"My Second Set of Pilot Wings"

Category: "Misawa"
Les Gar Frazier on Jan. 18, 2021

Back in the late 50s, those of us new guys not stationed at Misawa Air Base, Japan always referred to it as the worst place on earth. We just didn’t know that Korea was actually the worst place in the world to be stationed.

 

When I learned I was to be stationed at Misawa, I ran screaming from the room and tried to hide under my almost new 1958 Corvette. They found me, sent me to Stead in February of 1960 [February will have a special meaning to those who went through Stead during that month]. Then it was off to eastern coast of northern Honshu, a snow covered coastal area, bordering on the North Pacific Ocean that was about 100 yards beyond the approach lights of runway 28.

At my previous base, SJAFB, we just flew around the sky, hassled, went cross country and shot gunnery in our F-86Hs and F-100Cs. It was easy for a new guy, like me, to think all fighter units did the same thing. I had no idea that the Air Force had been feeding us old, out-dated airplanes, while awaiting the F-105B to come off the production line.

Things were very, very different at Misawa. Those of us arriving at about the same time, the spring of 1960, were immediately thrown into the nuclear weapons grinder with the associated reading, making and pasting of sectionals; Bomb Commanders School [located at Itazuke AB on Kyushu. We all envied the Zuke guys because of their proximity to the large city of Fukuoka and the Diamond Horseshoe, a whore house located there], and, of course, nip-up after nip-up to become qualified in the mysterious and wildly unreliable LABS maneuver.

Becoming a Bomb Commander, the term for a qualified Nuclear Weapons pilot, after Doug Priester signed off on my check ride, I took my turn pulling alert at Kunsan AB, Korea. We were at Kunsan for a week and usually went over there about once every three or four weeks. I have nine months of Kunsan alert over a period of three years, one or sometimes two weeks at a time. I would have had more alert tours, but in late 1962 I was an ALO/FAC, flying L-19s at Song Be, RVN. During my nuke tours, I never saw Kunsan’s main gate from the ground.

During the winter of 1960 or early 1961, the JASDAF [Japanese Air Self Defense Force] were scheduled to get F-104s at Chitose, an air base up on the northern island of Hokkaido. Some bright engineer figured out that two F-100 J-57s in afterburner made about the same amount of noise as a single F-104’s J-79, so they requested that we provide them with two F-100s to conduct tests to check noise levels.

Our Vice Wing Commander was Colonel Dean Davenport [RIP] and he decided to take one of the airplanes himself. Since one D model and one F model would be going, he requested a pilot from each of the two F-100 squadrons, the 531st and the 416th Tac Fighter Squadrons, to accompany him. I have no idea why I was picked and the selected pilot in the 416th, Greg Clarke [RIP], didn’t know either. But we both recognized a boondoggle when we saw one, so we were excited to have been selected.

Greg would fly the D up and I would fly it back. Going up, I was in the back seat of the F model, having preflighted it and was ready to start engines on the departure day.

Colonel Davenport showed up in his staff car, stowed his bag, and climbed into the front seat in his Class A Blues. I had never seen anyone fly an F-100 in Class A Blues before, but didn’t ask him why.

We had to cross the Tsugara Straits that separated the main island of Honshu from Hokkaido. However the distance was short enough that we didn’t have to wear poopy suits. Before landing at Chitose AB, Colonel Davenport took us on a tour of the island and pointed out several smoking volcanoes. Many of the farms looked like they were transported from the American Heartland and we found out that American missionaries were responsible for the architecture.

When we landed at Chitose AB, we were marshaled, pinned and shut down by American crew chiefs already in-place.

When the crew chief put up an F model ladder, a Japanese military fellow in what they would probably call a Class A uniform climbed up the ladder and shook Col. Davenport’s hand, then mine.

We were going to spend the night, so we unloaded our bags and stood around while our airplanes were refueled and repositioned to run the noise tests and tied down. While we were chatting, I could now tell that the Japanese man who greeted us was a Brigadier General and his nametag, in both Kanji and Romanji read “Genda.”

I admired BGEN Genda’s [RIP] pilot wings and he asked if I’d like a pair [his English was excellent]. Col. Davenport and Greg both chimed in and said they would like a pair too. So the general excused himself, walked over to his staff car to go get the wings. I was stunned that a BG would do that for a couple of el-tees and a Colonel. While he walking away, Col. Davenport asked us, “you know who that is, don’t you.” One of us answered, “yes, that is Brigadier General Genda.”

“No,” said Col. Davenport, “do you know who he really is?” Neither of us knew what the colonel was talking about, so he said, “that is Minoru Genda and the reason I’m wearing this monkey suit; he’s famous and is the man who planned the Pearl Harbor raid. He didn’t go on the raid because he had an attack of appendicitis steaming en route to their take off point and had to be operated on”

Both Greg and I were stunned, especially so since we were standing beside Colonel Dean Davenport, who forgot to lower the flaps on his B-25 as he assisted Lt. Ted Lawson [wrote 30 Seconds over Tokyo] in getting their airplane airborne from the U.S.S. Hornet on 19 April 1942 for the Doolittle Raid.

 

Addendum

 

The wings you see in this article are the wings that BGEN Genda gave me [wings tp follow]. I know that Alisan Clarke still has Greg’s wings and the last time I spoke with Mary Davenport, she still had Col. Davenport’s JASDAF wings too.

 

I have a rather large and varied military pilot wing collection but have never tried to collect wings that belonged to some one who is/was well-known. As an example, if I were to write Bud Day or Bob Hoover and ask them for a set of their wings, they’d probably say to the wife, “this guy Frazier wants a set of my pilot wings. Do I have an extra set around here?”

Doris and Colleen might say “no, but I’ll pick up a set the next time I go to the BX.” I’d then have a set of their wings but it would have been cheaper if they would have just sent meBack in the late 50s, those of us new guys not stationed at Misawa Air Base, Japan always referred to it as the worst place on earth. We just didn’t know that Korea was actually the worst place in the world to be stationed.

When I learned I was to be stationed at Misawa, I ran screaming from the room and tried to hide under my almost new 1958 Corvette. They found me, sent me to Stead in February of 1960 [February will have a special meaning to those who went through Stead during that month]. Then it was off to eastern coast of northern Honshu, a snow covered coastal area, bordering on the North Pacific Ocean that was about 100 yards beyond the approach lights of runway 28.

At my previous base, SJAFB, we just flew around the sky, hassled, went cross country and shot gunnery in our F-86Hs and F-100Cs. It was easy for a new guy, like me, to think all fighter units did the same thing. I had no idea that the Air Force had been feeding us old, out-dated airplanes, while awaiting the F-105B to come off the production line.

Things were very, very different at Misawa. Those of us arriving at about the same time, the spring of 1960, were immediately thrown into the nuclear weapons grinder with the associated reading, making and pasting of sectionals; Bomb Commanders School [located at Itazuke AB on Kyushu. We all envied the Zuke guys because of their proximity to the large city of Fukuoka and the Diamond Horseshoe, a whore house located there], and, of course, nip-up after nip-up to become qualified in the mysterious and wildly unreliable LABS maneuver.

Becoming a Bomb Commander, the term for a qualified Nuclear Weapons pilot, after Doug Priester signed off on my check ride, I took my turn pulling alert at Kunsan AB, Korea. We were at Kunsan for a week and usually went over there about once every three or four weeks. I have nine months of Kunsan alert over a period of three years, one or sometimes two weeks at a time. I would have had more alert tours, but in late 1962 I was an ALO/FAC, flying L-19s at Song Be, RVN. During my nuke tours, I never saw Kunsan’s main gate from the ground.

During the winter of 1960 or early 1961, the JASDAF [Japanese Air Self Defense Force] were scheduled to get F-104s at Chitose, an air base up on the northern island of Hokkaido. Some bright engineer figured out that two F-100 J-57s in afterburner made about the same amount of noise as a single F-104’s J-79, so they requested that we provide them with two F-100s to conduct tests to check noise levels.

Our Vice Wing Commander was Colonel Dean Davenport [RIP] and he decided to take one of the airplanes himself. Since one D model and one F model would be going, he requested a pilot from each of the two F-100 squadrons, the 531st and the 416th Tac Fighter Squadrons, to accompany him. I have no idea why I was picked and the selected pilot in the 416th, Greg Clarke [RIP], didn’t know either. But we both recognized a boondoggle when we saw one, so we were excited to have been selected.

Greg would fly the D up and I would fly it back. Going up, I was in the back seat of the F model, having preflighted it and was ready to start engines on the departure day.

Colonel Davenport showed up in his staff car, stowed his bag, and climbed into the front seat in his Class A Blues. I had never seen anyone fly an F-100 in Class A Blues before, but didn’t ask him why.

We had to cross the Tsugara Straits that separated the main island of Honshu from Hokkaido. However the distance was short enough that we didn’t have to wear poopy suits. Before landing at Chitose AB, Colonel Davenport took us on a tour of the island and pointed out several smoking volcanoes. Many of the farms looked like they were transported from the American Heartland and we found out that American missionaries were responsible for the architecture.

When we landed at Chitose AB, we were marshaled, pinned and shut down by American crew chiefs already in-place.

When the crew chief put up an F model ladder, a Japanese military fellow in what they would probably call a Class A uniform climbed up the ladder and shook Col. Davenport’s hand, then mine.

We were going to spend the night, so we unloaded our bags and stood around while our airplanes were refueled and repositioned to run the noise tests and tied down. While we were chatting, I could now tell that the Japanese man who greeted us was a Brigadier General and his nametag, in both Kanji and Romanji read “Genda.”

I admired BGEN Genda’s [RIP] pilot wings and he asked if I’d like a pair [his English was excellent]. Col. Davenport and Greg both chimed in and said they would like a pair too. So the general excused himself, walked over to his staff car to go get the wings. I was stunned that a BG would do that for a couple of el-tees and a Colonel. While he walking away, Col. Davenport asked us, “you know who that is, don’t you.” One of us answered, “yes, that is Brigadier General Genda.”

“No,” said Col. Davenport, “do you know who he really is?” Neither of us knew what the colonel was talking about, so he said, “that is Minoru Genda and the reason I’m wearing this monkey suit; he’s famous and is the man who planned the Pearl Harbor raid. He didn’t go on the raid because he had an attack of appendicitis steaming en route to their take off point and had to be operated on”

Both Greg and I were stunned, especially so since we were standing beside Colonel Dean Davenport, who forgot to lower the flaps on his B-25 as he assisted Lt. Ted Lawson [wrote 30 Seconds over Tokyo] in getting their airplane airborne from the U.S.S. Hornet on 19 April 1942 for the Doolittle Raid.

 

Addendum

 

The wings you see in this article are the wings that BGEN Genda gave me. I know that Alisan Clarke still has Greg’s wings and the last time I spoke with Mary Davenport, she still had Col. Davenport’s JASDAF wings too.

 

I have a rather large and varied military pilot wing collection but have never tried to collect wings that belonged to some one who is/was well-known. As an example, if I were to write Bud Day or Bob Hoover and ask them for a set of their wings, they’d probably say to the wife, “this guy Frazier wants a set of my pilot wings. Do I have an extra set around here?”

Doris and Colleen might say “no, but I’ll pick up a set the next time I go to the BX.” I’d then have a set of their wings but it would have been cheaper if they would have just sent me six bucks and I could have gone by the BX myself.

 

 

Minoru Genda

After World War II, he was commissioned a general in the air force and served as chief of staff from 1959 to 1962, when he was elected to the upper house of Parliament. For years he was chairman of the National Defense Committee of the Liberal Democratic Party and served many terms in Parliament, retiring in 1985. He died in 1986.


 

Dean Davenport

Colonel Davenport told me he has been a colonel [O-6] for 24 years in about 1961. He was never promoted past that grade and eventually retired in Panama City, FL. He died in 2000 in Panama City.

Greg Clarke

Greg retired in the mid-70s out of Bergstrom AFB, TX and stayed in the area. He died shortly after retiring of cancer.


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