Continued Saga of 1st Amtrac Battalion in the Philippines

                   ÖPFC Schmuckatello discovers the joys of Olongapo.

Soon after 1st Amtrac Battalion (-) arrived at Subic Bay for training we had set up housekeeping in the Upper and Lower MAU Camps. We had set the watch and briefed the troops on the rules established by the Status of Forces Agreement between the U.S. and Philippines, and tried to explain liberty in Olongapo, the town outside the gate of Naval Base, Subic Bay (see the aerial photo below). Having been a veteran of liberty there from my days as a seagoing Marine aboard USS Ranger (CVA-61), I knew what to expect, but itís hard to describe Olongapo. I ranks right up there with the Seven Wonders of the World. You can find anything you want in Olongapo, and you have to live it to understand it. In any case we did our best to prepare our Marines for the joys and perils of that pearl of the orient and sounded liberty call.

The majority of young Marines in the battalion had never been to the Philippines. Only those who had been attached to deployed Battalion Landing Teams had experienced liberty there. Most of the senior officers and SNCOs, however, were experienced denizens of Olongapo.

      

                                                       Subic Bay and Olongapo

Several days after the first night of Olongapo liberty for 1st Amtracs, it was brought to my attention that one of the young Marines in the Communications Platoon of H&S Company (or Hug and Suck Company, as the Comm Platoon commander called it) had fallen head over heels in love with one of the world famous Girls of Olongapo. She was his first woman, and she must have been something, because he had skipped out and gone to town when he was in the duty section and had been written up for his trouble. I canít remember his name, but I can see his face to this day, thus I will refer to him using that time honored generic Marine name, PFC Schmuckatello. He had fallen so hard that heíd do anything to get into town to see this girl. He couldnít stay away. He wanted to marry her on the spot and was dead serious about it. His performance of duty and conduct were suffering because of his obsession over this girl.

                                Unidentified U.S. sailors with a sampling of the Girls of Olongapo

His company commander and platoon leader were very concerned about Schmuckatelloís conduct as he had always been a good Marine until Olongapo. I explained that the battalion commander had given me the authority to return to Okinawa any member of the battalion who proved to be liberty risk or conduct case in the Philippines. We decided that it would be in Schmuckatelloís best interest if we put him on the next plane to Kadena AFB.

Schmuckatello was brought before me to be informed that I was sending him back to Camp Schwab for his own good. He didnít take the news well. In fact he threw a royal fit, calling me all kinds of sons-of-bitches and any other name he could think of. As his company commander had just held office hours on him for going to town when he was on the duty section, I let him rant on until he was spent. Angelo Maggio had pulled the same stunt in "From Here to Eternity" when he skipped out of guard duty, but I wasnít going to send Schmuckatello to another Fatso Judson in the Subic Bay brig for cussing out a field grade officer.

We kept him under guard so he wouldnít fly the coop again and got him on the next plane out of Cubi Point to Okinawa the next day. His stay in the Philippines had been less than a week.

Schmuckatello must have rotated home before we returned to Okinawa five weeks later because I canít remember ever seeing him again, and nobody tried to kill me upon our return. I often wonder what happened to him. Did I save him from a life of misery by sending him back early, or did I destroy what really would have been a lasting love? Iíve seen a lot of sailors and Marines fall in love to varying degrees in Olongapo over the years, but he was by far the worst case in my memory. Iíve seen success and failure in marriages between Filipino women and sailors and Marines. You just donít know. I hope that he found a good girl when he got home and has had a happy and strong marriage these 32 years later. I envision him playing with his grandkids on the front porch and living a good life. And if heís like the rest of us old Soldiers of the Sea, he reserves a place in his memory for that special girl he met east of Suez many years ago.

God bless you, Schmuckatello where ever you are, and Semper Fidelis,

 

                                                                                         Dirck Praeger sends