A Frank Odell Web Site
This is to share the experience of living on Miyako Jima between the China Sea and the Pilipino Sea.
Some details are here to inform new guys and some details are for the old hands.
I was a young Airman on temporary assignment to the Air Station on the island. A truly wonderful experience for a young man learning about the world.
I was not an AC&W guy. I was an AACS type guy on TDY to the island.
The Air Force on this page is the one that existed a few years after the Army Air Corp became the USAF. It was much difference than today's Air Force.
The mission was great but the available resources were WW II left overs. Okinawa was to be a supply center for the invasion of Japan. The stock pile of material was huge, but most of the equipment was out of date. Made for a strange situation.
The island I remember was quiet and unsophisticated. It was a look into the past of all of our cultures. At the agricultural level we were all nearly the same. Oxen, Water Buffalo and Mules were the main difference.--This I believe.
623rd-Det. 1 AC&W Squadron
Call sign "Headwork"
Page 1 of 4
Improved: 07/27/07 05/02/08 09/27/08
This page is a grouping of random memories of life in the USAF on the island. Date was 1958. No lies here, just time distorted memories.
Miyako is located:
The music is Matsu Kaze Wind Blowing. It is in a continuous
To renew the information in the image to the left it is necessary to select REFRESH. This must be done each time you want the information renewed.
Miyako Air Force Station was located on a hill top. The only high hill on
the island. The air station extended along the ridge line of the hill.
While the hill was referred to by the USAF folks as "The Mountain" this
was no mountain. All though the peak was rugged enough to be a mountain
The USAF Squadron was located there to provide long range radar in support of the air-defense network of Okinawa. The squadron identity was the 623rd Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadron. Stateside a AC&W station functioned much like a FAA En-route Control Center, but this was not so in the far-east. In the far-east AC&W's primary mission was to perform the Aircraft Combat Control function. This function was called Ground Controlled Intercept or GCI for short. This involved directing friendly fighter aircraft in an attack role against any bandits (enemy aircraft) in the area. The Warning part of AC&W was using radar to see the enemy and relaying information about the enemy aircraft to a combat control center that could scramble fighter planes to defend Okinawa. Their secondary mission was en-route air traffic control.
The center piece of most AC&W Squadrons was their high powered radar sets. These were 1 to 3 million watt transmitters. Later SAGE systems provided up to 10 Million watts of transmitter power.
Long range communications was accomplished using High Frequency (HF) transmitters and receivers. Routine administrative radio traffic was sent and received via CW on HF with human operators. Passing of mission traffic to the control center was accomplished using voice when possible. Most of the information passed was aircraft tracking data. Primary transmitters were the BC-610 HF transmitters for point to point and GRC-27 transceivers for Ultra High Frequency (UHF) operations and these were dedicated to aircraft communications.
The nation of concern was Communist China. We could easily see their aircraft on our radar, and if they came our way we could help the fighter squadrons on Okinawa prepare a special welcome for them.
There was also a USCG base on the other side of the island. It was a Loran station. That was a small group and we seldom saw them. They picked up their supplies from the 623rd.
The US Army had a USCAR group, about three guys and a staff car somewhere on the island.
There was a American missionary and his wife on the island. Met them but did not socialize with them. I received an invitation to visit because I was a chess player, but did not go.
RCA had a radio relay station, but I was told that it was manned with local guys.
require antennas' to operate. This USAF site had antennas, and lots of
antenna poles. Many of the poles were not being used. It was the only
antenna farm I had worked on that had more antenna poles than were needed.
Three extra antenna poles that were located in the right place made it
possible for the other AACS guy, who was a licensed Amateur
Radio Operator, to install a V-beam antenna. He also installed a ham radio station in the Bachelors
Airman Quarters (BAQ). This other AACS guy on the island was Herm and he
and I knew each other because we were in the same squadron on Griffiss
AFB, New York a year before. The 623rd Squadron Commander made a BC-610 available to
Herman (KR6HP) for this purpose. Herm modified the BC-610 to supply a lot more
energy the V-beam antenna that was installed between three of the extra
antenna poles. The orientation of the V-beam was over the North Pole to
the western world. With this station it was often possible for the men to
talk to their relatives back in the world. That is when atmospheric
conditions and Herm felt like doing it
The V-beam antenna orientation was such that England and Africa were a sure connection and the United States was sometimes possible. The hams in England would complain about KR6HP's signal strength being too great. They complained on the air that they did not believe we were located in the far east. They wanted to place us in the North Sea area. These transmissions were on AM as SSB was not available at that time.
The mission of the air station had obviously changed greatly over the years leaving the un-used antenna poles standing all around.
The island is coral and coral is not a good conductor of electricity. Counter poise and grounding rods were useless. There was a grounding point installed that worked well, but it was dedicated to the AC&W mission and my transmitter was not allowed to use it. So, the MYE Ndb was a floating ground transmission system. It worked, but not as well as it could have.
This road lead to Hirara
City, the nearest village. It was there that folks from the base went to
relax, have a few drinks and enjoy the local customs.
The bar-room I frequented was very near the dock. Most of the other enlisted men visited this establishment as well. The facility was simple, but adequate. The beer was good and cheap and the hired help was friendly and entertaining. Do not remember the name of the establishment.
This road was the only paved road on the island and it was paved to the airstrip, but not beyond. Going along this road riding in the back of a 6x6 truck, go-en to the ville was the best of good times for a young airman.
The other end of the paved road ran along the ridge line inside the base. It ran from one end of the base to the other, thus providing sure access to all of the buildings on the base in all weather conditions.
the most important things needed to operate a base is potable water. Being
on a hill top solves the distribution of water problem because every
direction is down. If you are aware of the nature of water in the ground
you know that it is not normally available on a hill top. The best place
to look for water is one third of the distance from the bottom of the hill
to the top.
The well that provided potable water to the hill top was near the base of the hill. A pump located at the well head pushed the water to the top of the hill and into a water storage tank sitting at the peak of the hill.
One night the pusher pump failed and water no longer flowed to the top of the hill. A shortage of water was a sure result, so after that occurrence fewer showers were taken. Discovered that by drinking more beer it is possible to not notice the lack of showers.
The temporary answer to this issue (issue -- is today's Politically Correct word for problem) was to use the fire truck to transport water to the tank on top of the hill. Transporting water became an occupation for some of the guys.
This is the only fire truck on the
island. Because there was an airstrip on the island there had to be fire
fighting equipment available. The airstrip was part of the air station
though it was not on the main base. It was located at the bottom of the
hill just off the road to Hirara City.
Any time there were air operations the truck had to be on the airstrip.
The runway was grass so the types of aircraft able to use the strip was very limited. Some of the aircraft types I saw there were; C-46, C-47, SA-16, B-26 and JF-1. My early flight training was flying on and off grass runways, so this was not a new experience for me. I can recall several of the airman expressing concern about the runway not being paved.
Civil Air Transport (AKA, Air America) flew in and out from time to time. The US Air Force also used the strip often. Civil Air Transport was often referred to as CAT Air Lines.
The airstrip was built by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II and was used to attack the Allied Forces invading Okinawa. I have read that it was used with great success until the US Marines dropped by for a visit.
The wild growth of the local vegetation
was very much like a jungle. Not so different from the jungle here in
central Florida. There were many insects that I could not identify. Did
not see any snakes or wild warm blooded animals running around.
There were snails. Large snails that the Japanese army brought to the island during WW II. to provide food for their solders. The snails moved about at night and as I would walk, in the early morning darkness, from the transmitter building to the BAQ, via the BX, I would step on some of these snails. There were lots of snails. The snails had thin shells and would squish and become a slippery patch on the walkway.
A pig farmer that lived near the base had a deal to come in every morning and pick up the snails in a large basket. He said he fed them to his pigs.
One day tens of thousands of Japanese beetles appeared and stayed for a few days. Then they seemed to die off rapidly. At this point ants appeared in great numbers and ate the dead beetles. Then the ants died off and all returned to normal. I have not witnessed evolutions of life on that scale before, although I believe it happens all over the world.
While doing some impromptu infantry training I hid in a Japanese one man cave. The cave was identical to ones I was in on Okinawa. Common training in the Japanese army I suspect. Our troops in Vietnam encountered similar holes and they called them spider holes.
The jungle environment was only
available on the hill
sides. The hill was too steep to grow a crop, so it was left in a state of
Sugarcane was a major crop on the island. It was planted on most of the flat ground that was not used for substance farming. Sweet potatoes were also a large crop. Can make sugar or rum from both crops.
There was a tennis court in front of the BAQ that was paved. Unfortunately the ground had not been properly prepared so the surface had large dips and holes in it. To attempt to play tennis would certainly cause injury to the player.
The tennis court was made useful by placing chairs on it and suspending a movie screen above the court and showing movies on the screen. It was far too warm in the BAQ to view movies there, because there was no air-conditioning available.
Looking down the path of a holy site. The holy site was at the top of the hill and the start of the path is where the sign is seen at the bottom of the hill next to the road.
Persons traveling to the holy site passed through the base. From a security point of view having people walking through the base was questionable in my view, but we Americans are concerned about other peoples religions, so they were allowed to pass through. As far as I know this caused no problems.
The trees in this picture are of a type strange to me, but their shape interested me from an artistic perspective.
I visited the holy place and it was by European standards simple and crude. However it was just as comforting as any church. Worshiping out doors under trees is just as satisfying to me as setting in a fancy church.
The buildings at the bottom of the hill are the homes in the village of Nobaru. Many of the civilians that worked on the base lived in Nobaru.
The structure in the foreground is the
smoke stack and vent system for the Mess Hall. And so many antenna poles
in the background.
Some times we would move to the roof to sleep. These were the days before air-conditioning for people. There was air-conditioning provided to cool the radios. The transmitters would sometimes melt some of their parts when air-conditioning was not provided. People might over heat, but they would not suffer the melting of any of their parts -- so no air-conditioning for them.
The roof of the BAQ was not a really nice place to sleep, but it was cooler than the rooms in the building. After a while the "In-Charge" people decided that we were not capable of sleeping on the roof without hurting ourselves, so there would be no more of that.
Nearly all living requirements of the enlisted men were fulfilled with in this single building. It was a little like being on a ship where one is ever far from anything.
Jerry (his last name is lost to me) was
the manager of the BX. I purchased a lot of beer from him. Falstaff my memory says.
During a cold war sticky period I purchased a Ruger Single
Six Revolver from the BX with Jerry's help.
I worked mid-nights most of my time on the island. After work I would walk to the BX, it was on the way to the BAQ, and wait till Jerry came to work so I could have my morning beer. It was morning to the other guys, but it was evening to me as I had just left a full day (night) of work.
The BX had a Juke Box left over from the 40's and it had only two songs that were not so worn-out that the words and music could be not heard. One was a hard core R&B song that I did not care for and the other was "Santa Catalina." Played Santa Catalina over and over again day after day. I still know the words to that song. Remember CDs, DVDs, and Cassettes had not been invented.
The BX had an outside veranda with wicker chairs and tables. We would sit there and look out over the edge of the island into the China Sea. Drinking beer and listening to Santa Catalina. Man! How good can it get? We, myself and a guy that worked mid-nights in one of the other buildings, would sit on the veranda talking, joking and smoking cigarettes and an occasional cigar while drinking beer. And the view really was great.
At one point we ran out of toothpaste, but never beer. Whoever ran the supply department obviously understood what was really important.
Memory being what it is I will write
this about Airman Baker. He was a radar repairman and a good one I had
heard. His bunk was next to mine and some times we would sit and talk. He
was one of those people that seem wise beyond his age.
There a few Spooks in our little group and they seemed to stay to themselves, or so it seemed to me. As our geographic location was close to the bad guys it was reasonable to assume that there were operations on the base that would be manned by Spooks, and so it was.
The living space part of the BAQ (barracks) I lived in was open bay with lots of people in one room. The bay we were in seemed to be filled with people that did not fit else where. Radio and Radar Repairmen (Technical Geeks) and the Spooks shared the space I was in. The Scope Dopes, who I think were considered to be normal people, slept some where else in the building. My qualifications to be in that space was that I was (and still am) a Technical Geek and I was TDY to the unit. As far as I know I was the only TDY at that time except for Sergeant Allen Ladd. Sergeant Ladd of the California Air National Guard reported in as a TDY and he stayed with us for a few weeks. He stayed in the BOQ for some reason and he never worked.
My purpose on the island was the repair
and maintenance of the MYE Ndb which transmitted on 217 KHz and it was
located inside the AC&W Squadron's transmitter building. MYE was the
call-sign (Identifier) of the Miyako Beacon. Ndb is Non directional
beacon. The MYE Beacon was owned by AACS, but was located on this AC&W
The MYE signal was omni-directional, the signal is transmitted in all directions, and an airplane's navigator could use his direction finding radio receiver to determine his bearing to and from the MYE beacon. In those days that was top line stuff.
The MYE back-up transmitter was a BC-191 or maybe it was an SCR-191, don't remember. This little gem was such an old design that it used VT-1, 3 and 4 in its make-up. VT-1 is Vacuum Tube type 1. The oscillator circuit had been modified to use a 6F6 type vacuum tube. As electrical power to the transmitter would change, ever so slightly, the transmitter would noticeably change output frequency. The best answer was to repair the primary transmitter, a URN-4 (?) that was a modern design and had none of the problems of the BC-191. The URN-4 had been out of service for a while awaiting attention. The needed troubleshooting and repair was accomplished quickly and navigational happiness was restored on the Formosa to Okinawa air route.
The antenna for the primary transmitter was a Flat Top with several parallel wires. This was a very professional installation with the inevitable poor coral ground.
The antenna for the back-up transmitter was a Zep Wire run as high as I could reach and cut to the operating frequency of the beacon, kind-of anyway. Actually it worked as well as a BC-191 can work.
I enjoyed freedom from the military
nonsense of the squadron while stationed on Miyako. Being TDY for a
few months was a good deal for me.
It was not my intention to fit in with the squadron people. I wanted to live in a parallel universe and do my work and play. I viewed myself as a young guy learning a trade, and therefore I was always ready to work on anything, anywhere, anytime. After repairing the MYE beacon there was not much for me to do so I volunteered to work a regular shift in the transmitter building. Also volunteered to work the mid-night shift for the entire time I was with the squadron. No one seemed up-set about that. After checking out my electronics knowledge they gave me my choice. Mostly I worked alone and it was a pleasant time for me. Yes, I followed the two man safety rules. Many duties could be carried out without a second man being present.
The squadron had an entertainment section to keep us amused. The idea was to supply us with balls, bats and what-ever to give us something to do. One of the activities I enjoyed most was shooting guns. They had a 12 Gage double barrel side-by-side shotgun. Using some fruit hanging from a tree as a target I fired the gun. Normally one barrel fires and the trigger must be pulled again to fire the other barrel. Not so with this gun, it fired both barrels at the same time. I have been assured by more than one gunsmith that this could not have happened. The burse on my shoulder said otherwise. The kick did not knock me down, but nearly so. I should have expected something because one of the barrels had been bent until it was square instead of round. Maybe someone had used it as a pry-bar. Never checked the shot spread, it must have been remarkable.
The supply ship that brought us the much needed beer. I made one trip from Naha Army Port to Hirara aboard the ship. It was an overnighter and I enjoyed it very much. Sat out on the weather deck in the moonless night and watched the phosphor in the water light our path with soft blue light. Our blue wake was beautiful in the darkness.
The crew was nervous because they were going to a couple of islands that were in reach of Chinese Communist shore batteries. Their last trip they had been shot at and they expected it would happen again.
For a young troop this trip on the LSM in the China Sea was an interesting and very memorable event.
Life in the
islands was a little short on back--in--the--world goodies, but it was
enjoyable in many other ways. I would do it again if possible.
While working for RCA a few years after my Miyako experience I was an RCA Tech Rep to an AC&W Squadron near Walnut Ridge, Arkansas and later to the 725th SAGE Squadron located near Ajo, Arizona.
The following is from a letter from Kyoko, dated October 13, 2007. See first note from Kyoko Takaesu below.
Okinawa was returned to Japan in 1972. In 1973 the radar base was turned over to the Japanese Self-Defense Forces. The base had not changed at all before the turnover took place. The JSDF installed a fence around the base and improved the road from the base to Hirara. The new road takes a more direct route to Hirara and by-passes Nobaru village.
The only major change to the base is presently in progress. The tennis court is gone (February of 2007) and a new BAQ is being constructed in its place. The old BAQ is to be demolished when the new BAQ is placed in service.
The old BAQ was demolished in April, 2008.
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Sunday, May 13, 2007 5:41 AM
Subject: from Miyako Jima
Dear Mr. Odell
My name is Kyoko. I'm sending this mail from Miyako Jima.
It is a little bit hard for me to write a letter in English.
But I really wanted to tell you how I was surprised when I found your homepage. It was nice to know you have good memories for Miyako Jima. My father was working for the motor pool, was called Tekesu. He is 81 now. My mother was working for the laundry. She is 83. Our house is nearby the base. We often talk about and miss in those days. God bless you.
Printed with permission of the author.
----- Original Message -----
From: [email protected]
Sent: Monday, May 28, 2007 5:41 PM
Subject: Miyako '57-'58 . . . .
Frank . . . appears you followed my tour as I don't recall your name. I was on Miyako 1957-58. The only AACS airman on the site when I was there was an A/1C Pfeiffer from White Plains, NY.
I was at Naha ADCC from April of '57 until the middle of September when I opted for a transfer to Miyako. I departed Miyako and the 623rd in mid-June of 1958.
BTW, our call sign at radar operations in 1958 was not "Wayside Bravo". The radar ops call sign throughout 1957-1958 was "Headwork".
Another BTW . . . I do remember Jerry at the small PX.
ADCC & Miyako '57-'58
Printed with permission of the author.
Note: Jerry recently joined his ancestors. See picture of Jerry above. -- Frank --
Before you begin watching the clip
Churajura Miyakojima - Ryukyu Min'yo Dento Kyokai
miyarabi nu tabiji - Chihiro Kamiya
......Go to page 3. Mostly pictures taken by Kyoko Takaesu of Miyako island group. All current pictures. (Passed link test 0x/13/07)
......Go to page 4. Mostly pictures taken by Kyoko Takaesu of Miyako island group. Also a time line of the airbase in pictures. (Passed link test 0x/13/07)
|......Ed Johnson has a web site about Miyako and it contains many very good photographs. Far better and more interesting than the ones on this page. (Passed link test 01/13/07)||
......Satellite image and maps of Miyako. (Passed link test 01/13/07)
|......623 & 624 Okinawa and Erabu Shima. Some pictures of typical installations. (Passed link test 01/18/07)||
......Some photographs of the base and the island. (Passed link test 01/19/07)
......The Poem High Flight. (20) (Passed link test 01/13/07)
......USNS T-LSM-335 was the supply ship to Miyako. I made one trip on it from Naha Army Port to the Hirara dock. (Passed link test 0x/13/07)
|......The 623rd AC&W site. Pictures of the island.||......Kumi Jima AC&W site. Large number of photographs of the island. Little text and lots of images.|
|......The London Square Gallery, Norfolk, Virginia, USA. John is one of the AC&W troops.||......Spare|
|......Site map. This is the best way to navigate this site. (76) (Passed link test 01/13/07)|
......AVG 40 minute movie. Long load time. The first thing you see on the site may be an advertisement for Cursors. Cancel that and the video will appear. (Passed link test 01/22/08)
|......Send comments, pictures or more thoughts. I will include them on this page.|
This page was
created by Frank Odell, KA1FCF
Merritt Island, Florida, USA
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