Washington — Fancy a bit of global shopping? Then you should join he US Navy. When a US warship tied up at Alameda, Calif., last year after a far-flung patrol, it not only disembarked its crew but an array of goodies that the crew had bought abroad.* Among them: a half-ton pickup truck; 73 motorcycles; an MG sports car; a number of roll-top desks and grandfather clocks, and several sets of furniture. And it all came home free of charge.
Sailors on liberty seem to be hitting furniture shops these days. Other warships have returned to the United States with complete sets of dining, living , and bedroom furniture -- not to speak of refrigerators, television sets, and even sailboats (ranging from 32 to 36 feet long).
While observing That such shipping home of souvenirs is "a benefit that no one particularly wishes to deny our servicemen," the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee politely inquired about the practice last year.
What would be the impact of having pickup trucks, sports cars, and so on, on a ship if it were suddenly ordered to deploy to the Indian Ocean before it had a chance to unload these items?" Vice-Adm. Robert Baldwin, deputy chief of naval operations for manpower, personnel, and training, was asked.
In the event of an "unanticipated operational commitment," the admiral replied gravely, "personal property such as you describe would be jettisoned." In other words, all those motorbikes and grandfather clocks would be heaved over the side.
When an individual places an item of this nature on board the ship, he is normally required to sign a statemen that expresses his understanding of this eventually," the admiral explained.
And if a pickup truck gets scratched while en route to Norfolk, Va., from Tokyo? "A claims potential exists only if the goods are being transported as a household goods shipment in conjunction with permanent change of station orders, " the admiral said. $S o, for Navy personnel it's risky shopping at best.
A Pacific typhoon can be a little rough on bedroom furniture, and Kawasaki motorbikes would be a trifle hard to hide when the shooting begins.