My FIRST Visit

We left the PRESIDENT COOLIDGE in Yokohama and would rejoin her in Kobe, so we had time for a brief visit.

This was to be my chance to see Japan. We spent the first night ashore at the Imperial Hotel. Frank Lloyd Wright's architecture was handsome, but I kept bumping my head in the low doorways, I was too tall.

An acquaintance at the American Embassy invited us for tea at the prestigious Peer's Club, but I've forgotten its proper Japanese name. This was my first experience with the formality of dress. All of the men were wearing either conservative traditional robes or dark suits. I was wearing a necktie, but my light linen suit was completely out of place. While the club was beautiful and the tea service memorable, as a poorly dressed gaijin, I was anxious to leave.

The next day, we took the train to Odawara and then an automobile into the mountains of Hakone National Park. In Miyanoshita, we arrived at the Fujiya Hotel. This was the first hotel in Japan of western design, but it retained much traditional charm. In June of 1997, the most recent of many visits, I asked if I could see the registrations of 1939, fifty-eight years ago. Assured they still kept the large registration books, I was taken downstairs in an adjoining building and found my name on a page dated July 7, 1939.

High on a mountain behind the hotel was the Mt. Fuji viewing stand. Early the next morning, I followed the narrow path up the steep mountainside. I was most anxious to see Mt. Fuji. No luck. It was cloudy.

Later that morning, we returned to Odawara to catch a train to Kobe and our ship. The car taking us down from the mountains was powered by burning charcoal. Gasoline was in short supply and being saved for military purposes. Japan, at that time, was at war with China. Two things reminded me of that. First, the Japanese, while very polite, were somewhat restrained with foreign visitors. The second point was not as subtle. When we rejoined the PRESIDENT COOLIDGE, I walked to the end of the pier with my camera taking pictures of naval vessels at anchor. I was immediately and sternly advised this was not permitted.

Shanghai was my next port of call, a city of confusion. Europeans dominated both business and social activities. The Chinese were considered second-rate citizens in their own country.

While Japan was at war with China at the time, they had not yet taken over Shanghai. That would come late, but they did have a territorial concession, as did other countries.

A shipmate and I asked a cab driver to follow the Whangpoo River to where it joined the Yangtze, but we didn't get that far. We were crossing over a small tributary, which joined the Whangpoo. In the middle of the bridge, an armed Japanese soldier stopped the cab, ordered us to get out and demanded we bow our heads in respect to Emperor Hirohito.

This having been accomplished, we turned around, left the Japanese concession and returned to friendlier environs.

Then, on to Hong Kong where my mother and I had been invited to a black tie dinner party at the home of a Canadian official located about three quarters of the way up The Peak. His post was not, apparently, important enough to take him to the top.

It was a large gathering, and I sensed tension after our arrival. One of the guests asked how long did my wife and I plan to be in Hong Kong. I explained I had come with my mother, not my wife. With this information discretely passed-on to the other guests, the tension disappeared.

Years later, I was invited to another black tie dinner party. This time it was at the top of The Peak at the home of the Governor of the Crown Colony.

I was not with my mother nor had I packed a dinner jacket. I wore a dark suit and was greeted by my hostess with critical appraisal. Soon, I had a companion in similar straits. A charming fellow from South Africa also appeared wearing a suit. We joined forces and enjoyed the evening.

When the PRESIDENT COOLIDGE arrived in The Philippines, a member of the American Embassy suggested a game of golf. We played at a country club called Wack Wack located in San Juan, a wealthy community near Manila. Not only were the surrounding homes elegant, the golf course was something special.

When the temperature is high as it is in The Philippines, you particularly enjoy liquid refreshment. Wack Wack had this well organized with a bar at the end of the fifth hole, again at the ninth and then the fourteenth. The clubhouse was particularly well equipped at the end of the round.

Another thing I found interesting, two caddies were assigned to each golfer, not just one as in most of the world. One carried your clubs, and the other ranged down the fairway so an errant shot was easily found.

Just a few years later, I made my next visit to The Philippines at Tacloben on the Island of Leyte where General MacArthur had waded ashore in the first step in recapturing the country from the Japanese.

The area was now secure, and the CACAPON was on fueling assignment with naval vessels still in the gulf.

I went ashore to look around, and I did find something both interesting and disturbing. The CBs had built a Quonset hut, which had taken on new service. Our GIs were lined up at one end, singly entered the building and on departure were treated at a prophylactic station.

There were, I was told, eighteen accommodating Filipinas on assignment.

Later and frequent visits to Manila and Cubu City, where our furniture designs were being manufactured, offered more pleasant recollections of The Philippines.

I enjoyed my days on the PRESIDENT COOLIDGE but not my last view of her. I was now in the Navy, and my ship was leaving the New Hebrides on the way to the Solomon Islands. As we cleared the harbor channel, we passed over the PRESIDENT COOLIDGE now lying on her port side in ten fathoms of water. She'd run into one of our own mines.