The Moonshine Navy - War Stories Ain’t All Alike # 8

U.S. Navy ships
U.S. Navy ships | Source

Sayonara Rota Bora

After four days of thunderous shelling by two cruisers, eight destroyers, and a PT boat fitted out with a flare gun, the Japanese happily vacated their place on Rota Bora and deeded it over to the United States Navy. With the deed, they included the rights to all past-due rental fees owed to the native islanders, plus any leftover graft from an earlier coconut-smuggling operation.

Rota Bora, a strange enough island
Rota Bora, a strange enough island

Hello Rota Bora

The Navy, always on the lookout for dry-land places on which admirals and others could wet their whistles when warring simmered down of a day, had long cast envious eyes on Rota Bora. The brass wanted it for their own. They finally took it over.


Clater Parse looked like the CPO Roger Blake of today
Clater Parse looked like the CPO Roger Blake of today | Source

When you need it fixed, call the Seabees

Now, when the Navy takes something over, particularly something needed for important purposes such as the establishment of a mid-ocean watering hole for traveling admirals, the Navy undertakes to do a proper reconditioning job on it. The renovation of Rota Bora was, as is the Navy’s custom, handed over to that multi-talented, rough-and-ready bunch of sailors known as the Seabees.

In charge of the Rota Bora contingent of Seabees was a Kentuckian, Clater Parse, a Chief Petty Officer. He was a genius when it came to handling bulldozers, dynamite, plumbing, and senior Navy officers.


Seabees finally getting to build the enlisted mens' barracks
Seabees finally getting to build the enlisted mens' barracks | Source

Clater Parse - a real Kentucky thoroughbred

Parse was quiet of voice and manner, as is the way of men raised in the Kentucky hills. All the same, wherever you saw Parse, you saw a cluster of men around him. This was so on duty, when the men worked under Parse’s leadership, marveling at his skill and at his way of explaining complicated construction matters in a Kentucky-sweet voice with straight-to-the-point simplicity. This was also so off duty, when the men would cluster about to share some of Parse’s bottomless well of alcohol.

It was almost biblical the way Parse was never without alcohol. Set Parse down in the middle of the Gobi Desert, give him a week, and Parse could provide you with enough alcohol to de-varnish the halls of Congress or to sanitize the throats of the entire Mongolian army. The real miracle of Parse’s magic was not measured in gallons of output. It was in quality. His men often wondered if Parse were related by blood to Jack Daniel, Jim Beam, or to some other equally renowned mountaineer. Parse had skills beyond belief.


Things change when you give a Seabee a bulldozer
Things change when you give a Seabee a bulldozer

Keep 'em out of the hot sun

The brass looked on as Parse and his men rearranged Rota Bora’s topography and vegetation, making ready to erect the barracks and Officers’ Club. There were plans for an airfield, too, but it had been decided that the naval force to be stationed on Rota Bora must be kept out of the hot sun. Thus, the buildings were first on the list of things to be completed. Up went the Officers’ Club and, then, the barracks. The brass and the Seabees moved in and settled down to enjoy their new base.


See you again in the morning!
See you again in the morning!

Sunset and then its party time again

Each evening, the sun set over the western rim of the Pacific Ocean in a blaze of pink, yellow, and purple clouds. The two birds that had survived the Japanese occupation and the Navy’s shelling would begin their let’s-make-an-egg serenade. Insects would launch themselves off of twigs and leaves to fly about Rota Bora, sheltering the island with a soft blanket of buzzing.

Around eight o’clock each evening, the sounds of laughter, scratchy records, and tinkling glasses could be heard coming from the Officers’ Club. That was the hour when the officers’ evening party began. The party noises stopped around nine o’clock each evening, for that was when the officers’ daily whiskey ration had been downed.

Following their nightly partying, as the officers straggled off to their bunks, they began, more and more, to take notice of the high morale exhibited by the Seabees. Even though the officers had commandeered all of the whiskey on the island, and even though the Seabees were not allowed to have whiskey in their quarters, the sounds coming from the Seabees’ barracks were definitely party noises – no doubt about that.

After the joy of the enlisted men had been speculated over for another three weeks, the officers considered that something was seriously amiss. The Seabees were thought to be draining antifreeze from their bulldozers and drinking it.

The Admiral ordered an investigation.

One of those nit-picking barracks inspections
One of those nit-picking barracks inspections | Source

They're hiding it from us !

An antifreeze count was made. No antifreeze was missing. Medical stores were inventoried. Nothing missing there. Sterno was checked, as was hair tonic, aftershave, and cooking wine. Every count tallied with the stores manifest.

Well, officers know full well when they are being bandied about, and they know what it takes to keep a party going week after week. A barracks inspection was scheduled, a nit-picking inspection of the type that would uncover any drinkable hard stuff that might, by stealth or otherwise, have been removed from the reach of the officers only to be introduced into the gullets of the Seabees.


What Parse could stuff into a closet...
What Parse could stuff into a closet... | Source

The Inspection

The inspection was conducted. The barracks were found to be neat, clean, and ready for any weather, hot or cold. All windows had been fitted with hand-crank fans for summertime and, just on the outside chance that Navy meteorologists had been wrong about Rota Bora’s climate, the Seabees had also installed Parse-crafted radiators in each room. Every radiator was piped in series with each of the others, and all were fed into from the main boiler that, itself, was set into a locked closet next to Parse’s cubicle.

A Parse-type radiator - good for warm, good for cold, good for what ails you
A Parse-type radiator - good for warm, good for cold, good for what ails you | Source

Radiators, should it ever turn cold on Rota Bora

It was obvious to the brass that an experienced plumbing and heating man had done the work, for each radiator had a turnvalve drain with which to empty it in the event of a freezing spell.

Adios Navy

The Navy no longer uses Rota Bora, but the buildings all remain in place. Today, an enlarged population of native Rota Borans live there, supporting themselves by manufacturing Parse-craft heating systems for export to inhabitants of other Pacific islands in exchange for a continuous payment in coconuts which they use as fuel in their own fast-distillation Parse-craft furnaces.

Theirs is a good life, as anyone could see by simply observing the Rota Borans. They lazy around most of the time while the sun is on high, and they have a wingding of a party each night.

And finally - the WHO takes over

In 1949, the World Health Organization (WHO) sent a medical survey team to visit 73 previously occupied Pacific islands. Their published report (page 387, Paragraph D) stated that the incidence of sore throat and tonsillitis among Pacific islanders had notably decreased since the earlier Dutch study (1940). It was conjectured that the islanders had learned how to cover the mouth when coughing and sneezing by the examples set by the seabees and other military people who had straggled through the islands during the "big war."

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Comments 21 comments

BobbiRant profile image

BobbiRant 5 years ago from New York

This is a great story and one that was very captivating. I never imagined war could be like this. Great write and it was such an eye opener.

GusTheRedneck profile image

GusTheRedneck 5 years ago from USA Author

Howdy Bobbi - The truth and nuthin' but the truth - right? Funny thing is that war is always with us - even within the same army or navy. It is happiness for me that you enjoyed the story.

Gus :-)))

dallas93444 profile image

dallas93444 5 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

Enjoyed! Flag up!

GusTheRedneck profile image

GusTheRedneck 5 years ago from USA Author

Hi Dallas... good to see you here. Glad that you enjoyed this windy tale.

Gus :-)))

vietnamvet68 profile image

vietnamvet68 5 years ago from New York State

another great story Gus, can I join the Moonshine Navy?

God Bless

GusTheRedneck profile image

GusTheRedneck 5 years ago from USA Author

Howdy Vet - Well, yes, both of us can join the Moonshine Navy, but there is one problem... Parse retired several years ago! :)

Gus :-)))

Fossillady profile image

Fossillady 5 years ago from Saugatuck Michigan

A real character in Parse, good story, Gus!

GusTheRedneck profile image

GusTheRedneck 5 years ago from USA Author

Hi Fossilady - Parse was indeed a character (as were the rest of them back then.)

Gus :-)))

drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida

Good old American/Kentuckian ingenuity - it wins every time, Gus. What a fun, clever story.

And everyone knows how cold those Pacific islands get in the evening (?) and how necessary Parse radiators are to help the men fight the cold.

GusTheRedneck profile image

GusTheRedneck 5 years ago from USA Author

Good Doctor bj - Thank you for the very kind comments.

Right on about those cold island nights. The fun was really turned loose when the islanders learned how to carry on in the Parseian tradition - and that was second only to bamboozling the brass.

Gus :-)))

Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

Parse was a creative that every moonshine navy should fact, every family would benefit by having one such relative to keep things cooled down, heated up and generally kept in good spirits. Haha! Great story! Were you and Parse buddies?

epigramman profile image

epigramman 5 years ago

...and all of Gus the Redneck's stories are not alike either much of your wonderful writing would be enjoyed by my dad who was a veteran of World War II as a Canadian soldier for six years - and in civilian life he wrote 70 novels as a hobby (none were ever published) which were all works of fiction but his first one was non-fiction (memoirs of his real life experiences in the war entitled Grim and Grin) and I would imagine if my Dad were alive today he would be writing much in the same style like you and quite possibly somewhere like the Hub - quite a compliment to you I would say - and quite the story too - hope you are well my friend - and I am always delighed when you come and see me!

GusTheRedneck profile image

GusTheRedneck 5 years ago from USA Author

Howdy Peggy - Well, you are correct about how nice it would be to have A Parse-like relative close by. As to Parse and Gus, it was all upstairs as to being buddies. Parse would have had at least ten years on me. When the big war was finally over and done with, I was just two months past my 14th birthday. I had many friends much like Parse - in fact I had two roommates returned from the army when I went off to college in 1948. One of them was super-sharp. He had spent the war in the "OSS" fighting behind the Japanese lines in China, starting when he was 20 years old. He had been raised in China ans spoke 2 dialects of Chinese very fluently. Interesting times those were.

Gus :-)))

GusTheRedneck profile image

GusTheRedneck 5 years ago from USA Author

Hi "epi" - I am honored to the max that you would even consider comparing me in any way to your father. What a guy he must have been - 70 novels as a hobby. Let me give you an idea that might prove to be fun for you if you can still get your hands on all of that writing. Download a copy of the free program, "Audacity," from with which you can make voice recordings of the texts. I'd bet that they would make great listening if father and son shared some story-telling genes.

Gus :-)))

mquee profile image

mquee 5 years ago from Columbia, SC

Gus, the SeaBees are indeed a talented group. Always have been and always will be. Great story and very enjoyable reading as usual!Thanks for sharing.

profile image

vinsanity 5 years ago

I liked this hub a lot. didn't realize that war could be like this. The sea bees sound like a talented group. Great job.

GusTheRedneck profile image

GusTheRedneck 5 years ago from USA Author

vinsanity - War is really not like this, but the military is.

Gus :-)))

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas

You had me going with this one, Gus. What a hoot! Very imaginative use of plumbing. The whole time I was picturing Ernest Borgnine from Mchale's Navy, or James Cagney and Jack Lemmon in Mr. Roberts. "Roberts! Who's been tampering with my Rota Bora medicine?" My Dad would've loved this story too.

GusTheRedneck profile image

GusTheRedneck 5 years ago from USA Author

Howdy Peg - It is worth a million bucks to any writer when someone enjoys one of their stories. Wars are not to be made light of, but they do have their moments. The militry (particularly the insular Navy part of it) is particularly interesting, and its people are, almost to a person, very unique.

Gus :-)))

RunAbstract profile image

RunAbstract 4 years ago from USA

Yup... Clater Parse was a redneck!

And now those islanders are too!

GusTheRedneck profile image

GusTheRedneck 4 years ago from USA Author

Hi RunAbstract - Right on ! He was one of the few with great technical competence. The Islanders picked up on things quickly, did they not?

Gus :-)))

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