Everyone should go to Asia before he dies — if for no other reason than to experience true culture shock.
In 1951, during the Korean War, the Army landed us at Yokohama Harbor. As we trooped down the gangplank and prepared to enter a convoy of olive drab buses, our sergeant yelled: “Anybody need to heed the call of nature?!” Several hands went up. He then formed us into a circle in the middle of the street and said: “Okay, go to it.”
“Right in the street?” inquired a timid voice.
“It’s okay,” answered the sergeant. “Local custom. Nobody will mind.”
World War II on the home front was a bewildering time for a 12-year-old feisty kid from Wynne, Arkansas.
I had attained my 12th birthday in August, 1941, then in December war came. Most of us underage types in Arkansas had become accustomed to the Depression (that was the way the world was). Our future seemed to hold little more than more of the same. Then, breathtakingly, our universe turned upside down. At once it became a cosmic swirl of uniforms, trainloads of tanks, rationing, shortages, blue stars in the windows, alarming but fascinating news from the fighting fronts and soldiers, soldiers everywhere.
Newspapers bristled with war stories and battle maps. It seemed everyone was writing patriotic songs, panting to attain the emotional heights of “Let’s Remember Pearl Harbor.” Even one of my schoolteachers had a crack at it:
When this awful war is over,
We’ll be sitting deep in clover,
Onward to victory!