A Paint Party

By John (Rusty) Marshall  

Revenge is sweet, especially when it embarrasses the Navy

Coast Guard Cutter IRIS was stationed in Astoria, Oregon and went down to San Diego for refresher training every year where we would do the drills, fire the 50s, etc. Our Gunners Mate at the time had a sense of humor—he poured a cup of gas in one of the barrels we were shooting at and loaded every second round with tracer. Went up real good too, well worth the look on that Navy Chief’s face.



IRIS tied up by the “boot” training area, and across the pier was a Navy minesweeper. The CO warned us to leave them alone. We did for the most part. A friend and I had been partying in Oceanside and returned to the base about 2 am. At the head of our pier were three Navy guys who dropped their skivvies and gave us the “brown eye”; we laughed, blew it off, and kept walking toward the IRIS where we saw obscenities on the side of the hull, including a swastika on the rudder. “Well,” I’m thinking, "we can’t let this pass." I went down to the rec. deck and told the four or five guys who were awake what had happened. We decided to return the favor.

Two guys suited up in bright orange survival suits and, armed with many cans of spray paint, went under the pier—the minesweeper had guards posted on the weather deck and bridge. I see a hand spraying away not ten feet from a guard by the brow. While watching this from my vantage point on the bridge, I watched the Captain and XO walk down the pier, and then they came up on the bridge.

"Marshall, what’s going on?" I told them what we were up to, no use hiding it at that point. The Captain told me to get a rack of eggs from the reefer, which they start tossing eggs at the minesweeper’s bridge to keep the guards heads up. Worked too! We got our guys back on board and went to sleep.

In the morning the minesweeper was gone, underway for a fleet exercise. Freighters were calling them about what they had painted on the side of their boat. The fleet commander got wind of it and sent them back in. The other thing we didn’t know was that their guard had been doubled because they were having a SEAL drill; SEALs were supposed to sneak up on them and plant a "mine," but when the SEALs saw our guys spraying away in those orange survival suits, they laughed their butts off. Doubling their guard had not made them Coast Guard proof!

When the minesweeper returned, we cleaned their hull and they cleaned ours. Luckily, we got underway for home immediately afterward—we heard the minesweeper was restricted from the Captain down and moored in the middle of the harbor.

Six months later we were at Newport, Oregon for Loyalty Days, which basically is a week long excuse to party, showing loyalty to the armed services. Normally there is a Coast Guard and a Navy ship there inviting the public to come on board. Beer and crab gardens are set up around town and uniformed personnel have a hard time paying for a drink in most bars. The Navy vessel was another minesweeper that had come from Korea and had heard about us there.

I have always wondered what it was like when IRIS went back to San Diego the next year for refresher training. Hope I didn’t get anyone in trouble.


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