Robbie Turns Ob
Excerpted from My BooK of ‘nevers’ By james robinson
I have never excelled as a “solver” when it comes to real emergencies. Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t go running around like Chicken Little yelling, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” I can get by and at least make a situation better, but I just don’t feel equipped to step in and take over, if any other human being is within range. I admire emergency personnel for their “coolness under fire” and how they can adapt so quickly to all situations and keep things on track. There was one particular time, however, when I was faced with a “do or die” challenge and none of those specialized people were close at hand and it was solely in my hands to handle. Read on and see how I overcame my fear of “emergencies” once and learned you should “never forget your Swiss knife”.
Subic Bay Naval Base, Philippines was our “home” port for several weekss. Just outside the gates of our naval base at Subic Bay, lay Olongapo, a small village filled with dozens of bars and shops. Olongapo had been a “jumping off” place for the Japanese during WWII, with its surrounding mountains it provided a natural fortress and protected Subic Bay from the torrential rains and typhoons. Later, when General MacArthur liberated the island of Luzon, it became a strategic naval base of operations for the Pacific fleet to refuel and conduct reconnaissance of the Japanese movements. Toward the end of the war it also became an air base, which increased its importance to the United States military. My ship, the USS Whitehurst (DE-634) was assigned to the Command of the Pacific Fleet out of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and sailed into Subic Bay to perform sea trials with other ships that were on their first leg of a tour that would eventually take us all to Viet Nam. There wasn’t much to do there, unless you had a bottomless gut for alcohol. The snorkeling adventures were exciting because the water was “crystal” clear down to 80 feet. I played tennis with shipmates when I could and we went 110 miles south to Manila, rented a Jeep, and drove around to see the sights on occasion. Back to Olangapo: At the end of the plethora of bars was a favorite Poker parlor, where I spent a lot of my time and more of my money than I care to mention. I was an “average” Poker player and when I saw I was losing, I usually threw in my cards and left the game.
On just such a day I was walking around the perimeter of the village and looking for one of the large lizards that always provided some great pictures. I wandered off the trail into the jungle a little ways and was enjoying being under the umbrellas of the gigantic elephant leaf trees; besides it was a bit cooler there and out from under the blazing sun. I was distracted from my picture taking by a gasp or some kind of moan that was coming from over to my right. As I cautiously moved over to the area of the sounds, I saw a pair of feet (clearly those of a girl) and protruding from some wild-growing vines. Further investigation showed that I had come upon a young, (perhaps 14 years or younger), pregnant, Philippine girl, on her back and naked from her waist down and in the throes of final contractions before the delivery of a baby. I stood and looked at her not knowing what to do or how to react. She was crying heavily and having a very hard time getting comfortable on the ground amidst the leaves and vines. I knew she needed help and quickly backtracked to the trail and yelled, “Anyone? Help; we need help here. Help someone!” But no one could hear me and I realized that there was little time to act.
I returned to the girl, took off my shirt, folded it and placed it under her head and stroked her face. “It’s okay, it’s okay now; I’m here with you.” I don’t know why I said that, but I thought I needed to say something to help calm her. She tried to smile and said something in Filipino that I didn’t understand, but I assumed it meant she knew I was there to help her. She grabbed my upper arm and squeezed it so tightly I almost became weak. Then she screamed once again and the black-haired head of her baby began to emerge. I was terrified and she was breathing so hard I thought, “Oh God, this poor girl is going to go into shock or die right here in my arms giving birth.”
At that precise moment I wished I was anywhere else in the world but right there, but I was there and this was a real-life situation and I was the only one to help her. An old movie clip flashed in my mind that included survival tips and the delivery of a baby. I repositioned myself so I could guide the baby’s head and in a few short minutes and a dozen more blood-curdling screams I was able to pull one shoulder out at a time and together we delivered a new life into the world. I took off my undershirt and wrapped the baby in it, then I laid the newest inhabitant to our planet on its mommy's chest and it immediately went for its first meal.
We both smiled, laughed and cried together. Okay, now what do I do? It seemed a long time before the placenta came. I remembered from the film that once the umbilical cord was cut, that the baby would have to breathe on its own, so I waited as long as I could and then I fished my Swiss knife, that I was never without, from my side pocket and sliced through the cord a couple of inches from the baby's navel. We were all three a real mess with dirt and blood all over us.
A heard a truck coming down the road that ran alongside the trail and I ran out and flagged it down and using the only Spanish I knew was able to get the driver to stop and follow me over to the girl and her newborn . He helped me carry her back to his truck and we laid her on the back seat while I carried the baby and we went back to Olongapo and he drove up to a clinic and ran in and came back out with a nurse. She called for some help and a couple of interns came out, gently picked up the girl and took her inside and I handed the baby to another nurse. A quick examination showed that mother and child were doing okay and they rushed then both inside. And that was that.
The driver shook my hand like I was the father and then he drove me all the way back to the main gate of the base. The “Officer of the Deck” asked as I went aboard ship why I wasn’t wearing a shirt or even my undershirt and I had to explain it to him. The next morning we went out for sea trials and didn’t return to port for several days.
Epilog: We left Subic Bay for the last time in the next couple of weeks and I never went back to the clinic or heard another word about the girl or her baby. I hoped that they were both going to make it and was glad that I had played a part in bringing one of God’s children into the world. In all probability the girl and her baby were only there for a short time before returning to their life in that poverty-stricken community. Here I was barely 20 years old, and I had met Jayne Mansfield, spent a night in jail, destroyed a building, knocked out a bar owner in San Diego, experienced a miracle, survived a coma, and…now delivered a baby! I just wondered if my life was like others on the planet, or just really unique.
Moral: Word to the Wise – "never forget your Swiss knife”.
Other stories by James "Robbie"
WWII Era |
Korea War & '50s |
Viet Nam & 60s |
All Links Page |
Search & Rescue
Memorial | Poetry | Enemy Below | Taps List | Photos/Armament | History | Crews Index | Home