USMC Marine Corps Air Facility, Futema, Okinawa 1st Marine Air Wing
Oku
Uka
Sosu
Ada
Aha
Arakawa
The Marine Corps Air Facility at Futema (the US government spelled the town Futenma without the letter “n”) was not only new to us, it was a facility new to the Okinawans. It had opened in 1960. Within a half-hour we were waved through the front gate of the base. The sun was setting as we assembled into a platoon formation in a parking lot. In the distance we could see single-story buildings among larger, multi-storied concrete buildings. Definitely looked like mainside to us. Camera Shy After roll-call and the assigning of billets, the officer-in-charge made a special announcement. He introduced a staff sergeant from the Combat Camera Group. He was part of a select few of official military photographers and was here looking for a couple of Marines to join the group. Wow, what an opportunity. What a great job. I could not wait to be one of those chosen. He began asking us questions. “Who, in this formation is familiar with photography or has belonged to a camera club, or has taken pictured for his school newspaper, church, or other organization. About 10 of us raised our hands. “Step out of formation and regroup next to the bus,” the sergeant ordered. About 10 of us moved to the side anticipating the chance of doing something in photography for the Marine Corps. Excitement began to build. “Whoever has ever taken pictures of his family or friends, please step aside with the others,” he ordered next. About 15 Marines stepped to the side and joined us. Anticipation began to turn into doubt. What was he doing? Finally, the sergeant asked the remaining few, “Who here has ever used a camera for any reason, whatsoever?” About another dozen Marines stepped to the side, leaving only three PFCs standing. Doubt now became confusion. “You three come with me,” he ordered. “You will be going to Combat Camera School in Hawaii.” We were floored. Who wouldn’t want to be a Marine combat photographer? You would travel the world, meet all kinds of interesting people, and never have to pull guard duty. And Hawaii! But why didn’t they pick one of us with photographic experience? Why did they pick three guys who couldn’t spell “camera.” After we formed back into a formation the OIC explained. The Marine Corps has found it easier to teach good habits to someone with no prior experience than to correct bad habits in someone with experience. Bummer.
OKINAWA
An Island Culture Onto Itself
               Marine Corps Air Facility                   It was 1962. Our ship pulled into Naha harbor late on a               March afternoon after 21 days at sea. We were glad to pack      our seabags for the last time. Within an hour, about 40 of us   clambered aboard Marine Corps cattle cars and began our trip North  to our new duty station.
OKINAWA
The Ryukyus are a group of islands numbering more than a thousand and stretching in a  gentle arc from the southern-most island of Japan to the northeast coast of Taiwan. Okinawa is the the largest of the island chain, measuring about 58 miles in length and about 10 miles at its widest point. The Okinawans are a culture onto them- selves; neither Japanese nor Chinese. They, at one time, had their own language and religion. In their early history their island was divided into three kingdoms that were eventually melded into one in 1429 by Sho Hashi. Thus the First Sho Dynasty was born. The First Sho Dynasty lasted until 1469, being ruled by a succession of seven kings. At the death of Sho Toku, the seventh king, Kanamaru, the chief vassal, took reigns, changed his name to Sho, and began the Second Sho Dynasty. Sho Shin, the third king of the Second Sho Dynasty, began his reign at the tender age of 12 and over the next 49 years built a strong government and helped usher in the “Golden Age of the Ryukus”. Along with trade and resources, he expanded an indigenous crafts industry of hairpins, hats, and beads, broadening Okinawan notoriety. The Second Sho Dynasty lasted over 19 generations of kings before Sho Tai, the last king, was forced out of power in 1879 by the Japanese. Okinawa was established as a Prefecture of Japan and remained so until 1945, when Japan was defeated by US and allied forces. Okinawa remained a protected territory of the United States until 1972 when it was returned to Japan. 
I was assigned to: Marine Aircraft Group-16, Marine Air Base Squadron-16 Otherwise referred to as: MAG-16, MABS-16 As a combat engineer in the Utilities Section
MARINE AIRCRAFT GROUP-16 h e a 9 c 7 6 b 1 g 3 I 4 k j f 2 m i 8 5 d 1 0   1. Exchange   2. Barber Shop   3. Laundry   4. Barber Shop   5. Barber Shop   6. Food Court   7. Concessions   8. Snack Bar   9. Snack Bar 10. Theater a. Bank b. Bowling Center  c. Chapel d. Dental Clinic e. Enlisted Club  f.  Gym g. Library h. NCO Club i.  Officer’s Club j. Post Office k. Special Services l.  Swimming Pool m. USO 1996 Map of Futema MAS (enhanced)
After the disappointment of not being chosen for the Combat Camera Group a more immediate situation took preference - my empty stomach. We had not eaten for several hours and a hungry Marine is an unhappy Marine. The situation was about to be resolved. The Sergeant of the Guard told us that the mess chief had kept the mess hall open, just for us, and we proceeded to march across the street for chow. When we walked in, we could not help but comment that we had been brought to the Officer’s Mess. The mess hall looked like an American restaurant. China and silverware - no mess trays. Tables with blue, plaid table clothes and flowers. The walls were decorated with artwork. We were stunned and start commenting on how we would see the “real” chow hall tomorrow. Then came the next big surprise. The chow was too good to be called chow. Meats, seafood, fresh vegetables, and grand desserts were laid out before us. It was a dinner you would pay good money for in a fine restaurant back home. As we sat, four to a table, the word began to spread that this was indeed the enlisted man’s mess hall but that we were missing one important ingredient. Because of the late hour, the mess chief had sent the wait staff home. The wait staff! Yes, we would discover at breakfast the next morning a cadre of beautiful, Okinawan women, dressed in starched, blue and white waitress uniforms, greeting us with smiles as we walked the chow line. They would clear or tables and make sure we had the necessary napkins, beverages, and condiments for enjoying our dining experience. The mess hall was unique to the Marine Corps and to Okinawa. Military bases on the island followed a standard menu dictated by Head- quarters, Marine Corps. Every base drew their food supplies from military depots. The result was standard fare at every base on the island except ours. Our mess chief had worked out a deal that allowed him to use the same budget allotted other bases, but to use it to negotiate, on the open market, his own purchasing of foods and supplies. The result was a varied and outstanding menu that included steaks from Australia and pheasant from South Korea. Because of the mess hall and other outstanding features, our air base was known island-wide as the country club on the hill. It was so well known that military personnel having official business with personnel on our base inevitably showed up around lunch time. The crowds got so big that mess hall passes were issued and closely checked at the door. As one of my friends from Georgia put it - we were now living in high cotton!
My Pencil Sketch of Futema MCAS, 1962 
Futema MCAS, 1996
19
My Barracks
The enlisted men’s messhall is capable of feeding 1,900 men per meal. They are efficiently trained Okinawan employees and skilled Marine Cooks and Bakers who prepare the food for the men at this Air Facility. (Base publication)
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