John J. Hughes
(1937-2009)

 


John Hughes off to Iwakuni-1958

John Hughes-2008

John Hughes and I were like ships that pass in the night. We were both on Azuma at the same time. He was at Butler 3, I was in charge of the Tool Room in Mine Assembly, under Chief William ("Kelly") Poole. John took a lot of pictures which appear throughout these pages. Without his help, these pages would lack a great deal. Here's the first communication we had after 50 years:


Hi Speedy,

Yes, I remember you from Azuma-shima. Did not know you well, but I do recall talking to you a few times. I was there from Jan '56 to May '58, and would have been working at Butler 3 during the time that our tours overlapped. I also remember Ron Ferry, who I had forgotten about until I saw his photo on your site.

Thanks for your email, and your invitation to join you in Charleston in October. Right now, I am not sure how things are going to work out, as there are five of our Yorktown "A" school class that are planning a reunion, and as of yet, we don't know where we are going to be meeting. I have proposed, as an option, that we meet at the AOM reunion in Charleston. I have also said that I would be willing to host a meeting here where I live, in the Phoenix, AZ area. The other four from our class are: Doug Guy, Willie Sewell, Hansford Cooper and Billy Ray Jones. We were all members of the class 6-56 which completed the first week of Dec. in 1955, and all ended up at Azuma the first week of January, 1956. Joe Gingher was also a part of our group, but he is now deceased.

When I met Ralph Shaw that first week of January in 1956, I had no idea that we had gone to the same high school in Nebraska. However, as I got to know him better, I found out that we had indeed, both graduated from the same high school; he in 1953 and I in 1955. Since it was a large school, and he was two years older, our paths never crossed there.

You may be familiar with the Harris Publishing Co. that puts together alumni directories for high schools, colleges, fraternities, etc. Well, I bought one for my high school, and just a few years ago, I came across Ralph Shaw's listing and so I gave him a phone call. We had a nice long conversation, and it was from Ralph that I found out about AOM and the web site. That opened up a whole new area for contacts to my past.

I am not familiar with your friend Bill Roberts, and I am assuming that he is either from one of your other duty stations, or perhaps from Yokosuka after I was gone from there. I left from Yokosuka in May of 1958 to return to Treasure Island for separation. I was sworn in on "D-Day" (which, of course, was yesterday), June 6, 1955, and was separated on June 5, 1958. (Yes, I was a kiddie-cruiser.)

I do remember your friend Bruce Rebbetoy from Yokosuka, who was also a good friend of Henry Villwock. Henry was the only one at Yokosuka that I wrote to after I got back to the States.

I had purchased a new Triumph motorcycle before I left Japan, had it crated by the two nationals that worked at A-61 (it cost me two cartons of cigarettes) and then had it shipped back to the States. Picked it up at Oakland and rode from there to Phoenix (where my brother lived) and from there back to Nebraska.

Henry was very interested to hear from me as to how I did on my trip, as I had not previously ridden a motorcycle except for a couple lessons that I received from a guy named Bensen that lived in Villwock's cubical. Bensen also went with me to Tokyo to pick my cycle and drive it back to Yokosuka for me.

So I wrote to Villwock to tell him my travel story, and he wrote back to tell me what was going on at Azuma. (I still have his letter.) Both Villwock and Rebb had worked at Butler 3 where I had worked also. In somewhat recent years, I have called and talked to Villwock a couple of times at his home in Michigan. The last time was probably 2 or 3 years ago.

Your story about your fake overnight liberty cards gave me quite a laugh, particularly regarding the misspelling. I have spent over 25 years in the printing industry, with 17 of those years as owner/operator of my own print shop. So now I can't read anything without automatically proof-reading it. But your story is a classic example of how a Japanese would pronounce and spell the word "liberty." Very funny!

While I was there at Yokosuka, I also had one of those overnight cards that had been printed on the beach. I'm not positive, but I believe that I bought mine from Tapscott, who was one of the "Great Train Robbery" participants. Never did have anyone at the gate question it.

Did you ever hear about another "caper" that Tapscott pulled, when he and a couple others out on the island on the weekend, took one of the M-boats and went over to town to do some drinking at a bar?

Have much more to say, but I have to go for now. Talk to you later.

--John Hughes



Barracks and Messhall-Yokosuka. The 6X parked in front is how we rode to the boat pool.


Minemen Barracks 'M' ladder


In front of baracks was HSA HQ. To the right is the Marine Barracks



John standing watch at A61 with same .45 we all carried.

John keeping trespassers away from the island.

John, like many of us, climbed to the top of Azuma and hung out with the Japanese fire detection team on the peak.
From there, he took some really neat photos of the area surrounding Azuma.


Oppama with Japanese MSDF base in center. Obscured in the clouds is Mt. Fuji.

 


 

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