The Phillip Long Story: Vanished in Tijuana – Fear and Panic

This is Tijuana today.  The streets have been paved and the streetlights are much brighter than when Phillip and I went there.  Imagine what it was like 45 years ago when Phillip was beaten and robbed.

When I stepped into the street the city had transformed itself from when we had entered.  It was now lit up in a sinister kind of way and only about a block down on the left was the brightest  building of all calling itself The Palace.  “How could anyplace in this hell hole call itself a palace,” I questioned.  I looked at my watch.  It was nearing 9:30 PM.  Still early.  I decided to check out this so called palace while I waited for Phillip to get over the romance he was having.

Inside the palace I was pleasantly surprised.  Probably a thousand people or more were cheering athletes with long baskets strapped to their hands playing a game that reminded me of handball except the ball traveled at over 140 miles per hour according to the program when flung against the wall with huge momentum gained from the length of these baskets.  To make it even more exciting the crowd was wagering on each event the same as wagering is done on horse racing in the United States.  You could place a bet on any player to win, place or show.

Always ready to gamble I stepped up to the window and started putting my Navy paycheck on the line on the very next event . . . and for the following three events after that.   The results were about the same as if I had stayed at the cantina.  I lost about the same amount of money as I would have given Mable.  The memory however was not going to include the smell of the dead dog and at least the thrill had lasted about an hour and a half which made me think about Phillip and wonder if his romance with Maria was finally over.  I left the palace and made my way back to the cantina.

I stepped inside and a crowd of probably 20 people had now congregated inside, but Phillip was not to be seen.  “Perhaps he is upstairs,” I thought.  Maria was not in the crowd.  Neither was Mable.  I asked the bartender if he had seen Phillip.  He could tell by my gestures what I was asking and pointed to door and said “Amigo”.  Even with my limited understanding of Spanish I knew he was saying my friend had exited through the door.  “Damnit Phillip”, I thought.  “You wouldn’t go when I wanted you to go and now you have left on your own.”

I tried to put myself in Phillip’s shoes and decide if he was looking for me or had returned on his own to the base without me. It wasn’t even midnight yet so the latter seemed unlikely.  I decided he was probably looking for me so I went back outside and started making my way down the street sticking my head inside each cantina I came to. The main dirt road was a few blocks long and I suppose they called it main street.  After checking out at least 10 places equally as bad as the first place we had stopped I was at a loss what to do next.  There were more cantinas on some back streets, but I wasn’t about to take off by myself onto a dark back street in this town at what was now nearing 1:00 AM.  I didn’t think Phillip would either unless he was in the company of Maria and Mable . . . and then the thought hit me . . . that was a possibility.  “Long,  What have you gotten yourself into?”

I wasn’t worried about Maria, but if Mable had anything at all to do with this I suddenly felt Phillip could be in real danger.  “Calm down, Webster,” I kept telling myself.  “You are over reacting.”

I continued to walk around on the main street, staying in the middle of the street where I was plainly visible and hoping Phillip might see me.  As I neared “dead dog” cantina again I asked the bartender if “See amigo?” and he shook his head “No”.  I considered talking to one of the Mexican police who were to be seen here and there and i figured they might speak a little English, but then I thought, “What would I say to them?”  And I wasn’t sure they were any more trust worthy than Mable.  It was 2:00 AM and I thought “Phillip has to have gone back to the base without me.”

Confident I would find him when I got back to NTC I made my way down the dark dirt road we had walked up to get into to town earlier.  It was daylight then.  At two in the morning it was a lot worse than it was coming in.  I was relieved to arrive at the border where they asked me if I was bringing anything back across. “No sir” and I was back on US soil.

Twenty minutes and I was getting out at the front gate of NTC, worried sick about Phillip, but also pissed at him because I had just had to lay out for the whole taxi fare.  This month was going to be a long one.  Over half my check was gone and only one day had passed since payday.

I showed my ID and entered the base and began walking to the dormitory.  I thought how only hours ago we were walking the other direction thinking about all the fun we were getting ready to have.  None of this would have happened if I hadn’t been such an immature kid on the way back from the submarine base two weeks ago.  Phillip had never done anything I wouldn’t have done myself if given the same opportunities.  I was just jealous and  he was just trying to be a friend.

Then the thought hit me, “This wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t walked out on him again.”  Inside my heart I was praying he would be in our room.

I soon arrived.  I opened the door.  Phillip wasn’t there.

The Phillip Long Story: Buddies Until Abandoned

  1. The Graduate was Hot! KOMA was King!
  2. In the Navy – We Want You as a New Recruit
  3. Basic Training – First Abandonment
  4. To the Girl Who Loved Me
  5. A Cantina in Mexico – Second Abandonment
  6. Vanished In Tijuana – Fear and Panic  <- You are Here
  7. Phillip Needs Help – We Can’t Tell the Truth
  8. Thanksgiving Day – A Time for Healing
  9. The Captain’s Mast of Seaman Apprentice Webster
  10. Conclusion – Too Much Living to Do
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The Phillip Long Story: A Cantina In Mexico – The Second Abandonment

With recruit training behind us it is now time to get down to some advanced training.

We graduated from basic, returned home for 30 days leave where it was nice to not be called a maggot for four weeks.  We had been assigned to radioman advanced training school and returned to NTC San Diego to begin training which would eventually place us on board a ship together in perhaps one of the best striking fields available.

Because of the top-secret nature of working with radio communications it was a position that answered directly to a ship’s commander and always knew everything that was going on.  Where the next port of call was going to be, when you would get there, and it would also come with an automatic petty officer billet when arriving on board even though we would only be E-3.  However, before we started sailing somewhere exotic we had to get through training and while I felt pretty confident in my ability I was a bit concerned about Phillip.

In order to begin the technical part of the school we had four weeks to learn how to type Morse code at 30 words per minute.  Since I could already type I was half way there, but Phillip could do neither and really didn’t want to learn to do either, but knew he had no choice.  Failure meant getting reassigned as a boatsman’s mate and instead of sitting in a radio room enjoying the Navy from a position of comfort we could end up chipping paint all day long and I had no intention of chipping paint.  Neither did Phillip, but after the first week I could tell it was going to be a close call and I had a vested interest in getting him through this.

We stayed in a dormitory, 4 to a room, so it was easy to communicate with each other and while we were buddies in basic we really were getting close now.  We talked a lot in the more private surroundings and shared things with each other that made me feel like brothers more than buddies.  I had never had a brother so I had no benchmark, but I still had a feeling of responsibility that I wasn’t going to let my brother down.  I didn’t know how, but I was somehow going to make sure he passed the four-week test if we had to work 24 hours a day.

Phillip was living for that first weekend and I was too and decided we needed to twist off so I didn’t push to stay on base and study.  We still had three weeks left.  We went downtown San Diego about 8:00pm and saw a sign at the USO inviting us in to a free dance.  We went in and in typical Phillip Long fashion within minutes the cutest girl in the place is making eyes at him.

Suddenly “Drop Dead Gorgeous” asks Phillip to dance accompanied by her friend , Coyote Ugly, who is asking me to dance.  Being asked to dance at a USO means nothing normally.  The girls are generally volunteers from churches and they are normally heavily chaperoned.  They are there just to give the military guys a little friendly smile, conversation and some cookies and punch.  Coyote and I have very little in common, but Phillip and Gorgeous seem to be hitting it off really well and I can tell she is really enamored with Phillip and she isn’t trying to hide it from anyone except the eyes of the USO chaperons.

To make a long story short Phillip ask’s me to stay there with Coyote and cover for Gorgeous and him while they take a short walk . . . a two and a half hour short walk.  By the time they return I know more than I ever wanted to know about Coyote and am wondering if Phillip is ever going to return . . . and actually wondering where in the world he could have walked in downtown San Diego that took two and a half hours.  I could also tell by looking at Gorgeous a lot more than walking had been going on as she was pushing Coyote to hurry and get out of there before she got questioned by a chaperon about where she had been.

I looked at Long and said . . . “You didn’t.”

He looked back grinning that grin from ear to ear.

The next weekend we really should have stayed on base and studied, but Phillip talked me into going out to a submarine base at Point Loma about 15 miles remote from NTC where they were known to let servicemen drink at age 18 because at NTC you had to be 21.  We arrived and decided to bowl on one of the handful of bowling lanes they had available.  One the lane next to ours were two waves (female branch of Navy).  Phillip starts a conversation.  Normally waves won’t have anything to do with low-level enlisted men because the ratio of men to women is probably 20-1 and they seek out the men with higher rank  Actually they don’t seek at all.  They don’t have to.

To shorten this part of the story I will let you guess what is getting ready to transpire because the details are not important, but the scenario is not too different from the week before except this time it happened much faster and while wave #2 wasn’t ugly she was a total bitch who wouldn’t even dance with me while Phillip was gone and while he was only gone a little over 30 minutes I was pretty pissed when he returned.

We got on the bus to head back to base and Phillip knew I was steamed.

“What is it Webster” he asked.

“I’m not pissed at you, Phillip.”  I remember he looked down at the floor of the bus as he listened. “I’m just pissed. How the hell do you end up getting laid without even trying . . . and always by the best looking girls around . . . and I haven’t been laid one time in my whole life.  Just once I would like to know what it is like.  Yeah.  That pisses me off.  Sorry, but it does.”

I guess I expected him to laugh, but he didn’t.  He was silent for a little while and then he said.  “Webster, I’ve got an idea.  We’re going to Mexico.”

I looked at him like he had to be out of his mind. Mexico was currently off-limits to US military.  We had been told in the very first briefing at advanced training we were not to go across the border at any time while stationed at NTC.  They gave no reason.  It was a rule and to violate it was reason to be reprimanded under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.  As far as I was concerned this conversation ended right then and it did not come up again for two weeks.

The next weekend we stayed on base and studied.  I had qualified that week at 30 words per minute and was now solely working to get Phillip into the technical portion of the training.  He was rapidly improving and once he got past the typing handicap it seemed like picking up the code was coming quickly. Still, we were dead broke and payday was a week away.  We studied.

If they could have given the test the following Friday I am almost certain Phillip would have passed, but it would be Tuesday before he would take it.  We got paid Friday and Phillip said, “Well, Webster.  Are you ready for Tijuana?”

We hadn’t talked about it since that night on the bus, but Phillip I found out had been doing some talking to some other servicemen who had been down to Mexico and there had been no reports of anyone being arrested for making the trip.  There were no MP (military police) and apparently several hundred servicemen were hitting the border every weekend.  An unenforced rule meant to be broken is the way he described it.

I thought long and hard . . . for about two seconds . . . and said you really think we can pull it off and not get into trouble.

“Webster, trust me.  I don’t want to get into trouble any more than you.  It will be fun and I am certain we have nothing to worry about.”

With those words of confidence we are getting some money and heading for the main gate where we get in a cab and head to the border . . . about 20 minutes south of NTC.

We crossed the border without incident.  It was still daylight and what greeted us on the other side was the dirtiest, filthiest place I had seen in my life.  We made our way by foot down a dirt road about a half mile to the area of Tijuana where the action was supposed to be.

Loud music was coming from a cantina on the right and we decided to step inside.  We had to make our way around a dead dog laying in the street about ten feet from the front door that had apparently been run over by a vehicle a couple of days before and nobody had bothered to remove it.  Flies swarmed it and the odor was sickening.

Once inside we sat at the bar and both ordered beers.  The place was empty but for two Mexican senoritas I will call Maria and Mable and the bartender.  Maria was probably about 20, very pretty, and she approached Phillip.  Mable wasn’t bad-looking either, but she was easily 30, maybe older, and had a hard look about her.  Her brown eyes made that hardness even more pronounced.  I immediately put up my guard because something told me this woman would cut you heart out for a price and not think twice.  Other than the hardness she had a nice body and certain sex appeal that I might have enjoyed more if not for the odor from the dead dog that kept slapping me in the nostrils.  She spoke for both of them and asked the bartender to bring drinks.  She didn’t ask Phillip or me if we would buy them drinks.  She ordered and when the bartender brought them she pointed to the drinks and looked at me said, “You pay.” It was not a question.

Maria takes Phillip by the hand and leads him to a table in the back of the cantina where it is dark and while not private, more private than the bar.  I also got the impression it was a preplanned thing they did when there were two men together to get them separated so they could work them easier.  I was making an assumption that both of them worked at the world’s oldest profession.  I wasn’t certain about Maria, but I had no doubt about Mable.  I am torn between wanting to move to a table in the other corner with Mable to get way from the front door and the odor of the dog and not wanting to be in a dark area of the room with Mable because of fear of what that might lead to.  For the time being I decided the dog was better.  Mable can speak very little English but enough to let me know she knows I am American military.  I ask her how she knows that. She points to my shoes.

Phillip and Maria appear to be having a very good time.  I notice them staring into each others eyes like two lovers that have been in love for years.  I am amazed.  Mable is so creepy in that area I can’t even look her in the eyes for more than a few seconds.  She is just way too hard.  Maria doesn’t appear to trying to put a hustle on Phillip, but by now Mable has made it clear she is a professional and that a “good time”  can be had “upstairs” and she had quoted me a price that equaled about half a month’s pay for my pay grade and there was no way.

“Come on Phillip.  Let’s go” I said.

Phillip and Maria are still doing the swan song in their dark corner and she is sitting in his lap with both arms around his neck.

“Come on man.  Either take her up stairs and get it over with and then let’s go or let’s go now.”  There is no response.

I look at Mable’s drink and I can see that it is just a matter of minutes before she is getting ready to order another one on me and I am ready to go.  Mable now decides to lower her price to less than half of her original request and suddenly the whole scene just overwhelms me.  The smell of the dog, the filth of the city. I have to get out of there.  I am not going to live the rest of my life remembering this as my first ever sexual encounter.  It just isn’t going to happen.

“Long.  Come on.  I am leaving.”  Phillip and Maria continue to ignore the rest of the world.

I head for the door.  Mable says “No go.”

“I’ll be back later” I shout as I walk out the door, leaving Phillip and Maria to share their new-found romance while I escape from Mable and the smell of the dog.

The Phillip Long Story: Buddies Until Abandoned

  1. The Graduate was Hot! KOMA was King!
  2. In the Navy – We Want You as a New Recruit
  3. Basic Training – First Abandonment
  4. To the Girl Who Loved Me
  5. A Cantina in Mexico – Second Abandonment  <- You are Here
  6. Vanished In Tijuana – Fear and Panic
  7. Phillip Needs Help – We Can’t Tell the Truth
  8. Thanksgiving Day – A Time for Healing
  9. The Captain’s Mast of Seaman Apprentice Webster
  10. Conclusion – Too Much Living to Do

 

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The Phillip Long Story: To the Girl Who Loved Me

The next chapter in this story is a very sensitive one.  There is someone who may stumble across it someday. I must write something personal to her if she happens to pass this way.

I have only talked to you twice in forty years and the conversations totaled less than 100 words.

Forty years ago you sent me love letters every day while I was in San Diego . . . each one smelled of your perfume and was sealed with a kiss.  Before I joined the Navy we had made plans to wed.  You were one of virtue and a woman any man would be proud to call his wife.  You fell in love with a man who was born under a wandering star and the forces of the universe tore us apart before our dreams were fulfilled.

Be grateful for our demise.  I have seen your accomplishments and witnessed the impact you have had on many others. Even from a distance and after so many years it has made me proud to see you  in newspapers, on the cover of magazines and on television. I know I would have held you back from your destiny.

I would rather you never see this, but if you should I do not ask for forgiveness.  I only want you to know I know how much you loved me and cared for me and though my actions did not reflect it . . . I also loved and cared for you very much.

I never deserved you and you deserved so much more.

’till . . .

David

The Phillip Long Story: Buddies Until Abandoned

  1. The Graduate was Hot! KOMA was King!
  2. In the Navy – We Want You as a New Recruit
  3. Basic Training – First Abandonment
  4. To the Girl Who Loved Me  <- You are Here
  5. A Cantina in Mexico – Second Abandonment
  6. Vanished In Tijuana – Fear and Panic
  7. Phillip Needs Help – We Can’t Tell the Truth
  8. Thanksgiving Day – A Time for Healing
  9. The Captain’s Mast of Seaman Apprentice Webster
  10. Conclusion – Too Much Living to Do

 

 

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The Phillip Long Story: Basic Training – First Abandonment

NTC San Diego

This is the Recruit Training Command at Naval Training Center in San Diego, CA.  On the left above the canal is Camp Nimitz where recruits spend their first four weeks before crossing the bridge to the buildings in the upper right.  In the background is Point Loma which I mention in chapter five.

The flight arrived at San Diego about midnight. On the way out Phillip had charmed the hostess into serving us drinks. I am sure she knew we weren’t 21, but Phillip had told her we were joining the service and I suppose she figured it didn’t hurt. We were strutting pretty tall when we got off the plane. That would quickly change.

We checked in at the military check in and were told to have a seat where about 20 others who had arrived ahead of us had already had seats. Phillip and I found places to sit on the floor. Within seconds a dark gray school bus pulls up and we are instructed to get in. Those would be the last polite words we would hear from anyone of authority for the next 10 weeks.

Naval Training Center (NTC) was only a few miles away and the trip was a short one. The bus pulls up to a paved lot and opens the door. A sailor in whites with a blue armlet climbs on board and says “Listen up! Outside there are some squares with numbers in them. Are you maggots capable of reading numbers? If so, get off this bus and find yourself a number. If not, get off anyway. NOW!”

I looked at Phillip. He looked at me. “Did he call us maggots?”

Little did we know this was only the beginning of hell. We were checked in and got to bed about 1:30 AM and at 4:00 AM Mr Armlet is waking us up with the word “maggots” again and we begin a long day of processing that included haircuts and getting new clothes and I don’t remember what else. It all turned kind of foggy from that point on.

The following morning Mr Armlet did not show up. We hear a much deeper and even louder voice, but his timing is still the same . . . 4:00 AM. “I better see every last one of your butts on that grinder in ten minutes.” He turned and walked out. Something told everyone in the barracks this was the real deal and we better be on that grinder in ten minutes. I think Phillip and I were there in three. We weren’t taking any chances.

We were at attention, or as close as a bunch of bumpkins on their second day of military life can be when Mr Brown uniform with a gold anchor on his hat approached us and said. “Maggots” (I was really beginning to hate that word) “My name is RDC King. I am your Company Commander. We are going to spend the next ten weeks together. During those ten weeks I intend to take every one of you apart piece by piece and put you back together the way the Navy wants you. You will still be maggots, but you will be my maggots and I build the best maggots in the US Navy. You are going to hate me. You are going to want to strike me. I challenge one of you to do that and set an example for the rest of the maggots when they see what that leads to.”

He stops and takes a breath and then he mellows his voice a bit as if there might actually be a kind bone somewhere in his body. “Do any of you boys (he didn’t use the m word) have leadership skills?” Everyone was afraid to say anything. “Surely some of you are leaders. Were any of you leaders in your schools?”

A couple of hands went up. Phillip half way raised his hand. He was only being honest, but I think he could smell a rat. RDC King walked up to Phillip and said, “Well, did you or didn’t you?” Phillip shook his head. “I can’t hear your head rattle.”

“Yes sir” Phillip replied.

“What did you lead.” King said in a very sarcastic way.

“I was class president, sir.”

“Then get up here,” King shouted.

With that exchange Phillip Long had become a squad leader and took his place at the front of the line.

What had just transpired had me grinning. I couldn’t help it. King picked up on my grin and suddenly RDC King is in my face. “What is your name?”

“Webster,” I responded.

“Are you a leader, Webster?”

“No, Sir” I shouted.

“I didn’t think so, Webster. You are a screw up, aren’t you, Webster?”

“Yes Sir”, I replied.

RDC King walked back to Phillip. “Long. Webster is in your squad. He is a screw up. Leader’s don’t have screw up’s on their squads. Give me 50 push ups, Long. NOW!”

Phillip hits the deck and everybody in the whole company is struggling to keep a straight face except Phillip who is questioning his leadership skills about now and wondering why he raised his hand.

The first week of basic training was filled with fundamental things that are designed to take you apart and make every man equal. Funny how all personality goes away when you are bald. Guys who had hair to their shoulders when they entered the gates of NTC now looked the same as those who came in with crew cuts. Everyone wears the same clothing and individual identity disappears. The first two weeks are hardest. It is more emotional than physical. It doesn’t matter who you were when you came in or where you came from . . . you are now a nobody. You are a maggot and will remain so until graduation.

Phillip proved to be a very good squad leader. There are lots of stories I could tell about little things that happened along the way, but nothing remarkable except for one thing that really pissed Phillip off. We had been in training for about two weeks when one day a bicycle approached and the rider handed a message to RDC King. He read the message and looked out at the company.

“Does anyone in the company know how to type?” King asks. There was something about the way this had come about that made me think I should raise my hand. I also knew raising your hand for anything could be risky. Nobody else responded. King walked up to me and instead of yelling he asked me in a normal voice where I learned to type.

“I took typing in school, sir.” I replied.

“Webster, you better be telling me the truth.” King warned. “Because if you aren’t you will be back here in an hour. I am sending you to battalion headquarters. I don’t like to send screw ups to battalion headquarters. You make me look bad, and I will have your ass. Am I clear?”

“Yes, Sir”

I made my way to the battalion office about 200 yards away and knocked on the door. I was told to enter. The battalion commander put me through a brief skills test and asked me some questions about myself and just like that I had found myself perhaps the cushiest job a recruit could have for the next eight weeks. I was the personal assistant of the battalion commander who arranged for me to be exempt from barracks fire watches at night because he wanted me alert during the day. I was given a bicycle to ride across the river to deliver his reports. Never did I stand a daily inspection again, only the major inspections, and ironically as I prepared reports every day I could look out the window and see all the fun I was missing as my company practiced on the grinder.

At night I would return to Company 505 for a place to sleep, do laundry and enjoy what social life we had. In the beginning there was a lot of resentment toward me for getting out of all the hard physical work, but it later started to wain, especially when I started testing the limits of what I could get away with on the other side of the river at base command. I would bring back cigarettes and candy bars and other things that were contraband and highly valued. I made sure I always took care of my “buddy”. After about two weeks I was no longer a “sack of shit” and back to being Webster again.

Phillip still didn’t like the fact we went in together and we were going to stick together until the end. “I couldn’t help it” I always told him.

Everything would have been fine if it ended there, but two more times I left Phillip on his own and both times ended in disasters.

The Phillip Long Story: Buddies Until Abandoned

  1. The Graduate was Hot! KOMA was King!
  2. In the Navy – We Want You as a New Recruit
  3. Basic Training – First Abandonment  <- You are Here
  4. To the Girl Who Loved Me
  5. A Cantina in Mexico – Second Abandonment
  6. Vanished In Tijuana – Fear and Panic
  7. Phillip Needs Help – We Can’t Tell the Truth
  8. Thanksgiving Day – A Time for Healing
  9. The Captain’s Mast of Seaman Apprentice Webster
  10. Conclusion – Too Much Living to Do

 

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The Phillip Long Story: In the Navy – We Want You as a New Recruit

In the Navy – We Want You as a New Recruit

(a few weeks before graduation 1969)

It was hard to believe it was really almost here. For 12 years I had been working to graduate. Suddenly is was within grasp. A little hard to believe, but at the same time a reality.

To celebrate I had been making plans for the ultimate party. Woodstock. I didn’t know how I was going to pull it off. I knew my parents would never give me any money to go to an event like that, but I figured if there was a will there was a way and my will was making big plans.

As I walked down the hall Phillip hollered out at me. “Webster, Hold Up”.  I stopped and waited. He caught up.

“What are you doing for lunch?”

“No plans.” I responded.

“I got a guy I want you to meet. He’s a recruiter at the post office downtown. Been in the Navy forever and you have to hear what he has to say.”

I agreed to lunch, but the last thing on my mind was joining the Navy. I was trying to decide between majoring in journalism at Texas Tech or University of Texas . . . not shipping out.

The recruiter was a fast talker. He was making promises faster than we could take them in, but one thing we kept hearing over and over was the word “buddy” and how if we went in on the “buddy” plan we would be together through basic training, through advanced training and in all probability be assigned to the same ship where we could see the world as “buddies”.

Then the recruiter started talking about how women loved men in uniform and how sailors were known to have women attracted to them like magnets. He was such a liar, but Phillip and I were sitting there like the two small town kids we were just awed by this man who had seen the world and the exotic experiences he was relating one after the other.

“Webster, if we go in together we can see the world together. And we’ll get more (the word Phillip used for sex) than we can shake a stick at.”

That did it. I knew Phillip had more than his share of sexual encounters in high school, but I was still a virgin. I had lied about a few, but when that remark came out of his mouth I grabbed the pen and without even talking to my parents or anyone else committed myself to six years of service to Uncle Sam.

We walked out of the recruiters office and I immediately began questioning what I had done. Goodbye Woodstock. Goodbye Texas Tech (or UT). Goodbye to every dream I had ever made.

But then, the wanderin’ star in me was excited by the new dreams the recruiter had created. Phillip and I gave each other a hug. It seemed like the thing two buddies should do. Now the really hard part was going to be to explain this to my parents

We were soon processed and put through physical exams and ordered to report under the “buddy” program to the United States Naval Training Center in San Diego California in early July.

The Phillip Long Story: Buddies Until Abandoned

  1. The Graduate was Hot! KOMA was King!
  2. In the Navy – We Want You as a New Recruit  <- You are Here
  3. Basic Training – First Abandonment
  4. To the Girl Who Loved Me
  5. A Cantina in Mexico – Second Abandonment
  6. Vanished In Tijuana – Fear and Panic
  7. Phillip Needs Help – We Can’t Tell the Truth
  8. Thanksgiving Day – A Time for Healing
  9. The Captain’s Mast of Seaman Apprentice Webster
  10. Conclusion – Too Much Living to Do

 

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Followup: Rickey Marson One of 26 Who Died In Assualt Attack

What Began as a Patrol Ended Up Major Action

Casualty information from the Vietnam War is often classified and difficult to obtain, but after publishing the original story about PFC Rickey Marson a few weeks ago I continued to search. I finally discovered a brief field report describing how 24 US Marines and two Navy medics lost their lives.

The Report:

Although the attack was planned for 1200, circumstances prevented the two companies from getting into position before 1400.

On commencement, Golf was attacking into the enemy’s line while Fox’s flanking attack from the north was able to roll up their line. The northern two-thirds of the enemy position was captured, with the NVA withdrawing toward the southern end of the ridge.

At that point, Fox was strung out along several hundred meters of the ridge line and Golf was not able to complete an uphill assault against the southern end of the ridge line before nightfall. Although 2/26 wanted to leave both companies in position through the night, permission was refused and once again the two companies withdrew to Hill 558, again forced to leave some of their dead behind. Once again,air and artillery fires blanketed the ridge line.

A battalion attack was planned for 10 Apr and executed as scheduled. When the Marines reached the top of the ridge line they met no resistance – the NVA had abandoned their positions and retreated into the jungles to the west.

What began as a patrol action had ended up as a major action which cost the lives of 26 Marines and sailors:

Golf 2/26, 06 May:

Cpl Herman A. Lohman, Twin Falls, ID
Cpl Edward A. McGrath, Astoria, NY
HM3 Russell W. Scarborough, Dunnellon, FL
Cpl James M. Trimble, Eureka, CA (BNR)
LCpl Manuel V. Romero, San Antonio, TX
Pfc Edward U. Masters, Winter Haven, FL
Pfc Anthony J. Pepper, Richmond, VA (BNR)
Pfc Robert G. Piazza, Merrick, NY

Fox and Golf 2/26, 07 May:

Company unknown:
Pfc Rickey J. Marson, Pampa, TX
Fox 2/26:
Sgt Edwin D. Connell,Hickory, NC
LCpl James R. Wells, Garden City, GA
LCpl Gilbert Wiley, New York, NY
Pfc Melvin L. Dolby, Osceola Mills, PA
Pfc Clifton Moses, Whitwell, TN
Pfc James D. Richardson, New Orleans, LA
Pfc Gilbert L. Zerbst, St Ignatius, MT
Pvt John F. Quattlebaum, Detroit, MI
Golf 2/26:
              Cpl Artis W. Meadows, Atlanta, GA
LCpl Eugene M. Johnson,Baltimore, MD
LCpl John M. Snyder, Webster Groves, MO
LCpl William L. Yohn, Fresno, CA
Pfc Gilbert J. Adame, Colton, CA
Pfc Thomas J. Bayes, Bayside, NY
Pfc Allan J. Gaines, Tuscaloosa, AL
H&S 2/26:
LCpl Lionel R. Crase,Missoula, MT
HN Roger M. Nelson, Sioux Falls, SD

With two exceptions the bodies of the Marines left behind on 06 and 07 Apr were recovered. Cpl James M. Trimble (Eureka, CA) and Pfc Anthony J. Pepper (VA), both of whom were known to have been killed in action on the 6th, could not be found. Their remains have not been recovered.

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The Phillip Long Story: The Graduate was Hot! KOMA was King!

The Graduate was Hot – KOMA was King!

One more class to go on a Wednesday afternoon at Pampa High School in February 1968. I had a secret trip planned for the night, but really didn’t want to go it alone.

I’m standing by my locker when Phillip Long walks by. Phillip and I were friends, but in the pecking order of school cool Phillip was arguably in the top 10 and I wasn’t even in the top 10% . . . so I was a little intimidated by Phillip. I tried to never let it show.

“Hey Long,” I got his attention. “Wanna take a road trip tonight to Oklahoma City? We will be back in time for classes in the morning.

“What for?” he quizzed.

The Graduate” I explained “is showing at a theater there. Plus I talked last night to the midnight DJ at KOMA and he told me we could come out and he would show us the station.”

He responded with a line I became very fond of hearing from Phillip.

“Webster, You’re crazy!”

Arriving at Lloyd Center in Oklahoma City a little after nine there were tickets available for the late showing of “The Graduate”. For two high school juniors from small town Pampa, TX the seduction of Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman) by Mrs. Robinson (Ann Bancroft) was nothing less than the hottest thing we had ever seen. Intertwined with songs by Simon and Garfunkel like Scarborough Affair and the ever present Sound of Silence was the constant “plastic” conflict of the forces between two generations and the values (or lack of) that bounce back and forth like a tetras ball.

Benjamin finally ends the affair he was seduced into, but when he starts dating Mrs. Robinson’s daughter, Elaine, he discovers Mrs.Robinson’s treachery has no limits. The affair is finally made public when Ben tells Elaine in an effort cut off Mrs.Robinson’s threat to reveal the affair herself.

Throughout the movie the Sound of Silence soundtrack haunts each pivotal scene as Benjamin, Elaine and Mrs. Robinson work their way through the tangled web they have woven. In the end Ben goes on an 1,100 mile back and forth journey to rescue Elaine from committing herself to another man her wealthy parents have intervened and set her up to marry.

In the final scene, Elaine, still in her bridal gown, and Benjamin,grubby and unshaven, flag down a passing municipal bus while laughing at their triumphant victory. They rush to the rear seat and look out the rear glass window, amidst puzzling, stern and cold looks from the other elderly passengers of another generation. The Sound of Silence is reprised. They ride in the final image staring silently ahead,uncharacteristically silent toward each other and not even looking at each other. Do they actually love or really care for each other? They are very well aware that their futures are wide-open and very uncertain.

Phillip and I left the theater and headed for KOMA. I don’t remember us talking much about what we had just seen. Perhaps we were both hearing the Sound of Silence. Perhaps we were reflecting on our first lesson in Adultery 101.

KOMA Transmitter

Studio of KOMA Radio in Moore, OK

Throughout our high school years, KOMA was our favorite radio station. We would eagerly await sunset when the mighty 1520 would come booming through with the newest hits of  the day. We would sit in our cars, turn it up at parties, or fall asleep with the radio next to our beds as we listened to Chuck Berry, the Supremes, Paul Revere and the Raiders, and the Beatles.

For me, an aspiring disk jockey, getting to go inside the studios of KOMA was a dream. The station was ten miles south of downtown. We arrived and pressed a button on the building to alert the midnight DJ we were at the front door. He soon let us in. I was totally awed . . . both by the station and the personality.

He showed us the transmitters that were putting out 50,000 watts of power (legal maximum for any AM station in US) on a clear channel that went all the way to the west coast at night. “Soldiers in Vietnam even report tuning in KOMA to give them a little feeling of being back home,” the DJ said, “when conditions are just right.”

Then we stepped into the control room. There were buttons everywhere on the control board. “Watch this,” he said as he pushed one of the buttons and the KOMA “Kissing Tone” played. I thought how somebody at Caldwell’s Drive In probably just made out and we were standing right there at control central watching it be orchestrated. Wow! KOMA was King!

Phillip and I soon headed back. It was nearing two in the morning. We had 250 miles to drive. I saw the blinking red lights of the KOMA towers in my rear view mirror as we left and said to myself  “I’m going to work there someday.”

We rolled into Pampa with an hour to spare, but wondering how we were ever going to make it through the next seven hours of classes. “Drop me off at home,” Phillip decided without much thought.”I’m cutting today.”

“Me too,” I quickly agreed.

Even though we had chosen to cut school and crash we still had pulled it off. We had completed a 500 mile road trip in sixteen hours during the school week and gotten away with it. The thrill of the adventure would remain with us for the rest of our lives.

As I dropped him off I asked, “What was the best part?”

I meant the entire trip, but he thought I was just talking about the movie and said “the part where she was naked.” He smiled a big smile.

“And you?” he asked.

“KOMA” I replied.

Phillip laughed.

“Webster, You’re crazy!”

50,000 Watt KOMA

50,000 Watt KOMA

The Phillip Long Story: Buddies Until Abandoned

  1. The Graduate was Hot! KOMA was King!  <- You are Here
  2. In the Navy – We Want You as a New Recruit
  3. Basic Training – First Abandonment
  4. To the Girl Who Loved Me
  5. A Cantina in Mexico – Second Abandonment
  6. Vanished In Tijuana – Fear and Panic
  7. Phillip Needs Help – We Can’t Tell the Truth
  8. Thanksgiving Day – A Time for Healing
  9. The Captain’s Mast of Seaman Apprentice Webster
  10. Conclusion – Too Much Living to Do

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