Free Trade

We were aboard an Aussie transport ship, and I was personally in charge of a group of 22 replacement GIs who were being transferred to units in Australia. The ship’s Captain was a British Naval Officer, and he ran a tight ship. After the first day, he noticed that the GIs were fraternizing a great deal with the sailors, and doing a lot of trading back and forth. The hot items were American cigarettes, and English rum. It seems the sailors received a daily allotment of rum, and the Yanks were not issued any alcohol, so the swabs were selling off their rum rations for cash, smokes, and whatever else they could shake us down for.

As soon as the Captain discovered this illicit trade going on, he immediately segregated my motley band of Yanks, banishing us to the fantail (stern) section of the ship. He placed an armed guard of two Brit Marines at the stern, where they marched back and forth all day and night, stomping their boots at each about face and looking very bad-tempered and unapproachable.

A couple hours passed, when I suddenly noticed that a couple of my lads were busy over the rail; I immediately went over to see what was up. As I peeked over the side, I noticed some activity below, one of the sailors was poking his head out of a porthole a couple levels below the deck. One of my guys was busy with his pocket change: he took a shilling, inserted it into one of his GI condoms, tied it shut with a spool of thread, and then began lowering it over the side to the porthole below! The sailor at the porthole grabbed in the condom, and a couple minutes later, he gave a tug on the thread, and the GI began reeling it in. Sure enough, as it reached the deck, I saw that the condom was still attached, but in place of the shilling, the condom was now full of rum! I glanced around at the patrolling marines, but they stared straight ahead as they marched to and fro, and whether they noticed or not, they never let on, as the rest of my lads began lowering down condoms with shillings, and reeling up their sailors’ grog. That night we lay about the fantail in our blankets and had a rousing singsong that must have kept the entire ship awake. The next morning, I overheard the Captain comment: “Can’t figure the damn Yanks; banish them to the stern, and their morale remains higher than all bloody blazes…”