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Story listed as: True Life For Adults | Theme: General Interest | Subject: General Interest | Published here : 02/24/2015
The Great Indian Ocean Bud Heist 
By Billy
Born 1953, M, from Salem Oregon, United States
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The Great Indian Ocean Bud Heist

USS John Paul Jones DDG 32, 1980 in the Indian Ocean patrolling on standby during the Iranian Hostage Crisis. Long days and nights of continuous sailing, nothing but salt water and no land in site for over two months! A Sailors life can be pretty boring during times like that. Standing watch, chow, poker games and cribbage was the norm. We ran out of milk for a week, the thing that turns salt water into fresh water quit working so we went on water hours! Nothing like living in a small area with 50 guys who haven’t showered in 3 days! One trait about Sailors is that they can improvise and when an opportunity presents itself you can bet your last dollar they will take full advantage!

Unbeknownst to the crew there was a secret stowaway on board the JPJ. The Executive Officer had purchased several cases of Budweiser before the ship set sail. His plan was that once we completed our assignment and were relieved the ship would pull in somewhere and we’d celebrate. This was a well-conceived plan until one day the bounty was discovered by one of the crew stashed away in a compartment locker, so I heard. Exactly who made the find and where I was never really sure, but the consequences I remember well.

That fateful night I was on the Signal Bridge for my 1600 (4pm) to Midnight watch. The Signal Bridge is located on the very top level of the ship for those unfamiliar with the terminology. We had a little office area which faced aft that was about 8 feet long with doors at each end and a window running the entire length called the signal shack. I was setting on a stool on the starboard (right) side of the shack looking out over the ocean watching the sun go down when I heard someone calling my name from the deck below. I remember thinking who the heck is calling me from down there? Once again someone called my name so I walked to the rail and looked over.

One of my shipmates was standing there and said, Sigs, I need you to hide something for me. I told him sure and what he lifted up was a total shock. A case of beer! I’m in the middle of the Indian Ocean on a United States War Ship holding a case of Budweiser! Oh, but there’s more, he hands me another case, then tells me he’ll be up there later and disappears!

What to do with 2 cases of Budweiser? Hide them quickly! The best place to stow them was the flag bags which were actually large aluminum boxes where we kept our signal flags. So to the bottom of the bag they went. Now I’m seriously paranoid and for good reason! A few minutes later my sneaky friend shows up. I retrieve one of the cases. He took the case and disappeared down the latter and into the dark. I retreated back to the shack and remember thinking that this night had all kinds of weird possibilities!

About a half hour later the bridge wing lookout walks over and taps on the glass of the port side hatch window and lifts up a can of beer, takes a big drink and then gives me a thumbs up! You know a person just doesn’t see that every day! My buddy shows up about that time with another case of beer and stashes it in the flag bag after he takes 4 or 5 cans out and then runs away again. I looked over the rail and could see a couple of guys setting casually against the bulkhead with beers in their hands like they were at the beach. The whole thing was surreal but very amusing. With about a half hour till my relief was to show up at midnight I decided I might as well join the party. So I popped the top on a can too. The weather was hot, the beer was hot and I hadn’t had a drink in a month so as you might guess it went right to my head!

When my relief showed up the first thing he said was that he just saw a couple of guys drinking beer on the boat deck, what the hell is going on? I told him the only thing I know is that there’s a case and a half of bud in the starboard flag bag and to just be careful. Then I told him that I really didn’t feel so good and I needed to go lay down. I then proceeded to make my way through the bridge hoping no one smelled beer on me. The next task was to somehow find my way back to the berthing area. Arriving there I noticed 3 or 4 more guys setting in the dark, having a beer! They invited me over to join them but I declined, I really needed to go to bed. I did realize that they didn’t get their beer from the stash on the signal bridge so there must be more somewhere else. I really didn’t care at that point I just really wanted to go to bed.

I slept as deep as I had for weeks only to be shaken awake by one of my buddies telling me to get up, that all hell was breaking loose on the ship. As the sun rose on that Indian Ocean morning and the decks of the John Paul Jones were bathed in light, the sins of the darkness were exposed. Empty beer cans were recovered and several sailors were found asleep on the decks in plain sight. The crew was quickly mustered and the Executive Officer addressed us by means of the ships PA system (1MC). He announced that his plan to reward the crew upon completion of our mission had been spoiled by several greedy individuals and now they would pay the price!

Captain’s Mast (court) was held on the bridge wing and those who were caught red handed with beer in their possession were relieved of a stripe or chevron, fined and given extra duty. I watched much of it from the Signal Bridge and seriously felt so sorry for the poor souls being figuratively strung up. I think if “keel hauling” was still used the Exec would have given that as punishment!

A month later our mission was over and the ship returned to the Philippines where all the beer a sailor could possibly want was available. A few of the crew had some T-shirts made up with a picture of a beer bottle printed on them with the words “The Great Indian Ocean Bud Heist” engraved. Didn’t go over too well with the Captain and XO but I sure wish I still had one.

“Yo ho ho and a can of bud! A Sailors life’s for me”!
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