Chapter 15 Thirty day leave

 

30 Day Leave

 

 

 

It’s now April 1958 and my tour in Korea is winding down. Jimmy has already gone back to the states from the 24th Division due to his dad’s death, so I applied for the 30 day leave that I had accrued. This after numerous TDY’s (temporary duty assignments) and R & R’s in Japan. At first I am granted a 17 day leave and then it was extended. It would include the Dai Ichi Hotel in Tokyo, International Hotel in Hong Kong, the Macao Inn in Macao, the Presidential Palace in the Philippines,  Hadena Air force billets in Okinawa, the MAAG transient billets in Formosa, the Oriental Hotel in Bangkok, Rangoon Hotel in Burma, the Majestic hotel in Saigon and finally the New Cambodia Hotel in Cambodia. Scheduled to return the end of July.  The last visa that I had to obtain was from the Philippines. Entering the Consulate I was met by 2 tough looking, unsmiling gents. “What is the purpose of your stay”. Well, since I am friends with Mr. Garcia the Ambassador to Korea I wanted to learn more about the country and possibly seeing about a Master’s degree in Economics at the University.  They were for some reason not pleased with my answer.  “Where do you intend on staying?” I answered that Mr. Garcia mentioned that I could stay at the Presidential Palace. The 2 stone faced thug looking characters got up and left the room for what seemed like hours (probably 10 minutes).  When they returned they stated that I would be staying at the Manila Hotel in Manila and that I was NOT to mention Cosme Garcia’s name, nor was I to inquire about him. OK as they loudly stamped my Visa. I’ve always wondered in my travels throughout the world why customs agents got such a large thrill out of stamping the passport with a loud bang. They must feel that they can exercise their sense of power during the day and then go home to their meager pay and their subservience to their domineering wife.

 

 

 

I believe the first stop was Japan where I would return for the final leg back. I arranged with my friends, who owed my favors for another VIP flight to Tokyo, after which would be mostly commercial Pan Am #1 (the flights that went around the world). There were six of us and the two lowest ranking were myself as the only enlisted man and a Navy Lt.  I got friendly with Navy Lt. Schwartz who was a history buff and somewhat of a mystic. We decided to visit various cities that I had missed in my numerous trips there. Our conversations tended toward history, religion and philosophy. His views were quite pronounced and sometimes even a bit scary.  When we spoke about the Death Camps in Europe and I mentioned how shocking it was for a civilized, educated population to commit such crimes. His comment was that in the future that these crimes would be denied by some, although they would not go so far as saying that the Jews murdered the Germans, just that it never happened. Shocking me further he stated that at one point Jews would be compared to Nazi’s.   And this without a lot of drinking on his part.  We then discussed Americans as occupiers and civilized soldiers who would tend to shield women and children. The Lt. then made an astounding prediction which hounds me until this day. He said that our next war would be in Southeast Asia to keep Communism from spreading further and that during this war U. S. troops would commit a massacre against civilians. Whenever I would hear something about My Lai his conversation would come to mind. I was getting depressed so I asked for a lighter conversation. He proceeded to tell me about the person that spent months trying to track down the Dalai Lama of Tibet.  The person went through all kinds of hardship and drama, climbing mountains and getting bum steers along the way. Finally he was directed to a cave when the Dalai Lama was meditating. Your highness he says: “I have traveled many, many miles to find you and I have only one question? What is that my son? WHAT IS THE SECRET OF LIFE he asked?” Pondering this for a long time the Dalai Lama finally answered. “Life is a fountain” Dumbfounded the person could only repeat the answer as a question. The Dalai Lama looks at him with puzzling eyes and responds: SO LIFE ISN’T A FOUNTAIN? At this point the Lt. is roaring with laughter as the Lt. explains that it’s all a joke. So at least he has a sense of humor. At some point we got separated and maybe it was for the best as who knows what other predictions that the good Lt. had. 

 

 

 

On to the Philippines.

 

I hate the heat and Southeast Asia at this time of year is a horrible inferno. This is 1958 and there is no A/C. We landed in Manila and stepping off the plane the blast of heat hits you like a wave. I grabbed my bags and was in luck as there is a one empty taxi right there at the curb as I leave the airport. What a break. Manila Hotel I call out and his response is in clear English. “Yes Sir, my pleasure”.  This guy seems quite friendly and we seem to hit it off quite nicely.  So after a while I asked him how I can find a friend of mine who may be working for the ruling Nationalista Party and happens to be the brother of President Carlos Garcia. “Why would you want to meet him” the cab driver asked impassively. Well, he’s a friend of mine from Korea and he was the ambassador but I lost track of him. “Sorry I can’t help you”. We pull up to the Manila Hotel on Dewey Boulevard.  Reservation is in order and while they were preparing my room I went to the Jungle Room bar for a nice cold Filipino San Miguel beer. My  room was ready and I start to get ready for a shower when all of a sudden there is a loud banging  on the door, and I mean loud. Who is it I ask and the answer sounds like something military.  I run to the phone and try to call down to the desk but no one answers. More loud banging, so I open the door. There are two mean looking gorillas who are standing  in their dark green military uniforms. They shove their way in. This is a little scary to say the least. The biggest one did the talking. “Weren’t you told in our consulate that you were NOT to inquire about Cosme Garcia or the Presidential Palace?” Apparently all was set up with the taxi driver and there was obviously something serious going on with the brothers. Since it looked like they would be following me wherever I went it was best to adhere to their wishes. I said that I understood an apologized. They left and I needed a shower and a good stiff drink.  After cleaning up I wandered down  toDewey Boulevard, stopping at the World War 2 museum where the Japanese held, tortured and murdered civilians. It is right in the center of town. It is a dark, scary museum where you can almost hear the screams of the innocent men, women and children. Now I wandered into this raucous bar which looked like something out of an old west movie, except for those long colored shirts that they wear. On the left when you walked in is a room that looks like a large coat check room. Only you didn’t check your coat and hat, but you checked your 45 Pistol. Quite a site seeing rows of 45’s and holsters with little white tags hanging down. Manila was apparently a bit of a rough place.  I did not have a great night’s sleep in the hotel as real or imagined, I thought that I heard gun shots throughout the night. Later on I was to find for the most part that the natives were friendly, hospitable and loved Americans. The food was excellent, especially the Kare-Kare and the Arroz Caldo which was a chicken and rice soup. I was told the best place to cool off was Baguio, up in the mountains, not far from Luzon. I got a cab (no questions about Cosme this time) in front of the hotel and told him that I wanted to go north. On the trip something was mentioned about the Luzon Jungle and I said that I would love to see a jungle as I had never seen one before.  OK. Jose would be my guide. We arrived at the forest (jungle) and we got out to walk.  It didn’t resemble a jungle like I saw in the movies but just like walking through an overgrown forest. Any wildlife or wild animals I asked? “Yes, if you look at the branch above your head there is a Python!.  I glance up and can’t believe my eyes. There is this bright green snake (I think he called it a Python lizard) about 20 feet long and a few inches thick staring down at me.  OK Jungle tour is over let’s go on to Baguio. I was dropped off at a lovely hotel restaurant and told I would have no trouble getting a cab to go back. In a way I felt safe as with the authorities following me I was sure the cab would be a legitimate one. As I approached the hotel I was met by a family with a couple of kids who asked if I am an American. We would become fast friends after I related the Python story and they would eventually take me to their home in a small town and drive me back to Manila. From there it was on to many other counties in S.E. Asia. They were all fascinating, magnificent scenery, interesting people and with awful heat and very high humidity. I couldn’t get off the plane in India because I hadn’t received a Yellow fever shot. It seemed that I had every shot in the world before I left but apparently they missed one. I’ve forgotten many of the various incidents but in Thailand the memory of the extreme friendliness of the people remains, along with a tour of an Opium Den. We were brought into a dark large smoky room and the sight of very old women huddled in a corner was enough to cure me of any thoughts of using drugs or smoking pot. I’ll stay with good cigars and pipes. I usually managed to stay in decent hotels in the various countries as I had saved up money from my sales of Ajinomoto (MSG) in both Japan and Korea. The MSG had been purchased in the PX in Seoul. In the Orient MSG is commonly used in cooking to flavor food. In America it seems that since a doctor once felt ill after eating in a Chinese restaurant he publicized the fact that MSG was not good for you. Maybe it does affect some people but I know it has never affected me in any way. Then again with my stainless steel stomach I can eat almost anything without having any after effects. The only place that I didn’t feel comfortable in was Okinawa, where I felt a distinct atmosphere of resentment; this in spite of my wearing civilian clothes.

 

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