Monday, October 15, 2012
An Army Halloween Story: A Hillbilly Werewolf in Okinawa
From the dustbins of past writings (circa 20009) ...
Recently, I was in the local Wal-Mart to pick up a few cut-rate medicine cabinet essentials and made a casual detour down an aisle stocked with your traditional Halloween stuff. Among the offerings were ghoulish, grotesque masks of every kind.
But the one that caught my eye was a fairly righteous Wolfman mask. It wasn’t the modern lycanthropic kind, slack-jawed and yawning to sink its pointy fangs into a victim. It was closer to the Lon Chaney look of the 1940s movies – a grunting, growling thing. Kind of a cross between Eminem and Mike Ditka.
And what once was stored in some distant folder of my memory banks returned momentarily. I was back in my Army MP days in Okinawa nearly four decades ago and to a place called Torri Station. For quick perspective, the entire island was a heavily fortified conclave during the latter days of World War II, when American foot soldiers and sailors were pounding the place. In fact, my Dad had been there less than three decades ago as to witness that horrible adventure.
One of our roles on that post was to regularly patrol a jungle area. It was an eerie place to patrol during daylight; far more ominous when the sun slipped beneath the horizon of the South China Sea. For you see, that location was strategically placed and was dotted with a multitude of tall antennae that our spooks used to monitor intelligence from Vietnam, China and Russia. For all we knew, they might have been dialing in Communist porn.
It was the site where GIs launched a major invasion and where many died on the beach and in the surf. Its legacy was countless unexploded bombs and God-knows-what else stuff from that grisly campaign. And there were caves, tunnels and pits of deadly nests of Habu snakes.
And later came the The Sobe Ghost.”
A specter known only to some of us. Its mad creator was a guy named Darryl, a good-natured hillbilly from Tennessee, who laid down some of his hard-earned cash to buy a genuine, face-fitting mask, gnarly paws and appropriate accessories. And a real smart, tailor-made leather motorcycle jacket. His goal was to manufacture a legend to “orient” – no geographical pun intended – the newest or most gullible MPs in our unit.
Darryl became "Wolfie" during a full moon.
Hey, kids with .45s, nightsticks and carrying the full force of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice can’t always get kicks from writing traffic tickets, busting the occasional drunk, getting stick time in with rowdy drunks, working out mutually assured deals with mess hall cooks and supply sergeants.
One of the most gullible guys in our unit was a friendly and nervous guy from Chicago named Jensen. Imagine Barney Fife with more than one bullet in the pistol and no Andy to back him. The perfect victim.
Late one night, while patrolling the antennae field he encountered The Sobe Ghost.
Darryl, in full Wolfman drag, jumped out of the bush and launched an attack. And within seconds, Jensen was waving his weapon and popping off rounds.
Others in the plot tackled Jensen and pinned him to the ground. And a half-drunk Darryl ripped off his mask and screamed things questioning the legitimacy of the shooter’s birth and other such stuff.
“Sumbitch!! You coulda’ killed me!!!” Darryl roared. Seemed highly unlikely because as most know, you need a silver bullet to kill a werewolf.
And there was another reason that made "Wolfie's" demise unlikely. If you ever have fired a 1920s military .45 caliber beyond 10-15 meters you know its accuracy level isn’t all that effective. And even less, when you’re in the dark and a werewolf is scaring the bejeebers out of you.
More careful planning was implemented later for future missions, and Darryl was more than happy to share the title role. First order of business – slip the new, unsuspecting guy an empty magazine during inspection.
Sorry to say some unspoken exorcism slowly evolved. The Sobe Ghost faded after Darryl was cut stateside orders.
Later, in my few remaining months on Okinawa, before I too returned home
aboard that so-called “Freedom Bird,” I spent a lot of my night duty running our post’s main gate, or working at the provost marshal’s office. One of the simple pleasures during that time was listening to the “Wolfman Jack Show”, piped in to us distant GIs in the Far East. What a howling respite it was to hear music and banter from the homeland.
Until a few days ago, I had not thought about The Sobe Ghost for a long time. I’m glad to have had that reminder while strolling through the store the other day.
Full moon or not.
Posted by Joe Stuteville