‘Liberty visits’ (I): Return of the ‘Dial-a-sailor’ program?

 ‘It is a deplorable situation indeed when the Canadian government and major media make themselves immoral instruments of prostituting Canadian women and girls, repeating outright lies as if they were facts. The message is unmistakable. Canadian women and girls: head for the bars on the weekend to look for well-heeled American sailors.’

Commentary by TONY SEED

HALIFAX (22 June 2007) – ON THE arrival of the USS Wasp, a huge American amphibious assault ship with a 2000-member crew, clear intimations were given by the media to the women and young girls of Halifax to enlist as “escorts” for and “party” with the U.S. sailors, that is, prostitute themselves.

“I’ve heard a lot of things about the women. There’s like seven women for each male,” a U.S. sailor, P.O.2 Raymond Vega, drooled to the Halifax Chronicle-Herald. [1]

The Halifax Daily News published on June 21 an online galley of 15 photographs depicting the “friendly visit”, and gushed about how the U.S. sailors arrived “with visions of maple syrup and floor hockey.” At any given time, 900 of them are to be granted shore leave for “rest and recreation.”

Well briefed as to demographics, the same sailor, reciting the outlandish statistic, was also featured by the Daily News: “‘I heard that they drink a lot,” the 25-year-old said. “There’s a lot of places to go and the women, there’s like seven women for each male”,’ the sailor not so subtly declared to the Daily News reporter, herself a women. [2]

It is a deplorable situation indeed when the Canadian government and major media make themselves immoral instruments of prostituting Canadian women and girls, repeating outright lies as if they were facts. The message is unmistakable. Canadian women and girls: head for the bars on the weekend to look for well-heeled American sailors.

This pimping is not very subtly reminiscent of the despicable “dial-a-sailor” program which was organized by the U.S. Navy in ports throughout the world, including Halifax, during the 1980s. (A Google search turned up online accounts by U.S. seamen of the program in New York, Fort Lauderdale and Portland, Oregon; Auckland, New Zealand; Sydney, Freemantle and Perth, Australia, and Italy.)

Women and young girls were regularly enticed through “public service announcements” in the media of the port cities to “invite a U.S. Marine or Sailor to a social event” in violation of their civil rights on the occasion of a “liberty visit” by a U.S. warship.

The real nature of the program was laid bare by the 1990 U.S. and Australian pornographic film by the same name, “Dial a Sailor.”

Subject to broad protests and indignation, this venal program was finally disbanded due to popular opposition. [3]

In Halifax, anti-war activists of the People’s Front repeatedly called on Haligonians and women and young girls during the 1980s to take a stand against such bribery and corruption of the imperialists.

In Auckland, New Zealand, the women were also very effective in an action they did around the “Dial-a-Sailor” set-up. The women’s movement wrecked the scheme completely by organizing what they called “Dial-a-Dick.” Quite large numbers of women were ringing up the ship all day and inviting these sailors home, but the home addresses they gave were the homes of Cabinet Ministers! So they never tried “Dial-a-Sailor” again. [4]

This U.S. Navy program was designed as if it was a unique “friendship” initiative in each port, sponsored by the local chamber of commerce with the complicity of the media, as part of providing “rest and recreation” to the American sailors.

At the time, anti war activists, without access to the Internet, had no way of knowing its international scope. Meanwhile those conciliators with war preparations who did know kept silent and refused to warn Haligonians of the danger. People thought it to be a local program.

The presence of U.S. warships and a massive number of American marines on “liberty” persists as a delicate problem for the Canadian bourgeoisie. Along with U.S. Naval “shore patrols”, the American sailors are instructed to deploy ashore in a buddy system.

“They also know about the stabbing of Petty Officer 1st Class Damon Crooks, a sailor from USS Doyle who died after he was attacked outside a Halifax nightclub in the early hours of Nov. 4. But that’s not going to keep them from enjoying the nightlife,” the Chronicle-Herald declared. “From what I understand, it wasn’t indicative of Halifax in any way,’ said Lt.-Cmdr. McCarthy, who is also the ship’s legal officer. “It was just something that happened. It happens in any city this size.” [5]

All sections of the community of the port city become targeted by the anti-social consciousness and behaviour of U.S. sailors.

The experience of the African Nova Scotian community is indicative. The U.S. naval officer Crooks was an African-American from Florida. On any number of occasions, African-American sailors have been accused of swaggering into such bars as the Derby Tavern, inciting social contradictions, and attempting to steal wives and girl friends, something that has been kept from the public.

Instead we are told by the U.S. Navy: “It happens in any city this size.”

Human rights violations, including murder and rape, continue to be perpetrated by U.S. naval troops with impunity in countries where they are based or deployed.

Along with the “dial-a-sailor” program, the U.S. Navy concurrently established officially-designated “rest and recreation” centres, i.e., licensed brothels, in countries with semi-permanent or permanent U.S. naval bases, such as the Philippines (where prostitution is illegal), Korea, Thailand and Japan,

‘Rest and recreation’ – international experience

Okinawan protest at Marine Headquarters in Kita Nakagusuku village following news of a rape by U.S. soldiers

The huge social costs to the peoples of these countries, who have been left to pay the bill from U.S. aggression, is widespread. A recent conference in Oceania International Conference on US Militarism and War on Terror in the Asia Pacific Region, held in Cebu City, the second largest city in the Philippines during December 2006, provided detailed information to the extent of this criminal activity.

Wherever there are U.S. military troops, prostitution grew and took root. Sexually-transmitted disease is rampant in Rest & Recreation sites frequented by U.S. servicemen.

When the U.S. bases left the Philippines, there were 2,182 “rest and recreation” establishments and an estimated 50,000 to 55,000 women in prostitution in the cities of Angeles and Olongapo, the sites of these bases. At the height of the Vietnam war, an average of 129 U.S. ships would call at Subic Bay. One of every six cases of the sick brought to the First Reserve Hospital in the Philippines in 1900 had venereal disease. This was kept secret from the Filipino people. [6]

A recent exposure by Fox TV that U.S. military commanders in South Korea assigns “courtesy patrol” officers, an informal version of the military police, to local bars to facilitate safe access to prostitution for the U.S. servicemen, helped pressure U.S. President George W. Bush to sign on 14 October 2005 Executive Order 13387 which established a zero-tolerance policy on the solicitation of prostitution by U.S. military personnel. The International Office of Migration estimates that at least 5,000 women and young girls have been trafficked into South Korea to supply the prostitution needs especially of U.S. servicemen. While the other arms of the U.S. government are seemingly working to stamp sex trafficking worldwide, the U.S. military is helping the trafficking networks by patronizing the bars, clubs and brothels where the women trafficked are brought. [7]

Hand in hand with prostitution is violence against women in the form of rape and sexual abuse. Both are exonerated as the U.S. servicemen’s outlets for pent-up aggression and efforts at domination or exerting one’s manhood after feeling helpless and out of control in the war zone.

As a condition of its dictate, the United States demands immunity for its military personnel in foreign basing through the Status of Forces Agreements (SOFA), as the whole world sees since the perversion of Abu Ghraib in Iraq. This has also happened in Canada.

In the late 1980s, U.S. sailors were charged with raping young women in Québec City. They were quickly released to the U.S. Navy under protection of the Visiting Forces Act and escaped prosecution by fleeing Canadian jurisdiction on their departing warship.

In the Philippines, legal documents show that from 1981 to 1988, 2,005 cases were filed against U.S. servicemen in the former Subic Naval Base and 1,269 cases were filed against the U.S. servicemen from the former Clark Air Base.

All were dismissed. [8]

Mass protest in Okinawa against U.S. bases

A research by the Okinawa Women Act Against Military Violence revealed that U.S. troops in Okinawa have committed more than 4,700 reported crimes since 1972. Another statistical survey puts the number at about 5,000, including 110 cases of rape. [9]

U.S. servicemen also rape and sexually abuse their own.

Surveys showed that up to 50 per cent of U.S. military women have experienced sexual assaults, and 78 per cent have experienced sexual harassment. An analysis of army records and reports showed that reported sexual assaults increased 19 per cent from 1999 to 2002, from 658 to 753, and rapes increased by 25 per cent, from 356 to 445.

Meanwhile, a 1995 study by the U.S. Defense Department found out that 47 per cent of women in the military and 30 per cent of their male counterparts have received “unwanted sexual attention.” [10]

Participants to the National Summit of Women Veterans Issues in Washington DC from June 19-20, 2006 pointed out that the “sexual assault” of female U.S. Military Personnel is not an isolated problem. The imperialist military nurtures a culture of sexual violence and contempt of women that is linked to the rape and sexual abuse of women in occupied countries or countries where the U.S. has military bases, as well as rapes and assaults of women in U.S. prisons and jails and the battering of wives and partners of U.S. personnel. [11]


[1] Chris Lambie, “Wasp has brass buzzing; Canadian military would like to have amphibious ship,” Chronicle-Herald, 22 June 2007.

[2] Jennifer Taplin, “U.S. sailors arrive with visions of maple syrup and floor hockey: USS Wasp participating in huge military exercise” The Daily News, 21 June 2007. http://www.hfxnews.ca/index.cfm?sid=39084&sc=89

[3] http://www.oflc.gov.au/special.html?n=115&p=36&sCertificate=00601E0E896E&search.x=24&search.y=9

[4] Gillian Thomas, “In New Zealand, our side winning: Here’s Owen Wilkes,” Peace Magazine, Feb-Mar 1986, page 16. http://archive.peacemagazine.org/v02n1p16.htm

[5] Ibid. Lambie.

[6] Emmi A. de Jesus, “The social cost of US military presence,” 9 December 2006. Paper delivered to the International Conference on US Militarism and War on Terror in the Asia Pacific Region, Cebu City, Philippines. http://www.aprnet.org/

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

Source: Shunpiking Online, Volume 4 Number 5, http://www.shunpiking.com/ol0405/0405-NL-TS-LV-whopays.htm

Postscript: Incidents Involving US Military in Okinawa

In Okinawa, where US military bases exist adjacent to densely populated areas, incidents and accidents derived from military bases occur on a daily basis. These include disturbances from US military airplanes, crimes committed by military personnel, army employees and their families, and traffic accidents. Residents have repeatedly reported their unease over such ongoing incidents and accidents.

Accidents During Training

There have been 1,434 incidents and accidents related to military exercises from 1972, when Okinawa returned to Japanese administration, until the end of December 2008, including 487 airplane-related accidents.

Many residents will recall an accident that occurred in May 1965, when a trailer killed an 11-year old girl by landing outside of the target area during a parachute drop training exercise. In recent years, in August 2004, a US military helicopter crashed into Okinawa International University, located next to Futenma Air Station, and then burst into flames. Luckily, there were no civilian casualties from this incident, but it caused a great degree of concern among local residents.

Criminal Cases involving US Military Personnel

There were 5,584 criminal cases involving US military personnel during the same period, including 559 atrocious cases of murder, burglary and rape. In Japan, sexual and violent cases such as rape or indecent assault are often not made public, so the number of actual cases is considered much higher. The most recent examples of criminal activity in Okinawa are as follow:

– In September 1995, three marines raped an elementary school girl. This led to a huge gathering of prefectural residents in October 1995, with 85,000 residents participating.

– In October 1998, a high school girl was run down and killed by a drunken US marine.

– In June 2001, there was rape case by a US airman.

– In November 2002, there was an attempted rape case by a US lieutenant.

– In May 2003, a US marine in Okinawa raped a woman, resulting in extensive injuries.

– In July 2005, a US airman in Okinawa indecently assaulted an elementary school girl.

– In February 2008, a US marine was suspected in the assault a junior high school girl.

Furthermore, in 2008, the number of US military personnel in Okinawa apprehended totaled 52, including for two burglaries and three rape cases. Major incidents in 2008 included: burglary resulting in injuries by US military personnel (January 7), a US marine suspected in the assault of a junior high school girl (February 10), rape resulting in injuries by US military personnel (February 18), robbery resulting in injury by US military personnel (March 16), a US plane mistakenly dropping an object outside of the target area during training (April 9), a fatal traffic accident caused by US military personnel (August 11), and the crashing of a Cessna plane belonging to the Kadena Aero Club (October 24).

The residents in Okinawa have protested vigorously to both the Japanese and American governments each time these incidents or accidents have occurred, and demanded the consolidation and reduction of US military bases in Okinawa and a review of the Japan-US Status of Forces Agreement. However, fundamental improvements have yet to be made.

Source: http://closethebase.org/us-military-bases/incidents-involving-us-military-in-okinawa/


Filed under Canada, Canadian Forces, Media, Journalism & Disinformation

3 responses to “‘Liberty visits’ (I): Return of the ‘Dial-a-sailor’ program?

  1. Pingback: British Royal Navy sailors arrested and charged for alleged gang rape in Halifax | Tony Seed's Weblog

  2. Pingback: NATO’s Young Professionals Program | Tony Seed's Weblog

  3. Pingback: Hiroshima and Halifax - Nova Scotia Advocate

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