BURGERS AND BEER IN THE BUSH
Going back to the Philippines in 66 is a stretch for me and I don't remember many names, but a few stand out. I have told this story many times and would like to share it with the company now that it is too late to get a court martial. They say a good Marine should improvise, overcome and
adapt. This will be my only rationalizing for my actions. We were told we were going to have a survival exercise. I am not sure, if this was part of the beach landing we made or separate. I do remember I had just gotten off mess duty in the officers' mess. I would like to take this
opportunity to thank the officers of India Company for some of the best chow I ever had in the service. Delmonico steak and eggs started my day, then on to whatever goodies I could find. I also remember that I had gained about thirteen pounds during my thirty day stint and could have gone on survival for a week without eating. I felt sorry for the guys with that three meal a day clock, they had a hard time.
One incident I remember was watching Rodney Wescott trying to bulldog a
charging water buffalo. As I said, I don't remember if the survival and the practice landing were two different things, but I guess after all these
tears (whoa! Freudian slip there) years it doesn't matter. Rodney grabbed onto the water buffalo's head like a rodeo star and went for a ride. The
water buffalo tired of this quickly and proceeded to push Rod to the bottom of the rice paddy. If my thinking is correct we had to shoot that
particular beast. Good thing somebody had enough foresight to bring along some live ammo. Rodney was one of our first KIA's on Hastings and I miss
him to this day.
I remember we had a handful of rice and two canteens of water to last us
three days. We gathered in an area assigned to weapons platoon and started making
hooches out of bamboo, ponchos and whatever we could scrounge up. I enjoyed this immensely as it reminded me of making forts out in the back
yard when I was a kid and having mock wars. The guys with the three meal a
day clock got desperate quickly. Starting a fire without matches and using just bamboo was at first a lesson in futility. After numerous attempts we finally got it right and now it was chow time. Some of the guys cooked their rice and some of them were catching small fish in a nearby creek. The most disgusting thing I witnessed was a marine boiling snails or slugs or something. Uh! I could see the slime from these, to me, unappetizing creatures floating on the top of the water and decided I would rather starve. By the second day some of the troops were desperate enough to eat bugs and roots and anything else they thought they could chew on. Still full of officer food I was not even hungry yet. It was great sitting around the campfire the night before and getting to know the guys a little better. Lt Gary Crowell our weapons platoon Co, was a cool guy from Philly, I believe, and we all liked and respected him very much. Thank God we had him on
Hastings but that is another story.
Late in the second day I decided to take a long recon patrol and see what I could find in the way of some measure of sustenance. I don't remember if I was alone or not, but low and behold I found myself on a golf course. And what to my watering mouth did appear, a snack bar, with BURGERS AND BEER! How lucky could a grunt get on a survival exercise. I believe I went back to the platoon to tell them of my improvisation on the "eat off the land" instructions. I was surprised to find out that Lt Crowell went for the deal and I collected money from the guys and headed back to nirvana. I guess he was just proud of my adaptability to overcome adversity.
I found my way back to the golf course snack bar and bought all the burgers and beer I had funds for. I think I managed to bring back about fourteen cheeseburgers and a case of beer. Hail the conquering hero. When the smell of those burgers drifted through the air of our starving position
I became for the first time in my life the most popular person in the Corps. OK its' a daydream but I was pretty popular that evening. The burgers were hot and the beer was cold and we talked and laughed for hours. I got a little carried away after only a couple of beers and started making
up songs about a certain officer in the Company and Lt. Crowell had to say; " That's enough Cpl Whiteley." I was so high on myself the rebuke did not bother me at all. I did however stop singing. Thank you Lt Crowell for being the coolest Lt. I ever met. Thank you for giving me permission to tell this story on the phone the other night. It was great talking to you after thirty four years. Its' good to be back in the platoon again. Semper Fi my brothers.
PS. If anyone who was there remembers this story I would love to hear from you.