This is a true story based on the collection of information from U.S. Army documents, my father, Sgt. Frederick Douglas Sr., Captain James Gill (Referred to as my uncle), and 6 other soldiers that were involved in the unauthorized mission to recover me from a Japanese black market baby ring. Army documents that my father had were also used to put together approximate timelines and fill in gaps of what might have happened during certain times where my father or uncle couldn’t quite remember clearly. Some of the conversations in this story are assumptions of what might have been spoken as well as recollections from my father, uncle and a couple of men that were involved in my rescue. My father served 22 years in the U. S. Army with tours of duty in what are now Okinawa, Japan, Korea, and Viet Nam. My uncle served 20 years in the U.S. Air Force and as fate would have it, he was stationed with my father in Okinawa at Naha and Kadena Air Base between the years of 1962-1967. My father had just completed a tour of duty in Korea (3/1961-1/1962) and was being furloughed to Okinawa for a couple of months off until his next tour. It was during January of 1962 when my uncle had just arrived from the United States and was assigned between Naha Air Base and Kadena Air Force Base in charge of air tactical recon and surveillance. Actual names are used in this story for the exception of the Colonel, which I changed his name due to my father’s oath of keeping him protected. What you are about to read is a father’s struggle and perseverance to find his son at all cost and risk, which was a mini-war in itself.
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I Am my Father's Son
By Frederick Douglas Jr.
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2016 Frederick Douglas, Jr
All rights reserved.
It was a late Friday morning in June of 1962 when my father, Sgt. Frederick Douglas, Sr., had arrived from a tour of duty from Korea to Naha Air Base in Okinawa. He had been wounded in the stomach area from enemy bullets, but he managed to survive until his rescue. My father was a handsome man of color standing 5'10", who had dropped out of high school to join the U.S. Army He wanted much more in life than what was given to him at that time. He enlisted in 1948 and went through the rituals of basic training and then was assigned to the artillery battalion headed to Korea. The Army had trained him to be a weapons specialist in the first line of defense. This was to be his first time in a battle zone where he would have to kill men, women, and even children on the enemy side. It was until a few years before his death that he stopped having nightmares that would wake him in the middle of the night with sweat dripping down his face as tears clouded his eyes. My father would never talk about what had happened during those years for I could tell he was trying to blot out that part of life. My mom, who was of Japanese dissent, would always try to console him, but he would get annoyed and become argumentative. My mother started smoking cigarettes as her vice to ease her nerves extending from the many arguments and abuse that came from my father. His means of escape was his favorite bottle of Passport scotch with milk and a 6 pack of Colt 45 malt liquor beer.
I could never understand why my dad drank so much and it would always bother me when he became drunk and would start to argue with my mother, which led to sometimes him hitting her. It seemed like a demon had possessed him as he fought to control his rage. It was during these times that I would close my eyes and hide in my closet. I could hear my dad screaming, "You Jap, why the hell did I bring you here."
I must have been about 7 or 8 years old when we were living in Tampa, Florida, which was around 1970 or 1971. We lived in the River Grove subdivision on Norfolk Street, which was centrally located to Busch Gardens, Lowery Park Zoo and the historic Rogers Park golf course. This was my first experience dealing with racial tension. People would stare at my father and mother as though it was a crime for a black man to be married to a Japanese woman. I can remember getting ridiculed at school because of my multi-racial heritage. I knew that my father was probably under a lot of public scrutiny because of being the first black man to move into an all- white neighborhood with a Japanese wife and a mixed-race son. I used to get picked on to the point of becoming ashamed of my parents and who I was- a black-Japanese boy with no identity or no one to identify with. Even my father's family had a hard time initially accepting us as part of their family.
Eventually as I got older, I began to understand about race and the drift that was created between blacks and whites. I can remember my older cousin, Bryant, taking me to a white owned barbershop to get a haircut, as this became my introduction to racism. Upon entering the shop, everyone stared at us as if we were in the wrong place. One of the barbers immediately said, "I'm sorry boys, but we don't cut your kind of hair."
My cousin replied back, "What do you mean you don't cut our kind of hair?"
"Like I said, we don't cut your kind of hair."
My cousin looked around the shop and noticed that one of the barbers was cutting the hair of a blond headed white kid who had the just about the same hair texture that I had.
Pointing at the white blond headed kid, my cousin said, "His hair texture is just like my cousin- just admit that you don't want to cut his hair because we're black."
The barber replied back, "I think you boys better leave before you get in trouble."
My cousin grabbed my hand and on the way out, he muttered, "Y'all can kiss my black butt."
I was confused about the situation and didn't know what to say to my cousin. He was visibly upset and didn't say a word until we gotten back to my father's house. He told my father what had happened and my father exploded as he said, "I'm going to give those crackers a piece of my mind. I gave this country over 22 years fighting for their freedom and they still call me a nigger."
My cousin grabbed my father's arm and told him to leave it alone- it would just cause problems and may get him arrested. My father eventually calmed down, but I could still tell he was still upset holding everything inside like a ticking time bomb. It was incidents like these that would drive my father to take out his frustrations on my mother and sometimes on me. Ironically, years later, that same white owned barbershop would be owned by a black man.CHAPTER 2
It was during my high school years at Hillsborough High (1979-1981) that I would begin to develop my own identity and found other groups of mixed race students that I could identify like myself. The once white neighborhood that my family moved into became pre-dominantly black. I started to accept who I was as racial tensions were limited, but still existed. I started to classify myself as being black especially after studying Black history. My father had pressured me to always consider myself as an Asian Pacific Islander as he felt that it would give me an advantage in society. I didn't have any problems interacting with any race at school- most of them thought that I was of Hispanic dissent. I found myself drawn to hanging with the "black crowd" and even dated black girls as a preference even though my father objected- his view was that I would be better off with a white girl. I felt comfortable being classified as black despite the opinions of my father.
My father had mellowed since his initial retirement from the Army. He did however, still had nightmares from time to time about the wars as he drank heavily to relieve his mind. My mother started to feel accepted by my father's family as well as by the community where we lived. My father still at times would argue with my mother, but she had learned to adjust to his ravings. There was an incident that had happened that led my father to see that I was growing up into a man. One night after my father had been drinking, he started arguing with my mother about race, finances, and her wanting to work. I was in my room talking on the phone when I heard my mother screaming. I dropped the phone and immediately ran to the living room and saw my father hitting on my mother. I jumped on his back and slid him into a headlock position squeezing his head as though I was taking years of anger and frustration out on him. I had become an evil element clamping his head trying to squeeze his brains out and refusing to let go. I could remember saying, "I'm tired of you, I'm tired of you, I wish you were dead!"
After my mother's pleading to let go, I released my father and threw him against the wall. He stared silently looking at me and I couldn't tell if he was going to cry or attack me. It would later dawn on me that the words I spoke did more damage to him than the headlock position. He continued to stare at me speechless as I picked my mother off the floor and took her to another room. I didn't know what to expect from my father, whether to fight or call the police. About a half hour had passed when I decided to take a peek at my father. It looked as though he was in a sleepy daze lying on the floor motionless. Cautiously, I approached him and asked if he was all right.
"I'm OK", he said. "Did you really mean what you said about me being dead?"
"No, I didn't mean it. I'm just tired of how you treat us sometimes and the way you just drink."
There was a brief moment of silence between us. I looked at my father's face and could see years of anguish along with the reality of his fear as tears slowly streamed from his eyes. I knew his heart was broken by what I had said and I immediately apologized.
"I didn't mean to say that-I'm sorry."
He replied back, "I'm hurt that you said that. I love you son and I never meant no harm to you or your mother."
I would never realize until my 18th birthday why my words led him to tears for the next several days afterwards.CHAPTER 3
It was three days before my 18 birthday (08/01/1981), when my uncle, James Gill, had driven in from Texas to be with my family and me. It had been about 10 years since I last saw him and he had changed in appearance from the man I knew back in the day. At 6 feet tall and 180 pounds, he still looked the same for the exception of his completely bald headedness and thick blacked framed glasses. Even though he was black, his skin complexion was that of a white person and he could sometimes pass himself off as a white man when the occasion would benefit him. His loud voice would command attention even in the noisiest of rooms. Even though there wasn't any blood relation, my father has always considered him as a brother and I always knew him as my uncle. They had met in 1960 at Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa and it was like love at first sight between the two as far as friendship. They gotten along better than their real brothers and had grown to know each other like a book. There was something natural about seeing the both of them together- a special bond that would take them to their graves.
My uncle Gill had taken a good look at my father and noticed that he had gained about 30 pounds with a pot belly- you could still see the 3 bullet wounds and the knife wound on his right side. I could never get him to talk about his wounds for I always wanted to know the stories behind them. He used hair coloring to keep the gray hairs out of his head and still wore his Brute 33 after shave which I always enjoyed the smell. He always believed in keeping himself well groomed even though he wasn't much into fashion.
"You look pregnant with that belly sticking out," my uncle said to my father.
"Sit on this", my father replied back holding up his middle finger.
I came home from a friend's house and caught my uncle by surprise.
"Well, I'll be damn if it ain't Freddie Jr. I can't believe that I'm looking at you", my uncle said as he hugged me.
I returned his hug and told him how glad I was to see him.
"It's amazing Doug that this boy is here. Look at him- all grown up." My uncle had always referred to my father as Doug.
I was pondering what my uncle meant by his comment about his amazement as to the fact that I was standing in front of him. But, that would be for later when the others arrive.
"Marco, Marco", my uncle said to my mother as she saw him.
My mother's real name was Yoshiko, but was always called Marco and till this day, I don't know how the nickname "Marco" came about.
My mother gave him a hug and welcomed him into our home.
"What you drinking brother?" my father asked my uncle.
"You know what we do man. Break out the Schlitz malt liquor" my uncle replied.
The two had were relaxing on the patio discussing old times being careful not to include me in any conversation. It was as though they were having a top-secret discussion.
My mother and I were in the kitchen preparing dinner. Like most Japanese women, my mother was very short standing at 5 feet tall, but had gained about 20 pounds to her once 120-pound stature eating American cooking. I did speak a little Japanese, but not as fluent as I once did when I was growing up in Okinawa. I would always look at pictures of my mom, dad and myself taken together- I always resembled more of my dad than my mother. My mother worked as a clerk at Naha Air Base- my mother was a beautiful young Japanese girl in her 20's when her and my dad had met. Even at her present early 40's, she still looked the same.
"Hey Freddy Jr., come out here" my uncle called for me as my mind drifted back to reality.
"Yes sir" I replied.
I went to the patio area where they were at and sat down with them.
"To celebrate your 18 birthday, we've got some peers flying into town tomorrow to help," my uncle said.
"Peers?" I asked looking puzzled.
We're all a part of your history and for your 18 birthday, we all have a story to share with you," my uncle replied. "It's very important you know them."
I was as confused as ever not knowing what to say or do. My uncle had popped open a can of beer and handed it to me. I looked at my dad for some sense of direction, but he gave no indication of what I should do about the beer.
"Come on boy, take a sip," my uncle said.
My dad finally nodded his head in approval as I took my first and last sip of what would be the most disgusting liquid I ever tasted.
"Ugh! This stuff is nasty," I said as I spat out the sip of beer.
Both my uncle and my dad started laughing.
"That's good. I don't have to worry about you being a drinker," my father said as he motioned for me to pass the beer back to him.
From that point on, I've always told myself that I would never drink or smoke in my life and I've held myself in truth to this day.CHAPTER 4
On the day before my 18th birthday, my uncle, father and I were headed inside Tampa International Airport to meet a couple of their Army/Air Force peers that served in Okinawa. My father claimed that these men played an important role in my life which I had no clue of their significance. We were waiting at the Eastern Airlines arrival gate as the plane from Dallas/Ft Worth pulled up to the ramp. It had been over 15 years since they had all seen each other and I was eager to see if they would recognize each other. My uncle Gill was an outspoken man who could strike up a conversation with any living being. He was well versed in all topics and had served in the Air Force over 20 years. He was a part of a joint armed service group, which included all members of the armed services for setting up air support for ground troops during battle. He retired to civilian life and became an air traffic controller for the FAA.
"Gill! You bald headed sonofagun," said one of the men as he strolled into the waiting area. "You still look the same."
"I be damned if it ain't Wallace Johnson. Man, you put on some pounds," my uncle replied as he gave him a bear hug and a kiss on the cheek.
Sergeant Wallace Johnson was an ammunitions expert and was a member of the Army Rangers. He was under my father's command during the Korean and Vietnam wars. He stood about 6' 2" and weighed about 250 pounds- about 50 pounds heavier from his Army days. He had thinning hair around the sides of his head with a developing bald spot on the top of his head.
"Sarge! You look good for an old man," said Sgt. Johnson to my father.
"Old man- who you calling old man, I got your old man," my father replied back as they gave each other a hug.
"And don't tell me that's your son. Wow! It's hard to believe that he's the one we went after."
Sgt. Johnson shook his head in amazement as he looked at me giving me a firm handshake and a hug as I wondered what he meant about me being the one they went after.
"Hey Wallace, where's Capt. Williams?" my father asked Sgt. Johnson.
My father's question got answered when a tall, lanky, white man exited the ramp tunnel. Captain Earl Williams was a member of Air Force Recon Command at Kadena Air Force Base during the 1960's and had worked with my Uncle Gill planning search and rescue missions in Korea. He had retired and became a business owner. Capt. Williams was head and shoulders above the others, as he stood up at 6'4" with a thin frame of about 180 pounds. He stretched his long arms toward my uncle Gill and gave him a rub on his head.
"Gill! I heard you all the way from the back of the crowd. Damn it's good to see all you guys. And Sarge, you look good."
"Hey Cap," said Sgt. Johnson, "Guess who this is," as he pointed toward me.
"No way- is that little Fred? I can't believe it! I would never have believed it if I didn't see him with my own eyes."
Captain Williams gave me a saluted gesture as he stretched his hand for me to shake.
"Nice to meet you sir," I said to him thinking about the mystery of all their conversations about me.
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