As I’ve noted here before, I was a young sailor stationed on the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk in 1970 and 1971 during the Viet Nam War. I worked long and hard hours as the carrier operated for long line periods on “Yankee Station” off the coast of North Vietnam, where the warship launched aircraft for combat sorties against the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong in support of American and allied ground forces.
Thankfully, during the WESTPAC (Western Pacific) combat cruise the aircraft carrier also made port of calls to Honolulu, Hawaii, Sasebo, Japan and Hong Kong. And the Kitty Hawk, most thankfully, also visited the American naval base at Subic Bay in the Philippines.
The Kitty Hawk visited Subic Bay periodically to take on weapons and supplies and do needed repairs before heading back to Yankee Station and the war. The port calls to Subic Bay also provided a rest and relaxation period - called R&R by the military - for the bent-up sailors who went wild in the wide-open sin city of Olongapo.
Nearly every sailor and former sailor I’ve met over the years have described Olongapo as the greatest Navy liberty town they’ve ever visited. Olongapo in 1971 was Dodge City, Las Vegas, and Sodom and Gomorrah all rolled into one.
Magsaysay, the main drag of the city, was always crowded at night with passing sailors, shoeshine boys, drug dealers, street vendors and the ubiquitous “jeepneys,” the colorfully decorated jeeps that carried the sailors across town.
Pretty Filipinas gathered outside of the bars on Magsaysay and enticed sailors to enter the bars with hugs, kisses, swaying hips, pushed out breasts and shaking bottoms, as well as more strongarm-style tactics. Come inside and enjoy the music, the dancing, the Sam Miguel beer, and the sweet companionship of the bar girls, the sailors were told by the hawking and preening girls outside of the bars.
Inside the bars, the sailors bought the girls drinks, danced with them, snuggled with them, and kissed them.
During the early evenings some sailors paid off the mama-san so they could take the girls to a hotel room for “short-time,” as it was called. More patient sailors waited until the end of the evening when the girls could leave the bar without charge and would accompany the dipsy and happy sailors to near-by hotels.
I recall one early evening standing next to a sailor at the bar at the Stardust on Magsaysay, my favorite hang-out, when one of the bargirls grabbed him by the arm and said, “Come sit with me, Joe. I show you good time.”
The sailor became annoyed, and he brushed her off of him.
He turned back to me and said, “I hate it when these girls call me Joe.”
“Filipinos have called all Americans “Joe” since World War Two,” I explained.
“Yeah, I know,” he replied. “But I really hate it when then they call me Joe.”
“Because my name is Joe.”