Shore Patrol – Olongapo – 1

Shore Patrol – Olongapo – 1
During the time I served in the US Navy there was a major American naval base at Olongapo in Subic Bay in the Philippines. Seventh Fleet ships were regularly scheduled for visits there. It wasn’t a great place to visit. The naval base was separated from the town by a high fence and a moat. The main gate from the base led into the main street of the town. By order of the base commandant all other places in town were off limits. Any American sailor caught leaving the main drag was detained and returned to the base. His time ashore was terminated. All liberty ashore ended at the stroke of midnight. Anyone who was even a few seconds late passing the main gate on returning to the base suffered the same fate as those caught off limits; no more time ashore the following day (or more).
The people responsible for enforcing these orders were men from the ships that had been assign duty as shore patrol for that day. The number of men from each ship was based on the size of her crew. Officers assigned to this duty were also assigned in a similar manner. Larger ships might be required to provide an extra officer, and each was assigned by rank, i.e. USS OKINAWA was asked to send 1 officer of rank O-3 (LT) and one of O-1 (Ens). We usually had only 2 LTs in a duty section, and the junior man, usually me, got to spend the night with the Shore Patrol.
One of the jobs for the shore patrol officers was as a liaison officer with the Philippine Police. Whenever possible I chose that job. The work was mainly to keep American sailors out of the hands of the local gendarmerie. I got to spend almost the entire time at police headquarters in town.
To give you an idea about what might go on in town consider this. The main street was just a long line of bars and clubs with an occasional drug store thrown in. Most of the bars had a band, dancers (strippers), and sold liquor of questionable origin for inflated prices. The so-called drug stores sold unlicensed pill, mostly barbiturates and amphetamines, for similarly increased prices. Transportation to and from the main gate was by jeepny. What’s a jeepny? Well, at the end of the Second World War there were a lot of surplus jeeps in the Philippines. Locals bought them, fitted them to carry a few passengers, and used them as public transportation. Old jeepnies never died, they just got taken to a garage and were rebuilt. These reincarnated substitutes for taxis also came back with new paint schemes, usually in bright primary colors and with designs imitating flames. Jeepny fares were simple. There was one price. If you were a Filipino that price was 25 centavos. If you were American it was 1 peso, or 4 times what the locals paid.
I want to conclude this description of my adventures with a brief story. I was returning to the base just before midnight in a jeep that had picked me up from Philippine Police Headquarters. There was a young seaman running toward the gate, obviously trying to get in before liberty expired. There were no pockets in his uniform trousers. He did what most sailors did; he folded his wallet and tucked it into the waistband of his trousers under the front of his jumper. There was a little Filipino boy, probably no more than 10 years old, waiting. As the sailor came down the road the boy raced out in front of him, collided, grabbed the wallet, and kept running away back into town. The sailor stopped for moment. What to do? Chase the wallet and be late at the main gate or go to the gate and lose the wallet? A Filipino policeman was standing on the other side of the road. Actually, he was leaning on one elbow against a wooden support for an entrance awning. The cop yelled something at the boy in Tagalog. I don’t know what he said. But the boy didn’t stop. The policeman drew his .45 pistol, and without moving the elbow he was leaning on, shot the boy in the leg. The leg flew into the air, the boy dropped onto the street. The cop holstered his pistol, sauntered the few yards to where the boy lay, recovered the wallet, and handed it to the sailor. I don’t know any more about what happened then because my jeep went in through the main gate and left the scene of the incident behind.

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