Martha Rae came to the ship during the 68/69 WESTPAC cruise while the ship was on Yankee Station. She would not let the helicopter land on the Flight Deck. She insisted on being lowered down on the helicopter's steel cable. She was wearing Army fatigues, a "Maye West" life vest, and a nameplate over her shirt pocket. The nameplate read "The Phantom" and she was carrying a piece of cake wrapped in tinfoil which she returned to the Captain.
Legacy of the "Phantom"
Captain James Ferris was then the C.O. We had a baker aboard that used to make all kinds of festive and scenic cakes for the Holidays. The Captain asked him to make a special cake for our trip to Australia. We were invited to help celebrate The Battle of The Coral Sea which is a big celebration there every year. The baker made the cake, which was a large sheet cake decorated with frosting showing the maps of the USA & Australia. The cake was flown off the ship to the Philippines and from there to Australia.
The cake made the celebration (The ship did not! orders changed) It was a big hit and made the papers back home too. It seems that sometime after leaving the ship and getting to the celebration in Australia, somehow somebody got to the cake and cut a piece of it out, leaving a note in its place. The note read, "The Phantom Strikes Again."
The Real Phantom, James Waldron, Confesses
I am sure that you heard of the large cake sent to the Prime Minister of Australia in appreciation for letting U.S. troops take R & R there. Well a large cake was baked by the Coral Sea and sent via COD to the PI. From Cubi Point NAS is was flown to Manila International and put on an Australian airliner to Australia. The cake was flown from the ship and was in a wooden crate 3ft X 3ft x 10". When I saw the crate, I took out my survival knife and pried open the lid. Inside was the cake with the Australian flag. The cake was big. It had to be 8 to 9 inches tall with 2-inches of frosting. I took my knife and cut out a large corner piece. Scrapped off the frosting and had some cake. I was with Mike Wexsler ADJ2. He was on temporary duty with the C-1A crew. Now I had a large hole to deal with. I took out a sheet of paper and wrote, "The phantom strikes again, HA, HA." Put the note where the cake was taken from and closed the crate. The cake went on its route to Australia.
A few days later I went back to the ship and was called to the Captain's quarters. When I went in, to my right, on a small table were news clippings from around the world telling the story of the cake and the phantom. The captain asked me about the incident and I assured him that a cake could not interest me when I could go to Olongapo and have a drink or two. Since the note was printed, I did not print anything for 4-years. Well, I thought that things were calming down and it would blow over. The Captain was not happy because he was waiting for his star and did not like the notoriety.
A couple of weeks later Martha Raye, the comedian, came to the ship for an appearance. She flew out by helicopter and did not land but was lowered to the deck by wench. Of course, the Captain was there to greet her. Well Ms. Raye had on fatigues and a name plate, which read "The Phantom". She handed the Captain a cup cake and said it was to replace the missing piece of cake.
Copyright © 2019 Bert McNamee, Harleigh, PA. All rights reserved.