philippines' market with lower priced goods, making it impossible for her people to compete. I sympathized with his gripe and did not have the heart to tell the fellow I had already begun purchasing components for a superb, completely Japanese-made stereo system from the Subic Bay, and Yokosuka, Naval Station Post Exchanges.
It was always monsoon season when we were in Westpac, and this fact usually made traveling great distances to see neighboring towns and points of interest difficult. The city of Baguio was a popular attraction that beckoned many sailors. However, it was about an eight hour bus ride from base over bad, mountainous, dusty or muddy roads. The guys I talked to that went complained of tortured buttocks and disjointed sacroiliacs. Baguio was famous for its wooden, hand carved statuary. Also famous were the vast, spectacular rice terraces of Banawee. We were warned, however, to stay clear of any communist "Huks" (Hukbalahaps) we might see in our travels. These Huks were members of the People's Liberation Army, a guerrilla organization causing no end of trouble for the Philippines government under Ferdinand Marcos. They were recognizable by the armament they carried. One never knew when one or more of these guerrillas would appear, even in Olongapo City, and I heard tales of occasional shootouts.
Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos not only had the Huk problem to contend with but also had to deal with student and other popular uprisings in complaint against economic conditions (e.g., high inflation and a practically valueless, floating currency) and governmental policies, plus a Muslim secession movement. It was my opinion that the only reason the government had not fallen was the fact that our Naval and Air Force bases sat a mere hop, skip and jump from Manila and the seat of government. The country was like a Vietnam on the verge of igniting. When it did ignite, violently, in August of 1972, Marcos was only able to bring things under a semblance of control by declaring martial law. He did this on September 20, five days after I had left there for the states and another theater of popular unrest.
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The "Chaplain's Tour" of the Philippines...how Yorktown sailors stayed out of trouble while on liberty.
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