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Posts Tagged ‘Japan’

This week’s theme is on “Military” so I am writing about the United States Air Force. Not only did my father and maternal grandfather serve but I was born at a USAF Base medical center. As Yoda would say: “The Force is strong with this one.”


Glen Johnson

My grandfather Glen Roy Johnson (whom I’ve written about several times before) entered the Army Signal Corps on February 5, 1918 during WWI. My grandparents had been married not quite 14 months and had a son who had been born in mid-December 1917. He went to basic training at Kelly Field in San Antonio, Texas before being assigned to the 14th Balloon company with training at Fort Omaha, Nebraska. During training, one of the balloons exploded killing two and injuring over 30. Either then or at another time during training, my grandfather’s hand became injured resulting in a permanent curve to two of his fingers.

Gen Pershing is 5th man from the right

My granddad left for France in July 1918. The day after they landed, General John Joseph Pershing insisted on inspecting the 14th and 15th Balloon companies. Years later in life he was quoted in a local newspaper as saying, “We were just off the transport after 11 days at sea and most of us hadn’t had a bath. He [Gen. Pershing] was quite impressed that we were enlisted men.” (The Fairborn Daily Herald. Lucille Rue. 8 Aug 1978.)


Photo taken of a display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio
Caption reads in part: Balloon of the 14th Balloon Company – following Armistice

After returning from France and being discharged as a private, Granddad won a reserve commission while he was a civilian worker. It was to the Quartermaster Corps. At the time he was living in Greene county, Ohio in a town called Fairfield which would eventually become Fairborn (along with the merge of neighboring town Osborn). In 1942 he re-entered active duty in the Army Air Corps which would become the United States Air Force. He retired on December 1, 1958 as a Colonel.


Gene Amore – 1950s – Japan

My father, Eugene (Gene) Amore enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps on November 16, 1939. He went to Iceland in August 1942 where he was stationed for 15 months as an airplane mechanic with the air transport command. After he returned and following the marriage of my parents in December 1943, my Dad was stationed in Great Falls, Montana for awhile. In early 1953, he was sent to Tachikawa Air Base in Japan. My mom, brother and sister followed several months later. Most of the 1950s saw my family living in Japan through two tours of duty. He retired from the US Air Force in 1960. After returning to the Dayton area, my dad worked Transporation in Civil Service. During the Air Force museum’s move from a building off Broad Street in Fairborn, Ohio just inside the gates of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, my dad was responsible for the transportation of all of the aircraft, etc. to their new home located off of Springfield Street in Dayton – the present location.

I am very proud and thankful for my Granddad’s and my Dad’s service to the United States and the Air Force. The Air Force is in my blood. Each time I wander through the Museum filled with aircraft, artifacts, and history, I get goosebumps knowing that my family played a part in all of that.

(All pictures – original and digital in possession of Wendy LIttrell. US Air Force Logo – courtesy Wikimedia commons)

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green park

My parents, brother and sister called Green Park apartments in Tokyo, Japan their home for a short time when they lived overseas in the 1950s. Built around 1953, the complex had everything families would need under one roof – a post exchange, a movie theater, club for teens, etc.

For more information about Green Park, please visit Green Park photo essay featured on the Japan Brats website (which is also a very cool site to peruse if you happened to spend a lot of growing up years in Japan as a military brat – I’m looking at my sister here!)

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gaffeygazette

In 1953, my dad had already been in Japan for several months. Now, it was time for my mom, brother and sister to make the journey. They boarded the USNS General Hugh Gaffey for the trip over the sea from Seattle to Japan. Following are bits of my mother’s letter diary she wrote.

June 10, 1953
Well, will start our daily diary on board ship.
June 9 – We were up at 5:00 A.M. at the Hostess House. Had our bed check at 6:00. Bags were picked up at 6:30. Then we went to breakfast at 7:00 A.M. Had 2 hrs to wait. At 9:10 we boarded buses to take us to the pier. Everything went according to schedule. At 10:15 we unloaded, rec’d our passports and went aboard.
Mom Ann Mike on ship
After looking over our cabin & stowing away some of our packages we carried aboard, we went up on deck. Our cabin is on B deck which is 2 decks below. Have nice quarters. It was very interesting to watch people coming aboard as we were among the first to board. The band was playing. We took several pictures of the dock and band & people coming aboard.
We pulled away from the pier promptly at 11:00. Stayed on deck for awhile, then went below. We are on 2nd call for mess so our hrs are 8:00 A.M., 11:45 and 5:15.
In the afternoon we had to go to a meeting and also had a fire & boat drill. We don’t stay below too long at a time as I guess the depth and rocking of the ship makes you squeamish.
We went up on the sun deck and watched the sights. We are traveling the great circle route which is by way of Alaska. Our ship travels 29 knots & goes faster than you realize. At 7 o’clock I asked one of the Lt’s if we were out of the sound yet as we still saw land. He laughed & said what you see now is the Aleutian chain, stretching out from Alaska. The sun never set till 10 P.M. last nite & was beautiful. Also at 10 P.M. we saw the last touch of land. The children have curfew at 8:00 P.M. They have to be in bed by that hr.  We will only be on the water 9 sailing days but due to the time change will actually be 10 according to the calendar. I heard someone talking & they said we would skip Sat, but will wait & see, you hear so many rumors you’d be dizzy if you believe them all.
June 10 – It is now 11:15 and will soon go to lunch.  We were up at 6:30 and made ourselves presentable, at our breakfast or rather I did. Was raining this A.M. & real rough.  Was like riding the elevator.  The ship just pitches about.  The Captain announced some of the decks closed due to rough weather.  He expects to be out of this roughness in the next day or two. In the evening played canasta.  We have coffee hr at 9:00 so drank coffee & ate angel food cake & then retired.  The ships paper said we traveled 471 miles in the last 25 hrs.
June 11th – We sat our watches back one hr in the nite, and made it difficult to try to sleep. The sea is really rough today the ship just rocks from side to side & back & forth. We have run into considerable fog. Was talking to the Capt of the ship & he said this fog has put us back a day & they have changed course. He’s a very nice person & comes around & talks with everyone. We have slowed down to 15 knots & traveled 560 miles in the last 25 hrs. We have 2400 troops aboard too & I feel for those boys. They don’t have any privileges & have to stay either on the forward deck or aft. and have no protection. They are quartered on the same deck as we are but are in the center of the ship & very poor ventilation.
June 12th – We sat our watches back another hr in the nite, and are to set our watches back again tonite. We rec’d our declarations forms for customs at 8:30 this morning. It is quite a job to fill it out. Had another boat & fire drill this morning at 10:30. Tomorrow we pay our subsistence. It is much cheaper than we all thot. Is only 16.43 per person so will only come to little over $49.00. Here I was planning on $90.00. The trip across is cheaper than the trip from Ohio to Seattle.
June 13th – We ran into a storm in the late afternoon & tossed the ship.  Our port holes were latched down & our room was like a dungeon.  It is the Aleutian squall we are in.
June 14th – It’s Sunday & sure is rough.  The bow of the ship comes up out of the water & slaps down.  Still have our port holes latched down.  It is stifling in the cabin.  All decks are out of bounds as the waves are quite high & we toss about.
June 16th – It is Tuesday.  We cross the international date line yesterday afternoon.  So we missed Monday entirely.  The sea has calmed so our port hole is open.  Has warmed up & by grapevine we are 2½ days out of Yokohoma.  Boy this is a long boat ride, even tho I haven’t got sick I’ve seen all the water I want to for awhile.  It’s the monotony that gets me.
June 17 – Wed & just a few more days to go.  The day passed very fast for me.
Debarkation title
June 18 – Thurs & today & tomorrow before we get off this ship.  We will drop anchor late tomorrow afternoon about 20 miles off shore & then Sat morning will dock. It is getting very hot. We ran into a squall last nite & they latched down the port holes & brother we roasted. I’m sitting here in my slip trying to cool off. Will write more tomorrow.
Fri June 19th.  This is our final day sailing.  Will drop anchor sometime this evening.  Also we are to see land about eight tonite, sure will be good to see the good solid land (even tho its Japan it’s better than all this water).  The steward was telling me it’s a sight to watch the husbands come storming up the gang plank.  They are to come on by alphabetical order there’s no stopping them.  I’m going on deck to watch them & take some pictures then will rush down to the cabin.
Sat – June 20.  This is the great day.  It seems nobody slept much in the nite.  Saw land for the first in 9 days.  We had stopped around midnight & was sitting outside the harbor.

Yokohama harbor
At 8:30 had our money changed.  Then back on deck.  We couldn’t take pictures till we were 300 yds from the pier.  We had a good spot along the rail.  Finally we could see the sponsors & band in the distance.  Seemed the ship would never get to the pier.  I started taking pictures of the band just as we nosed into the pier.  I spotted Gene right away.  They were all standing on a high balcony.  I started waving & finally he spotted us.  He used the binoculars so he could see us close.  He also was taking pictures as the ship was pulled alongside.  Gene was smart & started downstairs.  He got up to the gate so he could be one of the first on board.  All the passengers on board had to go to their cabins so the sponsors could find you.  He had a staff car & driver to take us to where we were going.  Went thru customs.  I’ll bring this diary to a close for this time.

(Photos: Mom, her roommate Ann and my sister on the deck of the USNS General Hugh Gaffey. Photographer: Jim Amore. Digital image scanned from original slide by Wendy Littrell; Scans of ship’s newspaper, originals in possession of Wendy Littrell; photo of Yokohama Harbor. Photographer: Jim Amore. Digital image scanned from original photo in possession of Wendy Littrell – address for private use.)

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Yoshie (hopefully I’m spelling that right!) – was my parents’ Japanese maid while they were living in Japan. I have heard a lot of stories about her. I do know that I heard everyone talk about her fondly. For many years, she and my parents exchanged Christmas cards and letters. I wonder what happened to her and her family.

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leaving battlecreek

When my dad got orders for Japan in the early ’50s, he went ahead of the rest of the family.  Mom had to get from Ohio to the Pacific Coast in order to sail to Japan. 

The photo at left was taken when my mom, brother and sister were leaving my Uncle’s home in Michigan headed west.  They drove 450 miles in one day and got to Fargo, North Dakota about 6:15 p.m.  In a postcard to her folks, Mom said they stayed at a cabin for the night – the cost: $4.  They traveled through Montana and went to Oregon in order to visit my great-grandmother for a short time.hughgaffey naval ship  Then north to Seattle to Fort Lawton where they had to wait a few days before sailing to Japan on June 9, 1953. 

The trip, aboard the USNS General Hugh J. Gaffey, would take 12 days – although by crossing the international date line, they lost a day.  While on board, my sister tap danced in a Variety show and my brother – when not seasick – made friends.  The ship carried 2400 troops – all on their way to Yokohama. 

dad_nash

trainMy parents were in Japan for two tours and while there, they drove the Nash that had been transported via ship with them.  Sometimes they jim school busrode a train like the one pictured (left) and my siblings rode a bus (right) back and forth to school or on field trips.

While on their 2nd tour in Japan, my parents and brother all learned to fly courtesy of the Tachikawa Aero Club.  They even “starred” in a short film promoting the Aero Club Family Plan.  Back in the States and after I came along, my parents still flew every once in awhile.  Here’s a picture of my Dad in ’72 getting ready to fly.dad by plane

My parents had some very interesting adventures in the air and on land.  I feel very blessed that not only do I have stories and pictures, but memories of when I accompanied them on some of their adventures!

Written for the 18th Edition of Smile for the Camera – Travel.

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japanese-clothesline

Clothesline on the outskirts of Tokyo, Japan – mid 1950s
Photographer: Gene Amore
Original photo property of Wendy Littrell (Address for private use)

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Audio Tapes

In the 1950s when my parents lived in Japan, they bought a reel-to-reel tape player and recorded oral letters which they sent to my grandparents in Ohio.  There weren’t many that survived as they were erased, recorded over or became so bad no one could understand what was recorded on them.  Those that did survive were compiled into CDs by my cousin and sent out to those of us who were there.  I really wasn’t there as it was many years before I was born.  I’m on one or two tapes that were recorded at my dad’s family reunions. 

Yesterday I received these seven CDs in the mail and hurriedly put one in to listen.  I had never heard my sister as a young girl or my brother’s voice as a young man.  All of them – including my parents – sound so young.  Then today I listened to another CD that included the voices of my grandparents. 

To say that this is like Christmas for me would be an understatement.  I’m hearing people whose voices I haven’t heard in many years.  Even though I have dozens of handwritten letters, there is something to be said to actually hear family speak about their day to day activities.  I hear the excitement of being in a new country, the sadness of being so far from family, the laughter from being silly, and the fear when my aunt became very sick.

My cousin probably doesn’t really understand just how much these CDs mean to me.  It’s a piece of time that will never come again – yet it’s been captured forever in the lilting words of my family.

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