My Travels of Yesteryear

Posted: January 20, 2015 in Life, Travel
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I travelled a lot from six to eleven, but not as a vacationing child of rich parents. So for this article, we will just leave that as a maybe blog down the line. For our purposes we will concentrate on my travels overseas courtesy of the Marine Air Wing commands. (By the way, all pictures are in Gallery format, so if you click on them they will enlarge and then you can arrow back and forth.)

My first stop after a year of boot camp, infantry training, Avionics school, and a short stint in a training squadron was landing on the Island of Okinawa. Now all of the marines I came over with were grunts, or infantry, with the exception of one other guy. They were all shipped out the next day, but they left me and this other guy, both of us to be assigned to an air wing somewhere, dangling for a week or so. This is where I met my best friend for my Japan deployment, he taught me how to play tennis, his name was Doc Holliday. To this day I do not know what his real first name was!

After a week and couple of days we both got orders to Iwakuni Japan. I was, at the time, a navigation computer tech, he worked in the photo lab of a different squadron. We kept in touch however. I eventually got myself transferred to his squadron by a lucky coincidence. They needed avionics techs on the flight line, and I wanted out of the windowless computer van that was my home 10 hours a day. I loved working on the actual aircraft. It was not long before I moved out of the barracks and into a small house with a couple of other Marines from my new squadron. This is where I met my other best friend, Neal Regan. We were not best friends yet, that did not happen until we went to the Philippines and Nam together.

Doc and I spent our time in Japan travelling. I was licensed to drive pretty much any tractor, jeep or 6×6 truck the squadron had. They also got me a license to drive outside the gate in Japan proper, so I bought a car. I don’t even recall the model; I just know it had a two-stroke motorcycle engine for power. It was a little miniature station wagon. Had to fuel up with mix gas, which back then was available at all gas stations. Ecologists would be aghast now! I was the only person in the squadron, enlisted or officer to have a license and car that was legal outside the base. Made me a popular guy. Mostly picking up officers wives at the airport in Hiroshima. They would even give me time off work to go and pick them up. They had some kind of agreement the officers wives could get a three month visa. We enlisted didn’t rate diddly.

This car allowed Doc and I to explore the country around Iwakuni and travel to places like Hiroshima regularly, and basically just get lost on a duty free weekend. We both had critical MOS so did not get assigned but the minimum duty required. (MOS is a job designator)

We made friends with a farmer by scrounging up a pump from the base, rigging up a transformer to make it work on his electrical grid and installing it at his water supply. He was a rice farmer packing water by hand. He spoke no English; we spoke basically no Japanese beyond hello, goodbye, excuse me, and thank you! The only other word I knew at the time was koko, which would get a taxi to stop and let you out! It means “here”. He had a niece that spoke English and he would invite her whenever he had us for dinner. Dinner was usually rice, fish, and a lot of Sake! At first we had stopped and proceeded to help him haul water. He had a fit. But we refused to go away, and when we installed the pump, well we were family! He turned us on to a little sandy beach we could pitch a tent next to a stream that had fish in it. I don’t know what kind of fish they were, they resembled perch. Cooked up well and had very little fishy taste to them. We fished by sitting legs spread in the shallows at the downstream end of a pool while someone else went to the upstream end and started slapping the surface vigorously and wading towards us. Fish would appear between our legs and we would scoop them up and throw them onto the bank.

About this time, Reagan and I had just made L/Cpl and got orders to the Philippines and then missions run out of Danang Vietnam. It turned out that we were both scheduled to go home, there were no NCO’s trained in our particular MOS, so they meritoriously promoted us to Corporal to extend for a second tour, which we did. They then bribed us again with meritorious promotion to Sgt if we would extend again. Best thing that had ever happened to either one of us! We were inseparable as much as possible, watched each others backs! We ran missions out of Danang, but due to reasons I will not go into now; we fixed the aircraft in the Philippines. Broke our little hearts.

When I was in Cubi Point in the Philippines I rented and lived in a three-bedroom house, one bath, complete kitchen. It came with a live in maid, gardener, and security. There were three of us sharing rent, Regan being one of the others. All included with groceries, I spent forty dollars a month. We lived in one of the nicer areas of Olongapo. Normal housing had no running water or toilet facilities. Were one or two rooms mostly, apartment houses were a little nicer, but had community bathrooms, but no bathing facilities. Our maid, unknown to us for a while, slept in a big round chair in the living room. She would stay in the kitchen until we all went to sleep before bedding down, and up and cooking by the time we got up! We increased the food allowance to include her and gave her a raise when we discovered this. We had no place to put her, so we just left the sleeping arrangement as it was. She was around 16, I think. We all treated her with respect, she was not flirted with nor were any remarks made. I had friends with morals, so did not have to police their actions. She cried when Regan and I had to rotate back to Japan and home. We tried to find good people to take our place with her employment guaranteed. It was all we could do. We were never able to find out who her parents were, or even if she had any. So back to Japan, everyone we knew was gone, then back to the world, that is what we called the U.S..

Had some leave in Australia, short hops and stays in China, S. Korea, and a few over nights in Europe, but very short, so I might include them in another blog, but I have let this one run to long as it is!

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