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Sunday, December 2, 2012

POST 1010: DECEMBER 02, 2012; PANMUNJOM, KOREA (SPRING 1953)

Within a week, all eight cots are filled...enlisted men, all, ranging from Master Sergeant down to me, Airman Third Class (one stripe), by far the youngest.  In our tent, we become family.  Outside our tent, I know nothing of what the others do for UNC-MAC...and I don't talk about my job either.  I do know we all have "SECRET" Security Clearances.  I pick up a couple model airplane kits from the PX back at K-13, spending most of my spare time carefully crafting a Navion low wing private model and "Little Stinker", a high-tech  stunt plane (both models are oohed and aahed over as they come together, so I gift them to a two of my tent-mates).

I fit in easily as "secretary" to my senior officers, taking dictation, writing reports and meeting visiting VIPs from around the world.  Early on I am given the task to keep our working spaces (tent) clean and constantly ready for inspection.  The first day of that assignment, I'm sweeping the floor with a long bristled "witches" broom.  Airman Maynard, General yells at me from his end of the "office"...walking to me...just where in the devil did you learn to sweep a floor...in a barn?   Yeeees, sir...I did learn in a barn...picturing our old stump ranch back in Midway, Washington in 1939:

Dad standing over me as I raise a cloud of dust off the turkey house floor...geeeze, Son...try to do it without chocking all the turkeys to death

General B. stares at me...grabs the broom from my grasp;...this is the way to sweep the floor in MY office...reaching the broom out and slowly dragging it back towards himself...you see, Maynard, no dust...that is what I want to see...no dust...Yes, sir, accepting back the broom...reaching out and slowly dragging the rough bristles back.  General B. watches a couple more strokes...if you find a better way, check with me first...Yes, sir.

Back at our living quarters, I practice sweeping the floor.  Hard as I try, cannot stop the dust...until one of my tent mates stands, walks over to me, his drinking cup in hand; he fills it with hot water from the teakettle on our pot bellied stove...dips his fingers into the water and sprinkles it over the floor.  Now sweep, he says.  I sweep...no dust.  I can hardly wait for morning. 

General, sir...Yes...I have a new technique to sweep the floor without raising dust...really...yes, sir;  I pick up my water-filled coke bottle, hold it upside down, swinging it back and forth as water seeps between my fingers, falling in a light drizzle onto the wooden floor.  I set the bottle down, pick up the broom and with broad sweeps, happily brush the floor...no dust;   Good job, Maynard; ...stifled chuckles from the Major as General B walks back to his desk.

The officers create a great quantity of paperwork, all of which I am tasked to type on my ancient Underwood mechanical typewriter.  I manage to get it done, but not without having to retype many pages.  Our work requires that all documents are presented error free;  that is, I am not allowed to make erasures or smudges...every page I type has to be perfect. 

Is there a chance we could requisition a new typewriter, sir?   Well, we can sure submit a requisition.  Type up a request, and I'll submit it, says Lt. J.

Two days later, a brand new Royal typewriter is sitting on my desk.  WOW.  Like in a different world, my production skyrockets.  A few days later, I ask Lt. J. if he would dictate something to me so I can do a timed test for my shorthand and typing.  He dictates;  I write...then transcribe my shorthand swuibbles, typing on my new Royal typewriter. 

I then take fresh paper, ask Lt. J. to time me for five minutes as I retype his words.  Done, I count the strokes.., each 5 strokes equaling one word.  I have typed for five minutes at the rate of over 100 words per minute...no mistakes.

On a dark night, someone slices open the office canvas over my desk...my beautiful new typewriter is stolen.  I do not get another.

I am at UNC-MAC (United Nations Command - Military Armistice Commission) on TDY (temporary duty) from K-13.  Since I am free on some weekends, I often return to Suwon, Korea to visit B.B. and ride brakes as he moves his F-86 around the tarmac.  The Korean War is still in full swing.  Each morning, Sabre Jets from the 8th  Fighter Bomber and 56th Fighter Interceptor Wings line up in flights of four jets.  Each flight of four form an arrowhead at the southern end of the runway...all four releasing brakes together gather speed as they roar north down Runway 36.  When the first flight of 4 is 1/4 down the runway, the next flight of 4 release brakes.  Flight after flight after flight of 4 streak after one another.  The northern sky is soon filled with black exhaust smoke, blotting out the northern horizon. 

Hours later, the jets return.  Making left turns as they fly through the landing pattern,  touch down on Runway 36, disappearing right or left off the runway, heading for their parking areas...that is, except for jets scoring a victory over a MIG-15...these jets scream down the runway, 100 feet  above the concrete, barrel rolling all the way to the center, where the pilot pulls straight up spinning his F-86  'till out of sight.

Some weekends, upon arriving at 8th FB HQ, I drop in at my old desk, type up travel orders for the Adjutant's signature, and hop aboard the Gooney Bird bound for Kokura, Kyushu, Japan...to pick up supplies.

Landing at the US Air Base near Kokura, I walk out the front gate, hop aboard the civilian bus headed for Nagasaki.  When the bus pulls into the tiny village of Seaside, Japan, I step out. 

I arrive in Korea early in March 1953.  My first trip to pick up supplies leads me to Seaside,  where a small hotel nestles in a grove a trees reaching out onto a white sandy beach... the Sea of Japan, sparkling blue water stretches to the western horizon.  A large tree stands alone at the edge of the treeline...unusual in that this ancient tree grows nearly horizontal for 25 feet or so before swooping up into the sky.  She is sitting on the horizontal part of the tree trunk...white slippers just touching the ground...white kimono held in place around her waist with a wide silk pink sash, black hair piled high above her perfect round face. 

Hello... her voice soft and inviting as I walk up to her...my name is Keiko.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bruce, reading you blog from over seas is wonder full I cant wait tell the next day to see what happens, you put this in a book I think you would sell tons of them, I know I would buy one. hope you keep going with this, I'm not sure I can go with out reading your stories every day. Bruneau,Id