Stories from the Rock

Stories from the Rock: Okinawa in the late 50's and early 60's part 2

Monday, April 11, 2005

Okinawa in the late 50's and early 60's part 2

Here is another great story I received from Ed Begley. Make sure to visit his site at


More about Okinawa in the late '50's and early '60's:

In 1960, there was an earthquake in Chili. That morning, we
heard on the Armed Forces Radio Station that it had caused a
tsunami that would hit Okinawa that afternoon at about 1:30 PM
as it was crossing the Pacific at nearly 500 miles per hour.
I checked out a jeep and asked for the afternoon off. I went up
to the top of that hill just south of Ishikawa, and waited. I
expected to see a huge wave coming across the ocean, but saw
nothing. Then, right out of the blue, it came up right off the
beach, a wave about 30 feet high. It crashed over the seawall,
and went right into town. Most of the Okinawans had been warned,
and had left town for high ground. One Okinawan was killed
because he saw the wave hit the seawall, and hid in his water
well. The sea water filled the well up, and he got trapped under
the concrete lid. Oh well, stupid is as stupid does. I wrote a
letter to the newspaper in which I suggested they court martial
his mother for giving birth to an idiot. They did not print it.
Oh yea, right after the wave went back out, the Okinawans came
down from the hills, and went fishing. There were fish all over
town... trapped when the wave went out. There were thousands of
them of every possible kind. Years later, in college, I learned
that Tsunamis at sea are only about two inches high. It's when
the hit the sloping sand near a beach that they rare up and
become a wave. That's why they are called Tsunami's. In
Japanese, it means, "Harbor Wave." Also in 1960, the CG had an
extra three million dollars worth of supplies stored out at Camp
Tengan... above what was authorized. I guess he heard there
were congressional investigators on the way to inspect the
storage area because the duty section at Camp Butler was called
out at midnight to get rid of the evidence. We hauled a whole
warehouse full of sea rations out, and pushed them off the
cliffs into the ocean, pallets and all. Some of the pallets had
other stuff on them but in the dark, I couldn't always tell what
it was. I remember seeing some marked Field Kitchen, Lanterns,
Cold Weather Clothing, 782 Gear, etc., but can't remember all of
it. Anyway, the investigators found an empty warehouse, and the
CG was happy. We were told not to discuss our midnight mission
with anyone... ever. I went down there a couple of days later,
and the whole ocean under the cliffs was a mad house with
Okinawan fishing boats, and men diving for the stuff on the
bottom. A week later, Black Market alley in Naha was full of
rusty sea ration canned goods. The Okinawans loved sea rations.
They'd take everything in the box except for the cigarettes and
TP, and cook it all together, ham and lima beans, chocolate bar,
cinnamon roll, coffee, creamer... all of it together, and call it
"G.I. stew." I don't think they ever figured out that you're
supposed to eat it separately. As for us, you could get a big
bowl of osoba for 13 cents, and could live on three bowls a day.
I loved those little hole-in-the-wall osoba meals. Oh yea, in
1961, I was hunting wild pigs with a Model 97 riot gun -- You
could check them out from special services for hunting. We were
up north of Cam Schwab in the hills. I was slowly working my way
up the side of a hill so I could peek over the other side when I
found a small cave... about a foot high and wide. It looked like
falling rocks had covered up the entrance to a much larger cave
so I called the other guys, and we started rolling down the big
stones. When we got the hole big enough to see inside, we had to
use an emergency signal mirror to shine some light inside.
Inside, there was a Japanese 70 mm field gun and about a hundred
rounds of ammo laying all over the cave. The boxes had rotted
away, and the ammo had tumbled all over the place. We decide to
NOT enter the cave because it might have been booby trapped, or
the ammo might have become unstable. We went on with our
hunting, but never saw a wild boar. That evening, I stopped by
the office of the Camp Schwab Provost Marshal, and told the O.D.
what we'd found. The next morning, the 1st Sgt, told me to
report to the Camp Schwab O.D. I was to lead the E.O.D. people
to the cave. When we got there, the cave was empty, but you could
still see the wheel tracks, and where the ammos had been on the
floor of the cave. Some Okinawan must have see us uncover the
cave, and brought his friends back after dark to haul it out.
I asked the Gunny if the Okinawans would use it, and he said,
"No, by now it's cut up into scrap metal." Later that day, I
went to the library, and found a book with pictures of Japanese
guns in it. The gun turned out to be a 70 mm "Handmaiden"
combination mortar/howitzer. I figure a bomb or shell had blown
rocks down over the entrance, and the Japanese had lost the
location before the Battle of Okinawa ever started. I'll be the
gun crew was buried alive in another cave nearby. Later, I heard
that American G.I's regularly found Japanese caves with guns,
long spoiled food, and other equipment in them. I'll bet there
are still hundreds or thousands of covered up caves on Okinawa
and the surrounding islands. In the 15 months I was on Okinawa,
I never did spot a wild pig... well, except for those in that
little alley just north of Kadena's back gate. Go figure...


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