CHIEFS IN GREECE

Paul R. McKenna

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mischief on foreign soil is the theme of this yarn

 

 

During a shipyard availability in Piraeus, Greece, the crew of USCGC COURIER (WAGR-410) homeported in Rhodes, Greece, decided to throw an “all hands” party at the NCO Club of the U. S. Air Force Station in Athens. Representative from COURIER wardroom, CPO Mess and crew were selected and directed to meet with the NCO Club Treasurer at the Club to make the arrangements. Uniform of the day:  Dress Whites. After completing the arrangements two of the reps, CSC Harry Zink and EMC “Mack” McDermott, thought to take advantage of their early liberty status and meandered about looking for a cold beer to quench their thirst on that hot summer day. Alas, it was between paydays and they couldn’t muster up 30 Drachma ($1.00) between them

 

Never daunted by such trivia as a lack of funds, the two Chiefs hitched up their ties, squared their hats and, with pad and pencil at the ready, walked into the nearest taverna with an air of confidence and authority. Never saying a word to the bartender, Harry and Mack walked around looking in corners, holding glasses up to the sunlight, looking into the kitchen, both “heads” and generally giving the place a “White Glove” inspection. As Harry would check an item he would mumble something to Mack who would dutifully make an entry into his notebook. The bartender, Bufos Skilos, followed them with his eyes and, as he became more curious, approached them as asked, “Tee nuff tow?” (Greek means “What is going on?”). Harry explained, a little apologetically, that he and Mack were part of a team sent by the U. S. Sixth Fleet to inspect eating and drinking establishments usually frequented by sailors of the Sixth Fleet when they were in the port of Piraeus. The fleet had been at sea on maneuvers for the past threemonths and was now steaming towards Piraeus for a long and well deserved R&R. Harry went on to tell Bufos that they were there to designate which establishments were not in conformance with the strict standards established by the Sixth Fleet and recommend those places to be classified as “Out-of-Bounds” or “Off-Limits”.

 

Bufos, who owned the taverna, surveyed the neatly attired and authoritative looking representatives of the Sixth Fleet and broke into a broad grin, reaching under the bar for his best Metaxa and Ouzo. As he poured copious drinks for Harry and Mack, he proudly explained that he operated one of the cleanest and finest establishments in all of Piraeus and had always enjoyed good relations with the men of the Sixth Fleet. There was obviously no reason why his place would even be considered in the same category as those other “Dens of Iniquity” in the Port of Piraeus. Harry and Mack drank to that. They also toasted the King of Greece, the President of the United States, the Sixth Fleet and, of course, Bufos’ good health.

 

After the two “representatives” had consumed a goodly amount of the expensive Greek brandy and high octane Ouzo, Bufos was having second thoughts about the mission of these sailors. Before he could ask for credentials, a very large sailor in “Choker Whites” with gold bars and five rows of colorful ribbons on his chest ambled through the doorway and advanced towards the trio at the bar. Harry and Mack, always one step ahead of their “mark”, jumped to attention and threw very snappy salutes to the officer. While Mack engaged the officer in conversation, Harry explained to Bufos that their “boss” had just come in and that he was madder than Hell because they had not designated any places “Out-of-Bounds”. It looked like this place would have to be put on the list if Harry and Mack were to stay out of the Brig. Bufos reached under the bar and pulled out a bottle of 50 year old Metaxa while at the same time motioning two of his prettiest and voluptuous B-Girls to join the officer and the two representatives at a table.

 

LCDR Carl Morten, COURIER’s Engineering Officer and the Wardroom Rep to the party committee, didn’t get from Watertender First Class to Lieutenant Commander by being stupid, so he was not bewildered when Harry and Mack began to profusely make excuses for their dereliction of duty and begging to keep their jobs. Instead he joined in the sham by chewing both CPOs “up one side and down the other” and demanded that “this joint be placed “Out –of-Bounds”. After a few drinks of the smooth brandy and some close fraternization by the B-Girls, everybody became the best of friends. Both Harry and the Commander heaped high praise on that fine establishment while Mack ripped pages out of his notebook, making obvious complimentary notes in their place. As the “Inspection Party” departed to continue their tour of other places they assured Bufos that his establishment would rank high on the Sixth Fleet’s Approved List. As soon as they were out the door Bufos dispatched his B-Girls to warn all the other owners in the area of the impending inspection and recommended that they show the inspection team “every courtesy”.

 

As the day turned into evening the “Inspection Party” grew in number to include all the personnel who were ashore to arrange for the ship’s party. They were the only ones in uniform since the liberty party was authorized to and did wear civilian attire. All the tavern owners were very generous to the “Inspection Team” and the team obviously enjoyed their extra duty that day. Late in the evening the Greek police were called to a commotion at the infamous John Bull Saloon on the Piraeus waterfront. The incident was serious enough to be reported to the U. S. Naval Attaché at the Embassy in Athens. However, no action was ever taken since it was obviously a case of mistaken identity. Everyone at the Embassy knew that the Sixth Fleet was at sea and there were no U. S. Navy ships in the Port of Piraeus that day.

 

 

Editor’s Note – The Coast Guardsmen’s names were changed to protect the guilty but the yarn is true and that ain’t no sh_t.

 

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                                                                                                               9 March 1992

 

   The Commandant of the Coast Guard takes pleasure in presenting the COAST GUARD UNIT COMMENDATION to

 

                                  USCGC COURIER (WAGR-410)

 

For service set forth in the following

 

    CITATION:

 

          “For exceptionally meritorious service from September 1952 to May 1964 while serving in the Aegean Sea near Rhodes, Greece.  After its commissioning and dedication on 15 February 1952 by President Harry S. Truman, USCGC COURIER began its shakedown cruise in the Caribbean, the Canal Zone, and Mexico.  It was then assigned to the island of Rhodes, where a receiving station had been erected. During this period, the USCGC COURIER  broadcasted Voice of America programs in 16 languages to Communist bloc countries in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, transmitting these programs 10 hours each day.  During these tense years, USCGC COURIER, operating as a sea station, was constantly alert to crisis, with the ability to move to a "hot spot” and begin broadcasting in a matter of hours.  The efforts of USCGC COURIER in delivering the message of truth and freedom to these Communist countries contributed significantly to the ultimate end to the Cold War.  In addition, the ship’s personnel enjoyed a unique camaraderie with the local community in post-war Greece, which resulted in clubs that helped local orphanages and other need groups.  The devotion to duty and outstanding performance of USCGC COURIER personnel reflect great credit upon themselves, their unit, and the United States Coast Guard.

 

                                                       (signed)

                                            

                                                      J. W. KIME

                                       Admiral, U. S. Coast Guard

 


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