I was on Guam for about two years when I decided that I needed a vacation. There was nowhere to go on the island that I haven’t been before. So I decided to take my R&R (Army term for Rest & Relaxation) somewhere else.
The Korean War was in progress, so I was limited to where I could go. It had to be within a short distance to Korea, in the event that our unit was called up to fight on the front lines. A couple of our battalions on Guam that were previously sent to Korea were massacred. Only a few of the wounded were returned to Guam because they had to be treated for missing limbs before they returned to the States.
The only two places I was allowed to go for my R&R were the Philippine Islands or Japan. The men who had been to the Philippines advised me not to go there because they were still struggling with the aftereffects of WWII. If I decided to go to Japan, Tokyo was the place to go, which is what I chose.
There were no private commercial airlines on Guam that I was aware of at that time. Any air travel had to be by military aircraft, which would be by Army or Air Force planes, when available and safe. The Army approved my leave for 15 days; now all I had to do was wait for a vacant seat on an Army military plane going to Tokyo.
A couple of days later, my first sgt. came to my mail room to tell me that there was a phone call for me from Marbo Headquarters. He said that I should hurry because the caller was holding on, and wanted to talk to me right away. I ran to the sergeant’s office and spoke on the phone with a colonel (?) who informed me that I had to come to Headquarters immediately to meet with him. What was all the fuss? They just had to tell me when the plane was leaving.
I drove my jeep to Headquarters and went directly to the colonel’s office. He said to me, “I understand that you are taking some R&R in Japan.” “That’s right, sir,” I answered. He then said, “I also understand that you have security clearance for classified material, how did you get that?” I answered, “as a mailman, I handle important military correspondence and had to have security clearance for that job.”
The colonel said “I know that, I just wanted to double check to confirm that info." He then went on to explain to me that he had very important documents that had to be delivered to Korea as soon as possible and that he wanted me to deliver them before I go to Tokyo. I said to him “I’m sorry, sir, I would like to opt out of this assignment because I’m going to Tokyo for R&R."
Then he said something I did not want to hear. He told me that I was the only person with security clearance going to that area, and that time was of the essence. In fact, I had no choice because I was being ordered to do this.
The colonel told me that they had already arranged for a captain (?) to meet me in Korea and that transportation for my vacation trip from Korea to Tokyo was also taken care of.
He explained to me that I would be carrying an attache case that would be chained to my wrist, no key, and to do whatever it takes to keep the attache case safe.
Was he kidding or what? Where were the fax machines when you want them? Oh! I forgot they were not invented yet.
When I finally arrived at an airport somewhere in Korea (by the way, this was the first time I flew on an airplane), I met the captain, who had the key to the handcuff on my wrist. He unlocked it and took the attache case, thanked me, and told me about the arrangements that were made for my flight to Tokyo.
I had to be ready when they called me, so I had to sleep on a cot in a room at the airport. It was the beginning of the third day - no call. I was so bored and I needed some fresh air, so I told someone that I was going outside for a short walk.
It was a little chilly, so I started to jog a little down a dirt road alongside the airport. When I turned around the curve of the airport wall I saw an old Korean woman sitting on a black tarp cooking something in a pot.
There were three very young children with her. Their clothes were torn and filthy, and all three kids were crying. I assumed that the old lady was their grandmother and not their mother because of the age difference (maybe they were not related at all, I did not know).
The grandmother looked up at me and started to talk to me in Korean. I didn’t understand her but the emotion in her voice told me everything I needed to know.
I noticed that one of the kids had a bare clubbed foot with cuts and bruises on it (no shoes). I was heartbroken and tears started to swell up in my eyes. How could I help them? My plane for Tokyo could be leaving at any moment.
I knew that this was for real, and not a scam (I found them by accident).
You had to see what the war did to them, it’s a miracle they were still alive. The only thing I could do was to give them money. I handed grandma about half of my cash (no credit cards then).
She seemed to know what American currency looked like and kissed my hand and cried. She then turned to the children and said something to them, they cried even more loudly (it was a happy cry).
The whole episode put a damper on my vacation trip to Tokyo because I could not get those crying kids out of my mind.
The continuation of my stories in Tokyo will be next.