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Sakata, Japan 1952 - 1954
Narrative from Roger Freeman (USAF)

The following narrative was sent to Red Morgan by Roger Freeman.

Dear Red,

Nice to be able to talk about old times and Sakata. As I stated on your web site, I was there
from 1952 to 1954. During my stay there, the Occupation of Japan, ceased by treaty. When
occupation ended we no longer had to carry arms when we left the base and could go off base
in civilian clothing.

As to GI hangouts in town, the most favorite one was the Stateside located in downtown
Sakata, there was one other place, I can't remember it's name located down by the docks in
SW Sakata. At midnight we had a nightly 6X6 run which made the rounds to haul everyone
back to the base. The hardwood fold down seats in that truck bed were really rough riding on
the camp road with all it's pot holes.

The GI who ran our club was a real enterupneur, he sold the pine straw from the trees on the
base to a local merchant, they used it to start fires in the Hibachis. He tried to sell the honey
from the septic lagoon, I remember a local merchant out there with his dipper ladling out the
stuff for inspection, only to hear the translator say, He says he doesn't want to buy it because it
has too much paper in it. Funny what your mind remembers.

Our day room was in the west end of the mess hall, we did not have the extra huts you Navy
guys had, three times per week we had movies there at night. There was a theather downtown
called the Green Room. You could go down there and see a movie with sub titles in Japanese.

We usually had about 50 to 60 guys stationed there, we also had first three graders living in 2
of the dependents houses, we also had 2 tents set up in the U of the main building. To start
with they were heated with coal stoves, they sooted up and belched out cinders which in turn
caught the tents on fire. Later they were converted to oil which was much more comfortable.
Several times the tents broke from the weight of enormous snowfalls. No one lived off base to
the best I can remember.

We did not have any other remote facilities, as you did on Mt. Chaoki, all our sister sites were
located through out Japan. I do remember being up on the Mountain looking for a crashed
aircraft, after being totally bushed from the long climb up, me met about 100 Japanese women
carrying a bag of cement each, some with a baby also strapped to their front, carrying the
sacks up to a new dam project, they were the strongest women I have ever seen.

Our site was primarily a radar installation, we did have a 24/7 VHF DF site on the beach as well,
many times returning planes from Korean operations would obtain fixes from our station, each
of us station there then received the Korean Service Medal. If they were shot up bad enough
the would land at Niigatta, another 528th site which had an air strip.

My work at the site was mostly with the Japanese Civilians who were employed at tradesmen
to maintain the base, I have nothing but admiration for those whom I worked with, some really
skilled people in their individual trade, they all treated me extremely well although they could
have been my father's age. It was a great learning experience.

I recently e mailed a college student at MIT who had spent the summer teaching English in
Sakata, she told me that it is a modern big city with pop vending machines on almost every
corner. Also I see on the web there are many new building of multistory, a far cry from my stay
there. I understand that after my departure there was a serious fire that destroyed a large part of
the downtown district.

Apparently there is a new large Airport that has been built just south of Sakata called the
Shonai Airport, it hosts many intl. carriers including direct flights to the UK. Also as I read it,
there is a new Tohoku Odan freeway that connects Sakata to the freeway that now runs up the
east side of the island. Another freeway is underconstruction which comes up the west coast of
Japan. A far cry from the 6X6 trips to get supplies in 1952 with chains on all 6 sets of wheels to
get through then sometimes using the winch on the front to pull ourselves from being stuck in
the mud.. Look under Sakata Port on the web, as I read it, it must be constructed just south of
where the base was located, there are also pictures on the web of it's location. It is used to ship
container to Korea and China., and the port is even more active in coal tonnage than when I
was there. I remember the boats coming into dock, with a ramp placed on the deck to the
dock, and hundreds of women with a basket on their backs going in a circle loading and
unloading an entire shipload of coal..

I remember the Japanese employees dinner at Christmas when they brought their families, and
we put on a big dinner for them. Those were some of the cutest kids in the world, but they
were very perplexed trying to figure how to eat with a knife, fork and spoon. As bad as I did
with chop sticks I must say.

My son Randy was in Sakata some years ago and could find nothing of the old site, wonder if
any of your group has been back there?

Thanks Red for giving an Old USAF guy a turn at Sakata remembrances, I would so much like
to hear from my old USAF buddies who might just stumble upon your site.

Roger Freeman

The following is Roger Freeman's entry in the Sakata Message Board.

Roger W. Freeman   A1C USAF   Oct 1952 - Oct 1954

I was a USAF person stationed at Sakata when it was a part of the 528th AC&W Det #12. I was
very surprised to browse the web and find so many pictures of old detachment 12. We lived in
tents part time when there but the big U shaped barracks and mess hall were built then too. I
recognise the many pictures you all have posted, I worked in AIO and took care of Power,
building, plumbing etc. I would like to swap stories with some of you on our impressions of
Sakata, I still correspond with Toshiko Nakagawa who worked first with the USAF later with you
guys. Wonder if you all know that the area was used as a POW camp for British POW's. I have
wonderful memories of Sakata, the fellows I was with and the many Japaneese Nationals
I worked with. Thanks for putting this site on line.

Roger Freeman

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