Subject: Gurke's Pet Wallaby
Date: Sat, 21 Jun 1997 21:21:03 -0600
From:"Bill Wible"
To:"Tom Cheatum"

I am attaching some photos copied from the Gurke 1961 Western Pacific Cruise Book. Signalman First Class "Pappy" Beeler was given a small Wallaby by a citizen of Cairns Australia. He was appropriately named Joey (N) Wallaby. Joey had free access to the bridge. During general quarters he had his own life jacket and helmet. At night, the bos'n mate would sometimes call out "Captain on the Bridge!" but more often he would call out "Joey in the pilot house!" A warning for us not to inadvertently step on the 12 inch high creature. He slept in a knitting bag hung near the flag locker. His food was usually lettuce, beets and carrots. Any of his mess would drop through the deck grates and be washed away with a salt water hose.

When we were in Subic Bay, Philippines for upkeep someone accidently stepped on Joey breaking a leg. "Pappy" took him to the dispensary ashore for treatment but Joey not being human, was denied treatment. Our Captain, Richard P. Kipe, with an excellent PR sense, enlisted Joey into the Navy. After being sworn, Joey marked his enlisted contract with his right paw. Our ships doctor made up his medical record and returned him to the dispensary where he was promptly x-rayed, and his leg set in a L shaped cast. For a few weeks afterwards we knew when he was around because we could hear his cast tapping the deck grating as he loped along.

Back in San Diego "Pappy" would take Joey on liberty. A pet Wallaby poking his head from the knitting bag was good way to meet women. After one of these excursions Gurke received a message from the 11th Naval District which read, "San Diego County Public Heath Department reports that Miss Sandra Smith was bitten at the Lone Star Bar by a Wallaby reported to be on board your ship. If this is true the Wallaby is to be quaranteened three weeks, per San Diego County Health Regulations." Joey was placed on report for misconduct. At Captain's Mast Joey was found guilty and restricted to the ship for three weeks.

Signalman First Class Beeler suffered a premature death. As a memorial to him, Joey was given to the San Diego Children's Petting Zoo. A plaque on Joey's cage read, Joey (N) Wallaby is a gift of the crew of the USS Gurke in honor of their shipmate Signalman First Class Beeler.

Bill Wible