Nervous times in Japan at start of Korean War

COURTESY TO THE BELLINGHAM HERALDNovember 11, 2011 

I was in the Army in Japan on detached service to the Air Force at Johnson Air Force Base when the Korean War began on June 25, 1950. There were 25 Army Morse code intercept operators learning the business of intercepting radio transmissions and helping the 1st Radio Squadron Mobile with their mission.

We were supposed to transfer from the Army to the Air Force when the war began. This was canceled and we were all returned to Headquarters Army Security Agency, Pacific at Oji, which is just north of downtown Tokyo. We created an intercept station at Oji and intercepted North Korean, Chinese and Russian radio messages. I remained at Oji until May of 1952, when I returned to the United States and was discharged.

Johnson AFB was a beehive of activity during the first week of the war as fighter planes flew to South Korean to help fight the war. Those first few days were days of tension because no one knew if this was the beginning of World War III.

If it was, there was a strong possibility that Russian paratroopers would attempt to take Johnson AFB. To defend the airfield, we were all given rifles, 100 rounds of ammunition, restricted to our quarters and told to wear our helmets at all times and to carry our gas masks. If the paratroopers came, we were expected to be good soldiers and defend the base as best we could.

In our mess hall, announcements were made during those first few days of the success of our fighter pilots. The announcement would say, "Two enemy plans were shot down today!" A cheer would go up in the dining area.

Later, it was determined that the fighting was being restricted to South Korea, so we turned in our rifles and ammunition and were released from being restricted to our quarters. So of us decided to go to a movie. While watching the movie, the movie stopped! An announcement was made that all personnel of 1st Radio Squadron Mobile were to report immediately to their station.

We rushed back and we found out that it was nothing special. We ran as fast as we could because we thought we were all going to be shipped out to the Philippines because all of us had top-security clearance, but that wasn't the case.

After returning to Oji and setting up a listening post there, we intercepted enemy transmissions. The messages were decoded and the information was sent to General MacArthur's headquarters in the Dai Ichi Building in Tokyo.

I returned to the U.S. in May 1952 and was discharged in Seattle in June. I enrolled at Western in the fall, but that is another story.

Alton Gregor lives in Bellingham.

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