THE GRAND MELEE OF YOKUSKAİ

by J.C. Carney

There is something about the 255's and their crews that provide grist for our sea story mill. Here is our latest 255 adventure which involves the Chautauqua.

As we all know well, the Coast Guard and the Navy have never got along exceptionally well. In fact, they have never got along at all! Yet for some reason, unbeknownst to me (and probably every one else in both services), we do get along with the Marines. The explanation might well lie with the obvious fact that we both literally dislike the bloody Navy. Do I make myself clear? Marines Yes, Navy No.

Well, with that out of the way, perhaps I should get on with the strangest story regarding this ongoing feud that I ever heard. I wouldn't have believed it, but even the CHAUTAUQUA's Captain, whose name I will not mention to protect the innocent (?) verified it.

During the first week of "R&R" at Yokosuka, due to a mid-patrol break in 1971 (the ship was pulling double "Victor" weather patrols), a fight started between the big bad Navy and the innocent (again?) Coast Guardsmen on S Street (I hope I don't have to explain S Street). The Navy ganged-up on the little Coasties, with the odds 4 to 1 in their favor. Needless to say some of the Coasties got pretty badly banged-up. The next night after liberty was announced, the CHAUTAUQUA's crew, seeking a little revenge, whilst enlisting the aid of some of the bigger crewmembers—headed for a showdown on S Street.

Again there was a confrontation, only this time the retaliation was sweet victory for the Guard. According to crewmember Randy Razook, the Coasties—with the help of some Marines, who just "happened" to be handy—placed three swabbies in the hospital in a man-to-man fight, some fairly serious injuries were sustained by the Navy—one swabbie almost lost an eye in the melee).

Nonetheless, the damaged Coasties returned to the ship sporting bruises, cuts, a few loose teeth, and great big smiles. The Navy, however, was not going to be outdone—their idea of a fair fight was when the odds were roughly 100 to 4 in their favor. And this night was no exception. Somehow, the MP's, SP's, and possibly a number of other cop-types thrown in, got wind of the planned massacre; thereupon sending a paddy wagon to the Coastie bar, backing it up with the doors open to receive guests. Soon after about 10 cop-types entered the bar and encircled the drinking Coasties and herded them into the waiting "hospitality coach." Randy remembers asking the MP's, "What the hell is going on?" The response was to look out the window.

"When we did," Randy said, "we saw that we were surrounded by the Navy's customary "even" odds of what appeared to be an entire ship's compliment. We would have been annihilated!"

The Coasties, after their rescue, agreed that they owed the military police a good turn after that one. The next day, the Admiral of the 7th Fleet issued orders for all commands—almost verbatim—"Do not mess with the Coast Guard." He might have been tired of the mounting casualty list whenever there was a fight.

The CHAUTAUQUA was moored just down the pier from a large Navy ship affectionately called the "Gator Freighter" and this was when the final "Grand Melee" occurred later as we were leaving port. Apparently their ship's crew had heard about the fights in town and decided to add their own headaches. A rivalry developed and, according to Glenn Greilich (MST2) of the Cutter, it escalated into a full-blown war of tricks and counter tricks. At one point the Navy sent a smoke bomb to one of the Boatswains Mates, who foolishly opened it in the berthing area. That was one hell of a mess to clear up. There were other "gifts" sent back and forth; too many to mention here. We were now involved in a full-scale war!

When the Cutter's day to leave port arrived, we had to slowly back out past the "Gator Freighter," a fact well known to both crews. Glenn said, "Looking down the pier we could see them charging up the fire hoses on their leeward side." Adding, "We had prepared for this event, collecting eggs, bottles of paint, and other handy projectiles; thereafter distributing them among our crew." He goes on to say, "As we backed past them, the Navy started to hose us down.

They didn't count on a hail of nasty things coming the other way, as half our crew joined in. Our 300 pound Samoan Boatswains Mate "Big John" personally washed several of their sailors overboard using a 2½" fire hose that wet their entire superstructure down."

Meanwhile, the Cutter’s CO (whose name I won't mention to protect the innocent(?), watched this melee with interest. It was while he was observing the "farewell" gestures that things really started to get out of hand. Paint cans and bottles of paint were flying back and forth at an alarming rate with the Navy gray starting to take on a white hue. The Cutter didn't get any of the green paint the swabbies supplied.

The CHAUTAUQUA'S captain noticed that the "Gator" was downwind of the Cutter and was soaking wet. A smile played on his lips as he calmly called down to the engine room, ordering the engineer to "blow tubes." Huge clouds of black soot belched from the stack as the Cutter. The heavy soot engulfed the "Gator," turning the ship black, sticking to everything that was wet. The Cutter’s crew gave a last wave goodbye. They had, indeed, won the "Grand Melee."

 

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