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Sea Stories - The Great Payroll Robbery


Gunboat1
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Sea Stories:  The Great Payroll Robbery

During my tour as an Admiral’s Aide and Flag Lieutenant in Norfolk, Virginia, a hilarious set of events occurred.  This was 1986.  Paydays aboard Navy ships were still conducted in cash, if the sailor wanted to be paid in cash.  The Disbursing Officer (a junior Supply Corps officer) would be accompanied by a senior enlisted Disbursing Clerk (DK, now part of the Personnel Specialist rating, PS.)  They would go to the local on-base credit union, draw large sums of cash in a leather bag, and transport it to the ship.  The DK would, in good Navy fashion, draw a .45 caliber pistol from the armory, and place it unloaded into a flapped leather holster, with two 5-round magazines in a flapped magazine carrier.  Presto, the cash was guarded.  All secure, as far as the USN was concerned.  And better yet, there was zero chance of a negligent discharge of the pistol that the Navy couldn’t be bothered enough to adequately train the man with.  Carry on smartly.  Once payday was over, the process would be repeated in reverse, and the remaining cash returned to the credit union’s vaults.

Enter the villain.  A former enlisted Marine was an off-base roommate of one of the ship’s junior enlisted Disbursing Clerks.  And this sailor told the Marine all about the routine of cash payday.  This seemed too easy a target to pass up, I guess.  So late on payday (after payment had been made aboard, and while returning the residual cash,)  the Disbursing Officer and Disbursing Clerk got out of a car in the parking lot of the credit union with a leather bag and a pistol belt on the DK.  The former Marine approached them smartly and pulled out a Kabar combat knife, leveling it at the DK’s chest and demanding that he hand over the bag.  For a split second, time stood still.  And then the Disbursing Officer hotfooted it into the bank, abandoning the DK at knifepoint with the bag o’money.  The DK opted to do as the robber demanded, and handed over the bag, as well as the pistol belt, .45 pistol and magazines.    The former Marine got into his car and peeled out of the Credit Union parking lot, running a stop sign and speeding out the Base gate, laying rubber and making tracks.

At this time, Navy bases were guarded by civilian contract security guards.  One of the Base security guards saw the man run the stop sign… so he established hot pursuit to issue a traffic summons!  Naturally, he called for backup, and a second base security guard joined the chase.  As the Marine sped down Interstate 64, the bank robbery alarm was spread over the radio, and numerous Norfolk PD and Virginia State troopers joined the now-serious chase.  It looked like a circus with a long line of flashing lights in high-speed column.  So, the Marine realized that he had to take drastic action to break the pursuit.  HE BEGAN THROWING HANDFULS OF CASH OUT OF THE WINDOWS OF THE CAR.  Hundreds of twenty-dollar bills floated on the afternoon breeze like cherry blossoms in May.  Cars pulled over and drivers began chasing fluttering bills like butterflies in the interstate median.  It was apparently quite the madhouse. 

Somehow during all this, the Marine loaded the .45.  He tried to pull off a last-minute swerve onto an interstate off-ramp, hoping to cause the closest cop car to overshoot, but he lost control and got stuck in the off-ramp curtilage.  He leapt out of the car and ran towards the tree line.  The original two civilian Base security guards (still in the lead of the procession) screeched to a tire-burning halt, and jumping out with their 38 Special Revolvers drawn, ordered the man to HALT!  The Marine turned towards them with the .45 extended.  The Security Guards blazed away, emptying their service revolvers of all twelve available rounds…..without scoring a single hit.  But the noise and muzzle flash had its desired effect, and the former Marine surrendered without further incident.  He ultimately did a long stretch in federal prison.

And traffic was backed up on I-64 for hours.  The local TV stations ran public service announcements informing motorists that PICTURES HAD BEEN TAKEN, AND THE AUTHORITIES WOULD BE CONTACTING ANYONE WHO DID NOT RETURN ANY RECOVERED CASH VOLUNTARILY.   (I wonder how many dumbasses fell for that.)

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Edited by Gunboat1
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Lmao. I wonder how many watches I stood carrying a .45 and I never actually shot one until a Chief. The Chief Gunners Mate took a bunch of us to the range to see if we could qualify. Couple of us did lol.

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