Naval" Hot Seat"

Did/do naval vessels have a toilet reserved for guys with VD? A friend mentioned that his dad’s vessel had a “Hot seat” which was painted red that the guys with VD had to use. It was reserved for them alone, but I doubt that there was any trouble enforcing that rule. Did the navy ever have this? It would be hard enough on a destroyer getting to the proper head in time. I can’t imagine that there would be time to get to the only toilet you could use on an aircraft carrier. So either they had more than one or something is wrong with the story.

Not in my experience, nor did I ever hear stories of it.

Its possible that it occured on isolated ships as a command decision, but its probably more likely that your friends dad was just telling tall tales.

I’ve heard this story, and toured a WWII troop ship recently (docked on the Columbia river outside Portland), which did indeed have a commode with a red seat. The guide said it was for soldiers with VD.

To elaborate, I originally heard this story (red seat for VD cases) from one of my med school professors, who served as a military doc in the Pacific theater during WW II.

It was last August that I saw the actual red seat on the ship, and and when the guy giving the tour asked if any of us knew what that red seat meant, told him it was for the VD guys. He confirmed this assertion.

None of this rises to the level of proof, but it does confirm that the story has been around since the early 1980’s at the very least.

I however, belief it. Dr. Tumulty wouldn’t have lied to me…

Good enough for me. Thanks.

Huh, I’ve seen pictures of red toilet seats (on a big metal row of open toilets), but I always assumed they were for black sailors.

I spent time on 2 ships during the late 70’s and never saw a red toilet seat.

Could it have there to use as an excuse for having VD? “Sorry honey, I must’ve got it from a toilet seat.”

If the examples we’re hearing date from the WWII era, that’s very early in the days of anti-biotics. 1950 and 1970 are worlds apart from a medical perspective. Things that may have been incurable, or untreatable in 1950 may have responded to treatments available since that date. I have little trouble believing that this was a practice that became unnecessary as medicines advanced.

I served in the early 90s and never saw a red toilet. My dad served as corpsman in the late fifties/early sixties. I know he served on an LST, and then for a while at the base hospital at GITMO. He’s talked about a couple of VD epidemics he’d had to deal with, so when I ask him he may be able to give us a bit more Straight Dope about this practice. I’ll get back to this thread with that information tomorrow.

Never saw a red toilet seat in my tiime in the Navy (1968 - 1972) However, those sailors who had the crabs were restricted to one particular stall in the 2 heads* shared by about 40 to 50 men in our department.

*head: bathroom to you landlubbers

Okay - I did bring this up with my father. He served from approximately 1959-1961. During that time he was mostly stationed at GITMO, and attached at the hospital there, or sent to distant duty stations nominally supervised by the hospital at GITMO.

He says that he’s never seen, nor heard, of the red seat toilets for sailors with VD. He also says that he finds the story very credible, just a measure of how much things have changed because of the advent of antibiotics.

My father pays a lot of attention to the differences between pre- and post- antibiotic era medicine. When he was less than a year old he contracted pneumonia, and it got very bad. He had to have the lungs physically drained, and he has a couple major scars on his back from where they resected two of his ribs to make this possible. All for a condition that most people can see treated these days by a 7 day course of antibiotics.

He’d been involved in helping to epidemiological studies of a couple of cases of VD epidemics during his time at GITMO*, so if it had been standard practice at the time of his service, I know he’d have seen it. I think it’s just the medical techniques available have left the “hot seat” behind.

*Vague details available if anyone makes an encouraging noise.

It’s interesting to see the difference in experiences. I thought this was going to be a quick, definitive answer all around.


I was in for six years starting in 1989; my father was in for 4 years starting in 1968; another relative was in for five or six years starting in 1939. When I was still in the three of us sat around a kitchen table talking about our time in service and none of us had any idea what the hell the other two were talking about.

I cross-decked to a Brazilian frigate in the mid-1990s for naval exercises, and they had stalls set aside for their HIV positive sailors.

Consider yourself encouraged.

Please remember that once penicillin was generally available in large quantities (circa 1946), there would no longer have been a need for the “hot seat”, as syphilis and gonorrhea could be quickly and surely treated (until gonorrhea developed resistance, anyway).

Gladly. :slight_smile:

At this time GITMO was mostly being run as a home for the most advanced of the Navy’s Damage Control Schools. So ships would come down from various east coast ports, and spent several weeks, getting the rust blown off on firefighting, and more advanced techniques.

At some point during my father’s tour a small destroyer (I suspect a WWII-era DE, with an average complement on the order of 180 men.) came down for the damage control training, but ended up having a major medical casualty. A large percentage of the crew (Dad has said between a third and a half) were suffering from VD. Interviews with the crew were going nowhere, so they couldn’t identify any kind of common vector for the epidemic, and the hospital personnel were starting to suspect rampant homosexuality at the root of what had happened.

Finally one of the sailors involved mentioned, “Well, there was this girl at the USO, I’m sure I couldn’t have gotten it from her, she’s a nice girl, but she should be told to get tested.” From the details my dad recalls, she appears to have been a very active and enthusiastic 16 or 17 yo. And she, alone, had been the source of the epidemic that swept through the ship.

The other story is a bit of low comedy during the days when the base at GITMO was first closed to the rest of the island in response to Castro’s Revolution. The closing of the base wasn’t something that happened without any warning, it took some time, and some planning, before it was done, and established.

Now, one benefit of the closing of the base was that the base hospital was expecting that new VD cases were going to taper off in the weeks and months following the closure, as access to infected women for the majority of the men stationed on the base was going to be dropping to next to nothing. And for most groups, this was the case. The Marines, the fleet sailors, the base sailors all were showing very few, if any, new VD cases.

The SeaBees, however, were still getting infected at the same rate. Obviously this was taken as an indication that the investiture of the base was incomplete - and so inspections of the perimeter became even more stressful, for a time, as the command tried to find the leak.

At the same time the medical types were still treating the infections, and wondering how the SeaBees were getting any was a bit of fodder for late night bull sessions. Then the SeaBees infection rate started to go up, sharply, compared to the baseline before the base was closed, and they started to get serious about finding the source of the epidemic.

I don’t know if it were the increased patrols, or if one of the interviews with the affected SeaBees gave the command the clue to crack the case. But what happened was that while the base was still open, but the writing was on the wall, some enterprising souls within the SeaBee command decided that while they were building the fortifications they’d take some of the supplies for a little Morale, Welfare and Recreation facility of their own: they recruited several local girls, and built a whorehouse on their part of the reservation.

Not that transmission via toilet seat is a common vector for VD anyway…

Anyone who’s interested in this topic really should look up William Styron’s autobiographical essay “A Case of the Great Pox” (reprinted in the collection Havanas in Camelot, among other places). Styron was treated for syphillis while in the Navy during WW2, and it’s a funny, eye-opening story.

I’m resurecting this zombie just to mention that over the weekend, H2 aired an episode of “Heavy Metal” about destroyers. And one of the things they specifically pointed out was the red toilet in the head.