Ruins of the USAF base Camp Drake in Japan

MJG Haikyo, Military Installations, Saitama 211 Comments

Camp Drake was a joint US Army/Air Force base in Saitama, active until the 1970`s. It contained a hospital which handled troops coming out of Vietnam and also a communications array. Now about half of it remains, an overgrown jungle with only a few remaining buildings set back behind several layers of fencing. The other half has been eaten up by parks and a junior high school.

Tanks in a shed by the commissary.

Camp Drake was one of my last haikyo to explore with Mike before he left for Canada last month. Compared to other US bases around Tokyo- those in Fuchu and Tachikawa, there wasn`t a lot to see, though of course we couldn`t know that until we ventured in. Access seemed harder than either of the other bases, but as ever there were weak spots. Once in though we had to climb one more fence, and actually crawl through a tiny hole cut into a third fence to get close to a building.

I don`t know why security was so tight, as there was very little to see. The main building remaining seems to have been a mess hall / commissary, and its now flooded, so we couldn`t explore inside. There were chairs and desks lying around in the jungle.

Mike got a bit bored/wary and decided to high-tail it, so I ventured forth and looked into one more building, kind of an industrial room- probably gas and/or hot water heaters. I know now there was another building deeper in with more industrial stuff, but we were on a schedule (headed for the Gan Kutsu cliff face hotel) so I didn`t take the time.

You can see more about Camp Drake on these sites-

About the 249th hospital.

About the barracks.

One man`s experience of it.

Guardpost after the second fence, before the third.

Guardhouse int.

Defunct moped.

Expired desk.

Do Not Enter – vault-like entrance to the mess hall / commissary.

Interior of what I think is commissary (because of COMM on the wall, yes- please correct me if wrong).

Some big troughs.

Bunker-entrance.

Lonely forest chair.

Back entrance.

CAMP DRAKE UPS POWER WITH PRIDE

Warehouse space.

Big forest flue.

Hole we crawled through.

Machine shed.

Tanks that remind me of Anakin`s racing pod.

Some HDR-ed engine.

Tanks BW.

See a curation of world ruins in the ruins gallery.

See my collection of Japanese ruins (haikyo) in the galleries:

[album id=4 template=compact]

Comments 211

  1. JERRY KULKO

    I WAS STATIONED IN JAPAN 57-59, STARTED AT CAMP OJI THEN MOVED TO CAMP DRAKE. I WAS A CRYPTO OPERATER, WE WERE KNOWN AS THE ASA-JCRC (ASA- JOINT COMMUNICATION RELAY CENTER). LIKE ALL WORKING BEHIND THE GREEN DOOR, WE ALL
    HAD TOP SECRET CLEARENCES. A GREAT PART OF MY LIFE.
    GLAD TO HAVE SERVED
    JERRY KULKO

    1. RICHARD MINER

      I too was stationed at Camp drake in the Mid 60’s. I too was an ASA. I was there for 18 months. I too had a great time and experience. At that time we worked 12 hour shifts in the Comm Center. My MOS was 72B20. Thinking back at the miles of telegraph tape coming out of those typewriters.

      1. frank virginiak

        I was stationed with the ASACU-J 1965-1968. I remember a Richard Minor. He spent a lot of time in the rec bay with Larry Grieves. Cud this be you? I remember some of the guys on our trick Bascom Horn, Starks, Buggs, Ames, Glubka,and more. Had a good time there. Been back in 2013 it is overgrown in areas, schools and govt bldgs. in other areas. Unrecognizeable!

    2. Dan O'Connell

      Hi Jerry its Dan O’Connell,
      I was there in 1960 then to Okinawa and Wakkanai all Green door jobs, then Vietnam Monkey Mountain listening post.

  2. Floyd Blue

    I served in Japan from 1946 to June 1950. when I left there for Korea. I served in Korea from July 1950 to November 1951. I believe Camp Drake was the home of the 7th Cav Regt until the Korean War Started. I was never assigned to Camp Drake, but after the start of the Korean War I was assigned to the Eight Army Liaison Teams, the team to which I belonged established an office at Camp Drake, and I made several trips to Camp Drake from Korea during my time as a Liaison Team Leader. When I rotated from Korea in November 1951, I returned to Japan for a short stay and reasignment. My wife was in Yokohama Houseing Area during my Korea time, we left Japan and returned to the States in March 1952. I did return to Japan for a two week visit in 1960, but I never returned to Camp Drake, I remained in the Yokohama Tokyo area during that visit, but I have many memories of Japan, I am now 88 years of age with lots of memories. FB

      1. Dawn Glidden

        I just found a picture of my Aunt Gerda Johnson dated 1954 @ Camp Drake…On the back of the picture it also says Camp a Drake Village Karuinzawa…

  3. Ron Thornton

    I was at North Camp Drake for 9 months in 1963 when Kennedy was shot. The Agency sent me to Ft. Monmouth for Fixed Station Transmitter Repair (172.?). I was trained as a Tech Controller (173.?) in ASA Criticom Control Pac as there was no school yet at Monmouth. ASA Criticom Control Pac was in the the (first?) comm center. We had our own backup generator in the building called a No Break System which I would run up periodically as part of my duties. I loved playing with that thing. This comm center like the latter was behind a big vault door. I experienced my one and only earth quake in that building which was weird. ASA had it’s own MP’s who checked our badges and let us in. What happened in the comm center STAYED in the comm center! I learned that lesson when I was called to the office of the captain in charge of security. I never saw NSA people only Army ASA. I believe all of the Officers were Signal Corp attached to the Agency and that is where we ended up when we came back stateside if there was no slot for us. Criticomm which stood for critical communications was a super secret version of the Army Starcom run by the signal corp. We transmitted messages on sig intel, war messages to the War Room, and other stuff that was Top Secret and above. I’m sure that some of it was for the CIA but I never say them and wonder why they would come the the Comm Center anyway as it was strictly a technical operation. On to 177th ASA, Korea.

    1. Charles P. Younger

      I was stationed at Camp Zama the day Kennedy was shot. A sad day for all. I only visited Camp Drake a couple of times during my stay in Japan(Oct. 1962-Nov. 1964). Came up a couple of times to hear and dance to the popular band called the House Rockers. Those were the days my friend.

    2. Charlie Johnson

      I was at Camp Drake from April 1971 until it closed for good. Assigned to USASA Comm Unit Japan it was an interesting place for a young guy. Bldg. 898 which has been called a big industrial building in some references was home to our operations. There were a few bars, the most memorable was the Corner Bar (how I remember that 42 years later is beyond me) Other than that you had to take the train to the many things to see and do in the area. I remember owning a 1961 Ford Falcon, it was Red with a white top. In Tokyo the traffic was so bad that it was near a battle of Bumper Cars. Most cars stayed away from mine as I had much less to lose and a lot more metal around me. Housing for married personnel was not that far away though I don’t recall the name of the housing area. The Japanese Military and Self Defense Force occupied South Camp Drake which also housed the Military Radio Station. General McArthur’s old HQS were on South Camp Drake and though it was a neglected and unused building when I was there it still looked regal. Our work was interesting at times and mind numbing at other times. I worked in the Security Office (S-2) which was run by a CW4 Harry Andrews. He was a WWII veteran and it seemed at times that he owned the Army. The Commander was relived, Ltc Rouse J. Todd, after that we had a short term commander until the Station was closed. There never was much information about why the Commander was relived. He seemed like a good officer, and was especially kind when I had to return to the US on Emergency Leave. I recall he came in on a Sunday to sign the orders so I could leave right then and there. His kindness was appreciated. I recall some of our other leaders were perhaps better candidates to be relived than our commander but what in life is fair. I departed Camp Drake as one of the last at our Unit. There was another Intelligence Unit on the Site, all of whom wore plain clothes. We as well had a Lt whose name was Brisbane, he was a great guy who sadly lost his security clearance for the sin of marriage to a foreign national. Our rules were a tad old world when it came to any and virtually every aspect of our mission and the data we handled. Certainly one could hear more in a Bar than one would ever tell his foreign born spouse. They wouldn’t have understood it or honestly cared. I had the opportunity to go on several Tdy assignments to Vietnam and Laos. Though well outside what I had been trained to do, as one NCO said you first and always a solider! From Camp Drake I was assigned to the US Army Security Agency Field Station in Okinawa where again I worked in the S-2 or Security Office. After a few years in Okinawa it was on to Germany and the US Army Field Station at Augsburg. A wonderful place, with great people. I spent almost 5 years in Germany.

      1. David W. Lynch

        I was stationed at Camp Drake from about May 1967 until August 1970. I was a Teletype repair technician for the Army Security Agency. I did several TDY’s while I was there to Korea, Vietnam and my most favorite Thailand. I have many great memories (although they are fading) of my time there. As you mention the Corner Bar was there then too. Al NUGS ( new useless guys) were required to take a shot of Absenth as an initiation.

        Our barracks was right next door to the bowling alley, cafe and the slot car track and hobby shop upstairs. The theater was across the street which I worked for a year or so as a projectionist and later the manager.. My buddies and I played the golf course, climbed Fuji, attented the 1970 World Fair in Osaka and partied like crazy in shinjuku all the time. Several of the pictures above are the remnants of the 2 story Top Secret comm center.. It looked a lot better then.

        Thanks for the pictures and the comments.

        1. MIKE DENHAM

          WOW!!!! Dave do you remember sergeant X. (Mike Denham). we worked at the theater together, went to EXPO 70 in my green Cougar and I took you to Yokota for your flight home? I am still in contact with Sgt Earl C Young who sold you your car to pick up in Hawword on the way home, I live in Houston, Tx.

        2. Tom Kenney

          Dave
          I also was a 31J20 I arrived at Camp Drake 12/67 and left 12/69. I do believe after reading your note several times I remember you. I worked with Gene Head and Russ Hawkins. My email is tomkenney@comcast.net. Would enjoy hearing from you.

      2. Michael Shea

        I was there USASA 03/1969-03/71 knew the cornebar and all the trips to Tokyo by train and taxi on the way back always stopped i Believe was charlies in early mornging prior to go back to Base was a 72b on Charlie trick. Enjoyed my time there and have great memories and great friends.

        1. Ron Bennett

          I was there as a tech controller 67 – 68 and have great memories of the Corner Bar and driving around the area in my Honda S-600…..great memories

          1. Dean Allen

            I was at Camp Drake from late 1968 thru 19700 as a AFSC 307X0, Tech Controller. My buddy, Frank Toth from Ohio, traveled around the country rail and car. Corner Bar was ground zero for most of us. Spent time at the HF radio relay site (forgot the name) off and on. Geez!

            1. Bob Roska

              Hey Dean, I was in TEch Control during that time also. Your name and Frank Toth sound familiar, but I can’t put faces to the names. After 45 years the memory kinda fades, ya know? I also went TDY to one of the transmitter or receiver sites. One was Awada. Can’t remember the other one I just remember we spent a lot of time hollering at the sites to change frequencies!

      3. John Delore

        Hi Charlie –
        Hope all is fine with you. Remember working with the AF 1967 Comm Sq at Camp Drake Dec 1967 to May 1969 and again Mar 1971 to Mar 1973. Lot of memories – yes the corner bar – AF housing name was Grant Heights That I recall. Take care.
        John

  4. David Collett

    Hats off to all the service members. My family lived on Mutsumi Dai from 1967-69, and my younger brother went to Camp Drake Middle School.

    Can some of you who were there in the 60s do me huge favor by answering a few questions about Camp Drake? We are trying to create a web site of all the places we’ve lived for our 93-year old mom.

    1. Exactly where was Momote Village? Was it actually on the grounds of South Camp Drake, or off the camp to the east? How far away?

    2. Was Drake Middle School on South or North Camp Drake?

    3. Did both S and N Camp Drake have their own commissary, theater, stores, etc., or only on N. Camp Drake? I assume that most people who lived in Momote Village did their shopping there.

    4. Was the 249th hospital on South Camp Drake?

    Thanks VERY much. I hope some of you can reply.

    David Collett, Seattle (dcollett.seattle@gmail.com)

    1. Toni Pedecine

      Hi David,

      I went to Drake Jr. High back in the day, and lived in Momote Village (house #1804, I think). Momote was separate from Drake, I remember there were shuttle buses. School was in South Camp Drake, I believe. There was a little convenience store/drug store in Momote but main shopping at Grand Heights. Hope this helps a bit. Best, Toni

        1. Mike Coffman

          I lived in Grant Heights from July ’68 until Jan ’70. I went to Drake Middle School 8th grade from ’68-’69, then Narimasu High School on Grant Heights. Anyone else?

          1. David Collett

            Hi, Mike. I lived in Mutsumi Dai from June 1967 until June 1969. I attended 10th and 11th grades at NHS. My younger brother was at Drake MS from 67-68, then he attended his freshman year at NHS.

          2. David Kodama

            I lived on North Camp Drake from 1968 to 1971. I attended Narimasu Elementary School in Grant Heights, Drake Middle School in South Camp Drake, and Narimasu High School before my father was transferred to Fort Belvoir, Virginia in 1971. Some of my neighbors that I can remember are the Nagatas, Shibas, Tesches, Taylors, Itohs, and Nishiokas.

    2. Rick Tanaka

      Momote Vlg was on the grounds of S Camp Drake and abutted the Drake golf course where I played 2-3 times a week while in high school (1962-1966)

      Drake Jr HIgh, as it was known when I attended, was in S Camp Drake, next to the Officer’s Club Pool (known as the “small pool”, as opposed to the “big pool” for enlisted men about a quarter mile away.

      I believe that up until the late 50’s or early 60’s, S Camp had a movie theater. They definitely had a PX but I don’t remember a commissary. North Camp had a theater and a very small PX. The only commissary that I remember was in Grant Heights which was about 5 miles away.

      During the Vietnam War, my mother was the secretary for the hospital CO, Col Woodyard. I assume that was the 249th that you are referring to. I still remember the heart wrenching stories my Mom would tell about the young guys that would come in from the war zone.

      We moved to Grant Heights in Aug 1956. My parents were there until it closed in mid-1972.

      1. Daniel Ridings

        I don’t remember a commissary there either, Rick. I have a vague memory of going to movies on South Camp Drake and I definitely remember the small pool. It was easier to get the “patch” (= permission to enter without your parents) since swimming a length on a 25 meter (yard?) pool was easier than the longer ones 🙂 It just might have been a different color patch, only allowing you to go into smaller pools. We’d have to sew them on our trunks and show them in order to get in.

      2. STEVE URBAN

        For Rick Tanaka,

        The names Woodyard and Tanaka rang a couple of old bells.
        I was with the 500th IntC Gp. from ’62-’65. Col Tom Woodyard was the CO for the first year I was there and then he was replaced by LtC Pierson. My office was one down the hall from the CO’s and one of my co-workers was a DAC (?) named Tom Tanaka. There was also a secretary, a Mrs. (Shizuko ?) Tanaka, somewhere close by on the same floor, but not in the CO’s office or mine. Are the right bells ringing?

        Steve Urban

        1. Chuck Story

          Steve Urban, remember the name. I was with 500th from March ’64 til April ’66. Worked in photo lab in building across from ASA barracks. I don’t remember commissary on Drake. Small snack bar in headquarters bldg. 500th split when hospital came I think in ’65. Our barracks was taken over for hospital wards, headquarters bldg. became hospital. Only a few from 500th stayed at Drake, the remainder of the unit went to Hawaii.

    3. Daniel Ridings

      Most people from Green Park, and the Drakes would shop at the commissary in Grant Heights. I used to bag groceries there for change (pretty good change too, at the time). We’d walk out into the parking with two heavy bags, headed to the customer’s car and try to time it in such a way to avoid the lowering of the flags. You didn’t want to stand there holding heavy groceries as the UN, Japanese and American flags were lowered, one by one.

    4. Charlie Johnson

      Drake Middle School was not on North Camp Drake when I arrived. Momote Village was a Housing Area not that far from Drake. It was quite small and reserved for Officer Family Quarters. It was the smallest of two family housing area’s. The Army Hospital on Camp Drake was gone when I got there in 1971 I believe it closed in 1970 though it could have been a bit sooner. I had housing in what had been the nurse officer quarters on Drake and was always thankful as the rooms were larger and nicer than the other housing area’s on base. There was a small commissary on Grant Heights only a bank, theater and NCO Clubs on North Camp Drake at the time.

  5. Dean Hite

    I have several pictures taken by a soldier in the mid 50’s i purchased them at an auction..It’s a complete album he must have been stationed at North Camp Drake..Every picture is detailed with a description from him amazing pictures several of him personally..There’s also pictures of Nikko Kanaya Hotel,Ryuzu Fall,Mt.Asami,Karulzaiua,Okinawain dancers,Omiya Area,Daruma doll factory,Bonsai garden,Hikawa Shrine a picture of a Daruma head finished…If anyone knows how i can contact family members (if any still around)would gladly make sure that it got back to them… His names PFC/Sp4 Paul D. Dillow pictures are from mostly 1956 era….Thanks

  6. David Collett

    Thanks to everyone above who took the time to answer some of my questions about Camp Drake and Momote Village. I still have a few questions that I will post to see if any of you remember.

    Did anyone here work at the “Little Pentagon” in North Camp Drake? My mom worked there from 67-69. Col. Huth was in charge, I believe. Does his name ring a bell with any of you?

    My mom used to volunteer on all her lunch hours to sit with the wounded service people who were flown into Drake and stayed at the 249th hospital.

    If anyone here lived at Mutsumi Dai housing area (annexed to the NE corner of Grant Heights) or if you are just interested, please join our group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/mutsumidai/

    David Collett

    1. Don Williams

      Hi David,
      i was stationed at North Camp Drake from,1968-1971, with the Army Security agency (ASA) . We operated a comminications center in an upper level of Drake Hall (Little Pentagon) . Stratcom operated a commcenter in a portion of the lower level. There was a small snack bar on the lower level. Post headquarters was also located there. The 7th Psych Ops had a detachment on post as well as the 500th Military Intelligence Group. The 249th Hospital was largest unit.

      1. David W. Lynch

        Don,

        I was there from 1967 thru August of 1970. As mention above I was a teletype repairman. When I left I was SP5 and was working the rotation shift. I think I was on the third floor and my best friends were E J Ryder, John Tanner, Sweathog ( can’t remember is real name) and Hawkins .. I also remember SSG Jr. Barnes. Lol.

        I remember the small snack bar. Made the best tuna sandwich. I also worked at the theater…

        1. john smartt

          i remember you knuckleheads. i was there from 1968 – 1971. 72B20 and later the training clerk. did aikido downtown with ernie fleshman.

      2. Ron Bennett

        As a tech controller 67=68….I remember the snack bar very well, always had a laugh at the cook who couldn’t pronounce Jumbo Hamburger……great time.

  7. Ron Baynard

    I was in the 249th hospital late dec 1966 to march 1967 recoving from a gun shot
    to my right shouder.Looking for a friend Phil Mann from little rock ark.If anyone
    knows of him please let me know. Ron

  8. Daniel Ridings

    This is where I spent my teenage years, in the darkroom and lapidary on the floor above the bowling alley, at the hobby shop. There was a slot-car track too that I enjoyed. Sigh …

    This was during our second assignment. Our first one was at Fuchu.

    1. Rick Tanaka

      Dan,how are you? Hard to believe how much time has passed. I loved the slot car track at the N Drake hobby shop too! Bowling alley made great burgers.

  9. Daniel Ridings

    The bunker entrance just might be the entrance to the computer installation that the Air Force had. That’s where my father worked. It was like a base on base. It was a fenced in building with its own guard. You didn’t go in there. I was there once, when they had open house.

    Rick, who writes above, was my best friend’s oldest brother. We lived in Lot House 101 just a couple houses away.

  10. Jim Bryant

    My Stepfather worked with the 500th M.I. Group at Drake Hall and we lived in Momote Village 1206. Went to NHS from 67-70, graduated in 70 and spent two years working at Stars and Stripes.

  11. Brad Jones

    Hi
    I went to 5th grade at Camp Drake in 1962-1963. We lived in Matsumai Dai next to Grant Heights from 1960-1963. Three great years!!!
    Brad Jones

    1. Richard Geminski

      Was a Air Force relay station 65-66. Was a great job. Great commander, good officers. Was in the Drake motorcycle club and did alot of trips around the country. We had our own chow hall, not army.
      Had the army move in a hospital unit which was great, NURSES… Was one of my best memories.

      1. Doug Jacobs

        Hey Rich , if memory serves correctly I think we roomed together Bob White was in the room with us also. I was there from Oct 1965 through Oct 1967.I was in the 1967 com squadron USAF. Just wondering if you were the same
        Richard Geminski. You may also remember some guys named Velderman and Bob Hendricks. Any of this ring a bell?

        1. Gary Kim

          Oh man, you guys are killing me.

          I was stationed at the 1967th from 66 – 69. I’ve got scrapbook pictures of Velderman, Hendricks and many others.

          I married a very pretty lady from Toki-Wadai and we’re still married after 44 years.

          At that time, I was a 291X0 and cross-trained later into 303X1. Took a break as an instructor for our AFCC PME Center at Keesler and finished up as a FSgt at Beale AFB where I retired.

          Great assignment,

        2. Rich Geminski

          Doug, just hit site for giggles and found your mail. Remember you well, rode bikes together. Had great times there. Remember POP’s motorcycle shop out the main gate and down the hill? I spent many hours there. Remember Hilibrand, tsgt ran the club awhile. Roomed with a guy later that had a Honda sports car. He roomed with a guy named Bobby Johns? Still have some pics around somewhere…
          Ran into Danny Tam Lung years ago on a site but lost it. He was in the tty/tape section, civilian from Hawaii. He took us to the Sumo matches, buddies with Jessie.
          Shot trap and skeet on the japanese air field out the main gate about 3 miles.
          Rich [rgsports11968@gmail.com]

      2. Doug Jacobs (Jake)

        Hey Rich (Geminski)
        I think we were roommates back in 1966-1967 I was at North Camp Drake
        USAF 1967 Comm. Squadron. Bob White was also in the room and you may
        Remember Bob Hendicks (Henny) and Bob Velderman (Velderman). Any of this ring a bell on your part? We had some good times back then and some fond memories were brought back when I saw this site. Hope all is well with you and yours, if you are not the person I thought you were please excuse me.

        1. Rich Geminski

          Doug, check in when I think about the site. Remember the crypto bunker there. Ran into one of the guys [?] at the local AFB here while working for ma bell doing some tel work.
          The crypto clearence helped with my job as I got to work with secret service, white house comm when the pres and v pres visited out here.
          Remember those days at Drake, great time of my life.

      3. Dink

        I to was stationed their from 64 to 67 I think, has anybody heard from Gabby he used to ride a Honda I believe (on his head). Has anybody heard from Jerry Palmer (Arnolds brother). had a great time the Army used to sing us the Him when we went behind the green door. Dink

  12. Kenneth Buggs

    I was stationed Drake Feb 67-Feb 69 ASA Com Center, the best thing I remember about drake was the massage parlor next to the officers club, oh wow.hehehehe.Yes the hospital was the biggest unit there, choppers landed every day with the wounded from Nam, I lived in the Barracks just down the street from the Nurses Barracks, until Nov 67 when I extended and brought my wife over and we lived just outside Grand Heights I was there 2 years with ASA Except for a short 60 Days.TDY to Davis Station In Saigon. ( Tuansunut) who knows how to spell that? Does anyone know if the Golf Course is still at South Drake?

    1. RICHARD MINER

      Kenneth Buggs was my best man in my Wedding in Geneva, Il. Ken do you still live in Maryland? I life in Seattle, retired and playing golf. If you read this please send me a note. Lot of good memories back then.

  13. Frank (Bill) Joy

    I was an Air Force dependent living in Momote Village, from 1959, till 1963. i attended Narimasu Elementary School in Grant Heights. In the old green Quonset huts. Attended church at the Grant Heights Catholic Church. Across the street from the Narimasu High School. Then attended junior High School at South Camp Drake. We used the S. Camp Drake Theater for our graduation ceremonies. i saw lots of great movies there for twenty five cents! Momote Village had a general store with an attached barbershop. it was across the street from the guard shack, which was next to the generators. Up the hill where the Japanese Nationals lived, that worked at North, and South Camp Drake. South Camp Drake had the bakery that supplied all of South East Asian military Facilities, it was in operation day and night 24/7. Also there was the Japanese Self Defense forces that were slowly regaining the use of the former MacArthur administrative facilities. Fortunately, we were all on really good friendly terms! We had many sporting events, that were good natured, but competitive! In 1962, the Harlem Globe Trotters Played at South Camp Drake Gymnasium, we invited the Japanese soldiers to visit. This evidently delighted our ambassador, as he presented our school with a prize for being so gracious! Lots of great memories! In 1963 my dad was reassigned to State side. When i was of age, I enlisted in the Air Force. I re-visited my old home in Japan on several occasions, as i was moved around, but I never imagined it would ever ….go away… Now, over 50 years later, my memories are still fresh, my Japanese friends are long gone, and my Air Force/Army buddies are few. I am proud that i was a part of such a great endeavor. Japan is one of our best friends. 🙂

  14. Rick Kitchen

    I was stationed at Camp Drake from December 1971 to August 1974 with the 1967th Comm Squadron in Tech Control. I spent the entire time working in “The Bunker” which was located south of the “Little Pentagon”, where the Air Force had a patch and test facility. Worked for Msgt Craft and Richardson, along with Tsgt Pierce. Lived in the AF barracks for a little while, then moved off base when my wife. We eventually moved into housing on Momote Village and then Grant Heights when they started to turn MV back to Japanese control. I drove a cab between GH and MV/Camp Drake for extra money. When I wasn’t working spent a lot of time playing golf on the South Camp Drake course or playing intermural sports. In 1972 we played for the Kanto Plains football championship. Still had the jacket they gave us up until a few years ago. Saw a lot of the wounded coming out of Viet Nam as the 249th Army hospital was also on Camp Drake. One guy didn’t make it home as he scaled the microwave tower outside the HDQ building and jumped. Another casualty of the war. Left four month early as the AF was pulling staff out since the war was whining down and they wanted to cut costs.

    If anyone reads this and wants to talk about the good old days in Japan and running “The Skid”, hit me up at kitch22@msn.com

    Later – “Kitch”

  15. Stephen Matthews

    Was there in the late 70’s in the USAF. The flooded Building was the AUTODIN (Automatic Digital Switching Network) computer floor. Off to the side was tech control and where I worked in the Crypto Vault. Believe the building with the tanks was part of Doy-San’s haunt next to the Generator (power Room.) Interesting that the Guard shack was still there.
    Some of the best Japanese and Korean food was available in town, but we were housed at Yokota and drive through the park (Muriyama?)and Tokorozawa City to get to work.

    Hope you have had as much fun there as we all did.

    Thanks for the wonderful pictures.and for bringing me back to some great memories.

    Stephen Matthews
    Insane_ferret in AZ

    1. James Hilley

      I was also stationed at Camp Drake in the late 70s; from June 1977 to June 1979. I was a shift supervisor in the Tech Control facility of the Autodin Switching Center.

      1. Woody Lundberg

        I was also in tech control at the ASC at Drake in the late 70’s. Remember the earth tremors, mad dash to open the vault doors, playing spades on the computer center floor, a certain screwup of feeding center intercom inadvertently to FEN for broadcast, was there when the MIG pilot defected causing all sorts of scares, and most of all a certain MSgt who used to pee in the coffee maker all the time. Great memories!

  16. Nate Dyhre

    I love hearing all these stories, they’re fascinating and interesting. I am a current soldier in Japan stationed at Camp Zama the only Army installation left on mainland. Sagami Depot and Yokohama North Dock still exist but are barely alive since the drawback and the fact that we give the JGSDF back many bases. Zama is a joint base and rumors are always around that we’ll give the entire base back one day but who knows. I really wanna check out the remains of Drake and Fuchu. Any other bases around the area I can check out? If I can assist in answering questions about anything currently in Japan let me know. Nate

  17. Bob Johnson

    I lived with my wife, Marie, at 2202-A Momote Village, Saitama, Japan. That was a relatively small housing area for Army and Air Force officers. My duty was at Haneda AB (Det. 5, 20th Wx Sq.) on a island a few hundred feet in Tokyo Bay just off the coast of the Southernmost part of Tokyo. My wife and I were both 1/Lt Weather Officers. Her duty was in downtown Tokyo at the Meili Building which was a large pre-war monumental building facing the moat around the Emperor’s Palace. So we saw little of each other at Momote Village – we both worked shifts. We lived in the boonies in Shibuya-ku from our arrival in Japan in Nov1953 until 23Dec1954 when we finally moved into Momote Village. I recall going to the Commissary and Theater at Grant Heights, which my memory tells me was located adjacent to Momote Village. On 15Nov1955 moved from Momote Village to 1014B Yukai Village at Johnson AB on 15Nov1955 where my duty was in the large pre-war concrete bunker, taken over as the Air Control Center for Japan and Korea, as Staff Weather Officer, sitting on the dais with the duty commander, a General or Colonel. My first child, Michael Thomas Vincent Johnson, was born in the Johnson AB Hospital on 25Nov1955. Wouldn’t trade my 4 year tour in the USAF for anything. Am proud to have served, as was my Greatgreatgreatgrandfather, Lt. Valentine Peyton, a battlefield surgeon in the Virginia Volunteer Army up to his balls in blood and muck in the 1780s.

    1. Alex Kipnis

      Hi Bob,

      Fascinating history! I’ve spent my lunch hour reading it. I must confess that I came across this blog accidentally, as I was trying to look up an old friend, Michael Thomas Vincent Johnson, who it appears, is your son. Mike and I had worked together for many years, but I lost track of him after my family moved away from Minnesota. I wonder if you could be kind enough to pass my contact info to Mike?

  18. Earl Adams, Jr.

    I was stationed at North Camp Drake from Sept 1964 to Sept 1967 and worked in the Automatic Digital Relay facility on the first floor under the hospital.
    My wife, two boys and I lived in Green Park. We had a great Commander (Lt.Col Earl G. Cross), good supervisors and lots of great associates to work with. I was an E4 and while there was promoted to SSgt before I left. In 1967 was transferred to Det 1, 1150th USAF Special Activities Squadron at MacDill AFB, Tampa, Florida, (US STRIKE Command later to be US READINESS Command.)
    Was in Tampa from Sept 1967 to June 1972 then to Vietnam. Retired May 1979 out of Fairchild AFB, (Spokane) WA. Posted 3/17/2014
    Anyone remember AUTODIN?

    1. Gary Kim

      Hi Earl, I remember AUTODIN. I worked in the Torn Tape Relay next door. I worked with a guy who was cross service (Navy, I believe) but his name was Vinnie Adams.

      1. Art Stilleyl

        Hi Gary I Worked in the tape relay at Drake from 1966-1968. The ex navy
        guy was TSg Josh Hatfield. I also worked with Vinny Adams. He was a
        great guy. Tsgy Hatfield died a number of years ago, I don’t know what
        happened to Adams. Major, later Lt Colonel Cross was a great commander.
        Best I ever had. Great days with happy memories.

    1. Gary Kim

      Hi John,

      I was assigned to the 1967th Comm Sq (USAF) on Camp Drake, but when I first arrived, I came down with Mono the first week there, so I was admitted to the upper floor of the 249th General Hospital. Everyone was on had to be in mosquito nets the first week on the ward to prevent the spread of malaria or hepatitis.

      I was the only AF guy on the ward, everyone else was Army and up from Nam. . . . most were not looking forward to recovery as it usually meant going back.

  19. Bill Mortimer

    Spent a year and 11 months at North Camp Drake. Worked in the big bunker
    style office building, barracks a short walk away. Used to go to the theater at South Camp for movies. At North Camp enjoy many a night at the NCO CLUB
    which brought many big name entertainers in for shows. A lot of country stars made appearences and I was fortunate enough to introduce many of them. I had been a country dj before getting drafted and had made friends with many of them. Trips into Tokyo were always a treat, especially on those crowded trains. For a country boy born on a ranch in Arizona, I was wide-eyed.

    1. Chuck Story

      Hi Bill, I have always wondered where you are. I was there with you briefly. I arrived near the end of your tour. I remember Kelso, George Hatsfeld, Dan Shelhorse. Can’t remember name of your good buddy. Major Rhodes was CO. If you find this, email me at cnananpop@gmail.com . Would love to connect with youo.

    2. Chuck Story

      Bill, I was stationed with you briefly. You were a short timer when I arrived. I worked in photo lab. I remember you racing go carts with Maj. Rhodes. Some of the other guys who left about same time you did: Klinko, Shelhorse, Hatzfeld. Try me at cnananpop@gmail.com

  20. Jim Turner

    I was at Camp Drake 249th Hospital from 68-70. I worked in the dispensary. A couple of months I worked in the mail room. When my wife came over we lived between Drake and Heights. Natamasu. I’m sure my spelling is not correct. Climb Mount Fuji.

  21. "Charlie Mike"

    Hey to Steve M & Dan Roy ! I was there too from 79-81, in the Autodin switch tech control. Those 2 years were among the best in my life & it’s so sad to see the ruin that the place has become. I remember how we would all order food from a local place & the guy would deliver it all on a moped with the trays swinging on the sides of it. Still have one of the bowls! Always wanted to go back to Japan again someday.

  22. RICHARD OBREY

    SEEING THESE PICTURES BRING BACK A LOT OF MEMORIES.
    I WAS STATION THERE 1962-1965. I WAS A FIX PLANT REPAIRMAN. THEN
    TRANSFERRED TO FACILITIES CONTROL. THEN CAMP DRAKE WAS GIVING TO THE AIR FORCE. THEY TOOK OUR OLD ARMY BEDS AND LOCKER TO THE DUMP. WE GOT NEW TWIN BEDS AND DOUBLE DOOR LOCKER.
    AND NEW FOOD NO MORE LIVER. CAN T FORGET THE CORNER BAR,
    THE WALK TO THE TRAIN STATION GETTING AT PASS TO LEAVE CAMP,
    MPC MONEY. THE PEOPLE I MISS. DON FORSMAN MICHEAL FRICKE,
    DONALD PENA, DENNIS THOMAS.EVERYONE LEFT.I STAYED TO TRAIN THE AIR FORCE.. I REMEMBER BEING THE CQ EVERY NIGHT FOR WEEKS.
    I LOVED CAMP DRAKE.

  23. Surfadelic

    Does anyone remember Joseph E Collins? Don’t have any info other than a photo I just received of him showing that he was very young and at N. Camp Drake Japan. He’s from Knox, Indiana.

  24. David Johnston

    Just returned from trip to Japan. Hunted down a couple of places I was stationed in the early 1953 to 1960, Any body that does know the exact location of Camp Drake please get in touch email above. I was stationed at many army bases in Japan & am trying to vsit them. Been to Hokkaido, couldn’t find the Chitose II base, Found Camp Haugen near Hachinohe near Misawa AFB, found Camp Ojima near Camp Drew, in Gunma-ken, north of Tokyo

    1. Mel Cox

      You can find the Footprint of the old Camp Drake Comm center at Google Earth
      35.47.43 X 139.35.43. I was there Feb. 64 to Sept 64. Started at the Owada Receiver site & was sent to Camp Drake to be a Tech. Controller. Then got transferred to Okinawa when the AF took over the Comm Center. Loved Tokyo,
      hated to leave but had no choice.

    2. Robert Ashton

      I was at Camp Drake from July 1959 to July 1962. Great place to be. Always wanted to go back.
      You can get close to the base on Google Earth. Search Asaka Machi. The base was roughly bewteen Asaka Station and Asaka on the map.

  25. BILL DAVIS

    I was stationed at USASACUJ from 11-68 until 1969 when I was sent to NSA Fuchinobe. I worked in the S2 Office. Partied with the Com-ops and drank way to much Absinthe at the Corner bar and others. Remember the Coal Miner? Shea and Lynch I knew both of you. Probably gave you cigs on break.
    billyd1911@live.com

  26. Eddie Broce

    I was stationed at Camp Drake from June ’66 to July ’69. (USAF) .Lived on North Camp for a few months and then moved to South Camp..What a great time !….Like my friends Ron B. and Ron S., and others, we had Honda S-600’s. Best 3 years of my life.

  27. Jim Salkeld

    Just got caught up in the memories of others at North and South Camp. Seems I must be one of the older group. I was at North Camp with ASA ’59 and ’60. We were billeted inside the second fence along with ACRAPAC (Army Cmd and Recon Activity Pacific-all Japanese-Americans in civvies). It was good duty as I had my wife and infant son along. Prior (’51-’53 I had been at the Owada Recvr site north of there in Kyosi, the local center for Japanese commie activity. We shred that place with Air Force people. Met some really fine people in Japan. Can’t help but wonder where they all are now.

  28. Jim Salkeld

    It might be noted that Camp Drake was 1st Cav just before I got there in ’51. The Cav had long since left for Korea when the 38th was crossed. How many thousands of GI’s went thru that place as a Replacement Depot, I’ve no idea, but it was a good many. For me it seemed the Good Lord was watching over me as having reached South Camp after arriving in Yokohama we were all told we’d be out of there in no more than 36 hours and on our way to Korea. Six days later, along with two other fellows, I was assigned to the 71st Sig Svc Bn, HQ in the Roppongi District (Hardy Barracks) and shortly thereafter shipped off to Owada Receivers for the next couple of years. The Army gave me the Korean Service and U.N. Service medals, but my butt never left Japan. How many senior NCO’s with specialty non-combatant MOS passed thru Drake as riflemen, I don’t know, but it was a lot. God was certainly my Co-Pilot!

  29. Ernesto M. DeJesus

    Very interesting! I was a member of the 249th General Hospital from April 1968 through March 1971. We saw thousands of wounded personnel go through facility. It was quite as experience. I served as medical laboratory specialist. My main job was to prepare blood for transfusions and conduct blood and urine tests to determine the medical condition of the patients. I got there when the Tet Offensive in Vietnam was in full swing. Our military suffered thousands of casualties and tending to the wounded was quite a task. I don’t remember the names of anyone who served with me, except for a Sgt. Barnes, who also worked as a medical laboraory technician. The place was unique as we had both Air Force and Army families living together there. Despite the long hours required each day from us, some managed to tour around the Ueno park, Ikebukuro, and other towns close by. We were treated well by the Japanese civilians.

  30. Jan Davis

    My father, Alva Lewis McPherson, was Red Cross Field Director at Camp Drake 1956-1958. I found this site by trying to find pictures of what I remember of our time there. We really enjoyed our tour in Japan. We lived in Grant Heights and I went to Narimas Elimentary School. I remember taking horseback riding lessons in a big indoor arena there at Camp Drake. I’m wondering how much things have changed and if anything to do with Camp Drake or Grant Heights would be recognizable today.

    1. Robb & Robyn Coady

      Jan….

      Did you by any chance know a Richard “Dick” Grigsby when you were at Camp Drake?

      My wife’s father worked there in the hospital.

      Thanks!
      Robb

  31. Mark Koons

    I don’t have anything to contributed to school days or sneaky-pete recollections. I was at Camp Drake as a medic in the 249th alternately in surgery and the orthopedic clinic and would love to hear from the men and women I served among. I was there from Dec66 to Jan69. I want the patients we attended to know we gave them everything we had because we understood something of your suffering. Now, in the 50th year since my arrival, I wonder whether there has ever been a day without remembering. Peace.

  32. James Rice

    I was at camp Drake in the early 80’s in autodin as an air force detachment of 1956 comm group out of yokota. I was a crypto tech 30650 .The picture with comm on the wall was the inside of the autodin not the commissary. not much of the whole base was intact when I was stationed there. Some of the guys I served with were there when it finally closed.I have some photos from during my stay and operational and some from just after it closed we used to take a bus from yokota to camp Drake. It was a good tour of duty.

  33. John C Polilla

    I was stationed at North Camp from 1968-1970 for the 1967 Comm Squadron. I remember 898 like a little pentagon building and yes those walls also shook with the many earthquakes or was it the hangover from the corner bar 🙂 You had to beware of ‘squadding mary’ as she preyed in the alleys on the ‘skid’. Crewfew at midnight so you walked one block away. I do remember also it was the first time the Little League World Series invited foreign teams and the tournament was at North Camp. I think the team from taiwan won the far east and the LLWS too. Too many good times as in climbing mt fuji,,,drinking akadoma wine (nasty stuff) and yes introducing the newbies to D’absence.. then leaving them in a booth at a bar. Looking to say hi to all my friends… ciao John C. Polilla

  34. Jim Salkeld

    Can’t help but wonder just how many of the older ASA group are still around. I see in reading many of these comments that I don’t even recognize the MOS codes that are entered. I was a maint trick chief in the old ‘Pentagon’. As I recall from all those years back we had carrier, teletype, electro-mechanical cipher, and pure electronic cipher. We also had a bunch of thermite grenades in the stock room just in case of visitors, or the building shaken more than those metal sway rings between the building hub and each wing could handle. Today I imagine all that stuff can be found in museums somewhere, along with many of the people who kept them working. I also remember my evening passes thru the local bars, like the ‘Bar Corner’ (I always liked that backward name) trying to locate one of those guys who all too often didn’t make it to swings. Mostly I’d send him home drunk as he was no use to the shift those nites.
    My one big success there was the CO’s contest for the design of a unit crest. I think the CO *Maj Ed Meares* and I were the only entrants. Of course I won. Who was going to vote for the CO when one of the EM was also in the running?
    If anyone does remember Maj Meares (CO), Capt Goodwin (XO), Capt Joe D Morgan (Maint Ofcr), Woody Woodward with the broken nose, Sp5 McMahan, 1st Sgt Brown, give a shout. At this age (pushing 84) I’ve not too much to do beyond trying to keep one step ahead of that ‘Heimers’ guy.

  35. Robb & Robyn Coady

    Hi…
    My wife’s father (Richard “Dick” Grigsby) was stationed at Camp Drake during the Vietnam War. Like to know if anyone knew him. My wife’s father passed away in early 90’s; her mom is putting together a scrap book and she would like to know exactly where the camp was located.

    We looked at the Google Map. Did not show the camp. Where exactly is the camp located within the town of Saitama?

    Thanks!

  36. Earl Adams, Jr.

    Jerry, I was stationed at Camp Drake Sept 1964 to Sept 1967. Worked in the AUTODIN (Automatic digital network) communication center. Above us was the Hospital and across from the AUTODIN Center was the torn tape relay center. I lived at Green Park with my wife and two boys. That photo of the “COMM” facility that you guess is the Commissary sure looks similar to the interior rear section of the AUTODIN center. I say this because that large area in the left of the photo looks like the filtering exhaust section of our center. Been a long time ago so I don’t remember what the floor looked like and such. Just a wild guess here. In the comm section I worked in was where the UNIVAC 1004/DLT6 was tested with the Sperry Rand folks there also. All of us had TOP SECRET clearances. This system I think was the prelude to the internet. We started operating at 600 baud and eventually moved up to 1200 buad – wow! We had digital networks all the way to California. 80 column card usage with a maximum card batch of 500. The attempt to get the UNIVAC1004/DLT6 operational was the goal for the Air Force as we took this task from the Army is what I was told. This was a “special assignment” for me as an E4 at the time and wife and boys had to go with me “concurrent travel” as ordered by the Air Force. I retired in May of 1979.
    Regards,
    Earl Adams, Jr. TSgt, USAF. Ret.

  37. Jack Tripp

    I was at Camp Drake from November 1953 until September 1954. Worked at the ACAN Relay station making propagation outage reports. Before that spent 3 months at Hardy Barracks in Tokyo. Was assigned to Co. B, FEC Signal Service Battalion at Drake. Besides the relay staton, all army personnel coming into and leaving Japan were processed through Drake. Anyone else at Drake at that same time period?

  38. Chuck Moore (cmoore)

    if this is the the same guy im thinking of, you wore glasses,had kind of light hair, and if I remwmber correctly you had a 57 chevy. Maaybe I am thinking of someone else, but I think not. I was also teletype repair 31j20. I remember the corner bar well, lots of good times there. I married a Japanese girl after I got out, and am still married! Yake care old friend.

  39. Katrina abbey/ carlos williams

    Trying to find any info on my grandfather. He was stationed at camp Drake somewhere between 1948 to 1950 he played in the first cavalry division band. The only thing i found was three photos of him .one of him and his buddy cpl. Claude J.Batchleor who married a japanese women named kyoto araki. And a article of butchelor being woed from a pro-red prison camp . in the article they had my grandfathers name wrong. They have him pictured as Horace williams 24. But his name is actually carlos m williams. I would to hear some history or see if anyone is still living that was from there around that time period. My grandfather passed away peacefully yesterday 4/17/16 and i never got to hear any stories.

  40. Anonymous

    In answer to the original sites post of pictures the one you see that says comm is the USAF Camp Drake ASC. The comm is the back wall of the communications area. You can tell its the ASC because of the raised floor. The message center was up front, the tech control behind the message center and the whole side with with comm on the back wall was crypto. The three fences were outside perimeter, inside perimeter of the base and the third fence was around the ASC. The flue’s were for destruction of the classified with forced air burners…things got real hot real fast.

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