‘Filipino Monkey’ and the Naval Confrontation With Iran

If that wasn’t an Iranian military officer who was threatening American ships in the Strait of Hormuz last week — a claim that the Pentagon is backing away from, conceding that the threat could have come from anyone on shore with a radio — then who was it?

Prime suspicion falls on a person or persons known as Filipino Monkey, according to several Navy “ship drivers” interviewed by The Navy Times. Here’s one anecdote:

Rick Hoffman, a retired captain who commanded the cruiser Hue City and spent many of his 17 years at sea in the Gulf was subject to the renegade radio talker repeatedly, often without pause during the so-called “Tanker Wars” of the late 1980s.

“For 25 years there’s been this mythical guy out there who, hour after hour, shouts obscenities and threats,” he said. “He could be tied up pierside somewhere or he could be on the bridge of a merchant ship.”

And the Monkey has stamina.

“He used to go all night long. The guy is crazy,” he said.

The Lede asked the retired Navy officer who tipped us off last week on the possibility that a Flipino prankster was the voice heard on the Navy audio recording of the incident to offer his own recollections:

Ah yes, the Filipino Monkey … that’s actually one of the things I was referring to on Ch. 16. It’s not one person, as Navy Times suggested, but a “radio call” passed around by many people … sing-song … in terms of musical notes, think of it as sung to “c-c-c-G-e,” e.g, “Fi-li-pi-no MON-key.” You start hearing it off the coast of North Africa, usually by Egypt, and then a lot more as you head through the Red Sea and (mostly) into the Gulf. It’s usually a fairly obscene, crudely humorous call and response … one person will start it, then everyone else will chime in: “Filipino Monkey!”

It’s actually pretty funny in a sophomoric way, although the Filipino slur part of it is obviously pretty loathsome.

One night in the Gulf, in the middle of the night, the radio was strangely quiet, so I (against protocols) just clicked the bridge-to-bridge mike button out of boredom in the tell-tale “monkey” pattern: click-click-click-click-click, click. Which of course set off a round of “Filipino Monkey!” calls from local radio operators all around us, probably from guys as equally as bored as we were.

To be sure, all of the above remains in the category of speculation, albeit from sources with experience in the waters of the region. Whether the Pentagon will end up admitting that they are a Filipino monkey’s uncle remains to be seen.