Archive for February, 2008

Mount Pinatubo Eruption — An interview with a survivor

Friday, February 29th, 2008

Originally printed in Clear Lake Courier — 16 December 1998

Mount Pinatubo is a volcano fifty miles north of Manila on the Philippine island of Luzon. Dormant for 600 years, it was classified inactive until it erupted in 1991.Monitoring and observation in early June showed significant enough changes that public warnings were issued of an impending eruption. Authorities evacuated 60,000 people from the mountain slopes and surrounding area, as well as 18,000 military personnel and dependents from nearby Clark Air Base.

The first eruption sent a mushroom cloud high into the air Wednesday, June 12. Explosions and earthquakes continued for days. (more…)

Japanese Zero Pilots

Friday, February 29th, 2008

Originally printed in Clear Lake Courier — 29 July 1998

Lieutenant Yoshio Shiga of the Japanese Imperial Navy commanded one of the Zero fighter squadrons that attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. He is now 84 years old and the owner of a Tokyo company that makes security systems for military and law enforcement organizations.

When my boss and I visited him, Shiga told us the aircrews had trained for the Pearl Harbor mission without knowing their destination. His reaction at learning they would attack the United States was, “This is impossible. This is crazy.” When he flew over Hawaii, it was so pretty he hated to drop any bombs. (more…)

A New Home in Japan

Friday, February 29th, 2008

Yamato house

Originally printed in the Clear Lake Courier — October 2, 1996

The first day lasted 25 hours. We drove to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, early Tuesday morning. When I arrived in Japan and checked into my BOQ room at Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Wednesday morning’s Today show was on television.

The Boeing 747 left Seattle Tuesday afternoon at 5:00 South Dakota time and landed at Narita International Airport outside Tokyo Wednesday afternoon at 4:40 Japan time–a ten hour flight with a 14 hour time change. (more…)

Cody Lee Paver

Friday, February 29th, 2008


Originally printed in the Clear Lake Courier — July 3, 1996

This isn’t the column I intended to write last month. I had expected to tell about running a forty-mile ultramarathon in Tennessee on May 4. Instead, that was the day I attended the funeral of my nephew, Cody Lee Paver. He was five years old, the youngest member of our family.

He always called me “my Diane” and wondered when I was coming for my next visit. He once asked Kayo at the airport if the other people there were waiting for their Dianes, too. (more…)

Admiral Mike Boorda

Friday, February 29th, 2008

 Admiral Boorda

Originally printed in the Clear Lake Courier — August 7, 1996

He was the only person to go from the very bottom of the Navy to the very top, from seaman recruit to Chief of Naval Operations. He was also the first CNO who did not attend the Naval Academy.

In 1956 Jeremy “Mike” Boorda dropped out of high school and enlisted in the Navy. In 1994 he became the Navy’s military leader.

When someone came into my office May 16 to say the CNO had shot himself, I (like everyone else) refused to believe it.  Even listening to the announcement by the Secretary of the Navy on CNN, I thought he must have been assassinated. Word of a suicide note convinced me this had really happened. (more…)

Navy Memorial

Friday, February 29th, 2008

Originally published in the Clear Lake Courier — November 1, 1995

Did you serve in the United States Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard or wartime Merchant Marine, either in the reserves or on active duty? If so, you’re eligible to have your photograph displayed in the Navy Memorial Log at the U.S. Navy Memorial and Heritage Center in Washington D.C.

You would join the likes of LT John F. Kennedy, LTJG George Bush, Commodore John Paul Jones, Fleet Admirals Chester Nimitz and William Halsey, the five Sullivan brothers form Waterloo, Iowa, and the three Diekman women from Clear Lake, South Dakota. (more…)

Special Forces in El Salvador

Friday, February 29th, 2008

Originally published in the Clear Lake Courier — April 17, 1996

Sergeant Major Charles Black, assigned to the Army’s 7th Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, was on temporary duty in El Salvador just before Christmas 1989. While coordinating in-country training for Special Forces teams, he stayed at the Sheraton Hotel in the capital city of San Salvador.

One team of eight Green Berets finished a two-week training period and checked into the Sheraton for the night.  They were scheduled to fly to Fort Bragg the next morning. Gunfire woke them at 3:00 a.m.  Communist guerrillas had killed the guards and were attempting to capture the hotel. (more…)

Green Berets

Friday, February 29th, 2008

Originally published in the Clear Lake Courier — March 27, 1996

Several years ago a 12-man U.S. Army team was sent to a remote village in northern Thailand.  As soon as the team arrived, they set up a medical clinic and started giving checkups and shots to the children. A local drug warlord, who didn’t like their presence on his turf, quietly circulated the rumor that they were infecting young children with HIV.  They barely got out with their lives.

Such is the routine of Special Forces soldiers, commonly known as Green Berets. Their main business is unconventional warfare, going into hostile areas to train, equip and lead partisans or guerrillas against the enemy.


Answering President Clinton’s Mail

Friday, February 29th, 2008

Originally published in the Clear Lake Courier — February 22, 1995

“I do not think you read your mail personally.  We the people would like to think so though.” That comment represents the hope of many who write to the President of the United States.

Even if President Clinton devoted all his waking hours to answering mail, he could not possibly read the 2000 letters that arrive each day.  Peak mail volume earlier in his administration was 10,000 letters. (more…)

Kobe Earthquake–Interview with a Survivor

Friday, February 29th, 2008

Originally published as”Kobe Earthquake” in the Clear Lake Courier — July 15, 1998

The earthquake that struck Kobe (ko-bay), Japan, in 1995 registered 7.2 on the Richter scale and lasted twenty seconds. Fires and collapsed buildings and bridges throughout the city killed 5000 people and injured 21,000. More than 275,000 of the city’s 1.5 million inhabitants were left homeless.

I interviewed a survivor of that earthquake. Ruth Harimoto grew up in Tokyo, the daughter of Lutheran missionaries from Wisconsin. In 1995 she was living in Kobe with her husband, Paul, and their two young sons. (more…)