Hormuz incident? Navy says monkey business


Richard Moore


ŒFilipino Monkey¹ may be behind radio threats, ship drivers say

By Andrew Scutro and David Brown
Posted : Sunday Jan 13, 2008 12:12:49 EST

The threatening radio transmission heard at the end of a video showing harassing
maneuvers by Iranian patrol boats in the Strait of Hormuz may have come from a 
locally famous heckler known among ship drivers as the ³Filipino Monkey.²

Since the Jan. 6 incident was announced to the public a day later, the U.S. Navy
has said it¹s unclear where the voice came from. In the videotape released by 
the Pentagon on Jan. 8, the screen goes black at the very end and the voice can 
be heard, distancing it from the scenes on the water.

³We don¹t know for sure where they came from,² said Cmdr. Lydia Robertson, 
spokeswoman for 5th Fleet in Bahrain. ³It could have been a shore station.²

While the threat ‹ ³I am coming to you. You will explode in a few minutes² ‹ was
picked up during the incident, further jacking up the tension, there¹s no proof 
yet of its origin. And several Navy officials have said it¹s difficult to figure
out who¹s talking.

See the Pentagon¹s version of the video

A link to the Iranian version (click the camera icon)

³Based on my experience operating in that part of the world, where there is a 
lot of maritime activity, trying to discern [who is speaking on the radio 
channel] is very hard to do,² Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead told 
Navy Times during a brief telephone interview today.

Indeed, the voice in the audio sounds different from the one belonging to an 
Iranian officer shown speaking to the cruiser Port Royal over a radio from a 
small open boat in the video released by Iranian authorities. He is shown in a 
radio exchange at one point asking the U.S. warship to change from the common 
bridge-to-bridge channel 16 to another channel, perhaps to speak to the Navy 
without being interrupted.

Further, there¹s none of the background noise in the audio released by the U.S. 
that would have been picked up by a radio handset in an open boat.

So with Navy officials unsure and the Iranians accusing the U.S. of 
fabrications, whose voice was it? In recent years, American ships operating in 
the Middle East have had to contend with a mysterious but profane voice known by
the ethnically insulting handle of ³Filipino Monkey,² likely more than one 
person, who listens in on ship-to-ship radio traffic and then jumps on the net 
shouting insults and jabbering vile epithets.

Navy women ‹ a helicopter pilot hailing a tanker, for example ‹ who are 
overheard on the radio are said to suffer particularly degrading treatment.

Several Navy ship drivers interviewed by Navy Times are raising the possibility 
that the Monkey, or an imitator, was indeed featured in that video.

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 ³Tanker Wars² of the late 

³For 25 years there¹s been this mythical guy out there who, hour after hour, 
shouts obscenities and threats,² he said. ³He could be tied up pierside 
somewhere or he could be on the bridge of a merchant ship.²

And the Monkey has stamina.

³He used to go all night long. The guy is crazy,² he said. ³But who knows how 
many Filipino Monkeys there are? Could it have been a spurious transmission? 

Furthermore, Hoffman said radio signals have a way of traveling long distances 
in that area. ³Under certain weather conditions I could hear Bahrain from the 
Strait of Hormuz.²

Cmdr. Jeff Davis, a Navy spokesman at the Pentagon, could not say if the voice 
belonged to the heckler.

³It¹s an international circuit and we¹ve said all along there were other ships 
and shore stations in the area,² he said.

When asked if U.S. officials considered whether the threats came from someone 
besides the Iranians when releasing the video and audio, Roughead said: ³The 
reason there is audio superimposed over the video is it gives you a better idea 
of what is happening.²

Similarly, Davis said the audio was part of the ³totality² of the situation and 
helped show the ³aggressive behavior.²

Another former cruiser skipper said he thought the Monkey might be behind the 
audio threats when he first heard them earlier this week.

³It wouldn¹t have surprised me at all,² he said. ³There¹s all kinds of chatter 
on Channel 16. Anybody with a receiver and transmitter can hear something¹s 
going on. It was entirely plausible and consistent with the radio environment to
interject themselves and make a threatening comment and think they¹re being 

This former skipper also noted how quiet and clean the radio ³threat² was, 
especially when radio calls from small boats in the chop are noisy and 

³It¹s a tough environment, you¹re bouncing around, moving fast, lots of wind, 
noise. It¹s not a serene environment,² he said. ³That sounded like somebody on 
the beach or a large ship going by.²

He said he and others believe that the Filipino Monkey is comprised of several 
people, and whoever gets on Channel 16 to heckle instantly gets the monicker.

³It was just a gut feeling, something the merchants did. Guys would get bored, 
one guy hears it, comes back a year later and does it for himself,² he said. ³I 
never thought it was one, rather it was part of the woodwork.²

The former skipper noted that he warned his crew about hecklers when preparing 
to transit Hormuz. ³I tell them they¹ll hear things on there that will be 
insulting,² he said. ³You tell your people that you¹ll hear things that are 
strange, insulting, aggravating, but you need to maintain a professional 

A civilian mariner with experience in that region said the Filipino Monkey 
phenomenon is worldwide, and has been going on for years.

³They come on and say ŒFilipino Monkey¹ in a strange voice. They might say it 
two or three times. You¹re standing watch on bridge and you¹re monitoring 
Channel 16 and all of a sudden it comes over the radio. It can happen anytime. 
It¹s been a joke out there for years.²

While it happens all over the world, it¹s more likely to occur around the Strait
of Hormuz because there is so much shipping traffic, he said.

Chris Amos and Zachary M. Peterson contributed to this report

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