Our main responsibility while in the Philippines was to train a squadron of Philippine sailors in the proper procedures for river patrol, coastal interdiction and board-and-search. They were combating Muslim rebels in Mindanao and Zamboanga, and were suffering casualties at an alarming rate, in spite of their superior equipment and armament.
For a period of six or seven weeks, three of their boats and crews joined us in Subic Bay for training, which consisted mostly of simulation exercises. We would go out at night, with our boats as well as theirs and alternately play “cops & robbers”, simulating chase maneuvers, gunnery exercises, and board-and-search operations. We gave them the best training we could, and apparently it helped. Some time after they had returned to their base in Manila Bay, their Executive Officer, Rafael C. contacted us. He informed us that their previous casualty rate of 45% per week had lessened to about 20% per month. He also invited us to Cavite, to join in a party, and to stay as long as we liked.
Our schedule was light, and largely self-enforced, so we loaded up our PCF “Swift” boat, and left as soon as possible for what promised to be a vacation.
As we were entering Manila Bay, a bright red dugout shot across our bow, doing something like 40 knots. We saw several similar vessels in the harbor, each about two feet wide, and fifteen or sixteen feet long. All of them were VERY fast, but not very maneuverable.
When we arrived pier-side, Rafael and some of our alumni greeted us, and we asked about the boats. They referred to them as “banka boats” which evidently served as water taxis. None of us noticed Casey’s pensive gaze into the harbor, at the time.
After two and a half days of non-stop partying, Dave said he’d better get us back while we were still able, so we said our goodbye’s and headed for the Swift and the long trip home.
When we arrived pier-side, we found a grinning Casey, and a large VERY ugly object across the fantail of our goat. It resembled a rotten log, with various species of fungus attached, and a hunk of rusted iron embedded in the middle.
“Ain’t she pretty?” beamed Casey.
“Gorgeous, man! What is it?” chortled Tony.
“It’s a banka boat, man! I got it for a song, too. Only 200 pi!”
“You got fucked, Warthog!” said Jimmy.
“Without Vaseline!” added Dave.
“With a stick,” I tossed in.
“Aw, you guys just don’t have any vision. Picture her with a new coat of paint. She’ll be beautiful!”
“I’ll bet he didn’t get kissed, either,” said Radar.
“How much did they pay you to haul it off, Warthog?” asked Emmet.
“Alright, fuck you guys! I’ll fix her up myself. And you can all rot in hell before you ever ride in her!” snapped Casey.
“Thank God for small favors. Hell would be a blessing, compared to that water-logged gator-turd!” said Jimmy, laughing.
About that time, Joe came down the pier, lugging something that looked suspiciously like a case of beer.
“Hey, who shit on our deck?” he hollered.
Casey pouted all the way back to Subic.
The next morning, we arrived to find the “boat” on blocks, and Casey hard at work, scraping, gouging and chipping at what was beginning to look more like a hull than a colony of parasites. When we called out to him, he just glared at us, and bent to his task.
“I don’t know about this,” said Dave. “What if someone from H.Q. comes down here and sees that thing?”
“What if they do, skipper?” answered Joe. “They sure as hell aren’t going to think we stole it!”
“I don’t know. There’s GOT to be something wrong with having that kind of junk laying around on deck,” worried Dave.
“Ah, hell, skipper. Let him keep it. In a few days, he’ll have it all fixed up and ready to put in the water. Then it’ll sink, and your problems will be over,” I snickered.
“Yeah, I guess you’re right. If anybody shows up and starts asking questions, play dumb and send ‘em to me. I’ll think of something.” Dave left and headed for H.Q.
When we got below decks, Jimmy piped up, “Hey, Joe! Did you see Noah topside?”
“Yeah,” added Tony. “We’re expecting the two termites to show up any time now.”
Emmet added, “Hey, you know, it’s already starting to look salvageable. And if he can get that engine to run, it’ll be quick!”
“Gimme a break, man! That hunk of rust isn’t even good for an anchor. The best thing to do with it is to heave it over the side,” said Tony.
“Yeah, but can you imagine that thing with a P-250 engine in it? I bet they couldn’t even catch it with a spotlight!” mused Radar.
“You guys belay that P-250 shit! That pump is Navy property, and if I catch any of you even looking at it, I’ll have your ass!” growled Joe.
“Joe! Would we even think of something like that?” said Emmet, as Tony stole out of the cabin. “Besides, I don’t think it would even fit, if we want to. That toothpick isn’t wide enough to change your mind in. What he needs is a Briggs and Stratton lawnmower engine, like the rest of ‘em use.”
“Yeah,” agreed Joe. “Besides, with the weight of a 250, you’d have to add two or three struts to support it. A B&S would be perfect. Wonder where we can find one?”
“No problem,” said Jimmy. He was our “cumshaw” artist. He could find a whole sewing machine in a haystack, and talk someone into delivering it. “I think I know where to look.” To Joe, he asked, “Mind if we dedicate a little effort to finding Casey a new engine?
“As long as you don’t get caught, I don’t give a shit what you do! Just make sure we’re ready for that boat-op tomorrow night, though,” Joe answered.
Jimmy and I grinned at each other, and Jimmy added, “Yeah, I’ve got an idea to keep those jarheads guessing tomorrow.”
“Good,” answered Joe, absently. “Listen, I’ve got to meet the skipper in the compound to draw ammo. Clean this hole up a little, will ya? I don’t need H.Q. on my ass with this damn inspection coming up.”
“You got it, Chief!” yelped Jimmy, with a larger than life smile.
By 1:30 that afternoon, Tony and Jimmy had removed the engine from our brand new P-250 pump, and fitted struts into the dugout to serve as engine mounts. Casey was taken aback at our sudden interest in his “baby”, but when he saw the gleaming new engine, he wasn’t about to complain. Emmet showed up, after a visit to the exchange, bearing a selection of enamel paints that would make a blind man blink. I was busy rigging lights on the “Wonder Warthog”, when Rudy showed up with an “extra” .50 cal. Machine gun and mount.
Casey and Emmet were painting the hull when Dave and Joe showed up with our ammo issue. Dave smiled, and said, “Now THAT looks a whole lot different. She’s starting to look like one of those babies we saw down in Manila. What’s that on the bow, Casey?
“It’s a snout, skipper,” said Casey, with a twinkle in his eye.
“A snout? What the hell kind of a boat has a snout?” queried Dave.
“The Wonder Warthog Special!” we all hollered, in unison.
Dave laughed, but Joe looked puzzled.
“Is that a Briggs & Stratton?” he asked Jimmy.
“Well, not exactly, Chief. I tried to find a 16 HP B&S in the Boat Shop, but when I came up dry, I decided your idea was better anyway,” Jimmy answered innocently.
“Which idea is that?” asked Joe, with half a frown.
“The P-250 idea, Joe. All we had to do was add these struts, and it fit fine. I didn’t think it would, but you were right!” offered Tony.
Suddenly, Joe found the other half of his frown, when Dave said, “I’m not sure that was a good idea, Chief, but since you okayed it, I’ll go along with it.”