Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Asia
Reload this Page >

1946-2007: An Old Soldier Returns to Camp Site in Beppu

1946-2007: An Old Soldier Returns to Camp Site in Beppu

Old May 22nd, 2007, 02:34 PM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 6,818
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
1946-2007: An Old Soldier Returns to Camp Site in Beppu

To all:

Several posters have asked me to write of my recent return to Japan (emd, TravelGirl2, EKSCRUNCHY included).

Rather than write of our nearly month-long journey through parts of China and Japan, I've decided to write a shorter version description of just the most emotional highlight.

This may be a very timely story. Allow me to explain. I'm a writer and a long-time independent traveler, having recently returned from both places to which I have been before. When planning the Japan portion, I had a strong yen (pardon the pun) for returning to the town where 60 years ago I was a young G.I. with the 19th Infantry Regiment as part of the first U.S. occupying force right after WW II.

Months ago, I had contacted the Beppu, Japan, Mayor's office through their internet web site and I immediately heard from one of his staff who was gracious enough to welcome me as the first-ever returnee to Beppu from those long ago, immediate post-war days.

When we arrived in Beppu, Kyushu three weeks ago (my wife and I), a "plush red carpet" was laid out for us and we were escorted to the former campsite by two officers of the Japanese Defense Force and the young lady from the Mayor's staff with whom I had been corresponding. We were taken to the exceptionally awesome Beppu City Peace Park, an enormous Japanese-style garden covering several acres...on the site of the former Camp Chickamauga (we were the "Rock of Chickamauga" Regiment), and they pointed out a 60-foot pine which has been named "The Chickamauga Tree"...it was the once 10-foot pine that was used to decorate with Christmas Lights, and it was especially saved from the bulldozing. By this time, my eyes began to well up, and my legs were shaking. (You have to imagine returning anywhere after 60 years absence!)

Next to the tree, there stood a large plaque commemorating "the kindnesses shown by troops of the 19th Infantry Regiment to the people of Beppu"... and Tomoko, the young lady, told me of the stories her grandfather and his cronies used to tell of how respectful and caring the young occupation soldiers were toward the people of the downtrodden town.

I clearly remembered how we would never go to town without bringing some food items and other necessities, especially for the ill-fed children. Although I was choking up, I was never more proud of being an American and of once being part of all those gestures of good will, when animosities could have easily ruled the day.

The Colonel and the Lieutenant saluted me when they left, which I returned to them...me a little old PFC, suh!

To go along with these memories, I must mention that my regiment was responsible for patrolling the polling places in the region during the first-ever Japanese free elections. I was assigned to drive a recon jeep with a lieutenant and a Japanese-Hawaiian fellow G.I. as interpreter, into some of the most remote polling locations on that island of Kyushu. The elections went off without an incident (as indeed did the entire occupation of the country...contrast with today's Iraq!).

At the time I was 18 years old and when we returned to base two weeks later, I wrote a lengthy essay under the theme of, "Is Japan Now Ready For Democracy". My mother sent it to the Quincy (my Massachusetts home town)Patriot Ledger, and they printed it in full with my picture. I have an old yellowing copy, of course.

I believe the timeliness of this story couldn't be more appropriate, in light of military events the world over. I seem to think that this is in stark difference to the Iraqi situation...a time when an American occupation of a defeated foreign power met with far better results.

P.S. Tomoko proudly told me that during the Christmas season, the local populace lights up the Chickamauga Tree every year...and as you know, there are very few Christians in all of Japan. But, she told me, they do so not for Christmas, but in honor of the good deeds of the 19th. (I still wear my baseball cap with the Division's taro-leaf patch).

Stu T.

http://www.frommers.com/destinations...42010001.html#

http://www.beppu-navi.jp/ml/english/history.htm (see mention of Camp Chickamauga)

Photos of the event:

http://picasaweb.google.com/stuartto...47249823655634



tower is offline  
Old May 22nd, 2007, 03:30 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 1,793
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
What a lovely story, Stu. Thanks for sharing.
Tim_and_Liz is offline  
Old May 22nd, 2007, 03:43 PM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 2,854
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I salute you, tower, what a moving story, can't wait to meet you when you come north.
Shanghainese is offline  
Old May 22nd, 2007, 03:57 PM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 33,289
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks so much for writing an account of your return for us!
Kathie is offline  
Old May 22nd, 2007, 05:07 PM
  #5  
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 22,308
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Stu that is truly touching. Wonderful. But I find it VERY DIFFICULT to believe that you were 18, sixty years ago. Those numbers add up to a figure that in no way jibes with your youthful appearance. Amazing!!

To those who have not yet had the pleasure of meeting Stu...this man does not look anywhere near that age!!!! There is hope for all of us!
ekscrunchy is offline  
Old May 22nd, 2007, 05:23 PM
  #6  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 6,818
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Aw gee, EK!

That face mask I borrowed from Phantom of the Opera must have really fooled you! Or it might have been that tap water in Beijing that had hidden face-lift properties!
Thanks anyway.
Stu
tower is offline  
Old May 22nd, 2007, 05:49 PM
  #7  
 
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 6,357
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Stu,

Thanks for the story and your service to our country.

Aloha!
hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Old May 22nd, 2007, 07:46 PM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 29,053
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
stu---nice report....thanks for sharing..

bob
rhkkmk is offline  
Old May 23rd, 2007, 08:30 AM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,160
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Stu,

You might find this interesting - from today's Bangkok Post: http://www.bangkokpost.com/News/23May2007_news07.php
Hanuman is offline  
Old May 23rd, 2007, 02:12 PM
  #10  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 6,818
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thank you Hanuman...very interesting read. By the way, were you able to download my pix? I've had some trouble with Picasa in the past, and I was just wondering.

stu T.
tower is offline  
Old May 23rd, 2007, 02:20 PM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 1,793
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I was able to see your photos- Thanks for posting them!
Tim_and_Liz is offline  
Old May 23rd, 2007, 02:37 PM
  #12  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 6,818
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks for the feedback, Tim and Liz!

Stu T.
tower is offline  
Old May 23rd, 2007, 03:33 PM
  #13  
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 22,308
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Stu...do you have an idea of someone who can ship me that tap water???
ekscrunchy is offline  
Old May 23rd, 2007, 04:05 PM
  #14  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 6,818
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
EK:

Try Kong Lin...he is the one who turned me on to this great secret...he's been taking it for years, and he's actually 66 years old!!!His girlfriend is 63.

Stu
tower is offline  
Old May 25th, 2007, 03:15 PM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 2,472
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
This is a touching story, Stu. Thanks so much for sharing it with us. The pictures are beautiful.
noe847 is offline  
Old May 25th, 2007, 03:47 PM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 138
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Stu:
As I was reading a post on another thread, I saw a reference to your post here. What a wonderful post! It must have been very emotional, I know it was for me just to read your words. Thanks for your writing and for your service to our country. In my book, you are a true member of the "Greatest Generation".

All the best,

d1
d1carter is offline  
Old May 25th, 2007, 03:49 PM
  #17  
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 2,855
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I'm so glad I found this very touching account. Thank you so much for sharing what was obviously very important to you. (And, yes, the contrasts are obvious.)
LCBoniti is offline  
Old May 25th, 2007, 04:23 PM
  #18  
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 134
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Stu,

Thanks for sharing this story and for the kindness your regiment showed to the people of Beppu.

I'm delighted you were honored!
withkids is offline  
Old May 29th, 2007, 05:38 AM
  #19  
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 2,498
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Stu - thanks for sharing. And thank you for your service.
angethereader is offline  
Old May 29th, 2007, 06:01 AM
  #20  
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 677
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I'm glad I re-read your post. I see you were there as part of the victorious occupying force and not as a POW.

It is a wonderful thing that you were welcomed so kindly, and that the memories were good on both sides. And it must have been a very special experience for you. BUT - I have to admit to deep unease with the overall feelgood factor.

Let us not forget those (including Americans - I have to say that otherwise the retention factor of this post will be zero) who saw the War from the other side.

I am speaking of those who spent the war in Japanese POW camps

I assume you are all familiar with the Burma Railroad and the Sandakan Death March?

I don't want to spoil the party but I think we all need to recognise the dangers inherrent in remembering only parts of our history.

It is not my intention to diminish or otherwise question the attitudes of the Japanese of today - but I think it essential that we all remember what the Japanese did.

Especially for younger readers who quite possibly have never heard of the Burma Railway.

chimani is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell My Personal Information -