“In 1948 (July) when I was first ordered to the 80th Fighter squadron at Ashiya Air Base, Kyushu, I thought at the time that we were neither liked or disliked. What I mean by that is the Japanese were just coming off the war and were more interested in making the best of it. They were short of everything; food, clothing, jobs, etc. The black market was booming. I think that Asiatics as a whole were natural thieves. They would steal everything that was not tied down. We had clothing, shoes, etc, stolen right from our barracks. It was not unusual to come back to the barracks and find things gone. One of the methods of punishment, when caught, was to put them head down in an empty 55 gallon drum and beat on the sides. This usually cured them.
As far as the ugly Americans or beautiful ones, I can only remember that we had both. In any occupation, you will have the good and the bad. I must say that the good was more predominate. We helped the orphanage and little league ball teams and in general were treated fair. Those out of line were nailed by the military police.
The town was called Ashiya Machi. We had another town across the bridge over the river Ongagowa called Ashiya Korea. We were told not to go over there because of the hard feelings between the Japanese and the Koreans. The Koreans being more or less servants and laborers during the time Japan dominated them. A lot of fights and hard feelings between them. We were put on standby a few times because of riots. On occasion, the field was raided and damage done to the aircraft. Some Americans got killed at the POL and bomb storage areas (throats cut).
I think by far that the time and place things were about normal for the occupation. The Japanese were given jobs on the base and obeyed the people who supervised them. Pulling guard duty on the POL and bomb dump were a little hazardous because one man was at the gate area and the other walked the area. It was a long way from the main base and a long way around. The only communication between you and the other post was by firing your weapon. An instance occurred in 1949 where the officer of the day tried to sneak up on the guard at the gate and was shot. He survived, don’t know his name, but he was a captain from the 80th. You got kind of nervous out there. I’m sure he never tried that again.
There never was too much of a problem between us and the nationals. They resented us calling them gooks. After all, we were really the gooks and they were the nationals. Many of the men had Japanese girlfriends or Kobitos. The word was the find yourself a nice clean girl and stick with her because if you caught VD your ass was mud. The Japanese people frowned on their women going with GIs, but he in turn fed her and her family. I am sure many of them got married and brought them back to the states. As the years went by, the relations between our two countries did improve.
The 80th had one pretty good sized hanger on the far end of the Hanger Row. The P-51, in general, was not hard to maintain once you got to know it. Lt Henderson was the engineering officer and tech or master sergeant French was the line chief. Both of them kept a tight rein on the inspections and minor or major work done on the P-51s. I know of no accidents concerning either the 80th or squadrons while I was there. We had a couple of incidents where P-51s jumped the chocks when mechanics and pilots went the from 1650-7 to the Dash 9 engine. If the Dash 9 was not shut down properly, it would go to full power on the next start. It had a Simmonds Boost system operated by oil pressure and not a linkage. I am sure it caused a few hair-raising events, including one for myself. When I started the engine, it started to go to full power. I kicked off the brakes (or it would stand on its nose), jumped the chocks, went across the ramp, and stopped near the control tower. The start cart disconnected on the way. We were strafed by a P-51 (accidentally) coming off the firing range. No casualties and slight damage to equipment.
A P-51 crashed into the sea from Itazuke. He was on the firing range and ran into engine trouble. He tried to make an emergency landing at Ashiya. On base leg to the runway, he went up and over and into the sea, killing the pilot. My opinion is that the P-51 Mustang was the finest airplane, flying and maintenance wise. I was a sad day when the 80th went to Itazuke and we were sent to other units. I saw many of our 80th P-51s at Tachikawa to be chopped up for scrap.
I think that I sort of enjoyed the occupation as the years went by. I was based at Tachikawa, Johnson, Yokota, Itazuke, and Misawa during my tour, before the Korean War started. I did a lot of traveling throughout the Pacific and learned the Japanese language and customs. I never got used to their stealing, having lost some precious items along the way. Traveling to the mountains and villages was great. I met a lot of interesting people and the one person I will never forget is Colonel Virgil Zoller, Ashiya Base Commander. I am sure a lot of men from the 80th remember him also.
I think covered things the best way I could. I hope it meets your requirements. Thank you for letting me participate in the 80th Fighter Squadron manuscript.”
-Louis I. Miksits