There comes a time when it seems apropos to get off the treadmill and re-think where we stand individually. As I look back, reminding myself, my first real moment of awakening came about living in Japan, in a prefecture near where the movie Sayonara was filmed.
I had only been in Japan a few weeks, arriving at Itami AFB where my husband had been for six months. He was a helicoptor pilot in Air-sea rescue. I was the last wife in his squadron to arrive.
I was out shopping with 4 other officer wives, when the driver hit a child on a bicycle. The child only had minor injuries but we were all taken by the Japanese to a local jail.
For the next 4 hours were interrogated by the police. Bombarded with questions. The one I so vividly recall they repeatedly asked was, “Are you a member of the Communist party?”
Finally, through an interpreter I was able to get a phone call to the Provost Marshall’s office to send someone to represent us. We were quite a distance from the base and this took time. The representative they sent was an Airman 3rd class, who simply folded his arms and informed us we were under the jurisdiction of the Japanese government, and had to do what they told us to do. I was shocked. And wanted to know why I was under the jurisdiction of this foreign government, and asked the airman, don’t they know we won the war? He informed me that under the Status Forces Agreement, signed by MacArthur, we were guests of this foreign government.
We were eventually released, and upon arrival back at Itami airbase there was a big party at the Officers Club for the release of these 4 officers’ wives from the Japanese jail .
I was not in a celebration mood, still wondering where my government of the people, by the people and for the people which I studied about in high school civics was. And why I was not informed of the sellout by our government before cutting orders for me to join my husband in this strange foreign land.
After a night’s sleep in the little primitive Japanese house, I set out to find a copy of the Status Forces Agreement signed by MacArthur, and when I read it, sure enough, there it was, our government signing over jurisdiction to the Japanese government. This was in 1956.
That was the big turning point in my life, and from that day forward, set out to learn all I could about the government of my country in particular and the role of other governments in general. Mine was a very intense pursuit for many years to follow.
I think it was 1957 when “Atlas Shrugged” was published and I obtained an early copy. This great novel was what I needed to enlighten me about the role of individualism versus political government, and it had a profound impact on me. My best friend was living in Okinawa, and I made frequent trans-ocean calls to her to discuss it with her. She was an ally of ideas I could discuss with her, as I went through a metamorphosis in my thinking about the basic tenets of political government.
We moved to Nagoya, which was headquarters for the Fifth Airforce. We lived in a settlement outside the base, in a little community called Smithtown. We were there a short time, when one night a very heavy rainstorm came, and we played bridge until after midnight, wondering if the dam above us would hold. Around 3 am we were awakened to water rising in the house, and furniture floating. There were 21 families in the settlement, and lot of people were screaming. The men gathered, and started evacuation, and fortunately everyone got out alive from the sudden flood.
We were taken to one of the large headquarter buildings in Nagoya. The rains had stopped and the job of recovering belongings in the flood began. Everything was dumped in another empty building. We had nothing but the clothes on our backs, not even a toothbrush.
It was amazing how the military men pitched in together to recover our property from the flood. And the work began to try to salvage as much as we could. I recall one Major almost in tears as he tried to dry out boxes of film he treasured. All recovery was done by military personnel. No Red Cross ever came to offer any help, nor did the local Japanese.
There is a resiliency in the spirit of the American armed forces and their dependents. in a short time, we were all relocated in very nice housing. My husband and I were sent to an adjoining town several miles away to Gifu, I think was the name of the town. First we traveled over the very rugged primitive road to the house to see our new home. It was large and a very nice house in good condition. The next day our furniture was loaded up for the move. We followed the truck with the children, a German Shepherd dog named Taco and a Japanese maid.
When we arrived and opened the door the house had been vandalized. The former tenants had left items in the pantry, including baby food and bottles of ink. Some local kids had taken the baby food and ink and spread all over the floors. Nothing to do but get busy and clean up, before movers could unload furniture.
The unloading was about half-finished, when a neighbor came and said my husband had a phone call. The call was to notify my husband to report back to base immediately. He was on orders to leave for Burma. We immediately packed his B-4 bag and I drove him back to the base where a C-130 was warming up for take-off to Burma. Leaving the children, the maid and movers to continue the unloading.
This sudden temporary duty assignment extended to nine months. He was assigned there to train Burmese pilots to fly helicoptors.
So there I was stranded in the boondocks of this strange country, while my husband was re-assigned to another country. I decided it was up to me to make the most of a situation, which seemed to be one tragic thing after another. But my determination kicked in and I got settled in the new home, enrolled the children in school, invited friends in to play bridge, went sightseeing, and made the most of the hand dealt to me.
When he returned we were assigned a lovely house on base at Fifth Air Force headquarters, which was much improved accommodations, and the next few months everything went well and I spent a lot of time shopping, and reading and a great deal of entertaining. There were a number of personnel there without their families and I enjoyed having dinner parties, inviting them to join us. Including the base Commander, who became a good friend.
I don’t recall exactly how long we lived at Nagoya, but eventually re-assigned to Tokyo when the base there closed. I don’t like flying and recall the scary flight from Nagoya to Tokyo in a military plane. The pilot was a good friend, but I was very nervous and the pilot told the co-pilot to bring me to the cockpit, to look out to calm my nerves. I looked straight down from the cockpit and thought I was going to faint. I had flown several times in a Japanese airline from Nagoya to Tokyo and there was always an area near Mt. Fuji that was a bit rough. However we landed safe and sound and after a night in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Imperial Hotel, a massage and steam bath, I was ready for the next leg of this journey and moved into Grants Heights.
Many interesting experiences there the following two years, I won’t describe in this article, because my main thrust in writing this is to describe the route I took learning the Philosophy of Freedom and the role of political governments, which was ongoing since my time held in the Japanese jail.
After reading the Status Forces Agreement and Atlas Shrugged, I obtained a copy of “The Ugly American.” The setting for this book was Burma, and released while my husband was in Burma training the Burmese pilots. He spent a great deal of time at the American Embassy in Burma, and said orders were not to allow the Burmese see one reading the book.
One note about his nine month tour there, he was made an Honorary Pilot of the Burmese Airforce, and I have the certificate of that, by Burmese government. This certificate was accompained by a letter from the U.S. goverment, stating this honor bestowed upon him could not be made public.
I have written about some of my many experiences in Japan, like playing bridge with Japanese Royalty and dining with nobility, and working in Japanese movies and modeling while living there. I had many interesting times as well as some very difficult times.
When it came time to depart, orders were cut to fly myself and children home. I rebelled and said no, I’m not flying 30 hours over the Pacific ocean. The military did rescind and re- issued new orders to return home via ship. A two week journey across the Pacific.
Arriving in San Francisco, I knelt and kissed the ground of a country I loved, and hit the road running to learn more about the government and the Why of the way things were.
Continuing the story of my “Discovery of Freedom” in next article.
LET FREEDOM RING
JUST ME AC