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Story ID:8738
Written by:Frederick William Wickert (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Family History
Location:Gilboa New York USA
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By Fred Wickert

In 1953 I dropped out of college after only a semester and part of a second one. I went to work on the farm of my sister and brother in law. I was there only a few days when my sister, in her seventh month of pregnancy, fell down the stairs. A few hours later, my niece, Sheila was born. Less than two months later I entered the United States Air Force. Sheila was to little for us to get very well acquainted before I left.

When I entered the Air Force the Korean War was raging. I went to basic training, then to Combat Air Police school and upon completion, to Bolling Field in Washington, D.C. After a few months there, a notice was posted on the bulletin board outside the orderly room. It said a large number of men were needed to go overseas. There were three countries involved and men could put their name under the country of choice. The three countries were Japan, Turkey and Germany. I put my name under Japan.

While at Bolling I got a three day break every 25 days. I went to visit my girl friend at Cornell University. Dad told me that Mom found out and was hurt that I did not come home. It was difficult transportation wise to go home, but I did go home once, having to fly back, changing planes in New York City. When I got my orders for overseas, I had a 30 day leave and 14 days travel time. I went home but managed to visit my girl on weekends. On one weekend, I hitch hiked to Cornell, then brought her on a bus to my sister and brother in law's farm. We spent the night there, then went with them and their two children, Tom and Sheila, to Mom and Dad's on Sunday. My girl had a few days before she had to be back for classes. Sheila was still to young for us to get to know each other.

I went first to Japan on a troop ship. When I got there they no longer needed any Air Police, so a message was sent to the United States asking what to do with me. The answer came back to send me to Okinawa to a Bomb Supply Depot. One night in mid November a number of us were wakened in the middle of the night, ordered to pack our bags immediately, and a half hour later were trucked to a plane waiting for us at Kadena Air Base. There was an urgent need of Combat Air Police in Korea.

While finishing the remainder of my overseas tour in Korea, I decided I still wanted to see Japan. Something about Japan had a strong pull on me for some reason. I submitted a request for an 18 month extension on my overseas tour, provided it began with a transfer to Tokyo, Japan. It was approved. As soon as my tour was ended I was flown to Tokyo.

One month to the day after signing in to my new outfit in Tokyo, I had the night off. That night I met a girl. Something about that girl got under my skin in a big way. As my 18 month tour became shorter and shorter, I realized that I did not want to live the rest of my life without that girl. I asked her to marry me

At the time things were strict and difficult. One could not get married without first getting permission from the Air Force. They did not make it easy. After all, the occupation of Japan by the United States had only been over a couple of years. First a personal history statement six pages long had to be filled out in English, Japanese and Romanji, basically Japanese written in English. There had to be several copies and carbon copies were not accepted. After these were submitted there was a wait for three months. Then the papers came back with red lines and circles everywhere. In some cases there had to be some research done to determine what was correct, because they only indicated what was wrong. Then it had to be done all over again and re-submitted. This happened twice. We had to wait for the background investigation which took several months. It quickly became evident I needed a lot more time. There was not enough time left on my enlistment so I re-enlisted and put in for an extension on my overseas tour. When that extension was up I needed another. The day came when I applied for another extension and my commander turned it down. He said if I stayed there any longer I might become the mayor of Tokyo.

Finally the day came when all Air Force requirements were satisfied and permission to marry was granted. I was working on the midnight shifts. When I got off in the morning I went to get Tae. We went to the American Embassy in Tokyo. They informed us we had to go first to the Japanese Ward Office. We inquired where that was. Then got a taxi and went there. There we were given a civil wedding certificate proving we were legally married according to Japanese law.

Back to the American Embassy we went. It was almost five P.M. And one man was still there. I handed him the folder with our paper work and told him we wanted to get married. The folder was about three inches thick. The Air Force told us the American Embassy required all that stuff. The guy went through the folder and pulled out about a dozen sheets of paper. He slid the folder back to me and told me I could have all that stuff. All he needed is what he pulled out from the folder.

In a few minutes he came back, stamped two pieces of paper with a rubber stamp and told me, “There you are.” I looked at the two papers in my hand and they were duplicates of a marriage certificate. I asked if that was it, and he told me it was. We were now legally married, twice in one day.

Mom had made a wedding dress for Tae and mailed it to her in Japan. I had planned to organize a formal military wedding with crossed swords and dress uniforms and the works. Schedules of the different men involved could not be coordinated in time to pull it off, so we decided to wait until we got home and have the wedding in the church at home so family could attend.

After Tae's visa and pass port were obtained, we boarded a plane for the States. When we arrived in California, I bought a car and we followed Route 66 across the country to home. Then the wedding at the church was planned. I had been the best man at Ruth and Walt's wedding. It was only natural they stand with us when we married at the church. We had an added bonus. They were going to provide us with a flower girl.

Sheila had just turned six years of age, and a pretty little red headed, freckle faced girl she was. It was the first time I was to meet Sheila when she was old enough to talk. It didn't help me much. Sheila's eyes were glued to my bride, Tae. She said that day, and many times since then that she thought Tae, her new aunt, was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. You know what Sheila? So did I.