Military stories come in many forms. Granted the war veterans are most fascinating, but there are also stories of civilian service and those of military families. A subset of the latter is military “brats,” as they call themselves. These are the kids following their parents, usually from base to base across not only the U.S. but even overseas. Some of these overseas base stories are quite interesting. The kids are in a microcosm of American life, surrounded by a foreign culture.
While I was researching Tokyo area U.S. bases for my mother’s book, Cherry Blossoms in Twilight, I had the privilege of being welcomed into a Yahoo group of “brats” who spent time in Japan after the War. I love hearing about their adventures, their contact with the Japanese at that time, the ways of base life…paddy houses, binjo ditches, the Ten-Yen Store, Boy Scouts in Japan, etc. They have a great time reminiscing together, getting nostalgic, but generally think no one else really cares; those who weren’t there to experience it don’t really understand.
Maybe their families aren’t interested in hearing Mom or Dad’s old “war stories,” but who knows – maybe as the kids grow older they will develop an appreciation, or the grandkids will need a school project. Regardless of family interest, those old stories of military family life in a foreign country are part of U.S. history, as well as the histories of the countries they were in. If our brats don’t pass on this history, it will disappear, just as some of those bases have disappeared – old houses overgrown with weeds or bulldozed, just a few bones of buildings left to wonder about.
Many of us fall into that trap of thinking no one cares, who wants to know anyway. My life was just a plain old story. That was just the way it was. For history’s sake, let’s hope our attitudes change.
For a bit of older Japan (1970), this YouTube video will give you a look at Irumagawa, just outside Johnson Air Base.