During our six month stay in the Philippines, we had many interesting experiences. Two stand out in my mind particularly. We were ordered to Puerto, Princesa, Palawan, a 200 mile long island 300 miles southwest of Manila..

Our mission was to await the arrival of the Admiral commanding the Far East Fleet and refuel his yacht when we arrived. After a two day voyage we cruised into the bay and anchored. I felt that since there was no advance notice of our arrival I should make a courtesy call on the Governor. Since there was no public transportation, I walked to the palace. The governor received me with enthusiasm in his open collared white shirt and was barefooted. We had tea and then he had his chauffeur give me a three hour tour of the region.

I invited him and his staff to come out to the ship for strawberries and ice cream. Fifty people including the Chief of police and Fire chief showed up. We had to make several boat trips but got them to the ship and although it was crowded we fed them all.

I found out the Governor's wife liked American movies. We had a number of films on board so we arranged to have a showing that evening after dark .He then invited the ship's officers and me to a banquet. He called in about 20 women and I think they killed and dressed every chicken they could catch. It was a delicious banquet. As the liquor flowed the participants got more talkative. One legislator chided me for drinking only Coco Cola. He identified it as a "lady's drink"

I inquired if we couldn't find an enclosed building and show the movie before it got dark. I was told that here was no electricity. It was the custom on the island not to start the generator until it got dark. When I told them that in our country we had electricity 24 hours a day they laughed at our foolishness. Why would any one want to run the generator when it was not dark?

Eventually the Admiral and his guest, the Air Force Commanding General of the Far East Air Force arrived. When the yacht tied up alongside for fueling, the Admiral invited me to come aboard for a cup of coffee. While we were drinking coffee and visiting, I noticed a newspaper with yesterday’s date on it. The Admiral noted my amazement. He then told me about their mission. It was to settle a wager. The Admiral bet the General that he could head to sea and hide from the Air Force reconnaissance planes. If they spotted them the plane crew was to drop to-days newspaper to them. Apparently the General won the bet. (If such an expedition appears to be a waste of taxpayer's money my opinion is that is that any activity like this is a training exercise and any activity which enhances battle readiness is a good investment)

We had friends, the Sparrs, who operated a Christian School and were allied with a Bible school in Manila. When the Sparrs found out I was going to Puerto Princesa they said they knew a couple of ladies who had graduated from the Bible School and asked me to take some gifts they had purchased for them. There were no phones or even marked streets, nor taxis at Puerto Princesa but I managed to find them and delivered the gifts. They were English teachers. Filipino English is difficult for an American to comprehend but we did communicate and I invited them to the ship for dinner. Our ship's officers were very hospitable and treated them royally.

After they had left the ship, the Executive Officer said to me, "Captain, you made me lose $5.00 tonight." He went on to explain, "I bet the Engineering Officer $ 5.00 that this was one place you wouldn't know anybody who lived here."

I hadn't realized how being a Christian set me apart from the others. We all have strong social instincts. The majority of the crew knew no one and soon got bored and desperate in a remote location away from home. Although I missed home and family there were always members of the greater Christian family with whom to fellowship and minister with.

We were in the Philippines in 1953, the year Ramon Magsaysay was elected president. Intelligence officers predicted a blood bath since Magsaysay had published a list of about 50 persons who would be executed when he was elected.

A few days before election I was given a mission to take one of the high ranking officers at the US Embassy on a fishing trip. The longitude and latitude of the "fishing hole" was specific. We made the voyage being on the fishing station election day. I checked our location and found out we were showing the flag equidistant from the three largest cities in the southern Philippines. We, of course, would not try to influence the Philippine elections. After the ballot count showing Magsaysay had been elected president, newspaper reporters tried to find him for congratulations and an interview. He was found cruising around Manila Bay with the US Admiral in his yacht.


After celebrating our third Christmas in Hawaii, I received orders to report to the FLEET ANTI AIRCRAFT TRAINING CENTER at Dam Neck near Virginia Beach Virginia as an instructor and range officer in the Gunnery Department.

An ambitious Naval Reserve Officer named Howard Wellsman was to relieve me. We corresponded and his enthusiasm of having his first command was evident in his letters. But his gratitude was short lived. On the morning set for me to transfer command to him we received a dispatch from the Navy Department ordering the ship to proceed to Astoria, Oregon for decommissioning.

I had asked my boss, Vice Admiral Biggs to participate in the change of command ceremony and he accepted. He agreed to read the decommissioning dispatch to the crew who were delighted to be returning to the mainland. Poor Howard was not. It was his duty to put the PATAPSCO in an interim stage before being relegated to the scrap heap after 14 years of gallantry.

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James W. Downing
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