Yo Ho Yo Ho ...
99 Bottles of
Officer's-Rum on the Wall
...98 Bottles of Rum...!

...97 Bottles of Rum...!

by: Philip Bond, ET3
USS Blanco County (LST 344)
© 1998

1969 - Security Check: My ship, the USS Blanco County (LST 344), was a ww11-vintage Tank Landing Ship that had been re-commissioned for service in Vietnam. We were too small for the current generation of tanks and APCs to fit in our Tank Deck, and we never performed an amphibious landing under fire. But we beached and retracted many times while performing our duties there.
      After an initial stint as mother-ship to Coast Guard cutters patrolling the coastline, we went on to doing vital "beer and soda runs". We would beach the ship near the deep-water piers in Đà Nẵng, and military forklifts would load pallet after pallet of supplies into our tank deck.
      Sometimes crates or vehicles would be loaded onto the main deck (above the enclosed tank deck) as well. Then we would retract and head for a shallow harbor or a river somewhere up or down the coast. We could go quite a distance up certain rivers, since we could blow out our ballast tanks and ride high in the water, needing a depth of less than ten feet to stay afloat. Offloading was similar to on-loading. We'd arrive at some outpost that had a suitable beach, then run her up onto the sand.
      Often there would be forklifts, but sometimes there would be Vietnamese in their straw hats and black pajama-like outfits. We called them beer and soda runs because our usual cargo was just that---destined for E.M. clubs in the outposts. Sometimes we carried cartons of C-Rations, and once we carried drums of asphalt that leaked onto the tank deck floor. Yuck!
      Some shipmates who did cargo handling began to accidentally run a fork-lift tine into a pallet, then helped themselves to the contents. They never had to buy soda from the ship's store, and if they didn't like what was on the menu, they didn't have to eat on the mess deck, either.
      One day we had taken on cargo at Đà Nẵng, including a huge wooden crate that was rumored to contain liquor for an upriver Officer's Club. We had just retracted out into the harbor, but instead of getting underway, we suddenly set the anchor, and all personnel were ordered to muster up on the main deck. A small boat came alongside, and a group of officials were piped aboard.
      At the time, most of us wondered what happened, but as we learned later, a side of the Officer's Club crate was broken into, and it appeared that some of the liquor contents were accidentally missing.
      We stood there on the main deck for half an hour while that thirsty looking group of oak-leafs and eagles went through all the "public" spaces onboard. Then, one berthing compartment at a time, we were taken below to open our personal lockers for them to inspect.
      My buddy was sweating because (don't ask why!) he had an empty whiskey bottle hidden in his locker. A whiskey bottle, empty or full, should never be in an enlisted man's locker onboard a U.S. ship. But the inspector picked it up, examined it, put it back, and never said a word. It must have been the wrong brand!
      I heard later that at least six bottles of liquor were reported missing, but the inspectors found only one or two, none of them in a place where an innocent sailor could be implicated. And so the matter was dropped.

The next month, sailing back to our home port of Guam on high seas, one full liquor bottle mysteriously rolled out of the beams over the tank deck and crashed to the deck below, filling it with the rich scent of Scotch. Nobody claimed it. In fact ... nobody knew anything about it at all.


Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me.
We pillage plunder, we rifle and loot.
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho...

Yo, Ho (A Pirate's Life For Me)

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