PEARL HARBOR DAY
How ironic that our continuing tour of American military bases brought us to Hiroshima on the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. This was a very special anniversary since the Society of Pearl Harbor survivors is being disbanded this year as most of the remaining men are into their 90’s. This is the last year that survivors will be brought to the site.
We arrived in Hiroshima on Tuesday night and immediately drove to Hiroshima Peace Park. As we made our way to the actual site of where the bomb fell, it was incredible that the entire city that was reduced to complete rubble was now a fully built modern city. At the park, the remnants of the 1 remaining structure stood at the edge as a memorial. Since the bomb hit the building but then dispersed outward in all directions, only the subject of the direct hit remained standing as a skeleton. I had a certain uneasy feeling standing at this memorial since I knew that it was our US army that had bombed this place and wondered whether the locals still maintained some resentment or anger. I guess there is a little truth to it since US army personnel are prohibited from entering the city on August 7th each year, the anniversary of the bombing.
We continued our travels and checked in at luxurious Kintai Inn on the Iwakuni Marine base. I guess for $30 a night, one should not expect the Plaza. We had a fully packed day on Wednesday and needed to get some rest.
Our day started at 6 am, where most of the Marlin group ( I will not disclose who didn’t answer the bell) joined the Marine Wing Support Squad 171 in their morning physical training. It was dark and chilly when we arrived but felt so exhilarating going through the same routine of calisthenics, stretching, running in formation with the appropriate cadence and chant along with the full company of marines. We did not have to worry since there was a medic ambulance with us the whole time.
Our next stop was the Combat Logistics Company 36. This company had guys who had performed many tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan and were the first to arrive and last to leave the devastated area in Northern Japan hit by the earthquake and tsunami. There support of the relief efforts is that area were critical, but unfortunately, many of these soldiers were exposed to high degrees of radiation.
After a brief Q and A with all of us, the Mermaids agreed to do a quick improvised dance session for the group. They prepared in less than 10 minutes and were ready to go, but we couldn’t find a boom box for the music. One of the Marines drove his car into the hanger where we were siting and blasted out the music from his car stereo with what seemed to be 5000 amps. The girls were great.
We headed over to a demonstration from the unit K-9 group. We were fascinated how they were able to train their dogs to attack if necessary, to sniff out explosives and contraband and to be able to search in difficult places. We were completely safe, or so we thought, during the presentation behind a barbed wire fence. After the presentation when the Marines came out with their dogs on leashes for some handshaking and autographs, the meanest most ferocious dog in the group, completely unprovoked, attacked Ashley. Ashley, who can be pretty tough herself, subdued the German shepherd in seconds.
After lunch we rejoined the group who we had participated in PT at 0600. This group was responsible for driving and maintaining the fleet of heavy equipment used in their ground operations. The older guys with more than 25 years experience described how much improved the equipment has become over the years. Now they actually had cabs with AC and heat, night vision screens and sophisticated radar and navigation systems. Although the fleet is well maintained, I was surprised at how rusty the inside of an armed transport could be with only 11,000 kilometers. I asked the staff sergeant if they rolled back the odometer to get a better resale value? He explained that the vehicle was new but when it is shipped from the USA by boat, the salt water splashes on the vehicles and it only needs a paint job.
Our next stop was with the Marine Fighter Attachment 242. Shockingly, the Marines maintain their own mini air force to support their ground troops. Historically, they have found it beneficial to have these disciplines under 1 roof since they speak the same language and have more confidence in each other. The pilots are a great group of guys who are flying around $60 million pieces of equipment at speeds in excess of MACH 1. Even more surprising is that these aircraft are serviced and maintained by 21 and 22 year olds . The pilots must maintain a huge level of trust and confidence in these youngsters. We climbed into the cockpit of an F-18 Fighter Jet and viewed the different type of bombs that are carried by the aircraft. Every pilot has a nickname given to him by his squadron. That name stays with him for life and it makes it easier for them to communicate in the sky. There are some cool stories behind each name.
We headed off to a park and baseball field where we spend the next 4 hours. The first 2 hours incorporated the players running a baseball clinic for about 40 kids ranging from 5 to 15, the children of service personnel. The kids had a great time and ended the day with a game of pickle. It was not a game that I had heard of but closely resembled my childhood game called running bases. One of us stood on each base, and we had to tag out kids who were running between all 4 bases. If you were standing on a base you could not be tagged but if you were caught between bases, you could be caught in a “pickle”. The last one standing was the winner. Meanwhile, the mermaids were doing what they do best, teaching about 30 girls a new exciting dance. The level of excitement and enthusiasm was breathtaking. When they were done, the girls performed a show and appeared as if they had been working together for weeks. Everyone then lined up for a massive autograph session.
Nightfall had rolled in, the temperature had dropped but the Miami Marlin group was still going strong. It was time for our group to participate in a softball game made of all-stars from the base’s 10 teams. Stanton captained 1 team assisted by Peterson while the second team was coached by Hayes and assisted by me. The captains picked their squad based on looks without any prior knowledge. The game was rolling along when the 4 of us decided to take an at bat for our teams. Petey hit first and grounded out to the first baseman. I was next and hit a deep towering fly to the wall in left field that was caught by Petey with a great leaping catch. ( The writer is allowed a certain amount of leeway). Then Hayes hit an absolute smash that went right through the Marine’s legs at third. We then reached the crescendo where big Mike came up. The entire focus was on him and the couple of hundred people in the stands were on the edge of their seats. Mike took a huge rip on the 20 mph slow pitch arced softball and was about a month early. This was then followed with 2 similar swings. The pitcher immediately took the ball out of the game and had Mike sign it. He was really good-natured about it. Hayes team ended up winning 21-1.