banner: the WWII cruise of the ship of sex

Fair warning: the unreliable source for this tale is the December 1971 issue of True Men Stories. If I were you, I wouldn’t believe a single word of it, from the “tramp” steamer pun in the first paragraph to the convenient and stereotypical “all the sluts die at the end” denouement. But it’s got a great illustration, let’s print it!

officer climbing up the stairs to the brothel ship

The whole story makes a messy four-page spread:

floating bordello story from 1970s pulp magazine

Here’s an automated transcript that probably needs more cleanup than I gave it:

THE RUSTY looking motorship hove to in the greasy swells under the guns of the U.S. destroyer. She looked like a harmless three island tramp — the kind they used to build in Glasgow. She didn’t look like the kind of ship to give the U.S. Navy trouble — but she was.

The Minnie Ha Ha, out of Nuevo Grande, was causing the Navy more trouble than a Jap battlewagon. After all, you could sink a battlewagon, but no one knew what to do with the Minnie Ha Ha. The JG in charge of the boarding party pulled himself up the Jacobs ladder and over the rail. He had a speech all prepared, but he soon forgot it when he saw the women standing on the deck of the old motorboat. There must have been about fifty of them, and the big redhead in filmy black-mesh stockings and little else seemed to be the boss. “Glad to have you aboard, sailor,” she said. “Me and the girls have been getting lonely.” The J.G. gulped and he felt his face turning red. Behind him, the bosun’s mate whistled between his buck teeth and said, “Oh, my aching back. It’s true! Them dog-faces
didn’t make it up!” The J.G. said, “Which one of you, er, ladies, is Molly Ryan?”

“That’s me, sailor boy,” laughed the red head, “What’s on your dirty little mind, as if I didn’t know?” The girls on deck tittered and one said, “He’s kinda cute. I might take him home to raise.”

“I’m here on official U.S. Navy business!” sputtered the red faced J.G. Be hind him, he could hear his men snickering, Molly Ryan grinned and nearly threw a hip out of joint putting her foot on the hatch cover. The J.G. was sweating more than the hot sun over the Philippine Sea called for. He hadn’t seen a white woman in eighteen months and the curves on that red headed bitch were better than he’d been dreaming about. And he’d been dreaming as hard as he could. Hitting a brace he repeated his statement that he and his men were there on business. “You’ve come to the right place, dearie!” the red head laughed. This here’s the finest collection of business women this side of Pearl Harbor.”

“You admit that you’re running a… a floating brothel?”

“Admit it? Hell, junior, I’m advertising it! By now, every goddam gyrene, swabby, and dog-face within five hundred miles knows me and the girls are anchored here. We’re counting on it!”

“That’s what I’m here for. You and your girls will have to leave this area. Orders of the Admiral.”

“Orders of the Admiral, eh handsome? I can tell you what you can do with the Admiral.”

“You don’t understand!” sputtered the J.G. “This is a war zone. You can’t come sailing in here with a ship load of…”

“Why not, Sonny? We’re not hurting anybody. We’re here to help! Me and the girls heard about how you boys out here in the islands were suffering from a rare tropical disease. We pooled our loot, chartered this garbage scow, and came out here to see if we couldn’t do something. At thirty bucks a tussle!”

“But it’s illegal!”

“The hell you say, junior! We’re anchored three miles off the nearest island. Our ship is on the high seas, subject only to the laws of the country she’s registered with. The banana republic whose proud flag waves from our fantail, junior, does not have any laws against prostitution. In fact, it’s one of the leading industries of Nuevo
Granada. You go back and tell your Admiral he’d better watch his step. Stopping a neutral vessel in time of war is a serious matter.”

The J.G.’s shoulders sagged. He was a beaten man and he knew it.

“Let’s go, men.” He said, turning towards the Jacobs ladder. The mate said, “Sir, we was supposed to bring them in under our guns for trial, remember?”

“Look, Saunders,” the officer sighed, “I’m only a lousy J.G., not a sea lawyer. I’m tossing this right back in the old. man’s lap.”

Molly called after him, “Why don’t you come back out here tonight after duty, honey. I might give you a discount.”

The J.G. and his men sullenly clambered down into the launch without answering. Molly turned to a tall blonde in red panty girdle and snickered. “What’ll you bet he comes back?”

Molly Ryan knew what she was talking about. It wasn’t her first run in with the U.S. Navy. And it wouldn’t be her last. She had the Army worried too. And neither one of them could figure out just what to do about her. There wasn’t a hell of a lot they could do.

Molly Ryan was born in Butte, Montana, shortly after the first World War. By the time the second one broke out, she’d done time for hustling in half the states in the Union.

Since her native country didn’t appreciate her talents, Molly drifted south of the border with a traveling man named Slippery Jim Wilson who ditched her in Central America.

This didn’t bother Molly half as much as it should have. Two things helped to ease the pain of slippery Jim’s betrayal. One, there was a large U.S. air base nearby and two, her business was perfectly legal in that country. She and a half Indian babe named Lolita Ramerez set up a man killing crib house a few miles from the base.

In no time they were rich. Nobody knows to this day whether Uncle Sam pulled out his boys from that base because of strategy or to save them from being ruined for life. Lolita drifted up to Panama City with a bag of tricks that would have startled the Marquis De Sade. She became a legend in her own right as the infamous “Tiger Lady” of Panama City.

Molly Ryan, a more far seeing type of hustler, saw what was coming ahead of time and organized a syndicate to charter the Minnie Ha Ha. Shrewdly, Molly had known what the boys in the Pacific needed more than letters from home. And she knew there’d be a hell of a profit in bringing it to them.

The Minnie Ha Ha would heave anchor three miles off shore from an Army or Navy base and send a boatload of half naked girls ashore for provisions. From then on, it went smooth as silk. With all that meat and no potatoes a lousy three miles away, the boys didn’t waste time getting out to the ship. A few of them actually swam it.

On some islands, the brass was cooperative. The officers were human too, after all, and couldn’t very well say anything about the men visiting a ship they patronized themselves.

On other islands, the brass played it stuffy. They’d try to drive the Minnie Ha Ha away and, if that didn’t work, place it off limits.

It slowed business down some. It never seemed to stop it. To keep a place off limits, the men watching it have to mean business. The M.P.’s and running scared. Shore Patrol boys hadn’t seen any girls since stateside either. They were too busy taking advantage of Molly’s special discount to Shore Patrol and M.P. personnel to bother about the other guys who got out to the steamer one way or another.

So, thumbing her nose at the U.S. Navy, the Minnie Ha Ha went her merry way from island to island, just stopping long enough in her errand of mercy to relieve the garrison of their tropical diseases and payrolls.

Desperate theatre commanders sent frantic messages to Washington. There had to be some law the Minnie Ha Ha was breaking! In the Pentagon, lights burned overtime as legal eagles poured through volumes of forgotten sea laws. Try as they might, they couldn’t find a statute on the books that would allow the navy to seize the Minnie Ha Ha. Molly figured she had a good thing running for herself and the girls. As long as the war lasted, they were going to just keep hauling in the dough.

But Molly forgot one thing. The U.S. Army and Navy might have respect for international law. The boys on the other side didn’t. As far as the guys who sailed under the banner of the rising meat ball were concerned, international war law was for suckers.

Molly and the girls had stayed out of the Jap’s way. With U.S. Service men spread all over the South Pacific, it was a simple matter to keep away from the battle lines. At least, that’s what they thought. Molly had a war map in her cabin with the combat zones marked off in red ink. The Minnie Ha Ha always stayed on the safe side of the red lines. But there was one thing wrong with that idea. The Japs didn’t have the same lines drawn on their maps. Sailing up the Leyte Gulf, shortly after the landings in the South Philippines, the Minnie Ha Ha ran smack into a destroyer escort, shepherding a convoy of Jap troopships.

The bridge officer on the Jap destroyer was as nervous as a tom cat with turpentine under his tail. He could see the neutral flag waving over the stern of the Minnie Ha Ha. But flags are easy to fake and the Jap Navy was running scared.

Frothing between her teeth, the Jap escort vessel cut between the convoy and the Minnie Ha Ha. When Molly’s skipper, sure of his immunity from either side, didn’t alter course, the Jap destroyer put a shot across her bows. A minute later, the startled Jap officer was rubbing his eyes. Handing his binoculars to his exec, he said, “Take a look at this, Namura. Either I’ve been at sea too long or the deck of that ship is swarming with naked women!”

“It’s a Yankee trick!” shouted the exec as he swept the decks of the Minnie Ha Ha with the glasses. Startled by the shots, Molly’s girls had come boiling up out of their cabins in various states of undress.

“What could they be trying to pull?” stammered the bridge officer.

“Who knows what those round eyed devils are thinking? Sink them, before they get any closer!”

“Forward turret, fire all guns!” the bridge officer shouted. A thundering salvo of HE lashed the Minnie He Ha from stem to stern. They built them rugged in the Glasgow shipyards. The old motorboat went down gallantly after absorbing more shells than the Jap Navy could afford this late in the war. But down she went, just the same, with her neutral flag still flying and not so much as a BB gun to fight back with. When it was all over, the destroyer circled through the oil slick and scattered debris.

“No survivors, air!” sang the bosun. Curtly the officers nodded. With a wry grin, the exec said, “Too bad. Now we shall never know what they were up to.”

Wistfully, the bridge officer, who’d been a long time away from the Yashawara girls, said, “And I did so want to find out if it was true what they say about American women.”

The news traveled slowly. For a long while, nobody knew what had happened. Nobody knew why Molly Ryan and her girls didn’t come around anymore to relieve them of their money and tropical diseases. Then the word got around. Molly had had time to send an S.O.S. when she went down and two days later the banana republic she was registered with declared war on the Japs.

Lonely men on the Pacific run got a funny look in their eyes when they thought about it. The brass might have been happy but they didn’t say so. Molly had been nothing but a hard working hustler, but she’d been an honest one. No man ever got rolled on the Minnie Ha Ha and the girls had given them what they were paying for. Some guys will tell you the battle of Leyte Gulf was to save the Philippines. Maybe it was. But guys who were there when the news of the Minnie Ha Ha’s sinking got to the fleet will still argue the point. They’ll tell you the sixteen-inch shell that crashed through the bridge of the Jap flagship had, “Remember Pearl Harbor” written on it. Maybe. But those who should know say it read, “Remember Molly Ryan!”

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