USS MANATEE (AO-58)


This ain't no !@#$.


It was about 0200, the sea was dead calm, the fog was so thick that you could drop your marlinespike and it would just float where you let go of it... suspended by the fog. We were steaming through the South China sea near Luzon, R.P. It was one of those real eerie nights underway when any unusual noise would make you jump right out of your skivvies.


We had a fellow, a signalman by rate (may the innocent remain nameless) who was standing the midwatch on the signal bridge. Now if anybody on the ship could be spooked, this was the guy. He would start at his own reflection in the window glass of the shack. The signal shack has got to be the loneliest place on a ship at night, no light, no sound, and no other crew around to keep you company. Not even the slap and rattle of the rigging on a night like that.


Well, It was about this time, in the early '70's, that the Navy realized that there was more than one ethnic group serving aboard their ships and had started a program of alternate ethnic menus in the messdecks. We had just left Subic where we had loaded the reefers for an extended swing on the Line, (underway replenishment of ships off the coast of Viet Nam.) I had gotten off the 8 - 12 watch and was hanging out near the galley waiting for the night baker to finish up some of those spotted flour Hot Cross Buns, what a great snack, lots of extra protein. It was then that I noticed the thawing pig's feet on a table off to the side. Well, if you've ever seen a pig's foot, it looks just like a man's hairy arm severed at the wrist. I could visualize a little ketchup on that stub and the plot was hatched! I borrowed a hoof from the cook and went down to my locker and got out my peacoat, I needed a big sleeve to hide my hand and the hoof. Donning the coat and concealing the hoof and my hand, I headed forward to the signal shack.


Arriving at the signal bridge, I quietly stole up behind the shack, which had two hatches, one to port and one to starboard. I reached in the starboard hatch, thumped the stump against the bulkhead and moaned... In all my life I've never heard an adult man scream as he did! He ran out the port hatch and down the ladder to the bridge to seek the comfort of the living...


That ain't no !@#$