511 AC&W Group - Misawa AB, Japan
848th AC&W Squadron

Detachment 30 - Rumoi, Japan

A collection of photos and memories of my duty at Detachment 30 in Rumoi, Japan from November 1952 - September 1953. 
 By Gordon Ward.  gordon@ward.org

To view my Photo Gallery of Detachment 30 click here.  Since I was only at Rumoi for about 9 months, I didn't keep good notes and I only remember one name and that was Jack McGee.

Background:  I enlisted in the Air Force in early 1950 and after basic training, I was assigned to Kessler AFB, MS to attend Radar Operator class.  After finishing the class in June, 1950, I was assigned to the 28th Air Division at Hamilton AFB, CA.  I stayed at Hamilton for about a month and then was transferred to the 668th AC&W Squadron at Mather AFB, CA.  A few months after I arrived at Mather, they completed a new state of the art radar facility which was a joy to work in compared to what they had when I first arrived at Mather.  In October 1952, I was assigned to the 511th AC&W Group in Misawa AB, Japan.  After a 15 day cruise on a World War 2 troop ship, I arrived in Yokohama, Japan in November, 1952.  After a few days there, I proceeded to Misawa AB for processing and then on to Detachment 30 at Rumoi.  Rumoi is located on the west coast of Hokkaido, Japan

After my arrival at the radar site, I was advised that all newbie's have the pleasure of making the weekly courier run to the 511th Group Headquarters in Misawa, so I was there for only a few days and then had to returned to Misawa.  Since this was a month or so before Christmas, many of the Airmen gave me money to buy money orders to send as gifts back home.  Others had purchased gifts and I had to carry these gifts with me to mail.  When the day arrived for me to leave, I was provided a 45mm pistol to wear as I would be carrying classified material.  I hadn't had a gun in my hand since I was in basic training so I didn't have the slightest  idea on how to use it.  So with my 45mm pistol strapped to the outside of my heavy coat, $1800 dollars to buy Money Orders and two large mail bags and the classified package to lug along.  The site Japanese interpreter drove me to the train station in an over the snow vehicle.  The train left around 3:30pm and the interpreter told me that he had instructed the train conductor to let me know when I was to get off to change trains.  He also said my change would be at 5:23pm and that all trains ran on time.  Well shortly before 5:23pm the conductor came by and held his hand up and I took that to mean this was my station to get off.  Well the train stopped, it was dark with heavy snow falling and visibility wasn't very good, so I quickly threw off the 2 mail bags and I then got off.  The train only stayed for a minute or so and I had this funny feeling something was wrong as the train pulled away.  As soon as the last car of the train passed me, all I saw was a few people, who just got off the train, making their way through the snow.  Across the tracks was a small building (shack) with smoke coming out the chimney.  I trudged through the snow and went inside and found one man sitting at the desk and we stared at each other.  He couldn't speak English and I couldn't speak Japanese.  He motioned me to sit by the stove to keep warm and he picked up his telephone and made a call.  After about 30 minutes, he came over and wrote down a time of 8:15am and I took that to mean that the next train would be in at that time.  So there I was stranded, couldn't call anyone, so I settled in for the night by the stove.  He offered me some food but I declined.  Since I was carrying a lot of money plus the classified material, I sleep with one eye open.  Well, the next morning  the train arrived on time and they put me on the train and off I went for about 5 minutes when I had to get off for my change of trains that I had missed the night before.  The rest of the trip went ok and I was glad to get back to Rumoi.  You can be assured that I didn't make the same mistake going back as I did on the trip down.
Aerial view of Site 30 Rumoi, JP
Click on photo for larger view

  Main Building

 Complex in the Winter

Back in Rumoi, I settled in as a radar operator and we worked 2 on a crew.  Our radar site did not have a lot of activity as aircraft flying in our radar range were few and far between.  The other sites seemed to  have more activity.  We did on occasion see aircraft moving 100 miles or so over the sea heading north and we sometimes could see Russian aircraft flying north of the Line of Demarcation and our fighters flying south of the line as they were shadowing each other.  This activity was just north of Wakkanai and that Detachment was heavily involved  in those operations. 


After the first of the year (1953), I was working with another airman, whose name I cannot recalled, on the midnight shift.  Around 2am, we heard a cracking noise in the maintenance room and we went to see what it  was and the room was on fire.  We immediately called the guard at the gate and he sounded the alarm and all hell broke loose.  Everyone came from the quarters and everyone tried to put out the flames in a heavy snowstorm.  The site burned to the ground and we were now out of business.  The next few days were spent in the cold trying to clear the area of debris.  Rumors were going around that the maintenance guys had been having problems with the breaker switches being thrown, so they inserted a penny in the breaker switch to keep it from throwing.  An investigating team arrive a few weeks later to determine the cause and we were all interviewed and as far I know no one got in trouble.  Thank goodness, my partner and I were non-smokers.  See Photo Gallery for more pictures of the clean up.

Our Old Radar

The day after the fire.
An old World Ward 2 type radar was temporally sent in to replace the burned out unit until a new radar unit was installed which took several months to complete.  As winter began to fade, life in Rumoi became easier.  It was nice to be able to get out and feel the sun, see and meet the people and their fishing village. 

One summer night, one of the men saw some very bright lights to the west across  the Sea of Japan towards Russia.  They appeared for about an hour and then disappeared.  The radar did not detect anything but our range was only about 100 miles since we still had the old radar unit.  The phenomenon was called in to 511th Combat Operations Center. The next night the same thing happened about the same time, so someone went and got a camera and placed it on a tripod and set it on a time exposure.  He then went and developed the film and discovered that the stars were moving in a different direction than the other lights so the lights were ruled out as being stars.  We all  felt that Russia was doing some kind of experiments or were they UFO's.  The film was forwarded to Misawa with our own descriptions of what we saw.  We never heard anything further about it.. 

Our brand new Radar


In September of 1953, the Korean war was over and POW's were being returned to the US.  A teletype message was received at the Detachment advising that all radar operators with less than 4 months on their 4 year commitment were eligible for immediate discharge if they desired to do so.   Since I fell in that category, I accepted and within 2 weeks I was on my way to the Yokohama processing camp to return to the US.  While at the camp, I ran into my best friend who had joined the Air Force with me and we had stayed together up until we got to Hamilton AFB where he went to a radar site at Point Mugu, CA and I went to Mather AFB.  We were overjoyed at being together and found out that we would be together on the same boat to San Francisco  which was another old troop ship like the one I came over in.  We were all set to leave camp for the boat when they called out for all men whose name began with a T through Z to fall out and they told us we were being bumped to make way for some EX-POW's.  I was quite upset about not being able to go with my best friend.  After 3 days, we were assigned to a boat called the US General Darby and it's destination was Seattle.  The boat was a former cruise ship that had been put in to service for the Korean War and was used to carry military members and their dependents and was quite plush compared to the troop ships.  They were 400 of us that had gotten bumped and on this ship we did not have any details to do on the boat , just relax, and the trip took 9 days.  Quite different from my trip over to Japan.  I arrived in Seattle and took a bus to Parks AFB, CA for discharge.  On the October day that I received my discharge, my best friend arrived after 17 days on the troop ship.  I was laughing but he wasn't very happy about his trip.  I was now glad that I had missed the first boat.
   U.S.N.S. General Wm O. Darby

To view my Photo Gallery of Det 30 click here.  I apologize for the quality of the photos but I didn't have a very good camera then.

Click here for my life after separation from the Air Force.



Comments may be sent to gordon@ward.org