You'd have to have been in the Navy or Coast Guard to really
appreciate how true this is. Somewhere in some obscure corner of a
long forgotten storage area in the attic space above my garage lies my
seabag. Still has my name and service number stenciled on it and, the
last time I saw it which was years ago, you could even read the name
and service number if you knew what you were looking for.

  I was one of the last boot camp companies in San Diego to be issued a
flat hat. For those of you not sure, a flat hat was also called the
"Donald Duck" hat. I gave my flat hat to my brother-in-laws sister
when I was on leave out of boot camp. As this story says, a lot of the
"stuff" we were issued in boot camp didn't stay with us long.

"There was a time when everything you owned had to fit in your seabag.
Remember those nasty rascals? Fully packed, one of the suckers weighed
more than the poor devil hauling it.

  The damn things weighed a ton and some idiot with an off-center sense
of humor sewed a carry handle on it to help you haul it. Hell, you
could bolt a handle on a Greyhound bus but it wouldn't make the damn
thing portable.

The Army, Marines and Air Force got footlockers and we got a big ole'
canvas bag.

  After you warped your spine jackassing the goofy thing through a bus
or train station, sat on it waiting for connecting transportation and
made folks mad because it was too damn big to fit in any overhead rack
on any bus, train and airplane ever made, the contents looked like
hell. All your gear appeared to have come from bums who slept on park

  Traveling with a seabag was something left over from the "Yo-ho-ho and
a bottle of rum" sailing  ship days. Sailors used to sleep in
hammocks. So you stowed your issue in a big canvas bag and lashed your
hammock to it , hoisted it on your shoulder and in effect moved your
entire home and complete inventory of earthly possessions from ship to
ship. I wouldn't say you traveled light because with one strap it was
a one-shoulder load that could torque your skeletal frame and bust
your ankles. It was like hauling a dead linebacker.

 They wasted a lot of time in boot camp telling you how to pack one of
the suckers. There was an officially sanctioned method of organization
that you forgot after ten minutes on the other side of the gate at
Great Lakes or San Diego. You got rid of a lot of issue gear when you
went to the SHIP. Did you ever know a tin-can sailor who had a
raincoat? A flat hat? One of those nut hugger knit swimsuits? How bout
those roll your own neckerchiefs... The ones the girls in a good Naval
tailor shop would cut down and sew into a 'greasy snake' for two

  Within six months, every fleet sailor was down to one set of dress
blues, port and starboard undress blues and whites, a couple of white
hats, boots, shoes, assorted skivvies a pea coat and three sets of
bleached out dungarees. The rest of your original issue was either in
the pea coat locker, lucky bag or had been reduced to wipe down rags
in the paint locker. Underway ships were not ships that allowed vast
accumulation of private gear.

 Hobos who lived in discarded refrigerator crates could amass greater
loads of pack rat crap than fleet sailors. The confines of a canvas
back rack, side locker and a couple of bunk bags did not allow one to
live a Donald Trump existence. Space and the going pay scale combined
to make us envy the lifestyle of a mud hut Ethiopian. We were the
global equivalents of nomadic Mongols without ponies to haul our

  And after the rigid routine of boot camp we learned the skill of
random compression packing known by mother's world-wide as 'cramming'.
It is amazing what you can jam in to a space no bigger than a bread
box if you pull a watch cap over a boot and push it in with your foot.
Of course it looks kinda weird when you pull it out but they never
hold fashion shows at sea and wrinkles added character to a salty
appearance. There was a four-hundred mile gap between the images on
recruiting posters and the actual appearance of sailors at sea. It was
not without justifiable reason that we were called the tin-can Navy.

  We operated on the premise that if ' Cleanliness was next to
Godliness', we must be next to the other end of that spectrum... We
looked like our clothing had been pressed with a waffle iron and
packed by a bulldozer.

 But what in the hell did they expect from a bunch of jerks that lived
in the crews hole of a 2100 Fletcher Class can. After a while you got
used to it... You got used to everything you owned picking up and
retaining that distinctive aroma...

  You got used to old ladies on busses taking a couple of wrinkle led
nose sniffs of your pea coat then getting up and finding another

  Do they still issue seabag's? Can you still make five bucks sitting up
half the night drawing a ships picture on the side of one of the damn
things with black and white marking pens that drive old master-at-arms
into a 'rig for heart attack' frenzy? Make their faces red... The
veins on their neck bulge out... And yell, "Jeezus H. Christ! What in
God's name is that all over your seabag?" "Artwork, Chief... It's like
the work of Michelangelo...My ship... Great huh?" "Looks like some
damn comic book..."

  Here was a man with cobras tattooed on his arms... A skull with a
dagger through one eye and a ribbon reading ' DEATH BEFORE SHORE DUTY'
on his shoulder...Crossed anchors with 'Subic Bay 1945' on the other
shoulder... An eagle on his chest and a full blown Chinese dragon
peeking out between the cheeks of his butt.

  If anyone was an authority on stuff that looked like a comic book, it
had to be this E-7 sucker.

  Sometimes I look at all the crap stacked in my garage, close my eyes
and smile, remembering a time when everything I owned could be crammed
into a canvas bag.  Maturity is hell."


[Unknown Author]