Ken and Bill's Excellent Adventure
VI. Iwakuni
      We spent eight days in Japan, flying into Osaka on China Airlines (for the long trans-Pacific flight, scrape up the $$$ for business-class if you possibly can; it is worth every penny), and traveling by bullet train first to Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture, in southern Honshu (far to the south of the recent earthquake and tsunami that devastated northern Honshu).

      In late 1968 and into 1969, after my time in Vietnam, I had been stationed at the Marine Corps Air Station in Iwakuni, and wanted to see the place again.  We were given a personal tour by the Executive Officer of Marine Aircraft Group 12, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas E. Frederick (a close friend of my Haverford School colleague Jamie Griffin), who graciously gave us several hours in the midst of a busy day when the Commandant himself was on-station.

Anne and Bill being served champagne aboard the China Airlines
trans-Pacific flight. (SA)
Need we say more? (SA)
Ken, Bill, Lt.Col. Frederick, and Anne on the flight line. (SA)
      Not surprisingly, almost nothing was recognizable after 42 years except the above-ground heating pipes and a few old quonset huts.  The shabby one-story squad bays have been replaced by four-story barracks that could pass for college dormitories.  The F-4 Phantoms of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 122 have been replaced by the F/A-18 Hornets of Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 242.  The young MP who met us at the front gate, PFC Scheibelhut, was a poised and self-confident young woman.  Talk about changes.

     After we left the base, we drove to the other side of the city and walked across the graceful Kintai Bridge, whose five wooden arches span the Nishiki River in the shadow of Iwakuni Castle, home of the local lord in feudal times.  This part of Iwakuni had hardly changed since last I’d been there to celebrate the Cherry Blossom Festival amidst the thousands of colorfully dressed Japanese who lined both banks of the river with blankets, picnic baskets, and magnum bottles of sake.

Bill with Lt.Col. Thomas Frederick, XO, MAG-12, MCAS Iwakuni,
in front of an F/A-18 of VFMA(AW)-242. (SA)
Kintai Bridge, Iwakuni, during the Cherry Blossom Festival in April 1969. (WDE)

Kintai Bridge, June 2011.  In the distance, at the top of the hill in the center of the photo, Iwakuni Castle is just visible. (SA)

(Background photo by AGE)
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