Sea Bats Are Indigenous To the West Pacific (Halsey's Navy Daze)

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: War and Military  |  House: Booksie Classic

This is a short story, not an article. It is part of a book that I am writing called "HALSEY'S NAVY DAZE". This is just one of those short stories. I hope you enjoy.

I was only 18 years old, fresh out of high school, when I joined the Navy to go and serve our country. I completed my boot camp training in San Diego, which later became my homeport. I had heard of these creatures called Sea Bats while I was in boot camp. I was told how vicious they are, and it became apparent that they were indigenous to the Pacific, otherwise known as "West Pac". Once I graduated from boot camp, I was one of the lucky ones that was going to be shipped over to Vietnam for a tour of "Ship to Shore" bombardments, I was ready, or so I thought. I was later assigned to the USS Agerholm, DD826, and when I came back from leave after boot camp, I was to report for duty on her. We left the next morning for our journey, and while we were cruising over to Vietnam, we stopped at Guam, and Midway, then on to Subic Bay.

I had talked to some of the old timers that had been in for a while, and they were all salt, (a common phrase to those that had spent some considerable amount of time in the Navy, they were "seasoned veterans"), and I asked them if they had ever heard of the infamous "Sea Bat". I asked this question while sitting in a bar in Subic Bay, and there were about 8 or 9 of us guys all sitting at my brothers table, all Navy of course, and when I mentioned the "Sea Bat", everyone became quiet.... you could have heard a pin drop. With faces frozen in stern expressions, they all looked at each other as if they'd seen a ghost. All of these men were from the USS Agerholm, which has since been decommissioned. Suddenly, there was an explosion of conversation where everybody was talking all at once; almost yelling, and I couldn't understand a word they were saying...they were in a state of panic!

I have to admit; it was one of the eeriest moments of my journey, sitting at that table that night. One of the old timers, (they called him "Red"), leveled his eyes at me and said, "Son, beware of the Sea Bat, they are nasty, and they have a hell of a bite, stay away from them, if you see one, run"! For the exception of my brother and myself, they all got up and left the table very quiet and very slowly, as if deliberately, to go back to the base. I looked at my brother in silence, then I said, "Wonder where these "Sea Bats" live, and how can they be indigenous to the West Pacific, where do they stay? They can't just fly around all the time, they have to sleep right"?

My brother is older than I, and he too had been in the Navy for a while, he was also salt. He looked at me and said, "Stay away from the Sea Bat Gary, they are bad news, They can really hurt you, and I have heard some say, that they hide in the ships hull during the day, where the anchor chains are kept, feeding off the mites from rats and algae that would grow on the bulkheads, and no one, and I mean no one, ever goes down there without being armed"! He continued, "They are one of the ugliest things known to man, with huge teeth, and a hell of a sting to their bite, and ole Red gave you some sound advice"!

As we continued our journey, we had picked up this guy in Subic Bay, who was a 90 day wonder, fresh out of the academy, he was taking his tour of duty aboard a ship, all four weeks of it, and the guys aboard ship didn't take to him to well. He was an odd little fellow, and his hat was way to big for his head. His rank was an Ensign. He was very self-centered, and thought he was the most intelligent of us all, after all, he was "from the Academy". Nobody hardly talked to him, except for our Chief Petty Officer Shultz, and even he had very little to say to him. He had no real respect for him and he was the kind of guy that you would have to earn his respect, and this 90 wonder hadn't done that yet. Well, "Worm", (that was the nickname he had earned, because he was so arrogant), worked in the "Log Room" and did mostly clerical duties, like payroll, liberty passes, leave, and promotion/demotion paperwork, along with some other clerical duties.

Well, my point is, he had a fan base of "0". He gave everybody a bad time, he even gave the Chief a bad time telling him that he needed to do this, and he needed to do that. This was more than Chief Schultz could bear! He told the Ensign, (hereafter called "Worm"), "I have been in this mans Navy, longer than you are old, and I am not going to let some snot nosed kid from the Academy, tell me how to run my department, so back off Ensign". Well, this had quite an impact on the young Ensign, and he pretty much stayed to him self after that encounteryou don't challenge a Chief Petty Officer with 24 years in the Navy.

Well were still steaming over towards Vietnam, and it was a gorgeous day at sea, and it was about 17:30 (5:30 in the evening), and rumor had run through the ships berthing areas, the mess deck, and the engine rooms that someone had trapped a "Sea Bat" under a box. Well everyone had scrambled to the fantail of the ship, even "Worm" showed up, as he had heard of these hideous creatures also, and wanted to see one. When we all mustered at the fan tail, I remember seeing Red, on his knees peering under the box, and we all heard scratching within the boxI I was somewhat frightened with anticipation for them to release it, Red was trying to coax some of us to come and see it, but we were all afraid, especially me because of what Red had told me in the bar not to long ago, and I said "No Sir".

He moved on to the next person, and said "hey Worm, do you want to see this thing"? Worm kind of shrugged his shoulders and said, "Sure, why not"? I think he agreed to this, to show the rest of us that he was not afraid, even though he had heard how vicious their bites were, hell, Red had a big old scare on his forearm because he was bitten and gouged with sharp claws by one of these creatures. Still, Worm had agreed, and wanted to understand the rules of engagement with one of these creatures, he asked, "What should I do"? Red told him with a stern and serious expression, "You need to get low to the deck, and don't make a sound, be extremely quiet, don't let him know where you are by the sound of your voice, or any noise. I am going to raise the box, just enough where you can see him, then clear out, these creatures are extremely fast, and dangerous, the minute he sees light when I raise the box, his head will be right there". Red then acknowledged the rules, and agreed.

I was really starting to get concerned for poor old Worm, and I even said "You don't have to do this Robert" (I actually was so concerned, that I called him by his name for once), he said "It's okay, I'll be careful". Well, as he carefully stooped on all fours, he took his hat off, so the bill of it wouldn't be in the way of his vision, and put his cheek to the deck, (it was a very tense moment) Red then said, "Are you ready "Robert"? "Yes he whispered", then Red began to raise the box very carefully, when all of a sudden, someone ran past me, and he was carrying this flat paddle with holes drilled in it, and whacked Robert right on his posterior, and it stung. Robert was shocked, and he jumped up, rubbing his butt, and said "What did you do that for'? He was angry!

Upon closer inspection, the paddle was shown to all of us, and on it was written "The Sea Bat". We all started laughing as Red threw the box in the dumpster, and said, "I told you his bite would sting!!!! Everybody was laughing including Robert, and we all started liking Robert, because he took it so well. I was shocked, all this time I had thought the Sea Bat was a real creature, the only thing that was real about all of this, was the bite and sting of this "Creature". To this day, the "Sea Bat" lives and is feared by all who crosses its path.

Submitted: July 14, 2009

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