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A Novel Naval Approach

, , , , , , , , | Working | December 6, 2022

My dad told me this story long ago, so I apologize for not knowing specific ranks or terminology. He was one of the ship’s cooks aboard a minesweeper during the tail end of the Vietnam War. At some point, the ship took on a bunch of Marines for an excursion.

I can’t speak for the behavior of servicemen now, but the Marines at the time were a bunch of arrogant jerks (keepin’ it PG) who believed themselves to be the best of the best and believed that Navy servicemen were wussies (also keepin’ it PG). There was a lot of strutting, preening, and smart-aleck, derogatory sneering toward the Navy men aboard the ship.

In port, anyway.

On the first day on the ocean, things turned around rather quickly against the Marines. Sneering jerks turned into very quiet, very green balls of misery who nibbled delicately at plain crackers and often could be found hanging over the side of the ship. Seasickness hit and hit hard.

This is where my dad and his fellow Navy men took their petty revenge. After days in port with swaggering jerks, certain foods were… requisitioned from the kitchen. Kippered snacks. Anchovies. Oysters. Pickles. Food with powerful smells and tastes got distributed among the Navy servicemen.

The worst offenders got to see fishtails sticking out of mouths and being wiggled up and down as though waving, while the rank smell of canned seafood followed behind them. Many Marines turned a deeper shade of green and fled their vicinity.

The Marines were quite subdued and far more respectful to the Navy men, well before the exercise was finished.

Dad said a few higher-ranking officers merely cleared their throats, ordered the men to finish chewing before they touched equipment, and said nothing more. To his dying day, Dad didn’t know if this was an official exercise or a punishment detail that Dad and his fellow Navy workers took malicious glee in strengthening.

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