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The Yokota Officers Club
The Yokota Officers Club


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This book is about silences in families. In particular, it is about the silence that both bound and broke and Air Force family whose father flew spy missions over Russia and Red China at the height of the Cold War.

The book grew out of an odd interlude in my own life. During my first year of college, my Air Force family was transferred to Kadena Air Base. That summer i joined them on Okinawa, the southernmost of the islands that now forms Japan. Since the small island was little more that a parking lot for men and materials headed to Vietnam, there wasn't much for a spunky co-ed to do. When a dance contest with an all-expense paid trip to Tokyo as prize was announced, I was the first in line. My family had been stationed on Yokota Air Base some thirty miles outside of Tokyo from the time I was six until ten. I was very eager to visit again.

Due to an almost complete absence of legal age white females on the island, I won the contest. Yes, I did with a trip to Tokyo. The catch was I went as the intermission for a fifth-rate comedian who thought I was going to play Joey Heatherton to his Bob Hope.

On our two-week "tour" of the military clubs in the Tokyo area, I had a very emotional reunion with the Japanese woman who worked for my family for four years. It was a meeting that sent me away with questions it would take thirty years and the alchemy of fiction to answer.

--Sarah Bird



Following are several photos and images provided by Sarah from her family album from the era of THE YOKOTA OFFICERS CLUB. . .


Martha, John and Sarah Bird at Mather Air Force Base shortly before the family was transferred to Yokota Air Base in Japan.


John and Sarah at Mather.


Sarah's mother and some other officers' wives at a Japanese orphanage.


Sarah's mother just after she received her commission as an Army nurse.


Sarah with her middle brother, Tom.


Actual Yokota Officers Club calendar from April 1959 -- they seem to alternate days when drinks are either 15 cents or free.


John Aaron Bird, a captain at the time, in the RB-50 he navigated through the reconnaissance missions for which he was awarded a very rare peacetime Distinguished Flying Cross.


Sarah was given this clipping from the Yokota Afterburner base newspaper before a signing in Austin by the daughter of her father's squadron commander.