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Revisited: Analysis of a 17-year-old warrior

While wandering around in the bowels of my archived postings on WordPress, I found this brilliantly worded essay. On re-reading it I was so enthralled by the superior quality of the writing that I felt obliged to bring it out of the Stygian darkness of the archives and offer it up to newcomers to my blog, and to any long-time followers that may have overlooked it, whether by accident or through deliberation. It’s a good read, featuring bits of our nation’s history of lost wars and a self-analysis of one who was a participant—at the scene, so to speak, and qualified to discuss such activities. Click here to read about my arrival in the Far East.

Analysis of a 17-year-old warrior

As does virtually every family, mine has a shoe box filled with snapshots of family and friends spanning decades of living and loving and working, showing many of the places where we lived and worked and places where we went for recreational purposes. I recently found an old black-and-white photo of a certain 17-year-old warrior, a young lad that somehow made his way to Japan somewhere between the ages of 17 and 18 years, an age at which he should have been at home in Columbus, Mississippi enrolled in the eleventh grade at Stephen D. Lee High School, working at various part-time jobs, chasing girls and striving mightily to maintain a C-average.
I was intrigued by the differences between that lad then and the same person now, some 60 years later. I was captivated by the photo, taken sixty years ago in 1950 in front of temporary quarters in the city of Fukuoka on the Japanese island of Kyushu—so captivated that I decided to share it with my viewers.

I refer to this lad as a warrior based on the knowledge that during the summer of 1950, shortly after North Korea invaded South Korea, he was en route to Korea from Japan to help in our war to keep South Korea free from communism, and would continue in that effort for the next 15 months. Some nineteen years later he would be in Vietnam for thirteen months with a similar purpose—to help South Vietnam in its struggle against a takeover of the country by the Viet Cong, aided by North Vietnam regulars with help from Russia and China.

In both instances—the war in Korea and the one in Vietnam—he was unsuccessful, and his contributions were for naught. The Korean War ended in a truce that exists to this day, and the Vietnam War ended, for better or worse, in a united Vietnam—the communists won and we lost.

Examine the photo closely—have you ever seen a cockier, more in-your-face, more arrogant and defiant stance? This is a youth of seventeen, some six or seven inches over five feet tall, weighing 115 pounds with a 28-inch waist, dressed in regulation one-piece fatigue coveralls with a fatigue cap on top and un-shined GI brogans on the bottom. Either the cuffs of the coveralls are turned up or the coveralls are too short. The cap is pushed back rather than squared off, hands are in pockets, sleeves are partially rolled up, collar is turned up—a harbinger of the Elvis style to come, still some six years in the future. The first several buttons of the fatigues are unbuttoned revealing no undershirt and a really skinny unhairy chest. And most important, even at that tender age the lad is exhibiting a strong leaning to the right, a stance that incidentally exists to this day, and if it gets much more pronounced I—oops, I mean he—will be unable to stand up without falling.

I am fairly certain that any reader of this posting has already guessed that the lad in the photo is the same person that is writing this posting for his blog on Word Press—yes, I refer to my mother’s youngest son, The King of Texasthat lad is yours truly at the wizened age of seventeen.

My mother’s youngest son bears little resemblance to that 1950s figure, although he still leans to the right in any political stance, and rather than one-piece fatigues he putters around in sweats and house slippers at home and wears jeans, a pullover shirt and sneakers for occasions such as weddings, funerals, jury duty and similar formal events.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

In the four months the original posting was available it garnered only one comment, and that one from a highly biased viewer:

That cocky in-your-face defiance is exactly the kind of guy I want going to war for this country! Thank you for serving with such gusto and guts.

By: sue on August 13, 2010

And this is the response to Sue’s comment by the author, also highly biased:

Hi, Sue, Bless yore little ol’ pea-picking heart. Do you remember Tennessee Ernie Ford and his radio show? Do you remember radio? You have made my day! (Note the exclamation points!) You have a way of reaching the core of any thought and any situation and encapsulating and expressing it in a thoroughly remarkable and memorable manner.

I wanted to use the gerund of capsule by adding “ing” but nothing looked right, not capsuleing or capsulling or capsulleing, and all three were rejected by my spell checker, so I took a path less traveled and used encapsulate, a word that happily accepted the “ing.” I haven’t given up yet. Capsule can be used as a verb and therefore has to have a gerund form—I just ain’t yet found it.

Thanks for visiting and thanks for the comment—y’all come back, ya’ hear!

 
2 Comments

Posted by on January 5, 2011 in foreign travel, Military, wartime

 

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Analysis of a 17-year-old warrior . . .

Analysis of a 17-year-old warrior

As does virtually every family, mine has a shoebox filled with snapshots of family and friends spanning decades of living and loving and working, showing many of the places where we lived and worked and places where we went for recreational purposes. I recently found an old black-and-white photo of a certain 17-year old warrior, a young lad that somehow made his way to Japan somewhere between the ages of 17 and 18 years, an age at which he should have been at home in Columbus, Mississippi enrolled in the eleventh grade at Stephen D. Lee High School, working at various part-time jobs, chasing girls and striving mightily to maintain a C-average.

I was intrigued by the differences between that lad then and the same person now, some 60 years later. I was captivated by the photo, taken sixty years ago in 1950 in front of temporary quarters in the city of Fukuoka on the Japanese island of Kyushu—so captivated that I decided to share it with my viewers.

I refer to this lad as a warrior based on the knowledge that during the summer of 1950, shortly after North Korea invaded South Korea, he was en route to Korea from Japan to help in our war to keep South Korea free from communism, and would continue in that effort for the next 15 months. Some nineteen years later he would be in Vietnam for thirteen months with a similar purpose—to help South Vietnam in its struggle against a takeover of the country by the Viet Cong, aided by North Vietnam regulars with help from Russia and China.

In both instances—the war in Korea and the one in Vietnam—he was unsuccessful, and his contributions were for naught. The Korean War ended in a truce that exists to this day, and the Vietnam War ended, for better or worse, in a united Vietnam—the communists won and we lost.

Examine the photo closely—have you ever seen a cockier, more in-your-face, more arrogant and defiant stance? This is a youth of seventeen, some six or seven inches over five feet tall, weighing 115 pounds with a 28-inch waist, dressed in regulation one-piece fatigue coveralls with a fatigue cap on top and unshined GI brogans on the bottom. Either the cuffs of the coveralls are turned up or the coveralls are too short. The cap is pushed back rather than squared off, hands are in pockets, sleeves are partially rolled up, collar is turned up—a harbinger of the Elvis style to come, still some six years in the future. The first several buttons of the fatigues are unbuttoned revealing no undershirt and a really skinny unhairy chest. And most important, even at that tender age the lad is exhibiting a strong leaning to the right, a stance that incidentally exists to this day, and if gets much more pronounced I—oops, I mean he—will be unable to stand up without falling.

I am fairly certain that any reader of this posting has already guessed that the lad in the photo is the same person that is writing this posting for his blog on Word Press—yes, I refer to my mother’s youngest son, The King of Texasthat lad is yours truly at the wizened age of seventeen.

My mother’s youngest son bears little resemblance to that 1950s figure, although he still leans to the right in any political stance, and rather than one-piece fatigues he putters around in sweats and house slippers at home and wears jeans, a pullover shirt and sneakers for occasions such as weddings, funerals, jury duty and similar formal events.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 

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Mistaken identification—no gold tooth . . .

Long, long ago in 1951 in Japan, a far off land across the sea, a young American corporal, 18 years old, arrived late in the evening to the Transient Quarters at Itazuki, an American air base near the city of Fukuoka on Kyushu, Japan’s most southern island. That young corporal was on an authorized three-day pass for the purpose of resting, relaxing and recuperating from the rigors of singlehandedly fighting a war from Taegue Air Base at Taegue, South Korea, a war that raged between South Korea and North Korea and lasted four years, but was never won by either side—a truce was declared, and that truce exists to this day.

I was assisted in my efforts by the South Korean army and the US Army, Navy, Marines and National Guard units. That assistance was warranted because Communist China’s vast army was assisting North Korea in its effort to take over the entire Korean peninsula.

The hour was late and the lights were already out in the Transient Quarters. I found my way to an empty lower bunk, stuffed my stuff under the bunk, undressed, slipped under the covers and went to sleep. I awoke early the next morning and headed straight for the showers. When my ablutions were completed I returned to my bunk, donned my uniform and prepared to depart for the city for that aforementioned rest, relaxation and recuperation, activities that were considerably more available than in Korea or on the air base.

And then fate crossed me up—I took a cursory glance at the sleeping figure on the top bunk and recognized him immediately. His name was Ord Dunham, a friend I made in basic training, and we completed technical training together at Chanute Air Force Base, Illinois. We both shipped out of San Francisco on the same Army troop ship early in 1950, a few months before the Korean War began and I hadn’t seen him since that time.

I waited around for awhile for him to awaken, and passed the time by reading a comic book that was lying at the foot of bunk—well, at least I was looking at the pictures. I believe it was titled “Wings” or something similar, and its cover featured a beautiful girl drifting to earth under a parachute, one of the older type chutes, one of those with the straps between the legs of the parachutist—I will neither bore nor arouse my viewers by describing the girl’s dress or the lack thereof—suffice it to say that the cover was interesting, memorable and to a certain extent, stimulating. I sincerely hope that she made a safe landing.

I grew tired of waiting, knowing that the waiting was cutting into my time for rest, relaxation and recuperation, so I rolled up the comic book and smartly tapped Ord’s nose with it. His eyes snapped open, he raised up and glared at me, and I said, “Hey, boy, aren’t you a long way from home? He said, “Yeah, I guess I am, so what about it?” As he spoke I was treated to a good look at his front teeth, probably because he was smiling—well, actually he wasn’t smiling—it was more like he was snarling. The Ord Dunham I knew had one gold upper front tooth—the man I swatted across the face with a comic book did not have a gold tooth.

I said, in a very low and probably trembling voice, “You’re not Ord Dunham, are you?’ He replied, “No, I’m not, and that’s a hell of a way to wake a man up in the morning!” I did what any sane, intelligent and reasonable person would do and should do in such a situation—I said, “I made a mistake, and I’m sorry, really sorry, please forgive me,” and I grabbed my ditty bag and tried to restrain my feet to a casual walk towards the exit door. To others I would probably seem to be skipping, or perhaps speed walking.

I survived my faux pas and extended my three-day pass from three to seven days—why and how that was possible, and why I was never given a second three-day pass while in Korea is explained in an earlier posting—click here for the pertinent detailsI can say truthfully and modestly say that the posting is worth a visit.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

PeeEss:

To Ord Dunham, the Ord with the gold tooth: If you should happen to read this, please know that I forgive you for having a remarkable look-alike, one that almost got me in a heap of trouble!

And to Ord Dunham, the Ord with no gold tooth, the Ord on the top bunk: If you should happen to read this and remember the incident, please know that I appreciate the fact that you kept your temper in check that day—thanks—I needed that!

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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My first airplane ride . . .

Picture this:

The year was 1950, I was 17 years old, the season was autumn, the month was September and the place was Itazuke Air Base located a few miles from Fukuoka, a metropolitan Japanese city on the southern island of Kyushu. A twin engine US Air Force aircraft, one shaped vaguely on the order of a bumblebee, rumbled down the runway and lifted off on its flight to Taegue Air Base in South Korea. The C-119 was heavily loaded with spare aircraft parts, maintenance equipment, ground power equipment and a cadre of aircraft maintenance technicians that included electricians, aircraft and engine mechanics, instrument specialists, radio, sheet metal workers and hydraulic Flying Boxcarspecialists. My specialties were those of aircraft electrician and aircraft mechanic, and I was on that flight. To read about events leading up to the flight, click here. And for even more exciting events related to my 23-month vacation in the Far East, click here.

Dubbed The Flying Boxcar, the aircraft was configured for cargo, and the addition of passengers was secondary to its mission. It sported no frills such as sound proofing. Until the aircraft leveled off at its cruising altitude, the noise of the two engines at full throttle were deafening, with every rivet in its aluminum skin singing its own tune. The noise made it difficult to converse with others, but after cruising altitude was reached, the engines were throttled back and the aircraft became relatively quiet.

Prior to boarding the loadmaster called us together, briefed us on the flight and fitted us with backpack parachutes. Yes, Virginia—in the old days every person on a military flight was required to have a parachute. Passenger seating consisted of metal racks with canvas webbing, lashed to the side to provide room for cargo and dropped down to provide seating for passengers. The loadmaster told us that seating was available for everyone, but one of the seats was behind the cargo, in a crowded space that challenged one’s entry and egress. He asked for a volunteer to fill that seat—there were no volunteers so he selected one based on size—he assigned the seat to the  one that needed the least space.

Can you guess who that was? Right! It was my mother’s youngest son, and since I had no choice I accepted the assignment—I scrambled up and over the cargo and dropped down to the seat. I was isolated from all the other passengers but I had a window for light and viewing, with a good view of the #2 engine.

This was my first airplane ride—the first of many, of course, because I kept reenlisting until I retired from the Air Force after 22 years. I spent a lot of time in the air during those 22 years, but this is the flight I remember best.

A special note: I reenlisted the first time in order to get married, and I continued to reenlist in order to stay married. My actions may have involved patriotism, but if so it was a very minor factor. The reason I strove mightily to remain gainfully employed is pictured here.

My ears became plugged before we reached cruising altitude, but I could still hear the muted sound of the engines. However, when the pilot reduced engine power to cruising speed, all noise ceased. The quiet was eerie, and I began to have misgivings—misgivings, hell! I thought both engines had stopped. I looked up at #2, the starboard engine—the  props were still spinning but I decided they were simply windmilling, continuing to turn only because of our speed.

Yep, you guessed correctly again—I panicked. Filled with fear and the certainty that with both engines out we would have to ditch or bail out, I tightened the straps on my chute and scrambled up to the top of the cargo that isolated me from the other passengers. I was presented with a scene that could only be labeled serene—some of the men were sleeping, some were playing cards and some  were reading—none wore parachutes. I swallowed hard several times and my hearing returned, along with the noise of the engines, both operating quiet efficiently.

Other than my panic attack—a secret that I did not share with anyone, at least not until now—the flight was routine, and we landed at Taegue to begin, what was for me, a really long fifteen months in Korea. When the Chinese overran Taegue early in 1951 my outfit was evacuated and—but that’s fodder for another post.

I’ll get back to you later with more details.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on March 4, 2010 in foreign travel, Humor, Military, wartime

 

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Japanese trains are always on time—regardless . . .

A year or so ago, I received an e-mail from the consort of my youngest daughter, the Princess of Wylie, Texas. Her consort is a worthy fellow, an accomplished barrister who serves the public from an office in Plano, Texas. We conferred upon him the title of His Royal Highness, the Prince Consort, a term that we kings use when a royal personage marries a person whose rank is too low for them to be granted full royal status. (NOTE: The children of the Princess of Wylie and her Prince Consort are not in the line of succession to the throne).

The Prince Consort’s e-mail consisted of the mandatory greetings, and included a movie clip showing passengers being packed into train cars in China, in much the same manner as sardines being packed into a can, a much over-used but highly appropriate and picturesque description.

I responded to the e-mail as follows:

Thanks for the movie clip—it sure stirred up a host of memories, and led me to a web site which shows many of the places which I, among many exclusively chosen others, was privileged to tour over 7 months in Japan and 15 months in Korea (April 1950 – February 1952). Bear in mind that the people in these pics are commissioned officers—I was part of the Air Force’s UEF (Unwashed Enlisted Force), and our accommodations weren’t nearly as luxurious as theirs.

That scene gives new meaning to the word packed. A few years ago (okay, more than a few years—59 years ago, give or take a few months) I took a few train rides in Japan. Their packing system was about the same as China’s, and the trains left on time—no exceptions—if a passenger happened to be halfway in and halfway out, both halves started moving, so that person had to make a decision—either give up the fight or travel that way. As best as I can remember, most people chose to give up the fight and remain on the platform.

The Japanese had special express trains that had specific destinations, and those trains flashed by every stop on their way to that destination. Nothing would sway the operator—I unwittingly boarded one such train in Fukuoka, a metropolitan city on the southern island of Kyushu, and passed my duty station at Itasuke Air Base about five miles from the city at warp speed—as George Jones says in song, the train was going so fast that the telephone poles “looked like a picket fence.”

I was in the front of the first car, separated from the motorman by plate glass mounted in a securely locked door. I begged, cursed, shook my fist at the motorman and threatened to bring down the full weight and fury of the United States Air Force on him. I was in my summer khaki uniform, so I pointed to my Private First Class stripes (one on each sleeve) and my US collar brass.

Remarkably unimpressed, he smiled and bowed deeply, gave me a friendly wave then ignored me. I ended up so far out in the country that the townspeople where I finally de-trained didn’t recognize my uniform. I actually flapped my wings in an attempt to show them that I was a proud member of the United States Air Force.

And would you believe it? The train finally stopped in a small city  north of the city of Fukuoka—too far for me to walk back, and I waited for an interminable time for a returning train.

The name of that town was USA.

How’s that for coincidence?

The rumor still persists that an existing city was renamed USA so the townspeople could export items stamped Made in USA to other countries, principally to the United States. It’s nothing more than a rumor—the town was named USA long before World War II.

From that time on, I looked very carefully for its destination before I leaped aboard a train in Japan.

 

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My 7-day Military R & R 3-day pass, Korea & Japan, 1951

I spent 15 months in South Korea during the Korean conflict, from October 1950 through December 1951. US Air Force personnel serving in South Korea during the Korean War were authorized an occasional 3-day pass to Japan, for the dual purposes of R&R (variously referred to as rest and recuperation, rest and relaxation, rest and recreation and other variations, some naughty, of the letters R & R).

This is the story of how I extended an R&R pass from three days to seven days. We were authorized multiple passes depending on mission requirements, but I was restricted to only one—my first was also my last.

The reason for that restriction was as follows:

My request for an R&R in the summer of 1951 was approved. My unit had a vintage (early 1930s) C-47 cargo plane which was used for a daily “milk run” between Taegu, South Korea and Itazuke Air Base near the southern city of Fukuoka, Japan. The aircraft was used to move supplies and personnel, including round-trip flights for those who were authorized a 3-day pass for R&R.

The C-47 was configured to carry 15 passengers in addition to crew and cargo—it departed Taegu in late afternoon daily, remained at Itazuke overnight and departed early the next day for the return flight to Taegu. Persons needing transportation to Korea were required to report no later than 0700 to sign up for the trip. Those who, luckily, were among the first 15 persons in line returned to Korea—those who needed the flight and were not among the first 15 in line were unlucky—their orders were stamped TNA (Transportation Not Available) and they were told to try again the following morning. It was a popular flight, and people were turned away every day because of the 15-passenger limitation.

The reader can probably see this one coming—if any person, reasonably
intelligent and perceptive (there were a few of us), had no burning desire to return to Korea, for whatever reason, that person simply waited, watched and counted until 15 others were in the line before joining it, and then had their orders stamped TNA, thereby legitimately gaining an additional day to be spent in “shopping and sight-seeing” in one of Japan’s largest cities during the post-World War II period of occupation by US military forces.

There were two of us on R&R from my unit, and through manipulation of the sign-up line we extended our stay in Japan—we were still there on the seventh day. However, seven was not our lucky number—when we presented our papers to be stamped NTA on the seventh day, we were told that our commanding officer had called—his orders were: Do not leave the terminal—remain there all day and overnight. Being model members of the US military, we followed his orders and languished in the terminal throughout a long day and an even longer night, and we were, predictably, the first two people in line the next day—we made the flight. On our return to Taegu we were verbally censured and threatened with every punitive action conceivable—except another R&R.

Oh, well. It was nice while it lasted.

I’ll get back to you later with more details on the subject of post-war military-occupied Japan.

 
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Posted by on May 22, 2009 in Humor, Military, Travel

 

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