Before leaving Itami Air Force base in Japan for a new assignment in Nagoya, at Fifth Air Force headquarters, I had obtained a copy of The Status Forces Agreement, signed by General MacArthur, returning the sovereignty of Japan back to the Japanese people. I was unaware of that when the Air Force issued me military orders to join my Air Force husband.
I knew of the Status forces agreement, but did not know this country no longer had any jurisdiction there, and military assigned there were guests in that country. I only learned about it sitting in a Japanese jail, and the airman 3rd class, sent to represent me by the Provost Marshal’s office informed me.
From the moment I read the agreement, my life changed forever, because from that moment on I never stopped in my pursuit to understand the philosophy of freedom, and learn about how political governments operate and mine in particular. I will be writing more about that.
Proceeding on our trip from Gifu to Nagoya, we arrived at Fifth Air Force headquarters, a very large military facility our American government had built, with a lot of administrative buildings and housing. We were assigned living quarters in one of the office buildings, until assigned a house in a community of 21 American families in an area near by called Smithtown.
It was a nice little community of officers and enlisted personnel, everyone was very sociable and we played a lot of bridge. Our house was on the edge of a canal, with a dam built just above it. We had been there a few months, when one couple and my husband and I were playing bridge and it was pouring rain. They left about midnight, and a couple hours later we were awakened by yelling and screaming, to wake up and get out.
The dam had broken and homes flooded. Refrigerators were floating down the hall. The men got all the families in their cars and we were able to drive out and go the the Base facilities, where we slept on the floor in one of the vacant buildings.
The next morning, the waters had subsided, and all the husbands returned to Smithtown in trucks to retrieve what they could of household furnishings and clothes. Everything was wet, and taken to another empty building, where we spent days trying to dry stuff out and recover what we could. I recall one Major who had a large collection of film, stretching it out on the floor to dry out in hopes of saving it.
We had left without even a toothbrush, and no one ever came to our rescue, like the Red Cross to help us. All the work of moving was accomplished by the 21 husbands who lived there.
We were reassigned a house about 20 miles away, in a settlement which had been occupied previously by top military echelon, like Generals, therefore they were very nice housing, in an area where there was cormorant fishing at night.
When we looked at the house it was all cleaned up and a large lovely place, but the pantry still had food items left and office supplies, including baby food and bottles of ink.
We drove out behind the truck loaded with our household furnishings. I went inside the house to discover it had been vandalized by kids and the floors were covered with ink and baby food. The maid and I began cleaning up, when a neighbor came over and said my husband had a phone call.
When he returned, he informed me that orders had been cut for his reassigment to Burma, to go there to train Burmese pilots to fly helicopters, and a plane was all ready to fly him there. I left to drive him back to Nagoya Air Base, left the maid to continue cleaning and the truck and driver standing by to unload when she finished. I did not see my husband again for nine months.
I returned to help the maid arrange everything the movers had unloaded. I enrolled one child in a school, met all the neighbors, other American families and everyone was very social and helpful. We cooked out together and played a lot of bridge. Did a lot of shopping and sightseeing, particularly visiting the lake at night to watch the cormorant fishing, which was rather exciting.
A couple of friends and I flew to Tokyo on a trip of sightseeing, staying at the Imperial hotel again, and shopping a bit. The maid and houseboy took care of the children for a couple of days.
I found Nagoya to be a very interesting city, noted as the cultural center of Japan. A lot of ancient castles and historic sites to visit, and a great place to shop. I did a lot of shopping, for china, art work and furniture, and had a number of pieces custom-made. The children enjoyed the sightseeing in Nagoya.
When my husband returned from nine months in Burma, we moved back on Base in a lovely former General’s house. I enjoyed living there, had a number of friends, including the Base commander, and I threw a lot of dinner parties. Mainly because there were several young pilot batchelors in my husband’s squadron, away from their families, who enjoyed home cooking and playing bridge and chess. They lived nearby in barracks, after duty in the evenings there was not much to do.
I recall the Base doctor was a batchelor and he joined us. The Base commander was married but his wife was back in the States, so I would invite him for dinner. My children enjoyed playing games with the young pilot batchelors. Games like Monopoly and chess. I think we were there about a year before being reassigned to Tachikawa Air Base in Tokyo.
One of the largest dependent housing developments in the world called Grant Heights, where Air Force, Navy and Marine military lived, and we were assigned a very nice house, just outside the large officer’s club there. I could walk out my back door to go to the club for happy hour, Bridge Club, officer wives club meetings and etc. I really enjoyed my time there.
My husband was home more than usual, but still a number of temporary duty assignments in other parts of the far East. As a helicopter pilot in Air-Sea rescue, there was always something going on. He was an outstanding command pilot and at one time had more flying time in helicopters than anyone else in the Air Force at that time.
Once flying in off the Pacific Ocean, his helicopter crashed just off the coast of Yokohoma. As the craft rolled in the water he crawled out and pulled all his crew out safely before it sank in a matter of minutes. A Japanese fishing crew rescued them, and took them to shore to a club, where they were served a bottle of liquor named Old Ocean. I have pictures of the scrambled wreckage after being pulled from the ocean.
One other tragedy was when a Japanese gravel truck hit us, my husband driving but we were all in the car. Folded my little baby green Buick Rivera up. No one was killed but I was pregnant, taken to the hospital and lost the child as a result of the accident. Aside from those two tragedies, I enjoyed living in Tokyo.
Continued in Part Five about Life in Tokyo Area.
Let Freedom Ring
Just me AC