Growing Up In Japan

My memories of Japan start on May 1, 1958 when our passenger ship, a converted World War II attack transport ship , the USS Frederick Funston (APA-89), pulled into the port of Yokohama and seeing all these red flags waving and signs that said “Go home Yankees.” I asked my dad about it and he told me that some of the Japanese didn’t like Americans and I didn’t need to worry about it, but as a seven-year-old that made me wonder if we should go back to Kansas the next day on another ship.

The place we would call home was Tachikawa Air Base which was about 18 miles from Tokyo and we made the trip that first day in a very small taxi which took over 2 hours. I remember my mother was very worried that we would all be killed on the way because of all the traffic and so many people on bicycles on the road, but we made it.

My father’s Air Force tour of duty would be as the managing editor of the Tachikawa Air Base newspaper.

What a place “Tachi” as it was called was to grow up. The base was divided into 2 parts with the airplane hangars and runway dividing it, the west side which included the main housing area and east side that had the largest military hospital in Japan.

For a family you had anything and everything you could want located on the base, kindergarten and grade school thru jr. high, with the high school located at Yamato Air Station a few miles away.  The base had 2 theaters, 2 base exchanges, 2 gyms, a teen club, 3 clubs for the military and 1 club for the civilian personnel, a commissary, 3 swimming pools, 2 football fields, hobby shop, 8 baseball fields, twelve tennis courts, two churches, an event service center where you could take all kinds of classes or weekend trips. The base buses ran every 15 minutes going in opposite directions around the base.

I would finish up the first grade upon my arrival and complete the 5th grade before we would leave to go back to the states in June 1962 heading for Westover Air Force Base in Massachusetts. Little did I imagine then that I would be going back to Tachikawa, Japan again, but in May 1967 my father accepted a Civil Service position as the 6100th Support Wing Historian at “Tachi.”

My family arrived at Tachikawa Air Base, Japan for the second time in May 1967 and I would attend my junior and senior years at Yamato High School, Home of the Warriors, where I would graduate from on June 6, 1969.

Growing up at Tachikawa Air Base was a wonderful time in my life and my memories and adventures of being there are still fresh in my mind, like the time I attended the summer base open house and met two Japanese college students who asked if they could write me to practice writing in English, which I said was fine. About 2 weeks later my Dad got a call from the base post office that I had received some mail. Stopping by the post office I went in and asked for my mail and the airman said, “Come over to the side door, I have two bags for you.” I wondered who had sent me something, maybe an early birthday gift, but it turned out to be over 500 letters! Its seems the Japanese college students I met at the base open house had posted my name and address on the college school bulletin board and I got letters from most of the students that were taking the English writing course.

But as they say, if I could do it all over again… I would in a heartbeat.