On Duty In Okinawa As Unit Photographer

Hazardous Duty

During my tour in Okinawa the Air Force had an accident with one of its B52 bombers. It was during the Vietnam War and they flew Bombing runs from Okinawa. The Accident was fairly minor but it scared the local Okinawans. Basically one of the bombers had to abort a take off and failed to stop until it had gone past the end of the runway near the fence. I think it was loaded with ordinance and the local people began thinking about what might have been had it crashed into a populated area. The  local Communist Party organized a protest which amounted to several hundred people marching on the gate to the Airbase. The Okinawan Police were in charge of keeping the peace. Their method of handling crowds was to have an equal number of uniformed police.

I was assigned to stand inside the base and take pictures of the incident hoping to get pictures of the people’s faces so that they could identify the Communist sympathizers. The protesters were not really very hostile they were just trying to get in the newspaper and let people know that they were unhappy. They threw rocks over the fence. A few of them came pretty close to me. They also threw some Molotov cocktails. They were not the real thing though, they didn’t use gasoline, instead they used kerosene which is much less dangerous and they threw them into a field of mowed grass. I was having fun watching all this activity and took hundreds of pictures of the people.

At one point they stormed the gate. As usual to counter the pressure of hundreds of people pushing on the gate, hundreds of police pushed on the other side, but this time they had a trick up their sleeves. Hidden in the crowd was a large rope with a big hook on it. As the crowd pressed up against the gate, they hooked the rope onto the gate and began to pull. The police were not aware of their plans so they were pushing. The gate burst open, but instead of the protesters flooding into the base the police swarmed out into the crowd. I really don’t think they wanted to come on base they just wanted to disrupt and protest.

That was the fun part after the demonstration I had to process all the film and then print hundreds of 8 by 10 prints for the agents to study. One time I was asked to make 500 4by5 prints of one picture so that it could be sent out to all law enforcement offices in a large area. Of course they wanted them immediately.

Dealing With the Heat

During the summer the darkroom was, so hot we had to get ice from the club to cool our chemicals. Photo processing chemicals are designed to work at room temperature, 72%. We dreamed of air conditioning, but since the lab was in a Quonset hut, which was considered a temporary structure, they couldn’t get it authorized. Then we got a new warrant officer, in charge of the tech shop, and he knew how to put in a request pointing out how the heat was destroying all the light sensitive material, and it was approved. We anxiously waited for the day when it was installed. It soon happened, but if you have been in the military you will not be surprised that they installed air conditioning meant for a warehouse,which was horrendously noisy, but we loved it. During the summer months we were the envy of the unit. We just had to wear ear plugs.

Is Someone Listening?

The tech shop had all kinds of listening devises for special assignments. One day they were using a special high band width radio which could tune in to any frequency from low to high and the operator tuned into a frequency that was not supposed to have anything on it, but it did. As he listened he realized that he was listening to what was going on in our shop. Figuring that we had been bugged, he wrote a note and passed it to the other people in the room it read

“I have detected a bug in this room. Don’t say anything but casually search for it.”

The staff went to work combing the building for the listening device. After several hours of searching they discovered that they had bugged themselves by leaving one or their listening devices on while it was being stored on a shelf. Needless to say, we kept that little incident to ourselves.



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One Response to On Duty In Okinawa As Unit Photographer

  1. Peggy Jones says:

    That is funny. Love the self important paranoia. 🙂

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