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THE AUSTRALIAN MILITARY CONTRIBUTION TO THE
OCCUPATION OF JAPAN, 1945–1952
Dr James Wood

A link to the above article can be found below. Although lengthy, it is an interesting historical insight into the British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF) which commenced operations in Japan on 13 February 1946.  Ed.


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BCOF


3TELU  Japan Detachments - 1951 and 1952.
By Doug Gibb 381


Two groups comprised these detachments.
The first group arrived in Japan in January 1951; Corporal Jock (Scotty) Ballantyne,  operators Wally Ammon, Dick Talbot, Ray Bennett, Bill Mengusson and Ken Peddy.
In August they were Joined by Ross Bartlett and John (Gubby) Allen, Ray Bennett having returned to Australia.

The second group of Corporal Bill Thatcher and operators Ted Burland, Noel Dare, Doug Gibb, Harry Hunt, Don (Pappy) Pike; Gubby Allen remained to join this group .

The rest of the first group returned to Australia.

They were based, as a part of 91 Composite Wing at Iwakuni.
Iwakuni is on the Island of Honshu approximately 40 miles south of Hiroshima - right on the shore of Hiroshima Bay.  From its formation around 1900 to the end of WWII,  this was the main fleet anchorage of the Japanese Imperial Navy.  Iwakuni was the main Naval Air Station for its fleet airarm, as it could handle land and seaplane operations. The young Japanese men who volunteered to be Kamakaze pilots were trained here . On the base (it’s still there), is a Shinto shrine where these men carried out their devine devotions during training and prior to their one way missions.
From September 1945 it was the RAAF base for its role in the occupation of Japan as part of British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF) or commonly called ‘beecof’.
These detachments therefore became members of BEECOF and wore that badge on their upper arms.
At the outbreak of the Korean war in 1950, RAAF units based at Iwakuni became part of the United Nations force fighting Korea.
The base also became multi-national. Beside housing the  RAAF logistics i.e. administration, stores, messes. Hospital, aircraft servicing  and recreation facilities.
77 Squadron, flew Mustang fighters and later in 1951 Meteor jet fighters.  A flight of 76 squadron flying Dakota transports maintained constant communication between Iwakuni and Korea.

The base also housed a large United States air contingent as it was a major transport hub in and out of Korea. The United States Navy flew Martin Mariner flying boats on maritime patrols as did the RAF using Sunderland flying boats.  So it was a very busy place with flying operations going on 24 hours a day.

The detachment’s operating room was housed in an attic type room perched on top of the admin building with views over most of the base, so it was a pleasant place to work. The focus of course was North Korea and we operated 24 hours a day.

The occupation was basically paid for by Japan, consequently no expense was spared.  Messing was excellent, prepared by an army of Japanese kitchen workers supervised by RAAF cooks. The meals were varied and plentiful (we all put on weight).  I recall for Easter Saturday evening meal, we had oyster, lobster and crab as starters.
A wet canteen with a nightly snack-bar prepared just about any snack desired. From memory, beer was about a Shilling a stubby.  Every so often when the canteen was flush with money they held threepenny nights which was then the cost of a stubby.
A dry canteen operated for purchase of personal items.   The US PX was also open to us.
This meant that there were 3 different currencies needed. For Australian facilities we needed British Armed Force Script (BAFS) in Pounds, Shillings and Pence;  US Armed Forces Script in Dollars and off base, Japanese Yen.

To deter the black market, often at very short notice a change of notes would of called but only money linked to one’s paybook was changed. Any over notes became scrap paper.

Quarters were 4 to a room with two young Japanese men as room boys. These lads did all the cleaning, bed making, laundry and any other task requested.  The rooms were heated by a system with steam  pumped through pipes. Even on the coldest day (snow ice etc) a person could sit in just shirt sleeves and be comfortable. But when the steam was turned off about midnight and the pipes cooled we’d all be woken up by a terrible racket.

Recreation:  The base was extremely well equipped for this. Tennis courts, gymnasium, basket ball court, squash courts and the parade ground doubled as a footy field, yachts (a bit later) and a 3 hole golf course. This course ran down one side of and then across and down the other side of the main runway.  Hitting across the runway was quite an experience -  look long and hard both ways, judge carefully, then hit and run.   A cinema operated by US forces showed the latest movies at no charge.   All of these were well used by the detachments.
The yacht......it was a very good boat about 20 odd feet in length.  As I had been a keen yachtsman before enlisting, I was most keen to give this craft a go. So gathering all off duty operators as crew, set off into the inland sea of Japan. For a couple of hours everything was great - even got my landlubbers to work reasonable well. Then alas, we were becalmed hour after hour we never moved a meter, no motor no oars no food.  Some water - no warm clothing - nought.  And so we sat. Next morning a meteor came looking for us, then an air sea rescue boat to tow us in. The sergeant skippering this boat abused me for ringing in when we were becalmed.  I gave him a good blast.
My crew also got a good blast from the operators we left in the lurch by missing our shifts causing them to work right through for about a day and a half.

The base also had it’s own radio station which broadcast music, news and items of interest to the base and surrounding districts. Most of the us spent quite a bit of our spare time arranging musical and other programmes and also doing some announcing.

Off Base Activities.
Naturally each member of the detachments explored the surrounding districts as there was so much to see and experience.
The villagers of the small town of Iwakuni lived of the base supplying all the indigenous labour.  The biggest businesses were bars restaurants and other entertainments places.

All of the members would have visited Hiroshima to see the devastation from THE BOMB.
I am sure each was affected by it in some way. 85,000 people obliterated in split second.
Another popular spot was Myajima island - very picturesque. It was a convalescent place for sick and wounded servicemen. Visiting the island, a local informed me that Emperor Hiohito’s horse was stabled there.  Eventually I found said horse, pure white and biggest bag of bones I’d ever seen.  5 years ago, in a trip down memory lane, I went to same stable and lo there was the emperor’s horse; Made of plastic. You can’t beat the Japs.

Another experience was Cherry Blossom festival. The locals all take off to the nearest park or wherever there are cherry trees. They then consume enormous quantities of sake (rice wine) and beer and really make a mess of themselves. As a group of us strolled through a large park, just about every party of drinkers invited us to take part. If we had accepted even half of the invites we would have been as smashed as they were. We all found the Japanese friendly and very cooperative.
One only had to stop or appear lost and a Japanese would quickly come forward and help. We all made some friends of the locals.
Each 3 months we were entitled to one week’s R and R.  This could be taken in Tokyo or at a resort called Kawana, close to Fuji Yama. The cost of this week was ten shillings, ($1). Kawana was an old castle or palace and would be about 4/5 stars on today’s hotel rankings. It included a first class golf course and professional instructor.  Young girl caddies and all golf equipment included in $1 tariff, plus all meals and the usual hotel services.  (Had to by our own beer).
We travelled overnight by train 1 st class to Hakone. Woke in the morning, looked out of the window and Fuji Yama towered over the train - what a sight.
Personally I never went on R and R to Tokyo so no story.

But alas all good things must come to an end, in this case prematurely.
On the 28th of April 1952 WWII legally came to an end when all combatant nations signed a peace treaty and Japan regained its sovereignty. This gave them the right of access to all establishments. Consequently we had to leave.

So in July 1952 the second detachment was transferred to Hong Kong. Except Gubby Allen who having completed his tour, returned to Australia.

Hong Kong what a cultural shock...Accommodation in bare concrete blocks full of bed bugs..meals indescribable... enough said.


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