Sid's N T I N S Locker

The Whiskey Smugglers
By Tom Parks aka Old Gringo January 03, 2000

The captain of the Mudsucker was a real sundowner and was known affectionately to the crew as "Sledgehead". He would charge through the boat head down and manage to bend every valve stem and dent every WT door combing. Before the boat left New London, we had an early Christmas Party with Santa Claus for the crew's children. My shipmate Harvey and I bought the Captain a football helmet and presented it to him at the party. He was not amused. No sense of humor.

In January 1945 Mudsucker arrived in Panama enroute to Pearl and West Pac. To those of us who had made patrols out of Pearl and Midway the scarcity of distilled spirits was a sad fact. Panama would be our last chance to acquire any. It was not to be for the "white hats", however. The Captain issued an order permitting each officer and chief to bring aboard six bottles each as baggage and further that any drinking on board would be punished summarily. The white hats being left out were not very happy about it. We were not to be denied however. One of the ward room stewards who was just as pissed off as the rest of us made contact with a steward at the O Club. He could get us all of the Canadian Club we wanted at $5.00 per bottle and he would deliver. Most of the guys just ordered 2 or 3 bottles but my buddy and fellow Motor Mac, Harvey and I had bigger ideas. We figured that in Pearl or Midway a large profit could be made on each bottle purchased at $5.00 so we ordered 60 bottles (5 cases). Late that night a motor launch came quietly alongside and we took delivery on our contraband. Harvey and I stashed our whiskey in the lower flats of the forward engine room.

The next night I had the below decks watch and Bruno, the engineering officer, was OD. Bruno was a great guy, a mustang, ex-electrician's mate and an old S-boat sailor. He came to me and asked if I had any whiskey. I said that I might be able to find a drink. He told me to cut the crap and listen up. Somehow the captain had heard about the smuggling and was going to hold an inspection in the morning after quarters. I thanked him and said that I would let my guys know just in case any of them had any whiskey. Now Harvey and I had a problem. We had to come up with a good hiding place for our investment or lose it. On top of which we could also get court martialled. I woke Harvey up and we finally came up with a solution. It was a bit risky but we thought that it would work.

Sure enough the next morning the captain ordered the crew to remain at quarters. Then he, the department heads and the COB went below. The leading PO in each compartment was called below with his keys and the search commenced. A very thorough search it was. Any whiskey that was found was sent topside and the bottle smashed against the pressure hull. That brought tears to the eyes of those veteran submariners. When the search party arrived in the forward engine room I was standing by with the keys. The captain eyed me up and down and his look seemed to say " Parks if I find any whiskey in this engine room your ass is grass and I will be the mower". He hadn't forgotten the football helmet. He made me open every locker. I even had to empty the spare parts lockers in the lower flats. I was a lousy poker player in those days (still am) and I had a silly smirk on my face. For a finale I was ordered to lift up the floor plates and the COB had to check out the bilges. Not a bottle was found. The captain was really pissed and he glared at me as he left. He just knew that there was whiskey in that room.

Later that day Harvey and I retrieved our stock from the crankcase of #1 main engine. The Fairbanks Morse 38D is a dry crankcase engine and there was plenty of room for our whiskey. Harvey was the keeper of the engine logs and established the priority for the engines. If we had gotten underway it would have been on two engines and #3 and #4 were up. When we got to Pearl and later to Midway we turned a tidy profit but we also hosted several parties for old shipmates we ran into. Sometime after the war was over I read that "Sledgehead" retired as a Rear Admiral. I always meant to write to him and tell him where I had hid the whiskey but I never did. I figured let him enjoy his retirement. He earned it.