Gator's Swim Call
This Sea Story was provided by John "Steamboat" Fulton
OK all you bored glow in the dark types, hear is a "This ain't no s***er about the good old smoke boat days of SubRon 12 in Key Oassia! I will try to stick to the facts as I remember them from 40 years ago, I was an eyewitness to most of this event, so you can rest assured there is no embellishment. There was once a TM2 in the ATR of the USS Atule SS-403 (known affectionately as the "Irish Boat" by the crew) named Gator Downs.
He was from Gainesville area, and he claimed to have "Killed him a gator when he was only 3". He said that his only job before joining the Navy was wrestling alligators. Gator could swim faster than a barracuda and sharks would jump out of the water when he was near. He would drive up to Baja Honda Key so he could do quadruple gainers off the middle of the Seven Mile Bridge just for kicks. He could out swim any UDT trainee, but could see no reason to carry a 500 pound log over his head everywhere he went, so never thought about joining their little party games.
No, Gator had BETTER plans in mind. Well it just so happened that a few months after ole Fidel put away his play toys back in "62 that Gator and I hit the beach together one dark night. Now mind you we were still under a security alert especially for Cuban saboteurs trying to do harm to our boats. But Gator stated in no uncertain terms that our security was a joke.
So one dark night Gator and I hit the beach with no special plans other than to enjoy the congenial nightlife. Of course we started at the Gate Bar. It must have been at least 3 or 4 days before payday, cause we were all pretty tapped out. I tried conning free drinks out of Betty, but ya'll know that is a dead end. So 'round about midnight I was still unusually sober, but Gator was “stumble foot” drunk, (or at least he appeared to be). I Soon discovered his secret, He was filling his beer mug with Southern Comfort, (his most favorite get well alcoholic drink in the whole vocabulary of submariners' repertoire of cheaper-than -water brands of hooch), from a bottle hidden in his sock. Well Gator said it was about that time to "cycle the vents", which meant that it was time to explore some new surroundings, like going to the Brown Derby. So when I arrived, Gator was nowhere to be found. I thought maybe he had either gotten lucky with one of Betty's girls or he was performing community service by inspecting the bottom of the street gutters along the way. I inquired of his where-abouts of everyone I knew at the Bars, and all the Shoe-shine boys in between, but NO GATOR! Well I hated to leave him possibly hanging out in the dark and dangerous metropolis of Key West, but I was flat broke, and the possibilities for extending my evenings entertainment (nee' drunk) were coming to an end.
I tripped on back through the main gate, and to the boat (the next day was Sunday, and Dusty was cooking Brunch). Well I knew something was amiss when there was 3 or 4 guys topside at 3 AM chatting with the Topside Watch. It seems that everyone knew Gator and I had hit the beach together and wanted to know what we had been up to. You see when Gator disappeared from the Gate Bar about midnight, he came back to the Barracks, put on his swim gear, went down to the piers, dove in, swam to the nearest boat, snuck down to the engine room, wrote a nasty note on the engines, and proceeded to repeat this until all boats in port had been so compromised. He then could not resist the shinning white, brightly light cutter of the Hooligan Navy moored by the sea wall. He somehow managed to get on deck, but as luck would have it, a bunch of these shallow water wanta-be-sailors was playing cards on the fantail and spotted Gator slinking toward a hatch. The topside watch jumped to his duty and pulled his .45 Colt. Gator sought the only refuge he knew and quickly dove overboard. Well after several shots were fired, searchlights flashing, much yelling, SP’s calling life threatening shouts, Gator realized the jig was up, and this wasn't fun any more. He surrendered to the SP’s and was taken to the brig.
Gator did get a special invitation to chat with the Base Commander, which gave him an opportunity to reveal his motives. Lucky for Gator that our Capt. Ward was a good friend of the Commander, or he may possibly still be in that brig. Gator got off with a few weeks restriction and a tongue-lashing worse than anybody's Daddy ever gave him behind the barn! Gator, if you are out there Guy, I'll hit the beach with you any day, but please let me know ahead of time if you plan on a swim call, so I can head for Kansas!