9th AVRS - Ron Hyatt

I'm about to give it a go, but I'm going to begin from the start of my enlistment. I enlisted in April 1951, totally to avoid being drafted into the Army, the draft papers were in our local post office; although I wanted to do my part for the war. I spent only one and a half months (we were lost for two weeks) in basic training at Lackland Air Base, in Texas My flight won drill competition. This gave us all in our flight our first stripe (PFC). After graduation they sent me to Oklahoma A&M in Muskogee Oklahoma. We started our training as mechanics. On a personal note I was just short of having my journeyman mechanic’s ticket. At Okmulgee I met Joe Menno, Charlie “Chief” Davis, Nick Gagliardi and several others, their names have disappeared from memory.

Naomi came down to Okmulgee with our first daughter (1 month old) and her mother (somewhat older). I found a small (real cheap) apartment in town. We still recall the oppressive heat and humidity. If we were not asleep by midnight we would just go to the strip mine pits and swim. Sometimes down to the train yards and meet with train engineers. The top graduate from this school was always awarded a promotion. Joe Menno had the best grade. I did not receive a grade and was to be over looked. After a good desk pounding they decided that I had done so much teaching and had not been tested, I should get a grade one point higher, so I became a Corporal upon graduation. Also received the great orders that I am off to a place called Camp Stoneman Calif. For repo depot Far-East. This of course means Korea.

Naomi, bless her heart came down to Antioch, Calif. with me and we stayed in a hotel in town. I would go out to the Camp and stand in report. When they tried to physically divide us into groups for some duty many of us would run like hell and miss out. I would head to the hotel till next time. Never did get caught. I met the only general in my time in the USAF in Antioch. I was going into the local drug store to buy an alarm clock. He was coming out as I was going in. I said, “Excuse me, Bub”, he seemed to let me get away with it as I was in civvies. After about a month or so we were herded onto a barge called a Liberty Ship.

About ten days out during our “cruise” we ran into typhoon Ruth. Having been raised on the Oregon coast, I was somewhat accustomed to the sea. Not this rough. That Kaiser-built boat was totally under water at times, most of the time one end or the other was well under the surface. Crack! Bang! I knew it had broken in two several times. You can just imagine the mess below deck. Everything was awash with whatever any one had eaten, and if that didn’t get to you the smell was beyond belief. I stayed on deck and hanging on for dear life for the duration of the storm. The only problem for myself was when I caught something from someone up wind in my mouth that got to me for a while.

Seventeen days later we arrived at Yokahama. They called out 13 names, I was one of them, and we were told to be back on the ship by a certain time. All others to go somewhere else. We spent a couple of days in downtown Yokahama. Sure a shame that we didn’t have some money! Back aboard the Morton? And out to sea. We all knew we were going around Japan and land in Korea. Wrong. In another 9 days we landed at a place called Naha. Rain and mud like I have never seen. Into the back of six-bys and a rough wet ride to a place called Kadena. So we entered into our days on Okinawa. At least we had a hot shower and a dry bed, even if it were in the day room. What does one do with wet Blues? The rain had washed them clean. Under the mattress of our bunk. Next day they were all cleaned and pressed.

It was at this point I met Bob Davis, who had a bunk next to mine. We became the best of friends for the rest of my tour. Sadly, I have lost touch with Bob and sorely miss him. We ‘lived’ in the day room for some time. Finally they got a Quonset fixed up enough for us to move into. I have no information as to its number; it was in the middle of the “row housing”. At any rate Joe and I were bunked next to each other.

I was assigned to Special Equipment Shops. This was where fire trucks, tugs, refueling trailers and any thing else that was not a Jeep, six by, or real heavy equipment was sent to be fixed. My first job - could I replace a head gasket on a Cletrac that kept blowing out? Sure, what 20 year old is to be outdone. Well I did it and they seemed amazed. Try and try, they could not get it to fail.

Shortly after the above experience I was taken by the ear to get showered and shaved and into a clean and pressed class A uniform to meet the “board”. If memory serves me correctly, it was a TSgt Bonner who did the taking of my ear. Sarge, I do not need to see a board. I came from Oregon, and had experience in planning mills and sawmills. I know what a board looks like.

OK go into that room and report to the officer behind the table. I did so and we talked briefly about nothing, and then I recall as well today as I did then, “Corporal, how long is a piece of rope”. I’m dumbfounded. Could not think of a thing to say. “Well Sir, it’s twenty feet, two and a half inches long”. That’s all Sgt., Sir I am a Corporal, That’s ALL Sgt. So I report out and Sgt. Bonner asks me how I did. I told him that guy in there is dumber than a post. He can’t tell a Corporal from a Sgt. Whoopee you did it, I can go home now. They needed a NCO to take over the Special Equipment Shop. This was in Jan 1952. I wore those three stripes for the rest of my career. In fact in 1962 my Sqn. Commander requested I change out those worn stripes, I ask him “with two or four Sir” No answer so no change. Wore that Ike Jacket almost out and the stripes were almost invisible.

The names that come to my mind from Special Equipment Shop of that time are, Darrell Rambo, (Chicago), Raymond Tresch (?), Russell Hensley, (Kentucky?), Sgt Bonner. (?). Then there were several others that come to mind, of course are Joe Menno (Buffalo, NY.); Charlie “Chief” Davis (NY); Nick Gagliardi (NY); Robert L. “Bob” Davis (Lima, Ohio) and a few others that at this moment escape me. I do recall that I had a very good crew, both the GI’s and the Okinawans. By my demand I did not have any Filipino Civilians.

Somehow I came into possession of a well used 1942 Oldsmobile 98 convertible. This car was only ten years old, but it was also very well-used on Okinawa. The engine had a rod knock. About every so often off comes the pan and rework a Dodge Industrial Six engine rod insert into it and off we go; for a while. As the photos show the huge car finally got a good engine. That Cadillac engine was brand new out of the crate. We had to change the transmission pan to stock Olds. Modify the u-joint to mate up. And of course the exhaust, radiator outlets and many other changes. It did run quite well for the times and conditions there.

Captain Galloway could not stand the color of it. It had been gray, now mated with primer and rust. He had me into his office and instructed me to paint it. I informed him I did not have the money for paint. “Go to the paint shop and get some paint and paint it”. OK the paint shop only had zinc chromate in the quantity required. So this being the case it was painted that God-awful yellow. No time was wasted with masking, only the windshield, gauges, lights were masked off. It now was a thing of great beauty!

During this year or so Bob Davis and I fixed up several cars and sold them. There was a 1940 Packard coupe; we installed a Pontiac 8 engine and Hydromatic. This was a really great car. Very solid front-end design well suited for the Okinawa Super Highways sic. There was a 1946-8 Oldsmobile sedan, a 1942 Ford GI sedan, to mention a few. In the photo from Lou there is a photo of Donald Hatch, who channeled and chopped a nice 1940 Ford coupe. He did a very nice job on it. I could not drive it, no headroom, but Bob could. We used it to tow the Packard to break the Pontiac engine loose in the Packard. We had put every known and some unknown liquids down the plugholes but could not get it to budge. Bob drove the Ford and I piloted the Packard to the hill at Awase beach. Down we go, but no engine rotation. Try again and much faster, I would guess 30-40 mile per hour, there it goes, throwing oil and whatever all over the windshield. I am totally blind. Thank God, Bob had the intelligence to keep pulling, which gave me something for guidance to steer towards.

A few short stories during my stay in the 9th AVRS:

One time I was helping Bob do something under one of their big old trucks as a pair of very polished brown shoes just below a well pressed OD pant legs came in and as “what’s holding up this truck”. Due to the fact he could not see either of us, I replied “ten big tires”. Never heard another sound.

One day C&I had spent hours trying to get the pump engine started after they did a tune up. It would crank and – BANG! This went on for quite some time. So, as we were leaving the motor pool for lunch and passing a number of “Big Chiefs” I commented to Bob in a rather loud voice that either of us could have it started in just one or two minutes. At some time prior while the valve covers were off, I noted that two of the rockers moved at the same time. Being curious, I checked the firing order. It was different than normal so I had written it down for my reference. One of the big shots had every one get off. “We have a smart aleck who says he can fix it.” I took it for granted that they had #1 in the right spot, I put the other five in as I had noted on my picture of my Model T, OK push the button, it will start. It did and we went to lunch while every one was muttering to them selves.

Another happening: as my shop was not very busy one day they sent a six-by with a terrible noise in the engine. We diagnosed a bent pushrod and broken cam follower. “Replace the engine” was the called order. So my boys put in a new engine and did whatever it needed and we send it to inspection. Pretty soon I receive notice to come down to ‘inspection’. I was handed a work order that stated the problem was “engine missing”. Okay. I raised the hood and noted that # 1 plug wire had fallen of the spark plug. Since I had a plastic handled screwdriver in my pocket, I place the errant wire connector on some metal and gave it a smack with the handle, now it fit quite snuggly. I closed the hood and wrote on the work order, ‘Found engine under the hood’. This got me a trip to the old man’s office. No humor!

One day they issued us guns and sent us out into the pucker brush somewhere to look for any Koreans who might have sneaked onto the island. I don’t know if they sent us for real Korean activity or as an exercise for us. At any rate we were out for a very long and tiring day. When we got in we turned in the guns, and took a very welcome shower and hit the sack. About 3:00 am, KABOOM! KABOOM ! This went on for quite a time. Everyone went down to supply to get a gun and standby. After it was over, we found out a B-29 had lost an engine while getting speed up on the runway, and then lost another just at lift off, the crew started kicking bombs out while just over the water. They emptied that airplane and returned to the base in OK condition. There was quite a bit of controversy, should we court martial the whole crew for scaring the whole base, or give them a commendation for saving an airplane and crew.

I recall a time just before a typhoon was to hit, my innards were all stopped up. I felt very bloated, so off to the PX. Got me a package of EXLAX. One dose, no results. Two doses and the same results. I took a whole bunch of it. In the middle of the night, in the middle of a pretty severe storm, here it comes. Made a mad dash to the latrine. WOW! I made it in time. Now the problem - the heavy rain has backed up all the plumbing. What a mess. Oh well, I feel better, and did not get hit with any flying debris. Some one had a cleanup, poor guy!

Maybe it was due to the fact I had a car - at any rate, Bob and I had made acquaintance with a Major Drummond. He was with O.S.I. He is the person who obtained the title for my Cadillac engine from Army supply. That’s another story. He informed us that there had been quite a lot of theft going on, and if we were to ever see anything really suspicious to go to his house. He showed us it’s location, but never try to call him. Well one night we were spending a weekend off on the beach, just North of Kadena. We heard voices, trucks and some very small lights out in the ocean. It was very late at night, but we were off to see the Major. Knocked on his door, he answered, we spoke a little, he had us grab a couple of his bags, and he would be out in just a moment. We headed back to the beach, he asked if this car could go faster. Well, yes. Then get it going. Oh, and by the way, do not slow down at the gate. Shortly we were back at the beach and we listened again for sounds. As soon as we heard people talking, he instructed us to stay where we were and do nothing. If I am not back by the time he gave us just go back to Kadena and use a pay phone and call this number, go to bed and forget all about this. Well he did come back.

We took him to his house and again were instructed to forget all about this. Many weeks later I received word that someone wanted to see me in the PX. There he was with some night photos. I recognized a couple of people. He duly noted the names and that was that. This made my final time on the Island somewhat uncomfortable. I cannot recall if this was before or after the engine deal.

OK. The engine was from an Army depot. They had about a dozen of them in a corner with nowhere to ever issue them out. They could not return them and could not dispose of them. The person in charge told me, “Hell if some one came in here and took one out and hauled it away we would be tickled to death.” So I took down an engine serial number and the good Major got the paper work and I returned and loaded out my engine onto my truck and left. No questions were asked. This really got under Captain Galloway’s hide. He was all set to have me in the stockade. He never asked if I had any paper work, he just call the AP’s to come get me. They asked about any paper work that I might have. Sure, here is the title to that engine. I had put it in my shirt pocket in case it would be needed. That is when the dear Captain came unglued!

As far as the native population went, they were a wonderful bunch of people. Always polite - to a fault. Their honesty was just overwhelming. They really don’t have much in the way of money type of wealth, but they sure made up the lack of monetary wealth with their sincerity and candor. I have never met a group of people in my life that one could belong to as the Ryukian people. I did learn some of the language with the GI dialect. The Japanese whom I had the honor of becoming acquainted some years latter where close, but not quite up to the standards I found in Okinawa.

Since I was married personnel, my tour would be up in 18 months. For reasons unknown to me several of us got our orders in Dec. 52. If we can clear the Base in the next couple of days we can go home. With papers in hand and a car we cleared all but one office. The proprietors of this office are off-island and will not be back in time to clear us. Since our Orders have shipped to the States, we are no longer officially in the outfit. Our bunk and bedding is issued on a three-day hand receipt. No duty, we are total orphans now, with nothing to our names. Our very dear CO decides we should paint the latrine building. We were given paint by the 5 gallon pails and brushes. One of our brighter orphans decided it would be faster and easier if one would just pour the paint on the top of the Quonset and the rest to spread it with the brushes. No masking, but it really did get painted. By golly this stopped any more attempts to put us to work.

I returned from Okinawa in March? Of 1953, being shipped to Fort Benning, Ga. YUK! Some time towards the end of the year I had become eligible for early discharge. Took this opportunity to get out and went home to Oregon. Worked at a couple of repair shops until very early in 1958. I took a voluntary recall and was shipped to Fairchild AFB, Washington. Very shortly thereafter someone came out with “I need a volunteer to go to radio school.” So family and I are off to Keesler AFB for one of the best radio courses that this government ever gave to anyone! Upon graduation I spent about two years at Tyndall ABF, Florida, in ground to air communications. Then here come my new orders. Get a top-secret clearance because you are off to Wakkanai, Japan. Had to get out maps to find this spot. I was there for 18 months of very-very cold duty. I did gain on some real Japanese language while there but that needs to be another story. My last point of duty was at McConnell AFB, Kansas putting in the Titan II missiles. This was very educational, but again colder than a witch. I took my discharge from McConnell in 1958, still as an E4, with zero hope of ever going any where except Wakkanai, Japan. Nominal winter temp. –17 degrees, wind 20/40 mph.

Ronald Hyatt

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