The Great Water Fight
By Ray Willis
The Ballad of the Noxubee Water Fight
(sung to the tune of "The Wreck Edmund
The Noxubee and Crew
On the Med we all knew
Was worn out from
Chasing the Russians
A liberty was set
And the sailors all met
On the docks
Of a Bay call Souda
They had a good time
Drinking down local wine
Somehow making it back
To the seashore
The whaleboat that day
Took them into the bay
Those sailors all woozy
An officer and crew
Began discussing anew
Old grudges and problems
A challenge was spoke
As they climbed up the ropes
To the decks of the
The fire hoses were laid out
And there rose a great shout
They are taking over
The after deck
The duel was a struggle
With fire hose nozzles
The spray was
Wet, wild and salty
The Ensign turned away
From the force of the spray
And the blast fully
Blew off his skivvies
Then the battle grew sore
Through the staterooms and more
From bulkhead and ceiling
The X.O. called below
To stop the whole show
He said "Turn off all
The ships water"
Thirty years have gone by
And the old sailors cry
Laughing about the events
of that evening
There will never be an old crew
With the times we all knew
On the decks of the
The Story of the Great Water Fight
It seems that one of the more popular stories at the Noxubee
reunion this year, is the story of the water fight.
Well thirty years have gone by, and I may not have everything
exactly right, but I will tell it like I remember it, or have been
It was another liberty in the port of Souda Bay, Crete. We had
been here before, so we knew where to get the cheapest wine. This
stuff was homemade by a Greek fellow who would fill up your bottle
for a quarter, and if you did not have a bottle he would sell you
one for 10 cents.
This stuff was not your nice filtered vintage table wine by any
means. this wine had the color and consistency of blood. We called
it " The Blood of Hercules". Now I don't know if this
was the local name of the wine, or something we made up because it
would really "kick Butt" if you know what I mean.
On this particular night we bought several bottles of the cheap
wine, and I am sure we caused the locals some grief before we made
it back to the docks to catch the motor whaleboat back to the
The Noxubee was anchored out in the Bay, and the water was a
little choppy that night. It seems several of the guys had gotten
away with bringing a few bottles of wine onto the boat, and as we
neared the Noxubee, someone got the bright idea that we should re
-christen the ship with a less than flattering name. Well a real
ruckus broke out and the bottles began breaking against the side
of the poor old Noxubee.
Now I am not sure if this, or something else started an
argument between Radarman John Wofford and an Officer (John
believes it was Ensign Bay). But there was a challenge made that
if the Ensign did not shut up that Wofford would let him have it
with a fire hose. The Officer dared him to try it, and Wofford,
not one to let a dare lie, started unrolling a fire hose on the
Now Wofford had the hoses on and was proceeding to blast every
thing that looked like it had brass on its shoulders, and the
officers retaliated by getting a hose of their own, and the water
fight was on. Back and forth the fight reigned, first the officers
gaining, then Wofford and his help. Finally the lead officer
turned tail to run and was hit in the rear with a blast from the
nozzle, and it blew his skivvies off. Now, John had the upper
Not content with that victory, John chased the officers into
their staterooms and thoroughly doused everything in sight. The
X.O. who had been observing the battle decided "enough was
enough" and called below to have the water to the fire
systems water turned off.
This effectively put an end to the infamous Noxubee water
There is an interesting sidebar to the story. We had been
assigned to tail and harass the Soviet Fleet during this time, and
Captain Cass had done an exceptional job in keeping up with them
in spite of the slowness of the Noxubee.
We had on board a Lieutenant from another ship that was there
to observe our methods. Now the story goes, that during the water
fight, one of the Officers shouted "They are taking over the
after half of the ship". This poor Lieutenant locked himself
in his stateroom, thinking he was in the midst of a full blown
mutiny. I heard he refused to come out for quite some time
believing himself to be in mortal danger.
Now I don't really know if this was entirely true, but I do
know that after the Lieutenant went back to his ship the story
must have been spread around and probably embellished.
It seems from that time on, whenever we ran into any sailors
from that ship we seemed to have somewhat of a wild and
unpredictable reputation. Shoot, I wonder what they would of
thought if they could have seen the crazy things we did?
By Ray (Willie) Willis
|I don't know who pulled the
missing .45 trick, but that is another thing that really
"ticks me off". it was on my quarterdeck watch when it
was reported missing, and it was on my watch that it was
reported found. I spent double time in a dark room under a
bright light being grilled by the Naval Investigators.
I do know who disconnected the shore power cable and put the
ship into a blackout, and I know who tried to set the gang plank
on fire with kerosene, and I was not witness to, but I do know
who threw the Captains Chair over the side, and the Captains
bicycle. and etc, etc, etc.
I remember being chased by the local police in Sardinia, and
hiding out in the fish nets. I remember one sailor walking back
to meet the Motor Whaleboat, notices a tower with a signal
light. This delinquent climbed the tower and proceeded to send
out obscene morse code messages to all the ships in the harbor.
I think it was in Crete, one night after liberty, that the
crew and the officers engaged in a wonderful water fight with
the fire hoses. The story goes that the LTJG observer from
another ship thought it was a mutiny, when he heard "they
are taking over the after half of the ship" I heard he did
not dare come out of his stateroom for a day.
Who was the Chief Petty Officer that took the wrong road back
to the ship and tried to take away a Greek guards automatic
weapon? He had entered a restricted Greek military installation
by mistake, and was irate when the guard would not let him pass.
There was a helmsman once, on a dark and moonless night, that
steered the ship in a 360 degree circle a few degrees at a time,
without the OD noticing. The next day the navigator could not
figure out why we had made very little headway during the night.
I remember Thira, Corfu, Athens, Sardinia and Villafrance. I
remember Souflakia in Greece, Lasagna in the Grotto in Italy,
Escargot in France, and my favorite, fried calimari, in Spain.
There was also a little place in Spain where we would go and get
"pulpitos" those little fried baby octopus.
I remember a little Mexican fellow that got seasick the
second we threw off the lines to get underway, I didn't think
anyone would actually turned green, but he did! He stayed in his
rack from Little Creek to Spain, could not eat so they let him
out on a medical.
I never got seasick, I rode out those typhoons off Vietnam,
and the Atlantic crossings. Even those landing craft we used to
take back to the ship in Italy, with everyone drunk and puking
their guts out.
Well its 30 years later, and I retired 5 years ago from my
profession as an alcoholic. I live near my old home in an area I
love, with a wonderful woman I married 4 years ago. I camp when
I can and cook over a fire in a Dutch oven. I fish and I hunt
when I want to, and I still work because I have to, but I am
happier than I have ever been. I would not want to repeat any of
what I did on the Noxubee, but it was an experience I would not
Oh yeah, Remember the buddy I started out with? (see
"New Recruit" story) Well he decided I was right about
screwing up and he devised a clever way to get out of the Navy.
He scammed them good and was discharged about a year after we
By Ray (Willie) Willis
|I knew I had made a big
mistake when we hit the airport terminal in San Diego. This
barking second class marched us through the terminal and had
us stand at attention on an island in the airport entrance. I
looked at my buddy and said " I think we screwed up"
I thought I was being smart joining the Navy, the draft
board was hot on my heels and I was not keen on being a grunt
in Vietnam. So here I was with a dozen other guys from
Arizona, wanting to be anywhere but here and Vietnam at the
Well I made it through Boot Camp and had my orders for
something called the USS Noxubee AOG 56. currently in Pearl
Harbor. No one at Boot Camp seemed to have a clue as to what
an AOG was, so I didn't know what to expect. My buddy had the
same orders, so off we went. We caught a stand-by out of LAX
and arrived in Honolulu that evening.
Too many movies and too much TV had me expecting the lovely
island girls welcoming me to the islands with a kiss and a lei…didn't
happen. In fact no one met us, it was getting dark and with
what little money we had between us, we caught a taxi to
We managed to find the Noxubee tied up alongside several
other non-descript ships at Ford Island. "Permission to
come aboard sir" two or three times before we found the
right place. My first impression of the Noxubee was about like
Boot Camp, "I think we screwed up!" We were sent
down to the deck dept. berthing area, and told to find a bunk.
Oh what a delightful mixture of smells, diesel oil, B.O.
putrid socks, farts, grease and paint. I think I spent that
first night in someone else's rack and he had not sent his
sheets to the laundry in awhile.
The following morning started four of the longest years in
my life. Polish the brass, swab the deck, chip the paint, and
paint…. Chip the paint, and paint… chip the paint, and
paint… etc. etc. etc. Then stand the watch, and they had a
watch for everything.
Off duty was great, it seemed that at every corner of the
base was a club. Being broke most of the time, we spent little
time in Honolulu, and most of the time at the EM club. 10
cents a draft, 50 cents a pitcher, mixed drinks anywhere from
50 cents to a dollar and a half. It was here that I started my
professional career as an alcoholic.
My buddy was asked to "strike" as a radioman, and
left the deck dept. for the "ops" dept. He advised
me that if anyone asked me to "strike" for anything,
hold out for the "ops dept." That is the elite
group, he said. It seemed like forever before I was asked to
"strike" as a quartermaster. I did not have a clue
what a quartermaster was, but since it was in the "ops
dept" I jumped at the chance.
Polish the brass, swab the deck, chip the paint, and paint,
and more watches to stand….real elite! I guess "ops
dept' did have its advantages, like our living quarters. Like
Charlie Mihulka says, the cross ventilation made somewhat of a
difference in the smells, more fresh salt air, mixed with the
odor of diesel, socks sweat, paint, and farts.
There are some things that happened on the Noxubee that
still really "tick me off". When I arrived we still
had the canvas bunks that would kind of cradle you in the
rough seas. Whose sick idea was that to put in the metal bunks
that tossed you back and forth until you thought your brains
I did receive an education in the Navy, it was not the kind
of education my parents had planned for me, I heard every
swear word imaginable, some I know were made up at the moment
to fit the situation. I was exposed to every perversion,
misdeed, and idea for mischief I can think of. Great learning
moments for a backwoods boy from Arizona.
Then I heard we were shipping out, headed for where else,