During January of 1946 the deckhouse of a wrecked merchant ship protruded above the surface of Manila Bay within 100 yards from where tidal action swung BURLEIGH around on her anchor. A local entrepreneur with an outrigger canoe brought some young women out and set them up in the wreck’s deckhouse. At night he used the canoe as a water taxi in order to ferry customers from BURLEIGH’s duty section.
Initially the sailors had money to spend, but after a few nights they began to steal each other’s shoes, blankets, etc. and were bartering. That brought the matter to the Executive Officer’s attention. I found out about the situation when the Exec instructed me to stand by one evening with a few of my trusted electricians so that we could rig cargo lights (portable flood-lights) over the side of the ship on short notice. Then, he raided the wreck in one of the ship’s landing boats.
When the swab patrons in the wreck heard the landing boat coming toward them, most jumped over the side and swam toward BURLEIGH’s stern where they expected to find accomplices who were to toss down knotted ropes for them to climb. Instead, the floodlights were suddenly turned on.
Every one of them turned away and swam toward the dark. The Exec cut the boat’s engines and waited for them to start yelling for help because it was about two miles to shore and none of them was known to be a marathon swimmer. He then rounded them up one by one.
The escapade seemed to have been from Richard McKenna’s book, The Sandpebbles.
Copyright © 2005 (text only) by Louis D. Chirillo