Liberty Kit

Jim M

Some more fond memories of my time in the 6th Fleet while aboard the USS Forrestal on my first Med Cruise, on or about 1962. Naples, Italy was our home port until such time as when we returned to CONUS. Naples being a sailor town attracted the lower specimen of human beings, their goal was to separate the drunk sailor from his money. There were no deep water ports in the Med during the time I served. So we had to anchor out and ride the whale boats in for liberty call. Which was ok, it was when we had to return to our ship, then the fun would begin. Combine drunken sailors, rough rolling seas, then add in those who had been relieved of their cash on the first day in port. So those who were drunk, those who were pissed off, possible rough seas an a green coxswain. You would end up with sailors puking and/or fighting in the boat being yelled at by the coxswain trying to keep everything under control. If the sea was rough enough we would have to use the rope ladders to get back aboard, you grab for the ropes on the up swing and hoist yourself aboard. The drunks would slip and fall in every once in awhile, this liven things up for the rest of us. The crew trying to get the drunk back aboard was for me funny as hell, no to mention that smelling of booze they had now been soaked in sea water. A wet dog smelled better than our crew did at that moment in time.

One thing that was new to me was the so called 'Liberty Kit' that was on the table for the taking at the after brow. It consisted of some prophylactics, penicillin pills.and a piece of paper telling you what to do. Shortly afterwards the 'kit' was removed. Seems some young sailor felt that it was inappropriate and sent it home to his mother. I guess that it escalated from there until we lost the privilege of taking care of ourselves. Which I considered rather insulting, adult enough to be in the military but not adult enough to make my own liberty decisions.

Having shore patrol in Naples was an interesting job, got to see the under belly of our home port in a totally different light. Besides the usual sailor brawls, drinking and causing damage in the bars I also got to view the locals on their home turf. Round about midnight or so while herding the strays back to the pier I got to observe an interesting event. Across the street from me and my partner on patrol we saw an officer walking back towards the pier. He was alone an appeared to be somewhat drunk. As he passed an alley a pack of young kids came out an surrounded him. Before I could even get across the street they were gone, they had stripped the officer of his watch, ring, wallet and anything of value. Nothing I could do for him, he had been picked clean.

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