Ron’s story continues…
A few days later he was finally was released from the hospital and he was able to go home to Chicago for a brief visit before continuing on to Camp Pendelton, California. Shortly after, his dream of going to Asia got under way ,as he boarded a ship heading for Yokohama, Japan. It took over three weeks with one stop in Hawaii but the day finally came. As the ship drew ever closer to Yokohama all of the other young Marines on board got very silent and seemed even a little scared but not this one Marine. He felt a powerful inner glow and felt as if he was coming home. No explanation but he did have a thought and wondered if perhaps he had once lived there but was sent away and as a punishment and reincarnated in Chicago, Illinois.
That night he enjoyed going to a beautiful small restaurant near the main gate of the base. There he discovered three beautiful Japanese women wearing kimonos and then he ordered a meal of some very exotic food he had never even heard of before – sushi.
The next day he boarded a plane and flew to Okinawa where he would be stationed for the next 13 months. It turned out to be the beginning of the best year of his life. Soon after arrival he was invited to go back to Tokyo to enjoy at least some of the 1964 Olympic games. Free transportation provided by a military executive jet for this very young PFC. Not long after his return he was sent on a cruise that took him to Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Philippines and the South China Sea. He was loving each and every moment. One night in Hong Kong he went to the Opium Den Bar at the Hong Kong Hilton hotel there he and a few other Marines met A list movie star William Holden who bought every Marine drinks all night long. The party ended at sunrise.
After his 13 months were up he was ordered back to the U.S.A. for duty at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina. He was thoroughly bored but to help pass the time he did take advantage of the Cherry Point Flying Club and earned his Private Pilot’s license. The club had a Piper Tri-Pacer for a mere $5 per flight hour. Not exactly an F-4 Phantom mind you but at least he could and did fly. But he so much wanted to go back to Asia and then an opportunity presented itself.
He learned of what they called a rag squadron which is a squadron specifically formed for training and deployment and upon deployment each member would be reassigned to a different squadron and the rag squadron would be dissolved. He learned that this squadron would be sent to Asia once their training was complete. But this time the part of Asia they would go to was a place called Vietnam where there was a war going on. Nevetheless he requested to be transferred to the rag squadron and his request was approved with just one condition. He needed to extend his enlistment by one more year. No problem, so he did, and not long after he was heading back to Asia albeit South Vietnam. That would prove to be a vastly different experience than his first tour of Asia.
NOTE: If you would like this entire gripping story it as available in a small but powerful book 142 page book entitled: 51:50 the Book available here >> https://www.lulu.com/shop/ron-irwin/51-50-the-book/paperback/product-23447254.html
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Photos: Courtesy of Ron Irwin