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First Watch

Standing watch means no liberty. Sometimes when I was assigned, I'd wish I had not changed my rating. Getting the mid-watch is worst, but imagine getting it on New Year's Eve. It is a very historical event in the ship log however, archived in the annals of ship's history are creative writings. Some articulate entries were even published. I stood one of these lonely watches but I don't remember what I wrote. It is life's hangover that I call early onset of Alzheimer's. Now I would like to try and review if you can see the condition of the Filipinos in the US Navy at the end of the 2001.


Note some historical vignettes:

USS Intrepid and USS Grayback are decommissioned ships serving as the Naval museum in New York City. There are no naval facilities in New York. The Big Apple has been very kind to the Navy and I remember being assigned at the Navy Information Office located at Fifth Avenue. It is only a couple of blocks from Times Square where the most visible NAVY recruiting office is located on the base of the small triangle. During the Civil War, among the volunteers were couple of Filipino-Americans and according the archives in Washington, one of the veterans was:

Joseph Astor (or Castor?), Ordinary Seaman, USS New Ironsides, aged 23, occupation Mariner, enlisted August 19, 1863, for 3 years, at New York. Born Manila, eyes hazel, hair black, swarthy complexion

There was a contingent of Filipino Mariners living in Brooklyn during from WWI who were assigned to the Navy Yard and MSTS Base in Bayonne. I was told that at one time you could spend happy hours at a Filipino Tavern near the gate. The Brooklyn Navy Yard eventually closed in 1970's. Filipino Coast Guard sailors started showing up from Governor's Islands. Bases closed worldwide, including the biggest base outside the US; Subic Bay was one of the casualties of cold war. Direct recruitment from the Philippines also ended with the closing of Subic. Mariano and Corpus are the highest ranked officers of Philippine ancestry on active duty today. Estrada, the shooter, is the son of a Filipino Navy Steward who joined the Navy probably from Sangley Point, Cavite. The Chief of the Boat, is likely a Filipino. Filipino-Americans are wearing about 8% of the Master and Senior Chief's Hats.

I was onboard USS Picuda when Tomahawk was not even whispered in the wardroom. As a submarine storekeeper I stood various watches at sea, look out, radar, sonar operator and quartermaster. This was partly because underway at sea my regular job slows down. During the sailing days, the ship's quartermaster becomes the supply officer when in port since they have nothing to do. Strange double twist but I still remember when the quartermaster was in charge of the sewing machine. This is the reason why they call the logistic branch in the Army the Quartermaster Corp if you are wondering. Submarine warfare is different world all together; Silent Service chronicles in the weaning moments of WW2, US Submarine were intercepting junk ships used by the Japanese to transport men and materials to Japan. Pacific U-boats already sank most of the transport vessels so the Imperial Navy resorted in conscripting civilian crafts. Submariners were required to board these junk ships to check for the enemy or friend. The "Filipino Mess boy" was required for the interrogation and it was very critical because of the cruel submarine warfare dictated by the lack of space. It was human IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) transpondence. It is known that even the best of the submarine commanders resorted in shooting helpless enemies in the southwest pacific waters because submarine can only take very few POW onboard, it is in the Color of War on the History Channel. At times I feel we are the prisoner inside a cage.

It is unconventional but strange as I am asking the Commander in Chief to recall the USS Picuda. Underway, she can at least rescue downed pilots in the Arabian Seas. George W knows how a diesel submarine of the same class in the South Pacific that rescued his dad. There will be no Dubya otherwise if not for submarine operation called Lifeboat. There is no backing up now as I (this old man) can still drive this man o war at full speed.