Cargo of Beer
About a third of the cargo being transported into Chu Lai in 1966 consisted of palletized beer. This beer had by now become very important to morale and was subject to significant pilfering. Because of this a senior USMC officer now usually met and supervised the offloading at Chu Lai. The first time Jerome delivered a load the USMC officer counted every pallet and discovered we were short one pallet (about 80 cases of beer) and severely berated the 1st LT and the CO. Thereafter we carefully checked the number of pallets being on loaded in Da Nang to insure we had the manifested number. Because of this we discovered that during the rather haphazard loading operations in Da Nang (sometimes directly from Merchant ships at anchor) we might also be given more pallets than on the manifest. This “extra” beer somehow found its way into the ships reefers. Subsequently, when the ship was beached at Chu Lai, “Beer call” was held on the beach for the off watch.
The offloading supervisor never questioned this probably assuming it was rationed beer although the Navy did not get a beer ration as the marines did. Beer cargo’s also created problems. Frequently the beer would be loaded directly from Merchant ships in Da Nang Harbor. On a number of occasions when swinging the pallets of beer from the merchant ship to the Jerome County a pallet would be dropped causing a cascade of beer cans. Sometimes this would result in beer all over the deck and running out of the scuppers. On another occasion while at sea en-route to deliver a beer cargo, three crewmen were found drunk in the middle of the palletized cargo. The CO took immediate action and confined them to a hastily improvised brig. Dennis Hager