News of more than a dozen sailors from the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan’s nuclear department being disciplined or charged for their participation in an alleged LSD ring sent shock waves across the Navy.
But what if a carrier’s executive officer spiked his CO’s morning coffee with the hallucinogenic drug?
And it was all part of a conspiracy involving an underground military sect dedicated to wielding acid to end all war?
Instead of a handful of shipmates in the reactor department, maybe an entire carrier crew tripped balls after the drug was blown through an underway ship’s ventilation system?
These are the glorious imaginings of author John Fraim, who read Navy Times’ true-life coverage of the Gipper’s drug ring and wrote a short piece of fiction about sailors dropping acid on a flattop.
Entitled “Confrontation,” the Ohio-based author first pumped out a short story but then extended his vision to a novel-length treatment.
“I thought it was a fascinating story,” Fraim said of Navy Times’ initial coverage.
Because the counter-narcotics probe continues, Big Navy has released few details on what went down in Yokosuka last year.
So the 70-year-old retired marketing man began filling in the blanks, kind of like flattop fan fiction, with a port call in Woodstock.
And what a long strange trip it became: a looming war against the Chinese and the stress from a high tempo of operations in the 7th Fleet get swirled in a generous dollop of mind-altering lysergic acid diethylamide.
“What if LSD was on a carrier heading toward some sort of international confrontation?” he said. “That got my head spinning.”
Fraim is a published author who co-wrote “Londonderry Farewell: An Untold Story” with retired Navy Capt. Tom McKeown.
“Confrontation” is also nautically-themed but it’s a stark departure from his earlier work.
For example, it takes place on the fictional flattop Lyndon Stuart Dodge.
Yes, “LSD” is stenciled across the tower and the Navy isn’t talking about a dock landing ship.
This LSD is leading a mighty armada to fight China, even as the suits back in Washington, D.C. talk peace.
“What the hell did the Chinese think we’d do when they blocked South Korean trade with us?” Capt. Thomas Harrison, the carrier’s skipper, huffs at the beginning of the book.
But war with Beijing isn’t the only thing on his mind. Ten members of his crew had been busted with LSD the night before.
NCIS and “the FBI’s special psychedelic unit” are rushed to the carrier to investigate.
Harrison wants to get to the bottom of it: “We’re just a few days from being face-to-face with the Chinese in the East China Sea. All I need is a crew filled with drugs.”
Then, in a moment of triad leadership dysfunction that would make any command climate survey administrator blush, Harrison’s executive officer, Capt. William Benjamin, spikes his skipper’s coffee with LSD.
If Harrison’s any proof, Navy officers can turn on, tune in and drop out because the CO’s gone, man. Gone.
“Your first acid trip Captain,” the wily Benjamin says. “It’ll do you good, show you there’s another world out there, a world without killing and war. A world of peace.”
Once they were ring-knocking U.S. Naval Academy buddies, but thanks to the yellow rays of California sunshine breaking through the purple haze, the XO’s plot for peace is working:
“A takeover of the greatest weapons in the world via soft powers of particular drugs rather than the hardened reality of nuclear war. For XO Benjamin and many others, it seemed the only way out of the mess the modern world had gotten itself into. The path towards peace and harmony rather than war and killing.”
But the XO’s plot faces a big problem: the feds brought to the ship to crack down on sailors strolling through strawberry fields forever.
In a nod to the brutal OPTEMPO of the Japan-based 7th Fleet, an FBI agent brought aboard suggests LSD abuse most commonly occurs on “our highest stress warships, our carriers and nuclear submarines.”
“It makes young people — even top Navy people — look for ways out of the stress,” the agent notes.
“At least ten of them decided to use LSD to break the stress,” she adds.
But another agent zeroes in on the XO’s motives and points to a larger guerrilla movement inside the armed forces: “They are like a secret club of military leaders who have taken psychedelic drugs and believe there has to be a new direction in the military."
Those 10 busted sailors? They’re part of a secret society called the “New Patriots” and they’re dedicated to bringing about a new world by dosing large numbers of people at the same time.
“We call them Spikers because they spike things in the world with LSD so that it is ingested without knowing it,” an agent warns.
And they focus on ships because they’re isolated and “the effects of psychedelics increase at sea, away from culture and the bounds of logic.”
That’s why the blotter plotters on board this carrier are a coven of culinary specialists, sailors who planned to dot their shipmates at lunch in the mess.
Without spoiling all of Fraim’s tale, the dastardly XO is eventually nabbed, but our heroes have to take anti-LSD pills and save the ship after acid blows through the ventilation system and the crew starts to swim laps through some electric Kool-Aid.
Awakening from his trance, the CO Harrison is tempted to drop another dose left for him by the nefarious XO, but he casts it over the railing.
That was a struggle for the skipper. And when his tripping crew awakens the next day, he knows they’re going to have to stare down the golden dragon, too.
“It will not be an easy thing to confront,” Harrison laments. “Maybe even tougher than the Chinese navy.”
Seriously, go here and check this out for yourself.
Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.