French Welcome

by Bob 'Dex' Armstrong

Someone asked…

"Why are you always saying, 'And we cussed everyone in France'?"

Long story… Have no idea if you can run out the statute of limitations on lying to French constabulary forces so the facts in this case must be handled rather delicately… Not that I will ever be returning to France… Not even if global warming makes it possible to drive from Charleston to Cherbourg. The only thing I could possibly want from France would be a pair of those Paris fashion ooh-la-la step-in bloomers for my bride. You know, those French 'If you can catch me you can screw me' ruffled lace drawers? Well, unless a crate of them turns up at Wal-Mart, I'm outta luck.

'F*ck the French' was the war cry of the 481.

Story goes… USS Requin (SS-481), God's gift of tact, diplomacy and polite interaction with diverse cultures, arrives in French port… Atlantic side… 'La'… You fill in the rest.

Requin is assigned a rather scenic anchorage where the entire skuzzy town can be viewed by anyone who wished to be able to tell future generations he had actually seen the rectum of the universe.

The town had a rather prominent sea wall. Once fifty feet of anchor chain rattled out just forward of the port bowplane, we had our first opportunity to view the scenic beauty of this French coastal dump.

In anticipation of our arrival, the good citizens had gone to a great deal of trouble to paint 'YANKEE GO HOME' in great big letters. It was fresh, so it appeared it had been produced specifically by the local Chamber of Commerce to welcome us.

Capt. Edward (No middle name) Frothingham, our skipper, got so mad the veins stood out on his neck.

"Those miserable, good-for-nothing, ungrateful sons-a-bitches!"

The captain was a class act. Whenever he allowed his anger to get the best of him, he would immediately control it and return to his quiet, professional demeanor…

"Gentlemen, one of the most terrible things about war… It takes the cream of a nation's manhood… Not the sick, the lame and the lazy… Not the type of worthless degenerate bastards who paint crap like that on a sea wall… War sacrifices the finest young men."

"France has fought two devastating conflicts in the first half of this century… Her good men fell in unbelievable numbers leaving the dregs of their society to regenerate her male population. I would like to think that if those good men were here today, we would not be forced to view that abomination for the next five days."

He dropped below.

Enlisted men are far less eloquent and a helluva lot more direct…

"F*ck the sonuvabitches."

There is a lot of controversy about what happened after sundown. I never subscribed to the 'Divine Miracle' theory. I am not a Catholic, so I have no real knowledge or intimate awareness of miracles, but it just seemed to me if it had Jesus' seal of approval, He would have chosen different words.

I subscribe to the idea that the Tooth Fairy did it.

I will give you the facts as I know them… Please keep in mind, none of this was ever sworn to within ten feet of anything remotely resembling a major religious text.

Someone at evening chow said something like,

"Wouldn't it be great to chamber one up Mr. Froggie's stern tube?"

As I recall, a lively discussion ensued, regarding the options of appropriate response… Then all the good little boys finished their milk and cookies and went promptly to bed.

Memory failed most of us the following day… You can't plead the Fifth Amendment in France… The Fifth Amendment's maximum stretch was from pier 22 in Norfolk to the Chesapeake lightship off Cape Charles. Once past the lightship, you had to find some other nail to hang your bullshit on. Nobody in Hogan's Alley had taken the navy correspondence course that led to a French law degree, so we had to fall back on 'stupidity', our 'fits everything' lifesaver.

The topside watch did not see anything… Said he heard metal clanking sounds aft of the sail at some point during the night… Heard what sounded like locker lids and something being inflated… Later, he heard what sounded like someone running an air compressor over in the direction of the sea wall… And from 2200 to just before dawn, a light breeze blowing from the sea wall carried an extremely strong odor of Methyl Ethel Keytone. That was the best he could do… The rest of us grinned a lot and looked about as stupid as human beings could look, on purpose.

Why was Mr. Frog cop interrogating us?

Sometime during the night, inconsiderate persons unknown had painted over their wonderful 'YANKEE GO HOME' sign… In its place was a giant #7 gray rectangle approximately fifty yards long with beautiful big white hull-number-sized shaded in black letters, ten feet high, reading 'F*CK YOU FROGS'.

At morning quarters, the entire wardroom expressed admiration for the change of view. The captain asked us to relay his compliments and well-wishes to the craftsmen involved if we happened to meet them on liberty… The officers actually took up a collection from the entire wardroom and the Old Man gave the deck force $75 and liberty so they… Make that we… could go ashore, locate the painters and buy them a beer… And in the words of our skipper,

"If you can't find the guys who did that, buy yourselves a beer."

And we did.

We told the French law enforcement official our best guess was that it was the handiwork of a Panamanian cargo ship that shoved off at dawn. Panamanians were the only folks we knew of that might actually consider reptile intercourse.

If you looked real close… Way down in the lower right-hand corner, some magic elf put '481 SUBRON 6'… A coded message.

Before the cop left, we gave him a cup of coffee and asked him if he knew where we could go and get a naked picture of Bridget Bardot for the Alley.