My Dad came home with his orders. We were being transferred to Tokyo, Japan in 1960. I was ten years old and could not wait to begin this new adventure. I read so many books about Japanese life and culture and I had seen the pictures of the girls on Girl’s Day wearing their kimonos with the obi and zori shoes. I could not wait to go shopping in the Ginza district. I was fascinated by the Japanese language. I already knew how to count from one to ten: ichi, ni, san, shi, go, roku, shichi, hachi, kyuu, juu. My new life at yet another Air Force base was about to begin.
My Mom, younger sister Carla, and I descended the steps of the MATS (Military Air Transport Service) plane with the seats with nets and the boxed meals that they gave us and there was Dad. He had preceded us to get things in order. “Girls, I have some news. They have no housing for us at this time so we will be staying at the Imperial Hotel until quarters have been approved.” The only word I heard was “hotel”.
What an adventure this would be and I was, to my astonishment, given the run of the hotel. I first met the staff in the kitchen who were gracious enough to ask what kinds of food I liked, as well as introducing me to new and wonderful Japanese fare, never failing to offer me some Mochi (ice cream). They taught me Japanese phrases each day: Moshi, moshi, anone (when answering the telephone), Chotto matte kudasai (Just a moment, please) and Ah, so desuku (Oh, I see). My new friends would help me continue to learn more Japanese numbers and they would quiz me every day. We saw Kabuki dancers each night after dinner. I was entirely enthralled with this life, this language, the new food adventures, and the very kind people.
My sister and I would play games in the spacious front lobby. I would learn how to use an abacus in order to be ready for maths class. In school, I found myself in a Japanese Culture class where we learned the art of writing in Kanji. My Mom signed us up for a Judo class and because I was taller than the other students, for the first time, I excelled at a sport.
Then the day came. We were moving to a Japanese house in the “paddies” near a rice field. I walked to the school for American military dependents every day and never failed to stop on the way home for some street “Yakitori” (grilled chicken on a stick).
After three years my Dad got his orders. We were moving to Frankfurt, Germany. Another chapter in the book of my life was about to begin. World, here I come!
Donna Peacher-Hall (Air Force BRAT)
Allen Dale Olson
Recently our Museum received in an assortment of military family artifacts, a German Roemer, a traditional wine glass of the Rhine Valley, with an inscription etched in its bowl: “General & Mrs. Glenn K. Otis, CINCUSAREUR, Farewell Dinner” along with four stars signifying his rank. Looking at that name triggered many memories of the five or so years I worked with General Otis (one of eight U.S. Army Commanders I served in Europe).
Because of our museum’s mission to tell the stories of family life in the military, I want to share two examples of how General Otis recognized the sanctity of family life. A meeting we had attended at Ramstein Air Base had gone long past dinner, and as we approached the general’s car for the ride back to Heidelberg – about an hour’s drive, the Ramstein Base Commander offered us a helicopter, to save us some time.
“Thanks,” General Otis said, “but my driver is one guy late for dinner at home. A chopper would require your crew and my opening the air field in Heidelberg, six or seven guys with their evenings disrupted. We’ll go by car.”
One afternoon in Washington, I left the Pentagon for a meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army taking place in a hotel on Connecticut Avenue. In line in the Metro Station to use the ticket machine, I noticed the man in front of me having trouble making the machine take his dollar bill. Excusing myself, I offered him one of my crisp bills. As he turned around, he exclaimed, “Ole, what are you doing here?” General Otis was headed for the same meeting.
As a four-star, it would have been fairly normal for an Army car and driver to haul him around the city. But ever conscious of other people’s needs, Glenn Otis opted to take the subway. “For one thing,” he told me, “I don’t know how long I’ll be at this meeting or what I’ll get into afterward with some of the other West Pointers. No sense tying up a driver whose probably got a dozen more things to do before he gets off work.”
He was my CINC longer than any of the other seven USASREUR Commanders I worked with, thethe one I got to know best, and I always found him very devoted to the staff who served him.
I wasn’t there for his farewell dinner in 1988, but for a few moments as I unwrapped the donated wine glass, I could picture what a decent, respectful event it must have been.