Solitary Confinement on Bread and Water – USS St Louis

The Brig where I spent 3 days was down in the stern section of the ship. My cell was 6 x 6 with my 3 x 6 bunk taking up half of it. Three walls were solid steel, with bars located at the head/foot of the bunk depending on which way you’d lay. An electronic lock controlled the steel door.

The cell door let out into a common area for the 5 cells in the brig. The space contained a showerhead, sink, and toilet. There were no walls to block the guards view. Whenever you took care of your business, you were doing it in front of everyone in the Brig.

Another barred door sealed the common area off from the Guard Area. A large keyed padlock secured that door. Beyond that was the locked entrance into the Brig area. I only mention that because for 3 days I “knew” the ship was going to take a hit. That guard was going to make for the open deck, leaving us behind to drown like rats in a multi-tiered cage.

This was in June, when the temperature was already 97 when the Sun came up. They took my boots, shirt, and belt. They allowed me to keep my pants as long as I kept them on. If I took them off they would be taken away as well. They didn’t want any suicides, you know.

I was sentenced to 3 days of solitary confinement on bread and water. Before they took me down to the Brig they took me to the Sick Bay. I had to be examined by the Doc to make sure I was healthy enough to do the 3 days. I asked him to especially take note of the condition of my nose. I had been hit in the face with a brick on liberty in the Philippines. My nose had been quite mangled and the breaks were still fairly fresh.

The Sergeant of the Guard, a real gung ho lifer on his third tour in Nam, had made some comments about how he couldn’t wait to get me into his Brig. So, I wanted the doc to be able to compare the condition of my face before and after. He obliged, and in fact, the Sergeant of the Guard was barred from entering the Brig while I was there.

When they brought my first meal of “bread and water”, it was a half loaf of freshly baked bread wrapped in aluminum foil. As good as it smelled, I told them where they could put their bread and water. By late afternoon I was beginning to hallucinate and got all paranoid, so gave in and drank water. But I never touched the bread.

That’s not actually true, I did touch the bread, I just never ate any of it. The only water was out in the common area, a drinking fountain style knob in the sink. Problem was, you had to get a guard to open your cell door for you to get a drink. If they didn’t feel like it, or were busy, you didn’t drink. Remember the part about it being ungodly hot?

I don’t recall when I got the idea, but I stripped the bread of its aluminum foil wrapping and fashioned a fragile aluminum foil glass. Then when I could get out to get a drink, I would fill up my little glass and take it back to my cell. No longer was I at the mercy of the guard’s availability!

Then suddenly, it was the third day, and I was taken back to Sick Bay for another exam and then released. The sky NEVER looked bluer nor the clouds whiter. The feel of the Sun was second only to the breeze blowing across my skin. I was FREE!

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