Reflections on a glorious birthday
The first Marine Corps Birthday I attended was at Subic Bay in the Philippines; Nov 1959. I was stationed at Marine Barracks Cubi Point, a dedicated post flanker on my third year in the Corps, seventeenth month in the PI; holding down and serving well the grand rank of Private First Class--proud as punch of that stripe.
On previous birthdays I'd pulled duty and only got part of the cake but none of the party. That night would be the first time ever to actually be present and accounted for at a Marine Corps Birthday Party. Anticipation in the off duty section of the barracks was high; shoes were shined to a high gloss, uniforms pressed, emblems coated, brass polished, piss cutters set at a rakish angle--the Cubi Marines were ready, and damn, we looked good!
Off we went.
The party was held Mainside at a brand new club and things started out just peachy. Several of us from Cubi were seated around a table, spiffed to the nines in our class A tropicals minus ties. San Miguel beer flowed like water and a dance band played "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes", "As Time Goes By", and the like; however, there were only about three
Filipino women present among roughly one hundred Marines from both Cubi and Mainside, so not a whole lot of dancing took place. But the testosterone was there.
It wasn't long before we were all pretty mellow and enjoying a high degree of fellowship as each of us grew more handsome and intelligent with the downing of each beer and the telling of each sea story.
The cake arrived, was cut by the commanding officer, Col Cash, the ceremony played out and we all enjoyed cake and beer--not an unusual combination at that point in our lives.
Back to more beer.
Not long into the evening, a fight broke out at one of the tables behind ours. Not to worry, we did a lot of that in the PI and a fight was generally part of the evening's entertainment in that fair and exotic city of Olongapo and we were quite used to them. Seems some Sailors and a couple of Marines were in disagreement; which was not unusual either and another thing not to worry about. When the dust settled, the few Sailors who had come were gone.
Then a fight between some Mainside and Cubi Marines broke out. Now things were getting personal.
The band sagely struck up the Marine Hymn and we all abruptly snapped to attention amid a clutter of broken bottles and puddles of beer. The fighting stopped.
The hymn ended and we took our seats and continued downing beer, although a tad on the edgy side.
Then another fight, only this one spread out a bit and involved a few more tables; which began going over with loud crashes. And then a few more tables. More beer bottles flew thru the air. The Marines at Young's table put their backs to the wall and stood their ground, wisely not entering into the fisticuffs and acting only as observers.
By now, the floor of the club was awash in beer and broken bottles as fists continued to fly and Marines cursed and struggled.
The band again struck up the Marine Hymn and for a brief moment, we all came to attention. Then someone threw a bottle at the band. Then some more bottles. The band quickly decamped, the singer hiking up her evening gown above her knees and sprinting like a cat in high heels for the nearest door.
The fighting grew and spilled out of the club onto a surrounding field. One of Young's buddies was jumped by a Mainside Marine and down they went. Another Marine jumped in and now it was two on one against a Cubi Marine.
Things were really personal now and a wrong had to be righted!
Young grabbed one of the two and was in turn grabbed from behind by some guy who was strong as an ox and hit like a mule!
Down they went and Young was saved by the fact that he landed on top and began to hammer on the mule guy with everything he had; barely holding his own. Young's collar got ripped from his shirt, left hanging by a thread. His lip got fattened and a gash appeared on his forehead. Realizing that if he let go of the mule and for some reason stopped pounding on him, Young would get the beating of his life. He hung on with everything he had and pounded away; trapped, CAGED! And wondering how it the hell was he going to get out of this mess--there was no letting go!
Whistles started blowing from every quarter; AFP and Shore Patrol raced onto the scene and swung into action with their clubs; whacking first and asking questions later---which was the norm at the time.
To the sound of thumping billies and much yelling and cursing, the fighting abruptly ended. Young was rescued from his battle with the mule, which at that point was not going at all well!
Off we scattered like quail.
A Sailor staggered out of the dark holding a bleeding head, claiming he'd been hit by a brick, small pockets of Marines continued to fight out of range of the AFP, sirens screamed as patrol cars and paddy wagons arrived.
Young and several of his buddies were stopped, shoved inside a paddy wagon and transported to the AFP station near the main gate. The brigs were full, so we sat on benches lining one wall; somewhat sobered and subdued by the evening's event and our new surroundings.
And there was Young at the pokey, bleeding from the head, a fat lip, loose teeth, collar hanging by a thread, trousers grass-stained and muddy, formerly spit-shined shoes scuffed and filthy, brass dull, aching from head to toe.
And grinning from ear to ear.
It had been a glorious Marine Corps Birthday. My first and never to be equaled, real, Marine Corps Birthday. One to be cherished until my dying day. It was wonderful with a fight scene just like in the movies!
We were released at midnight and returned to our barracks, chewed out by a cigar chomping 1st Sgt by the name of Armond who seemed to mistake every Marine within reach as, a "low-down, yellow bellied skunk!" and returned to duty.
And that was the end of that.
Semper Fi, and Happy Birthday. Paul R. Young
Ongoing guard in the Atomic Warfare posts of the Naval Magazine, Cubi Point, Subic Bay, the Philippines. 1959
Standing left to right
Pfc Olgalsby, Pfc A. Young, Pvt Patrick, Pfc Paul Young, Cpl ?
Kneeling left to right
Pvt Lopez, Cpl Montgomery, Pfc Roberts