“BABES IN TOYLAND”
Contributed by Gerry Young
Listen up – this is no shit.
It was February of 1967 and TUNNY was heading into Keelung, on the northern tip of Taiwan, also known as the Republic of China (not to be confused with their mortal enemy, the People’s Republic of China across the water). Keelung is about twenty miles from Taipei, the capital of the ROC and by far the largest city of that country.
Besides this being a liberty port visit, we were also going to be visited by a senior officer in the ROC. Their island country was interested in seeing what sort of special operations could be mounted out of a submarine. Following our port visit, we were to take out a group of what I suppose were their special warfare troops and train them on locking in and out of a submarine.
When we came into port, we were assigned a berth between two merchant ships. The space available for the TUNNY appeared to be about 312 feet, leaving us at least three inches of spare room to get the boat in between these two larger ships. Dick Life, as I recall, was the OOD. He and Bill Green, with some creative repositioning of various mooring lines during the process, managed to wedge us in. I believe Bill has some photos of the end result.
Perhaps on the same day we came in, the senior ROC officer – a general – came aboard with his entourage and was given a tour.
The tour went well, and I suppose final arrangements were made for the embarkation of their troops after our port visit.
But none of this is the point of this short story. The story is about a misadventure that I caused because of my generous and caring attitude. OK, and maybe also because I was just stupid.
At the time of this visit, my primary duty on board was as Supply and Food Service Officer. My major collateral duties were Qualification Officer and Welfare and Recreation Officer.
So far as qualification went, we’d recently received a host of non-quals, a fair number of whom were sent to us without benefit of submarine school. As you’d expect, this caused a delinquency problem – most of the non-quals on board at this time were delinquents or ‘Dinks.’
A visit to Taiwan was fairly rare. So far as I know, in fact, this was the only visit to that island that TUNNY made in her two-plus years of being home-ported in Subic Bay, only a few hundred miles from Taiwan. (As a non-qual Ensign, I’d been TAD on RATON for a WestPac cruise while waiting for my Submarine School class to convene, and had visited Kaoshiung on the southern tip of the island a couple of times. Good liberty port! But that’s another story).
Knowing how interested our crew was in learning the cultural, historic, and artistic history of each place we visited, it occurred to me that it’d be unfortunate if our dinks were deprived of the chance of seeing something of Taiwan other than the dock area of Keelung. It’s true that from the boat you could see Nancy’s Harbor Hotel, a well-known establishment offering earthier sorts of recreation, but I was sure our dinks, as well as everyone else on board, wanted to delve more deeply into what Taiwan had to offer.
So, wearing my dual ‘caps’ of Quals Officer and Welfare and Recreation Officer, I proposed to our XO, Tom Langley, that I be allowed to organize a bus excursion of Taiwan for the dinks. This excursion, of course, would be only a sightseeing tour and would most definitely not include stops at any sailor bars or anywhere offering the types of activities you might find at Nancy’s Harbor Hotel, for instance. Tom brought Bill Green in for the final decision, and I had to swear that this would be purely a sightseeing tour of the ‘hands off’ kind, if you know what I mean. And being only a LTJG and still naïve about the ways of the world, I made a solemn promise that it’d be sightseeing only. And Bill and Tom agreed I could go ahead with planning this trip.
With this reluctant approval of senior management, I gathered the dinks together and explained the deal. They were enthusiastic and grateful, making me sure I’d done the right thing. Somehow, and I don’t remember exactly how, I was able to arrange for a bus and a tour guide to take our young dinks off for their one-and-only chance to see what Taiwan had to offer.
I didn’t accompany the dinks on this tour which, in 20-20 hindsight, was probably a mistake. Instead, I went to Taipei and spent some time browsing around there. I remember that Taiwan, as do many Asian countries, had no regard whatsoever for US copyright laws, and felt free to produce their own versions of popular record albums, best-selling books, and whatever else struck their fancy. I bought a couple of books and (I think) a record album or two. And I swear that’s all I did in Taipei – may I be struck dead if that’s not so. But I might have visited Nancy’s Harbor Hotel in Keelung once or twice.
A few days later our brief visit to Taiwan was over and we got underway, with a dozen or so ROC troops along to learn how to lock out of the submarine. The training came to an abrupt halt, however, when we learned that very few of the troops were actually able to swim. It seemed to us that it might not be prudent to jam a bunch of people who’d probably never had their face underwater during their lifetime into our escape trunk and then release them into the ocean. So the training was aborted, the troops taken off TUNNY, and we proceeded to sea on our way back to Subic.
All was well for a couple of days until our chief hospital corpsman, Doc Bass, came to see me with the news that a high proportion of the dinks who’d been on the tour I’d so generously organized had come down with the clap. And I seemed to recall promising the Captain and the XO that nothing like this could ever happen, since they were going on an innocent sightseeing tour, just like a bunch of old maid librarians from Nebraska.
As it turned out, the tour had included a stop at a famous hot springs resort outside Taipei, known as Peitou Village (also spelled as ‘Beitou’ sometimes. Google it and read all about it). It also turned out that the hot springs might not have been the actual main attraction, since this innocent-sounding village was actually what you might call the prostitution capital of Taiwan. And the tour guide had let the dinks free for an hour or so, suggesting they walk around the area for things of interest. They apparently had found these things, and found them indeed interesting.
I wasn’t looking forward to revealing this nasty little surprise to the CO and XO, but Doc Bass, as it turned out, had saved me the trouble of doing this by telling the XO directly. And so I found myself in the Captain’s stateroom being royally chewed out in stereo by Bill and Tom.
Actually, my recollection is that I got off fairly easily, if you set aside the historic ass-chewing. Bill put me in hack (an officers-only punishment consisting of restriction to the ship) for three days, but started the three days immediately, so I was ‘in hack’ while we were still at sea. In effect, this was no punishment at all. And a later look at my fitness reports from Bill showed, thank God, that this episode was never officially mentioned.
I’m not sure what the moral of this story is, unless it’s ‘don’t trust a sailor to stay away from things of interest.’ But I can say that never again my naval career did I ever organize a bus tour in Taiwan for dinks. So I must have learned something.
And this was no shit.