After enjoying only 6 weeks of a guaranteed 1-year base assignment of choice I received an assignment from K.I.Sawyer AFB, MI to Naha AFB, Okinawa. I was not able to bring family with me concurrently as I had to find suitable housing on Okinawa first, then I would be able to send for them. This meant that Annette and children had to travel by themselves half-way across the world to Okinawa. After moving Annette and children to Minot, ND to be with her parents, I left for Okinawa in August of 1968 from Minot International Airport, Minot, ND.
After experiencing a long flight to SEATAC airport, and while waiting to board the plane to Okinawa, I was bumped from the plane and had to fetch my baggage out of the cargo hold. As I was sitting in the terminal waiting for further directions, I was called to the passenger info window and asked if I would care to help a dependent woman and her children (four of them as I recall) board the plane and help them during the trip. If I agreed...then I would be allowed to board the plane and make the trip. I agreed...and my baggage was loaded back onto the plane. Annette and children received the same help during their voyage to Okinawa...so, what went around, came around. Good system.
It only took me around 6 weeks or so to find a home off-base, at which time I moved out of the Barracks on Naha AFB and into the home, an 800 sq.ft. bungalow having a flat cement roof and typhoon shutters on all windows. No air conditioning...I had to purchase and install that at a later date. Stan Teal, with whom I was stationed with at K.I.Sawyer AFB a few weeks earlier, moved out of the barracks as well and into one of my spare bedrooms. Barracks life, esp. during a typhoon, was not a desireable way to live. Folks stationed here prior to my arrival had waited over 6 months for a home...there was some sort of housing strike going on.
Shortly after arriving on Okinawa I purchased a Mazda Carol P360, a "micro-car," perfect Island transportation. It was fun to drive, got great gas mileage, and was patched up with lead tape and latex house paint as our cars could not show signs of rust. I also procured Sam the Dog, who became a great watch dog for us...and kept the "stealy-boys" away...as well as the neighborhood guard whom we paid something like $8.00/mo for home protection.
During each of my three years on Okinawa we would experience at least one, and sometimes two or more, typhoons. We would slide the shutters over the windows after taping each pane with "typhoon tape" to minimize any damage from broken glass. While some typoons blew out with little to no damage to property, some were very destructive. They could last up to three days...where we would all be holed-up in our small homes with our loved ones. We had a small battery operated Sony TV having a 10" screen or so that we would be somewhat entertained with during those long days. Our water supplies would be polluted for a few days afterwards. There was no FEMA to take care of us...we were on our own.
This was the back gate from Naha AFB to the Oroku housing area where we lived. About 1/2 block down the road and a left-turn brought one into our neighborhood. At this point in time, the gate has barricades ready to be put in place to keep strikers, rioters, and other nefarious demonstrators from gaining access to the base.
Amongst the many tourist-friendly places on Okinawa was the Todoroki waterfalls. It is a beautiful location, lots of shade from the daily searing heat and some relief from the always-high humidity. A favored place amongst residents and tourists of Okinawa as well. On this particular day, George & Annette Smith along with their children Tom and Roxanne, along with Joe and Lucy McKee and their children Sherri and Todd, were happy visitors to this location.
Kokusai Street in 1971 was a simple mainstreet, and was the main entertainment strip in Naha that runs for about 1.6 km, stretching from Palette Kumoji (Ryubo department store) to the Asato intersection. There are many souvenir shops as well as eating and drinking establishments lining both sides of the street. Every side street off of Kokusai Street has a unique atmosphere: Heiwadori; and the Kousetsu Ichiba (marketplace) with an old-style appearance and feeling. In 1971 traffic was such that vehicles still drove on the right side of the street. After Japan took over in 1971, traffic flow reverted to the left side of the street. I imagined all the modifications that had to be made...passenger busses had to have their entrance/exit doors now on the left-side of the busses, etc.

Today, after much building and modernization, you can find Tsuboya Yachimun Street, full of pottery shops and galleries; and Ukishima and Sakurazaka streets, the new favorites with the young crowd. The night life on Kokusai Dori is always busy with clubs, bars, and cheap eateries open until the wee hours of the morning. Kokusai Dori ends at the main bus terminal in Okinawa. There is also a station for Okinawa's only train system, the Yui Rail monorail Since Kokusai Street becomes one way at certain times of day, it might be a good idea to park your car and see the area by foot. Traffic is always very busy on Kokusai Street, and parking is hard to find, but a few pay lots do exist. Also, although extremely difficult to locate, there are some places where you can park for free, but it usually takes a few trips to Naha and the help of an experienced friend to show you where they are located.
In April of 1971 those of us who volunteered to remain behind a few extra months to take care of wrapping up the final activities associated with closing an Air Base attended base closing ceremonies, with flags being sheathed, parade formations in attendance, and all were given a memorabilia pamphlet. Naha's F-106's were cut up into sections several feet wide and stacked along side a run way. They had suffered metal fatique and other ailments during their years of service on Okinawa, and I guess it was felt it would be safer to simply destroy them rather than return them back to the USA. By the way...this was another reminder that USAF personnel are not very good at marching in formations! :-)
I'm thinking they were called "Korean Steak Houses," but for the life of me I cannot imagine why this would be so. Relationships between Japan and Korea were somewhat tense post WWII. At any rate, we would often eat at a local Steak House, where the best...Kobi Beef...was served along with potatoes, sprouts, bread, etc. where they were prepared at a stove by talented utensil-gymnast chefs. Such a meal was only a little more than $5.00 in 1971. Shortly afterwards, when Okinawa reverted back to Japan, the price of Kobe beef went up to around $91.00/lb. Kobe beef simply melts in your mouth, and is arguably the best beef you can get!