By Jack Thomas
1976 was a special year. It was the Bicentennial of our great nation, of course, but it was also a very special year for me. I was stationed at Mobile Technical Unit SEVEN, MOTU-7, in Yokosuka and had been there since mid-74. I was an ETCM and was the first senior Tech Rep in Westpac on a new Radar based system. I was a regular underway rider aboard MIDWAY whenever they got underway and I also enjoyed underway periods aboard OKLAHOMA City and PARSONS as well as several other platforms.
1976 started with a notification by my wife that she was pregnant with our first, and as fate would have it, our only child. She had confirmed this with her Japanese doctor so I hooked her up with Gynecology at USNH on the base. They informed me that the Estimated Delivery Date (EDD) was 4 July, 1976, a Bicentennial baby. I was also the president of the CPO Club advisory board and a regular at the CPO Club Stag Bar. My wife was a regular in the slot machine room and at bingo once a week and we bath were regulars at the weekend floor show/band night in the CPO Club Ballroom. Basically, our lives were tied to the CPO Club and to a few gin mills on the Honch that I had been frequenting since my first trip to Yokosuka in early ’62.
Needless to say the announcement of the upcoming birth started the ball rolling in the CPO Club and several “Anchor Pools” were started to guess the arrival minute on the upcoming Birth Certificate. We all know that America’s Day Starts in Guam, and depending on what was going on in the birth department there. it was possible that our baby girl would be the first American born in the new Centennial. In the meantime, preps were underway for the Fourth. There was even a red, white and blue American flag painted pickup truck driving around the local area.
Just prior to the Fourth Russia launched a new Warship and it got underway from Vladivostok. CINCPACFLT looked at the CASREP readiness of the ships in Yokosuka and determined that PARSONS was the most ready so they got underway on the Fourth to bird-dog the Russian ship. Fate also stepped in and the Bicentennial baby arrival fell through. My wife went into labor the afternoon of 5 July and the baby was born in the wee hours of the morning on 6 July. The staff at USNH threw me out of the delivery room because I was making my wife “nervous”. On the 5th the MIDWAY threw a big blast at Thew Gym, catered by the CPO Club and the manager, assisted by one of his duty managers, managed to spirit some food and several Olympia beers from the party and delivered them to the waiting room for us to enjoy while I waited.
Things slowed down for about a month and then my parents visited from Minot, North Dakota to see us and their new Granddaughter. My father was a WWII Army vet and he had been on Okinawa when the war ended. He was an MP and was staging to be in the first Japan invasion forces. The surrender changed his role and he was on the second plane of MPs that landed at Atsugi prior to MacArthur’s arrival. He stayed in Japan for six months as part of the Occupation forces. I took leave during their stay and we took the Bullet train to Kyoto, visited Mt Fuji and Lake Hakone and all that touristy stuff. On 16 August, as part of a CPO Club group, we attended the first NFL game in Japan, a game between the St Louis Football Cardinals and the San Diego Chargers. A few days later I drove them to Haneda for their flight back to Seattle.
On 18 August, my birthday, two US Army officers were killed in the Korea DMZ while clearing some trees and a general recall went out to all ships. I was ln the process of driving my parents to Haneda and when I returned I went to the CPO Club to get a haircut prior to checking in off leave. I was told my unit had been trying to contact me so I went over there post haste. I was told to go home and pack a bag, put it under my desk and prepare to get underway. The entire base in Yokosuka was on alert and SRF, Port Ops, NSD and smaller support units were fully manned and preparing for an emergency sortie of all fleet units. All of MOTU-7 personnel were working Combat Systems on the ships. About 0230 we had fixed as many problems that we could fix without more parts so our Officer In Charge went down to the Oklahoma City to brief COMSEVENTHFLT. He made it as far as the Command Center and was told the Admiral was asleep and he could brief the CDO. He snapped to attention and told the CDR that his unit had been working on the ships since the recall went out and every Combat Systems casualty that could be fixed without additional stateside parts was repaired. All his troops had bags packed and were standing by to embark and get underway. Then he did an abrupt about face and left the command center. The CDO said “Who the Hell was that?” When told that he was the OIC of Mobile Technical Unit SEVEN he said. “Well, I’m sure glad someone in this port is ready”. As it turned out, nobody got underway, it was left to the diplomats, but it sure illustrated how much could be accomplished in a WESTPAC Port.
The only other significant event that happened that summer was the inaugural Pioneer Bowl in Tokyo in mid-September, a college football game between Grambling State and Morgan State. For the life of me I don’t remember a thing about the game. What I do remember was the awesome performance of the Grambling State Marching Band prior to the game and at halftime.