Thousands of Persian Gulf-bound U.S. troops turned a Philippine port into what sounded like a war zone early today as they celebrated the New Year with explosions and fireworks.
Hundreds of drunken sailors on their last shore leave before heading for the gulf danced in the streets around strings of exploding firecrackers amid the garish bars and massage parlors of Olongapo City, next to Subic Bay Naval Base.
“It’s sort of like ordnance, isn’t it?” said a Marine wearing a colorful hat and clutching a bar girl.
For many young U.S. servicemen, it was an emotional night.
“I am just not sure if I will see my wife and daughter again. . . . That’s all I want . . . I just don’t know about the gulf,” said one Marine, fighting back tears.
Subic is crammed with 28 warships. Adm. Stephen Clarey said his 13-ship task force, which includes 7,500 Marines, will leave Wednesday for the gulf.
Throughout the Philippines, at least 14 people were reported killed, many hit by stray bullets, and more than 1,000 were injured as 1991 was welcomed in with firecrackers and bursts of gunfire.