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APO 917

"Beautiful Tsuiki By The Sea"
The song is Sakura

15 January 1951

 

 Base! This is our base?  When I drove onto what was supposed to be our new base I couldnít believe my eyes.  Now this was Japan and not Korea.  I had expected to find the usual type of base you would normally see in Japan, but what I saw was almost nothing.  As it turns out this had been a Japanese Naval Air Field during WWII.  They had trained Kamikaze pilots here.  Thanks to the USAF there wasnít much left. There was a building with a very tall smoke stack close to the gate, some pieces of concrete scattered around, a shot up hanger, a burned out skeleton of a shop and a runway.  Oh yes, and a lot of sand. 

 Air Installations had to build tent frames again in addition to setting up power and water.  Later on they built a very nice mess hall on the floor of the burned out shop.  As time went on and the work load permitted they built a shower, barber shop and theater.  By spring life was pretty good at Tsuiki.  The Village of Tsuiki was just a country crossroads (mud when it rained) with a few shops and a restaurant or two and the train stopped about twice a week. 

Well, I can tell you that changed pretty fast.  Within a month there must have been at least 20 small bars/restaurants and the train stopped at least once a day.   The Japanese were very nice to us.  Not just because they liked our money, but I found them to be very hospitable.  While I was there I visited in and had meals in a number of the homes.  My name is not easy for the Japanese people to speak so my friends gave me a Japanese name, Taro-san.  I remember one night I had gone into Tsuiki to have a beer.  I walked into a bar that the Airmen didn't go to.  All of the people there were local residents.  They didn't speak English and my Japanese was very limited, but after 2-3 beers we became friends.  It was then that they chose to teach me the Tanko Bushi dance.  Before the night was over they insisted that I be the "leader" in the dance.  Great people.  It would be a pleasure to see them again.  I would like to return to  Tsuiki to see what it is like today and maybe find some old friends.

 I hired a lot of the local people to work at the base.  They were excellent workers and some very excellent craftsmen.  I recall one man that I hired to paint signs.  He didnít speak or write English, but he could copy anything that you wrote down for him.  One day during the lunch break I found him painting a sailboat picture.  I found out later that he was a local artist.  I wish I had that painting today.

In late March - early April I got very ill.  About 48 hours later I was in Army Hospital in Fukuoka Japan with malaria.  You talk about a weight reduction program, I went from 138 pounds down to 121 pounds in a matter of days.  In those days it took me forever to put on weight.  I wish I could say that now.  I finally gained enough weight that they let me go back to the 51st.

April 1951

 I have received orders that I have been transferred from Air Installations Squadron to 51st Wing Headquarters Squadron.  My new job assignment is working in the Flying Safety Office assisting in aircraft accident investigations.  There will be one officer and myself in the office.  Captain Alvin Welbes had the dubious honor of training me for this new position.  He had a lot of patience and before too long I was very comfortable with my new position.  It was very interesting work, but did have its bad times.  We had a pilot taking off on a mission to Korea and his landing gear collapsed and dropped him onto his napalm.  One of our Japanese runway guards managed to pull him from the F-80, but he was already badly burned.  I went to the Med Tent and helped the Medics apply a covering over his body so that they could fly him to an Army Hospital at Fukuoka Japan.  It wasnít part of my job, but they needed the help.  He didnít make it.

In July Major Frank Forsyth, he had replaced Captain Welbes, and I got our orders to go advance party to Suwon K-13 Korea.  The pilots were already flying missions from K-13 so that is where we were needed.

 

 

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